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

Friday, December 6, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

Renoir, "Luncheon of the Boating Party"

This week's Link Dump is hosted by Baby, award-winning seeing-eye cat!

Life Magazine, 1947. Photographer: Loran F. Smith

Lethbridge Herald, February 1, 1947, via Newspapers.com

Who the hell was the Princess of Persia mummy?

What the hell is the Eltanin Antenna?

A newly-discovered manuscript written by Elizabeth I.

A collection of links telling you pretty much all you need to know about Bertolt Brecht.

The history of a portrait.

The wonderful world of medieval book curses.

An asteroid's mysterious craters.

Murder at Fleet Prison.

The rise and fall of a Marine Society apprentice.  (Part two is here.)

The River of Bicycles.

Private Bateman, shot at dawn.

Royal inbreeding and the Habsburg Jaw.

The days of Snowball Earth.

Fake wills and forged Bibles.

Death becomes them.

How a ghost solved a burglary.

Nancy Astor, MP.

A brief history of magnets.

Why Percy Mapleton wished the police sketch had never been invented.

The British in 18th century India.

Vinegar Yard's Whistling Oyster.

John Simon, Mr. Nice Guy.

I'd say that getting hit with a meteorite is the definition of "God hates you."

This week in Russian Weird features a cameo appearance by Bigfoot.

One very bad tenant.

Was King Tut buried in a borrowed grave?

A brief history of punk.

A brief history of Christmas trees.

Uncovering an episode in Biblical history.

And we're done for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll look at a mysterious tragedy in 18th century England. In the meantime, here's a bit of Handel.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

Talking trees are nearly as welcome on my blog as talking cats. From the "Louisville Courier-Journal," September 23, 1904:

Out on the farm of Will Albert, near Heath this county, the people of that section are yet wrought up over the "talking tree" that has been there for some time, says the Paducah News-Democrat.

Enormous crowds continue to congregate there almost every Sunday to hear the strange noises that emanate from the tree. The voice can be distinctly heard and says "there are treasures buried at my roots."

For a time many of the curious thinking people mentioned such a thing with disgust, but as the strange noises can yet he heard the people are now convinced that it is true. A party consisting of the most reliable citizens of the county visited the tree not long since to make a thorough investigation for themselves as to the noises being heard. They listened patiently for several hours and were preparing to leave for home when a sudden crash, which has been given many times before the marvelous production of a human voice, came.

The mystery yet remains unsolved, and so great has the number of people been who have gone there in the past several months that the tree is now dead, caused by the continuous tramping on the earth surrounding the tree. The only theory that has been suggested is that a man was killed under the tree in 1862, and while many do not believe in "spirits," the facts are so plain and the voice can be so distinctly heard that they cannot dispute the fact. A family of people who lived there many years ago became so frightened from the voice they sold their farm at a sacrifice and went West and are now living in Texas.
A while after this article appeared, some boys dug up an old musket that was buried under the tree. This was seen as confirmation of the alleged murder, but as far as I can tell, the "Talking Tree" was one of those weird little stories that made a big splash in contemporary newspapers for a while, only to soon sink without a trace.

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Vanishing in Idaho: The Lillian Richey Mystery

Among the creepiest disappearances are ones where the victim apparently vanished from his/her own home. Equally chilling are the cases where there are virtually no clues indicating what happened to this person. The following mystery managed to combine both these elements, making the fate of one otherwise completely normal person very abnormal indeed.

51-year-old Lillian Richey was a resident of Nampa, Idaho. She had lived alone since the death of her husband, but she had a good job at Bullock's Jewelry, friends, family, and an active social life, so she was far from being lonely or isolated. She was a well-liked woman who had no known enemies or any notable personal problems.

On the night of February 8, 1964, Richey visited a nightclub with an old friend, a California man who was in the area for a cattleman's convention. About 1:30 a.m., the man (whose name was never publicly revealed) drove Richey home in her own car, borrowing the auto to drive back to Boise. One of Richey's neighbors saw the car drive away, immediately followed by lights being turned on in Richey's kitchen. All was quiet and seemingly ordinary.

Around 11 a.m., the California man drove Richey's car back to her home. He was followed by a friend in another car who would drive him back to Boise. They put the car in the garage, and, as the night before Richey had invited them to breakfast, knocked on her door. They were puzzled when she failed to respond. The front door was unlocked, so they opened it and called to her. Silence. The pair entered, and when they failed to find any sign of Richey, they left a note for her, breakfasted in a restaurant, and went to visit other friends in Nampa.

No one realized something was very wrong until the following day, when Richey failed to show up for work. Calls to her home went unanswered. By late afternoon, her co-workers were concerned enough to contact police.

The hunt was on for Lillian Richey. Everything in and around Nampa was searched. All her friends, relatives, and acquaintances were questioned by police. Searches of her home found nothing unusual. All her belongings were in their accustomed places. After checking her clothes closet, friends believed that the only item missing was the black evening dress she had worn to the nightclub. The wrap she had worn that night was found hanging in the closet, but there was no sign of the evening purse she had had with her. Plane tickets she had purchased to visit a son in Moscow, Idaho later that month were untouched. The house was dusted for fingerprints, but the only ones found belonged to the missing woman.

Naturally, the focus of the inquiry was on Mrs. Richey's California friend, the last person known to have seen her before she disappeared. He and his friend were interrogated for hours. Their personal lives were heavily scrutinized. They submitted to lie detector tests. In short, the two men were investigated six ways from Sunday. And their stories checked out completely. The police found absolutely nothing to suggest that either of them were anything other than frustratingly innocent.

So if these two men were not responsible for Richey vanishing, who was? The police found nothing to indicate she committed suicide. Or that she had been kidnapped. Or murdered. Or left voluntarily. It was as clue-free a mystery as you could ever imagine. Police spent years chasing down whatever rumors or tips came their way--they even spoke to a man who claimed he had invented a machine that could find missing people--with absolutely no results. Private detectives hired by Richey's two sons were equally ineffective. It was as if this woman had spontaneously evaporated into thin air.

Idaho Free Press, February 9, 1966, via Newspapers.com

Although Richey was declared legally dead in 1967, the search for her has never really ended. For years, there were rumors that Richey's body could be found beneath the Nampa school district office building, which was under construction at the time of her disappearance. In 2018, police took that gossip seriously enough to excavate the office floor and bring in cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar, but to no one's real surprise, nothing anomalous was found.

The vanishing of Lillian Richey is not only Idaho's oldest cold case, but arguably its most baffling.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

Renoir, "Luncheon of the Boating Party"

Before we get on with the links, here's a pic of Strange Company HQ's Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, it's still being debated:  What the hell is the Shroud of Turin?

Yes, it's still being debated:  Who the hell was D.B. Cooper?

Gin folklore.

The ghost of a Puritan maiden.

Caring for the mentally ill in medieval times.

Ice Age humans in the Arctic Circle.

Looking for lost dogs in Regency England.

A notable Georgian era woman.

19th century national stereotypes.

The Bosak encounter: a particularly weird UFO report.

The execution of the last of the Plantagenet heirs.  Replacing that dynasty with the Tudors was a sad event for England, IMO.

The man-beast of Sugar Valley.

Victorian DIY Christmas decorations.

The first woman hanged in colonial Australia.

The woman who created America's Thanksgiving Day.

Let's talk really, really bad Thanksgiving plays.  A play that's a real turkey!  Get it?  Get it?...Never mind.

This week in Russian Weird gives us high-tech cows.

The werewolf panic of the...1970s?  Actually, for those of us who remember the '70s, this isn't surprising.

This is really not the way to get published.

That time President Coolidge didn't eat a raccoon.

Some good news:  French ducks just won a lawsuit.

The 1969 Scientology murders.

The creepy mystery of the sand dune that swallowed a child.

A dual disappearance and death that sounds like a real-life "Blair Witch Project."

Maybe this is why people eat turkeys.  Self-defense.

The historical mystery behind Lincoln's first inaugural photograph.

There are times when I really hate the 18th century.

Mary Lincoln and Queen Victoria, pen pals.

The story behind a famed melody.

Some adventurous female sailors.

The man who cursed plums.

A 45,000 year old figurine.

A day in the life of Queen Victoria.

The ghosts of paleontology.

Sad news from 1858 India.

Did we kill off all the other humans?

The "world's most loyal dog."

More on the Chinese seals of Ireland.

More on the Great Pyramid's "hidden chamber."

That's all for this week! See you next week, when we'll look at one of Idaho's most baffling cold cases. In the meantime, here's the SFO:

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Thanksgiving Day

Via Newspapers.com

Yes, Florida Man celebrates Thanksgiving in just the way you'd imagine. Daniel Buckley in the "Tuscon Citizen," November 27, 1997:
It’s likely my life’s “David Lynch Moment" was Thanksgiving of 1989.

My dad had died that summer. I was in Cocoa Beach Fla spending time with my mother as she dealt with her first Thanksgiving without him. It was not an easy trip.

I figured we’d run to the store, pick up a turkey, spend the day cooking it up, and chow down just as we’d done countless Thanksgivings in years past with my three brothers and two sisters.

Florida reality check time. I was quickly informed that my mom had transcended the standard Thanksgiving trip years before.

It turns out she always hated Thanksgiving--all the work, all the hubbub. She was not at all nuts about turkey and even less enthusiastic about cooking doing the dishes and all that. And so for years she and my dad had gone out so they could get what they want and just kick back.

Being practical children of the Depression she and her next-door neighbor Pearl decided we’d head to Furr’s Cafeteria for Thanksgiving and avoid the fuss. So around noon we wandered out from my mom’s seaside condo, hopped in her Mercury, and drove to Furr’s.

So far so serene. But the weirdness was not far off. I ran ahead to hold the door for my mom and Pearl. As they went through I caught out of the comer of my eye the image of several other people approaching. Without looking around I just held the door.

When the trio finally came into view, YOW! There was a man about 50 years old in full-tilt drag pushing two wheelchairs. One held an old woman who looked pretty out of it. The other was occupied by an elegantly dressed mannequin. I have NO idea.

The guy had on a white blouse, long skirt, and heels and was sporting an 8 o’clock shadow. He was a manly looking woman.

As luck would have it they stayed on our heels all the way through the line at Furr’s, so there was a long period when nothing could be discussed.

Pearl--a boisterous woman with a laugh as big as all outdoors--had all she could do to contain her amazement/amusement. My mom was tickled too. Sad as it was it was also a hilarious scene.

They sat nearby, a tray in front of all three. All through our meal we talked quietly about it and observed many in other parts of the room doing the same. It certainly kept the focus off my father’s absence and I was happy for that.

It felt very strange trying to imagine the situation. From the gentleman's awkward negotiation of the halls I could tell the heels were not an everyday thing. It’s hard enough to push two wheelchairs let alone in heels.

My best guess is that the old woman so needed the illusion of having her two daughters take her to Thanksgiving dinner that some caring man had gone to great lengths to make such a situation unfold before her. God only knows.

Florida has its share of crazies. All parts of this country do.

It could be we just walked in on some very weird family scene. But I can’t help thinking we’d seen a bizarre expression of extraordinary compassion.

And it may have just as easily been the other way around. It could be that the lady in the wheelchair was the one with the grip on reality and that the man in the dress was someone she looked after.

We left before they did.

To this day as Thanksgiving approaches we all have a laugh about it. But we also can’t help but be touched and moved by it. They kept to themselves as did we I guess we’ll never know.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Legends of Papillon Hall

Papillon Hall, via Lost Heritage

Any old English manor house worth its salt has acquired numerous colorful legends. However, there are few who can boast such a weird and varied lot as Leicestershire's Papillon Hall. Of all the stories told about the Hall, it is often difficult to say which are hard fact and which are quaint mythology--likely an evenly-balanced mix of the two--but it all makes for a truly Strange Company-worthy heritage. It's not every day you encounter a home boasting mystery skeletons, warlocks, ghosts, haunted paintings, and cursed shoes.

Papillon Hall was built by one David Papillon in 1624. It was an octagonal building, standing on raised ground. The roof was in the shape of a cross, with a top story consisting of four attics. Its early years were, so far as is recorded, uneventful. The Hall did not make its first foray into The Weird until it was inherited by the original owner's great-great-grandson, also named David Papillon.

This David (who was publicly called "Pamp," "Old Pamp," or "Lord Pamp" by his contemporaries, who privately probably called him much less printable names,) was said to be in league with the Devil. Supposedly, he boasted an "evil eye" which could "fix" those who displeased him. And I mean that quite literally. On one occasion, he came across some men who were ploughing a field in a way he did not favor, so he simply "fixed" them for the rest of the day. The men could not move a muscle until dusk, when Pamp chose to release them from his spell. Another time, a thief was unwise enough to try to rob Pamp as he was riding along carrying a bag of money. Pamp "fixed" the miscreant, left the bag of money at the footpad's feet--nice touch, that--and rode home. He then stabled his horse and calmly sent a groom to fetch the bag. Once the money was retrieved, the would-be robber was released and set on his way, presumably a sadder but wiser wretch. Pamp's reputation was such a evil one, that everyone in the area habitually made the sign of the cross when preparing food and drink, in an effort to avoid his baleful glance.

Before his marriage in 1717, Pamp did not live a solitary existence at the Hall. He kept a mistress, whose name is now lost to history. What little is known of her is as sinister as everything else connected with her Lord. The woman--who was believed to be Spanish--never left the Hall, but neighbors occasionally saw her walking along the leads of the roof. She died in 1715, but there is no record of her burial. However, it should be noted that Pamp subsequently bricked up one of the Hall's attic rooms. In 1903, when Papillon Hall was being renovated, a woman's skeleton was found in this particular attic...

It is said that before Pamp's Spanish lady died, she vowed that disaster would strike if her shoes ever left the Hall. These shoes--a pair of silver and green slippers--still exist, arguably unfortunately. Ever since her death, these shoes have been, quite literally, a damned nuisance. So strong was the belief in the curse, that ever since the home was sold by the Papillons in 1764, all new owners signed deeds requiring them to keep the shoes at the Hall.

Whenever buyers chose to ignore this promise, they always regretted it. In 1866, the Hall's then-owner, George Bosworth, died. In his will, he left the shoes to a daughter who lived in Leicester. The next owner, Lord Hopetoun, found that he and his family were to be given no peace in their now-shoeless home. The household was disturbed by numerous angry crashes, bangs, and other vehement spectral noises until Hopetoun wised up and persuaded Bosworth's daughter to sell him the shoes. As soon as they were returned to the Hall, all was quiet.

The Fateful Footwear, via Harborough Museum

A later owner, Thomas Halford, was rationalist enough--or, perhaps, stupid enough--to loan the shoes to an exhibition in Paris. Immediately, the same uncanny racket that had so plagued Lord Hopetoun broke out. When Halford tried retrieving the shoes, he was reminded that he had signed a contract allowing them to remain in Paris for a full year. Sorry. The indignant spirit of Pamp's Spanish lady made life such a hell for the Halfords that the family was forced to live elsewhere until the shoes could be returned.

When a Captain Frank Bellville bought the Hall, he did extensive alterations to the house. Four extra wings were added to the Hall, as well as an extra story. (This was when the skeleton was discovered.) During the construction, Bellville, in the interests of protecting the shoes, sent them to his solicitors.

He meant well, but, nevertheless, he received the usual punishment. Everything that could go wrong with the renovations instantly went wrong. Worse still, numerous workers began to be seriously injured, one of them fatally. After Bellville himself was badly hurt in a coach accident, he had the solicitors send back the shoes.

Some people never get the message. In 1908, for reasons known only to him and his God, Bellville donated the shoes to Leicester Museum. This time, the Spanish lady was obviously determined to teach him a lesson he would never forget. Soon afterward, Bellville fractured his skull in a hunting accident. Two of his servants died. Three polo ponies were killed by lightning. The Hall caught fire.

The shoes were returned to the Hall, securely locked away in a cupboard above the main fireplace, and, just to make double-sure, the key was thrown in a pond.

During WWII, the Hall was occupied by American servicemen. Showing the talent for doubling-down on Stupid which characterizes our human species, some of them smashed open the cupboard holding the famous shoes. On two occasions, two different soldiers took one of the shoes as a souvenir. Both these men soon died, and thus the shoes were returned to Papillon Hall.

When the Hall was demolished in 1950, the shoes became the property of one of Pamp's descendants, and they were brought to her home, Crowhurst Park. They are now in Market Harborough Museum.

The other supernatural-themed object connected with Papillon Hall is, fittingly, a portrait of its most diabolical owner, Old Pamp. According to one story, in 1800 a servant girl was awakened one night by a strange cry. When she sat up, she was confronted by the figure of David Papillon standing by the foot of her bed. He was wearing the same red coat and gold waistcoat he donned for his portrait. The girl insisted that he had literally stepped out of his picture.

So many unwanted sightings of Pamp became associated with his portrait that in 1840, the Hall's then-resident, a Mr. Marriot, begged one of Papillon's descendents to remove the picture. He complained that he was unable to keep servants because of Old Pamp's unnerving habit of emerging from the painting and stalking about the house. Accordingly, the portrait was brought to Crowhurst Park.

After that, Pamp haunted Papillon Hall and Crowhurst Park, thus proving how difficult it is to outwit a ghost. Even after the Hall was demolished, Pamp was often seen in the stables built on the property, and visitors to Crowhurst, even those who knew nothing about the painting's history, often found themselves confronted by his imposing presence. In 1908, Crowhurst Park was let to a Colonel Tufnell and his wife. The couple were left blissfully ignorant about the fact that they were getting a haunted painting in the bargain.

Well, they were not ignorant for long. Crowhurst's owner soon received a letter from the Tufnells, begging him to take the picture out of the house. They sensed something evil about it.

Pamp's portrait was brought to a Papillon who lived in Hastings. Fortunately, Pamp's ghost, like the shade of his mistress, seem pleased with the current location of their earthly relics. In recent years, both their spirits have finally remained quiet.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

Renoir, "Luncheon of the Boating Party"
We're providing a free meal with this week's links!

The execution of a figure in the notorious murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.  (I covered the whole weird affair in this post.)

The unexpectedly long history of UFO sightings.

Nothing to see here, just monstrous black swine in London's sewers.

Some marvelous photos of mid-19th century Egypt.

More forgotten corners of Old London.

Yet another case of jealousy leading to a body count.

A historically significant spy.

Newly-discovered Nazca lines.

A steam circus to promote steam locomotives.

The bank cat and the cat burglar.

Thanksgiving during WWII.

Fortune telling in the Georgian era.

The mystery of Ireland's Chinese seals.

Marie Antoinette's Potemkin village.

Anne FitzHugh, the wife of Richard III's friend Francis Lovell.

Something weird was happening around the sun in the 18th century.

Why you didn't want to smoke around First Lady Louisa Adams.

The strange murder of Christopher Marlowe, and other theatrical links.

The strange disappearance of a UFO musician.

A newly-discovered ancient ritual site.

Two words: automated gallows.

Yeah, Philip K. Dick was an odd duck.

A woman who founded a 20th century religious movement.

A Fortean Irish road trip.

A ghoulish ancient burial.

A ghost that may have been a premonition of death.

The 1881 census of India didn't go too well.

You really need to be careful about what you say around sickbeds.

Luella Cameron visits Heaven.

An inexplicable German mass murderer.

Bird mummies of ancient Egypt.  A lot of bird mummies.

Jean Harlow's premonition.

The grand estate of Napoleon's brother.

Since ancient Babylonia doesn't do take-out anymore, here are some of their stew recipes.  "Unwinding" doesn't sound half-bad.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the many colorful legends surrounding an old manor house.  In the meantime, here's some Rosanne Cash.