"...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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

This...unexpected footnote to Russian history was recorded in the "Waco News-Tribune," March 15, 1926:
New York, March 14.--A fantastic "imperial secret" that had its inception on a New York farm and its conclusion in the court of the Romanoff's was told today after 20 years of silence by Edward Hatch, a New York merchant, former member of the firm of Lord & Taylor.

The story began in 1903. The ill luck of the Romanoff dynasty restrained Mr. Hatch from revealing it for many years. Then it grew dim in memory, and retrospection made its details seem even more improbable. He continued to keep quiet until a few days ago when, he said, he talked with a woman who had been close to the former German court, and she told him an anecdote which corroborated his story.

This was Mr. Hatch's story:

In 1903 a New York newspaper published an account of the lamentable state of affairs on the Hatch farm near Brewster, N.Y. Eighty-five per cent of all the animals born there were males, said the paper. Bulls that might have sold for thousands of dollars went to the butchers for what they could bring because the market was flooded. A flock of 30 ewes bore 26 males. All the chickens were roosters. Even the turkeys and carrier pigeons suffered from the hoodoo. The house cat had seven kittens, and six were tom cats.

A hired man and his wife on the farm had five sons. Even the corn would grow only on stubs, and scientists said it was male corn.

Soon after this story was published, Mr. Hatch said today, a stranger questioned him about it at his story. He wanted an explanation. Mr. Hatch said he thought it might be the water, which analysis had shown contained much phosphorous and magnesium.

The stranger then introduced himself as the Russian consul. He wanted a sample of the water. Mr. Hatch agreed.

A few days later the stranger appeared at the farm with two uniformed attendants. With considerable ceremony they filled a keg with the water. The consul insisted on sealing the bung himself, with elaborate rites. Mr. Hatch asked for what purpose the water was wanted. The only answer he could get was "just an experiment."

A year later cable dispatches reported that a male heir had been born to the imperial Russian throne. The preceding children of the czar had been daughters.

Mr. Hatch called on the Russian consul. His questions were evaded, and when he became insistent the consul pointedly changed the subject. The merchant's father advised him to keep the episode to himself and he did so until he heard the recent anecdote, attributed to the German court doctor of that day, which seemed to corroborate the implications of his own experience.
Considering what became of the royal family, that water was an even bigger hoodoo than anyone thought.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Judy Smith's Final Destination: A Bizarre Murder Mystery

Judith "Judy" Eldridge did not have a particularly easy life. She was born in 1946 into a working-class family in Massachusetts. When she was just out of high school, she entered into a marriage which failed almost immediately. Her husband abandoned her when he fled to Sweden to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. Her second marriage, to a thoroughbred racetrack worker named Charles Bradford, produced a son and daughter, but this union also soon ended. Judy Bradford found herself divorced, without a job, and with two small children to raise alone.

Fortunately, she was more than equal to the challenge. She managed to care for her youngsters while simultaneously putting herself through nursing school. She worked hard, got herself out of welfare, advanced rapidly through her chosen profession, and brought up two fine children. She was the classic single-mother success story. Judy Bradford was a smart, assertive, take-charge sort of person who took pride in her street-smarts and ability to look after herself.

While working as a home-care nurse for a dying Boston man, Judy became acquainted with her patient's son, a successful lawyer named Jeffrey Smith. A romance soon developed between the two. After being together for ten years, the couple finally married in November 1986. The long wait for the wedding bells appears to have been Judy's idea. After so many years of independence (not to mention two failed marriages) she was understandably uneasy about a third trip down the altar. However, when she finally did take the plunge, it seemed like she had finally found domestic bliss. The pair had every reason to expect a long and prosperous life ahead.

Instead, what soon followed was deep tragedy and inexplicable mystery.

On April 9, 1997, only five months after their wedding, the Smiths headed for Logan International Airport. They were planning to attend a pharmaceutical conference in Center City, Pennsylvania, where Jeffrey, a expert in health-care law, was to moderate a panel. At the airport, Judy realized she had forgotten to bring her photo ID, so she was unable to get on their plane. The pair decided that Jeffrey would take their scheduled flight alone, while Judy would follow him on another flight that left later that day. She made it to their Philadelphia hotel at around 10 p.m. The couple shared a room service pizza and went to bed.

The next morning, Jeffrey left their room to grab some breakfast in the hotel restaurant. According to his later story, Judy was just about to step into the shower. Their plan was that she would spend the day sightseeing while he attended the conference. That evening, they would meet with friends for dinner.

When Judy failed to return to their hotel room during the day, her husband assumed she was merely touring the city. However, when nightfall arrived with no sign of her, Jeffrey became alarmed and contacted the police. A detective informed him that it was too soon to launch a search. Chances were that she merely stayed out later than she had planned. She would probably turn up alive and well at any moment.

The next morning, Judy was still missing. This time, Jeffrey and his friends not only phoned police, they contacted various media outlets and the city's mayor. This barrage of publicity had its effect. Six detectives were instantly assigned to track down this missing tourist. Judy Smith had been transformed into a high-profile case, and an intensive search was made for her throughout the city. Posters with her photo and description were plastered everywhere. Numerous "sightings" of the vanished woman were reported in and around Philadelphia, but police generally dismissed them as unreliable. Not the slightest trace of Judy was ever found in the metropolis. Police had no idea where Judy Smith could be. Indeed, despite the fact that her plane ticket to Philadelphia had been used, detectives began to wonder if Mrs. Smith had ever truly been in the city at all. In an article about the case in the August 31, 1997 "Philadelphia Inquirer," Detective Anthony Buchanico was quoted as saying, "I don't think she's in Philadelphia any longer, if she ever was. We had a lot of people searching; if she was here very long, we would have found her. Or if something happened to her, we would have found her body." Another investigator noted, "She was supposedly here one night, then went off by herself the next morning. But she had friends at the convention, and nobody saw her." Yet another detective mused, "There were so many strange coincidences you don't know what to think. She didn't get on the plane with him. They meet in the lobby. They go to breakfast separately. And she doesn't have much female stuff in the hotel room..."

From these quotes, you can probably guess the trend of the detectives' thinking. However, Judy's family and friends expressed outraged disbelief at the hint that Jeffrey could have been behind his wife's disappearance. They all described him as a gentle, honest, affectionate man who would never hurt anyone. Judy's daughter Amy told the "Inquirer," "If he says she was in Philadelphia, she was there. It makes me mad that there's any doubt at all about that." In any case, Jeffrey was a severely overweight man with a number of health problems. Even if he had been emotionally capable of disposing of his wife, he definitely was not physically able to do so.

Jeffrey himself was equally adamant that his wife would not have disappeared voluntarily. "She was happy," he insisted. "And even if she did want to run away, why would she go to Philadelphia to do that?" He could only theorize that while touring the city, Judy somehow became disoriented and wandered away somewhere outside of Philadelphia, perhaps to be put into some sort of institution without anyone knowing who she was.

Could she have been the victim of a street crime? In any large city, that's always a dangerous possibility. However, it seemed unlikely that someone so brave and feisty could have been harmed or kidnapped without anyone noticing. Judy Smith was never afraid to make a loud scene.

Did she go off to start a new life and career? Some of Judy's friends told investigators that she found marriage somewhat confining, and that Jeffrey wanted her to socialize more than she liked. They believed she genuinely cared for her husband, but giving up her independence was hard. However, no one who knew her believed she would abandon her children. Plus, Judy was an outspoken person, not one to keep her feelings to herself. Those who knew her believed that if she wanted out of her marriage, she simply would have said so. Her personality also ruled out suicide. "She's not the type to quit," said one friend.

Jeffrey Smith's suggestion that she had become mentally confused was also seen as improbable. Just two weeks before her disappearance, Judy had a physical, and was completely healthy.

In short, there was no obvious reason for Judy Smith's disappearance. Amy Bradford sighed, "Rationally, I know something must have happened to her. But I try to think that she left on her own and she's OK, even though I know she wouldn't do that. But I try to think she did, because that helps my peace of mind."

Sadly, Judy Smith was not "OK." Just one week after Amy's hopeful words were published in the "Inquirer," a couple of hunters in a remote, isolated area in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest came across something horrifying: human remains. A woman's corpse had been wrapped in a blanket and buried in a shallow grave. Animals had later dug up parts of the body, scattering them around the scene. Some personal effects, including a backpack and shirt containing nearly $200 in cash, were found there as well. Dental records were able to establish that these bones were all that was left of Judy Smith. Holes in her bra and cut marks on the bones led investigators to suspect she had been stabbed, although the cause of her death could not be positively determined.

This grim discovery transformed Judy's disappearance from merely mysterious to bafflingly bizarre. How did the dead woman travel 600 miles from where she was last seen? No evidence could be found of her taking a plane, bus, or rental car. And why North Carolina, considering that she had no ties to the area, and had never expressed a desire to visit that region of the country? Adding to the puzzle was the fact that when she died, she was wearing hiking clothes that were completely different from the ones she had on when she vanished.  The personal items found by the body were not known to belong to Judy, and her distinctive red backpack, which she always carried with her in lieu of a purse, has never been found.

Several people reported seeing a woman matching Judy's description in the Asheville area. A clerk at a local store believed she had talked to her in April. The woman seemed pleasant and completely normal, saying that her husband was a Boston attorney, attending a conference in Philadelphia, and "during that time she had just decided to go to the Asheville area." An employee at the Biltmore Estate, the owner of an Asheville campground, and a local deli owner all claimed to have interacted with her. She may even have applied for a job in a doctor's office. Investigators found these accounts credible, but they did absolutely nothing to solve the riddle of her death. Police believed she had gone to North Carolina voluntarily, and that she had been killed where the body was discovered. But what on earth was she doing there, and who would have wanted her dead?

Although police could never bring themselves to completely rule out Jeffrey Smith as a suspect, he died in 2005 almost certainly completely ignorant of how his wife came to her gruesome end. The sheer weirdness of this relatively recent case has given it a fair amount of fame on the internet. True crime devotees and armchair detectives have offered a great deal of online speculation about Judy Smith's disappearance and death, but to date, that is all anyone has: speculation.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the only clown allowed anywhere near Strange Company HQ.

Saladin's unfortunate forerunner.

How to get away with murdering your coachman.

The strange tale of the Jewish jumper and the male impostor.

Mysterious creatures in a lost Antarctica lake.  What could go wrong?

Mysterious structures in the Middle East.

Yes, finding a severed hand would be a bit disconcerting.

DNA meets the Rudolf Hess doppelganger theory.  Doppelganger loses.

Finding the remains of explorer Matthew Flinders.

The notorious hanging of Susanna Cox.  Plus bonus murder ballad!

Not sure what a calenderer did?  Here's your chance to find out.

What the Well-Dressed Napoleon Was Wearing.

A family affair at the guillotine.

The ghosts of Rome.

The madness of Merlin.

Sewing shrouds in the 19th century.

15th century Fake News.

Georgian era naming and shaming.

The disappearance of a bobby-soxer.

Is a gang of serial killers operating in the U.S?

Contemporary accounts of the 1814 Frost Fair.

Maybe naming asteroids after gods of destruction isn't such a great idea.

A medical case where one twin essentially strangled the other...in the womb.

The poisonous Pownall sisters.


A socialite, P.G. Wodehouse, and Mussolini.  All in one post!

One day in the death penalty.

Merchants as "citizens of the world."

Outdoing Jack the Ripper.

Some words about last words.

Nellie, the School Cat.  (Warning: this ends in tragedy.)

The employee who recycled rats.

The man who would have us believe he was a king.

The world's oldest clove.

A surprising number of people have operated on themselves.  Not that I'm recommending it or anything.

The hottest French fashions from 1802.

That's all the links for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a particularly odd murder case.  In the meantime, here are the great Brothers Clancy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

If a habitual tooth-vomiter doesn't belong on this blog, I don't know who does. From the "Louisville Courier Journal," July 26, 1895:

A curious case that has puzzled half a dozen doctors during the past three months has just come to light. Fannie Thompson, colored, the wife of James E. Thompson, barber, has since the middle of April been throwing up teeth of all sorts. That is, they are hard. white substances resembling teeth. Some of them resemble dog teeth, others alligator teeth, cow teeth, hog teeth, horse teeth, sheep teeth, human teeth and in fact teeth of almost every conceivable kind. Drs. Flexner, Ed. Grant, the late Dr. Palmer, Dr. Samuels and Dr. E. D. Whedbee, colored, have all visited her. The woman has either developed a singular malady, or, what will seem more probable to most people, has a singular mania for swallowing teeth and throwing them up again. The doctors have not seen her swallow any, and no reason has been offered why the woman should resort to this singular and painful method of amusing herself and gaining notoriety. Some of the teeth look like they might have been picked up about the stock yards and added to the woman's collection.

The woman has been confined to her bed since last January. She was getting off a Jefferson street car at Eighth street, and was thrown to the ground because the car started before she had stepped off. She was injured internally and gave premature birth to a child. Dr. Whedbee was called in. She vomited blood dally up to April 17. On that day the doctor found what looked like a small tooth in the vessel into which the woman had thrown up. The woman, in fact, called the doctor's attention to the tooth. He dismissed the matter by saying it had probably been deposited in the vessel, before she threw up. She said she was sure that it had not, as she had felt it scratching her gullet when it came up. The tooth was very small. It was about a quarter of an inch long, pointed at the end, and was hollow. It appeared to be the tooth of a dog.

From that time the woman threw up from one to two of these substances a day, until the doctor began to grow interested. When she had thrown up about thirty of them their character changed. They became larger, but were of the same general shape.

These teeth, so-called, were merely thin shells and were filled with flesh, which the doctor removed and preserved in alcohol. She discharged about a dozen of these, when their character changed again, and they were of no fixed size or shape.

At the present time the woman discharges from four to fourteen a day. Last night within half an hour she threw up six in the presence of Dr. Whedbee. One of them looked like a horse's molar and had six prongs, four of which were broken off. It had the appearance of a tooth that had seen service and was about the size of the first joint of the thumb of a well-developed man. Another was about two inches long and very sharp at one of the ends. It curved like a hook. The woman throws up these things in the afternoon and night, and rarely in the morning. Her stomach is always distended, especially In the morning. She throws off the substances with great pain, and when in the act she emits the most agonising groans. She greatly fears the paroxysms due to discharging them, and will never discharge them unless a doctor is present. She fears that when she is throwing them up one of them will lodge in her throat and choke her. She always wants a physician present so that he can give her relief if she should happen to choke.

The woman complains of constant pains on the left side of the stomach near what is known as the cardiac orifice. About two months ago a swelling on the left side just below the ribs began to show itself. This seemed to be a fleshy tumor, but as yet Dr. Whedbee says he can not determine the exact nature of it. He scouts the natural suggestion that the woman swallowed the articles, but that is the only theory as yet entertained by physicians to whom the case has been reported. It is hard, however, to conjecture the woman's motive in practicing such a fraud, if fraud it is. He says she has not been out of her bed since last January and has herself not been able to get the teeth.

Several days ago Drs. Ed. Grant and Flexner were called in to examine the woman. Dr. Grant was solicited by a benefit society, of which the woman was a member. The officials of the society said simply that the woman was sick, and had been sick for so long that they wanted an investigation. He thought that the woman was suffering from some ordinary disease, but inasmuch as she did not live far from his office, he walked over to her home one afternoon. He met Dr. Flexner there, and was at once acquainted with the peculiar state of affairs. For the past few days both of the doctors have been making a quiet investigation of the strange affair.

Dr. Grant says he has been with the woman when she has discharged five or six of the teeth within twenty minutes' time. She seems to be able to throw them up at will, which in Dr. Grant's opinion, is a peculiar feature of the case. The discharge is accompanied by a glairy mucus, very much like saliva. They are never accompanied by any other contents of the stomach.

The only way to account for the teeth coming from the woman's mouth, says Dr, Grant, is that she first swallowed them. This she stoutly denies, however. The only thing that could prompt her to swallow the teeth would be insanity. Dr. Flexner is making a chemical analysis of some of the substances to determine just what they are. He has not yet completed the analysis, and will not for some days yet. Drs. Flexner and Grant were to make an examination of the woman yesterday afternoon, but Dr. Flexner was engaged, and it was postponed. It is their intention to put the woman under the influence of chloroform so that she will have no control of her stomach or abdominal muscles. They can then examine the abdominal walls and determine just where the sack, if there is any, is situated. This will be done in a day or two.

Dr. Grant says the hard lump, which recently appeared on the left side of the woman, is a curious complication which can not be explained unless they are allowed to operate on the woman. She will not listen to this. The lump is about the size of the two flats and is very hard. It has the outside appearance of a fatty tumor, but is too hard for this. The only effect pressure has on this swelling is to cause excruciating pain. It seems to be a growth of the abdominal walls, and may be due to a calcareous deposit of the blood vessels. The growth was very rapid.

The woman is very fleshy and is about thirty five years old.

The following day, the "Courier Journal" had another report:

The case of Fannie Thompson, the colored woman who has been throwing up teeth for the past three months, has attracted considerable attention among the physicians about the city. It is the opinion of those who have investigated the case and who have seen the teeth that they were first swallowed.

Three physicians visited the woman at her home on the northeast corner of Eighth and Green streets yesterday afternoon. They were Drs. Grant. Hodman and Flexner. The woman had promised the physicians that she would allow them to put her under the influence of chloroform and make a thorough examination of her abdomen with the object in view of determining the exact condition of the abdominal walls. When the doctors reached the house the woman refused to allow them to put her under the influence of the drug, fearing that she would die while in its power. While the doctors were at the house the woman ejected five teeth.

Dr. Grant said last night: "I believe that the woman is a victim of a peculiar phase of monomania. While insanity is not apparent to one who talks to her, it is shown by the fact that she throws up the teeth. The teeth are not held in the mouth and discharged from there, as is apparent from several circumstances. I have extended my finger down her throat on several occasions and have felt a tooth while It was still in the gullet and on the way out. The teeth also show by their appearance that they have been influenced by the gastric juice of the stomach. All the tissues which adhere to the teeth have been dissolved when the teeth are thrown off. showing that the teeth have been for some time in the stomach. The woman swallows them perhaps several hours before she knows that it is time for her doctor to call on her and is prepared to throw them up on short notice."

The physicians do not intend to let their investigations rest with what they have done so far. They will not be satisfied until they have determined fully whether or not the woman does really swallow the teeth. This can only be done by having the woman taken to some hospital or infirmary, where she will be isolated from any one who is disposed to carry her her daily allowance of teeth. An effort will be made by the physician to have the woman go to such an institution.

Dr. Flexner has not yet completed his analysis of the teeth which he has in his possession. It will be some days before he can say positively of just what they consist. He is very guarded in his statements about the case and will not declare that the woman swallows the teeth until he has more positive proof than is in his hands at present. He does not seem to have much faith in the dermoid cyst theory, however. He has had much experience with cases of dermoid cyst and in his practice and investigation he never knew a case of this sort where horse teeth were thrown up by human beings.
Curiously enough, our pleasant little tale then seemed to disappear from the newspapers. A sequel appeared in the "Courier Journal" three years later, on January 24, 1898, although, for reasons I can't begin to explain, the unfortunate woman's name was now given as "Mary Lytle."

Mary Lytle, colored, living on West street, between Walnut and Chestnut, who for several years has been troubled with a peculiar malady which has puzzled the medical fraternity of this city, has appealed to Chief of Detectives Sullivan for protection. She claims she is not able to spend a minute in peace owing to the constant strain of medical students who loiter about her home and try to chloroform her in an effort to kidnap her.

About three years ago the woman's case attracted wide attention. At intervals she coughs up teeth. When the woman was first afflicted her case received the attention of prominent physicians in this and other cities.

Since the first appearance of the disease the woman has been a subject tor all kind of experiments. She has undergone, she says, every experiment known to the medical profession. It has almost come to pass that a young man who contemplates the study of medicine does not enter college until he has visited the woman's home, questioned her and induced her to undergo a thorough medical examination.

The article went on to state that some of Lytle's relatives went to the police, accusing medical students of actually trying to kidnap her so they could carry her off to some medical college so they could "discover the secret of her peculiar malady." Detectives went to talk to her, and she asserted her desire to swear out warrants against her persecutors. Alas, I was unable to find any later articles about Mary--or Fannie--leaving it a mystery to me when or if she ever stopped emitting teeth, or if she managed to escape the clutches of overzealous medical men.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Donald Bán and the Bócan

This week's forecast for Strange Company HQ: mostly cloudy with a strong chance of malevolent goblins.

The following details of one Scottish Highlander's brush with The Weird comes from two published sources: "The Gael," (volume 6, 1877,) and the Rev. A. Maclean Sinclair's "Glenhard Collection of Gaelic Poetry."  (Sinclair received his information from a man whose grandfather had personal involvement with the story.)

In the mid 1700s there lived in Lochaber one Donald Bán, who, for very good reasons, became renowned as "Donald Bán of the Goblin" [or "Bócan," to use the native tongue.] Donald, we are informed, was no stranger to the supernatural. A cousin of his mother's had been carried away by the fairies, and one night Donald himself saw this lost relation among the fairy folk, "dancing as hard as he could." On another occasion, Donald was out hunting, when he noticed a man on the back of a deer climbing a large rock.  "Home, Donald Bán," the man instructed him. Donald heeded this advice, fortunately for him. That night, eleven feet of snow fell on the place where he had planned to camp. Such encounters were merely an opening act for a spectacularly strange episode in his life.

The details of Donald Bán's initial encounter with his goblin are lost to history. The source material contents itself with the majestic, if enigmatic, line, "It was on the hill that Donald first met with the Bócan." Who--or what--the Bócan was also unrecorded. Some proposed that the being was a servant of Donald's who had been killed when he and his master fought in the battle of Culloden. Apparently, this "gille" had once given a poverty-stricken neighbor more assistance than his master approved of. The two quarreled over this excessive generosity, causing the "gille" to vow, "I will be avenged for this, alive or dead."

The one thing that can be said for certain about the Bócan was that it was a thoroughgoing paranormal pain in the neck. The goblin physically injured Donald Bán and his family. It ruined the household's food supplies. For whatever reason, the butter was a particular target of the being's wrath, despite all efforts to preserve it. We are told that on one occasion, one Ronald of Aberadair tried to keep his butter clean by holding his bonnet over it, and carrying his dirk in his hand (presumably to fend off the goblin,) but by the time he reached the table, the butter had magically been dirtied. At night, no one could sleep due to the goblin's penchant for stone-throwing: "the Bócan was throwing things out of the walls, and they would hear them rattling at the head of Donald's bed." When Angus mac Alister Bán (the grandfather of Sinclair's informant) spent the night at Donald's home, he received a very rude welcome: "Something seized his two big toes, and he could not get free any more than if he had been caught by the smith's tongs. He could not get moved. It was the Bócan, but he did nothing more to him." All of Lochaber, it seems, witnessed the goblin's many destructive pranks, although no one, not even Donald himself, ever actually saw their tormentor.

Donald and his family became so weary of this supernatural persecution that they decided to move to another house, hoping that the goblin would be content to stay behind. They took with them all their possessions except a harrow, which was left by the side of the house. However, as they began traveling along the road, they spied the harrow...following them. "Stop, stop," sighed Donald. "If the harrow is coming after us we may as well go back again." And so they did.

The goblin had a special animus towards Donald's wife. Although it never gave its reasons for this spite--imps, fairies and the like have never felt the need to justify themselves--it may have been because she belonged to the clan MacGregor. One night, the goblin went to the roof of the house and cried, "Are you asleep, Donald Bán?"

"Not just now," his host replied.

"Put out that long grey tether, the MacGregor wife."

"I don't think I'll do it tonight," said Donald.

"Come out yourself, then, and leave your bonnet."

Donald's wife whispered to him, "Won't you ask at him when the Prince will come?"

No sooner had she said these words that the goblin snapped, "Didn't you get enough of him before, you grey tether?"

No matter how uninvited or unpleasant they may be, all houseguests eventually leave. One night, the goblin bid the family farewell. As the Rev. Sinclair described it, "The last night that the Bócan came he was saying that such and such other spirits were along with him. Donald's wife said to her husband, 'I should think that if they were along with him they would speak to us.' The Bócan answered, 'They are no more able to speak than the sole of your foot.' 'Come out here, Donald Bán,' said the Bócan. 'I will,' said Donald, 'and thanks be to the good Being that you have asked me.' Donald was going out, and taking his dirk along with him. 'Leave your dirk inside, Donald,' said the Bócan, 'and your knife as well.' Donald went out, and he and the Bócan went through Acha-nan-Comhachan by night, and on through rivers and a birch-wood for about three miles till they reached the stream of the Fert. When they got to this the Bócan showed him a hole where he had hid plough-irons while he was alive. While Donald was taking the plough-irons out of the hole the two eyes of the Bócan were putting more fear on him than anything else he ever heard or saw. When he had got the irons, they went home to Mounessie, himself and the Bócan, and parted that night at the house of Donald Bán."

There is a poetic footnote to this little tale. During the period when Donald was troubled by his pesky visitor, he wrote a hymn which, happily, has been preserved for posterity:

O God that created me so helpless,
Strengthen my belief and make it firm.
Command an angel to come from Paradise
And take up his abode in my dwelling,
To protect me from every trouble
That wicked folks are putting in my way;
Jesus that didst suffer thy crucifixion,
Restrain their doings, and be with me thyself.

Little wonder though I am thoughtful--
Always at the time when I go to bed
The stones and the clods will arise--
How could a saint get sleep there!
I am without peace or rest,
Without repose or sleep till the morning;
O thou that art in the throne of grace,
Behold my treatment and be a guard to me.

Little wonder though I am troubled,
So many stories about me in every place,
Some that are unjust will be saying
"It is all owing to himself, that affair."
Judge not except as you know,
Though the Son of God were awaking you;
No one knows if I have deserved more
Than a rich man that is without care.

Although I am in trouble at this time,
Verily, I shall be doubly repaid,
When the call comes to me from my Saviour
I shall receive mercy and new grace;
I fear no more vexation
When I ascend to be with thy saints;
O thou that sittest on the throne
Assist my speaking and accept my prayer.

O God, make me mindful
Night and day to be praying,
Seeking pardon richly
For what I have done, on my knees.
Stir with the Spirit of Truth
True repentance in my bosom,
That when thou dost send death to seek me,
Christ may take care of me.

Thus ends our brief look at typical domestic life in 18th century Scotland.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by a celebrity feline: Virginia Woolf's Sappho.  (Woolf herself took this photo.)

Who the hell shot John Meierhoffer?

What the hell was life like in ancient Mongolia?

Where the hell is Glenn Miller's plane?

Watch out for the radiant boys!

The case of the disappearing pond.

Thomas Rees, demented, happy and useful.

A cotton seed on the Moon.

Folklore of the Oaxacan ruins.

The riverfront gardens near the Taj Mahal.

What you could--and could not--wear in 17th century Lisbon.

It's not necessarily a good idea to let the government know you're interested in UFOs.

The nurse and the ghost.

Carriages drawn by kites.

19th century cat games.

The world's oldest melody.

The world as Xenophon saw it.

A Russian coachman at Chatsworth House.

Why you'll have a problem building a time machine.

Prohibition and the U.S. Army.

How we are becoming slaves to Big Tech.

William Leftwich's ice well.

The best-selling books, 1830-1930.

Boston's Great Molasses Flood.

Britain's worst ice skating tragedy.

Death Masks of the Rich and Famous.

Artist manages to recreate Hell in the middle of the Namibia desert.

A look at Wren's model of St. Paul's cathedral.

The wonderful weirdness of Edward Gorey.

The mysterious language of the Indus Valley civilization.

The life of the Duchess of Wellington.

Reminiscences of a Civil War veteran.

An 1,800 year old homework assignment.

The mystery of Algeria's pyramid tombs.

The hazards of being an ex-Haitian president.

My new favorite conspiracy theory.

Was it murder?  Or spontaneous human combustion?

One really awe-inspiring cabinet:

An eyewitness account of the 1780 Gordon Riots.

Tombstone censors.

Women and the Crusades.

A controversial human skull.

Porcelain and Madame de Pompadour.

Why you might not want to move to Dryden, New York.

Atlantis and the Bimini Wall.

The wonders of Kirby's Eccentric Museum.

A Norwegian doppelganger in Ireland.

That's the last of this week's links. See you on Monday, when we'll visit a Scottish goblin. In the meantime, let us end with the sound of trumpets.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

This account of a particularly sinister haunting appeared in the "Pittsburgh Press," October 12, 1913:
Paris. Oct. 11.--Following the brutal murder at Avignon of a young girl by her brother and sister because they thought her possessed of demons, comes a harrowing tale from Brittany where a terrible spook with an "evil eye" has cast consternation over an entire community.

So much havoc has been wrought by the dreaded ghost that the authorities are taking a hand. An investigation is on.

The Croguennecs, consisting of father, mother, two daughters and two sons, are a well-to-do family owning considerable lands in and about the village of Borgne-Kerranborn. Suddenly their corn dried up on the stalk while a neighbor's corn in adjacent fields flourished to an unusual degree. A strange hand bridled the horses in the dead of night and morning found them covered with lather and almost dead from fatigue. No amount of watching appeared to do an good, while the head of the family, who had been constantly on watch, died suddenly of a strange and malignant disease. He had never been sick a day before in his life.

The day of the wedding of the eldest daughter, the finest horse on the place died without warning. Later, the herd of cattle known all over Brittany for their breeding qualities, became sterile.

Night after night the family went through an inferno of fear; strange noises were heard in every room in the house. A tempest seemed to be blowing outside, the wind shrieking like a million demons, yet the stars were out and the leaves of the trees never stirred. Chains rattled and clanked, and groans came from the chimneys, and every morning it was found that the heaviest furniture in the house had been moved about helter skelter.

In mortal terror, the two sons visited the neighborhood sorceress, but she could not explain the mystery. M. and Mme. Nicholas, a couple living in the neighborhood, came to live with the Croguennecs. to be company for them, but they became so frightened at the seemingly supernatural manifestations that they left the place immediately. Then they both died, suddenly.

Locks on barns seemed no obstacle, for the cattle and horses, securely locked in at night, in the morning were scattered all over the farm, wandering uneasily up and down lanes.

Then, one day Francois Marie Croguennec. one of the sons and as strong as an ox. was assailed in broad open daylight by something or somebody whom he claims he did not see. His back was wrenched so that he is an invalid for life, his nerves shattered.

Finally Alexandrine, one of the daughters, went insane from fear and is now in a madhouse.

Francois Marie Croguennec told an interviewer that the "evil eye" had been on his family for six years, ever since the death of an old aunt who had left them their fortune. Some of the neighbors claim the spirit of the aged woman is wrecking vengeance on the family because of the way they misuse her money. On the other hand the authorities are inclined to believe something more substantial than a ghost is at work on the Croguennec farm, and with this theory in mind the gendarmes are investigating.

There was an article in the July 26, 1913 issue of "Le Matin" which appears to give substantially the same information as the above item.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything more about this eerie story.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Curious End of M. Syveton

Gabriel Syveton (1864-1904) was one of the more controversial French politicians of his day. The co-founder of the Nationalist group Ligue de la Patrie Francaise was a hero to his allies and a nuisance to just about everyone else. Early in 1904, he got into a public altercation with the war minister Louis Andre over Andre's efforts to purge the army of officers considered to be disloyal to the Republic. The war minister had gone so far as to gather information on officers' religious practices and beliefs, reportedly with the help of the Masonic Grand Orient, which for some time had been keeping dossiers on this subject. Syveton had managed to acquire many of these files, which gave his party everything they needed to promote a full-fledged scandal with all the anti-Masonic trimmings. The uproar over the revelations forced Andre to resign. The anti-government atmosphere became so heated that on November 4, Syveton publicly slapped Andre on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies.

With this act, the triumphant Syveton went too far. This physical attack got Syveton suspended from parliament, and he was ordered to stand trial on December 9. The government was in a tricky position. If they failed to convict Syveton, it would support his charges against the government, and the Ministry would soon find themselves superseded by the Nationalists. But Syveton was a popular figure to much of the nation, and the idol of his party. Many saw him as a martyr, another Dreyfus. The smart money in Paris was betting on an acquittal.

Both publicly and privately, Syveton was unbowed. He showed great confidence that he would ultimately be exonerated, and threatened that he had even more shocking information to reveal. Unfortunately, we will never know if he was correct. For on the eve of his trial, he died.

At about 3 pm on the 8th, Syveton's wife Marie summoned a Dr. Thoimer, Gabriel's friend and doctor, to their home. The doctor found Syveton sprawled on the floor of his study, unconscious from the fumes of gas from the charcoal stove in the room. He died an hour later.

Madame Syveton's story was that during the day, her husband had numerous callers, the last of whom left at about 1 p.m. After not seeing or hearing anything from Syveton for two hours, she went to check on him, and found him dying in this gas-filled room.

However, it was immediately noted that there were several odd things about the death scene. For one thing, by the time the police arrived at the Syveton house, the gas taps were turned off. (Madame Syveton explained that she had automatically turned them off when she first entered the room.) For another, the door to the study was not locked from the inside. There was a freshly-filled pipe and a loaded gun lying near the body. Two friends of Syveton's did a little amateur sleuthing, and discovered that the pipe of the stove was plugged with a copy of that day's newspaper. This was no accidental death. But was it suicide or murder?

An autopsy ruled that Syveton had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the death was officially dismissed as a suicide. Despite his outward show of bravado, the police shrugged, he could not face the shame of standing trial, not to mention the permanent disgrace if he were to be convicted, so he took the easy way out.

This statement gained some credence when Marie Syveton, curiously eager to promote the idea that her husband killed himself, shared lurid details about the dead man's personal life. "On the morning of the day of my husband's death," she told authorities, "I discovered cause for leaving him. I mentioned the name of a woman, and he understood. He pleaded for forgiveness, saying that only my love could save him. I announced to him that I should insist on a separation. When I next saw him at 3 o'clock in his study he was dying."

It soon emerged that the woman Marie was referring to was her own daughter from a previous marriage, Marguerite Menard. According to some versions of the story, Syveton and his stepdaughter had been lovers. According to others, Syveton had raped the beautiful young woman. Whatever the truth about their relationship may have been, Marie Syveton made it clear that she believed the threat of his sordid behavior becoming public knowledge led Gabriel to end it all.

It did not seem to occur to Madame Syveton that in seeking to bolster the suicide theory, she was also suggesting an excellent motive for her to murder her husband. Some of the Paris newspapers went even further, alleging that she was part of a circle of wives of rich and important men who were insuring their husband's lives for large amounts of money, and then killing them. One of the inaugural victims, these papers declared, was Marie's first husband. The Widow Syveton, of course, angrily denied these reports--although she had to admit that both her husbands had been heavily insured.

The government, for their part, insisted that Syveton had committed suicide not merely because of his disgraceful personal life, but as a result of his professional chicaneries. They claimed that he had embezzled large sums of money entrusted to him by his party. Syveton's supporters heatedly denied these claims, proclaiming that "They have slain Syveton, and would now assassinate his character!"

The pro-Syveton party continued to insist that he had been murdered. To bolster their belief that Syveton had not committed suicide, they pointed to his blithe confidence in being exonerated. They asserted that Syveton's stepdaughter was of very dubious morals, and that she had simply invented the tale of being raped. It was surely suspicious, they noted, that Marguerite and her mother both claimed to have had "premonitions" of his death. There were experts who stated that Syveton could not have died in the room and in the position where he was found. And, of course, there was the fact that Syveton's life had been insured for 150,000 francs, all of which went to his wife.

Syveton's father and brother-in-law publicly accused Marie of murdering her husband, and demanded a second, more impartial investigation. Their pleas were refused, and Syveton's enigmatic end was allowed to fade into history.

So, was Gabriel Syveton's death suicide? A political assassination? A family murder? It says much about this strange case that equally solid arguments have been made for all of these theories.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is hosting a slumber party!

Where the hell is Napoleon's gold?

Who the hell was the Strawberry Girl?

What the hell is the Stone Head of Salaspils?

What the hell was the first shot of the Civil War?  It may not have been what we think.

Watch out for that Magellanic Cloud!

The birth of 19th century spiritualism.

Victorians worried a lot about being cremated alive.  Possibly not without reason.

How did Alexander Hamilton get along with the first five presidents?  (Spoiler: Not well.)

Earth's magnetic field is going nuts, which may explain a lot about current events.

The battle to raise the Vasa.

The life of Mary, Countess of Elgin.

The first dentures.

A woman's life in an early 20th century circus.

A brief look at buffalo history.

Insert your favorite "I'm not saying it's aliens, but..." joke here.

The lost world of Spitalfields alleys.

You've heard of the first test tube baby?  Meet the first London Tube baby.

The fascinating world of Cornish folklore.

The weird world of 18th century wigs and beards.

The Case of the Viking Bodysnatching.

A mysterious man's mysterious death.

Edgar Cayce, Atlantis, and the blue stone.

The horrors of editing Marcel Proust.

The true work of the "cunning-folk."

A mysterious genetic disease that affects only one known family.

1000-year-old teeth give a clue about medieval manuscripts.

What it was like being a servant at Chatsworth House.

The courtesan and the abolitionist: a love story.

The death of a conspiracy theorist sparks--wait for it!-- conspiracy theories.

The power of eye contact.

The death of the world's first communist.

An inexplicable family tragedy.

Charlie Chaplin in the East End.

A new documentary dealing with Appalachian Weird.  There's quite a bit of it, evidently.

The case of the pin-swallowing child.

If you wanted to see what your neighborhood looked like 20 million years ago, have I got the map for you.

Tools of the executioner.

Seeking immortality can be the death of you.

For those of you keeping score, yes, human feet are still popping up all along the Pacific Northwest.

George Washington faces an assassination plot.

The last Royal Navy sailor hanged for sodomy.

John Power didn't hang.  Unfortunately.

A look at London's lost ice house.

Uncovering an early--very, very early--political assassination.

Mt. Penn's odd fire tower.

Philip K. Dick, call your office.

The earliest known texts dealing with the invention of writing.

This week in Russian Weird looks at the world's worst doll maker.

Why the first balloonists to cross the English Channel did so without their pants.

A mesmerizing little video of snow falling on an Alaskan sea:

Why scientists in India are dissing Einstein.

The White Lady of Greenwich Street.

The history of the Baddeley Cake.

What may be the world's most beautiful bookstore.

The tragic end of Greenpoint Jerry.

The tragic end of a lion tamer.

That's it for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll look at the strange death of a French politician. Until then, here's some vintage Linda.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

From my "mini mysteries" file, here is a peculiar disappearance recorded in the (Munster, Indiana) "Times," April 14, 1960:
Jacksonville, Ill.--A year ago today a 57-year-old New England stock broker, wearing green pajamas, mysteriously vanished from a Jacksonville motel.

That's the last ever heard of him.

Bruce Campbell and his wife had driven from Northampton, Mass., to visit their son, Bruce Jr., assistant professor of chemistry at MacMurray College, and his family in Jacksonville. Campbell, tired from the drive, was treated for two days before his disappearance by a physician in the couple's motel room.

His son remembers his father was "rational but disoriented" the last evening he saw him.

Mrs. Campbell said her husband asked her during the night whether their station wagon was locked and she assured him that it was. She said she awoke again at 2:15 a.m. and he was gone.

His disappearance touched off a search by police, MacMurray students and Boy Scouts that lasted for weeks. Theories of murder, suicide and amnesia led the searchers to Mauvaisterre Creek, farm buildings and wells. No clue was found.

Mrs. Campbell and her son still cherish hopes that Campbell will be found alive. Campbell was described as 6-3, 160 pounds, bald and walked with a slight limp. When he vanished he was wearing bright green pajamas, a wrist watch and a ring with a Delta Upsilon fraternity crest. None of his other belongings were taken from the motel room.
This brief article contains virtually all that is known for certain about Campbell's disappearance. As far as I can tell, no trace of him, alive or dead, has ever been found.

Monday, January 7, 2019

"Where is Olive?" An Unusual Poltergeist Account

For those who assert there is such a thing as genuine poltergeist activity (as opposed to the skeptics who attribute it all to natural phenomena, over-imagination or hoaxes) the question becomes: "What is a poltergeist, anyway?" Believers fall into, roughly speaking, two different camps: some posit that polts are independent spirit beings--ghosts with a taste for nasty practical jokes. Others are of the opinion that what we are dealing with are manifestations unwittingly created by the troubled emotions of some member of the affected household--usually a child or teenager.

That debate will likely never be solved on this side of the grave. However, famed ghost researcher Harry Price recorded one English "poltergeist" case which strongly suggests that these "spirits" or "demons" are evidence of the awesome and little-understood power of our subconscious minds.

The story centers around the family of a Sutherland doctor named Wilkins. In 1940, Wilkins' 19-year-old daughter Olive became engaged to a young flight lieutenant in the RAF. Her parents were not in favor of the match. Although they had nothing against her beau, Dr. and Mrs. Wilkins felt Olive was too young for marriage. Even more seriously, the current war meant that odds were good their daughter might soon go from bride to widow. In the end, however, the course of true love ran smoothly and the young couple married in the fall of 1941.

The newlyweds settled in a rented flat near the Wilkins home, and Olive found work as a secretary. When her lieutenant was on duty, Olive spent much of her time with her parents. She had left many of her belongings in her old bedroom, so the Wilkinses must have often felt like Olive had never left home at all.

On February 26, 1942, Mrs. Wilkins borrowed a pin from her daughter's room. After being out for the day, Mrs. Wilkins came home and went back to Olive's room to return the pin. She was stunned to find the bedspread carefully turned down. She had not touched the bed all day, and she knew no one else had been in the house.

Three days later, Mrs. Wilkins was in the kitchen. She heard the front door open, followed by the unmistakable sound of Dr. Wilkins's footsteps, along with the clicking of her daughter's high heels. She was surprised to see only her husband enter the room.

"Where is Olive?" she asked.

"I don't know," he replied. Dr. Wilkins had come in alone, and had not heard the second pair of footsteps.

Four days after this, Mrs. Wilkins noticed that Olive's bed was mussed up, as if someone had been sleeping in it. A short time later, one of Olive's books had mysteriously been taken from the bookcase and left open on the windowsill. A week later, Mrs. Wilkins again heard the front door opening, followed by footsteps in the hallway. This time, she heard only one set of footsteps: Olive's. The steps went upstairs, and into Olive's room. Then, the steps went into the bathroom, where after a moment, Mrs. Wilkins heard the toilet flush. Then, there was silence. Mrs. Wilkins went upstairs, only to find no one there. When Dr. Wilkins came home, his wife told him her strange story. He went over to Olive's flat. She stated that she had not been to her parents' house all day.

The next few weeks saw two important events: Olive announced that she was pregnant, and her husband was posted overseas. As Olive's pregnancy advanced, so did the weird paranormal activity in her old home. Olive's former bed would not stay fixed. Mrs. Wilkins was constantly finding the bedclothes rumpled, or folded neatly down, or stripped from the bed altogether. Olive's dresser drawers were frequently found open, with the contents placed on the bed. It was now a regular event for Mrs. Wilkins to hear what she swore were the sounds of Olive opening the front door and walking up the stairs and into her old bedroom. When Mrs. Wilkins would go investigate, the footsteps immediately stopped. One day, Mrs. Wilkins arrived home to find that a photograph of Olive that was normally kept on the dining room mantelpiece had been placed on the table. Mrs. Wilkins, fearing this was some sort of bad omen, immediately called her daughter's workplace. She was told that Olive had unexpectedly gone into labor, and had been taken to the hospital.

Happily, Olive was safely delivered of a healthy girl, whom she named Enid. The baby's arrival simultaneously marked the end of the paranormal activity that had plagued the Wilkins home. The "poltergeist"--or whatever one cares to call it--was gone for good.

There was an obvious link between the Fortean events and Olive's marriage and pregnancy, but what did it all mean? Did Mrs. Wilkins' natural anxiety about her daughter, and desire to have her back home, cause her subconscious to create a "phantom Olive" who never married and left the family nest? Or were they manifested by Olive herself? Forced to deal with the combined stress of a husband in active service and her first pregnancy, did she secretly long for her more carefree unmarried life?

The Wilkins case is a perfect illustration of how "poltergeist activity" is virtually impossible to categorize, let alone understand.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Weekend Link Dump

The first Link Dump of 2019 is off to the races!

Where the hell is Brian Shaffer?

What the hell happened to the Akkadian Empire?

Watch out for those killer chocolates!

How Poe became America's most influential author.

We have reached the bottom of the Atlantic.  Um, perhaps I should clarify that I meant literally, not figuratively.

That time sliced bread was banned.

The oldest known human burial in lower Central America.

Why studying Neanderthals involves watching meat rot.

Why some people are willing to boil themselves to death.

The tale of a ship that gained two centuries in one moment.

The kind of thing that happens when you pretend to be an Incan prince.

A brief look at dairy folklore.

A brief look at hearse horses.

The last of the Charlies.

Those lethal damp bedsheets.

A king's Christmas death.

Some lesser-known New Year traditions.

The story behind Norway's most popular postcard.

This week in Russian Weird looks at Siberia's Stonehenge.

Photos of London life a century ago.

Lost treasure and a murdered mailman.

Jeanne Calment was the world's oldest person.  Maybe.

Some humorous New Year's resolutions from 1889.

The Indian Honors List from a century ago.

John Adams wasn't much of a pen pal.

Murder on New Year's Eve.

A tale of sorcery and the Inquisition.

Murder at Pelican Point.

The mystery of the Hatbox Baby.

More vindication for ancient folk medicine.

Magical treasure hunting.

The time before Time.

This week's Advice From Thomas Morris:  Girls, this is what not to do with a tin box.  This is also not a Strange Company-endorsed use for puppies.

Thus ends 2019's first Link Dump. See you on Monday, when we'll look at an unusual poltergeist account. In the meantime, here's a bit of Telemann.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

Many people believe that those who have suffered a traumatic experience during life are often fated to haunt the site of the tragedy after death. If such is the case, it would be small wonder that ghost stories involving prisons are far from uncommon. This detailed story of a jail cell and a suicide's ghost appeared in the "San Francisco Call," April 13, 1897:
San Rafael, Cal., April 12.--Once again has the ghost of Argo made its appearance in Marin's County Jail. This time a woman, Annie Kehoe, saw it, and to escape from its evil influence dragged a bed from tbe haunted cell, where ghastly figures taunted her, into an adjoining cell, only to find that the apparition, with its uncanny scare and low moans, followed.

The woman told her story to Under Sheriff John Hannon to-day. It is the same as that told by other unfortunates who have been locked in the haunted cell and been compelled to spend a night with the ghostly visitor.

"I'll bet you a thousand dollars to a nickel that I saw a ghost, if my life is worth it," said she in reply to a taunt that she was only dreaming. "I was lying on my cot when I saw a man crouching on the floor right near the tanks. I was terribly frightened and the man was continually moaning. He was dressed in dark clothes and wore a large, black slouch hat with a big brim and seemed to have two coats on."

County Treasurer J. T. Fallon, who was under sheriff at the time the prisoner Argo killed himself in the cell which he is now said to haunt, was sent for and Annie Kehoe repeated the description of the ghost to him. He said that she described Argo minutely and that at the time Argo committed suicide in the cell he had on two coats and was dressed and looked as described by the woman.

Annie Kehoe was arrested last Thursday night for petty larceny, she having been charged with stealing a woman's wrap. Today she was before Justice Rodden of San Rafael and was acquitted. When she returned to the County Jail for her belongings she showed the Under Sheriff and Treasurer Fallon where the ghost crouched. Her bedding was on the floor in the adjoining cell, whither she had dragged it in her efforts to escape from the apparition. She said that she saw the ghost of a Chinaman, also. She described her thrilling experience vividly, and when she left the prison this afternoon she exclaimed:

"Thank God, I won't have to spend another night in that terrible place."

The ghost has been seen by other prisoners before. Murderer Kelly, who stabbed a fellow-convict at San Quentin prison and who was tried at San Rafael for the crime, spent a night in the haunted cell, and was found in the morning by the Sheriff's deputies in a frenzied state. He said a ghost had visited him, and that he would commit suicide if the Sheriff would not take him out of the cell rather than pass such another night as the one he had just gone through.

Argo, whose apparition is causing all the trouble, was arrested for some petty offense and confined in this cell. The next day his lifeless body was found on the floor, and since that time prisoners have repeatedly said that they have seen his ghost.

A Chinaman, who had never heard of the stories in regard to the cell and who was unable to read English, related the same tale as did Annie Kehoe. The mystery has never been explained, and tramps without number, who have beard of the ghostly visitor, have given San Rafael a wide berth for fear of being confined in the haunted cell.

"I cannot account for it," said Under Sheriff Hannon, "but it is a fact that the descriptions of the apparition tally in each instance."

[Note: "Argo," was one William F. Argo, who was arrested for burglary in November 1889. On December 9 of that year he hanged himself in his cell, using strips of torn bedsheets.]

"San Francisco Call," April 14, 1897, via Newspapers.com

A follow-up story appeared in the "Call" on May 7:
There are few who will now doubt the truth of the stories published about the ghost which haunts the County Jail in the basement of Marin County's Courthouse. Last night it made its appearance to a Chinaman named Wing Hi and almost scared the unfortunate fellow to death.

When seen today he told the same story that has come from the lips of other unfortunates who have been confined in the haunted chamber. At various times it has been said that the ghost of a Chinaman had been seen by prisoners, and it was this apparition that made its presence known to poor Wing Hi during the small hours of this morning.

At the Sheriff's office it was learned that in one of the tanks to the cell where the Mongolian was confined a Chinaman had committed suicide. Like Argo. whose ghost also haunts the prison, the Chinaman committed an act of self-destruction by making a noose of his long queue, placing it about his neck, attaching the other end to the opening in the top of the tank and lifting his feet from the ground, thus allowing himself to slowly strangle to death. Annie Kehoe, who saw the ghost of Argo last month, also said that a Chinaman's face made its appearance. Now comes Wing Hi, an ignorant Mongolian, arrested for being insane, and without being able to learn of the ghost's visits through the newspapers, nor having any method of knowing which is the haunted cell, tells the story as others have told it. He does not talk with any degree of intelligence, but he is able to tell of the terror which the apparition caused, and how he passed the night in fear and trembling lest the awful specter should pounce upon him and do him injury.

So who now will doubt but that ghosts walk the hard, cold floor in the haunted chamber of Marin County's jail.
I was unable to find any further details about Marin's haunted cell.