"...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, September 17, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

While you read this week's Link Dump, enjoy another performance by the Strange Company choir!

Why the hell did the Maya civilization collapse?

What the hell is the oldest known archaeological site?  The answer is...complicated.

Where the hell did a billion years go?

If you don't take banshees seriously, you should.

Human body parts which had a strange afterlife.

Kids may have been the first prehistoric artists.

Pro tip: getting drunk and summoning ghosts is rarely a good idea.

Clues that humans were making clothing 120,000 years ago.

If Dada is too normal for you, meet Fluxus.

Using Mozart to treat epilepsy.

Visualizing Scotland under ice.

An ancient tiger god is still at work in India.

How not to drive a stagecoach.

What animals may think of death.  Personally, I've always thought they are far more capable of abstract thinking than we obtuse humans realize.

In which we learn not to serve Madame Palatine any soup.

Some misunderstandings about the Vikings.

The charming widow and the mourning racket.

Get outta my face, Zuckerberg.

A narrative of 9/11.

A theater that memorializes a teenager's death.

Big Bertha the Confidence Queen.

A particularly gruesome--and unsolved--murder of a family.

The secret world of Bach's music.

Another gruesome, unsolved family murder.

You can now download the universe.

It may please you to know that scientists are keeping busy studying squirrel personalities.

Commemorating the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante.

Contemporary news reports about the infamous Belle Gunness.

This week in Russian Weird presents what may be the ultimate body-snatching story.

Post-Hitler Germany was a very strange place.

A ghost in Yorkshire.  Well, maybe not.

A brief history of the miniskirt.

The historically significant Bacton Altar Cloth.

Why Napoleon had a thing about eagles.

The lighthouse at the end of the world.

Franz Liszt, rock star.

The boy who was raised by wolves.

A breakfast in British India.

Meet the world's deadliest cat breed. They're among the cutest, too.

The legends surrounding a murder/suicide.

The legend of Bip Vawn.

Some famous Celtic fight songs.

The grave of a "first-class eccentric."

The once-famous murder of Harriet Lane.

A teenager murders his stepmother.

A realtor's bizarre unsolved murder.

That wraps up this week's festivities.  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a man who loved books not wisely, but too well.  In the meantime, what do you get when you combine Mongolian throat singing and Latvian drumming?  This.  Someone in the YouTube comments put best:  "If we ever go to war with aliens, this should be our battle song."

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This odd little story appeared in the “Altoona Tribune,” March 25, 1875:

For the past week a story has been current on the street which at first we could not believe. Mrs. Julien Jerome, a Frenchwoman, whom all that knew her say had always led a very devout, good life, lived on Main street, and was taken sick about five weeks ago. Immediately after a cross appeared on the wall beside her bed, which, all efforts cannot obliterate. It first appeared very small and faint, and scarcely observable, but by degrees it began to grow large and appear plainer. Such was the story, and yesterday morning our correspondent visited the house of the sick woman to ascertain the truth of the story. 

There is no denying it was the cross on the wall, plain and observable to all. The wall is not papered, but is whitewashed, and when the cross first appeared some member of the family took a knife and attempted to scratch it out of the wall, but to no avail. The white wash was daubed over it with the same result. The woman died last evening, and your correspondent visited the house again. He found the mysterious cross was fading as had the life of the woman who had lust passed away. In the morning it looked on the white wall like a strong shadow, black and heavy, but in the evening it was the color of a November leaf. 

We questioned the son of the deceased woman concerning the case and he substantiated the above. He said that he was continually scratching, attempting to obliterate that mysterious reminder of our Savior’s death. True it is the print of a knife was on the plaster, having worn it off about a quarter of an inch while attempting to destroy the figure. When asked why he did not give it publicity, the son said he thought if he did his house would be crowded all the while, annoying his sick mother (now dead). He also said that he told only his immediate friends of it, but somehow it began to leak out from them. The above may be thought by some a romance,but it is a plain, undeniable fact.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Ghosts in the Mist

It is far from uncommon for multiple people to simultaneously see the same ghost.  However, accounts of multiple people simultaneously seeing the same multiple ghosts are fairly rare, which makes the following tale worthy of notice.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a “true ghost story” quite like it.  It was first published in Sir Ernest Bennett’s “Apparitions and Haunted Houses” (1939), a collection of first-hand encounters with the supernatural.

Bennett prefaces the story by stating, “This strange account was received directly from the elder of the two ladies who witnessed the phenomenon; the younger sister has read it through and appended a brief comment to the account. The maid cannot now be traced.” 

I daresay it is ten or twelve years since this happened. One night in November my sister C. and myself, with the maid, had been to evening service in our village church. There was thick fog; the moon was full, but it made a sort of steam in the fog, instead of shining brightly. 

As we walked we met a man: he was whistling, and we heard his whistle and his footsteps long before we saw him; he passed us on C.’s side, whistling still. Shortly after he had gone, I was surprised to see another man at C.’s side, who had come there without making a sound; he was a much shorter man than the first. C. apparently did not see him; I was walking beside her, and I pulled her sleeve, whispering, ‘Let that man pass.’ C. was walking on the outside of the three, next the carriage road. As I spoke, the man disappeared--it seemed, into C.’s dress; neither C. nor the maid had seen him, and he had made no sound. In another moment we were all bewildered at the sight around us; men, women, children, and dogs, all were moving briskly about, some singly, others in groups, all without a sound; they appeared mist-like. There was a broad strip of grass on our right, and a narrow strip on our left; the figures were hidden directly they got on either of these dark strips, or when they passed into ourselves; but as we walked on they came from every quarter. Some seemed to rise out of the grass on either side of us; others seemed to pass through us, and come out on the other side. The figures all seemed short, dwarf-like, except one, of whom I write after. The women were dressed in by-gone fashion, high bonnets, big cloaks or shawls, and large flounces on their dresses, such as I remember my mother wearing when I was a child. We three were never mistaken as to the identity of the different shapes; if one saw a man, all saw a man; if one saw a woman, all saw the woman; and so on. Overhead it was perfectly free of them; they were all walking on the ground, as we ourselves were. We saw two men (at different intervals) that had sparks all round their faces; they appeared to grin. As we saw the second of these, looking hideous, close to us, one of my companions said, ‘I can’t pass that,’ and I answered, ‘Look at the sky, you don’t see them then.’ 

There was one man taller than all the rest (he looked very tall), who took great strides, though perfectly noiseless; he wore a kind of cape; he was the only one who walked beside us, and he was on the carriage road; the rest all went on in an aimless kind of way, losing themselves on the grass, and so on; but this one never changed his step or swerved. 

As we walked on, and he kept near us, we cast frightened glances at him, and kept bidding each other in a whisper to look at him, though he never turned his head to look towards us. We approached our own gate, where we should turn in, and then we had a long drive to walk up before we should reach the house. I think that by the time we reached our gate all the figures had disappeared except this one tall man. He had quite a different look to any of the others, looked more horrible altogether. His way of walking was quite different to the rest, and he was, I should think, twice as tall or more than any of the others. He looked as if he had a purpose; the rest seemed quite different. As we had to cross the road and enter our gate, I thought I could not go if that horrible figure went too, but to our intense relief, he passed our gate, and went on with his measured stride up the middle of the road. As we turned into our gate, he was the only form in sight. 

E. F. 

February 7th, 1882. Mrs. F.’s sister adds: 

The only thing I do not recollect in this story is where E. says the men had a grin. All the rest is true. I cannot say I recollect the faces. The sparks I did see; the faces appeared to me, as did the figures, mist-like. 

C. M. B. 

February 11th. 

In two further letters, Mrs. F. writes: 

 (1) (As to the distance actually traversed in company with the ‘spirits’.) After talking together and recalling the road, we think we may safely say we were among them for two hundred yards, or thereabouts. (So that the probable duration of the vision would be from two to three minutes.) 

(2) As to the sparks around the two faces, I certainly think they were on the faces; they were around the faces, as it might be, on the edge of the faces; they were yellow sparks; the two figures who had the sparks appeared to me thin and cadaverous, for the faces did not look round, but seemed to fall in under the cheek bones. I wish I could draw, for I can see the ‘things’ now just as plainly as I saw them then, and I could point out the exact spot of ground on which they stood. We were close to them. As to the number of sparks I cannot speak definitely; they were placed at regular distances round the face; there might be about ten or twelve round each face, so I think. They appeared yellow and bright, and they made a slight steam in the fog. Their light was not nearly so beautiful as a star’s light (this last a suggested simile); it might be more like a small yellow candle’s flame. There was nothing beautiful about them. 

(3) You ask whether I have any theory as to the apparition. I have none whatever, and should be extremely interested if anybody could throw light upon the matter. The style of the women’s dress seemed to take me back as far as I could remember (perhaps to 1857), when I seemed to remember my mother wearing the same sort of fashion, but as you know, fashions come and go, and repeat themselves a hundred times. I think the men chiefly wore capes or long cloaks; but you must remember, they all looked dark and mist-like…. I should be myself about twenty when I saw this appearance, and my sister sixteen…One might imagine it to be a kind of mirage, only the whole appearance was so unlike what one would have seen in any town at the time we saw it. No woman in any English town was dressed in the least as were all the women in our vision. 

(4) We were all very much frightened. The maid and my sister were crying aloud; I was not, for I felt I must keep my wits about me; the tears were rolling down my cheeks in a kind of bewilderment, yet I was not crying, and my voice was strong and firm. We kept pulling each other from one and another side of the road, as the figures came thicker towards us from different sides, for it was an uncomfortable feeling to see them disappear into ourselves. When we burst into the house with the history of our curious apparition my father and mother came out with us again, to see if anything was to be seen, but the road was quite free of anything, and after walking about for half an hour we went indoors again. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The Strange Company Campanologists are here to announce the arrival of this week's Link Dump!

Why the hell do we sleep?

Who the hell was in the Killhope Moor coffin?

What the hell just exploded in Tennessee?

Watch out for the Bat Beast of Kent!

A cache of ancient gold has been discovered in Denmark.

Images of a very strange asteroid.

The northernmost island in the world has just been discovered.

How the birth of farming affected human immune systems.

An unsinkable corpse.

Scientists are always doing studies that are old news to anyone who knows cats.

An "unseemly squabble."

An Empress and her ice palace.

A striking image of Earth taken from the ISS.

A shroud made from a wedding dress.

Contemporary newspaper reports about 9/11.

Edgar Allan Poe, prophet.

The church with a very weird skull.

The Great Meteor of 1783.

A brief history of the slang term "Molly."

A brief history of ambergris.

Influential British TV shows from the 1960s.

The conspiracy theory that the whole internet is now a fake.  This reminds me of one of my weirder online experiences: some years back, I was doing a lot of research on a particular historical figure. I found a website that had a lot of primary source material about him, along with a discussion forum in which I began to participate. Before long, I noticed some odd things: when I would look up the old newspaper and magazine articles on the site, I found that many of them either did not really exist, or were markedly different from the text the site owner posted.  And I began to have a funny feeling about some of the people posting on the forum--for one reason or another, I came to suspect many of them were fake accounts. I got so creeped out that I stopped posting on the forum, although I'd occasionally lurk, just to see what was going on. One day, I found that the site had been taken over by someone else, and the forum had disappeared.  I e-mailed the new owner, to ask what was going on. He replied that he had successfully sued the previous owner, because she had posted photos he owned the rights to without permission. Part of the settlement from the lawsuit was that he got the site. He also confirmed my suspicions about the forum: a majority of the "people" posting there were all the previous site owner, using a bunch of pseudonyms. It made me wonder how much of this sort of tomfoolery was cluttering up the internet.

The Great Tea Race.

That time in Scotland where you could buy beer by the slice.

The strange side of New York's Long Island.

1963 was a big year for the occult.

Sightseeing in Medieval England.

The mistress of George I.

The horrifying solution behind a girl's disappearance.

Let's talk Victorian eyebrows.

A murderer plays dead.

The Parisian Poison Panic.

A shipwrecked king and queen visit Henry VII.

Something unusual has been spotted in Loch Ness.

A haunted railway car.

New York's first Labor Day.

A wedding turns deadly.

The birth of television.

Dissing some works of classic literature.

Personal reflections on the Indian Political Service.

Ripper the Talking Duck.

A daring Civil War raid.

One of the earliest Merlin narratives.

The largest known comet.

The last great Viking king.

If you've ever wished you lived in ancient Rome, be aware that they crucified dogs.  They also had a strange idea of humor.

A one-legged champion swimmer.

A child's unsolved disappearance.

Michelangelo may have been short.  I'm not sure why we should care, but here's the link anyway.

That time someone mailed a puppy.  Not to fear, it ended well.

Graywood, New York police dog.

Parliament and the Naval Review.

The island where manliness means knitting some badass hats.

The pygmy mammoths of California's Channel Islands.

A tour of the medieval town called Sandwich.

A ghost bear at the Tower of London.

A brief history of pickles.

A brief history of crime literature.

WWII's very young hero.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an unusual ghost story.  In the meantime, let's get medieval:

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

If there is such a thing as Sheep History (and if there isn’t, there should be,) one of its odder moments was what is now commonly known as the Great Sheep Panic.  This contemporary report appeared in the “London Times,” November 20, 1888:

Sir--In case it has not previously come under the notice of your readers, we beg to call attention to a remarkable circumstance which occurred in this immediate locality on the night of Saturday, November 3. At a time as near 8 o'clock as possible the tens of thousands of sheep folded in the large sheep-breeding districts north, east, and west of Reading were taken with a sudden fright, jumping their hurdles, escaping from the fields, and running hither and thither; in fact, there must for some time, have been a perfect stampede. Early on Sunday morning the shepherds found the animals, under hedges and in the roads, panting and frightened as if they had been terror-stricken. The extent of this remarkable occurrence may be judged when we mention that every large farmer from Wallingford on the one hand to Twyford on the other seems to have had his sheep thus frightened, and it is also noteworthy that with only two or three exceptions the hill-country north of the Thames seems have been principally affected. 

We have not heard, nor can any of the farmers give, any reasonable explanation of what we have described. The night was intensely dark, with occasional flashes of lightning, but we do not think either circumstance would account for such an effect being produced over such a large area. We would suggest the probability of a slight earthquake being the cause, but possibly some of your readers, or members of Scientific societies, may be able to offer a satisfactory explanation. 

We beg to remain. Sir, your obedient servants, 


Reading, Nov. 17. 

Similar “panics” took place in that part of England in 1889 and 1893.  Although many possible theories have been offered, ranging from meteors to UFOs, no universally satisfactory answer has been found.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Cathy Moulton's Final Walk Home

"Bangor Daily News," October 6, 2005, via Newspapers.com

Cathy Marie Moulton was a typical early 1970s American middle-class teen.  By all accounts, she was a nice, well-behaved girl with no serious problems in her life.  Born in Portland, Maine, in 1955, she and her two sisters had a quiet, comfortable suburban childhood.  Those who knew Cathy described her as intelligent, quiet, and contemplative.  Although Cathy had few close friends, she was universally liked.  She wrote poetry, worked as a babysitter, attended local dances, and--entirely on her own initiative--did what she could to assist neighbors who were ill or otherwise in trouble.  Her mother, Claire Moulton, once commented, “She felt if you were nice to other people they would be nice to you.”

The summer of 1971 was the most exciting of Cathy’s young life.  Her father, Lyman Moulton, took time off from his business of selling used cars to take the family on a long road trip through the U.S. and Mexico.  When Cathy returned in the fall to her high school, friends noted that she was still visibly elated over her little adventure.  She proudly showed off a distinctive leather handbag that her parents had bought her in Mexico for her 16th birthday present.

On Friday, September 24, 1971, Cathy came home from school and asked her father to give her a ride into town so she could do a bit of shopping.  She had a run in her pantyhose, and wanted to get a new pair to wear to a YMCA dance she was attending that evening.  Her mother gave her a few dollars, asking her to buy some toothpaste.  Mrs. Moulton also gave her some coins for the bus ride home.

Cathy’s father dropped her off at about 1:15 pm, and watched her walk up the street towards the shops.  Two hours later, Cathy ran into a classmate, Carol Starbird.  Cathy told Carol that she was heading home to get ready for the dance.  She added that since she had spent her bus fare, she’d have to walk the two miles home.  She then went on her way, with Carol never dreaming that she would be the last known person to see Cathy Moulton, alive or dead.

When Cathy failed to arrive home for dinner, her mother instantly became concerned.  The Moultons always notified each other when they were running late, and Cathy had never gone anywhere without telling her parents first.  At 6:30 p.m, Claire called the police saying she wanted to file a missing persons report.  “They laughed at me,” she later bitterly.  She was told that she would have to wait 72 hours before police could do anything.

After checking with friends and doing a search of local hospitals, Lyman went to the police station, where he raised such a fuss that just to get rid of him, officers finally allowed him to file the report.

It did little good.  Although one would think the inexplicable disappearance of a girl of Cathy’s known reliability would have attracted attention, the local media gave the mystery scant coverage.  And, of course, there was no internet to spread the word about the missing teen.  The Moultons contacted the FBI, only to be told that without any evidence that their daughter was kidnapped, the Bureau could do nothing.  And the Portland police made it clear that they believed Cathy was a mere runaway.  Her family came to realize that no one was going to help them in their search for her.  Sixteen years later, Lyman Moulton told writer Grantland S. Rice, “I don’t agree with the way they [the police] handled things, but I understand they weren’t picking on us.  This was a whole new ball game for us.  We’d had no real problems to think about.  Then something like this happens.  You don’t know what to do.”

The Moultons remained in this state of helpless despair.  Then, in November, officials at Cathy’s high school cleaned out her locker.  They found a phone number scribbled on a scrap of paper.  This briefly raised her family’s hopes that finally, some clue had been found about her disappearance.    Unfortunately, it turned out to be for one of the phones at Lyman’s used car lot.  Mrs. Moulton spent most of her time sitting by an upstairs window, vainly waiting to see her daughter, walking home.

A few possible clues began to trickle in.  One person recalled giving a lift to a boy and a girl with an unusual looking purse.  Another claimed to have seen a teenager fitting Cathy’s description hitchhiking on Route 88.  Another remembered seeing a girl with long hair and glasses getting into a Pontiac driven by a young man.  Yet another had a story of seeing her with two older men.  Were any of these girls really Cathy?  No one could say.  The mother of one of Cathy’s classmates told police that the gossip around her school was that Cathy had gone to Boston.  Shortly before Cathy disappeared, a girl in her study hall had talked about all the fun she had during a visit to the city.  Cathy “appeared interested.”

Out of desperation, Lyman Moulton consulted a psychic named Alex Tanous.  “I’m not saying I do or don’t believe,” Moulton explained, “but you’ve got to try these things.”  One evening, they drove around what they believed would have been Cathy’s route home.  At the corner of Forest and Park Street, Tanous felt “a sense” that Cathy got into a car.  He felt that the car then turned left and headed south, in the direction of Boston.  At that point, Tanous lost the “vibrations.”

In late November 1971, the Moultons were told by the State Police that a girl who looked like Cathy was living in Presque Isle.  Her parents immediately drove there, to discover that the local sheriff’s department knew nothing about Cathy’s disappearance, or the girl allegedly living in their area.  Lyman Moulton--by now extremely frustrated and extremely angry--handed out Cathy’s photo to the area’s police and sheriff’s departments.  He went door to door handing out flyers and asking if anyone had seen a girl resembling his daughter.  Unfortunately for the Moultons, the girl turned out to be a runaway from Connecticut.  She returned home.  And the Moultons were still left without any trace of their daughter.

There were reports that Cathy left with a friend, Lester Everett, and that a few weeks after she vanished, they were seen working at a potato farm in Aroostook County, about 300 miles from Portland.  Witnesses claimed to have heard the girl saying that she wanted to go home but was worried about facing her family.  However, this proved to be yet another dead-end lead.  When police traced Everett, he was alone and insisted he knew nothing about Cathy’s disappearance.  No one could prove otherwise.

In 1983, a man hunting in the woods of Smyrna, Maine, discovered skeletal remains with what appeared to be female clothing.  Unfortunately, after contacting authorities, he was unable to retrace his steps, and even though cadaver dogs were brought in to search the area, the remains were never found.

Sixteen years after Cathy vanished, a Portland police detective commented, “Maybe she’s living happily ever after somewhere in Canada.  That’s where everyone was going in the early Seventies.  Or maybe she’s buried in a grave somewhere in Maine or Massachusetts...or a skeleton in a morgue.  That’s the sad thing.  We just don’t know.”  In 2008, 83-year old Lyman Moulton told a “Boston Globe” reporter, “One of my greatest--greatest--greatest sadnesses is that I may die...and never know what happened to Cathy.  And yet I’m helpless to change it.”  His fears came true when he died in 2017 with his daughter’s fate as mysterious as ever.

This is one of those missing-persons cases which might one day be solved.  If Cathy Moulton is still alive--something which seems unlikely, but not impossible--she would be only in her mid-60s, and could, conceivably, come forward to explain what happened to her so many years ago.  If she is long dead, the wonders of DNA testing might one day match some unidentified remains of a teenage girl, and Cathy’s surviving family members could see her, at long last, come home.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Strange Company HQ invites you to relax in our adjacent restaurant (immortalized, of course, by Louis Wain,) while you read this week's Link Dump.

Who the hell decapitated Sasquatch?

A murderer's "weight of grief."

Social media and fractured identities.

The lighthouse keeper who was "the bravest woman in America."

Just another reminder that TikTok is the home of our very goofiest humans.

It's now believed that the Vinland Map is a fake.

An ancient commerce scam.

The Solomon Islands and some nasty UFOs.

The mysteries of an English village.

A young man's career in the East India Company.

Pompeii wasn't the only ancient city to be buried by a volcano.

A brief history of the breakup album.

A police dog saves a cat family.

The "other" Norman Conquests.

That time an English village was haunted by a cockatrice.

Madame Palatine, the most fun person at the court of Louis XIV.

The "strangest cabinet in British history."

Some "inevitable" wars that didn't happen.

New research on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A couple of innovative surgical techniques.

A child's particularly brutal murder.

The life of a paranormal investigator.

The memoirs of a 19th century London delivery boy.

Europe's first farmers.

Very ancient humans got creative with elephant bones.

One of the longest manhunts in U.S. history.

You might not be surprised to learn that cemetery superintendents see the damnedest things. 

Upwardly mobile in Pompeii.

That time Thomas Jefferson harbored a killer ram.

The sinking of the SS Princess Alice.

The consolation of a cat.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a teenage girl's disappearance.  In the meantime, here's Warren Zevon.  If you put a gun to my head and forced me to name my one favorite rock album, this would be it.  I first heard it when I was 14, I think, and I've been playing it pretty much nonstop ever since.