"...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, March 16, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by a school of well-educated cats!

Why the hell are all these dentists dying?

I've wondered about this myself:  Why the hell are gay men called "fairies?"

What the hell became of Queen Zenobia?

What the hell became of USS Cyclops?

Another of those evergreen questions:  What the hell happened at Dyatlov Pass?

Who the hell did Alfred Arthur Rouse murder?

Watch out for those blue flame ghosts!

Watch out for those Demon Cats!

Eighteenth-century gambling at White's.

You wouldn't want to go to Alfred Hitchcock's dinner parties.  But you probably already knew that.

You wouldn't want to go to a 17th century sailor's dinner party.  You probably already knew that, too.

A Buddhist monk may have set himself on fire in ancient Greece.  Yeah, history is weird.

An 18th century nobleman goes on trial for rape.  Surprise, surprise, he skated.

An interesting theory about ghosts.

The New Orleans riot of 1817.

A brief history of aftershave.

The brutal murder of a mysterious woman.

Some anecdotes from the court of Napoleon.

Speaking of Napoleon, the man himself gives us English As She Is Spoke.

The lynching of Cattle Kate.

Hey, let's listen to rats playing a theremin!

A Roman mermaid.

Necromancy turns out to be a pretty expensive hobby.

Eesh. It seems that a famed archaeologist was nothing but a scam artist.

Victorian advice about perfume.

The world's worst roommate.

Victorian "penny beds."

Encounters with unicorns.

Hieronyma and the incubus.

Yet another Roman Emperor comes to a nasty end.

A useful guidebook for merchants and smugglers.

Hate tofu?  Blame Ben Franklin.

The monster of Drumate Lake.

The tale of the bullock and the gold ring.

Abraham Lincoln in Greenwich Village.

The legend of Vortigern.

So, let's talk about George Washington's bedpan.

A deadly duel in the bedroom.

Astronauts return to earth with altered DNA.

A fairy who likes cake.

And finally...um, I'll just leave this one here.

That's all for this week! Join me on Monday, when I'll present a man and his homemade family. In the meantime, here's some Praetorius:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Just call this one, "Bert's Wild Weekend." "The Tennessean," April 3, 1979:
Memphis--The modest four-room house where Bert Gross lived for the past 13 years was never anything special until objects began flying around the home.

The frame house sitting on a small hill just across the city limits in Desoto County, Miss., looks ordinary from the outside, but Gross said strange happenings transformed it over the weekend.

The former construction worker, 54, said he and his five children were sitting in their bedroom-living room watching television Saturday night when a swarm of insects suddenly entered the room and began buzzing around their heads. Then a pillow flew off the couch and landed eight feet away.

That was just the beginning of a weekend of mystery, Gross said.

Over the next two days, a coal-burning heater in the same room collapsed, a portable television set crashed to the floor, and an upright freezer turned itself around in the kitchen, Gross said.

He called neighbors and Desoto County sheriff's deputies over to watch when drawers began opening and closing and items ranging from cans of spaghetti sauce to an alarm clock hurled through the air.

A reporter for the Commercial Appeal said he witnessed the bizarre happenings while spending several hours in the house Saturday.

Gilbert Hines, 58, who lives behind the Gross house, said a pillow made him a believer.

"I'm a hard believer, especially when it comes to what people tell me," Hines said. "But a pillow came from a corner and hit me on the leg. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it."

While no one could explain the phenomenon, friends urged Gross to move his children ranging in age from 13 to 24 out of the mysterious house. Gross convinced his family to stay over the weekend, but said he might change his mind later unless things begin staying where they belong.

A follow-up story appeared the next day in the "Tampa Tribune":
Bert Gross said Tuesday he was going to wait until things "calm down" before doing any more talking about the ghostly events that he says have been happening in his Memphis, Tenn., home.

"I'm not letting anybody into the house for a couple of days until I have time to think it all over," said Gross, refusing to be interviewed.

Carloads of sightseers have been driving past the modest home since reports circulated last weekend about a freezer moving itself, tennis balls flying through the air and objects --ranging from cans to alarm clocks--tumbling from counters. Unable to cope with the phenomenon, Gross took his five children and went to stay with relatives. "There have been television crews out there filming without my permission and people on my porch trying to get in," Gross said. "I just don't know what to think about it all."

The frame house has been locked and a rusted lawn chair stays propped against a sagging screen door. to keep it shut and the spectators away. Outside sits a portable black-and-white television that Gross said crashed to the floor during the bizarre weekend.

Gross said the strange events started Saturday night. While watching television, Gross and his children were surrounded by a swarm of flying insects. A few moments later, he said, a pillow flew off a couch and landed two yards away. A reporter who was asked to witness the mysterious events said he was talking with Gross when a pillow on a couch flew across the room and hit him on the leg.

"I can't explain any of it," Gross said.
The family returned to their home, but strange events kept up for at least several more weeks. On the 15th, the stove suddenly collapsed, forcing the family to cook meals on an outdoor grill. Dirt mysteriously flew around the house, and the refrigerator and freezer moved during the night. The family finally moved, and, so far as is recorded, the exploits of the Gross Poltergeist came to an end.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Doctor and the Deadly House Call

Helen (or Helene) Knabe's life was remarkable, in the best sense of the word. Unfortunately, her death was also remarkable, but in the worst possible way.

Knabe was born in 1875, in Rugenwald, an area by the Baltic Sea that is now the Polish city of Darlowo. She grew up bright, fiercely ambitious, and determined to become a doctor. Feeling that her native land offered her few opportunities to follow her chosen profession, she decided to move to America. Her destination was Indianapolis, Indiana, where several relatives had already emigrated. Upon her arrival, she found work in the household of an Indianapolis doctor, acting as cook and general housemaid. She learned English, and through sheer hard work and self-denial, saved enough money to enter the Medical College of Indiana.

Knabe proved to have a great natural aptitude for medical research--so much so that by the time she graduated in 1904, she had become an instructor at the college. She eventually became the state board of health's assistant pathologist, then Indiana's very first official bacteriologist--an incredible career trajectory for a woman of her day, and a solid tribute to her skill and discipline. She was a recognized expert in rabies and sexually transmitted diseases. In 1908, she resigned in order to open her own medical practice, which was an immediate success. By the time Knabe was thirty-five, she was personal physician to many of Indianapolis' elite. She had an unblemished reputation, and was highly and justifiably respected; the ideal example of a "self-made woman."

So the obvious question is: Why would anyone want to murder her?

On the morning of October 24, 1911, Katherine McPherson, Knabe's assistant, entered the doctor's apartment house (which also served as her office.) The front doors had been locked from the inside, and everything in the outer rooms seemed completely normal. However, Knabe herself seemed to be absent. The puzzled McPherson searched the apartment for her employer.

The mystery of Knabe's silence was quickly solved when McPherson entered the doctor's bedroom, and found her dead body. The corpse lay on a blood-soaked bed. It was immediately obvious that this was a murder, and a particularly brutal one.

Unfortunately for the course of the investigation, McPherson completely lost her head. Instead of immediately phoning the police, she summoned some of Knabe's friends and relatives to gawk at the horrid sight and generally do a splendid job of contaminating the crime scene and wasting valuable time.

When the police finally arrived--more than an hour after McPherson's initial discovery--they found that someone had cut Knabe's throat so viciously that she was nearly decapitated. As the body was wearing a nightdress, it was presumed she had been attacked while she slept, probably very quickly and efficiently. (Incidentally, there were no signs that she had been sexually assaulted.) Only one item was missing from the apartment: an instrument called a microtome, which was used to cut extremely thin sections of material for microscopic examination. It was presumed that this had been the murder weapon.

Investigators soon realized they faced a twin mystery: the question not only of who had murdered Knabe, but how the crime had been committed. All the doors and windows were locked from inside, with the exception of the windows in Knabe's bedroom. These were open, but securely covered by screens. The outside windowsills were coated with a thick layer of dust, indicating that the murderer had not entered or exited through them. It was thought Knabe must have let her killer into the apartment, although no one was able to say who this person might have been, or why the doctor would admit this person into her apartment in the middle of the night.

This inability to satisfactorily explain how anyone could have gotten into, then out of, Knabe's apartment, coupled with the lack of any evident motive for murder, led William Holtz, the chief of detectives, to argue that the doctor had not been killed at all: she had committed suicide. He pointed to the fact that Knabe's launching of a private practice had left her heavily in debt, something that had worried the normally financially prudent doctor. Working against this theory was the fact that the knife used to slash Knabe's throat was never found. It was pointed out that even the most determined suicide would have trouble nearly cutting off their own head and then disposing of the weapon. The body also had a defensive wound in one forearm.

Two days after Knabe's death, police received their first lead: a man named Joseph Carr told them that on the night Knabe died, he had walked past her apartment at about 1 a.m. He heard two screams, which were followed by a man exiting the alley behind the building and running up the sidewalk. When this man realized he had been seen, he quickly covered his face with a handkerchief and dashed off. Carr thought the man was about forty years old, and was dressed in a dark suit. Another witness came forward to state that around 8 p.m. on that fatal night, a man who fit the description of the one encountered by Carr asked him for directions to Knabe's apartment building. A woman who lived near Knabe stated that at the same time Carr saw this mystery man, she heard someone running past her house.

The particularly baffling circumstances of Knabe's death proved to be an excellent breeding ground for increasingly crackpot theories. Some stubbornly clung to the suicide scenario. A letter of Knabe's where she discussed her interest in Buddhism caused others to mutter of crazed Buddhist death squads. My favorite suggestion came from another female physician, Dr. Carrie Gregory. Gregory stated that one of Knabe's female patients had been suffering from "an ailment that was drying up the blood." Knabe opted to treat this woman by transfusing the patient with two quarts of blood from the Knabe's own body. Sadly, this novel treatment wound up killing the doctor. In order to cover up this embarrassing turn of events, Knabe's fellow physicians simulated a murder by slashing her throat and smuggled the body into her apartment.

I do not know how successful Dr. Gregory was in her chosen profession, but she would have wowed them as a Gothic novelist.

Knabe's murder soon went into the police's "cold case" files, and it remained there, getting chillier by the day. The Indianapolis chapter of the Council of Women hired a private detective named Harry Webster to look into the mystery, but he seemed to have as little success as the police. Then, in March 1912, a sailor named Seth Nichols was arrested for public drunkenness in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Before Nichols had a chance to sober up, he told police that a man he only knew as "Knight," had paid him $1,500 to murder Dr. Knabe. However, it soon became disappointingly evident that Nichols' story simply did not stand up under examination. When records proved that Nichols had been on board his ship the night Knabe died, authorities quickly lost interest in him. Nothing more was heard of the mystery until December 1912, when a grand jury was convened to debate the question of just how Dr. Knabe died. During this hearing, a vital piece of evidence was presented that had, inexplicably, been ignored until that time: a bloody handprint had been found on Knabe's pillow. Harry Webster also presented his findings. The result of all this was that the grand jury returned two indictments in Knabe's death: Dr. William Craig, president of the Indiana Veterinary College, was charged with murder, with an undertaker named Alonzo Ragsdale being named as Craig's accessory.

Craig and Dr. Knabe had been "an item" since soon after they first met in 1908. However, shortly before Knabe's death, their romance had hit a rocky patch, evidently over Craig's assumption that she would give up her career after they married. According to some of their acquaintances, Craig had decided to break off their relationship--in fact, he was seeing another woman. Knabe, it was suggested, was not going to take the breakup quietly, thus giving Craig a motive for murder. A man named Harry Haskett claimed that he had seen Craig leaving Knabe's apartment building around 11 p.m. on the night Knabe died. (Of course, if you wish to pin the murder on Craig, this testimony clashes with the other witnesses who allegedly saw a man fleeing the scene two hours later.) One Dr. Eva Templeton stated that Craig's housekeeper told her that on the night of the murder, Craig arrived home late and had immediately changed his clothes. (Curiously, it is not clear if the housekeeper herself ever verified Templeton's story.)

As for Alonzo Ragsdale, he had been the administrator of Knabe's estate. Found in his possession was a kimono that had belonged to the dead woman. Tests showed that it had been bloodstained, then washed in "a strong chemical solution." The assumption was that he had helpfully removed this bit of evidence, as a favor to Craig. (It was never explained why Ragsdale would keep such a massively self-incriminating item.) For his part, Ragsdale said that he had a number of Knabe's more unimportant possessions, and there was no evidence that this kimono was even in Knabe's apartment at the time of her death.

Craig stood trial in November 1912. When Harry Haskett was put under oath, he suddenly became much less certain that he had seen Craig leaving Knabe's apartment. Several of Knabe's neighbors testified to hearing screams around midnight--one hour after this alleged sighting of Craig. In short, the prosecution so signally failed to present any evidence that Craig was the murderer that on December 9, the judge instructed the jury to dismiss the case. Accordingly, the charges against Ragsdale were also dropped.

The ignominious failure of the case against Craig was the end of any formal investigation into Helen Knabe's death. The question of who murdered the pioneering female doctor, and why, will almost certainly remain unknown. Indianapolis psychics and leaders of "ghost tours" insist that Knabe's spirit still haunts the city. If such is the case, the lady's wraith has shown a disappointing failure to elucidate the mystery.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by another of our celebrity cats!

And Buster Keaton.

Why the hell did ancient people drill holes in their heads?

What the hell is an island?

Who the hell made the Portolan Charts?

Watch out for those owls!

Watch out for those phantom hitchhikers!

A court case involving ghosts and bleeding corpses.

Watch out for those cursed vases!

The woman who thought she was married to Napoleon.

Shorter version:  water is weird.

A princess' generous ghost.

The diary of a 17th century vicar.

So maybe it's true that elephants never forget.

The donkey who starred in St. Patrick's Day parades.

Recent cases where airplanes encountered UFOs.

That time San Francisco rioted over a beer-drinking actress.

A quack's peculiar disappearance...and equally peculiar reappearance.

The captain whose sea was the desert.

The heroic voyage of Mary Patten.

A dinner with the Alexander Hamiltons and the Bonapartes.

Letters from ancient women.

When you have three brothers nicknamed "Newgate," "Cripplegate," and "Hellgate," you know you're dealing with a fun family.

A brief history of hair transplants.

A magnetic anomaly in Africa.

Blood and the Shroud of Turin.

A Chinese poltergeist.

The odd case of the Black Pig of Kiltrustan.

The (relatively) forgotten Garfield assassination.

The mystery of the appendix.

Folklore and psychotherapy.

Etiquette rules from 19th century France.

A forgotten aviation pioneer.

When father is very unlike son.

The world's oldest tattoos.

How wild animals self-medicate.

The once-renowned Wyld's Globe.

A woman who was framed for witchcraft.

Because I know you've been dying to ask me what London weather was like in the late seventeenth century.

The Coker Hill haunting.

Why it was a bad idea to invite Horace Walpole to a cricket match.

This week in Russian Weird looks at Siberian "wild people."  And what really became of this Soviet spy?

Captain Halpin meets a ghost.

Is this the world's oldest writing?

The serial killer of elephants.

That's it for this week!  We meet again on Monday, when I'll look at a doctor's mysterious murder.  In the meantime, here's some classic Irish music.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

It's another Talking Cat Week at Strange Company! From the "Baltimore Sun," December 21, 1949:
Kiki, of Charles Street avenue and Chesapeake avenue, withheld comment yesterday afternoon on his guardian's claim that she regularly regularly holds conversations with him. Kiki is a cat.

The claimant is Dr. Clara B. Fishpaugh, Ph.D., D.Sc, a former professor of education and psychology at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Kiki wandered into Dr. Fishpaugh's Towson home about six years ago, she recalled. The first time that she learned of his superfeline faculty of speech, Dr. Fishpaugh said, was not until about two years later. "I had brought him some lamb kidneys from the market. He's very fond of lamb kidneys.

"'Kiki,' I said. 'Mr. Will gave you these. Do you think you ought to thank Mr. Will?'

"Kiki distinctly replied. 'Yeah.' He never has managed to pronounce pronounce his S's."

Since that astonishing exchange. Kiki's vocabulary has been enormously increased, or. at least, more fully demonstrated, Dr. Fishpaugb recounted. On a hot summer day, the cat is likely to come crawling into the house, apparently hot and tired, collapse on a cushion and exclaim. "Aw in," which, Dr. Fishpaugh explained, means, "I'm all in."

One recent inclement afternoon, Kiki returned dripping rain and informed the psychologist, that he was "cold-wet."

A great lover of crabmeat, Kiki recently surprised Dr. Fishpaugh by scorning a dish of it and strolling airily out of the dining room. "What's the matter?" Dr. Fishpaugh inquired. "Don't want it," Kiki reportedly replied.

Dr. Fishpaugh was afraid for a moment that Kiki was talking nonsense until she observed that he had neglected food only because he had caught sight of one Suzie, another cat, with whom he is on good terms.

"Kiki is not very friendly with strangers." Dr. Fishpaugh pointed out. "But, after all, there is no other animal as individualistic as a cat, is there?" Like a child coaxed to perform for the benefit of visitors. Kiki is likely to seal his lips and utter not a word when on show. This childlike obstinacy fits Dr. Fishpaugh's theory that animals in some ways resemble human infants. "It has always been my opinion," she said, "that animals learn like children, only more slowly. The trouble is that few animals are given the chance to learn."

Furthermore, Dr. Fishpaugh contends that animals learn not only by association but by their reasoning power and intelligence. Although occasionally inclined to be moody and even rude, Kiki usually calls Dr. Fishpaugh "mom," she said fondly.

As an indication of the high regard in which he holds her, Dr. Fishpaugh told of Kiki's reaction to a recent picture taken of the two together. "Kiki looked at the picture intently. He looked at me intently. He looked back at the picture, and took his paw and knocked the picture out of my hand. He evidently didn't think that the camera had done me justice."

Although most of Kiki's conversation seems reserved for Dr. Fishpaugh. she says her pet once amazed a brush salesman and on another occasion caused a plumber to observe Kiki had "a lot more sense than some people." The brush salesman had been in the house a half hour and Kiki obviously didn't like him, according to Dr. Fishpaugh. She said Kiki finally burst out with: "Man." "Do you have a parrot?" she quoted the brush man. "No, a talking cat," she said she replied.

Kiki apparently looks after his own health quite carefully. He retires for the night promptly when the clock strikes 8 P.M. He wears a snug sweater which Dr. Fishpaugh has provided for him. He carefully avoids the lawn when he is warned that dead grass is being burned there. He stays at home when Dr. Fishpaugh tells him that dogs are at large outside.

Dr. Fishpaugh said that some of Kiki's sentences are almost complete, such as, "Dog out now." There are times, on the other hand, when Kiki's remarks are limited to cryptic monosyllables and nods of the head.

He apparently tends to be reticent when his feelings are hurt. One of the times that Kiki really seemed to be offended was when Dr. Fishpaugh told him about a talented cat that could sing "Silent Night" and earn large sums doing so. "Kiki warbled a few notes," Dr. Fishpaugh said. "It didn't sound like much. When I asked him to try again he just shrugged, as though to say, 'I already showed you I can do it.' "

Yesterday, Kiki wouldn't even shrug.

A side note: to date, I haven't been able to find out anything about the cat who sang Christmas carols, but rest assured, the search goes on.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Haunted Rest House; Or, The Dangers of Developing Cursed Real Estate

Frank Hives

In the days of pre-World War I Colonial Nigeria, a man named Frank Hives served as District Commissioner on the upper regions of the Cross River. Some years later, his livelier reminiscences of this period were collected in a 1930 book, "Ju-Ju and Justice in Nigeria." It contains many colorful and curious anecdotes, of which the weirdest was related in the chapter titled, "The Haunted Rest House." It is a memorable first-hand account of someone who does not believe in ghosts, does not want to believe in ghosts...but concedes that on one particular night, he met one very angry ghost.

Hives' brush with The Weird began with a tour of the communities under his rule. Nothing of any importance happened until he approached the town of Isuingo, in the Bende district. The place had "none too good a reputation." The residents were unfriendly and hostile to any outside interference. The roads and water supply were bad, and although the "rest house" had been built only two years before, it too was decrepit. Accordingly, Hives sent ahead of him instructions to have the house cleaned and repaired for his use.

When he arrived at Isuingo, he found that the rest house had indeed been cleaned, but not with any willing spirit on the part of the locals. Hives noted that they looked "sulky and decidedly unfriendly." He was told that the local chiefs had been most reluctant to have the rest house repaired. In fact, Hives noticed, no one wanted to be anywhere near the place. When he summoned the town's chiefs to meet with him, they very clearly looked as if they'd rather be anyplace else in the world. When Hives asked them about this curious reluctance, one of the patriarchs said hesitantly, "We do not mean to be disrespectful; but we did not want you to come here--it means trouble." Hives was not able to get them to say just what sort of "trouble" they were expecting.

After a day of dealing with routine administrative duties, Hives had dinner and retired to the rest house. The two-room dwelling had walls of red mud six feet high and a palm-leaf roof, with servants' quarters about thirty yards away. All seemed perfectly ordinary until evening, when Hives began to notice a "particularly unpleasant odour." He was unable to find any source for the smell, but it somehow pervaded the entire house. It reminded him of the odor of decomposing bodies. Hives instructed his servants to find where the awful smell came from and, hopefully, get rid of the source, but after a very perfunctory search--the servants shared in the unexplained universal antipathy to the house--they announced that they could find nothing. The men all escaped to their own quarters as soon as they possibly could.

Hives found himself wishing he could join them. In addition to the mysterious smell, he was feeling "an unnatural something about the place that gave me an eerie feeling. I found myself peering into the gloomy corners, though what I expected to see I could not have described." He forced himself to ignore his increasing unease and went to bed.

Sleep, however, proved impossible. He kept hearing what he could only describe as "inaudible sounds" coming from the darkness around him. He kept listening for something--"for what, I could not have said." Then he heard a knock outside his veranda. It was his cook, standing outside the house holding a lantern, and trembling from fright. The cook begged Hives to sleep elsewhere. It was a "bad place," he stammered. Men have died there. A "bad thing" lived there.

Hives was beginning to find that all too believable. The "corpsey" smell was becoming stronger and stronger, and the whole atmosphere was giving him a fine case of the creeps. He would have most happily slept elsewhere, if there had been anyplace else to go. Besides, if he were to flee, he feared this act of cowardice would lower his "prestige" among the people he had been assigned to rule. Hives decided there was nothing to be done but stick it out, and if that meant enduring the most unpleasant night of his life, well, so be it.

After his cook had fled to barricade himself in his own hut, Hives felt more uncomfortable than ever. He could not shake the feeling that someone--some thing was watching him. He took up his lamp and made a tour of the house, finding nothing. The sensation of being spied on persisted, however. After making sure his lamp was burning well--the idea of being in complete darkness was unthinkable--he loaded his revolver, put it under his pillow, and lay himself down. He felt like he was in the middle of "a tiny oasis of light in the midst of a desert of black nothingness." The night was completely silent. Hives longed for sleep, yet feared losing consciousness amid such a menacing atmosphere. He was not a superstitious man, but he had to acknowledge that there was something uniquely eerie about the rest house. The locals' aversion to the place was completely justified. And it was so quiet. Too quiet. "The stillness was appalling. I could have yelled with the horror of it."

Time passed. Hives must have managed to drop off into sleep, because he suddenly found himself jerked wide awake. He felt a sudden sense of panic--at what, he could not say. He heard a noise at the end of the veranda. He grabbed his gun and warily sat up in bed. As he stared into the gloom, he saw a chair suddenly dragged back against the wall, and toppled over by an invisible hand.

By this point, Hives would have been very happy to use his gun, if he could only have seen something to shoot.

He assumed--he hoped--that this was just some unfriendly townspeople trying to scare him away. He stepped outside and grabbed a handful of sand. He scattered it around the floor of the rest house. Anyone who entered the dwelling would leave tracks, and Hives would finally know his enemy. He settled back on the bed, and was just drifting back to sleep when he noticed that the nauseating smell had suddenly become stronger. It seemed to be approaching him. Hives began to feel "a sense of some impending horror that sent cold shivers down my spine." He was too terrified to even move. After a moment, he saw something moving just outside the veranda. It appeared to be the head of a very old native man. The rest of the body gradually appeared, crawling slowly on hands and knees, and trailing a length of rope behind it. It was utterly silent. The being eventually came within the radius of the lamplight, enabling Hives to see the intruder clearly.

Hives desperately regretted this closer look. It was the most appalling thing he had ever seen. The creature's face was mottled with pock marks. The nose had been eaten away. The naked body was "like old and mouldy leather, shrivelled and grey in patches." The lifeless, staring eyes were even worse. Hives soon realized that he was staring at a partly decomposed corpse.

A partly decomposed corpse that was crawling in his direction.

As Hives trembled in terror, the creature slowly got to its feet, until it stood upright. Still holding the rope, it lifted its withered arms, gripped the wall plate of the veranda, and began to climb the post supporting the roof. Hives finally found the power to speak. He yelled at the creature to stop. It ignored him. Hives fired two shots at the intruder. They had absolutely no effect. It continued to climb. Hives moved within only three or four feet of the thing and fired again. Useless.

Hives finally had to accept that he was dealing with something not at all of this world. He fled the house, screaming for his servants, for the police, for anyone at all. Hives' entourage was not at all eager to come anywhere near the house. They all were in such a state of fear that they looked ready to flee for their lives.

Hives declared that a thief had entered the house, and ordered that the dwelling be surrounded. Then, accompanied by two servants, he made a thorough search of the residence. Nothing was found, although he noticed that the horrible smell had somewhat dissipated. The sand "traps" he had laid did not have a single mark on them. He found bullet holes where the "thing" had been crawling, proof that the shots must have gone right through the creature. It "made the whole thing more mysterious than ever."

What was it that had entered his room that night? A ghost? Hives found that hard to believe. The thing had certainly looked solid enough. And he had never heard of a smelly ghost before. On the other hand, what he had seen--and shot at--was clearly not human.

When morning finally came, he was determined to find out anything he could about that rest house. He sent his interpreter into town to find someone who might be willing to tell him about the house's history. The interpreter came back with a young man named Benjamin Oku, a clerk at a trading firm in Calabar.  He spoke English and was willing--in return for a "present" of money--to tell all he knew about the rest house.

The story Oku told was this: Long ago, before the arrival of the white men, the site of the rest house had been a "ju ju sacrificial grove." The ju ju priest was a "very, very bad man," and had sacrificed many people in the name of his spiritual practices. The priest was greatly feared in the area, as "he was not at all particular" about how he chose his victims. About two years before Hives' visit, some British troops had camped out for some weeks in Isuingu. It was their commander who had ordered that the rest house be built on this "sacrificial grove." The locals had begged him to pick another site for the house, but, thinking that this was the best way to stamp out "the superstitious and savage customs," the officer refused to change his mind.

The old priest went into a fury when he learned how his sacred ground was being violated, and he protested vehemently. The officer retaliated by forcing him to assist in the site's demolition. That night, the priest cast spells putting a curse on the place. No white man, he vowed, would ever have a peaceful moment in that sacrilegious rest house. On the day after it was completed, the priest was seen pacing around the house, repeating his spells and wailing loudly. The next morning, he hanged himself inside the dwelling. The locals had been too terrified to even cut down the body, so it simply hung there until it rotted. It eventually fell piece-meal to the ground, where it was eaten by pigs.

Afterwards, many people returning to their farms after dark would see the ghost of the old man, dragging the rope he had used to commit suicide. No one ever willingly went near the rest house.

Hives had to admit that he couldn't blame them. He summoned the local chiefs.  Without mentioning anything of his horrific experience the previous night, he announced that the rest house was in appalling condition. He proposed to burn it down, and build a new house on a different site.

The men enthusiastically agreed that it was an excellent idea.

Hives personally torched the cursed rest house, watching it burn until only a few charred uprights remained, and oversaw the construction of the new dwelling. He slept peacefully in it on a number of occasions. The former sacrificial grove forever remained a shunned place, and grew overgrown and decrepit.

"What was it I saw that night?" Hives wondered. "An elemental? The earth-bound spirit of the old priest paying for the crimes he had committed during his life? And how to account for the horrible and indescribable stench that pervaded the house when the apparition was 'appearing?'

"I cannot."

Friday, March 2, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the International Order of Bookplate Cats!

Why the hell do witches ride brooms?

Why the hell are four-leaf clovers lucky?

How the hell was the moon formed?  Here's the latest theory.

Watch out for the monsters of Monterey Bay!

Watch out for those Victorian pleasure gardens!

Watch out for those phantom teeth!

A notorious "witchcraft murder."

A forgotten royal wedding.

Fortean party crashers.

Fortean photography.

Fortean storms.

Francis I of Austria: your go-to guy for sealing wax.

The island without wheels.

When you grow up never realizing you're on the run from the Mob.

Buying and selling wives.

A Welsh botanical excursion.

The English courtesan and the French emperor.

The Golden Age of fake backsides.

A talking Sasquatch.

The hell known as Nineteenth-Century Knitting.  (Although to be honest, I've found modern patterns on Ravelry that are written in a far more incomprehensible fashion.)

The hazards of using your own body as an experimental poison laboratory.

A medieval female sheriff.

A Regency female husband.

An elaborate 19th century "Christmas" circus.

Searching for the author of a message in a bottle.

Stalin's ill-fated meteorologist.

Oklahoma City has a bearded lady.

Egypt has a screaming mummy.

The man who transformed the health of Londoners.

In which Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein star in "The Odd Couple."

An accused witch comes to the usual bad end.

Hannah Lightfoot:  history or hoax?

So it turns out that pigeon racing is A Thing.

Harbingers of disaster.

A really, really bad employee.

Anomalous objects from ancient Egypt.

The man who claimed to be kidnapped by Bigfoot.

A chocolate-colored mermaid.

A 19th century Animal House: Opprobrious epithets and cherry rum.

This Week in Russian weird:  The strange case of the Moscow radio mistakes.

And let's also talk about UFOs and the Russian Navy.

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "in the soup."

Modern-day fairy sightings.

The world's worst real estate.

Africans in Tudor England.

A Degas painting has been found in a French bus.

A Polish poltergeist.

The life of a very rich--and very dreadful--socialite.

The man who lived in a tomb.

A variety of petrified corpses.

The many illnesses of Mary Tudor.

The legend of Mrs. Nightingale's ghost.

Victorian beauty tips.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a gruesome ghost story from Nigeria.  In the meantime, here's some medieval dance music!