"...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

Monday, December 4, 2023

The Mascots of the Skies

This is something of a companion piece to my earlier post about Sailor Cats. In October 1919, "Flying" magazine carried this story by Henry Woodhouse paying tribute to some of the surprisingly numerous animals who served as mascots--and, often, passengers--in the then-fledgling world of aviation.

Although everybody is thinking and talking about flying, there is one feature of the aviation game which nobody has mentioned. Yet it is a very novel and amusing one, and it is also scientifically interesting.

I refer to the extraordinary number and variety of animals which have gone up as passengers in aeroplanes. I know of at least a score of dogs that are as much at home in the air as are the pilots with whom they fly. And the list includes also cats, monkeys, and other animals. 
As for birds—well, you wonder how chickens and pelicans must have felt to find themselves hundreds of feet in the air. And what do you suppose were the sensations of an eagle when it discovered that it could soar and swoop and dive without using it own wings? 
I have seen it stated that a dog cannot safely go to an altitude above five thousand feet, and that cats cannot live above three thousand feet. 
These limits may apply to some dogs and cats, for it has been found that animals differ, just as human beings do, in their ability to withstand the loss of oxygen at high elevations. Certain individuals—either among men or animals—cannot with safety reach as great an altitude as others can. 
But it is a mistake to apply the above limits to all cats and dogs. So far as I know, an English lighting bulldog named Don Orsino holds the altitude record for animals. He has been up twelve thousand five hundred feet. Don belongs to Major Cushman A. Rice, and has made all the flights, and taken part in all the stunts, which a human flyer performs to get his Junior Military Aviator certificate. 
If it had not been for the war, we might have waited a dozen years to find out what we now know about how animals behave in the air. But there is one trait of fighting men which has incidentally added to our scientific knowledge. That trait is their deep love of animals, their universal habit of annexing some kind of a pet on which to lavish their care and affection. 
This craving for pets was one of the finest things about our soldiers. The stories of devotion between them and their four-footed comrades made one of the bright spots in the grim record of war. Regulations against having pets simply could not be enforced. 
In fact, it is to the credit of the officers that they did not really try to enforce them. For that matter, many of the officers had their own pets. And even when they themselves had none, they were wise enough to realize that this craving for something to love and care for, in the midst of all the cruelty and horror of war, was a feeling which ought to be respected and cherished. 
In one case, a couple of doughboys adopted a little kid—a real one of the goat persuasion—which they found bleating pathetically by the roadside. With incredible patience and tenderness they cared for the little creature. Then orders came for their regiment to go to a sector several days' march distant. The kid couldn't possibly cover all those miles on its own feet, but not for a moment did they think of abandoning it. On their backs they had their own heavy equipment) weighing about seventy pounds. But they took turns in carrying the kid too. It rode in state, first on the back of one man's neck, then on the other. 
Hundreds of stories are told of mutual devotion between the fighters and their pets. But the aviators, because they remained longer in one place and had regular living quarters, had more mascots than anybody else. Not all of these mascots went up into the air; and in that respect, also, they are like human beings. 
You may not know it, but there are certain men who are classed as "arm-chair aviators." They are tremendously interested in the sport. They haunt the aviation fields. They talk the lingo of the game. But—they don't fly. 
Perhaps the most famous of these arm-chair animal aviators are Whisky and Soda, two lion cubs which were the pets of the Lafayette Escadrille. Major Lufberry, whose tragic death was so keenly felt in America, was especially fond of Soda, while Major William Thaw was devoted to Whisky. 
The cubs finally had to be sent to a zoo in Paris, because they were too nervous under fire. After their experience with Whisky and Soda the men of the squadron decided that there was something wrong with the old saying, "As brave as a lion." When a bombardment was going on, the cubs would roar, sure enough; but they roared with fright. They simply ran amuck with terror, dashing headlong among the men and clawing blindly at anything and everything. It got so that nobody but Lufberry and Thaw could manage them, so they were shipped off to Paris. 
Whisky stood especially in awe of—what do you think? An ordinary North Dakota rabbit and a rooster! One day the cub was nosing around when he blundered into a corner where C. C. Johnson had installed his own particular pet, the rabbit. At the approach of the investigating Whisky, the rabbit turned around and let out a kick which landed squarely on the cub's nose. Whisky never forgot that kick. It gave him a wholesome respect for rabbits in general. And he stood equally in awe of another aviator's pet, a rooster, which used to delight in picking on him. At the sight of either the rabbit or the rooster, young Mr. Lion would hike for cover. 
There is an old story about a brand of whisky which "would make a rabbit spit in the face of a lion." This cub must have been named after that brand. Even after he had grown to be quite a lion, the aviators one day squeezed a jack rabbit through the bars of his cage to see what would happen. What did happen was that Whisky backed off into a corner and whined and yelled until they took pity on him and removed the rabbit. 
Perhaps the best story about these two cubs is that of a wager by Kenneth Marr, of the Lafayette squadron, and Rene Haas, another American aviator. Haas had brought two Alaska dogs to France, and perhaps because he had heard of the rabbit episode, he declared that his Baldy and Wolf would just about make one good meal off Whisky and Soda. 
Marr resented this aspersion, and offered to bet a lump of Nevada gold, which he carried around as a souvenir of his mining days, that the dogs wouldn't last any longer with the lion cubs than an ice-cream soda lasts with a high-school girl. The match was arranged to take place at the Paris zoo, to which the cubs had been removed. Matt was on hand with his friends; and sundry other allied airmen, who had heard the news, showed up to watch the sport. It promised to be lively enough, for the cubs w-ere in an irritable mood. As the dogs approached, the young lions showed their teeth in vicious snarls, while Baldy and Wolf raced madly around the outside of the cage, apparently aching to get at their traditional enemies of the feline tribe. 
Both Marr and Haas were pretty nervous, but neither one was willing to back down, so when all was ready the door of the cage was opened. Immediately, Baldy and Wolf bounded in and took up a strategical position in the center of the cage, ready to attack or to defend, whichever seemed wisest. The cubs appeared to be equally belligerent. 
But at the critical moment, when Soda seemed to be sizzling and Whisky burning, the latter suddenly decided to lie on his back with his paws in the air. At that, Soda yawned, licked his chops, looked bored, and stretched out for a nap. 
Apparently this convinced Baldy, the erstwhile bloodthirsty invader, that he had chanced upon a couple of possible playmates, and he began a friendly tussle with Soda. Wolf started on a critical investigation of the cubs' quarters, and then, having found them satisfactory, he, too, stretched out for a quiet snooze. 
As a fighting match, the affair was a fiasco. But as a demonstration of the "live and let live" principle among animals it was a convincing success. 
Among the animals which have actually flown, dogs are easily in the lead, both in numbers and in their enjoyment of the sport. Captain Boyriven, the French airman who was an instructor at aviation camps in this country, has a bull terrier named Billiken, who is a close second to Don Orsino in high flying. Billiken has gone to twelve thousand feet without feeling ill effects. 
Like other dogs that go to high altitudes, Don has special clothes to protect him from the cold. He will sit in an aeroplane for hours, all togged up like a regular aviator, without even taking the trouble to look over the side of the machine. 
Some people have a curious theory that aviation cannot be a genuine success because, as they say, "it is contrary to the laws of nature." They say we were not meant to fly, and that, therefore, we will never be able to do it safely. I think the attitude of animals is decidedly interesting in this connection. Nature certainly never intended them to fly; and yet, when they have become accustomed to the sensation, they do not, as a rule, show any "instinct" against it. We rely a good deal upon instinct in animals, and it seems to me that, in this case, it confirms the belief that we were intended to fly. 
Speaking of instinct, a remarkable case is that of Jim, canine pet of Maurice Hewlett, Jr.. son of the famous English novelist. Hewlett, who was in the Royal Flying Corps during the war, always had his dog with him, and whenever possible took him on flights. Jim had what we call "air sense," an intuitive feeling about atmospheric conditions. But he had also an uncanny instinct about the aeroplane itself. If anything was wrong with the mechanism, he seemed to have a "hunch" about it, and would bark and jump nervously until the necessary repairs or adjustments were made. It is asserted that he actually inspected the machine and, if any part of the fittings was not bright and shining, would move about restlessly until they were wiped off. Then he would jump into his place and signify unmistakably his readiness to start. 
Jim enjoyed flying and made scores of trips across the English Channel with his master. If Hewlett made a flight without him he was almost broken-hearted. He could not be induced to go up with any other aviator, and he took absolutely no interest in their machines. When his master went up without him he refused to go off about his own business, but sat patiently waiting until Hewlett returned, no matter how long he was delayed. 
There is one feature about an aeroplane which almost always puzzles a dog. That is the propeller. They see a man swing the big blades, they see the thing start to revolve—and then apparently it disappears. For when a propeller is making a thousand revolutions a minute, all one sees is a vague blur. 
This "now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't" procedure excites a dog's curiosity, and if he isn't watched he is likely to try an investigation, with the result that he literally loses his head in the attempt. For the propeller blades cut it off. But the dogs are getting wiser, and there are fewer casualties among them now. 
Captain is an English bulldog belonging to Commander E. W. Coil, who piloted the naval "blimp" which made its splendid flight to Halifax in May, and then, breaking from its moorings, was blown out to sea and lost. At first, Captain was one of the misguided dogs who try to play with the propellers, but he soon learned better. He is the only dog I know of that wears a wound chevron, although he did not win his honorable scars in actual warfare. It was an indirect consequence of his fondness for automobiles.

After inspecting all the machines in the officers' garage, Captain would pick out the most comfortable one and go to sleep in it. If the owner came along, Captain sort of let the gentleman know that he wanted a ride, his method being the simple one of refusing to get out. But before the machine had gone very far, Captain would decide that going farther might means a long walk back; so, without the least intimation, he would jump out. He had done this scores of times without getting hurt, but one day he miscalculated and came to grief. And that was how he got his wound chevron. 
Don Orsino is one dog that never fools with the propeller; he is too clever. Don is a real flying enthusiast, anyway. The minute he hears the road of a starting motor, he races to the machine and shows as plainly as a dog can that he wants to go up. One of Don's minor records was made when he flew over New York City in a machine piloted by Eddie Holterman. The weather was not especially good for flying that day, but Don wanted to go—and went. During the trip he stuck his nose out a few times, but the chilly air was not to his liking, so he curled up on the front seat and stayed there until the flight ended. 
The only animal which, so far as I know, ever jumped from an aeroplane when the machine was in the air, was Jeff, a little monkey belonging to the late Captain Vernon Castle, famous first as a dancer and later as a skillful aeronaut. 
Castle had an extraordinary love for animals of kinds. He never was happy unless he had one or more pets—the more the better. He was as tender-hearted as a woman in all that concerned these little friends of his, and if one of them died he was as grieved as if he had lost a human comrade. When he traveled it was never too much trouble for him to carry bird cages and cat baskets, or to escort enough dogs to fill a kennel. 
When he was with his squadron in France, one of his pets was Jeff, the monkey I spoke of. Castle used to take the little fellow up with him whenever he could; and Jeff, while he was not very keen about flying, preferred to go along rather than to be separated from the master he loved. 
The monkey was inclined to be nervous, so Castle usually tied him to the machine. One day, however, he neglected this precaution and Jeff took it into his head to jump out; but to everybody's amazement and Castle's profound joy, the little creature landed on its feet and was quite unhurt. 
I believe the first cat to take an aeroplane trip was the one carried by John B. Moissant when he made the very first air crossing of the English Channel. That was back in 1910, when even very few human beings had made flights. The kitten, which was presented to Moissant by a lady as he was on his way to the Channel, was in a small basket, with only its head sticking out. 
The average cat does not like to go up in an aeroplane, but it is not because of any instinctive objection to flying. Cats do not like to go into any strange environment. They are confirmed "home bodies," and this particular kitten was no exception. At first it protested by mewing piteously; but after a while it philosophically accepted the novel situation and went to sleep until Moissant landed on English soil. 
Among the other famous aviation cats is Negre, which went through the war as the particular pet of Captain Gautier, the commanding officer of a French flying squadron. 
Lieutenant Gombant of the same squadron, owned a dog named Toto, which not only made ordinary flights with his master, but used to accompany him on raids over the enemy's lines. Toto took it all very calmly, and usually was fast asleep when the machine got back to the aerodrome. 
Prince of Princeton is a well-known police dog mascot that was "attached to" the Princeton Aviation School. Spark Plug was the equally popular cat mascot belonging to the same bunch. Little "Sparkie," as he was called for short, lost his tail in the flying propeller blades; a trying experience, of course, but not so bad as losing one's head, as the dogs occasionally do. Both Prince and Sparkie have made many flights with the student aviators. 
Bully, mascot of one of the squadrons of the British R. F. C, has been flying with his master, Colonel Halahan, since 1913. He is always keen to go up, and will jump into the observer's seat without being told. He thinks he has a right to that place and resents it if anybody takes it away from him. He always wears a flying uniform with all the insignia. 
Practically every aviation unit in the United States had a mascot of some sort which made frequent flying trips. Booze was an Airedale belonging to Major General Reinburg. commanding officer at Taliaferro Field in Texas. Like Don Orsino, Booze repeatedly went through all the Junior Military Aviator test flights. He enjoyed the sport so much that if his master went up without taking him along he would seize the tail skid with his teeth and hang on until the machine actually left the ground. Then, giving it up as hopeless, he would let go and be rolled over and over by the fall. Booze was keen about "stunting"; that is, looping the loop, spinning nose dives, and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to get to the plane one day he ran into the whirling propeller and was killed. 
Booze had a brother, Twoey, belonging to Major H. 0. Wheeler. Apparently the flying spirit runs in the family, for Twoey is like his deceased relative in his eagerness to go up. 
Edgar Bouligny, of New Orleans, the first American to join the French Foreign Legion when the war began, has a kitten which accompanies him on his flights. 
Lieutenant Bert Hall, of the Lafayette Ecadrille, had a pet goat which he took up with him in his aeroplane. But when the machine came down and the goat was lifted out it reeled around as if it were drunk. Hall decided that high flying was one of the few things a goat couldn't get away with, so he reluctantly dispensed with the animal's company after that— at least in the air. 
One of the strangest of these flying animals is a grey fox which belonged to one of the British squadrons. It was adopted when quite young, which may account for the ease with which it acquired a taste for aviation. 
These pets run a long gamut. One British squadron had a jay for a mascot; another had a raven; another pet was Nancy, an antelope which the South Africans brought with them to France. Rabbits, chickens—the barnyard variety— pigeons, canaries, all these have "done duty" at the military aerodromes. Some Scotch aviators had a pair of eagle owls as their mascots. 
One of the British airmen at Salonika had a stork which would meet the pilots when they landed and perch on their machines. The stork is a favorite in Germany, but this one definitely attached itself to the Allies. 
One mascot, which was secured in an unusual manner, is an eagle, the pet of Captain Mortureaux. The eagle and its mate encountered the captain's machine in the air one day and resented this invasion of their special domain so much that they proceeded to attack him. He was forced to turn his machine gun on them to keep them from clawing the wings of the plane or getting into the propeller blades. One of them was killed. The other was wounded and, being forced to make a "landing," was captured. 
A famous Russian flying unit had as its mascot Baiko, a Russian bear. When this squadron was sent to France, the men turned the bear over to the French sky fighters as a gift. Baiko enjoys the distinction of having been "mentioned in dispatches." 
The Newport News Air Station, in Virginia, also had a young bear cub, but he was an arm-chair aviator. None of the land planes at the station was large enough to accommodate him, and they couldn't take him on a seaplane because he didn't like the water and would set up a rumpus if taken near it. 
The first pelican to get a ride in a flying machine was one of a colony of these creatures that used to make fun of the naval aviators, back in 1911-1912, at North Island, near San Diego. At least, the flyers there felt sure that the pelicans were giving them the laugh. 
At that time, Glenn Curtiss had just made the first flight ever accomplished with a hydroplane. And, by the way, just stop a minute and remember that this was only seven years ago. Seven years before the first small success with this type of machine and the recent achievement of crossing the Atlantic in a seaplane! That helps one to realize the immense advance that has been made. 
In those early days, aero motors had a bad habit of quitting without notice, forcing the machines to "land" on the water, where they would float ignominiously, waiting to be towed in. When this happened, as it did almost every' day, the pelicans would flop and splash around, making peculiar noises which sounded like derisive laughter. 
This insulting conduct finally got on the nerves of William B. Atwater, and he determined to show the pelicans that a hydroplane really could fly. He provided himself with a large net, Hew over the pelicans and spotted the most disdainful of them standing in the shallow water. Atwater scooped up the big bird with his net.  And although the tussle which ensued came near to capsizing the plane, he and his companion got the bird and flew back with it to the hangar.
Commander Bellinger, who piloted the NC-1 on the Transatlantic flight in May, was at the Hampton Naval Air Station when Buddy, a Boston bull terrier, was the pet of the station. Buddy is of the fickle sex, which probably accounts for the fact that while she began flying when the seaplane was first developed, she later transferred her affections to the "blimps," and later still had another change of heart back to the seaplanes. It is worth mentioning that Buddy be came so addicted to aviation that, as Lieutenant C. W. Bell expressed it, "she cared no more for her puppies than she did for a hill of sweet potatoes."
I don't know whether or not this should be regarded as a warning of what will happen when the ladies begin to fly. I do know that women make enthusiastic aviators. They show less hesitation about going up than the average man does, and quiet and interested passengers, apparently untroubled by timidity or nerves. 
Ruth Law, by the way, has one of the few dogs which show an querable aversion to flying. Poilu, the police dog which she brought back from France, acts just like the human beings who object to having a relative make a flight. He will not go up himself, and when his mistress is in the air he follows every movement of the machine with anxious eyes. When the plane is safely down again, he is so overjoyed that he has to be prevented by main force from rushing into the whirling propeller blades.
Ralph and Ella are two dogs with much the same aversion to flying--either for themselves or for their owner, Trubee Davison, son of H. P. Davison. The first time they saw a flying boat, in July, 1916, they paid little attention to it. But when their beloved Trubee went up in the newfangled contrivance, they became frantic, and swam far out into Long Island Sound in their attempt to follow it.
Their master's flights became a daily tragedy for Ralph and Ella. When he had gone, they would sit on the shore for hours, waiting for him. They would swim out to meet every plane that appeared. When a number of machines came down together, the dogs would pick out Trubee's and escort it in, with frantic barking and every indication of relief and joy.
Of all the pets of the aviators, dogs are the most affectionate and faithful. When Lieutenant Alexander Blair Thaw, the young American pilot, was killed in France, his dog, a terrier, disappeared. It was not until four days later that he was found, hidden away, disconsolate and brokenhearted. A dog belonging to Major Byford McCudden, the famous British ace who lost his life after bringing down about. seventy German machines, refused to leave his master's grave, but stayed there until he became so weak that he could not resist the kindly hands which took him away and cared for him.

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.”