Friday, September 20, 2019
This week's Link Dump is hosted by one of the most popular members of our writing team, Ginger the Typing Cat!
Why the hell are fossils mostly male?
Watch out for the Bromley Batman!
Watch out for those black mirrors!
The tragic life of Queen Juana of Castile.
They're not saying it's aliens, but...oh, hold on. They are saying that.
If you thought phrenology was weird, meet the science of reading forehead wrinkles.
Why New Yorkers once burned down a quarantine hospital.
The actress and the drunken coachman.
A Regency poisoning.
The folklore of mining.
The mystery of the burning stones.
A look at some groundbreaking surgeries.
Mayor O'Dwyer and the Mob.
A ghoulish trade in second-hand clothes.
A famed 19th century American policeman.
The Rodney Riots and the publishing house.
They may have found Captain Cook's Endeavour.
How to make your own 18th century lip salve.
Psychics sometimes get it right.
The rise and fall of absinthe.
A girl's concentration camp diary.
The strange story of the Acambaro figure.
The mad scientist and his corpse bride.
How to have a theater waste a year of your life.
Some murders may be unsolved, but they're not all that mysterious.
This week in Russian Weird gets romantic. Oh, and nothing to worry about here. Just exploding smallpox virus.
Google Earth solves a missing-persons case.
Piano prodigy Blind Tom Wiggins.
In case you're planning to make knives with human poop, science has bad news for you. (Incidentally, one thing I've learned from reading about archaeologists is that they spend an inordinate amount of time working with human waste. Makes me a bit relieved that I never pursued my early dreams of taking it up as a career.)
In related news, it turns out archaeology is child's play. Just wait till the kids learn they have to make the knives.
And that's it for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll welcome in a guest post discussing a fashion fad that was truly for the birds. In the meantime, as this is the final WLD of Summer 2019, I thought this seemed appropriate.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
This account of a particularly pesky UFO appeared in the "Dayton Daily News," March 3, 1971:
By Dale Huffman, Daily News Staff Writer. According to Leon Turner, there's a weirdly lighted unidentified spacecraft of some sort hovering over the Dayton area. It swoops down and buzzes 1-75 traffic and frequently, in the past five months, it has followed Turner's automobile.On March 29, 1978, the same newspaper carried a follow-up story.
Turner, 30, who lives at 110 Vandergrift Rd., says he has seen the spacecraft several times. Furthermore, some, of Turner's friends have seen it, too.
Turner describes himself as sound of mind and body and says his 20-20 vision was checked just last week. He says his incredible story of the spacecraft is "Absolutely true... and I'll swear by it."
He says it all started last Sept. 1 while Turner was working as an engineer at radio station WPFB in Middletown.
"I was on the job at the station." he recalled, "when some kid called and said he saw the strange lights near the station transmitter.
"I called Noah Gross, a minister who has a show which is broadcast on WPFB. He lives near the tower. Noah and his wire and kids went out, and they called me back. Noah was quite shaken up.
"He told me, 'Buddy, there's something right above the trees, hovering. There's a red and green pulsating light, and like fire falling from the sky.'"
Turner said he went looking for the craft when he got off work. "I drove around most of the night, and then about daybreak I saw it. It was just like they described it, red and green, with pulsating lights, and it skipped across the top of the trees at a high rate of speed."
Turner said he saw the spacecraft again nine days later and observed it through high-powered binoculars for about five minutes. He said he saw it several times after that.
Bill Hart, general manager of WPFB and his wife, Jerry, women's director for the station, both claim they saw the red and green object one night. Mrs. Hart said, "It is definitely not a plane or helicopter. I know a plane when I see one."
Turner, who said the continuing experience is somewhat frightening, said he doesn't know exactly what the craft is, but theorized that it "isn't from this world." He believes it may be following him because, "I got curious about whoever it was." And even thought Turner has changed jobs (he now drives a truck) he said he hasn't been able to shake the space craft.
"Now I think the thing is following my truck at night," he said. "I think saw it on 1-75 near Vandalia when I was coming home Monday night."
"I've gone as far as I'm going to go with them," says Leon Turner. "The next move is up to whoever, or whatever, is in those UFOs. They will have to land, get out, and offer to shake hands with me."
Some of the hundreds of Dayton area residents who claim they have seen strange objects in the skies over the Miami Valley in the last 30 years have had closer encounters with the objects than others. Leon Turner is one of them.
Turner says UFOs followed him almost nightly for nearly six months. He claims he took pictures of these "spacecraft," and he has some rather unusual photographs to prove it. He also believes he made voice contact with UFO occupants via the citizens band radio in his car.
For a long time, Leon Turner worried if others believed the bizarre stories he told. He doesn't worry about it any more. "I know what I saw, what I experienced," he says. "I didn't imagine any of it or make it up. It really happened to me and that's the God's truth."
From Sept. 2, 1970 until Dec. 25, 1970, Turner kept a diary detailing his frequent encounters with what be believes were UFOs. Turner, now 37 and an employee of the Purolator Corp. in Dayton, was an engineer at radio station WPFB in Middletown when he compiled the diary.
According to his diary, Turner first sighted a UFO on Sept. 2, 1970. "It was about 1 a.m. and I was in Franklin," he wrote. "The UFOs appeared as four bright red lights 'standing' just above the tops of some trees. I watched them for a moment, then they disappeared."
The next entry in his diary is dated Sept. 9.
"I was in Franklin again," he observed. "There was a greenish-blue light in the sky, about 300 feet off the ground and traveling parallel with my car. I observed it for five minutes with my 8x40 binoculars. During these five minutes I saw the light move at speeds that would stun one's imagination."
Later the same day, he wrote: "I saw a red and green light pass over the radio station. I placed the altitude at 1,000 feet. It was noiseless. Then it stopped and remained in the exact spot for 2 1/2 hours. At 11 p.m. it disappeared."
On Sept. 10, Turner told of following a UFO from Franklin to Xenia.
"On one side, the craft had a standard red running light, on the other side, a green light. The distance between the two lights seemed to be 30 to 50 feet. At one point, when the craft was hovering about 100 feet off the ground, I observed it for about two minutes. I was close enough to the craft to have thrown a rock at it. There was no sound whatsoever. I could not tell if there was a dome or bubble on top of the craft."
Turner reported seeing four more UFOs near the radio station on the night of Sept. 11. And on Sept 20, he wrote, "I was on my way home from work when, for the first time, I realized these flying objects were actually following me home each night. I have no idea why they are following me, unless It is because I know they are here and I am watching them all of the time. There is no other reason I can think of."
On Sept. 21, Turner wrote that he and a friend, Bill Carney, who at that time was a newsman at WPFB, observed three UFOs on Upper Bellbrook Rd. and four days later, on Sept. 25, Turner wrote, "A UFO followed me home from work again this morning."
Turner noted in his diary that UFOs didn't follow him much during the month of October and then, on Nov. 7, he wrote: "When I left the side door of the (radio) station and approached my car, I noticed a UFO circling the station. I watched this craft for a minute, then got In the car and decided to take 1-75 home. Just as I pulled onto 1-75, there they were, waiting just over the first group of trees off to the left of the southbound lanes.
"I watched them zip over the tops of the trees and fly parallel with me as they have done many, many nights. The red flasher lights (on the UFOs) were going. I could observe goldish-looking lights, too, as If they were coming from a cabin or cockpit of some sort. They zipped along beside me all the way to the edge of Dayton, then I saw them go over the top of the Dayton Power and Light Co. station. I didn't see them again that night."
Turner recorded UFO sightings on Nov. 9, Nov. 15 and Nov. 17. On Nov. 18 he wrote, "I was driving on 1-75 and when I got to the Rt. 725 exit, a UFO came over the interstate and headed east just in front of my car and approximately 300 feet In the air. I grabbed my flashlight and began signaling the craft, but this was to no avail. Then the idea struck me to pick up the CB walkie-talkie, Just for the fun of it. I did not expect anyone or anything to hear me.
"Nevertheless, I began transmitting. I said, 'Hello. Can you hear me up there?' Just seconds after I released the transmitter button, a strange and uncanny piercing sound came from the receiver for a good 20 seconds. It was an eerie kind of sound. At first, it really did give me the creeps. Believe me, the sound was very loud and strong. After 20 seconds, the sound stopped and I heard a voice. But I could not understand one word that was being said.
"All the rest of the way home (a distance of about 15 miles) I tried to make contact with whoever or whatever it was that had contacted me. But that was the only transmission I heard from the UFO. One thing I can say for sure, I have never heard this sound before and, if I ever hear it again, believe me I will know it."
Turner spotted UFOs on Nov. 21, but his attempts to make CB contact with the objects failed. On Nov. 22, after observing a UFO on Woodman Dr. in Dayton and another on Smithville Rd., Turner said, "I think these UFOs are trying to lure me into following them, as I am sure they intend on picking me up sometime. But it appears they like to play games with me. I haven't the slightest idea how long they intend to follow me, watch my house, play their little game. But you can be sure of one thing they have a reason for it. And I believe the reason is they actually intend on taking me captive in their craft. However, I have no idea when this will occur."
On the morning of Nov. 23, Turner was driving on Harshman Rd. when he saw a UFO that had been following him go down behind some trees. Turner said he drove home and got his CB walkie-talkie. "When I turned it on, there were two women talking on the channel. One of them goes by the nickname 'Blondie.' They talked for awhile, then I heard the strange and uncanny sound I heard be fore. I knew the spacemen were going to talk. Then the voice of a man came on and he was talking in an unknown language. Someone answered his call in the same language. Then the women came back on, then I heard the man's voice again. This time it seemed almost as if I could understand him. It sounded as if he said, 'Ungunther, that's a bad ship to be on.'"
In his diary, Turner reported sighting UFOs south of Dayton on Dec. 2, Dec. 13 and again on Dec. 15. Turner ended his diary on Christmas Day 1970 with the report that a UFO followed him from Middletown to Dayton.
Today, Turner says he sees things now and then that are "out of the ordinary" but not with the frequency of 1970. Looking back, he says a lot of people "thought I was nuts" in those days. "A few of my closest friends believed me, but that's about all."
He says he hasn't changed his mind about what he experienced eight years ago. "I believe those flying objects were manned by beings from outer space and I believe they were trying to make contact with me. Maybe they really did make contact and I just wasn't sharp enough to detect it. "I know a lot of the things that happened to me were very frightening. I'll never forget them. Never."
Monday, September 16, 2019
Nicholas Monsarrat had a long and distinguished career as an author. He is probably best remembered today for the 1951 novel, "The Cruel Sea," and 1952's "The Story of Esther Costello." When he was visiting a Quebec shooting-lodge in 1953, he was told a story which was as compelling--and far stranger--than anything in his fiction. Some time later, he wrote an account of his eerie experience, which was published in Peter Haining's "The Mammoth Book of True Hauntings." Although his tale is impossible to verify, it is unique enough to warrant our notice.
Monsarrat heard his story from another guest at the lodge, someone he identified only as "George." The man was a stranger to him, and an actor to boot, so Monsarrat acknowledged that the tale "may well have been a pack of lies." However, at the time, at least, he believed it.
Earlier, Monsarrat had commented to "George" about the man's son, a boy eight or nine years old. The youngster had amazing eyes--enormous in size, the brightest of blue, and with an expression of "staring at the universe as if he did not believe any of it." To look into those eyes was like "gazing through a window into unfathomable depths." George merely replied calmly, "He's always looked like that."
George was a Hungarian by birth, although after living in Canada all his adult life and marrying a Canadian girl, he considered himself a fully integrated citizen of that country. He often got roles playing native Canadians. Just before his son was born, George's mother came from Hungary to help raise the baby, and generally get to know her first grandchild.
The elderly woman was very much "old school." She was of uneducated peasant stock, who spoke no English and had absolutely no interest in "Canadianizing" herself. In fact, she was horrified by the way her son had "gone modern" and abandoned his Hungarian heritage. She became increasingly worried that her grandson would do the same. She did not want him to grow up ignorant of his Hungarian roots. "Let me have four years," she begged her son and daughter-in-law. "Just a little time--enough for the language and some of the old customs. Then he will be yours again."
George's wife, it was inferred, was not altogether enamored of the idea. George himself, however, agreed--partly for the sake of avoiding discord, and partly because he didn't think it was a half-bad plan. He felt his mother had done a fine job of raising him. Why not give his son the same benefit?
It will remain forever unknown just how this unconventional scheme would have worked out. Shortly after the baby was born, George's mother suddenly died. The old Hungarian woman was clearly strong-willed and fond of doing things her way, but Death is more powerful than any mere human.
George's son was handsome, healthy, well-behaved. A perfect child in every respect but one: he never spoke, or, indeed, made any sounds at all. He just stared at the world with those enormous blue orbs...in utter silence. All the doctors and specialists who examined him were baffled. They found nothing at all to explain this unsettling muteness. All they could suggest was that the boy was "a late developer."
This state of affairs continued until the child was three years old. Then, one night, George and his wife came home late from a party. They were startled to hear an unfamiliar voice emanating from upstairs. They went immediately to their son's bedroom. He was standing up in his cot, staring at a corner of the room, speaking rapidly and fluently in Hungarian--a language to which the child had never been exposed.
The next morning, the boy relapsed into his usual silence. This lasted until he was four years old, when he suddenly began to speak perfect English.
With a strong Hungarian accent.
George's mother had had her way.
Friday, September 13, 2019
It's Link Dump time!
Why it took so long to avenge a rape/murder.
When is someone really dead? The answer can be...complicated.
Why you don't want to make a pet out of a mummified cat.
Nothing to see here, just a killer slime taking over France.
A dog's problematic funeral. (Reminiscent of the saga of Billy Hansbrough.)
It seems that the editor of Encyclopedia Britannica had an even more interesting side gig.
You wouldn't want a giant asteroid to hit the earth again. It would really ruin your day. Not to mention your species.
The misadventures of HMS Wager.
George Africanus: from slave to successful English businessman.
Contemporary news reports about the development of the polio vaccine.
The week wouldn't be complete without a post about hallucinogenic giraffe livers.
If you're looking for a campsite, it might be best to ignore Braley Pond.
Why John Dillinger is still causing trouble.
An 18th century female fossil hunter.
An asylum for the deaf and dumb children of the poor.
This is pretty horrible: dogs are dying in Norway, and nobody knows why.
The stone that protects London.
Finding the Devil in Swanton Morley.
Jane Austen's sister-in-law.
I'll say this for the Devil; no one can top him as a disciplinarian.
Europe's lost continent.
A husband-murderer's dreadful end.
The most haunted forest in Romania.
Believe it or not, it isn't a good idea to swallow padlocks.
You're best off not swallowing flies, either.
A brief history of the real Downton Abbey.
A fugitive's strange suicide.
A notorious novel goes on trial.
Beau Nash and the Rules of Bath.
How 19th century streetcars led to giant cats.
Dueling, Andrew Jackson style.
The inventor who made ghosts.
The importance of a worm fossil.
A dentist/firearms inventor.
The Crusader Earl.
The world's oldest city.
The Case of the Disappearing Observatory.
That does it for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll look at a unique ghost story. In the meantime, yet another classic summer song:
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Hey, everyone always likes a good "grave-robber gets his comeuppance" story, right? This one is courtesy of the "Windsor Review," May 19, 1892:
The German Lutheran cemetery is situated in close proximity to Graceland, and in it are buried thousands of what were once good, sensible, jolly Germans of Chicago, both male and female. One of the bodies that lies there is that of a stout hardware dealer who used to keep a prospering store on Milwaukee avenue, near Noble street. He was taken sick one day and died, and his family shortly after got into straitened circumstances. His pretty young daughter, Ida by name, likewise sickened and died.
Her death occurred at the hospital, and some of the features of the disease which carried her off were of unusual interest from a purely scientific standpoint. As nobody had claimed the body for a day or two orders were given to have it taken to the dissecting-room and there explored for the benefit of budding M.D.s. But the mother of the girl all the while had been exerting herself among her friends to raise money enough to afford her poor child a decent burial, and at last she had succeeded. So just in the nick of time the old mother presented herself at the county hospital and claimed and obtained the body of her child. On the same day was the funeral.
What followed is given here on the authority of William Zengg, who at tho time was employed as gravedigger around the German Lutheran cemetery: It appears that a hanger-on at one of the medical colleges took it upon himself to disinter the body of the young girl and turn it over, in exchange for a snug little sum, to the janitor of that college. As this resurrectionist on a moist, foggy night in October, 1887 approached the newly-made grave of his intended victim, he was startled and scared beyond measure by the apparition of a stout, husky man looking straight and threateningly at him. The apparition was that of the recently deceased father of the dead girl, keeping watch at the grave of his daughter to guard it against desecration. The would-be grave robber was so utterly demoralized by the unearthly sight that met his eyes that he threw down his tools--spade and all--and fled.
Monday, September 9, 2019
|"Sydney Morning Herald," July 6, 1965, via Newspapers.com|
Laura Thatcher Ulrich famously wrote that "well-behaved women seldom make history." I've always thought of that quote as one of those clever-sounding quips that, on reflection, just ain't so. And then I come across Molly Morgan, a woman who brought herself to fame and fortune simply because throughout her long life, she was anything but well-behaved.
The exact birthdate of Mary "Molly" Jones is unrecorded, but it was presumably just before her baptism in the English village of Diddlebury on January 31, 1762. About all we know for certain about her family life is that her father, David Jones, was a ratcatcher. When Molly was in her early teens, she left school to become a dressmaker. In 1783, she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, also named Mary. The father is unknown, but he was rumored to be a wealthy farmer who refused to marry her. On June 25, 1785, she wed a wheelwright and carpenter named William Morgan. The couple soon had a son, James.
Molly's life was a quiet and ordinary one until 1789, when she and her husband were caught with linen which had been stolen from a bleaching factory. William was able to escape custody before facing trial, and promptly disappeared. In August 1789, Molly was tried at the Shrewsbury Assizes, convicted, and sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Australia. (It is not recorded who took charge of Molly's children, who were now essentially orphaned.)
Molly's run of bad luck continued when she was assigned to the ship "Neptune" for the journey. The Neptune was one of the most notorious of the convict "hell-ships." Captains of these ships were paid per prisoner--the number of convicts who actually survived the voyage was a matter of supreme indifference to authorities. The expense of feeding their unwilling passengers came out of the captains' own pockets. Therefore, it was seen as sensible business practice among the more heartless commanders to cram as many captives on their ships as possible, and let starvation and disease eliminate extra mouths to feed. Molly and the five hundred other prisoners on the Neptune stood a small chance of reaching their destination alive.
Molly, however, had some advantages most of her fellow convicts lacked. She was very attractive, very resourceful, and very, very determined to survive. Legend has it that by the simple expedient of providing sexual favors to certain of the ship's officers, she was provided with extra rations and better overall treatment than the other prisoners. By the time the Neptune arrived in Sydney Harbor, more than half of the convicts were dead or nearly so. Molly, on the other hand, was in perfect health and raring to start her new life.
She really must have been something.
In Sydney, Molly was reunited with her husband, who had been recaptured and also packed off to Australia. After a period of factory work, the couple was granted parole, and they opened a shop.
Sadly, the Morgan domestic life was not proceeding as smoothly as their professional affairs. Molly had grown bored with William, and had taken to consorting with other men. Her husband eventually grew tired of wearing cuckold's horns, and abandoned her. (William Morgan eventually started a new, and hopefully happier, family with another woman. He evidently managed to stay out of further trouble until his death in 1828.)
Molly seems to have scarcely noticed he had gone. She had become the mistress of the captain of a store-ship, John Locke. She saw that her new lover's profession could come in very useful to her. On November 9, 1794, Molly, along with three other convicts, managed to stow away on Locke's ship before it sailed to England.
When they were back in England, Locke offered to marry Molly, but she declined. His value to her now over, Molly left her captain and traveled to Plymouth. She recovered her children and found work as a dressmaker. A rich brassfounder named Thomas Mears fell under her clearly still-abundant charms, and married her. Of course, Molly was still legally wed to William Morgan, but she saw that as one of those irrelevant details not worth mentioning.
End of the story? Hardly. With women like Molly Morgan, the good times never cease to roll. In 1803, the Mears home was destroyed by a mysterious fire, and Thomas, for reasons that are now uncertain, accused his wife of setting the blaze. We can take that to mean the romance was definitely over. In October of that year, Molly stood trial for neglecting to honor a promissory note. She was found guilty and sentenced, again, to transportation. (Molly's son was sent to live with relatives, after which he ran away to join the royal marines. The fate of Molly's daughter is unknown.)
Upon her return to Sydney in June 1804, Molly prospered well enough, thanks to a number of well-to-do "protectors," and she was granted a small piece of land and a few cattle. This just led her to fresh trouble. The local authorities couldn't help but notice that Molly's livestock was growing in size far too rapidly to be the product of mother nature. It was soon found that Molly, a true believer that the Lord helps those who help themselves, had been rounding up government cattle and branding them as her own.
Government officials do not react well to having their pockets picked. In 1816, Molly was sentenced to seven years in Newcastle Penal Colony, a place where Australia's worst offenders were kept in the harshest conditions. She dealt with this latest setback in characteristic fashion: it is said she became the mistress of one of the prison's overseers, who, in 1819, managed to have her granted parole.
She really must have been something.
Molly was sent to the settlement of Wallis Plains, where she was again given a plot of land. She did very well as a farmer, and used her profits to open a highly successful wine shanty. (She soon also started an equally popular inn.) In 1822, she married an Army Officer named Thomas Hunt, who was thirty years her junior. In 1823, she was doing so well financially that the Governor allowed her to lease another 159 acres, along with a gang of convicts to farm the land. By 1828, she was listed as being one of the largest landowners in the area, and was known as "The Queen of the Hunter River." Several land features were named after her, and her inn and wine shanty were the nucleus for what eventually became the city of Maitland.
Molly used her wealth to be a force for good. She was well-known for her philanthropic acts and generosity to the poor. She helped build schools and hospitals, and often spoke in defense of convicts. Unfortunately, there were many who took advantage of her open-handedness, and the one-time thief was frequently robbed, with the result that her final years found her in relatively straitened circumstances. After her death on June 27, 1835, an anonymous newspaper obituary writer mourned that "her latter days were not those of enjoyment of the comforts of this life to which she was entitled from the numerous acts of kindness she had evinced to all around her."
She was undoubtedly still rich in memories, however.
Friday, September 6, 2019
The first Link Dump of September is here!
And our host for this week is jumping for joy!
|Photo: Edouard Boubat|
That old question: How the hell did Meriwether Lewis die?
That even older question: How the hell did Alexander the Great die?
Where the hell are South Africa's great white sharks?
How London heard about the battle of Waterloo.
They probably just found the remains of one of Napoleon's favorite General.
The first American settlers may have been Japanese.
Oh, just another wedding featuring an exploding goose.
The real-life adventures of a Samurai warrior.
An Amazon warrior in Mongolia.
The Victorian ice cream queen.
The code breakers of Renaissance Venice.
If you want to meet a ghost, your best bet is to go on a nighttime walk in Bristol.
This week in Russian Weird features the world's busiest apartment. Frankly, those photos made me dizzy.
Yet another (probably justifiably) obscure playwright.
An ancient earthquake detector.
Why becoming a human salamander probably isn't the best career choice.
How a pioneering case of plastic surgery took place at a livestock auction.
Why Nessie might just be a freaking big eel.
Rosa Halliday, child thief.
The strange case of the Sonora Aero Club.
A librarian's death in WWI.
The notorious Doctor Dee.
When missing pet posters become art.
The worst room in the Tower of London.
The changing image of Maid Marian.
The hurricane that sank Spain.
A scandalous abduction in India.
Charles Dickens and the dishonest ticket collector.
It only makes sense that Dead Man's Curve would have a ghost.
That time men became infested with lice for the good of their country.
When you steal the bones of a Scottish witch, you're just begging to star in a M.R. James story.
The miser's stinking rich granddaughter.
Words matter, folks.
This is why we can't have nice archaeological relics.
The apparition at Knockmore.
A chat with mourning stationery.
The most glamorous beach parties of the 1920s.
The real story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The East India Company and London's Great Fire.
In which we learn that Future Life Progression is A Thing.
Queen Victoria visits France.
The execution of William Kidd.
The execution of a dirty poet.
To be honest, I find this extremely creepy.
The cats of Spitalfields.
A witchcraft case from Cornwall.
A probable murderer gets away with it.
The execution of a Danish infanticide.
Mystery Fires in Louisiana.
Courthouse records of vagrant wizards and violent clowns.
The actress who became a real Lady.
Trepanation: you need it like you need a hole in your head.
Another example of the hellish world of the theater.
And that's all for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll look at a colorful woman from Australian history. In the meantime, even though Labor Day has come and gone, it's still officially summer. (I have the mosquito bites to prove it.) So, bring on the Drifters!
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
This unusual (ghost? doppelganger?) story comes from "Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper," July 2, 1899:
One of the most realistic ghost stories that has got abroad for some time is that of the spectre that haunts the Speaker's court at the Houses of Parliament. So great is the resemblance it bears to Mrs. Milman, wife of the assistant clerk of the House of Commons, who resides there, that the ghost is freely spoken of as her double. People had even addressed the ghost as Mrs. Milman, though, of course, the apparition made no reply as it passed on its way upstairs or downstairs, along the corridors, into one room and out of another. It was only by learning that Mrs. Milman was really in quite a different part of the house at the time that her friends discovered the mysterious visitant.Mrs. Milman's husband, Sir Archibald Milman, died in 1902, only days after resigning his post. (Two years before, he had been promoted to head clerk of the House.) It would be interesting to know if the "ghost" made any more appearances after the Milmans departed.
Mrs. Milman, upon whom a representative of Lloyd's called, spoke freely of the "funny affair," as she called it. It was years since the ghost first appeared "to everybody but myself," she added. Though she had tried in vain to see her double, Mrs. Milman had only succeeded in hearing it once, in very uncanny circumstances. When in her bedroom one night there was a noise outside the door, which she immediately opened, finding nobody there. She then fastened the door by means of a "night bolt," worked by a rope from the bed. While she looked the handle was turned and the door opened, but again there was nobody there. She called the butler, who said he had just passed her coming through the folding doors of the bottom corridor. She supposed he had seen her double. No later than yesterday a young lady told Mrs. Milman she had seen her where she had never been. The ghost of the Speaker's court is getting itself talked about anyhow. Every policeman smiled as Lloyd's representative passed into the yard, surmising his errand; and tho butler said " ghost " the moment he announced himself.
Monday, September 2, 2019
|"Wichita Beacon," June 1, 1911, via Newspapers.com|
Rather amazingly, Gertrude Gibson Patterson was not the most scandalous murderer gracing Denver in 1911. That dubious honor went to Frank Harold Henwood, who found a deadly way to end an increasingly troublesome love triangle.
The road to murder began a few years earlier, when a wealthy Denver widower, John W. Springer, met a beautiful, much-younger divorcee named Isabel Patterson. (She was no relation to Gertrude, although the two women were definitely kindred spirits.) Although Springer was soon given abundant warning that the lady had acquired a decidedly questionable reputation, the infatuated banker married her anyway. "Sassy" as he nicknamed her, was lively, Sassy was charming, and he felt she would bring some much-needed warmth and excitement to his dull life.
|Isabel Springer, via Newspapers.com|
Sassy was indeed nothing but excitement, but not of the sort he probably expected. The new Mrs. Springer soon demonstrated that the slurs on her character were not unjustified. Marriage did nothing to curb her taste for drugs, disreputable parties, and raffish companions. Life on her husband’s ranch was not to her taste, so she persuaded him to rent her a suite in the Brown Palace Hotel. She spent most of her time there.
In the spring of 1911, she entered into a flirtation—or perhaps something even more improper—with a handsome rake named Sylvester “Tony” Von Phul. Mrs. Springer also became involved with Frank Henwood, her husband’s new business partner. This relationship probably developed into a full-blown affair. (John Springer, a remarkably oblivious sort for a successful businessman, evidently overlooked—or wished to overlook—his wife’s activities.)
Von Phul found himself displaced in Mrs. Springer’s affections, and, according to her, he did not take his dismissal well. He had what the lady described as “silly little letters” she had written him. She told Henwood he was threatening to make them public if she did not resume their relationship.
Henwood—motivated, so he later claimed, only by a gallant desire to defend the honor of his friend’s wife—resolved to have it out with the blackmailer. On May 23, 1911, Von Phul returned to Denver from a business trip and registered a room at the Brown Palace. That day, the two men had a confrontation in Von Phul’s room. According to Henwood, he implored his adversary to return Mrs. Springer’s letters and stay out of her life. Von Phul, in the true fashion of stage villains of the era, contemptuously slapped him.
Henwood endeavored to keep his temper. He had had trouble in the Brown Palace before, for “beating small bellboys,” not to mention attempting to force his way into the room of a certain female guest. He feared a third incident might find him barred from the hotel permanently. The fact that he knew Von Phul was carrying a gun might also have had a restraining effect.
The two men continued their quarrel, until Von Phul ended the debate by hitting Henwood with a shoe-tree and displaying his pistol in a menacing manner. Henwood staggered out with the humiliating knowledge that he had little talent either as a diplomat or a tough guy.
According to Mrs. Springer’s later testimony, Von Phul then marched into her suite. He denounced her for allowing Henwood to interfere with their romance, and—not for the first time—struck her in the face. After tearing up a photograph of Henwood that was on her dresser, he stalked out, vowing to “fix” his rival.
The atmosphere in the Brown Palace’s dining room that evening must have been enough to give anyone indigestion. Henwood ate his dinner with Von Phul sitting nearby “sneering” at his vanquished foe. Mr. and Mrs. Springer ate together at a third table. After what I assume was a singularly dismal meal, Henwood went to share his troubles with the police chief and ask him to run the gun-toting Von Phul out of town. It took more than gun-pointing and shoe-tree assaults to impress a Colorado policeman of the day. Chief Armstrong refused to do any more than suggest Henwood simply stay out of Von Phul’s way and allow the Springers to handle their own personal issues. For the second time that day, Henwood was forced to make an ignominious retreat.
The next morning, according to Isabel Springer, Von Phul again accosted her with threats of “fixing” the busybody Henwood. She then sent Henwood a note imploring him to just wash his hands of the matter and allow her to handle her own troubles. Instead, Henwood went running back to Chief Armstrong, who again shrugged that he could do nothing unless specific charges were filed against Von Phul. Henwood then purchased his own ally, in the form of a .38 revolver.
That evening, Henwood accompanied the Springers to the theater. After the trio returned to the Brown Palace, the Springers went to their suite while Henwood retired to the bar, accompanied by his brand-new gun. Shortly before midnight, Von Phul entered the barroom. He sidled up to Henwood and made a remark to him. Its exact nature is lost to history, which is just as well, as it was evidently thoroughly unrepeatable.
What happened next is unclear. Some witnesses say Von Phul then turned his back on Henwood and calmly ordered a drink. Others in the bar—most notably Henwood himself—stated that Von Phul knocked Henwood to the floor and then stood over him in a very threatening manner. All we know for certain is that Henwood pulled out his gun and frantically, blindly, fired every bullet in the chamber. Two of the bullets hit Von Phul, while the others flew wildly across the barroom, wounding two utterly innocent bystanders. Once his gun was empty, Henwood staggered off to the hotel lobby and quietly waited to be arrested.
Both Henwood and his injured enemy tried to keep Isabel Springer’s name out of the police investigation, but that, of course, was impossible. Most of Denver knew about her consecutive—or simultaneous—relations with the two men. Von Phul died the next morning, insisting sardonically that his quarrel with Henwood had arisen over a difference of opinion over the bathing beauties appearing in the Follies of 1910. Henwood, sitting in his jail cell, refused to say much of anything at all. The nearly-forgotten third man in Isabel’s life—namely, her husband—maintained that she could have had nothing to do with the shooting, and that Henwood was a “good fellow” whose friendship with Isabel had his complete approval.
No one knew what Isabel Springer herself had to say about the matter. She had gone into hiding.
Before Henwood came to trial, one of the unlucky onlookers he had shot, G.E. Copeland, died of gangrene, so he wound up facing two charges of murder. Less than a week after this second death, John Springer quietly filed for divorce.
Probably in a misguided attempt to protect the Springers, the D.A. first tried Henwood only for Copeland’s murder. This made little sense, as the law held that Henwood would only be guilty of killing Copeland if it could be established that the death occurred because Henwood was busy trying to murder someone else. In other words, Henwood could only be convicted of Copeland’s murder if the D.A. proved he killed Von Phul as well.
During this trial, both Henwood and Mrs. Springer attempted to present their relationship in the most innocent way possible, but the effect of this discretion was damaged by a couple of the Springers’ servants, who eagerly gave some juicy testimony about the indecent familiarity between the pair. Henwood made a good witness for himself. He stubbornly maintained that the shooting was a matter of self-defense, arising from his efforts to protect his best friend’s wife from a blackguard.
The jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. The D.A. immediately told the judge of his plans to put Henwood on trial again for the killing of Von Phul. Henwood’s attorney argued that this would constitute double jeopardy, as the two deaths were effectively “one and the same case.” He declared that if Henwood were acquitted for killing Von Phul, he would seek his client’s release. “If he is innocent of murdering Von Phul, he cannot then be guilty of murdering Copeland.”
This logic persuaded the D.A. to leave well enough alone. He dropped the idea of pressing the Von Phul murder against Henwood. Several weeks later, when Henwood appeared for sentencing, he gave the judge what was either one of the bravest or one of the stupidest speeches ever given in a courtroom by a convicted murderer. When asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed on him, Henwood wound up fulminating for half an hour. He called the judge “prejudiced.” “I never expected justice from the start.” He still thought of John Springer as a friend, and regarded Isabel as a sister. Henwood accused the judge of acting as a prosecutor during the trial, of intimidating Mrs. Springer, of believing that he was a home-wrecker “although God knows I was not.” He closed by saying calmly, “Now I am ready for your unjust sentence.”
After a lengthy silence, the judge coolly imposed his sentence: It was the maximum. Life imprisonment. No one knows if he reached this decision before or after Henwood’s diatribe.
This was hardly the end of Henwood’s legal battles. While he sat in the County Jail—treated, said a reporter, as “a sort of matinee idol”—his appeal was heard by the state Supreme Court. In January 1913, the court ruled in his favor, on the grounds that the trial judge had unjustly deprived him of the chance to be found guilty of manslaughter. A retrial was ordered. In the meantime, Henwood’s attorney succeeded in his motion to have the Von Phul charges dropped. He then argued that this dismissal amounted to an acquittal in the death of Copeland. This motion was dismissed, and in May Henwood faced his second trial. It was basically a rehash of the first until the defense startled everyone by calling John W. Springer to the stand.
Springer—who had visibly aged in the last two years—made the best character witness any murderer could ask for. With calm dignity, he testified that Henwood was “a gentleman” whose relations with Springer’s now ex-wife had been entirely proper. When he left the stand, Springer walked across the courtroom and paused to warmly shake Henwood’s hand before exiting.
It is hard not to think that John W. Springer was the biggest fool on two feet.
The defense, obviously believing they now had an acquittal in the bag, rested their case on this note of Hollywood melodrama.
It is always a mistake for an attorney to take a jury for granted. The panel essentially took Springer’s testimony—handshake and all—and chucked it out the deliberating room window. They found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. He now faced the death penalty. When the verdict was read, Henwood burst into tears, while his lawyer sat looking as though the jurymen had hit him over the head with a shoe-tree.
After several efforts to appeal the verdict had been denied, Henwood’s lawyer made a last-ditch effort with Colorado’s governor. This was more successful. Governor Ammons commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Henwood served ten years in the state penitentiary before being paroled. Unfortunately, his years in prison had seen a rapid deterioration in a mental equilibrium that was clearly none too steady to begin with. As miserable as prison life had been, he was even less suited for freedom. Soon after his release, he was taken back into custody for assaulting a waitress. This was seen as a violation of his parole, and he returned to the penitentiary until his death in 1929.
The former Isabel Springer had an even more unhappy end. After her divorce, she drifted to New York. She made fitful attempts to become an actress or an artist’s model, but her only success was in sinking deeper and deeper into alcoholism and drug addiction. According to some reports, the former high society femme fatale became a street prostitute. She died penniless in a hospital charity ward in 1917 at the age of thirty-seven.
John Springer lived, reputation and dignity more-or-less intact, until 1945. In 1915, the fifty-six year old entered into his third marriage, with a Janette Lotave. For the second time in a row, he wed a lovely siren young enough to be his daughter.
Some men never learn.
Friday, August 30, 2019
This week's Link Dump is hosted by Kiddo, the feline who inspired those historic words, "Roy, come and get this goddamn cat!"
Watch out for those stone-throwing Yowies!
A brief look at cat folklore.
The notorious Black Hole of Calcutta.
The president and the mystery disease.
When medieval peasants weren't busy dying of plague, they liked to wrestle.
The two lives of Lawrence Bader.
How the Slinky was accidentally invented.
Henry Johnson, one-man army.
Another one for the "We don't know jack about human history" file.
The world's largest occult library is now online.
A case of medieval tax evasion.
The kind of thing that happens when you have Google Earth and way too much spare time on your hands.
The man with the concrete enema. And guess what? This isn't a Thomas Morris link.
Hairdressing for the dead.
A hiker's strange death.
Why the letter "Q" was once illegal in Turkey.
As if mining wasn't dangerous enough already, you also have phantom black dogs to worry about.
Yet another indicted witch.
The people who make it difficult for you to fake your own death.
The first American play. It didn't go so well.
A tooth leads to an Ice Age whodunit.
An early 20th century theater censor.
That time a railway hired a baboon.
Jane Austen's forgotten brother.
An Inuit in early 19th century London.
The mystery of the Croatian elongated skulls.
The Ballad of the Taverners.
The life of a medieval executioner.
A 16th century case of reattaching a severed nose.
More, perhaps, than you ever wanted to know about the digestive woes of Lewis & Clark.
The famed moving coffins of Barbados.
The sad end of a Revolutionary War soldier.
Murder and a voodoo cult.
A 19th century celebrity stalker.
Shorter version: yeah, we're all doomed.
A brief look at ship's cats.
Why historians care about whether or not James Buchanan was gay.
The last person hanged in Britain for attempted murder.
Something weird just happened on an Essex beach.
Single mothers in the early 20th century.
A medieval German beer still made today.
The radioactive Boy Scout.
The poltergeist of Humpty Doo.
The UFO of Carlingford.
The execution of Eustace the Monk.
A truck driver's strange end.
Have pity on the playwrights.
The face of a 2,000 year old Druid.
One footnote: I've realized that, for the past few weeks, my feed reader has not been providing updates on certain blogs I follow. In other words, some new blog posts are simply not showing up on my Inoreader subscriptions. (I contacted Inoreader about the problem, and they essentially told me, "We dunno.") So, if you have a blog that I usually link to, but I haven't recently, that's why. Ergh.
So that's that for this week. See you on Monday, when we'll look at a scandalous murder in early 20th century Denver. In the meantime, here's another of our songs of summer.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
In which we meet the Dancing Stove Lids of Ontario. The "Windsor Star," January 14, 1935:
Strange tales began to reach Perth yesterday of ghostly happenings in Burgess Township. At the little farm home of John Quinn, on the shores of Black Lake, about 16 miles south of Perth, inanimate objects had been suddenly imbued with life, James Kinloch, of Perth, writes in a signed article in the Mail and Empire.
Stones thrown by no human hands, the stories said, had been breaking windows. Pieces of firewood had been leaping out of the kitchen woodbox. The tea kettle wouldn't stay on the stove. A mirror had been shattered by some unseen force. A foot-long beef bone repeatedly flew through one of the windows and would not stay outside the house.
By evening the "ghost of Burgess" was the one topic of discussion in Perth. In shops, on the streets, in the post office, and in every home John Quinn's uncanny visitor had supplanted all the news. Skeptics had gone to Black Lake and Joined the crowd of 60 or 70 persons milling about the Quinn's home. They had heard window panes breaking and had seen the stones which had shattered them, but had no explanation.
With others this reporter spent all last night at the allegedly haunted house but has no uncanny personal experience to report. He arrived at the Quinn home at 9 o'clock. It is a story and a half log structure. No lights showed because every window blind was down and the gaping panes were stuffed with bags and blankets. There were 10 windows in the house and every pane in every window was broken. Inside were Mr. and Mrs. Quinn and their two small sons, Michael and Stanley, and about a dozen men.
The room was lighted by a kerosene lamp. The men were in small groups, all talking in low voices as at a funeral. Provincial Police Inspector Sidney Oliver of Perth was also there because the whole countryside was alarmed at the stories of "goblins and ghosties and things that go bump in the night." Nothing had gone bump that evening, however. The last manifestation had been at 5 o'clock when a piece of firewood came from no one knew where, and with a thump was there in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Mr. Quinn, who came to Burgess two and one-half years ago from Detroit, told me that he could offer no explanation for the things which have disrupted his home life. Things started to go wrong a couple of weeks ago. he said. Pieces of beef which had been cut up and placed in a closed barrel had been found strewn around the barn floor. Then last Wednesday night about 11 o'clock a window pane had gone with a crash. He had got up and looked all around the house but had seen no one. He had not thought it particularly unusual, however, until the incident was repeated on Thursday night. Then on Friday things had "started slinging around."
Andrew Burke, a neighboring farmer, said he had seen the windows break and the stones drop with a queer thud as if there were no human force behind them, just inside the window sill. He said dishes had jumped, and a bone, thrown out of the house time and time again, had each time returned to the house in some mysterious manner. Apparently no one had been near the objects affected, he said.
William Cordick. another neighbor, came into the house later in the evening. He said he had been there when three flatirons had come down the staircase one step at a time. Just like someone walking. Mr. Cordick was considerably perturbed.
Throughout the evening people came and went. Men and women huddled around the stoves in the two downstairs rooms. Between 10 and 12 o'clock there were never less than 25 persons in the house, all talking in whispers and looking at broken crockery and the scattered mirror and the broken monkey wrench which had reputedly spun around on a nail on the wall propelled by unseen hands.
Rev. Father Whelan of Stanleyville, whose parish includes the Quinn home, came in during the evening. He said he had been there earlier in the day when lie had heard a window shatter and had seen one of the stones. From what he had been told by his parishioners. Father Whelan said, he had no explanation to offer. None of the stones was available. Souvenir hunters had picked them up. It was generally agreed that they were common field stones. Some had been dry, others had had ice on them.
As the hands of the clock standing beside a mysteriously broken jug on the kitchen bureau crept towards midnight, the small crowd grew a little tense, and sat or stood around saying little, waiting for they knew not what. Nothing happened, and shortly after 12 o'clock Mrs. Quinn and her two sons went to bed. At one several others left the house. At two only a dozen were left. Mr. Quinn went to bed. Finally Inspector Oliver and this reporter were the only ones left in one of the downstairs rooms. Two neighbors of the Quinn family kept watch in the other. Outside the house the mercury slipped below zero, and the little house with the broken windows was very cold. Still nothing happened and in the morning we returned to Perth.
Today literally hundreds of people motored over the rough township roads through a snow storm to the Quinn home. They came from Perth, Smiths Falls and the countryside for miles around. No inexplicable occurrences were reported today, but the goings-on in Burgess remain the paramount interest of the whole district.
The "Brooklyn Eagle," January 23, 1935. Note that this article gives the farmer's name as "Joseph," which appears to be incorrect.
Stanleyville, Ontario, Jan. 22.--One of the most baffling mysteries ever to confront the Canadian police is under investigation at Black Lake, three miles from here, where detectives are attempting to discover the cause of the flying stones, walking flatirons, falling pictures and jumping teapots that have disturbed the farmhouse of Joseph Quinn.
The house, a four-room log cabin affair on a windswept hill, has been the Mecca of sightseers for the past two weeks, ever since it came into the public eye with its strange tale of events that can seemingly be caused by no human hand.
The first hint of mystery came Jan. 9 when Farmer Quinn, his wife and two sons, Michael, 11, and Stanley, 13, were aroused by a heavy stone falling on the roof. Upon investigation, Quinn was unable to find any reason for the noise.
On Jan. 11 events even more strange occurred. At breakfast a cup and saucer left the table side by side and sailed through the window. Every so often Quinn and his family were sent ducking by the arrival through the shattered glass of a well-aimed stone. And when they went to bed they were beset by sticks and debris that made a complete ruin of the 10 windows in the cabin. Besides this, the occupants were on the verge of a bad case of jitters as the result of pictures dropping with a terrific clatter in the midst of a meal or while the farmer and his family sat reading.
A representative of The Eagle visited the Quinn home today and found the house in a deplorable condition. Pillows were jammed into the broken panes to keep out the biting northern blasts and the land around the house was tracked and crushed from the hundreds of feet that have prowled and gaped around it during the period since the mysterious happenings began.
William Cordick, who spent the weekend of the noises in the Quinn home, acted as guide. He told of the first Saturday, when he sat in the Quinn kitchen and saw the lids from the stove rise from their sockets and go out the window.
"As I approached the house," he said, "I heard the noise of flying stones and sticks, things I never saw or believed In before. When I entered the house and was getting warmed near the stove, the lids jumped off somehow and spun around on the floor, finally sailing out. Several stones came through the windows, shattering the panes. While I was in the kitchen with Mrs. Quinn, we heard a noise in the adjoining room and when we got there, the globe from a large lamp lay in pieces on the floor, where it had been hurled by some uncanny force."
The story of the walking flatirons is even more bizarre. While Cordick and Mrs. Quinn sat in the kitchen, they heard a noise on the stairway, caused as they found by three flatirons.
"They were hopping down the stairway just as though they were walking," explained Cordick in the manner of a man who cares not whether the world believes him he knows, for he has seen with his own eyes.
"About this time," he went on, "I decided to go home. I'd seen enough!"
The Quinn home has two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. The stones and sticks that caused the trouble are gone, taken by a souvenir-mad throng that has jammed around the little hill in the hope of seeing more of the phenomena.
Many of the visitors were not disappointed. A stick from the wood box jumped out in the midst of a crowd a week ago, clattered around a bit, and finally came to rest. It held no clue.
No explanation has been discovered for the startling series of events. The police have been hampered by the fact that every stone or stick that has figured in the mystery has been sequestered by the mob as a souvenir, and the tracked, muddy ground offers no possible chance, of divulging the secret be hind the puzzle. In the meantime the noises and stone - throwing have ceased as mysteriously as they began, leaving the Quinns wondering If they have been the victims of practical jokers or the humorous twist of some playful pixie.
Two months later, a "solution" was offered for the mystery when the police rounded up one of the usual suspects. The Saskatoon "Star-Phoenix," March 20:
The ghost of Burgess Township, who last January was responsible for mysteriously breaking windows, walking flatirons and bouncing crockery in the home of John Quinn on the shore of Black Lake, was in the custody of Ontario Provincial Police tonight. Stripped of his nether-world shroud, the ghost turned out to be a 13-year-old Burgess boy who is held also on a charge of arson in connection with the fire which destroyed a barn on the farm of Michael McFarland, a neighbor of bis parents.So that was that. Or was it?
Investigations by Provincial Constable Robert Wanncll, following the fire, led to the arrest of the boy today. He was taken to headquarters here and questioned by Inspector Sidney Oliver. He is said to have admitted setting fire to the barn, and also to have told of being responsible for the mysterious goings on at the Black Lake farmhouse, which drew hundreds of curious visitors to the plane, and baffled police and newspaper reporters. Police turned the boy over to the superintendent of Lanark County Children's Aid Society until Friday, when he will be arraigned in Juvenile Court.
Presuming that the mayhem at the Quinn farm was described accurately, this boy had a stellar career as a magician ahead of him.
Monday, August 26, 2019
|Galdenoch Castle, via canmore.org.uk|
In most poltergeist accounts, households and individuals are targeted for no discernible reasons whatsoever. The spectral attacks begin and end seemingly at random. However, there are a few cases where the paranormal entity makes it clear it is seeking revenge over some perceived slight or injustice.
The most famous of the latter cases is probably the 17th century "Drummer of Tedworth." A less well-known, but equally interesting, example of ghostly payback took place in Galloway, Scotland during the time of the Covenanters and the Scottish Civil War.
Galdenoch Tower, in the parish of Leswalt, had once been a grand castle owned by the Agnew clan. However, the family eventually fell on hard times, and by the close of the 17th century, Galdenoch had been converted into a mere farmhouse. When a farmer and his family took possession of the property, they learned they would be getting an extra bonus: a ghost.
The story behind that particular haunting was this: One of the Agnew men fought for the cause of the Covenant, but unfortunately for him, his army was thoroughly defeated by Montrose. After the battle, the exhausted Agnew sought shelter at nearby farm. The farmer, described as a "rough and blustering man,"allowed the fugitive to share the family dinner and spend the night.
Early the next morning, young Agnew began to leave, but was stopped by his now extremely unfriendly host. The farmer was a Royalist, and had begun to entertain suspicions that his guest had fought on the wrong side. Fearing that he would be taken prisoner and handed over to his enemies, Agnew drew out his pistol and shot his host dead. He then rushed to the stables, saddled his horse, and fled home to Galdenoch.
Agnew arrived safely at the castle, but that night, as he settled down to bed, he was greeted by a most disconcerting visitor: the ghost of the farmer he had just slain. And this was a very angry ghost, anxious to make Agnew's remaining earthly days a torment. According to tradition, not only did the spirit do just that, it continued to pester all successive occupants of the castle. By the time Galdenoch was converted to a farmhouse, some time around 1697, the ghost's exploits had become stranger and more disruptive than ever.
One winter night, as the tenant farmer and his family sought warmth around the kitchen fire, they played a popular game which involved passing a burning stick from hand to hand while chanting, "About wi' that! about wi' that! Keep alive the priest-cat!" Whoever was holding the stick when the flame went out had to pay a forfeit, which usually involved having to do some curious and humiliating action.
Well, that night, the entire family paid the penalty. When the stick's spark was extinguished, one of the party gazed at the blazing hearth and commented, in that impossible-to-translate Scots fashion, "It wadna be hannie to steal a coal the noo." As soon as he spoke, a glowing peat suddenly disappeared, leaving a hole in the middle of the fire.
"That beats a'," the family observed.
Not quite. A few minutes later, the dreaded cry of "Fire!" was heard. The entire farm-steading was in flames. That "cube of fire" which had vanished from the kitchen hearth had been inserted into the barn. Fortunately, after a great deal of effort, the farm buildings were saved from entire destruction.
Things only got weirder. A short time after this incident, the farmer's mother was sitting quietly at her spinning-wheel when an invisible force carried her off, mumbling, "I'll dip thee, I'll draw thee." True to its word, the entity repeatedly dunked her in a nearby stream until the poor old woman was unconscious and half-drowned. When it came time for dinner, the rest of the family realized "grandmamma" was missing. When a search of the farm buildings failed to find her, the tenants became seriously alarmed. When the children of the household ran about the place, frantically asking each other, "Where's granny?" A spectral voice intoned, "I've washed granny in the burn, and laid her on the dyke to dry!" And, indeed, "granny" was found on the dyke, in a most pitiful condition.
The family had quite enough of this nonsense. Several of the local clergymen were summoned to "lay the ghost," but all their efforts were in vain. Whenever they tried singing hymns, the ghost would simply sing along, drowning out their voices. One minister, who had a reputation for being able to banish any ghost in existence, was so offended by the spirit's booming voice and "sharp retorts" that he stalked off, angrily vowing that he would never come back. The ghost called after the minister, begging him to return. It promised that if he would, the entity would tell him something which he had never heard before.
The minister was intrigued enough to swallow his pride and re-enter the farmhouse. He was greeted by the increasingly obnoxious voice chortling, "Ha! ha! I hae gotten the minister to tell a lee!"
Of all the different types of ghosts, the smart-mouthed ones are undoubtedly the worst.
Things went from bad to worse for the beleaguered family. Spinning thread was snapped into shreds. Peat clods were thrown into the porridge, and worse things still dumped into the kail-pot. Finally, after some years of this, a newly-ordained young man, the Reverend Mr. Marshall of Kirkcolm, volunteered to test his godly powers against the Galdenoch pest. Upon arrival at the farm, Marshall hung up his hat, recited a psalm, and began to sing. As always, the ghost began to sing along, drowning out all in the company except the determined Reverend. Marshall's voice rose louder and louder, belting out his song until the "witching hour" of midnight, when he convinced the exhausted family to join in again. The din lasted until dawn, when the ghost, its voice now weak and husky, gasped, "Roar awa, Marshall, I can roar nae mair! I can roar nae mair!" And, sure enough, the spirit was never heard from again.
Marshall went on to gain lasting fame for both his prosecutions of witches and his stentorian voice (we are told that when he preached on a calm day, he could be heard for miles around,) but it was always considered his greatest achievement to have shouted down the Ghost of Galdenoch.