Friday, March 7, 2014
Strange Company can always use some help picking winners at the racetrack.
Unlike Eddie, who was not only the best cat, but the most astute handicapper we have ever known.
On to this latest edition of the Week in Weird:
What the hell is lighting up Cleveland?
What the hell did Lieutenant Larkin see?
What the hell was seen in the skies of New York in 1879?
What the hell is being heard on this radio station?
What the hell is under our very noses?
Watch out for those Norwegian interdimensional portals!
Watch out for those Georgian STDs!
Watch out for those Bradford Humbugs!
Watch out for those sarcastic Vikings!
Watch out for those Vibratoriums!
Watch out for those brazen talking heads!
Watch out for Harriet the Haunted Head!
Watch out for Shiny the Devil Cat!
Wonderful old photos of "Wonderful" London.
If you wish to spend eternity with the gods, pack a good lunch first.
An ancient Egyptian soldier writes a melancholy letter home.
Been longing for the chance to put the Total Perspective Vortex on your computer and realize anew what pitifully insignificant creatures we earthlings are? You're welcome.
Stonehenge as prehistoric glockenspiel.
Hey, everybody! Let's show those Sad Squonks and Soul-Sucking Cats some love!
When animals go to war.
More wartime animals, featuring pigeon photographers, British elephants, and, of course, rocket cats.
The alley cats of old New York.
Very eerie story of two sisters who disappeared...over 30 years apart.
Helen Duncan, the "last of the witches."
More scientific bad, bad ideas.
The UFO files of the German Secret Service.
Strange road signs from the supernatural superhighway.
Fanchon and Marco: an early Hollywood sensation.
When you manage to earn the nickname "El Loco," you've earned a spot on this blog.
When you build a church to honor the memory of dogs, you've earned a spot in my heart.
The beautiful, ill-fated, and slightly mysterious Mary March of Newfoundland.
Here Came the Sun.
The recently-discovered photo journal of a WWI soldier.
As Bertie Wooster would say, aunts aren't gentlemen.
Road trip to Point Dume, anyone?
A brief history of life in darkness. (Incidentally, I've read "At Day's Close," and it's a wonderful book.)
Using cats as hired assassins is just...wrong. Leave 'em alone to commit their own murders, I say.
I may have to volunteer to write a whole series of BabyLit Edgar Allan Poe books. Your infants complaining about teething? Read 'em "BabyLit Berenice." Want to teach your kids to be careful about offending the wrong people? Pick up "BabyLit Cask of Amontillado." "Mommy, this kitten followed me home. Can I keep him?" Whip out "BabyLit Black Cat." Sick of overly expensive children's birthday parties? Read the spoiled brats "BabyLit Hop-Frog." Need to scare them into doing their homework? Plant the idea of "BabyLit Pit and the Pendulum" into their disobedient little heads.
Damn it, I think I'm really on to something here.
And we're done! Have fun this weekend sending your two-year-old off to a lifetime of intense therapy with "BabyLit Valdemar." In the meantime, I'll see you on Monday, when I shall introduce you to a 19th century man who was to acting what our old friend William Nathan Stedman was to poetry.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
This is just to mention that over at the great new blog, Yesterday Unhinged, I'm this week's participant in the Fab Five Historical Challenge. I'm briefly discussing five of my favorite figures from history.
Incidentally, the Fab Five series is open to anyone who cares to submit an entry, whether you're a blogger or not. If you love history, why not create your own list?
Incidentally, the Fab Five series is open to anyone who cares to submit an entry, whether you're a blogger or not. If you love history, why not create your own list?
Most people with even the most casual interest in true crime are familiar with the name of Hawley Harvey Crippen, who was executed in 1910 for murdering his wife, Belle.
But how many of you have heard of his lively afterlife as a sinister black cat?
Well, vital information like that is what this blog is here to provide. Here is an account of the good doctor's ghostly career from the "Syracuse Daily Journal" for March 10, 1911:
The ghost of Dr. Crippen, the murderer, is said to infest the house at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, where Belle Elmore was murdered. Sandy McNab, the comedian and present occupant of the house, writes his experiences with uncanny noises and weird sights. McNab is, of course, a Schtchman and bought the fated house as a bargain. Directly after a harrowing night he took to his bed. He has now recovered from his fright sufficiently to tell the story of Crippen's ghostly appearance. He writes:
"Just three days before Christmas, I sat typing in the very room in which Belle Elmore is supposed to have been murdered. It was close on midnight. Out of doors the rain was coming down in torrents, and the wind shook every window in the house. On my desk was a heap of letters and telegrams which required answering, and it was my intention to get these off my hands before I retired. My desk was facing the window, looking out on the main road, deserted at this time of the night.
"Suddenly, there was a sound on the pane, as though some one had thrown a handful of gravel, and simultaneously came a heavy thud at my room door, as though a mattress had been throw against it. I stopped typing and listened. I can't say that I was frightened, but I felt a little uneasy. After a minute or so I resumed my work, or at least tried to do so.
"It was no use. My fingers refused to touch the proper keys. 'Bang!' went the door again. Mechanically I raised my hand to my forehead, only to find that I was bathed in cold perspiration. I thought I heard muffled footsteps going upstairs, yet I seemed glued to my seat.
"I felt myself fainting, and with one mighty effort I sprang to my feet and made for the passage. I gave a glance up the stairs. It was perfectly dark, but looking down on me were two eyes resembling electric lights. With all my strength I rushed to the front door, pulled back the latch, closed the door behind me, and sprang down the ten steps on to the garden walk. I doing this I sprained my ankle. Somehow I struggled to the gate, then out into the street, and searched for a policeman.
"In a few minutes I found one, and together we returned to the house. He laughed at my story as I inserted my latchkey in the door. We entered, closing the door behind us, and then we listened.
"At first we could neither hear nor see anything. I began to think myself a fool, when suddenly a slight noise came from one of the bedrooms. The constable mounted the stairs and I followed. It was not until we reached the very top of the house that we found the room from which the noise appeared to originate. We entered it, lit the gas, but there was nothing to be seen.
"We were about to retire, when we heard a piercing cry from a cupboard, the door of which was closed and securely fastened with a catch. The constable opened it and out flew a big black cat, which immediately commenced to rush around the room. Although the door of the room was wide open, that cat refused to leave. It rushed round and round, flew up the walls and dashed into the window. It was only when the constable made a dash for it with his cape that the beast made a bolt for the door. We put out the light, closed the door and systematically searched every nook and corner of the house for the cat, but to this day it has never been seen again.
"I should say that not a single door or window in the house was open, and how that cat escaped is a mystery. It is also a mystery how it got fastened up in the cupboard, assuming that it was the cat which was looking down the staircase on me when I saw the eyes. I am by no means superstitious, but have heard it said that the spirits of the departed sometimes enter the bodies of animals and this incident has set me thinking."
If we were cynical types, we might wonder if McNab's eagerness to relate this colorful tale had any connection at all with the fact that he was at that date in the process of turning the Crippen house into a museum where the luridly-minded would pay him admission to tour the place.
But, of course, we are not nearly jaded and unkind enough to even suggest such a thing.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Crime historian Edmund Lester Pearson once noted that murderers can be “too clever”: they put together amazingly elaborate, meticulously well-planned homicide plots, only to be undone because they tripped over their own plans. A perfect example was a Belgian named Armand Peltzer. In 1881, he concocted a plan for murder as ingenious as anything imagined by Christie or Highsmith, only to see it ruined at the last minute by one "act of cleverness" too many.
The catalyst for his crime was a young woman named Julie Bernays, with whom Peltzer had fallen violently in love. Unfortunately, as so often happens, there was an impediment to his wooing: the lady’s husband William. The couple was unhappily married, but she refused to agree to a divorce because under Belgian law, that would mean sharing custody of their son.
It was easy for Peltzer to decide that there was nothing for it but to turn the alluring Madame Bernays into an eligible widow as soon as possible. Of course, it would not do if all he got out of William Bernays’ murder was a prison cell. He needed an alibi, and a darn good one. And, out of what the old criminal courts would have called “the instigation of the Devil,” he found it. Bernays would be killed, and in a way that would point to the killer…who would very definitely be someone other than Peltzer. The authorities would never find this murderer, because he would be someone who never existed.
Armand Peltzer’s younger brother, Leon, was currently living in New York under an alias because of some financial improprieties. Armand had helped him escape his troubles, and Leon—who had always been rather under his brother’s thumb in any case—was easily persuaded to accept Armand’s offer to cancel the debt. Leon agreed to disguise his appearance and take on a new identity, that of "Henry Vaughan," a millionaire intending to establish his own shipping line. “Vaughan” visited various European navigation firms, thus making himself well known in several countries.
Once “Vaughan’s” identity was established, he wrote to William Bernays. He explained that Bernays (who was an attorney,) had been recommended to him as someone to consult for advice about Belgian shipping laws. He enclosed five hundred francs as a retainer, and requested they meet in Brussels.
Bernays kept the appointment. “Vaughan” cordially escorted him to the house he had recently rented out, bade his visitor to sit down, pulled out a pistol, and shot Bernays through the back of the head.
The murderer then destroyed his disguise, and left unobtrusively. Meanwhile, Armand was very calmly and very obviously going about his normal routine in Antwerp.
The brothers knew the police would be utterly flummoxed. They were presented with a murder that had no apparent motive, committed by a man who had completely vanished.
The Peltzers may well have gotten away with it if Leon had not become impatient. When ten days had passed without Bernays’ body being found, he very foolishly resurrected Henry Vaughan. Under that name, he wrote to the Belgian police, telling them where to find Bernays, and explaining that his death was “a horrible accident.” He was showing Bernays his revolver, and—oops!—it somehow went off and killed his visitor.
The Belgian PD no longer had Hercule Poirot on the force, but they did not need him to see that there was something rather rum about this letter. They announced a reward for information about “Henry Vaughan,” and circulated samples of his handwriting.
These samples provided additional proof that Armand got all the brains in the Peltzer family. Leon had not even bothered to try and disguise his writing in the “Vaughan” letter, and an acquaintance soon recognized it. He, as well as his brother, quickly found themselves under arrest.
At their trial, the Crown had little difficulty demonstrating that while Leon had actually pulled the trigger, he was merely his more assertive brother’s puppet. (Julie Bernays, meanwhile, filed a separate civil suit against the brothers over her husband’s death.) The Peltzers were quickly condemned and sentenced to life imprisonment. Armand died just two years into his sentence. Leon spent his incarceration studying languages, eventually getting an unofficial position as translator in the Ministry of Justice. After he had served thirty years, he was released, on the condition that he leave Belgium. The sixty-five year old man changed his name to “Albert Preitelle,” and eventually settled in Ceylon. After seven years, he was allowed to return to Brussels, but he felt his entire life was wasted, and he wanted no more of it. In 1922 he threw himself into the North Sea. And William Bernays was finally well and truly avenged.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Strange Company wishes to remind you all that life is a cabaret, old chum.
We learned this from the cats.
On to this week's Link Extravaganza:
What the hell happened to this F-89?
What the hell happened to Michael Rockefeller?
What the hell is the Petralona Skull?
What the hell was the Phantom Light of Deakin's Woods?
What the hell is this megalithic site in Russia?
Ottawa is really sinking!
Watch out for those Danish candleholders!
Watch out for those chihuahuas!
Where's a medieval Hercule Poirot when you really need him?
Where are the ancient Hercule Poirots when you really need them?
Treating the Kaiser. "Revolting and idiotic" pretty much says it all.
The colorful, and occasionally tragic history of New York's No. 62 Bank Street.
Crossing the line with Rose de Freycinet.
Some Hawaiian petroglyphs that have recently been uncovered.
Pace the classic Jackson 5 song, the ABCs are not as easy as 1-2-3.
Investigating a 17th century pirate alliance.
19th century mammoths?!
A ghost story from ancient Greece.
Meet Dick the Crow, professional mourner, practical joker and sneak thief.
If you think you were feeling lonely before...
Here is a real golden oldie: the first known recording of a human voice. 1860!
As the old TV commercial said, "It isn't nice to fool Mother Nature."
If you visit this hut, I have some advice: Walk very, very softly.
A reminder: Elephants are people too.
With many a flirt and flutter: The fine art of the fan.
Let's face it, we all have trouble finding new uses for all those mummies we have lying around the house. This post is here to help.
This was possibly the coolest contest ever. Meet the winner.
Happily, New Orleans' first Mardi Gras went just about as you'd expect.
The trial of Florence Maybrick: A classic enigmatic murder case.
Why giving Catherine the Great your dog was full of potential hazards.
The kind of thing that happens when someone is fool enough to challenge Kathryn Warner on the topic of Edward II.
Yet another famed Sailor Cat, plus an equally brave Sailor Pug.
An Edwardian, uh, "anti-female-hysteria" device that frankly looks like something that would produce hysteria in anybody.
Alicia Meynell, England's first female jockey.
The Mystery Boy of Hampton Court.
An 1872 description of Lincoln's Phantom Funeral Train.
Return of the Viking Bad Boys!
A German ghost town in the Namibian desert.
Time-traveling celebrities. Remember that time Sylvester Stallone was Pope?
The perfect gift for the Sultan who had everything: the world's biggest baby name book.
Conspiracy theory of the week: Did NASA deliberately destroy evidence of life on Mars?
Conspiracy theory of the week II: ECM + CIA = UFO.
My favorite internet discovery of the week: An elderly Japanese woman and her feline best friend.
Here is a list of things that would cause your screenplay to be rejected in the 1920s. Nowadays, of course, the film industry sees this as a how-to manual:
Circa 1920 rejection slip the Essanay Film Company sent screenwriters whose submissions were found wanting. pic.twitter.com/ei1JKHPvhS
— Sean Fagan Books (@SeanFaganBooks) February 24, 2014
And, finally, if you're in the market for some knitted aquatic critters, check out this Etsy shop.
There we are for the week! See you all on Monday, when I will be presenting a lesson in how not to commit the perfect murder. Take notes, because there'll be a quiz at the end.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
What's the one thing better than a Mystery Blood story? A Mystery Blood story that throws ghosts into the mix, of course! The spooky travails of the Walsingham family were recorded in the "Brooklyn Eagle" on December 5, 1891:
The little hamlet of Oakville, lying seven or eight miles east of Statesborough, Ga., on this Savannah river, is much agitated at present over a ghostly sensation which appears to be more substantial than is usual with such excitement, to use a paradoxical expression. About three weeks ago the family of a small farmer named Walsingham began to be annoyed by certain disturbances in their household matters, which they at first attributed to the malice or mischievous propensity of some outsider. These disturbances generally took the form of noises in the house after the family had retired and the light was extinguished. Continual banging of the doors, things overturned, the door bell rang and the annoying of the hound dog, a large and intelligent mastiff. It was the conduct of this animal that first caused the Walsinghams to believe there was something more in these occurrences than appeared on the surface, though they were reluctant to attach any supernatural significance to them, being a family of education, practical persons and avowed skeptics on the subject of spooks, etc.
Don Caesar, the mastiff, would be seen to start suddenly from a nap and run at full tilt as if from some one, or start suddenly back while walking leisurely down a path, as if he again met with some one. But he soon lost his temper and varied these pacific proceedings by snarling at every door, as if he expected an enemy to enter, and often drawing back with a threatening bark and displaying fangs to warn his unseen annoyer from him. One day he was found in the hallway barking furiously and bristling with rage, while his eyes seemed directed to the wall just before him. At last he made a spring forward, with a hoarse yelp of ungovernable fury, only to fall back as if flung down by some powerful and cruel hand. Upon examination it was found that his neck had been broken.
The house cat, on the contrary, seemed rather to enjoy the favor of the ghost, and would often enter a door as if escorting some visitor in whose hand was stroking her back. She would also climb upon a chair rubbing herself and purring as if well pleased at the presence of some one in the seat. She and Don Caesar invariably manifested this eccentric conduct at the same time, as though the mysterious being was visible to both of them. This kept up until no doubt could be entertained that the animals saw something of a supernatural character, which was also making itself very disagreeable to the Walsinghams.
It did not long content itself with petty annoyances, but finally took to rousing the family at all hours of the night by making such a row as to render any rest impossible.
This noise, which consisted of shouts, groans, hideous laughter and a peculiar, most distressing wail, would sometimes proceed apparently from under the house, sometimes from the ceiling and at other times in the very room in which the family was seated. One night Miss Amelia Walsingham, a young daughter, was engaged at her toilet, when she felt a hand laid softly on her shoulder. Thinking it her mother or sister she glanced in the glass before her only to be thunderstruck at seeing the mirror reflect no form but her own, though she could plainly see a man's broad hand lying on her arm.
She brought the family to her by her screams, but when they reached her all signs of the mysterious hand was gone. On another occasion the girl was startled by beholding the knob of her door turn softly, the door open and then close as if someone had entered and shut it behind them. She strained her eyes trying to make out some form or the cause of the phenomenon, but nothing appeared. She vacated the room, however, feeling sure nothing was in it with her. Mr. Walsingham himself saw footsteps form beside his own while walking through the garden after a light rain.
The marks were those of a man's naked feet and fell beside his own as if the person walked at his side. After some minutes the steps left him and led toward the house, where Don Caesar was lying on the front piazza. The dog sprang up, barking furiously, but retreated as the steps approached him.
Matters grew so serious that the Walsinghams became frightened and talked of leaving the house when an event took place that confirmed them in this determination. The family was seated at the supper table with several guests, who were spending the evening, when a loud groan was heard in the room directly overhead. This was however, nothing unusual, and very little notice was taken of it until one of the visitors pointed out a stain of what looked like blood on the white tablecloth, and it was seen that some liquid was slowly dripping on the table from the ceiling overhead. This liquid was so much like fresh shed blood as to horrify those who watched its slow dripping. Mr. Walsingham, with several of his guests, ran hastily upstairs and into the room directly over the one into which the blood was dripping.
A carpet covered the floor and nothing appeared to explain the source of the ghastly rain, but, anxious to satisfy themselves thoroughly, the carpet was immediately ripped up and the boarding found to be perfectly dry and even covered with a thin layer of dust. And all the while the floor was being examined the persons below could swear the blood never ceased to drip. A stain the size of a dinner plate was formed before the drops ceased to fall. This stain was examined next day under the microscope and was pronounced by competent chemists to be human blood.
The Walsinghams left the house the next day and since then the place has been apparently given over to spooks and evil spirits, which make the night hideous with the noise of revel, shouts and furious yells. Hundreds from all over this county and adjacent ones have visited the place, but few have the courage to pass a night in the haunted house. One daring spirit, Horace Gunn of Savannah, however, accepted a wager that he could not spend twenty-four hours in it, and did so, though he declares that there is not enough money in the county to make him pass another night there. He was found the morning after by his friends with whom he made the wager in an insensible condition and was with difficulty brought out of his swoon. He has never recovered from the shock of his terrible experience and is still confined to his bed suffering from nervous prostration.
His story is that shortly after nightfall he endeavored to kindle a fire in one of the rooms and to light the lamp which he had provided himself, but to his surprise and consternation found it impossible to do either. An icy breath which seemed to proceed from some invisible person at his side extinguished each match as he lighted it. At this peculiarly terrifying turn of affairs Mr. Gunn would have left the house and forfeited the amount of his wager, a considerable one, but was restrained by the fear of ridicule and of his story not being believed in. He seated himself in the dark with the calmness he could and awaited developments.
For some time nothing occurred, and the young man was half dozing when, after an hour or two, he was brought to his feet by a sudden yell of pain or rage that seemed to come from under the house. this appeared to be the signal for an outbreak of hideous noises all over the house. The sound of running feet could be heard scurrying up and down the stairs, hastening from one room to another, as if one person fled from the pursuit of a second. This kept up for nearly an hour, but at last ceased altogether, and for some time Mr. Gunn sat in darkness and quiet and had about concluded that the performance was over for the night. At last his attention was attracted by a white spot that gradually appeared on the opposite wall from him.
This spot continued to brighten until it seemed a disk of white fire, when the horrified spectator saw that the light emanated from and surrounded a human head which, without a body or any visible means of support, was moving slowly along the wall at about the height of a man from the floor. This ghastly head appeared to be that of an aged person, though whether male or female it was difficult to determine. The hair was long and gray and matted together with dark clots of blood, which also issued from a deep, jagged wound in one temple. The cheeks were fallen in and the whole face indicated suffering and unspeakable misery. The eyes were wide open and gleamed with an unearthly fire, while the glassy balls seemed to follow the terror stricken Mr. Gunn, who was too thoroughly paralyzed by what he saw to move or cry out. Finally the head disappeared and the room was once more left in darkness, but the young man could hear what seemed to be half a dozen persons moving about him, while the whole house shook as if rocked by some violent earthquake.
The groaning and wailing that broke forth from every direction was something terrific, and an unearthly rattle and banging, as of china and tin pans being flung to the ground floor from the upper story, added to the deafening noise. Gunn at last roused himself sufficiently to attempt to leave the haunted house. Feeling his way along the wall, in order to avoid the beings, whatever they were, that filled the room, the young man had nearly succeeded in reaching the door when he felt himself seized by the ankle and was violently thrown to the floor. He was grasped by icy hands which sought to grip him about the throat. He struggled with his unseen foe, but was soon overpowered and choked into insensibility. When found by his friends his throat was black with the marks of long, thin fingers armed with cruel, curved nails.
The only explanation that can be found for these mysterious manifestations is that about three months ago a number of bones were discovered on the Walsingham place, which some declared even then to be those of a human being. Mr. Walsingham pronounced them, however, to be an animal's, and they were hastily thrown into an adjacent limekiln. It is supposed to be the outraged spirit of the person to whom they had belonged in life that is now creating such consternation.
As is common with these ghostly, ghastly old newspaper tales, it is hard to say how much of this story is true, and how much may be fictional. Oddly, a few modern-day websites and books devoted to "true ghost stories" give this family's name as "Walingham" and set this haunted farm in Oakville, Ohio. Just another lesson in being careful about trusting anything you read.
As I say, for all I know this story could very well be just another one of the colorful hoaxes that are, to the modern-day researcher, such an irritating element of early newspapers. However, I do have a few words of advice: If you happen to find some old bones around your house, treat them with the greatest respect.
You never know.
[Note: Many thanks to that indefatigable Fortean researcher Theo Paijmans for bringing this story to my attention.]
Monday, February 24, 2014
|Shepton Mallet Marketplace and Market Cross, via Wikipedia|
Many people have disappeared under mysterious or unusual circumstances. Only a select few have disappeared under seemingly impossible ones. An otherwise thoroughly unremarkable man named Owen Parfitt was one of these notables.
Parfitt lived in the English village of Shepton Mallet, in the county of Somerset. In 1763 or 1768 (accounts vary on the year,) he was close to seventy years old. Some years before, a severe illness—possibly a series of strokes—had gradually left him disabled to the point where he was virtually paralyzed. He lived in a cottage with his older sister, whose first name is not recorded. She took care of him, although she was nearly as feeble as her brother. One pleasant June evening, she and another woman, Susannah Snook, carried Parfitt from his bed to a chair just outside the front door to get some air. All he was wearing was his nightshirt and a coat. Snook then returned to her own cottage, which was only about one hundred yards away, while Miss Parfitt went upstairs to tidy the invalid’s room. About fifteen minutes later, the sister came back down to discover that her brother had vanished. All that remained was his chair and the coat he had been wearing.
A search party was hastily organized, but no sign of him was found anywhere in the vicinity. It was impossible that he could have traveled any distance on his own, and there were no reports of any strangers in the area who might have, for whatever bizarre reason, kidnapped the old man. Owen Parfitt was just…gone. And no trace of him was ever seen again.
So, what happened to Parfitt? In other circumstances, it could be theorized that perhaps his sister, weary of what must have been the enormous work of caring for him, suddenly snapped and killed him, burying the body in some obscure location. However, Miss Parfitt was some fifteen years older than Owen, and, as I said, in poor health herself. It seems impossible that she could have killed and hidden him completely in such a short period of time. And what would be her motive? The siblings lived happily enough together, and her only source of income was the small amount she received by the local parish for her brother’s upkeep.
Did Parfitt have an enemy? He was probably not a very lovable man—his fellow villagers described him as a “wild boy” in his youth who remained “sometimes…violent.” Could someone with a long-held grudge get his revenge when Parfitt was alone and helpless?
Aside from the melodramatic unlikelihood of such a scenario, Parfitt’s cottage stood on a turnpike road, surrounded by other homes, and near the center of town. At the time he vanished, farmers very near by were doing their threshing, and the area was generally bustling with activity. Who could have carried him away in such a short period of time, and without anyone noticing?
There is one curious postscript to this maddeningly inconclusive story: In 1813, a man who lived about 150 yards from Parfitt’s cottage was digging in his garden. Two feet down, he found a skeleton lying face downwards. He testified that “It seemed as if the person had been thrown in hastily, after death; for the skeleton lay all in a heap.”
The discovery caused a great deal of excitement. Had Owen Parfitt finally been found? Alas, doctors determined that the skeleton was of a young woman. This second mystery remained as impenetrable as the first.
Some fifty years after Parfitt's abrupt exit from the scene, investigators into the mystery found that most of his neighbors believed the crippled tailor had vanished through supernatural means. The area in and around Shepton Mallet was rumored to be a hotbed of witchcraft activity. One villager claimed Parfitt boasted of having “associated with necromancers and magicians.” Common opinion had it that the Devil swooped in and spirited off his elderly disciple.
To date, no one has come up with a better explanation for Parfitt's disappearance.