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

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Newspaper Clippings of the Independence Day

"Meriden Journal," July 3, 1902.  All items via Newspapers.com

Practical jokes have a way of going wrong.  Long time readers of this blog know by now that Fourth of July celebrations have a way of going very wrong.  So what do you get when you mix the two?

That’s right:  Strange Company’s annual Independence Day party!

For some people, the holiday goes straight down the toilet.  Literally.  “The Pantagraph,” July 5, 1992:

Elaine Sims isn't sure anymore what to expect when she walks out to get the newspaper in the early morning hours. 

One morning in March when she went out of her home at 224 Leland St, Bloomington, she was greeted by two toilets in the flower box. One was white with plastic flowers, the other black with plastic flowers. Each was decorated with crepe paper and, of course, toilet paper. 

She knew immediately that the "gift" was compliments of her brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Shaun Hermes of Hudson, and her sister and brother-in-law, Tim and Lisa Legner of Bloomington. 

She took it in stride. 

"It provided comic relief at the time," she said, because her father was in the hospital and quite ill. 

But after yesterday, Mrs. Sims is trying to figure out an appropriate method of revenge for her dear relatives. 

Yes, it happened again. When she went out to get the newspaper about 7 a.m. yesterday, there was yet another toilet. This one was appropriately decorated for the Fourth of July - complete with red, white and blue stripes, stars and a flag cemented in the toilet bowl. 

"I woke up my husband, Rick. He looks at it and says, 'Oh, your family did it again,'” Mrs. Sims said. "We've been married 18 years, so he knows."

Mrs. Sims said her brother "is extremely creative and artistic, and his style is reflected in our toilet." 

Mrs. Sims laughs when she says, "our family is warped and sick," while she and her husband are "quiet, sweet," she adds. However, she said, "there will be revenge." 

The practice of practical jokes comes naturally to the family, she said. "My dad was a famous practical joker." 

It seems that his offspring plan to carry on that family tradition. 

This story, Mrs. Sims said, "is to be continued."

Let us all be thankful that I could find no more about this family.

"Pittsburgh Press," July 5, 1911

As I have mentioned before, homemade explosives have provided me with no end of blog material.  The “Moline Dispatch,” July 6, 1986:

MELBA, Idaho (UPI) - A Fourth of July practical joker trying to blow up a church float depicting the space shuttle ignited the blast prematurely Friday and caused a $100,000 fire that gutted a warehouse, police said. 

Carl Hint, 24, told police he intended to play a joke and blow up the float during the annual Fourth of July parade in Melba, about 25 miles southwest of Boise, Canyon County Sheriff Bill Anderson said. 

Anderson said Hinz told police he entered the Security Heating and Air Conditioning warehouse, where the Melba Catholic Church's float was stored. Hinz said he planned to put black powder and balloons filled with acetelyne and oxygen inside the space shuttle float and then blow it up during the parade with a radio detonator, Anderson said. 

But the detonator malfunctioned when Hinz was installing the explosives and they were ignited, Anderson said. Hinz was taken to Mercy Medical Center with second degree burns over 20 percent of his body. Anderson said the blaze caused at least $100,000 in damage to the warehouse, scorched another building and burned several cars.

Yet another “joke” that wound up in a courtroom was reported by the “Buffalo Times,” July 7, 1906:

Special to THE TIMES. FREDONIA. July 7. Joseph Callahan started a John Doe proceeding Thursday before Justice H. C. Drake, which is the outcome of an ante-Fourth of July practical joke, in which Callahan was injured about the right hand by the explosion of a cannon cracker which was thrust into his hand by a crowd of young men Tuesday night. Callahan was taken into a doctor's office by the men and had his injuries dressed and they thought the matter ended until the service of the subpoenas. Thus far the proceeding has not indicated who was the active party in the affair.

"Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin," July 5, 1911

And, finally, a case where the tables were satisfyingly turned.  The “Chicago Tribune,” July 5, 1891:

There is undoubtedly more practical joking on the Fourth of July than on the first of April, and whatever may be the opinion regarding practical jokes in the abstract, few there be that having arrived at the age of discretion will not agree that the typical Fourth of July practical joke is rarely humorous, especially from the victim's point of view. There is a young man in Chicago who may be called Smith, to whom the idea of a practical joke on some other fellow is excruciatingly funny, or rather was so until a late hour last night. There is reason to believe that he has undergone a change of opinion on the subject.

A few days before the Fourth the young man conceived a brilliant idea. He bought a mammoth cannon cracker, over a foot long and several inches in diameter. Then he carefully removed the fuse and the charge, tunneling the gunpowder out and scorching the hole with a red hot wire until the last vestige of the explosive was removed. The big cannon cracker was then perfectly harmless. 

He started out early yesterday morning with his big, harmless cracker and a five-cent bunch of little ones. He inserted one of the little ones in the top end of the cannon cracker and dropped into the first saloon. After buying a drink he calmly set the big cracker on the bar and set fire to the fuse. 

The bartender crouched behind the bar, frightened nearly out of his wits. Sizz! went the fuse, and the other customers glanced at the big cracker and then scrambled all over each other in their haste to get out of the way before the explosion came. 

It came: a puny little pop! and the big cracker turned listlessly over on its side. The bartender peeped out timidly, with a sickly grin, and finally recovered his courage when the joker put the cracker in his coat pocket. Then everybody took a drink at the bartender's invitation. 

Strange to say the young man with the cannon cracker successfully played his little joke all day long, from place to place, with the usual accompaniment of drinks on the bartender. But every lane has an end, and every practical joker meets another sooner or later. 

Smith had meanwhile accumulated a Fourth of July "jag," which made him an easy victim. Someone who saw him play his little trick went straightway and bought another cannon cracker the same size as Smith's. But he didn't remove the load. He followed Smith. 

The opportunity soon came to replace the bogus cracker with the real one. It was the latter Smith drew from his pocket, while he braced himself against the bar and unsteadily touched a match to the fuse. Smith was knocked down in the rush to the door. To this adventitious circumstance he probably owes what remains to him of his physical well-being. 

The cracker exploded with a terrific report, shattered $200 worth of glass, for which young Mr. Smith must pay, and incited the proprietor to an assault upon Smith which made him wish he had gone off with the cracker. 

That cracker joke will be labeled " dangerous" and hid away in the darkest closet the young man can find when he comes to his senses today.

A happy Fourth of July next week to all my American readers!  At least, we will be happy if we all do the prudent thing and hide under the bed.  For all you know, Elaine Sims' brother may be heading your way with a toilet.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Plague Take Him: India's Strangest Murder Plot

Biological warfare is something we think of as happening on a mass scale: rogue nations or terrorist groups seeking to sicken a large number of people.  However, the history of true crime contains a few instances of individuals seeking to murder a specific person by infecting them with a disease.  As viruses and bacteria are tricky things, such efforts are usually unsuccessful.  A tragic exception was a once-notorious murder case which took place in 1930s India.

The Pandey family was the wealthiest landowning clan in India’s Pakur district.  The head of the family, Pratapendra Chandra Pandey, had four children from his two marriages:  Vinayendra and Kananbala with his first wife, and Amarendra and Bonobala with his second.  Sadly, Pratapendra’s second wife died soon after her second child, Amarendra, was born.  His aunt, Suryavati Devi, was a childless widow, but she brought up the orphaned Amarendra as if he were her own.  The two were as close as any mother and son could be.

In 1929, Pratapendra died, leaving his substantial estate to be equally divided between his sons Vinayendra and Amarendra.  As the 15-year-old Amarendra was still a minor, his 22-year-old half-brother was entrusted with Amarendra’s share until the boy reached the age of 18.

The two half-brothers were so different, it was difficult for people to imagine they had the same father.  Vinayendra was a playboy, obsessed with drinking, women, and living the high life.  He cared for nothing except his own dissolute pleasures.  Amarendra, on the other hand, was clean-cut, gentlemanly, studious, and moral.  It should not be surprising which of the boys was more popular among the people of Pakur.

In 1932, Amarendra, who was in his last year of college, turned 18.  As he was under no illusions about his half-brother’s nature, he felt it prudent to get his hands on his share of the estate as soon as possible.  The first thing he did after reaching adulthood was to fire off a letter to his sibling demanding what was now legally his.

Unsurprisingly, Vinayendra was in no hurry to turn over the property, but he came to the disagreeable realization that he had no choice in the matter.  He eventually relinquished half of the estate, but not before an increasingly acrimonious exchange of letters that left the brothers permanently estranged.

Shortly after the unpleasant business was concluded, Amarendra paid a visit to Suryaveti.  To their surprise--and, no doubt, dismay--Vinayendra also appeared on the scene.  One evening, Vinayendra said to his brother, “Babu [the family nickname for Amarendra], come let’s go on a stroll.”  After all that had passed between them, Amarendra didn’t relish the thought, but felt it would be impolite to refuse.

During their walk, Vinayendra suddenly pulled a pair of pince-nez glasses from his pocket, saying they were a present for his brother.  He insisted that Amarendra put them on immediately.  In fact, he was so determined his brother wear the glasses at once that he jammed them on Amarendra’s face with such force that his nose was slightly cut.  Mission accomplished, Vinayendra immediately returned to his home in Calcutta.  Amarendra found the episode unsettling.  He had the feeling his wayward sibling was up to no good, but he couldn’t imagine what that could be.

Amarendra got his first clue three days later, when his face began to swell dramatically.  His doctor diagnosed tetanus, and immediately injected him with antidotes.  When Vinayendra heard of his brother’s illness, he sent a young doctor, Taranath Bhattacharya, to examine the patient.  However, Amarendra’s physicians--who were keeping him under a round-the-clock guard--would not let Bhattacharya anywhere near the sickbed.  They were obviously not fools.

Then, Vinayendra himself turned up, accompanied by another doctor, Durgaratan Dhar.  Dr. Dhar--an experienced physician of some repute--was able to persuade the doctors to inject Amarendra with something he claimed was a highly effective new medicine.  Then he and Vinayendra left, citing a medical emergency which required the good doctor’s immediate attention.

Whatever it was Dr. Dhar gave Amarendra, it caused a sudden deterioration in his condition.  He almost died, but eventually managed to pull through.  Unbelievably enough, after this near-disaster, Vinayendra had the effrontery to return with a third doctor, Shibapada Bhattacharya.  Unsurprisingly, Amarendra’s outraged family and friends would not let them anywhere near the patient.

Amarendra may have survived these mysterious assaults, but his health was completely broken.  For months, this young man who had been a health and fitness fanatic continued to suffer from debilitating weakness.  He had little appetite, endured dizzy spells, and spent much of his time in bed, unable to even read.  He eventually pulled himself together enough to return to his work in Pakur, but he remained a shadow of what he had once been.

On November 18, 1933, Amarendra received a telegram signed with the name of Suryavati Devi.  It read, “Property levy-related legal matters.  Rush to Calcutta.”  When he arrived, he found he was the victim of a hoax.  Suryavati was not even in Calcutta, and she had sent no such message.  When Amarendra told her what had happened, she was terrified for her beloved nephew.  They both could make an educated guess who had sent the bogus telegram.  Suryavati begged him not to let Vinayendra anywhere near him.  They knew some further blow was coming, but it was a mystery what form the blow would take.

During this whole period, Vinayendra--that busy, busy man--made several failed attempts at forging Amarendra’s signature in order to withdraw most of the money in their joint bank account.  Naturally, when Amarendra heard of this, it did nothing to restore family harmony.

On November 25, Amarendra planned to leave Calcutta and return to Pakur the next morning.  That evening, Vinayendra visited his lodgings, seeming to be the epitome of the loving, caring older brother.  He was overflowing with sympathy, compassion, and concern over his sibling’s health.  Amarendra was far from being stupid enough to fall for any of this, but when Vinayendra solicitously asked him the departure time of his train the next day, he saw no reason not to tell him.  Having gotten this information, Vinayendra was satisfied, and left.

On the morning of the 26th, a group of Amarendra’s family and friends accompanied him to the Howrah Railway Station.  They were appalled to see Vinayendra waiting for them.  “What is this scum doing here?” someone asked.  Amarendra shrugged it off.  After all, they were in a public place, surrounded by people.  What could he do?  Sadly, he soon found out.  A few moments later, a stranger wrapped in a dirty shawl dashed up, pricked Amarendra’s arm with some needle-like object, and disappeared into the crowd before anyone had time to react.  When Amarendra checked his wound, he saw a colorless liquid seeping out, but otherwise the injury seemed negligible.  His companions were frantic with fear, and begged him to see a doctor at once.

Vinayendra, on the other hand, saw no need to rush.  “You can visit a doctor on reaching Pakur, can’t you?” he asked his brother.  He added proudly, “We are scions of the Pakur zamindari [landowners.]  We aren’t worried about silly things like ordinary people.”

Amarendra was torn about what to do.  He realized the wisdom of seeing a doctor, but he had important business in Pakur, and a delay might jeopardize matters.  He finally decided to board the train and seek medical attention at the end of his journey.

During the train ride, his sister Bonobala was particularly distressed by what happened.  She remembered that she had seen the man in the dirty shawl before.  When she and Amarendra attended the cinema the week before, the stranger had been wandering aimlessly around the ticket counter.

Bonabala’s worst fears soon came true.  By the time the train arrived in Pakur, Amarendra was seriously ill.  The injured arm was swollen, his temperature had reached 105 degrees, and his blood pressure and heartbeat were shooting up and down.  He was rushed to Calcutta for the best medical treatment possible.  A blood culture was done, in the hopes of finding the cause for this dramatic illness.

Tragically, Amarendra was beyond help.  On December 3, he fell into a coma, and died the following day.  The day after his death, the results of the blood culture arrived.  His doctors were horrified to learn that Amarendra had died of bubonic plague.

Howrah Railway Station in 1945

Since it appeared that the unfortunate young man had died of dreadful, but perfectly natural, causes, the doctors felt that no autopsy was required, and the body was cremated.  Throughout the cremation services, Vinayendra--required by protocol to act as chief mourner--sobbed despondently and appeared the image of grief.

Amarendra’s distraught family and friends refused to let the matter rest.  They were certain he had been murdered, and they were equally sure who was responsible.  They had just one problem: how to prove it?  His grieving relatives went to the Calcutta Police and described the sinister chain of events which led up to Amarendra’s death.  They acknowledged that they did not have sufficient evidence to lodge a formal complaint, but they were certain that if only detectives would agree to do a little quiet snooping on Vinayendra, some interesting things would turn up.

Many doctors in Calcutta were also unconvinced Amarendra’s death was a natural one, particularly after they learned of the pricking episode at the train station.  They wrote a joint letter to the Director of Tropical Medicine, asking if it would be possible to inject someone with plague bacilli in amounts sufficient to cause illness and death.  The affirmative reply convinced them that the young man had indeed been murdered.  However, the doctors were puzzled to learn that the plague bacilli was unavailable in Calcutta.  The only place in India where it was stored was the Haffkine Institute for Training, Research and Testing in Bombay.

After the revelations in the Tropical Medicine report, an official complaint was lodged with the police against Vinayendra, the two Dr. Bhattacharyas, Dr. Dhar, and the unknown man who had stabbed Amarendra at the train station.  When Vinayendra heard of this, he tried to flee the country, but was nabbed at a train station.  The others were also soon arrested, except for the man in the dirty shawl, who could not be found.  Vinayendra eventually admitted that he had sent the man to the cinema in order to identify Amarendra, but he stubbornly refused to give the assassin’s name, or any other information about him.

When in police custody, Vinayendra was persuaded to tell all.  He admitted that he had begun planning his brother’s murder literally since the day he received Amarendra’s demand for his share of the estate.  After the tetanus serum on the pince-nez glasses failed to do the trick, Vinayendra realized he needed the aid of a more reliably fatal disease, at which point he enlisted the aid of Taranath Bhattacharya.

Taranath, it turned out, wasn’t really a doctor; merely a research assistant in a medical supply laboratory.  He was the one who thought of using bubonic plague as a foolproof murder weapon.  He sent a telegram to the Haffkine Institute posing as a scientist researching bacteria-borne diseases.  He asked them to send him a sample of plague bacilli for use in his work.  Wisely, the Institute replied that they would do no such thing without the permission of the surgeon-general of Calcutta.  Vinayendra paid Dr. Shibapada Bhattacharya and Dr. Dhar to write the Institute on his behalf.  The institution still turned them down.

As a murderer, Vinayendra gets points for stick-to-itiveness and an ability to think outside the box.  However, his style definitely lacked subtlety.  He had fallen in love with the exciting possibilities of bubonic plague, and was not going to give it up easily.  He traveled to Bombay and made the acquaintance of two doctors from the Haffkine Institute.  For days, he wined and dined them, set them up in an expensive hotel, and generally encouraged them to live it up. As an expression of their gratitude, the doctors agreed to smuggle a vial of live plague culture out of the Institute.

The prosecution now knew not only what had killed Amarendra, but how he had been killed.  Although Vinayendra spent a small fortune on his defense, the outcome was never really in doubt.  The lower court sentenced Vinayendra and Taranath Bhattacharya to death by hanging.  Dr. Dhar and Dr. Bhattacharya were both acquitted.  However, the higher court lessened Vinayendra’s punishment to life in prison.  After India gained its independence eleven years later, political prisoners were granted amnesty.  Although Vinayendra hardly fell into that category, he somehow managed to obtain his release, as well.  He returned to Pakur, where his increasing mental instability led to many disputes with his relatives.  One day, he marched into the family mansion with a gun, threatening to kill everyone present.  The subsequent standoff with the police ended when he was shot dead.

The man who actually gave the fatal plague injection was never traced.  It was theorized that he had managed to elude the police dragnet long enough to leave the country, but those who knew Vinayendra best believed that he had had the assassin killed, to ensure he would never talk.

Vinayendra Pandey was just that kind of guy.

[Note: many thanks to @Unudurti on Twitter for bringing this bizarre case to my attention.]

Friday, June 25, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

It's the first Link Dump of summer 2021 and the staffers of Strange Company HQ are ready for vacation!


What the hell was Greek fire?

Recreating prehistoric lamps and torches.

The sounds of Stonehenge.

Two famed New York theater cats.

A previously unknown ancient human species has been discovered.

When prisoners get inventive.

What it's like to have a hungry elephant in your kitchen.

Someone put two 17th century paintings in a dumpster.  People would sorta like to know why.

You shouldn't be surprised to learn that strange things happen when you're a snake dancer.

The hazards of marrying Miss Spottswood.

The many, many ghosts of Coggeshall, England.

The table of precedence for British officers in 19th century India.

It's believed that hummingbirds see colors that we do not.

The difficulties of working-class Venetians.

A 3,000 year old shark attack victim.

Before blogs, there were pamphlets.

The colorful life of "Indian Peter."

Red Wedding, meet Black Dinner.

A brief history of the end of the world.

Predictions about the United States from 200 years ago.

A look at the oldest house in London's East End.

An early 20th century family tragedy.

Human chromosomes are weird.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a wild murder case from India.  In the meantime, here's Alla Francesca.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This creepy little tale appeared in the “Morristown Republican,” February 3, 1900:

The citizens of the northwestern part of Bracken county, Kentucky, in the vicinity of the village of Minerva, will, on the slightest provocation, revive one of the most remarkable ghost stories ever heard. The astounding incident occurred more than 25 years ago, but the old settlers relate the affair as though it had taken place only yesterday. A singular part of the story is that the ghost was a daylight prowler. He did not wait until the twilight of after dark to perform the ghastly trick which he did in this case. A respectable woman residing on a farm was engaged in making washing soap in the yard. A bright 3 year old boy was sitting in the grass nearby. Suddenly in front of the very eyes of the mother he arose and, with arms outstretched, fairly floated away over the top of the fence to a graveyard about a mile away. The frantic mother followed, calling in vain to the little fellow to stop. With outstretched arms be moved along without paying the slightest attention to her cries. 

While the terrified woman could see no one leading or carrying the boy she felt that something, a ghost or unseen power, was impelling him forward. When the graveyard was reached the lad skimmed over the fence in the same miraculous manner as at his home. When he reached the gravestone under which the remains of his ancestors were buried he sat down in an apparently hypnotic state. his mother rushed up to him. The boy did not recognize her and jabbered away in an unintelligible way. She took him home and he was then and has ever since been a hopeless idiot. Occasionally he has partly lucid periods in which he talks about the other world and seems to be looking into a country that exists in space. No one has ever been able to furnish an explanation of the strange occurrence. One theory advanced by the superstitious is that the little fellow, who is now a grown man, with a mind that is blank, was afflicted as a punishment on the parents. The father and mother had buried the children, who were not baptised, in a corner of their yard, but the older members of the family and those who had received the rites of the church were taken to the family cemetery on the hill about a mile away. No matter what may have produced the insanity in the child there are many people who believe implicitly the story of the mother of the boy, who followed him to the graveyard on that fatal day.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Body in the Pond, and the Holes in the Ground: The Strange Death of Henry Kuipers

"Louisville Courier-Journal," May 8, 1881, via Newspapers.com

When I started this blog, I hoped to focus on the smaller, obscure stories from the past--the long-forgotten bits of random oddities that, when taken together, show just what a strange world we live in.  In short, the "uncommon" is really quite commonplace.

One such story is the death of one otherwise completely unmemorable young man.  It did not get much publicity even at the time, and soon passed from the memory of everyone but his surviving relatives.  It was, however, 100% weird.

And, really, it was the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.

In Louisville, Kentucky, you would be hard pressed to find a more ordinary citizen than 23-year-old Henry Kuipers.  He drove a wagon for his father's brewery, and everyone who knew him considered Henry to be a pleasant, reliable, decent fellow.  He had been married less than a year.  

On the evening of May 6, 1881, Kuipers left his home to attend a committee meeting of the St. George branch of the Roman Knights (a fraternal organization similar to the Odd Fellows and the like.)  Kuipers was vice-president of the club.  However, at 9:30 p.m., he visited a grocery store near the club headquarters, explaining that he had been too late to attend the meeting.  He hung around the store until about ten, and then left to return home.

This was the last we know of Henry Kuipers until about 9 the next morning, when two Louisville residents happened to be walking along Twenty-Eighth street, which was then a completely rural part of town.  As they passed by a shallow pond, they thought they saw something unusual in the water, and waded out to investigate.

Unusual, indeed.  What they found was a body, lying face-down in the water, and quite dead.  Oddly, the corpse's hands were firmly in his pockets.  Kuipers' family--who had been frantically searching for him after he failed to return home the night before--soon identified the corpse as their missing relative.  Although no autopsy was performed--much to the later regret of his family--the coroner ruled that Kuipers had drowned, probably only a few hours before he was found.  

This was not the only odd occurrence to hit Louisville that morning.  Around the time Kuipers was discovered, gardeners at the Blind Asylum discovered that sometime during the night, a large hole had been dug on the grounds.  It was five feet deep, and about six feet long--in other words, a perfect size for a grave.

Although there was absolutely no evidence to show how Kuipers had come to his sudden and peculiar end, the coroner issued a ruling of "accidental death," the unfortunate young man was buried on the afternoon of May 8, and that, as far as the authorities were concerned, was that.

The dead man's friends and family felt otherwise.  How could a healthy, stone-cold-sober young man accidentally drown in less than two feet of water?  Suicide seemed highly unlikely for this seemingly happy, well-balanced man.  Besides, who drowns themselves with their hands in their pockets?  And what was Kuipers doing in the opposite end of the city from both the store where he was last seen and his home?  Kuipers' loved ones felt he must have been a victim of foul play.  They insisted that someone had--for whatever inexplicable reason--murdered the young man and then dumped him in the pond, on the assumption that his death would be ruled an accident.  But who on earth would do such an act?  And why?  No one who advocated the "murder" scenario was able to answer those questions.  

And what of that mysterious body-sized hole at the Blind Asylum?  Could its simultaneous appearance have been just a coincidence?  Or, did Kuipers' killer(s) dig a grave for their victim, only to change their minds and simply dump him in a pond instead?

Unfortunately, the accounts about the condition of Kuipers' body did exactly nothing to clarify the mystery.  Some newspaper reports claimed that his body had shown no signs of violence.  Others stated that his face was badly scratched, and that there was a large bruise on his head suggestive of a savage blow.  Still others declare that his nose had been broken.  In an effort to settle all these contradictions, Kuipers was exhumed on May 10.  However, the body had decomposed so badly that a definitive autopsy was impossible.  Doctors were not even able to say if Kuipers had truly died from drowning or not.

The riddle of Kuipers' death appeared to be sputtering to an inconclusive end.  Then, on May 20, Louisville police received that indispensable feature of every good death mystery, an anonymous letter.    It read:  "That man Kuipers, who was killed on the 6th of May, I saw with my eyes alone.  I think it was wrong of me to keep it dark.  He was knocked down on Green, above Campbell, about twenty minutes after 10 o'clock.  He was taken in a shay by three men, and all I can say is one man's name is Gry.  They hit him with a big piece of wood.  I saw lots more."  This enticing communication was signed, "Mary."  No one by the name of "Gry" lived in Louisville, and the identity of "Mary" remained unknown.  It is anyone's guess if the letter was at all truthful, or merely the product of a substandard intellect with too much time on their hands.

Here our little tale must end, but with one wonderfully bizarre postscript.  Although the large hole at the Blind Asylum was immediately filled in, three months after Kuipers died, it was found that someone had dug a new pit.  This re-excavation happened on several further occasions.  The exasperated asylum owners set spies to watch the area at night.  Finally, late in October, three men were caught digging yet another hole.  Two of the men escaped, but the ringleader, an elderly man named William Gray, was captured.  He explained that he had had a recurring dream that he would find gold at the site.  Although he accepted responsibility for the recent diggings, he insisted that he had nothing to do with the original hole that appeared the night Kuipers died.

There the matter rested until one year later...when a new hole was found at the same site.  

This secondary mystery proved as impossible to solve as the death of Henry Kuipers.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


“The Witches’ Cove,” Follower of Jan Mandijn

It's time for this week's Link Dump!

We have all the news!

The hazards of medieval high fashion.

A cold case from 1956 has just been solved.

The inexplicable disappearance of a woman and her dog.

The Brandon family and Richard III.

18th century women's football.

A look at the "Croglin Vampire."

A bionic vulture.

The siege of Constantinople in 860 AD.

The discovery of a "miniature Pompeii."

When it was considered normal to reopen graves.

From bigamy to umbrella fighting.

I've said this here before: ravens are damned smart.

The vegetable that conquered the world.

Notes from a cholera outbreak in Glasgow.

An alchemist prince and his anatomical machines.

Remembering a departed cat.

The first female mountaineers.

Does your salad feel pain?

Medieval killer rabbits!

A father's love goes a bit too far.

An interview with a Tower of London ghost.

New discoveries in the tombs of Saqqara.

18th century songs.

The gypsy hostess of Greenwich Village.

Humans may have arrived in the Americas much earlier than we thought.

The first known appearance of bubonic plague.

Maoris may have visited Antarctica in the 7th century.

Scared to death--literally--by ghosts.

Reflections on the Indian Political Service.

An accidental cat pub.

In case you weren't aware of it, Dashiell Hammett was a real swine.

The study of archaeoacoustics.

Don the Talking Dog.

The Great Serpent Mound.

Interpreting graveyard symbols.

Bigfoot and Ivan Sanderson.

A watchtower to defend against bodysnatchers.

The General Slocum Disaster of 1904.

The Belvoir Castle Fire of 1816.

An ancient letter seal and long-distance trade.

The Iron Age was a great time to be a chicken.

Catherine de Medici was a wicked chess player, which doesn't surprise me.

The largest known geoglyph has just been discovered.

The Aceh Wars.

The scientific Edgar Allan Poe.

A "weight of grief" leads to murder.

A Viking family reunion.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a young man's weird death.  In the meantime, we aint' going nowhere.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

On February 23, 1910, the Honesdale, Pennsylvania “Citizen” carried an account of some strange doings around Prince Edward Island:

The French farmers of New Zealand, a small settlement at the extreme eastern end of Prince Edward Island, have been thrown into a state of intense nervous excitement by a series of supernatural phenomena surrounding a young woman named Chinene. The ignorant farmers believe she is possessed of a devil, and the Rev. Father Walker of Rollo Bay, the parish priest, has been importuned to perform the ceremony of exorcism once resorted to for the purpose of curing those possessed of devils. 

The girl is about 20 years old. Since the death of her parents she has been keeping house for her brothers, small farmers of New Zealand. Several months ago the eldest brother informed his sister that he intended to marry a young woman in the neighborhood. Miss Chinene immediately burst into a fit of rage and declared that "she would as soon have a devil in the family as that girl." 

That night the household was aroused by loud noises, which seemed to come from all parts of the house. Then the voice of the girt, shrieking in agony, was heard from her room. The brother, fearing his sister was being murdered, rushed to the girl's room, followed by other members of the family. When they opened the door, they declare, they saw the young woman floating in the air several feet above her bed. She was talking incoherently and in language much different from that used by her in ordinary conversation. The girl finally sank back on her bed and fell into a natural sleep. When she awoke the next morning she said she knew nothing of the occurrences. Night after night the same performance was repeated. 

News of the happenings soon leaked out among the farmers and those simple people came to believe that the girl by her sacrilegious remark concerning her prospective sister-in-law had given herself over to the evil one. The girl developed clairvoyant powers while in what seemed like a hypnotic trance and told her visitors how much money they had with them. She was also able to repeat the addresses and contents of letters in their pockets, or at least she persuaded them that she could. 

The local doctors were called in to treat the girl, but they could do nothing. Next the parish priest's assistance was sought, but earnest prayers seemed to be unavailing. The excitement in the neighborhood became so intense that Father Walker issued a notice to parishioners forbidding any further visits to the home of the young woman. 

Several physicians were finally summoned from this city for consultation. Among them was Dr. Peter Conroy, chief of staff at the Charlottetown Hospital. Dr. Conroy declares that there is nothing in the case which cannot be explained by science. His theory is that the young woman is an auto-hypnotist with "obsessive influences." He also advances the theory that by involuntary hypnotism she creates delusions in the minds of those around her. 

All efforts to relieve Miss Chinene having been unavailing, her health has given way under the strain and she was brought to the Falconer Hospital for the Insane In this city. Medical attention will there be given to her with a view to ridding her of the strange conditions which have been afflicting her.

I couldn’t find anything more about the story--not even the young woman’s full name--so it’s a mystery what finally became of the unfortunate Miss Chinene.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Coffin of Henry Trigg; Or, Why It's Not a Good Idea to Turn Your Corpse Into a Tourist Attraction

A lot of people take the manner in which they will eventually be buried very seriously.  Some of them plan their funerals more elaborately than they did their weddings.  However, not even the Egyptian pharaohs were as fussy--or as weird--about the disposal of their earthly remains as an otherwise unremarkable man named Henry Trigg. 

Trigg lived in Stevenage, England in the early half of the 18th century, and did very well for himself.  He owned successful grocery and butchers’ shops, and held the honor of serving as warden of St. Nicholas’ church and general overseer of the parish.  He also owned considerable farmland.  Trigg never married or had children, so it would not be surprising if in his later years, he felt some regret that his prominent place in his community would die with him.  This desire to avoid being forgotten may well explain why he devised a way to insure a conspicuous posthumous place in Stevenage history,

After Trigg died in 1724, it is not too much to say the contents of his will created a sensation throughout England.  He opened with this novel declaration:

“I, Henry Trigg of Stevenage, in the county of Hertford, being very infirm and weak in body, but of perfect sound mind and memory, praised be God for it, calling unto mind the mortality of my body, do now make and ordain this my last will and testament, in writing hereafter following; that is to say, principally I recommend my soul unto the merciful hands of Almighty God that first gave me it, assuredly believing and only expecting free pardon and forgiveness of all my sins, and eternal life in and through the only merits, death and passion of Jesus Christ my saviour.”

Then came the fun part.

“And as to my body, I commit it to the west end of my hovel, to be decently laid there, upon a floor erected by my executor, upon the purlins; upon the same purpose nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God; and as for and concerning such worldly substance as it hath pleased God to bless me with this life, I do devise and dispose of the same manner and form following.”  He added that his body must remain “upon the purlins” for a minimum of thirty years.

The executor of Henry’s will was his brother, the Reverend Thomas Trigg.  Thomas was reportedly less than delighted by his sibling’s eccentric taste in burials, but as refusing to comply meant forfeiting his share of Henry’s substantial inheritance, the instructions given in the will were followed to the letter.  Henry’s lead-lined coffin was lifted into the rafters of the barn behind his grocery shop, and the residents of Stevenage were left to gawk at the morbid sight to their heart’s content.

The coffin in 2016, via Wikipedia

Although Trigg’s will did not give a reason for his choosing such an unusual resting place, local gossip claimed it arose from fear of his mortal remains falling into the hands of bodysnatchers.  According to legend, one night Trigg and two companions were passing by a local churchyard when they witnessed a gang of grave-robbers busy at their grim work.  The sight so horrified Henry that he vowed to insure that his precious corpse would not meet a similar fate.

In 1774, Trigg’s former shop was turned into the Old Castle Inn, which remained in business until the 1920s.  His coffin had several close calls over these centuries.  In 1769, Trigg’s niece Ann left 40 shillings in her will for her uncle’s remains to be buried in a more conventional way.  However, by then his coffin had become such a popular local attraction that this bequest was ignored.  In 1807, a massive fire broke out in Stevenage that, by some miracle, avoided torching Trigg’s barn.  The old boy was obviously not a fan of cremation.

The Trigg barn, via Wikipedia

However, Henry faced other, even more undignified depredations.  When his badly eroded coffin was replaced in the early 1800s, the carpenter, as a souvenir of his interesting task, took one of Henry’s teeth and a lock of hair.  In 1831, the then landlord of the Old Castle Inn treated himself to a peep inside the coffin, and, it seems, bits of Henry as well.  When the East Herts Archaeological Society examined the remains in 1906, they found that no less than a third of the skeleton was missing.  Henry Trigg was probably resting in pieces all over England--an ironic fate for a man who reportedly so dreaded having his remains defiled.  Eventually, these sneak thefts left so little of the corpse that animal bones were put in the coffin as a substitute.

In 1999, Henry’s former shop became a branch of the National Westminster Bank.  At that time, his barn was renovated, with his coffin being temporarily relocated to an undertaker.  After the work was finished, Henry’s coffin was placed back in the rafters.  (Note: it’s questionable how much of Henry went with it.  Some reports say that when the coffin was removed from the barn, it was found to be empty.  Others state that the undertaker firm that briefly held the coffin buried whatever multi-species jumble of bones it then contained.  In any case, it’s clear poor Trigg came to a very undignified end.)

Strange burials and ghost stories go together like macaroni and cheese, so it’s little wonder that Henry’s spirit is reportedly far from quiet.  In 1964, the Arrow Smith Engineering Works occupied a building adjacent to Henry’s barn.  One day, a builder employed to do renovation work in the Arrow Smith building claimed to have seen the ghost of a man wearing old-fashioned, shabby clothes drift through the room and disappear through a brick wall.  In 1970, workmen converting the Old Castle repeatedly saw the apparition of a man dressed in a long striped apron.  A similar specter was later seen by employees of Arrow Smith.  To this day, it’s said that Henry Trigg haunts his former property, searching for his long-lost remains.

I can’t say I blame him.  As it turned out, he probably would have gotten more respectful treatment from the bodysnatchers.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Now that this week's Link Dump is completed, the staffers at Strange Company HQ plan to take things easy over the weekend.

Watch out for those haunted wailing waterholes!

The ancient grave of a shackled skeleton.

Humans were probably in the Americas a lot earlier than we thought.

The woman who went from socialite to nun.

A newly-discovered letter dealing with Amelia Earhart's last flight.

Some Spring-heeled Jack hoaxers.

A Strange Company sort of love story.

How William Thompson's scalp became a museum exhibit.

Yet another case of a woman killed by a rejected suitor.  (True crime is full of these cases. They're second only to a woman disappearing, and the husband/boyfriend telling police, "We had a fight, and she just walked out.  Golly, I have no idea where she is. Sure, she didn't take any money, clothes, ID, or credit cards, but she's out there alive and well someplace.  Honest.  Cross my heart.")

Currency exchange rates in the 19th century.

The case of the mirrored mansion.

The history of a royal tiara.

A cat who was the feline equivalent of Michael Malloy.

"An American Tragedy" in real-life Pomona, California.

An amazing closeup photo of Jupiter's largest moon.

The argument that they're not aliens.  Spoilsports.

We're at risk of losing knowledge about medicinal plants.

A newly discovered crater in Greenland.

The beginnings of the camping holiday.

Better widowed than wed.

According to the National Geographic Society, we have a fifth ocean that nobody's noticed before.

A look at sunken cities.

An abusive husband comes to a bad end.

This week in Russian Weird: creatures frozen in Siberia for 24,000 years come back to life.  Then they read a few 2021 news headlines and begged to be put in the freezer.

The sounds of 17th century plague.

Sobriety and decorum on East India Company ships.

If you're a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken, thank Queen Victoria and an evil sea captain.

The long history of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom.

The disappearance and reappearance of Captain Rehrer.

The man who forged paintings just too well.

A family's unsolved murder.

How to party like it's the Stone Age.

Some ill-considered tattoos.

A mysterious moorland murder.

The first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail.

A look at Prince Eugen of Savoy.

The value of echolocation.

Some incidents from 18th century Hyde Park.

Some interesting items from the British Museum.

Tips on table manners from 1939.

One of the most famed examples of someone surviving being hanged.

A major library fire in ancient Rome.

The girl who claimed to live twice.

The notorious "poisoner of Paris."

An extremely prolific poisoner.

A handy guide to the amount of money Burke and Hare made from serial murder.

All you need to do is hear the magic words, "Metal in her mammaries," and you know that Thomas Morris is blogging again.

The strange saga of Walter Stephen Thompson.

First-personal accounts of merchant seamen interned during WWII.

A Duchess accused of witchcraft.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a burial gone weird.  In the meantime, here's a bit of brass.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Since few things personify the Strange Company spirit better than “hoodoo cats,” here is a fine example of the breed from the “Cincinnati Enquirer,” March 3, 1892:

English, Ind., March 2. English and vicinity are stirred up by an incident for which, had it occurred in the days of the forefathers, some one would have been ducked in the horse-pond and burned at the stake. For many years Zip Bennett was a prominent and successful farmer of Sterling Township, and he and his family dwelt in peace and plenty within what might be well termed a palatial frame residence in a country like this. All this it at an end. The Bennett family have swapped the home of their youth, where fruit abounded the year around, and where the smokehouse, cellar and granary were never empty, for a little residence in English, valued at no more than $230.

Mr. Bennett and his family claim that their late residence has been haunted by witches in the form of a black cat with a white ring around its neck, which they honestly believe to be one of numerous neighbors versed in the black art. "And," said the old man to your correspondent today, "they are all poor, worthless wretches, and they will never be any better for it; for the devil has that creek, and he will have all of them what's a working by his methods to beat honest people out of their homes. Yea, I swapped my old home to Sam Benz for the little house in the suburbs, but I have had one good night's rest and one day free from the devil’s plague. And this is more than I have had o. the farm these many months.”

The black cat with the white ring around its neck has been guilty of all sorts of pranks, such as sitting before the bread-tray and preventing the "light bread" (wheaten bread) from rising; watching the yeast with the same sinister purpose, and sitting with its eyes fixed upon the oven to prevent the bread from baking properly. On such occasions the bread was sure to be flat, soggy, and sour, unfit for eating. There was no use to kill the d----d thing. Nothing could hit it, and it always vanished like a flash when an attempt was made. Though each room was mouse-proof, the cursed witch went out at the hole left by the carpenter despite bolts and locks. The imp of darkness has been known to evade a bullet and jump at least 100 yards in two leaps.

Other ordeals which these good people had to undergo was to see this veritable witch leap upon the table and select the choice bits, sit on the pillow and make night hideous with its cries, jump upon horses in the stable or set them wild by scratching them, kill young chickens, suck eggs and a thousand other things.

The farm upon which these scenes occurred is not three miles from the town of English, on the Louisville, Evansville, and St. Louis Railway. It contains 128 acres of fine land one third of which is bottom land, a fine orchard, and a lot of meadow land: in short. yesterday morning it contained everything that ought to satisfy a Crawford county farmer in the way of comfortable residence, stable and out-houses. 

Mr. Benz, who is a prominent merchant and sensible man, saw a bargain in this and felt that he could rent it to advantage, as well as to have pasture for his horses and cows.  In one point he was wrong--everyone whom he approached yesterday shook their heads dubiously and showed plainly that they believed as faithfully in the matter as Mr. Bennett and his family did.  No one wanted it. No one would have it as a gift.  Mr. Benz threatened to send to Germany for a kinsman to cultivate it and prove the foolishness of their ideas, but this morning some of Bennett’s old neighbors who wished to end the witch's work at that place set fire to every building on the place. Benz is at a loss what to do. He dreads the effect of the ignorance of a few adjacent farmers may have upon his place, but has given out that he "don't care, he didn't want the houses any way and intends to make a sheep farm of it."

Mr. Bennett’s family claim to have been sick all the time of late months, and that no medicine was beneficial while they remained on the farm. This was especially the case with Mrs. Bennett, who, though but a few days in town, is now moving about her house work with alacrity. The occurrence proves that there are many believers of witchcraft in the community, who are shaking their beads knowingly, but will not name the ones whom they "know" to be disciples of the black art.

Monday, June 7, 2021

In Which Mrs. Claughton Rescues a Ghost

There are many accounts of ghosts allegedly contacting the living in order to have them carry out certain tasks of great importance to the deceased, but most of these tales live in that shadowy world between history and folklore.  The following account, on the other hand, is unusually well-documented, even though it follows the irritating Victorian practice of cloaking names and places with pseudonyms.  As strange as the story might be, there seems little doubt that it happened.  The story first made print as a series of documents and affidavits published in the “Proceedings of the Society For Psychical Research” in December 1895.  It is a very long and convoluted affair, which I will summarize as best I can.

In an unnamed English village stood a house owned by a family called “Appleby” in the narrative.  They lived elsewhere and rented the home out.  Around 1887, the home was leased to a Mr. Buckley.  He was a bachelor who lived with his mother and sisters.  The Buckley womenfolk went to the house first, to put the place in order.  They soon began complaining that the place was haunted--they kept hearing uncanny noises, such as the sounds of heavy weights being dragged on the floor, or footsteps pacing around supposedly empty rooms.  When Mr. Buckley moved in, he heard nothing unusual, but did have one curious experience.  One evening as he walked upstairs, he found his hand full of water.  There was no stain on the ceiling, or anything else to account for it.  On another occasion, one of his sisters was in the attic alone, when she suddenly felt water swishing over her face, as if someone was swiping her with a wet brush.

These oddities eventually wound down, and life in the Buckley household carried on quietly for two years.  Then, in October 1893, a widow named Mrs. Claughton and two of her children came to visit the Buckleys.  For whatever reason, their arrival was the cue for all spectral hell to break loose.

Late one night, Mrs. Claughton was awakened by footsteps on the stairs.  One of the Miss Buckleys was ill, and the widow assumed a servant was coming to bring her to the sickbed.  The steps stopped outside her door.  Then the noise was repeated.  Mrs. Claughton opened the door, to find that no one was there.  The puzzled woman went back to bed and resumed her sleep.  A short time later, she was roused by the sound of someone sighing.  When she opened her eyes, she saw a woman standing by the bed.  The intruder’s head was swathed in a white shawl, and her expression was “gentle and refined,” although her features were markedly emaciated.

“Follow me,” said the wraith.  Mrs. Claughton took her candle and followed the apparition into the adjacent drawing-room.  Her visitor walked towards the window, turned around and said “Tomorrow!”  It then vanished.

When Mrs. Claughton returned to her bedroom, one of her children asked, “Who is the lady in white?”

“Only me,” the widow replied.  “Go to sleep.”

The next morning, Mrs. Claughton went to a friend, a Dr. Ferrier.  She told him of her strange experience the night before, and asked for advice on what to do next.  The best he could suggest was that an electric bell communicating with Miss Buckley’s room should be set up in her bedroom.

That night, at around one a.m., the alarm let out a loud peal.  When the Buckleys rushed to Mrs. Claughton’s room, they found her in a faint.  When morning came, the widow returned to Dr. Ferrier to ask him about the whereabouts of a certain place, which the narrative chose to call “Meresby.”  After consulting a postal directory, they learned it was a small agricultural community about five hours from London.  The widow explained that “certain ghosts” had ordered her to go there to carry out specific tasks for them.

For a few days, Dr. Ferrier heard nothing more about the matter.  Then, he got a letter from Mrs. Claughton’s governess.  She wrote that when the widow arrived at her London house, she was plagued by a night filled with sounds of weeping, “loud moans,” and “a very odd noise overhead, like some electric battery gone wrong.”  Also heard were heavy footsteps and thuds.  Shortly after this, Mrs. Claughton herself wrote Ferrier, informing him that she had gone to Meresby and carried out her ghostly instructions.  Her job had been to examine the Meresby parish registers and compare certain entries with information given by her spirit employers.  After this was done, she was to spend the time between one a.m. and one-thirty a.m. in the Meresby Church, alone, when she would receive further information from the ghosts.

Mrs. Claughton afterwards described her otherworldly adventure in more detail.  On the night the alarm went off in her room, she had awakened to find the lady in white bending over her.  

“Am I dreaming, or is it true?” the widow asked.  The specter gave her a certain piece of information confirming that it was the latter.  Then a male ghost “tall, dark, healthy, sixty years old” appeared.  He said that he was George Howard, and that his body was buried in Meresby churchyard.  He gave the dates of his marriage and death.  He told her to verify these dates by the parish registers, and then wait at 1:15 in the morning by the grave of one Richard Harte.  Howard added that Joseph Wright, the Meresby parish clerk, would be able to assist her.  She was also to find a Mr. Francis, who was somehow connected to the personal affairs of the ghosts.  Then she saw the ghost of a man whose name she was not free to give.  He appeared to be greatly distressed, covering his face with his hands as though suffering some private agony.  These phantoms said they would meet Mrs. Claughton in Meresby Church in order to give her some important details concerning the third, unhappy wraith.  They then evaporated.  Mrs. Claughton felt faint--something quite forgivable under the circumstances.  She rang the alarm, and collapsed.

When Mrs. Claughton spent the night in Meresby Church, the ghosts gave her information necessary for her to settle whatever the matters were which troubled George Howard’s spirit.  She visited Howard’s daughter, where she “recognized the strong likeness to her father, and carried out all things desired by the dead to the full...The wishes expressed to her were perfectly rational, reasonable and of natural importance.”  Happily, she was able to report that her actions “effected the intended results.”

Most unfortunately, Mrs. Claughton--apparently out of a sense of discretion--never revealed what “the wishes expressed to her” were.  The business which was obviously so important to the undead remains a mystery.  One of the people involved in the whole saga said that judging by his “very partial knowledge” of what the Meresby ghosts wanted done, he considered Mrs. Claughton’s reticence about the matter to be entirely justified.

I suppose all one can say is that it’s a great pity that most ghosts don’t have a Mrs. Claughton around to settle their unfinished business.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The staff at Strange Company HQ celebrate the launch of a new Link Dump!

What the hell happened to the SS Poet?

What the hell caused the Great Sheep Panic?

Getting creative when it comes to addressing a letter.

An odd ancient child burial.

That time when sharks nearly became extinct.

The birth of counting.

The man who survived a catastrophic brain injury.  (And, yes, this is a Thomas Morris post, so be warned that you'll hear every last detail.)

The enduring influence of Poe.

A ship's captain turns mass murderer.

An escape network turns to mass murder.

Personally, I already do.

Murder and an "unnatural love."

The end of the Paris Commune.

If you're renting a haunted house, it usually does little good to take the matter to court.

Enliven your weekend by contemplating all the ways the Sun can kill us.

A creepy case of murder and black magic.

The "belly of Paris."

This week in Russian Weird looks at a strange death in Siberia.

From flattering prospects to perfect destitution.

The link between water and UFOs.

The UFO capitol of Australia.

Literary trolling.

The Lidice Massacre.

The real-life "Lord of the Flies."

How to turn apples into marshmallows.

Some personal accounts of time-slips.

It's safe to say that this is a murder that will never be solved.

The Ice Saints.

Robert Boyd, who died like a gentleman and soldier.

Some notable graves at Bury St. Edmund's.

The man who could grow at will.

A very unusual way to find a wife.

Irene Castle, America's best-dressed woman.

The Nine Men of Madeley.

Birds as natural magicians.

Archival files related to the beginning of Pakistan.

The ghosts of Warwick Castle.

What may be the world's earliest known war memorial.

How a Chinese teenager's death birthed conspiracy theories.

The unsolved murder of a private detective.

A determined young ruffian.

Tales from Britain's worst prison.

A one-armed lion whisperer.

A Ukrainian Stonehenge.

Ancient Roman beauty tips.

The murder that created Scotland Yard.

UFOs and a musician's strange disappearance.

Caps.  Lots and lots of different caps.

Anatomists and the body-snatchers.

Cryptozoology's saga of the "lost" Thunderbird photo.

The dark side of Victorian baby farming.

Andrew Jackson and "Rawhead and Bloody Bones."

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a ghost story with a happy ending.  In the meantime, here's a bit of Bach.