"...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, January 31, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


This week's Link Dump is hosted by a variety of musical cats!






The death of a scheming archbishop.

Bringing light to a very dark town.  I'm speaking quite literally.

A look at the conversation chair.

The King of the Quacks.

A Louisiana university may be the home of the world's oldest man-made structure.

I don't care how rich you are; if you pay $500 million to live in California these days you need your head examined.  (Hell, I'm waiting for someone kind enough to pay me to leave.)

Ration fatigue: a story from WWI.

A ghostly death-chamber.

A pioneering Pennsylvania murderess.

A memorial to the first cat astronaut.

Modern portraits of historical figures.

The man who was hanged for shoes and breeches.

The origins of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon."

South Carolina is looking for piggy cuddlers.

The (long) history of Scottish independence.

French wedding traditions.

An interesting theory about the famous murder of Julia Wallace.

We keep learning that Neanderthals were more human than we thought.

It turns out bees are pretty good at math.

What if we are the ones populating other planets?

England's music halls, and other theatrical links.

A murder mystery from ancient Egypt.

Items of clothing turn deadly.

Why you've probably never heard of history's worst sea disaster.

A brief history of the "last meal."

The painter of the spirit world.

Beethoven's Vienna.

An Englishman in 18th century India.

Sketching WWII.

The fires in Australia have revealed an ancient aquatic system.

Greek vampires.

A tale of rival chiropodists.

How an abused kitten became a police station mascot.

How a British official became tarred and feathered.

A medieval charnel house in Spitalfields.

America's first female doctor.

The cat who was sent through the mail.

The life of Harald Hardrada.

Ladies and gentlemen, the "Plan Nine From Outer Space" of 19th century novels.  (It's killing me that I can't find this book online.)

A first-hand account of the English Armada.

A 3,000 year old mummy speaks!  Albeit, not very well, but that's excusable, considering he's tongueless.  And, of course, dead.

Nothing to see here, just Antarctica spewing particles which nobody can explain.

The life of a celebrated medium.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a notable figure of the American West.  In the meantime, here's my favorite song from my favorite Warren Zevon album.  Listening to this album is one of the things which got me through the horrors of junior high.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com


Stories of ghostly faces in mirrors or windows are surprisingly common, but this one is considerably weirder than most. The “Sedalia Democrat,” January 16, 1896:
On a farm ten miles northwest of Pittsfield, III., owned by Mrs. Judge Doocy, of that place, but formerly owned by Jacob Parsley, stands a two story frame dwelling. This house is occupied by Albert Wells, who rents the farm. Parsley lived a number of years in this house and died there a few years ago. The neighbors say he protected bushwhackers.

During the war a stranger was hanged in a grove near the house. Several persons are reported to have mysteriously disappeared there. Parsley’s last request was that the trees in the grove never be cut down.

But Mr. Wells cut ten of the trees,and during the past two weeks ten pictures have appeared on ten window panes of the house fronting the grove.

The pictures are said by the neighbors to resemble Parsley, his wife, his grandchildren, a Jew peddler, who disappeared mysteriously, the stranger hanged in the grove, and other people who could not be accounted for.

New glass has been substituted, but the pictures reappear. Hundreds of people visit the place daily—lawyers, ministers and school teachers—yet none explain the mystery. It is supposed missing people are buried in the grove, and an investigation is likely to follow. During the night a sound, as of water dripping from the roof upon the floor upstairs, then upon the ground floor, are continually heard, yet nothing has ever been discovered to cause the sounds.
Unfortunately, this seems to have been an example of those strange little newspaper stories that make one appearance in print, and then disappear with no follow-ups.

Monday, January 27, 2020

In Which Mr. Adamski Weirds Everybody Out



As regular readers of my blog (all three of you) may have noticed, I have, without really intending to, built a subcategory of stories of people who are found strangely, inexplicably dead. All these cases are puzzling, but there are few that top the end of an otherwise completely normal man named Zigmund Adamski.

In fact, some will tell you his death was positively otherworldly.

Zigmund Jan Adamski was a Pole who was forced to flee his country during WWII. He found refuge in Tingley, Yorkshire, where he became a coal miner. He married in 1951. Sadly, before many years passed, his wife, Leokadia ("Lottie") became an invalid. Zigmund was devoted to his spouse, and naturally wanted to spend as much time caring for her as possible. Additionally, his own health was poor, so in 1980, the 56-year-old applied for early retirement. He received word that his application had been rejected. Soon afterward, the company made a review of this decision, and this time his application was accepted. However, by the time this reversal was made, Mr. Adamski's employment status was, to say the least, irrelevant.

June 6, 1980 began as a perfectly normal day for Zigmund. He was, of course, displeased with his company denying him early retirement, (the company's change of heart had yet to be announced) but he showed no sign of being unusually upset. A cousin and her son were visiting the Adamskis from Poland. The trio spent the day visiting the local shops, then returned home for a meal of fish and chips. Adamski was looking forward to the following day, when he was going to give away his goddaughter in marriage. He even had prepared a speech for the occasion.

At three-thirty in the afternoon, Adamski told his family he would go buy some potatoes. The shop was only a few hundred yards away, so he expected to be gone just a short time. He left with nothing but his wallet.

Adamski never made it to the store. In fact, he was never seen alive again.

When he failed to return home that evening, Leokadia called the police. Law enforcement made extensive inquiries, and local newspapers also publicized the disappearance, but no one could offer any information. All anyone could say was that one moment, a neighbor saw him walking in the direction of his neighborhood store, and the next moment...he was gone.

On the afternoon of June 11, Trevor Parker, the son of a coal merchant in Todmorden, a town some 25 miles away from where Adamski was last seen, arrived at his father's yard. He was stunned to find a man's body lying in a hollow at the top of a 10 foot high pile of coal. Adding to his confusion was the fact that he had already been at the yard that morning, and was certain the body and not been there at that time. Between his two visits, the gates had been left unlocked in case any deliveries arrived.

This was the last sort of delivery he had been expecting.

After recovering from his shock, Parker summoned police and an ambulance, even though it was immediately obvious that the man was quite dead. Investigators were quickly able to establish that the body was that of the missing Zigmund Adamski.

Unfortunately, that was the only question in this case anyone was able to answer. The more everyone studied the business, the weirder it got. For one thing, how did he get up there? It would have been extremely difficult for anyone to climb up the coal pile, particularly since recent rains had left it greasy and slippery. For someone with Adamski's health issues, it would have been impossible. Although the body was still wearing the jacket Adamski donned before leaving his house, his shirt was missing, along with his watch and wallet. (Those items were never found.) There were strange oval burn marks on the back of his head, neck, and shoulder.

The autopsy established that Adamski died on the day his body was found, sometime between 11:15 am and 1:15 pm. There were no physical injuries found, aside from those odd burns. The pathologist thought they were caused by some sort of corrosive substance, but he could not say what it had been. The burns had been covered with a gel which the doctor was also unable to identify. All he could say was that Adamski probably died of a heart attack. "Natural causes" was the final verdict in this most unnatural case.

This, of course, did nothing to explain what happened to Adamski. Where was he during the days between his disappearance and his death? His body showed only one day's growth of stubble, so he had obviously been shaving (and presumably eating and drinking) somewhere, but no one reported seeing him. Was he voluntarily hiding all that time? Had he been kidnapped? In either case, how in the world did he wind up on top of a pile of coal? The coal yard was in a busy area, but on the day his body appeared there, no one saw or heard anything unusual. The coal pile showed no sign of footprints or other indentations to indicate what would have been a very arduous climb. And if he had been murdered, this would have been a remarkably stupid place to leave the body.

To date, no one has been able to offer a definitive answer to this mystery. So weird was Adamski's death that it has been linked to--wait for it!--aliens. In the weeks before and after Adamski vanished, there were a number of UFO sightings around West Yorkshire, particularly in Todmorden, where his body was found. Alan Godfrey, one of the policemen who were called to the coal yard by Trevor Parker, reported a most peculiar incident on the night November 28, 1980. As he was driving on patrol, he saw a large object hovering on the road ahead of him. He stopped his car and tried calling the station on his car radio and mobile walkie-talkie, but could not get through. The next thing he knew, he was 100 yards further down the road from where he had stopped. He later found that a substantial amount of time had passed, of which he had no recollection. He later had himself hypnotized, in an effort to learn what had happened during this "missing time." In his trance, he described being taken inside the UFO and examined by the extraterrestrials inside the craft.

Was this, some have speculated, what had happened to Adamski? Did a passing UFO scoop him up to use as a human guinea pig? Did he die of a heart attack during the examination, with his alien captors disposing of the corpse by simply dropping it on a handy pile of coal?

In 2018, Alan Godfrey spoke to the "West Yorkshire Examiner" about the mystery. He was still haunted by the sight of Adamski's corpse. "Those eyes were staring up at me...They were wide open. He had a look of someone who had seen something or someone that had scared him to death. Something or someone put him on top of that pile of coal. And something scared him to death." He added that he "can't rule out," the alien abduction theory.

Such a scenario is, of course, completely outlandish. The unnerving thing is, to date, no one has come up with a better explanation for the death of Zigmund Adamski.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump has run away to join the circus.






Normal people swat insects with a newspaper.  Victorians turned them into jewelry.

The last of the Parisian estates.

A paranormal investigator's seemingly paranormal death.

A soldier, adventurer, artist, and poet.  Who was also a classmate of Napoleon's.

The Union Army's secret weapon.

The Methodist spinster and the communicative ghost.

Vesuvius and the man with the brain of glass.

Oliver Cromwell learns to be careful what you wish for.

This week in Russian Weird brings a new interpretation to "Crazy Cat Lady."

Lemuria and J.C. Brown.

Death and disappearance on Mt. Baldy.

A jilted naturalist on St. Helena.

How Marie Williams went from Windsor Castle to North Dakota.  Probably snaffling from Queen Victoria along the way.

Murder and the Greenbriar Ghost.

The top mythical birds.

Life in a 19th century brothel.

The grave of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

In praise of reading aloud.

The down side to being a medieval heiress.

The loneliest lighthouse.

A bit of post-mortem payback.

The life of painter Johann Zoffany.

In search of Homer.

The last of the Neanderthals?

A young actress' mysterious death.

Serbia's skull tower.

The goblins of Appalachia.

The dognapping that changed literary history.

A casualty of the Perak War.

First-hand accounts of the French Revolution.

Orwell and the anarchists.

The case of the phony serial killer.

The man with the blue grave.

Photos of "everyday life" in 19th century America.

The famed detective Allan Pinkerton.

A lost gold hoard and an execution.

A significant UFO mystery.

A famed highwayman--and escape artist.

So, Lizzie Borden wasn't the only gruesome murderer in her family tree.  (Yeah.  I think she was guilty as hell.)

And that's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an "ordinary" man's extraordinarily weird death.  In the meantime, here's a song I remember well from back in the day.




Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com


It is unnervingly common to hear of human remains being found inside a chimney, but this example is even stranger than most. The “Wisconsin State Journal,” September 15, 1989:
The Madison Police Department's case of the mystery bones has taken another strange twist: The human skeleton found on Sept 3 at the base of a music store chimney was that of a man but dressed like a woman.

An analysis of the clothing with the bones shows the person found in the chimney had been wearing a sleeveless paisley dress, low-heeled shoes and a sweater, said Madison police detective James Grann. After piecing the clothing together Wednesday at the state crime laboratory, detectives speculated the mystery person may have been a woman, even though the bone structure originally indicated the person was a man. But UW-Madison anthropology professor Kenneth Bennett, who was called by detectives to re-examine the bones Thursday morning, stands by bis original determination.

"Everything I said before stands," said Bennett, who determined the sex through examination of pelvic and other bones. "I don’t have any explanation [for the clothing]. There's all kinds of funny people out there nowadays. But the skeletal remains were male. There's no doubt about it."

Last week, Bennett and forensic pathologists determined the bones belonged to a white man who stood 5-feet-5, was between 20 and 22 years old and had a pronounced overbite. According to investigators, the bones had been in the chimney of 5225 University Ave. from two months to two years before they were found by the building owner.

On Thursday, detectives released photographs and descriptions of the clothing, hoping somebody would recognize them and alert police. Grann said the person in the chimney was wearing a dress with a matching belt, a long-sleeved, button-down shirt that may have been made of Oxford-type cloth and a medium-sized White Stag brand shaggy-pile sweater. The person was wearing low-heeled, pointed shoes. He was wearing one pair of socks and carrying another pair, Grann said, but he was not wearing underwear. Detectives also found a German iron cross medallion, a butter knife and a pocket comb.



Authorities said the person may have been a male cross-dresser or someone for some reason disguising himself as a woman. "We don’t have any pants or evidence of pants," Grann said. "We have a male's bones and a dress."

The bones were found by Steve Liethen, owner of Good 'n Loud Music, while he was inspecting a water leak from the bottom of a store chimney Sept 3. He shined a flashlight into a pipe at the base of the chimney and saw the skull.

Detectives have speculated the man was a burglar who got stuck in the chimney and died, or a murder victim who was stuffed into the chimney. Madison police said the man was from 18 to 30 years old. Anyone who recognizes the items pictured or has information about missing people is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 266-6014.

A facial reconstruction was made from the skull, but that did not lead to the body’s identification. In 2012, a woman named Laura Zimmerman contacted police because she thought the reconstruction resembled a young man (whose name she couldn’t recall) who worked as a page in the State Capitol in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, that tip apparently led nowhere.

As far as I have been able to tell, to date, the identity of this ill-fated person--not to mention the mystery of how he came to be stuffed down a chimney--remains unsolved.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The False Dmitris; or, When the Russians Call a Period in Their History the "Time of Troubles," You Know Things Were Really Bad

Ivan the Terrible may have been, well, terrible, but it was after he died in 1584 that the pure hell really began to break loose. Ivan left numerous children by various wives and mistresses, an uncertain succession, and a royal court containing more than the average number of psychopaths. It was easy to predict this would not end well.

Ivan was initially succeeded by his oldest son, the sickly, and probably half-witted, Feodor I. However, Russia’s de facto ruler, until Feodor’s death in 1598, was his brother-in-law Boris Godunov. Among Godunov’s potential rivals was Ivan’s youngest son, Dmitri, who was only a toddler when his father died. Godunov had the boy banished to the remote city of Uglich, where he lived in obscurity for the next seven years.

In 1591, it was announced that a terrible accident had occurred to Ivan’s son. While Dmitri was playing darts with a set of long knives, he fell into an epileptic fit and—darn the luck!—just happened to land on top of one of his toys, thus accidentally stabbing himself to death with his own knife.

From that day to this, everyone has responded to this story by saying, in so many words, “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.” However, the crux of the tale—that little Dmitri was now no more—went unquestioned.

Well, except by some people.

About two years after Godunov had established himself as Feodor’s successor, an educated, aristocratic young man suddenly appeared to challenge Godonov’s claim to the throne. He was, he declared, really Ivan’s son Dmitri. He had survived Godonov’s attempts to assassinate him, and had been lying low in Poland ever since.

False Dmitri I, via Wikipedia


This man may now be known to history as “False Dmitri I,” but at the time, he found many people willing to believe him—whether this was because he was an unusually convincing pretender, or simply because the new Tsar Boris was such an unattractive specimen, is hard to tell. “Dmitri” gained the support of a sizable number of the boyars (the Russian aristocracy,) and went to war with the current Tsar. Boris claimed his rival was merely a runaway monk named Grigory Otrepyev, but we have no evidence other than his obviously biased word to support this.

Boris died in 1605, leaving the throne to his son, Feodor II, and the Time of Troubles was well and truly under way. “Dmitri” and his allies managed to assassinate Feodor, and this Slavic Perkin Warbeck actually found himself Tsar.

For a while, at least. Less than a year later he himself was murdered by political enemies. Be careful what you wish for, etc. One of the boyars who led the coup against him, Prince Basil Shuisky, took the throne as Tsar Basil IV.

Russia, however, had yet to hear the last of Dmitri Ivanovich. In 1607, another man (whose real identity remains unknown,) sprang out of nowhere, asserting that he was the true Dmitri. He proved just as popular as the last one—evidently many Russians were willing to follow pretty much anyone claiming to be Ivan’s son—quickly amassing an army of some hundred thousand men. He even married the former Tsarina Marina, widow of False Dmitri I.

False Dmitri II, via Wikipedia


He may well have been as successful as the previous Dmitri if he had not gotten drunk one night in 1610 and set himself up for one of his enemies—a Tatar Prince he had flogged—to murder him.

No matter how often Dmitri was killed off, he always sprang up anew, like dandelions, or Freddy Kruger, or a character in a particularly bloody soap opera (which actually isn’t a bad description of most of Russian history.) Meet “False Dmitri III.”

This last Dmitri—whoever he may have been--was unquestionably the poorest specimen of the lot. Although he did get support among the Cossacks—who pronounced him Tsar in 1612—he was quickly captured, brought to Moscow, and executed.

After this last death, Russia’s supply of False Dmitris was at last exhausted. It took a long time for his countrymen to let go of the memory of the legendary Ivan’s son, however. To this day, in a few history books, there can be seen one or two wistful hints that, well, who knows, one of those Dmitris may have been the real deal.

And who can say for certain they are wrong?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


This week's Link Dump is accompanied by Strange Company HQ's in-house piano player.

Photo: Nancy Hendrickson


A deadly family feud.

A murderer dies game.  The worst people often do.

The Dionne quintuplets, where more wasn't merrier.

A case of archaeological mistaken identity.

Photos from Scott's Antarctic expedition.

Wordsworth and the poetry of place.

The tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg.

Anne Bronte, governess.

The mystery of the stolen corpse.

Nero's mysterious underground chamber.

Modern-day mermaid sightings.

England's first large-scale protest.

A murderer and his cats.

A Roman ghost city in Africa.

How Mr. Fay wished to prove that he was really dead.

What it was like to be a Georgian era nursemaid.

Treasures from a 16th century shipwreck.

Opera in 18th century London.

The dogs of WWI.

Fire at an aristocratic charity bazaar.

How a shipwreck founded South Africa.

Tragedy on the ice in Regent's Park.

The oldest material on Earth.

Margaret Corbin, Revolutionary War veteran.

The death of the Dark Strangler.

How Hitler could have won the Battle of Britain.

Yet another item from the "rewriting human history" file.

Scanning the Great Pyramid.

A Victorian scholar of Robin Hood.

The British in 18th century Calcutta.

A tour of Dickens' London.

How to hitch a ride on a comet.


the Comet from Christian Stangl on Vimeo.

Taking P.G. Wodehouse seriously.

The escape of Charles II.

The 800,000 year old crater.

Marie Antoinette's wardrobe.

19th century methods for hair-curling.

The art of the Mughal Empire.

And we have come to the end of this week's road!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an epic moment in Russian Weird.  In the meantime, here's a folk classic.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com


This tale of a ghost who, like Garbo, just wanted to be alone comes from the "Philadelphia Times,” May 16, 1897:
A most extraordinary case of "haunts" is reported from what Is known as "The Old Bailey House," located about two miles north of the village of Dunnville, in Casey county, Kentucky. If this house is not really haunted, and if it hasn't good cause for being visited by the departed spirits of troubled souls, the testimony of William Cravens and family and William Turner and family, all of whom have recently been forced to vacate the premises, is worthless, and along with their depositions must go the reputations for reliability of Captain Edward Pelley, merchant, and Thomas Chelf, tavern-keeper, of Dunnville, and James Shelton, coroner of Casey county. A signed statement from Pelley and Chelf will be found below.

The story of the Bailey house and the developments of the past month have aroused the deepest interest among the people in all the country around the ancient structure. The Bailey house is on the old state road between Somerset and Jamestown. The building is a very old one. The time of its erection is more remote than anything remembered by the oldest men in the neighborhood. It is said to have been a wayside inn many years ago when the State road was the main thoroughfare through that country into Tennessee. Before the region near Dunnville was as thickly populated as it is now the Bailey house was in a lonely place, just at the end of a deep and dark ravine, which winds between two giant spurs of the Green river mountains. The house had always borne a good reputation so far as its occupants were concerned, but at one time its early history either the Bailey house or one in its immediate vicinity was occupied by a gang of men who were known to be counterfeiters, and who were believed to be robbers and highwaymen. It was during this period, some of the good people of that portion of Casey county now believe, that the foul deeds were committed which resulted in the present nightly visitations of departed spirits. It is also believed that at least three foul crimes were committed in or near the old Bailey house, for three graves were found beneath its floors.

The ghostly manifestations complained of and still in nightly evidence began some six weeks ago. The house had been vacant for some time, when William Turner and family moved into it. Trouble began the very first night they slept there. Along toward 12 o'clock Turner's eldest son was aroused by singular noises. He listened a while and became thoroughly frightened at the uncanny sounds, from unknown sources. He heard groans and moans and sounds of persons moving about in adjoining rooms. He awakened his father but the old gentleman could not be made to take in the situation before the noises ceased. He then laughed at the boy's story and went back to sleep. The following night Mr. Turner himself not only heard ghosts but saw them. He was rudely awakened along toward midnight, and being a man of nerve, listened carefully and attentively for a while to see if he could detect some natural cause of the disturbance. In this he was disappointed. He heard, just as his son had described, heart-rending groans and blood-curdling moans ,and presently cold chills began to run up and down his body. But he was destined to soon see and hear more than this. Glancing toward the door the sight which met his eyes almost froze the blood in his veins. Standing there was a tall figure dressed in white, apparently a woman. It pointed its finger at Turner, uttered one word, "Move," and disappeared. Turner moved the next day. He said he wouldn't spend another night in the house for a cool hundred thousand dollars.

The story of the ghosts spread rapidly through the community and a party of young men from Dunnville went out to the Bailey house a few nights after the removal of the Turner family to see if they could locate the ghosts or get a glimpse of one. They went quietly into the bedroom which Turner had occupied and began their vigil. The understanding was, that no noise should be made and nothing done calculated to disturb the spirits in their midnight revels. The watchers had been on duty about an hour, and were beginning to lose hopes of seeing even a small ghost, when suddenly the still night air was rent by a most unearthly yell which seemed to come from beneath the floor where the young men sat. This was followed by a series of groans, moans and other expressions of grief and terror which at once surprised and amazed the silent sentinels in the house. There was a sudden cessation of the noises, a moment's pause, and then they recommenced with renewed fury. One dark figure arose from the floor and shot through the half-opened door, others followed in rapid succession, and soon the detecting party was en route to Dunnville at a 2:40 gait.

The next day, when the young men told their story in the village, an old citizen said he had heard many years ago that three travelers had been murdered somewhere near the old Bailey house, and he proposed that another party go there, this time in daylight, and make a minute investigation of the premises. His suggestion was acted upon, and in an hour the search was begun. The old house was ransacked from first floor to garret, but nothing was found to excite the suspicions of the most credulous. Finally some one proposed that as there was no cellar to the house it would be well to examine the ground underneath the floor. Several planks were pried up and then was the mystery explained. The searching party found three excavations, all of them about six feet long by two wide and from a foot to a foot and a half deep. They had evidently been the temporary resting places of dead bodies, put there after having been killed and robbed and afterward removed for final disposition. There were many other evidences of foul deeds committed, and Coroner Shelton, when notified of the discovery, at once summoned a jury to look into the case.

The jury, after careful investigation, expressed the opinion that three unknown men had met their deaths there at the hands of unknown parties, but, of course, no further action could be taken. The coroner's investigation and the developments incident to it, coupled with the stories told by the Turner family, created a profound impression throughout that section of Casey county, and people began to fear the Bailey house, many of them refusing to pass it at night.

It remained vacant for some time, until William Cravens, of Russell county, arrived at Dunnville in search of a house. He was told that the Bailey house was unoccupied, but at the same time informed that it was "haunted." Mr. Cravens said he was not afraid of any "hant" that ever stalked at midnight, and that if he could get the place at a satisfactory price he would take it. Cravens leased the douse. The first night that Cravens' family spent there passed off peacefully.

Neighbors casually dropped in next day to see how things had progressed during the night. Mr. Cravens simply smiled, and said he knew there were no such things as "hants," and that he wasn't to be frightened by them if there were. But the second night brought trouble. About 12 o'clock Cravens was aroused by screams, yells and moans. He listened to them a few minutes until they finally died away, and succeeded in convincing himself that it was all imaginary and fell asleep. In a short time he had a similar but more thrilling experience. Just as he opened his eyes a cold, clammy hand passed over his face and a white object flitted across the floor and through the door. Mrs. Cravens was also awake this time. When she heard her husband gasp she whispered, terror-stricken: "Did you see that thing? It stood by my bed and told me to move."

Cravens moved next day. If anyone doubts this story in the least, he is not only referred to the appended indorsement of the facts as related, but requested to write to the gentlemen whose names are thereto attached. They are reliable men who would under no circumstances lend their names to an untruth.

Dunnville, Ky., April 2d. To Whom It May Concern: The undersigned, Ed. Pelley, merchant, and Thomas Chelf, tavern keeper, of Dunnville, certify that they know the Bailey house, which is said to be haunted; that they know the Cravens and Turner families moved from it on account of curious disturbances at night which they could not account for, and which terrorized them, and that a party which Mr. Chelf, one of the undersigned, accompanied to the house to make inquiry into the singular things reported became scared and left because of a recurrence of things described by Cravens and Turner. We know, further, that three graves were found beneath the floor of the old house, that Coroner Shelton investigated the case, and that the people in the neighborhood of the Bailey house are many of them afraid to pass it at night.
Captain Ed. Pelley
Thomas Chelf.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Ashes of Elizabeth Bullock: A Ghost Story

"Des Moines Register" June 28, 1957, via Newspapers.com


It's fairly rare to come across a ghost story with a relatively happy ending--where the living are able to accommodate the dead, and even provide them with assistance, of a sort. One such example was recorded in the "New York Times" on June 26, 1957:
NEW YORK. N. Y. Last September, the 125-year-old red brick house at 11 Bank st. just off Waverly Place in Greenwich Village came into the hands or Dr. Harvey Slatin, an engineer, and his wife Yeffe Kimball, an Osage woman known for her Indian paintings.

They heard from neighbors that Willa Cather had lived in the place 40 years ago, but it turned out that she had owned No. 5 Bank. They did establish that a villager who was the Noel of the novel "Marjorie Morningstar" had boarded in their place.

A Mrs. Maccario had run No. 11 as a 19-room boarding establishment for years before she sold to them, but she had not bothered much about its history.

Anyway, the Slatins, anxious to do the house over, came to amicable agreement with the roomers. The house got empty and echoey.

Now, it may seem a little contradictory, but the Slatins are sensible Bohemians. In quiet hours when they were alone or with a few friends, they thought they heard a woman's footfalls on the steep staircases; sometimes just crossing upper floors. Sometimes there was light hammering.

The sounds were heard more often by day than at night. Dr. Slatin says, "I'd call them rather friendly sounds; a wee bit spooky, maybe, but somehow not frightening."

When he and his spouse went up to explore, they never saw a soul. They never could work out an explanation, either.

They clocked the ghostly pacing one Sunday morning last January. It started around 11 o'clock and kept up at intervals through 4 in the afternoon.

They made quite a few trips upstairs--they sleep on the first floor--but, as before, no one, nothing in sight.

Arthur Brodie. a Britain-born carpenter, and rather a stout fellow in his own right, heard the footfalls as the Slatins did. He said you do hear odd sounds in old houses.

Sadie, the Slatins' maid, was uneasy in the beginning, but she'd just cock an ear and listen after a while, without panic.

One morning last February, Brodie started to hammer through the top-floor ceiling for a room-change there. Plaster and lath dust showered down.

There was a loud bump. Mrs. Slatin heard it in her first-floor bedroom. A few minutes later Brodie came down. He knocked at her bedroom door.

He said, "It's me, ma'am; Brodie. I'm leaving the job. I've found the body."

But when Mrs. Slatin opened the door, he grinned. In his hand was a black-painted metal can about twice the height of a tin of ground coffee. He held it out.

A faded gummed label on the can said, "The last remains of Elizabeth Bullock, deceased. Cremated Jan. 21, 1931." That was in faded typed lettering.

In heavy print below that: "The United States Crematory Co., Ltd., Middle Village, Boro of Queens, New York City." Stamped into the top of the can and at the bottom, as with a metal punch, was the number "37251."

Mrs. Slatin called her husband. He hurried home. He and Brodie put a flashlight through the ceiling break. Nothing there but dusty rafters. There was a puzzler.

Near as the engineer could figure out, the ceiling that hid the container had gone in around 1880, a half-century before Elizabeth Bullock died.

Dr. Slatin called the crematorium. After a record search out there, he was told that Mrs. Bullock was 51 years old when she died, In 1931. She had been hurt by an automobile in Hudson street in Greenwich Village, had collapsed, been carried to a drugstore, and death had taken her.

But--this was rather strange, the Slatins thought--Elizabeth Bullock had never lived at 11 Bank st. Her home address in the Middle Village books was 113 Ferry st. in Greenwich Village.

Dr. Slatin called Charles Dominick, the undertaker in the case. His place had been on W. Eleventh street, not too far from Bank. But he, too, was dead.

All that remains of Elizabeth Bullock--the Slatins lost the trail in search for her kin--stands quietly now, on the grand piano in the great brick living room at 11 Bank st.

Sadie dusts it every day. The Slatins can't think of what else to do with It. And there's a chance, they think, that someone, someday, may come for it.

There's one other strange touch to the story. A few weeks before Brodie broke through to Elizabeth Bullock, a well-dressed young man rang the house doorbell to ask about rooms. Mrs. Slatin told him she couldn't say exactly when they'd be ready, but she'd take his name.

The young man left a card. Mrs. Slatin said the name on it was something like "E. C. Bullock."

One last thing the Slatins have no answer for, and they acknowledge no belief in ghosts: There have been no whispering footfalls since Elizabeth Bullock came down to the parlor.

There was a sequel to our tale. The story above caught the eye of famed ghost hunter Hans Holzer.  He contacted one Ethel Meyers, a friend of his who was a medium. Without giving any details, he asked her to accompany him to a haunted house in the Village. He arranged with the Slatins to hold a seance at their place on July 17.

When Mrs. Meyers went into her trance, a curious story emerged. The medium said that present was the spirit of a small woman with a heart condition, who was paralyzed on one side. "She's Betty."

As she slipped further into her trance state, "Betty" began speaking through her. The spirit murmured in a strong Irish brogue, "He didn't want me in the family plot--my brother--I wasn't even married in their eyes...But I was married before God...Edward Bullock...I want a Christian burial in the shades of the Cross--any place where the cross is--but not with them! The last words were said with such anger that Holzer became alarmed and tried to calm her.

"Betty" went on: "I didn't marry in the faith," she explained. She added that her brother was named "Eddie," that they were from Pleasantville, New York, and that her mother's maiden name was "Elizabeth McCuller." Now calm again, she said, "I'm at rest now."

How, she was asked, did her ashes happen to wind up in a house she never even lived in? "I went with Eddie," "Betty" replied. "There was a family fight...my husband went with Eddie...steal the ashes...pay for no burial...he came back and took them from Eddie...hide ashes..Charles knew it...made a roof over the house...ashes came through the roof...so Eddie can't find them..."

Holzer asked if she had any children. "Eddie and Gracie," the spirit said. "Gracie died as a baby, and Eddie now lives in California. Charlie protects me!"

Holzer pointed out that there was no point to her remaining in this house. Why not go off to the "great beyond" like she was supposed to do?

"Betty" was not impressed with his reasoning. "I want a cross over my head...have two lives to live now...and [with a nod to Mrs. Slatin] I like being with you!"

Holzer then made the mistake of asking if "Betty" would like her ashes buried in her family plot. The spirit again went into a rage. "Ma never forgave me. I can never go with her and rest. I don't care much. When she's forgiven me, maybe it'll be all right...only where there's a green tree cross--and where there's no more fighting over the bones...I want only to be set free, and there should be peace...I never had anything to do with them...Just because I loved a man out of the faith, and so they took my bones and fought over them, and then they put them up in this place, and let them smoulder up there, so nobody could touch them...foolish me! When they're mixed up with the Papal State..."

"Betty" went on to explain that her husband was a Presbyterian. He would have put her in his Church, but "I could not offend them all." He and a friend of his named Peabody stole her ashes from the crematory and hid them.

After Mrs. Meyers had awakened from her trance, Holzer suggested to Mrs. Slatin that she bury the ashes in her garden, but she declined. She had no problem with having the late Mrs. Bullock as a houseguest, and she thought Elizabeth was happy on the piano. Mrs. Slatin--who had psychic abilities herself--felt that she had formed a friendship of sorts with the ghost, whom she described as "brown-haired, plump, and fun-loving." Why, she reasoned, deprive Mrs. B. of her new family?

The fateful ashes, from Holzer's "This House is Haunted"


And so Elizabeth Bullock became a permanent resident of 11 Bank street. In 1980, Harvey Slatin and his second wife, Anne, told "Washington Post" reporter Joyce Wadler that Elizabeth--whose ashes remained on the piano--liked to show up at their parties. Guests would smell her perfume. "You know," said Anne, "she really is kind of nifty...she's a benign ghost, she doesn't really do anything. Maybe once in a while she'll act up and Harvey will say, 'Oh, Elizabeth, go fix yourself a drink."

The reporter asked Anne if she had ever seen the ghost. "No," replied Mrs. Slatin, "though of course living with a ghost you don't pay much attention...I did see the ghost of Harvey's mother the day she died, the figure of an old woman. But that's another story."

Just one big happy family.

A few years ago, parapsychology researcher Stacy Horn did her own research into the story. Thanks to Ancestry.com, she was able to learn that Ethel Meyer's "trance" information was an intriguing mix of hits and misses. Elizabeth was indeed married to an Edward Bullock. "Charles" was her brother. However, Elizabeth's death certificate revealed that she died from "chronic myocarditis," not from being hit by a car. (Although she did die in that very drugstore.) She was of German descent, not Irish, and her mother's maiden name was "Mary Schwieker." Horn could not find any evidence Mrs. Bullock had any children. She was also able to find that in 1942, Edward Bullock moved to 11 Bank Street, where he lived until his death in 1949. Why his wife's ashes wound up in the attic remains a mystery.

And what became of this famed tin of ashes? In 1981, the Slatins received a letter from Thomas Devereaux, a priest in Loleta, California. He offered to have the tin buried in St. Patrick's Loleta Table Bluff Cemetery. Over the objections of some of their neighbors--who quite liked having a resident ghost--the Slatins agreed. Elizabeth's peripatetic ashes were given a funeral mass attended by fifty people, and buried beneath a cedar cross.

Finally getting a proper burial apparently did nothing to dampen Elizabeth's love of a good time. In 1981, Anne Slatin reported that Mrs. Bullock still made regular visits to Greenwich Village. Closets and cupboards at 11 Bank Street would pop open unexpectedly, and her cheap perfume could still be sensed at parties.

"There was a fear among the tenants that Elizabeth wouldn't be around. But now she is--and there's a sigh of relief," she said.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Now that it's winter, this week's Link Dump features a skating party!



A tale of bootlegging, murder, and a headless torso.

Australia's Mystery Craters.

Found: the "Ghost of Manzanar."

Harry Nilsson, hexed landlord.

Back in the days of witchcraft trials, it was not a wise move to predict someone's death.

The man with a pig's eyelid.  If your first thought after reading this was "The return of the Thomas Morris link!" give yourself a gold star.

The last day of the Black Dahlia.

Becoming Rembrandt.

An Oxford don, American evangelicals, and a stolen manuscript fragment.  

Napoleon and violets.

The case of the 2,600 year old brain.

The diary of a Jewish refugee in WWII Britain.

The scientist who documented his own death.

A mysterious radio burst from space.

The strange life of artist Richard Dadd.

I'll see your ambulance-chaser and raise you one crape-chaser.

James Gardiner, no coward soul.

A walled city that sounds like something out of a dystopic novel.

Let's talk Eyeball Planets.

The Widow of Yorkville and her many, many pets.

What it was like to be gay in 18th century England.

The sort of thing that happens when you try to assassinate a king...and fail.

The last man hanged for attempted murder in Britain.

The last woman hanged in New South Wales.

The founder of L.A.'s Griffith Park was a real piece of work.

Obadiah Sharp, 19th century recidivist.

Fidel Castro: the musical! and other theatrical links.

The myth of the Iron Maiden.

Sir Ronald Ross' role in the fight against malaria.

We just keep underestimating early humans.

The story of Canada's weirdest phone number.

Meanwhile, in Britain, they’ve weaponized seagulls.

A strange tale involving telepathy.

Survival at the bottom of the ocean.

Folklore of the northern lights.

A very costly fire.

The exile of a scandalous princess.

More Chinese terracotta warriors have been excavated.

A 170,000 year old meal.

In search of Eden.

A notorious early 19th century murderess.

The Owl Man of Haverfordwest.

London's toy theaters.

The wailing house of Wales.

The village of girls.

Napoleon's imperial Rome.

And so we wrap up yet another Link Dump.  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the kind of thing that happens when you find a stranger's cremated remains in your attic.  In the meantime, here's some Praetorius.



Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day









Via Newspapers.com



A lot of witchcraft stories have come out of Pennsylvania--many of them of surprisingly recent vintage--but chortling phosphorescent cats are a new one to me. The “Minneapolis Journal,” August 31, 1904:

Pottsville, Pa., Aug. 31. Magistrate Shane succeeded in settling amicably a case brought by one neighbor against another, of which an accusation of witchcraft was the basis.

Mrs. Cora Hiney had accused Mrs. Mary Leib, a neighbor, with having brought about the death of her infant through the machinations of witchcraft.

It was shown during the hearing that the defendant, Mrs. Leib, possesses a white cat and a black dog. According to Mrs. Hiney's statement, these animals are possessed of the evil one, and they are capable of committing terrible things when under the spell of the owner.

Until three weeks ago the women were fast friends. Then the child of Mrs. Hiney died, and the mother worried and brooded over its loss. She became impressed with the idea that the death was due to witchcraft, and that her neighbor and friend was the cause.

She talked the matter over with other neighbors, and they recounted a number of uncanny things that had taken place in the vicinity which they attributed to the dog and cat.

Among the remarkable scenes that these superstitious people are alleged to have witnessed is that late at night these animals of Mrs. Leib were seen emitting a phosphorescent glow from their bodies. The cat was capable of crying like a child. It was alleged at the hearing that when persons made an investigation of the supposed cry of distress, the cat would laugh like a human being and then vanish away into space. To them many supernatural things had occurred, and charms of many kinds were used to keep away the spells of the animals and of Mrs. Leib.

The gossip came to Mrs. Leib's ears and she brought suit, charging Mrs. Hiney with calling her a witch, which was deemed a slander. Squire Shane, after hearing the testimony, convinced Mrs. Hiney that she was in error, and she and Mrs. Leib were sent away from his office in a conciliated mood.
The story disappeared from the newspapers after this, but I can’t help but be dubious that the two ladies were genuinely “conciliated.”  An accusation of murder by witchcraft isn't the sort of thing that's easily forgiven and forgotten.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Where is Kenneth Beasley?

Atlanta Constitution, February 17, 1905, via Newspapers.com


A while back, I wrote about the tangled tale surrounding the disappearance, and presumed kidnapping, of a small boy named Melvin Horst. Although the following case is much more obscure, it has many striking similarities to the Horst mystery.

In 1905, a family named Beasley lived on a beautiful and prosperous farm just outside the small town of Poplar Branch, Currituck County, South Carolina. They were what used to be called “people of solid worth.” The head of the household, Samuel Beasley, was a state senator, and many believed he was destined for higher offices. His wife Carrie was admired as a kindly and accomplished woman. The couple had three children: seventeen-year-old Moran, eight-year-old Kenneth, and Ethel, who was four. Kenneth was a handsome, gentle boy who did well at school. Other children liked him, and adults loved him.

Although the Beasleys were admired and respected in their community, there was one glaring exception to their popularity: if you were to ask Joshua Harrison what he thought of Samuel Beasley, the answer would likely be completely unprintable. Harrison was a tall man in his fifties, with a formidable beard and a temper to match. He was such a hothead that in his younger days he had twice stood trial for murder, but in both instances he won an acquittal.

Harrison supplemented his farming income by selling homemade wine out of his barn. It was said to be very good wine, and, judging by the frequent rowdiness emanating from his unofficial tavern, very potent as well. Many of the locals disapproved of his enterprise, and foremost among them was the upright, sober, and politically powerful Samuel Beasley. In 1903, he got a bill passed through the state legislature outlawing the sale of wine in Currituck County.

Harrison, unsurprisingly, was not pleased. The following year, he happened to run into Beasley on the road between their farms, and made his wrath known in no uncertain terms.

“I hear that 1903 legislation was for me,” he scowled.

“If you heard that,” Beasley replied calmly, “you heard right; for you are the only person in Currituck creating a disturbance, and the people petitioned the legislature on the subject.”

“I’ll be damned if I don’t sell it in spite of ‘em,” Harrison retorted. “If I can’t sell it in gallons I’ll sell it in barrels, and the people can come and get it. When they stop me from selling it they’ll be God damned sorry for it.”

After this exchange, the two men avoided each other.

Life appeared to return to normal. On the morning of February 13, 1905, young Kenneth Beasley dressed, had breakfast, and began his walk to school. On his way out the door, he told his mother, “I’ve seen some mighty pretty puppies, and I want one.”

Little did she know those were the last words she would ever hear him say.

Kenneth’s day at school progressed in its usual uneventful fashion. By the time of the noon recess, the temperature had warmed enough for him to not bother donning his overcoat and gloves before going outside to play. At 1 pm, the school bell rang summoning students for the afternoon session. All the children returned to the classroom...except Kenneth.

Young Beasley’s cousin, Benny Walker, told the teacher that he had been playing with Kenneth when the bell rang. Instead of heading back to school, Kenneth had turned toward the woods behind them, saying, “I’m going back farther.” Benny did not see him after that.

The truancy of this normally well-behaved boy was deeply puzzling--even more so when the teacher saw that Kenneth’s coat and gloves were still in the cloakroom. If he had planned to run away, surely he would have taken them with him?

The schoolmaster sent another boy, Everett Wright, to go look for Kenneth. He returned with the news that Beasley was nowhere to be found. Then Benny Walker was dispatched to make a more thorough search. Walker scoured the woods, then made his way to a nearby store and asked the proprietor, a Mr. Woodhouse, if he had seen anything of the missing boy.

Woodhouse immediately realized something very strange was going on. He locked up his store and accompanied Walker back to the school, where he advised that school should be dismissed and a more comprehensive inspection made. The older boys were organized into search parties while Woodhouse went to gather neighbors. By four pm, one hundred and fifty people, all of them hunters familiar with the swampy timberland, were exploring the area. The search spread for miles, without one trace of Kenneth being found. The following morning, a telegram was sent to Samuel Beasley, who was attending the legislative session in Raleigh. He left for home at once.

By the next day, the search party had doubled in size. Hunting dogs were brought in, but the heavy rain and snow prevented them from picking up a trail. That night, a rumor emerged that a child had been heard crying for help from a lumberman’s cabin deep in the woods. This cabin was said to be inhabited by a mysterious recluse. However, when searchers arrived at the cabin, there was no sign of the hermit--or Kenneth.

On February 24, the “Raleigh News and Observer” printed a letter dealing with Kenneth’s disappearance. Neither the writer or the recipient of this letter were ever identified. It claimed the boy had been kidnapped. “There was a strange man seen up about Barco postoffice and two more places by three different men. He was in a buggy drawn by a black mule and had the boy down between his knees, but the people saw him before they heard the boy was missing. These men say that saw him that the boy was crying and seemed dissatisfied, but the man was talking to him rough.” The writer pointedly added, “Mr. Joshua Harrison went on Tuesday morning and never got back until Sunday. He claimed he had been to Pasquotank.”

Via Newspapers.com


By February 26, the search had been abandoned. It was universally believed that Kenneth had been abducted, and the smart money had one chief suspect in mind.

That same day, Joshua Harrison paid a call at the Beasley home. It was the first time he and Samuel Beasley had spoken since their altercation over wine.

Harrison was irate over the “News and Observer” article. “It’s a batch of lies,” he told Beasley. “I want you to write to the paper and say it was a lie. If your son was kidnapped some of the neighbors did it.”

Beasley coolly replied that, despite what Harrison was clearly implying, he had not written that letter, and would not bother the newspaper’s editors.

Harrison left, vowing that he could prove where he was when Kenneth disappeared.

The Beasley family continued their sad search for the boy. Samuel and his son Moran spent days fruitlessly combing the woods. No clues emerged pointing to Kenneth’s possible whereabouts until March, when the family received a visit from a Shiloh resident named J.J. Pierce. Pierce had seen Kenneth once, three years earlier. And just recently, on March 5, he thought he saw him again, on a Norfolk street car. The child was with two young men who both appeared to be drunk. Pierce said he addressed the boy, but he did not answer.

Norfolk. Joshua Harrison’s daughter, Anna Gallop, kept a boarding house in Norfolk. Hmmm. Samuel went to Norfolk and asked around, but no one claimed to have seen any boy resembling Kenneth. Other rumors and tips came in now and then, and Samuel doggedly investigated them all, with equally empty results.

In September 1906, Beasley attended the opening session of Currituck Courthouse’s fall term. There, he was accosted by T.C. Woodhouse, brother of the shopkeeper. This man had quite an interesting tale to tell.

Woodhouse stated that on September 2, Joshua Harrison had met him on the road, asking for a “heart to heart talk.” Harrison said, “Sam Beasley has never offered enough reward. When he does, the boy will show up in as good condition as he ever was.” He added, “It was damned expensive to keep the boy in the way he is being kept.”

Beasley was stunned. He frantically told Woodhouse to tell Harrison that he would pay any amount of money for Kenneth’s return, promising that no questions would be asked and he would not prosecute. A day or two later, Woodhouse told Beasley that Harrison denied having made his earlier remarks, and refused to discuss the matter further.

Then, an A.B. Parker came forward. He told Beasley that a few days after Kenneth’s disappearance, he overheard Harrison say that “The boy wasn’t lost; that he could put his hand on him any time he wanted him.” Parker was asked the obvious question: why had he kept this fascinating news to himself?

“It was none of my business,” he replied.

The oddly long-delayed revelations kept coming. A storekeeper named J.L. Turner now said that on the day Kenneth vanished, he had seen Harrison driving a buggy pulled by a black mule, containing a boy with his head covered by a tarpaulin. One Millard Morrisette claimed to have seen this same buggy, although he could not say he recognized either the man or the boy. A W.E. Ansell spoke of seeing the mule-drawn buggy with the tarpaulin-covered boy. He could hear the child saying some complaining words and the man speaking to him reassuringly. He was certain the man’s voice was that of Joshua Harrison.

All these men promised Beasley that they were willing to tell their stories in court, under oath. Beasley promptly got a warrant charging Harrison with kidnapping.

When he was arrested, Harrison vehemently denied the charge. More productively, he hired a team of excellent lawyers. His counsel wisely obtained a change in venue--clearly Harrison’s hometown had no great love for him--and the trial was set to begin on March 14, in Pasquotank County.

The trial lasted six days. The previously-mentioned witnesses gave their stories. Still more witnesses corroborated their accounts. During the cross-examinations, the defense brought out a vital point: the road in front of the schoolhouse, was completely open, lined with houses on one side and the sound on the other. It was a busy road, and at the time Kenneth disappeared, the sound was full of fishing boats. Yet nobody in the vicinity claimed to have seen the buggy, the black mule, Joshua Harrison with his distinctive gray beard. How could Harrison have kidnapped the boy in such a public area without anyone noticing?

The defense also offered testimony from Harrison’s family and neighbors that at the time Kenneth disappeared, the defendant was at his home all day, working in his stable yard. Anna Gallop testified that contrary to rumor, Kenneth had never been brought to her boarding house. The prosecution countered this with two witnesses who stated that they had seen Harrison in Norfolk late on the night of February 13.

Faced with all this contradictory witness testimony, the trial essentially hinged on which side was most successful at cross-examination. The jury decided it was the prosecution. On March 19, they returned a guilty verdict.

Harrison’s lawyers appealed to the State Supreme Court, emphasizing the impossibility of their client having abducted the boy without anyone seeing him. They also pointed out the local prejudice against Harrison. The court denied the appeal, and ordered that Harrison be arrested.

News and Observer, September 18, 1907, via Newspapers.com


That same day, as Harrison sat alone in a room of Norfolk’s Gladstone Hotel, a city detective entered the lobby. He instructed the bellboy to summon Harrison.

Harrison slammed the door in the bellboy’s face. A moment later, a gunshot was heard from inside his room. When the bellboy and the detective broke into the room, they found Harrison lying on the floor, quite dead. Next to him was a note he had written, proclaiming his complete innocence.

Henderson Gold Leaf, September 26, 1907, via Newspapers.com


The case was over, if far from resolved. Over the years, Currituck County never really stopped wondering just what had happened to Kenneth Beasley. Among these armchair detectives was a solicitor named Hallet Ward. He was good friends with one of Harrison’s lawyers, W.M. Bond, and the two often discussed the mystery. The two agreed that the case against Harrison had been extremely weak. Also, the people closest to Harrison had argued that while he may have been a hotheaded and even vengeful man, he would never have been so depraved as to take out his wrath on an innocent child.

In 1934, Ward and his family happened to pass through Currituck County. They drove along the sound, stopping for a picnic lunch in front of the building where Kenneth Beasley had once attended school. As they ate, two elderly men walked along the road in front of them. Ward stopped them and introduced himself. He asked if they remembered Harrison’s trial. They most certainly did. As they talked, Ward mentioned the recluse in the cabin, and lamented the fact that law enforcement had never been able to find the man. The two men commented that the hermit had contact only with Joshua Harrison, from whom he bought wine. He also had kept dogs.

Ward suddenly remembered Kenneth’s last words to his mother: “I’ve seen some mighty pretty puppies.”

He and the two men walked along the road where Benny Walker had last seen the boy. As they went deeper into the woods, Ward saw an old rail fence. One of the elderly men pointed to a path on the other side of the fence. That path, he said, led to the hermit’s cabin.

Ward contemplated this new information. So, a path led to the cabin, well out of sight of the main road. He formed a theory: “Kenneth,” he said, “went up that path to that house to see those puppies. Harrison entered the gate in front of the house from the connecting road and picked the boy up at that house and drove on by the back road to the back gate and through it to the Sound Road and on to Norfolk.” Kenneth had no overcoat, and it was a bitterly cold day. That night, he contracted pneumonia and soon died in whatever hideaway Harrison had arranged for him.

Was Ward’s scenario correct? Or--as seems more likely to me--did the anonymous hermit himself use the promise of a puppy to lure Kenneth to his cabin, only to do something unspeakable to the boy? Did he then bury the body somewhere in those woods and flee? Or, on a more hopeful note, could those Carrituck County folk who believed that Kenneth Beasley survived, to be raised in another place, under another name, possibly be correct?

We’ll probably never know.