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

Friday, September 17, 2021

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

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




Why the hell did the Maya civilization collapse?

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

Where the hell did a billion years go?

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

Human body parts which had a strange afterlife.

Kids may have been the first prehistoric artists.

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

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

If Dada is too normal for you, meet Fluxus.

Using Mozart to treat epilepsy.

Visualizing Scotland under ice.

An ancient tiger god is still at work in India.

How not to drive a stagecoach.

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

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

Some misunderstandings about the Vikings.

The charming widow and the mourning racket.

Get outta my face, Zuckerberg.

A narrative of 9/11.

A theater that memorializes a teenager's death.

Big Bertha the Confidence Queen.

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

The secret world of Bach's music.

Another gruesome, unsolved family murder.

You can now download the universe.

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

Commemorating the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante.

Contemporary news reports about the infamous Belle Gunness.

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

Post-Hitler Germany was a very strange place.

A ghost in Yorkshire.  Well, maybe not.

A brief history of the miniskirt.

The historically significant Bacton Altar Cloth.

Why Napoleon had a thing about eagles.

The lighthouse at the end of the world.

Franz Liszt, rock star.

The boy who was raised by wolves.

A breakfast in British India.

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

The legends surrounding a murder/suicide.

The legend of Bip Vawn.

Some famous Celtic fight songs.

The grave of a "first-class eccentric."

The once-famous murder of Harriet Lane.

A teenager murders his stepmother.

A realtor's bizarre unsolved murder.

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


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



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

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Ghosts in the Mist




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

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

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

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

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

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

E. F. 

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

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

C. M. B. 

February 11th. 

In two further letters, Mrs. F. writes: 

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

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

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

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



Friday, September 10, 2021

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


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



Why the hell do we sleep?

Who the hell was in the Killhope Moor coffin?

What the hell just exploded in Tennessee?

Watch out for the Bat Beast of Kent!

A cache of ancient gold has been discovered in Denmark.

Images of a very strange asteroid.

The northernmost island in the world has just been discovered.

How the birth of farming affected human immune systems.

An unsinkable corpse.

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

An "unseemly squabble."

An Empress and her ice palace.

A striking image of Earth taken from the ISS.

A shroud made from a wedding dress.

Contemporary newspaper reports about 9/11.

Edgar Allan Poe, prophet.

The church with a very weird skull.

The Great Meteor of 1783.

A brief history of the slang term "Molly."

A brief history of ambergris.

Influential British TV shows from the 1960s.

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

The Great Tea Race.

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

The strange side of New York's Long Island.

1963 was a big year for the occult.

Sightseeing in Medieval England.

The mistress of George I.

The horrifying solution behind a girl's disappearance.

Let's talk Victorian eyebrows.

A murderer plays dead.

The Parisian Poison Panic.

A shipwrecked king and queen visit Henry VII.

Something unusual has been spotted in Loch Ness.

A haunted railway car.

New York's first Labor Day.

A wedding turns deadly.

The birth of television.

Dissing some works of classic literature.

Personal reflections on the Indian Political Service.

Ripper the Talking Duck.

A daring Civil War raid.

One of the earliest Merlin narratives.

The largest known comet.

The last great Viking king.

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

A one-legged champion swimmer.

A child's unsolved disappearance.

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

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

Graywood, New York police dog.

Parliament and the Naval Review.

The island where manliness means knitting some badass hats.

The pygmy mammoths of California's Channel Islands.

A tour of the medieval town called Sandwich.

A ghost bear at the Tower of London.

A brief history of pickles.

A brief history of crime literature.

WWII's very young hero.

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


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day




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

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

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

We beg to remain. Sir, your obedient servants, 

OAKSHOTT AND MILLARD, 

Reading, Nov. 17. 

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

Monday, September 6, 2021

Cathy Moulton's Final Walk Home

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 3, 2021

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


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



Who the hell decapitated Sasquatch?

A murderer's "weight of grief."

Social media and fractured identities.

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

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

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

An ancient commerce scam.

The Solomon Islands and some nasty UFOs.

The mysteries of an English village.

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

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

A brief history of the breakup album.

A police dog saves a cat family.

The "other" Norman Conquests.

That time an English village was haunted by a cockatrice.

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

The "strangest cabinet in British history."

Some "inevitable" wars that didn't happen.

New research on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A couple of innovative surgical techniques.

A child's particularly brutal murder.

The life of a paranormal investigator.

The memoirs of a 19th century London delivery boy.

Europe's first farmers.

Very ancient humans got creative with elephant bones.

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

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

Upwardly mobile in Pompeii.

That time Thomas Jefferson harbored a killer ram.

The sinking of the SS Princess Alice.

The consolation of a cat.

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


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



Here is yet another little ghost story from the “Illustrated Police News,” December 30, 1882:

A most singular occurrence took place a few days back at a village near Charlton. We have received the intelligence from an acquaintance of ours staying in the village at the time, from which we print the following: 

Some seven years back a young lady of the village, about eighteen years of age, and who was well known to the villagers roundabout for her affability and generous disposition, fell desperately in love with a young person about her own age. The love was as readily returned, and the two soon after were frequently seen in each other's society, and a more happy, and congenial couple could not be conceived.

Some six or eight months rolled on in this happy condition when the young man received a letter from his parents in Canada urging his immediate attendance in consequence of his father's serious illness, and other affairs that had to receive prompt attention. From time to time letters were interchanged between the lovers, in which she received information of his father's extreme delicate slate of health which rendered him incapable of managing his business affairs, which of necessity involved upon his sons. Some few years had now rolled over, and, as the fates had decreed, with no apparent hope of her lover's return, when all of a sudden the communications from Canada ceased, and though she had written several letters in succession urgently requesting to know what strange mishap had occurred that was the occasion of not writing, she fully and strenuously believed in her lover's faith; but still receiving no reply, it worked desperate havoc upon a sensitive and not over-strong constitution.  The neighbours one and all perceived the painful alteration in her appearance, and many and varied were the conjectures brought to bear upon the subject, and one, which some time afterwards seemed to bear much truth upon the matter, was that the brother to the intended of the young lady had intercepted by some means their communications. This was in part vouched for by a person who had resided some time in Canada, and who was well acquainted with the brothers and their affairs, so much so that he had heard from the younger brother that he had received no communication from England for some time past.  That the elder was disliked in the family in consequence of his dissolute habits was likewise confirmed, and also that the younger son was retained to manage the father's business, who, I should have stated, had died some three years back. 

Matters had now grown so serious that the lady was advised a change of scenery, that the recollection of the past might be somewhat expelled. This she objected to, and called to her bedside a brother for whom she had every confidence and affection, to whom she related the following story: 

She had for three nights in succession dreamt that she saw Charles (her lover) at a favourite resort of theirs called Swallow-lane in the form of a skeleton, and lying on the ground was his wounded brother. Charles stated he had received a letter from her (this she declared to her brother was false), urging him to meet her on a certain date at their old trysting place. He then related how his brother had pounced upon and slain him, but not before he had wounded his brother, and with the same weapon. Here the sister said the voice of the spirit became indistinct, but, as far as she could understand, it was to the following effect: 

She saw the outstretched figure of her lover's brother raise himself from the ground, and was soon lost to view, Then the spectre figure said, ‘Meet me, love, at Swallow-lane on such an evening, that such may be confirmed, which I have revealed to you through a dream. Farewell, farewell,' and the figure vanished. 

The young lady then, lifting herself from her pillow, addressed her brother and said, ‘Dear brother, I must go there, I must go.  Will you accompany me, that I may be satisfied in this mystery?’ 

The brother accompanied his sister to the old and familiar spot specified in her dream. The evening was lovely and warm, and all that could be wished for, but a cold chill seized the maiden's frame as they approached the spot, where they saw a skeleton form, as predicted; and the brother lying on the ground was not only perceived by the girl, but by the brother likewise, who declares he saw it, but no sound reached his ears. 

Soon after this the frail construction of the lady weakened by degrees and passed away. The brother of the broken-hearted girl has made for Canada. Swallow-lane is well known to the neighbours roundabout, and many hundreds have visited the spot of late, but without eliciting any proof to unravel this strange and mysterious story.

It would be interesting to know what the brother found when he arrived in Canada, but, as is usually the case, there were no follow-ups to the story.

Monday, August 30, 2021

New York's First Subway Murder

"New York Daily News," March 18, 1928, via Newspapers.com



New York subway stations can be unpleasant and even dangerous places, but thankfully they have seen few crimes as mysterious as the now long-forgotten murder of an otherwise unremarkable woman.

39-year-old Mrs. Emma Weigand was an attractive milliner, who worked hard to support her aged mother and three young children. Unfortunately, little else is known about her.  There is no evidence she had enemies, or gave any reason for anyone to wish her dead.

The trouble is, someone did indeed wish her dead.

On the afternoon of August 5, 1927, a young woman named Sarah Lipschitz entered the women's restroom at the B.M.T. subway station, deep under New York's City Hall Square.  She saw a woman's foot sticking out from under one of the half-doors of the toilet compartments.  When Lipschitz peered under the locked door, she was confronted with a pool of blood and a woman's crumpled body, dead from a bullet wound in her chest.  Understandably enough, her reaction was to let out an ear-splitting scream and run for the police.  A commutation ticket of the New York Central found in the dead woman's purse indicated the corpse was that of one Emma Weigand.   (The body was later positively identified by her mother, Freida Ahles.) The absence of a weapon found at the scene, coupled with the lack of powder marks on the victim's hands, indicated this was a case of murder, not suicide.

"New York Daily News," August 6, 1927


From the start, authorities were confronted with an almost total lack of clues.  The noise of the trains  would have drowned out the sound of the gunshot, leaving it impossible to say exactly when the murder occurred, but police believed she had been killed between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m., about four hours before the body was discovered.   (Before Lipschitz discovered the body, a number of women had gone in and out of the washroom, but they had all felt that a prone body in one of the stalls was hardly worth investigating.)  A group of girls told police that they had seen a  "tall, thin man" running up the steps to the Woolworth building at the end of the station platform around the time Weigand must have been shot.  Was this the murderer, fleeing the scene of his crime?  Or just some innocent bystander in a hurry?  As he was never identified, that question was fated to remain unanswered, but detectives were disinclined to attach much weight to the girls' story.

There was nothing about Emma's last known movements to indicate anything unusual.  Earlier that morning, she visited the hospital where her 7-year-old daughter, Dorothea, was about to have her tonsils removed.  Within half an hour of Mrs. Weigand leaving Dorothea's bedside, she was dead.

Emma's estranged husband, Frank Weigand, was naturally brought in for questioning.  He was extremely cooperative with the police.  Weigand stated that the murder was as puzzling to him as it was to everyone else.  "I do not know of any affairs she might possibly have had, and I am sure she was the sort of woman who wouldn't have an enemy in the world."  He freely admitted that two years back, his wife had left him due to his excessive drinking.  It also emerged that he had a conviction for grand larceny on his resume, and that he was failing to pay his court-ordered child support.  However, his alibi for the time of the murder--he was at work--proved to be water-tight.  Investigators had no choice but to dismiss this initially promising suspect.  "It was too bad," Weigand said of his wife's murder.  "She was a nice girl."

The detectives were having a terrible time grappling with the city's first "subway murder."  They had no motive, no suspects, no witnesses, no anything at all to suggest who had shot Emma Weigand, and why.  Robbery was ruled out--her purse, and the $35 she had placed inside it before leaving her home--were untouched.  (However, it was noted that an onyx ring Emma always wore was missing.  The ring was never traced.) It was suggested that Mrs. Weigand had stumbled upon an anarchist seeking to bomb the Woolworth Building, causing him to silence her with a bullet, but no actual evidence for this rather lurid theory ever surfaced.  Out of sheer desperation, some detectives proposed that Mrs. Weigand had committed suicide, with some passerby later stealing the gun, but proof of this scenario was conspicuously absent, as well.  In fact, friends of the victim asserted that she had been in excellent spirits, and was planning a vacation for herself, her children, and her mother.  She had a good job, and no money worries.  Police, in the words of the "New York Daily News," were "facing a blank wall."

An additional enigma was provided by where she was killed.  Why was she at the City Hall station at all?  According to her mother, Emma did all of her shopping in another district, and had no reason to be in this unfamiliar section of the metropolis.  Police announced that the answer to that question would lead to solving her murder. Unfortunately, as far as anyone could tell, that answer died with Mrs. Weigand.

With the investigation stymied, the Weigand murder soon disappeared from the newspapers.  In January 1929, there was momentary hope for a break in the case, when a woman in another subway station reported that another lady had tried to strangle her.  This "lady" turned out to be a burly paroled murderer and middleweight boxer named Stefan Wiszuk, in full flapper attire.  Unfortunately, any attempts to link him to the unsolved crime fell apart when it was proved that he was in prison at the time Mrs. Weigand was killed.  (When asked why he was wearing female clothing, Wiszuk said sheepishly that it was "only a joke.")

"New York Daily News," January 29, 1929


This was the final public word regarding the Weigand murder, and the mystery was soon completely forgotten.  Someone pulled off a seemingly clue-free, motive-free, suspect-free murder.

The perfect crime.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


This week's Link Dump features songs from the Strange Company choir!




Watch out for those Egyptian mummy curses!

A bird's-eye view of the Great Pyramid.

Giant ants, golden apples, and a killer cat.  Read on.

"We are left standing futilely in the soggy wet fields of novels where the earth is the ravaged, bloodstained scene of dreary crimes and appalling mistakes littered with frostbitten decaying vegetables and plentiful corpses."  We're talking about you, Thomas Hardy.

The tragedy that birthed a Victorian lighthouse.

Mysterious fireballs in Mexico.

Emily Dickinson's Christmas cake.

Amber as ancient time capsules.

How one family came to control a Hawaiian island.

The woman who lives in a shipping container in the middle of a New Zealand forest.  It's all fun and games until you try having pizza delivered.

The rise and fall of William Catesby.

A possible explanation of why feet keep washing up along the Pacific Northwest coast.

An overly-loyal dog uncovers a grave.

Vermeer's hidden cupid.

Tramp the Police Cat.

The geology of Hell.

The woman who was not killed by Bigfoot.

Africa's only Marian apparition.

The pole honoring Secretariat.

An attempted assassination of Queen Victoria.

A fatal "act of God."

The richest man in history.

A notorious exorcism case.

A brief history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

There's a very strange death mystery playing out in the Sierra National Forest.

The "hand of glory," one of the more gruesome bits of folklore.

The Egyptian Sun King.

A haunted burial mound.

The history of a misquote.

The biggest rock stars of the 19th century.

Plastic surgery is turning people into aliens.

A "curious herbal."

Ancient Rome's most notorious poisoner.

If you have a time machine and are planning to travel to 1907, here's how to pack.

A remarkable recovery from a shotgun injury.

The market value of a broken heart.

A 1911 aviation show.

Death in the Seven Dials.

Yet another murder inspired by jealousy.

How Bruce Springsteen went from rock god to pompous bore.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a mysterious subway murder.  In the meantime, RIP, Charlie Watts, the best-dressed drummer in rock and roll.



Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



Since Hoodoo Cats are the official Strange Company mascots, I bring you this spooky tale from “The Head-Light,” April 9, 1886:

"What am I going to tell you," said Capt. Rockwell of the schooner Fame, "occurred about ten years ago on Lake Michigan. I was then in command of the schooner Gordon, and in the grain trade. One afternoon, just before we were ready to tow out of Chicago, a stranger came aboard with a big black cat in a rude cage and offered her for sale. I was born with a constitutional hatred of cats. On board of a grainer there are plenty of rats and mice, but I'd rather have the vermin running over me in my sleep than to keep a cat aboard, as many vessels do. Outside of my hatred for cats I didn't like the looks of the man. He was a rough-looking fellow, with a cock eye and two or three front teeth hanging out to windward, and if I'd have wanted someone to do a bit of dirty work I'd have picked this chap from among a thousand. I sent him off in a hurry, as you may guess, but as he reached the wharf he turned the cat loose and cried out: 

‘My curses on the ship and crew forever!' 

"The feline might have run into the elevator, but she didn't. She just scrambled right aboard of us, and in a whisk was out of sight down the main hatch. Some of the men looked a bit serious and some treated the matter as a joke, and just before night we were towed out and had a fair wind to lay our course. The hatches were all battened down, of course, and nobody seemed to have given a thought to the cat while getting out of the harbor. It was as fine a June night as you ever saw, with a moon so bright that you could see a vessel a mile away, and a breeze to send us along at about five miles an hour. 

"Well, we had made everything ship shape, and had supper, when the black cat was suddenly seen on the end of the jibboom. She was looking inboard at us, her hair on end and her eyes blazing. I brought up my revolver to have a shot at her, but just as I was about to pull trigger, the cat yeowled out in a dismal manner, and down came the peak of the mainsail, the halyards showing as if they had been cut clean across with a sharp knife. They were new, stout ropes, and nobody could say they had been broken by any sudden strain. We had to reeve new ones, and when this job was finished I went forward to put a bullet through that cat's head. She set up a dismal yeowling, and as I pulled the trigger down came the whole foresail, both throat and peak halyards having parted. I hoped I had killed the black witch, but when the smoke lifted we saw her in the same place, safe and sound. Every man aboard agreed that the halyards had been cut with a knife, and as the men passed them from hand to hand they began to mutter against me for trying to bring about a calamity by seeking the cat's life. 

"By the time we had the foresail up again the cat had disappeared, going no one knew whither, and the weather had suddenly changed until the moon was overcast and the breeze was a third stronger. I never saw that craft steer as she did that night. She'd yaw and swing, and go wild, in spite of all the best sailor aboard could do. By the time we were off Waukegan there was a smart sea on and a nasty look all around. The wind gradually hauled into the northeast, and we had to go in stays and make long boards dead to the east, and then make our gain on the other leg as we ran to the northwest. Every time we went in stays the schooner acted like a balky colt, just barely keeping us out of irons, and the ugly cross sea banged her about until everything groaned. We were about to go in stays for our board to the northwest, and the men were aloft to care for the topsails, when the Gordon slipped into a hollow and rolled port and starboard like a stuck whale trying to get rid of a harpoon. There was a loud squall from the cat, which creature, it appears, was in the mainmast crosstrees, a terrible scream from the sailor, and as the Gordon rolled to starboard he was flung clear of her side by thirty feet and went down like a stone. 

"By this time the crew were so worked up that nobody would turn in, and every man seemed to be momentarily expecting some new disaster. It came before midnight. The wind hauled dead to the north and grew stronger, and when we came about from a run to the northwest the Gordon missed her slays, was taken flat aback, and several calamities followed. Three or four seas boarded us and swept the decks, the foreboom jibed and crushed a sailor's skull, and jib and outer jib whipped loose, and went sailing away with the wind.  We came within an ace of being dismasted, for the men cowered down in abject terror, and the mate and myself had the whole work on our hands. We finally got her head off and ratched away for the Michigan shore, but before daylight we sprang a leak, and we made Grand Haven only by the skin of our teeth, with our cargo damaged more than $3,000. From an hour past midnight to broad daylight that infernal cat kept up a steady walk between the two masts on the triantic stay, and now and then she would utter a yell which brought all our hair on end.

"Taken altogether we suffered a loss of over $4,000 and lost a life, and it was all on account of that cockeyed man and his black cat. No sooner had we got into port than everybody except the mate ran away, and the cat leaped to the dock with a farewell yeowl and took refuge in a pile of lumber. The story of our mishaps got noised around, and the Gordon had to be laid up for the rest of the season for want of men to work her."

You see what happens when you’re not nice to kitty?

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Musical Ghost and the Manchester Policemen



 

"When a ghost is not engaged in his employment 

Or maturing his spectral little plans

His capacity for innocent enjoyment

Is just as great as any corporeal man's.

Our feelings we with difficulty smother

When constabulary duty's to be done

Ah, take one consideration with another

A policeman's lot is oft a spooky one."

~With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan


Police officers regularly have to deal with the world not just at its worst, but at its weirdest.  However, I doubt many of them have been called upon to fingerprint a ghost.

Allow me to explain.

Our little tale opens in the spring of 1959, at a typical middle-class home in South Manchester, England, which housed a widow and her two teenage children.  Well, it was a typical middle-class home, until the family received an unexpected house guest.  During the nights, the widow's son, who was learning to play the violin, would find the ghost of an old man (whom the family dubbed "Nicholas") coming into his bedroom and playing on the violin.  (Nicholas was partial to Ravel's "Bolero," which must have added a special horror to the haunting.)  On a regular basis, "Bolero" would often be heard coming from the room, even when the violin was locked in its case.

After several months of this, the family had had more than enough, and they contacted the Manchester Psychical Research Society.  If these paranormal experts could not get rid of Nicholas, perhaps they could at least persuade him to vary his repertoire.

The Society's chief investigation officer, David Cohen, was delighted to hear of this bizarre haunting, and immediately organized a series of seances to get in touch with the musical spook.  These were so successful that by early 1961, a pair of ghostly hands--presumably those of Nicholas--began to materialize in front of the sitters.  Cohen wished to compare the prints of "Nicholas" with those of the corporeal members of the household, to make sure no trickery was involved.  Accordingly, he contacted a policeman named Tony Fletcher, of the Manchester Police's Fingerprint Bureau.  Would Fletcher be willing to attend one of their seances and take prints of these spirit hands?  

Alas, Fletcher did not believe in ghosts, and felt participating in such a scheme would accomplish nothing except making himself look like an idiot.  He declined the offer.  Fortunately, a colleague of his, Rowland Mason, had a more open-minded attitude.  Mason attended two of Cohen's seances, which were enough to convince him that something genuinely weird was going on.  As he and Cohen would sit around a table with the widow and her children, the table would slowly rise high into the air, and then shake violently as loud knocks reverberated through the room.  A luminous tambourine would whirl through the air too swiftly for human hands to be responsible for the motion.  During the second seance, the hands of "Nicholas" appeared, touching Mason on the arms and shoulders.

At the third seance, Mason resolved to try fingerprinting the ghost.  Before the sitting, he secretly dusted the tambourine with mercury powder, leaving the duster lying on the sideboard.  At the start of the seance, somebody--or something--threw this duster in his face.  There were the usual levitations and rappings, and the tambourine flew through the air.  At the end of the seance, Mason immediately checked the tambourine for prints.  He was baffled not to find any.  It was completely clean.  

During a subsequent seance, "Nicholas" was asked if he would consent to be fingerprinted.  The ghost responded with a series of raps on the table which were interpreted as a "yes."  Mason put a fingerprinting pad and chemically treated paper on the table and when the ghostly hands appeared, he was able to grab one (it was described as feeling "dry and scaly") and place it on the pad and paper.

Mason was puzzled by the results.  Instead of human fingerprints, "Nicholas" had left a series of small parallel scratches.  Tony Fletcher described the marks as resembling those made by a bird's claw, or fingernails scratching the paper.

Mason, who was becoming increasingly intrigued by the mystery, resolved to try to photograph the ghost.  He persuaded a police photographer named John Cheetham to join in on this paranormal fun.  Before one of the seances, Cheetham set up an infra-red camera on a tripod, aiming it at an empty armchair in a corner.  During the sitting, "Nicholas" was invited to take a seat, and Cheetham took a photo using a cable-release.

Unfortunately, the resulting photograph was just as inconclusive as the fingerprinting.  Most people who studied the photo saw nothing more than an empty chair.  However, Tony Fletcher and several others believed they saw the outline of a very old, bearded man on the chair's cushion.  

By this point, the media caught wind of the interesting fact that members of the Greater Manchester Police were spending their off-hours investigating a musical ghost.  The resulting newspaper publicity was not pleasing to the top brass.  The Chief Superintendent ordered Mason and Cheetham to file official reports on their activities, and then close the books on this supernatural moonlighting.  David Cohen also moved on to other cases, leaving the mystery of "Nicholas" unresolved.  Tony Fletcher, who wrote about the strange experience in his autobiography "Memories of Murder," commented, "If you were now to ask me if I believe in ghosts, I would reply that I do not readily disbelieve in the supernatural and that there are probably two reports still on file in police archives which bear witness to the events I have just related."

Friday, August 20, 2021

Weekend Link Dump

 


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


It's time to celebrate the arrival of this week's Link Dump!



Why the hell did people conceal shoes in walls?

Watch out for those haunted pubs!

Murder in a church belfry.

Pro tip: if you want to arrest a female aviator, don't let her be the one with the plane.

A costumed library cat.

An ancient pagan idol has been found in an Irish bog.

An ancient gold earring has been found in Jerusalem.

An ancient treasure trove has been found in Russia.

An ancient monastery has been found in England.

Evidence of ancient butter worshipers has been found in Wales.

A white-haired mummy has been found in Pompeii.

Wally the Walrus tours Ireland.

A horrific bridge tragedy inspired a horrific poem.

Mila the Explorer Cat.

The Palpa geoglyphs.

Some bad--really, really bad--mortuary poetry.

The sleeping sickness epidemic of 1916.

Examining an 18th century armchair.

A watch from the Titanic.

A mysterious Neolithic stone.

The secrets of ancient magnetism.  (More on the topic can be found here.)

In which we learn that JMW Turner had a horse named "Crop Ear."

British archaeologists and the Turkish government are battling over seeds.

Honoring the UK's plethora of rude place names.

The real-life Monopoly Man.

The year without a summer.

A musical menagerie.

An Englishwoman's American Revolution-era letters.

The pubs of 1920s London.

A mysterious cave in Greece.

A gruesome cave in Saudi Arabia.

The fire at the Smithsonian Institute.

A huge Great Depression scrapbook.

Those ever-popular curse tablets.

How Victorian British MPs spent their holidays.

American food rationing during WWII.

Stonehenge is nearly indestructible.

A brief history of the pickup truck.

A ghost scare in Coventry.

An account of the Athenian Plague.

2,000 year old bouquets.

A brief history of pay toilets.

And right on schedule, Cthulhu has arrived.

The disappearance of a telepathy researcher.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll meet a musical ghost.  In the meantime, here's some French-Canadian folk.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



There have been a few cases where tenants, displeased to find they were sharing lodgings with a ghost, wound up settling the matter in a courtroom.  This example was recorded by “The Washingtonian,” September 27, 1813:

The cause was tried in the Justice's Court yesterday, before a jury. 

The plaintiff claimed a quarter's rent of a house in Cherry street, due the 1st instant, amounting to forty two dollars, or thereabouts. 

The defence was that the house was haunted by ghosts, and, therefore, untenantable by man. 

The defendant proved that he hired and took possession of the house on the 1st of May, not knowing that it had the reputation of being inhabited by spiritual beings; that soon after a lighted candle, placed on a mantelpiece, went out without any assignable cause--that on being again lighted, it went out in a similar way--that a third attempt terminated in the same manner, with this addition, that on the extinguishment of the candle, the witness, who was the person holding it, was violently seized by the arm (by an invisible hand) and turned completely round!!! That the family was alarmed by such unaccountable events, and also, by finding, in closets about the house, and elsewhere, “dead men's bones,” and understanding that the house had the reputation of being haunted before the family went in, and while unoccupied. The defendant had deserted the house, because his family, not fond of having co-tenants of such a description, could not live in it with peace and without fear. 

It appears that the plaintiff before he hired the house to defendant knew the reputation of his house, but did not communicate it to the tenant. Some witnesses deposed, that while the house was unoccupied, they had several times observed “a blue flame" on the same mantelpiece, which, though it continued burning, communicated no light to the windows--that this attracted the attention of people passing, gathered numbers of spectators about the house and fixed upon it the reputation of a haunted house. 

The jury retired under the charge of the court, and returned with a verdict of ten dollars, as a compensation to plaintiff for the time the defendant had occupied his house, before he was routed by the ghosts!!!

It would be interesting to know if the owner of the house ever managed to rent it again.