"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Friday, December 1, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to the first Link Dump of December!

The Strange Company HQ staffers are already starting on the Christmas parties.

The "Shankhill Butchers."

The history of Christmas puddings.

In which we learn that Napoleon had planned to spend his retirement in New Orleans.  Oops.

Vintage Christmas gift ideas.

The adventures of a Victorian sailor boy.

A once internationally renowned singer, who is now almost completely forgotten.

The mystery of a missing WWII pilot is finally solved.

The annotations of a 16th century yeoman farmer.

A violent bank robbery.

The sc-fi world of de-extinction projects.

There's a "Disney World for cats," and, naturally, the government wants to shut it down.  Because government.

Vintage photos of London at night.

In 1979, Blondie opened for Rush, and things did not go at all well.

A cemetery for the "outcast dead."

An early 19th century child prodigy.

Were Neanderthals the first artists?

The first attempt to assassinate an American president.


The novel that inspired a Utopia.  Didn't work, of course.

The only photos ever taken on Venus.

Ada Lovelace and the difference engine.

When you go digging for potatoes and find an ancient Egyptian sculpture instead.

New York's biggest Fifth Avenue mansion.

Anne Murray meets the Hollywood Vampires.

Finland's "Devil Church."

Scotland's "fairy flag."

The mystery of why bats don't get sick.

The dangers of teddy bears.

The life of an American gigolo in Europe.

When "stopping" is "staying."

Political colors in 18th century Britain.

More vintage celebrity gossip.

Medieval wardship disputes could get mighty ugly.

The loss of HMS Queen Charlotte.

The Cat Lady of Spitalfields.

Contemporary reporting of the New Madrid earthquakes.

The rediscovering of Thaddeus Stevens.

A New York City "cat farm."

Heavenly chain letters.

Yet another murder done "for love."

The last Queen Consort of Mongolia.

A "fatal frolic."

The unique flavor known as "umami."

Britain's "great re-coinage."

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look back at the days of airplane mascots.  (It's sort of a companion piece to my old post about sailor cats.)  In the meantime, here's a fun rendition of Vivaldi.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This tale of a haunted British pub (there are a remarkable number of them) appeared in the “Regina Leader-Post,” July 26, 1930:

GLOSSOP--A ghost that rings a bell on the tap-room table and hammers on the tap-room door, and other strange happenings, are mystifying the landlord of the Bull's Head, a 800-year-old public horse near Charlesworth. Mr. S. Onslow, the landlord, said that he does not believe in ghosts, and one night with the assistance of a customer he tried to solve the mystery. After a thundering knock at the tap-room door, the customer stationed himself at the back of the door and Mr. Onslow stayed in the bar which looks into a passage leading to the front, and through which anyone coming to the tap-room door must pass. Another terrific knock came. The customer flung open the door as Mr. Onslow flung open the bar window, but neither saw anything. About three months ago, the mystery took a more sinister turn.

Mr. Onslow was awakened from his sleep by a noise like the ticking of a clock. He believes that it was the call of the death-watch beetles, which is said to be a sign of death to those who hear it. Once previously, while living at Southport, had he heard it, and two days afterwards he received word that his aunt had died.

He woke up his wife, who could also hear it. The noise increased as the night went on, and at last Mr. Onslow got out of bed, put on a shoe, and delivered a kick against the wall when the sound appeared to come. On that it stopped, but on the following morning a telegram was received that Mr. Onslow's wife's father had died suddenly during the night. 

"Two nights before this," said Mr. Onslow, "a man whom I had never seen before nor since came into the house. He bore a striking resemblance to my wife's father, but his cheeks were sunken like those of a dead person. I called to my wife, who also noticed the astonishing resemblance.

"The man had his drink and went out."

The Bull's Head has two of the strangest rooms. There is no way Into them from within the house. Obtaining a ladder, Mr. Onslow and I today made a dangerous and grimy ascent to them from an old stable at the rear of the building. Entrance to the first is gained through a hole knocked through the wall, and to the second through a hole knocked through the fireplace. The only things in the second room are a strong hemp rope which dangles from a beam and four bricks placed on top of one another directly under it. Did someone take his life in this room? And is it his uneasy spirit that is responsible for the mysterious occurrences here set forth? But perhaps the most baffling mystery of all is the cellar under the flagged floor of the tap room, for no matter how diligently he searches Mr. Onslow can find no way to enter it.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Vanishing of Brandy Hall

"Florida Today," October 15, 2006, via Newspapers.com

Usually, the missing-persons cases I’ve covered on this blog feature ordinary people, living ordinary, routine lives, going about their ordinary routine business, until suddenly, for no discernible reason, they’re gone.  Their disappearances are particularly surprising because their lives, up till that point, held no surprises.

The following mystery is a bit different.  Long before Brandy Hall vanished, her life had become…complicated.

Brandy Rogge was born in Holopaw, Florida in 1973.  She grew up to be an adventurous, athletic free spirit, fond of wild pranks, like the time she taped shut the jaws of a two-foot long alligator and set it loose in a Burger King.  (Unsurprisingly, this little stunt got her banned for life from the eatery.  What happened to the poor alligator is not recorded.)

When she was 20, Brandy began doing volunteer work for the Palm Bay Fire Department, where she met Jeffrey Hall, who was a firefighter at the station.  In 1994, the couple married, and eventually had a son and daughter.

At first, Brandy’s life seemed happy and fulfilled.  The former “tomboy” became a loving and gentle mother, and, to outward appearances, she and her husband had a good relationship.  Friends marveled at how the couple even seemed to have money to burn.  Brandy started her own airboat business, their children had all the latest toys and games, and the Halls wore good clothes and drove good cars.  It was surprising that they could manage all that on their relatively small salaries.

In 2005, that particular mystery was solved when Jeffrey and his friend Paul Hirsch were arrested.  They were charged with using the Halls’ 13-acre property in Holopaw to grow marijuana.  They sold about 40 pounds of pot every two months, earning a $30,000 profit.  Brandy was arrested a few days later, but the charges were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.  Both she and Jeffrey swore that Brandy had no idea whatsoever of her husband’s entrepreneurial activities, and although the police didn’t believe them--at the very least, she must have had some curiosity about where all their extra income was coming from--nobody could prove they were lying.  Despite her name being officially cleared, the Palm Bay Fire Department fired her.  Things were suddenly looking very bleak for this once-carefree couple.  They had no income, no jobs, and Jeffrey was likely facing a prison sentence.  Brandy eventually found work at the Malabar Volunteer Fire Department, but the job was unpaid.

Brandy spent the evening of August 17, 2005 at her grandmother’s home, scanning the phonebook for places where she might find work.  She then went to her night shift at the Malabar Fire Department, where she did inventory.  Around 9:30 p.m., she phoned her husband, who was at home with their children.  At 10:45 p.m., she left her shift early, commenting that early the following day, she needed to go to Kissimmee for Jeffrey’s sentencing hearing.  (Both Jeffrey and Hirsch were given 18 months in prison and 42 months probation.)  Surveillance video captured Brandy chatting with her colleagues in a seemingly relaxed manner, before leaving the firehouse and driving away.  At 11:06, she phoned the Malabar Fire Department Captain, Randall Richmond.  They spoke for about 10 minutes.  At 11:30, Jeffrey called Brandy’s number, but received no response.  He assumed she was just busy at the fire station.

The following day, a fisherman found her firefighting equipment in a bag floating in a small pond off Treeland Boulevard.  When police arrived at the scene, they saw a fuel slick in the water.  The cooler Brandy habitually kept in the back of her green Silverado truck was floating a short distance away.  The cans inside were still cold.  A search of the pond found Brandy’s truck…but no Brandy.  However, ominously, a substantial amount of what was later determined to be her blood was in the cab of the truck.  For so much of the blood to remain in the cab, it had to have been dried for at least 6-8 hours before the truck hit the water.

The investigation into Brandy’s disappearance became increasingly complex when it was learned that she and Randall Richmond--the last person she was known to have spoken to--were having an affair, possibly for as long as ten years.  (Richmond was also married with children.)  Richmond initially told police that he hadn’t spoken to Brandy for some time.  However, when confronted with her phone records, he was forced to change his story.  He now claimed that when he talked to Brandy, she told him she was leaving town, and that she was waiting at a gas station for some unnamed person to bring her money.  She advised Richmond to throw away his phone after they spoke, and he did.  (A curious side note:  Richmond had been scheduled to appear at Jeffrey's sentencing hearing, as a character witness.  However, on the morning of the hearing, he phoned the courthouse to say he wouldn't be able to make it.  The person who took the call said Richmond was crying as he spoke.)

Naturally, all of this made the police take a great interest in Captain Richmond, particularly after they learned that Brandy and Richmond’s wife Anne-Marie had publicly argued at a recent seafood festival, apparently about Brandy's relationship with Randall.  Anne-Marie didn’t have much of an alibi for the night Brandy disappeared--after getting off her shift as a nurse at 11 p.m., she spent the rest of the night at home with her sons--but there was nothing else to implicate her in the case.  Richmond was on duty the night of the 17th, but it would not have been impossible for him to briefly sneak away from the station.  Shortly after midnight, a police officer named Jasmine Campbell drove by a gas station not far from the fire station.  She saw a woman with long blonde hair--like Brandy’s--sitting in the driver’s seat of a green Silverado truck, with another person sitting in the passenger seat.  A fire truck was parked near the truck, which Campbell thought odd.

Jeffrey told investigators that he had heard rumors about his wife’s affair, but he didn’t take them seriously until after his release from prison.  He found in their home a phone Brandy had secretly been using, and the many messages he found between her and Richmond convinced him the stories were true.

In 2007, a backpack belonging to Brandy was found floating in a canal 30 miles from Malabar.  She used it to carry medication, her Fire Department radio, and her gun.  Instead of these items, the backpack contained clothes, X-rated videos, and her address book.  This canal had been drained soon after Brandy vanished, indicating that someone had dropped it in the water fairly recently.  A year after the backpack was found, one of Brandy’s fire helmets was fished out of a marina a few miles from Malabar.  What, if anything, this latest discovery had to do with her disappearance is unknown.

To date, Brandy--or her corpse--has not been found.  She was declared legally dead in 2015.  Despite Randall Richmond’s claims that Brandy planned to run away, nobody who knew her gave the idea any credit.  Although she reportedly was extremely angry at Jeffrey for messing up her life with the marijuana bust, Brandy was deeply devoted to her 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.  She would never have abandoned them.  Besides, the blood in her truck indicates she had been a victim of foul play.

The three people most likely to have personal issues with Brandy--namely, her husband, her lover, and the lover’s wife--all had weak alibis for the time she disappeared, and Officer Campbell’s sighting is, to say the least, intriguing.  However, we have no proof that it was Brandy’s Silverado that Campbell saw, or that the fire truck had been driven by Randall Richmond.

In 2006, Palm Bay Detective Jess Suelter commented, “This entire situation is odd.  When you step back and look at it, there are so many things that could have happened to her.”

For now, at least, this has been the most anyone can say for certain about the disappearance of Brandy Hall.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

In related news, the staff at Strange Company HQ has gathered for the annual group portrait.

A deadly "obsessed fan."

Vintage tips for making holiday pies.

A "vast, complex" prehistoric society that has only recently been discovered.

The "city of forgotten women."

A tribute to English rural cottages.

History's most famous pot.

The origins of "cahoots."

I'm sure you'll be pleased to learn that there are people contemplating the topic of astronaut cannibalism.

Some myths about Napoleon.

Related: The mystique of Napoleon.

A convict's transportation to Australia.

The benefits of walking backwards.

A pioneering female aviator.

The man who is trying to record all of Britain's folklore.

Coffee: There's nothing it can't do.

A "miracle dog."

An accidental funeral motto.

Reconstructing medieval bread.

North America's first culinary social club.

Ireland's "Cave of the Cats."

Japan's "Cat Alley."

Britain's "corpse roads."

The Welsh "One Night House."

A roundup of recent poltergeist cases from around the world.

Thanksgiving menus from the late 19th century.

A look at medieval bathing.

The origins of the phrase, "talk turkey."

A dinner party on horseback.

Something mysterious crashed into the Moon last year.

The enslaved man who may have been the first person to circumnavigate the globe.

The history of a South Korean amusement park.

Meet Ekgmowechashala, biological fluke.  And spell-check's worst nightmare.

The feline milk steward of the S.S. President Harding.

Literacy in rural Early Modern England.

A Pennsylvania serial poisoner.

Prussia's Potsdam Giants.

England's first celebrity chef.

Nothing to see here, just a mysterious, ghostly nighttime hum.  That travels!

The Trier witch hunts.

The weird side of archaeological artifacts.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a woman's sinister disappearance.  In the meantime, Mozart goes bamboo!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Thanksgiving ghost stories are disappointingly scarce, but I did find this brief, but enticing example in the “Salt Lake Telegram,” December 4, 1902:

GENEVA, NY., Dec 4--As the southbound train on the Lehigh Valley was approaching Marsh Creek the engineer and fireman heard a sharp scream ahead. They saw a tall, white-robed figure standing at the east side of the bridge frantically waving its arms.  The engineer brought the train to a standstill. As he did so the specter gave another shriek and disappeared.

An investigation of the track and bridge disclosed no trace of the mysterious figure, but as the train passed over the bridge the same shriek was heard. It was learned that every year about Thanksgiving day the figure appears. A fireman once lost his life in the quicksand there when an engine went off Marsh bridge and the body never was recovered.

Monday, November 20, 2023

A Very Unidentified Flying Object

During my blog-related browsing through the odder side of life, I occasionally come across a story that I think is worth sharing with you, Dear Readers, but I’m damned if I know what to say.  I just bung it down, hit the “Publish” button, and say, “Here.  You deal with it.”

This is going to be one of those times.

In the July/August 1970 issue of “Flying Saucer Review,” Gordon Creighton shared a story which he titled, with admirable restraint, “A Weird Case From the Past.”  He heard of the “very strange experience” from one John P. Sutcliffe, who in turn had learned of it from one of the people directly involved, a “lady who is well known to him.”

Creighton got in touch with the lady, Mrs. I.J. Goodwin, who lived in Stranden, Bournemouth, and she agreed to share what she remembered about the episode, which had taken place some forty years previously.

Mrs. Goodwin wrote, “I will tell you the facts of my personal experience exactly as I remember them.

“I was  born in 1924 at 57 North Road, Hertford, Hertz.  One day in 1929, at about the age of five, I was playing in the garden.  With me was my eight-year-old brother (Mr. Priest, now living at Moordown, Bournemouth.)  He was suffering from an infected knee, due to a fall, and was consequently confined at that time to a chair.

“At that date the road was a lane, with just two pairs of houses, one of which was ours, and behind the houses there was an orchard.

“So far as I can truthfully recall, what happened was that we heard the sound of an engine--what I would today liken to a quietened version of a trainer plane.  My brother and I looked up and saw, coming over the garden fence from the orchard, this small aeroplane (of biplane type) which swooped down and landed briefly, almost striking the dustbin.  It remained there for possibly just a few seconds and then took off and was gone, but in that short time I had a perfect view not only of the tiny biplane but also of a perfectly proportioned tiny pilot wearing a leather flying helmet, who waved to us as he took off.

“Neither my brother nor I ever spoke of the strange sight, so far as I recall, until about ten years ago when, in the presence of our mother and of other members of the family, I asked him whether he recalled the episode.  He replied that he too had wondered many times, over the years, about that tiny plane and its tiny occupant.

“May I be permitted to add here that my brother is so honest that he would certainly not claim anything beyond what he could truthfully recall of an experience.

“I am very sorry that I cannot swear to the exact measurements, but I would estimate the wing-span of the tiny aircraft at no more than 12-15 inches, with the tiny pilot in perfect proportion thereto.

“Although I do not recall his having said it, my brother apparently went into the house and told mother: ‘That aeroplane nearly hit the dustbin.’

“This is a true and honest account as I remember it.  The house and garden still exist, but the orchard has long ceased to be there.

“I have no explanation to offer, but I do know that this was not a figment of my imagination and, although I have not mentioned this correspondence to my brother, I give you herewith his address so that you may question him too should you wish to do so.

“I trust that you will glean something of interest from my experience, and I shall be most interested to hear of any explanation that you can give.  You have my permission to print this account.”

Creighton believed that we should take stories like the above very seriously, no matter how bizarre they might be.  He noted that “Tiny, shape-changing, size-changing, tenuous creatures of some sort of highly plastic matter have been reported throughout all history and from every land.  We can no longer afford to sit back smugly and laugh them off.  The reports about them must be collected and studied.  We are going to be very surprised by what we find.”

Friday, November 17, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

The Strange Company HQ staffers are ready to let the show begin!

Modern medicine owes a lot to the Middle Ages.

A secret lost language.

Love and lunacy.  And murder.

Scotland's oldest known tartan.

A Post Office cat and the Great Chicago Fire.

The legacy of "Cabinets of Curiosities."

The hunt for Dr. Crippen.

Part 2 about the 1914 Battle of Coronel.

This week in Russian Weird looks at some awful author deaths.

NASA has found a fluffy, sandy planet.

Some vintage celebrity gossip.

China's urban ghosts.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Bird of the Century.  Even if the election was rigged.

Why archaeologists love lice.

A musician who nearly made it big.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in prison.

A look at near-death experiences.

The Leicester Balloon Riot.

The reinvention of Thanksgiving.

Elephants may give each other names.

A female Civil War soldier.

What the well-dressed male mourner is wearing.

Cats have a lot of facial expressions.

Skull surgeries from the Copper Age.

The first dive bombers.

The Carrot Man of Melbourne.

A Thanksgiving miracle.

The resurrection of German mite cheese.

So, what's this African lion doing in a Puerto Rican cave?

A saint's reluctant levitations.

Sketches from early 19th century criminal trials.

Georgian-era firefighters.

The Liverpool Leprechauns.

"Firemen artists" of the London Blitz.

More theories about the Bermuda Triangle.

The days of the Orphan Trains.

The link between modern Western ghosts and zombies.

An attempt to explain Taylor Swift's popularity, something that I consider to be one of the great mysteries of modern history.

A brief history of urban garbage.

A brief history of youth hostels.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at one very weird childhood experience.  In the meantime, bring on the marimbas!