"...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, October 29, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The staff here at Strange Company HQ is ready for Halloween!

The light that remembers Lord Nelson.

The beatification of a murder victim.

That time they held a seance in a Toys "R" Us.

The attempts to assassinate the Duke of Wellington.

A doomed expedition to find a mythical land.

A 17th century ghost story.

A brief history of the Ark of the Covenant.

Pro tip: Faking your own death for insurance purposes rarely works out well.  Even if cobras are involved.

The era of penny dreadfuls.

A gruesome murder leads to a haunted hotel room.

Animals may have inhabited this planet far longer than we think.

So, what's the best gun for hunting werewolves?

Speaking of werewolves, Vikings were really into them.

The varying accounts about how General Charles Gordon died.

Edgar Allan Poe in New York.

Insights into the "cult of the cross."

Never offend an undertaker.  They have their own ways of getting even.

Beautiful retouched photos of the Shackleton Expedition.

A peacetime naval disaster.

Luxury goods have been found in early medieval graves.

So now you can lecture people about the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard.

Descartes and his blasted skull.

A famous early 19th century ménage à trois.

If you want to learn how to dissect a poisonous fish so it (probably) won't kill you when you eat it, be my guest.  I'll be over by the stove fixing myself a grilled cheese.

A brief history of tailgating.

Some of England's most haunted places.

The plane designed never to land.

Some fishermen may have discovered the Island of Gold.

Ohio's first serial killer.

The scandalous murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.

A look at a medieval charnel house.

When human skulls were medicinal.

The mystery of the "veiled murderess."

Why lords could be, well, "drunk as a lord."

A murderer's incredibly obtuse last words.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a ghost's efforts to seek justice.  In the meantime, let's get Macedonian.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This Halloween ghost story with a twist appeared in the “Caledonian Mercury,” November 8, 1828.  (Via Newspapers.com)

A spiritual visitant, as was supposed, for some days lately afforded subject of wonderment to the natives of the port of Leith. In a house in the Kirkgate, there was heard the  most appalling and unearthly noises, succeeded by the tumbling-about of articles of furniture, after which a momentary, calm would ensue; but ere the inmates could set all to rights, the uproar would recommence with, increased vigour, yell following yell, and crash succeeding crash, till confusion was worse confounded in the devoted domicile. Friday se'en-night, being the high festival of spirits, witches, &c. (Halloween) the Leith ghost is said to have exceeded all former exploits. These cantrips, it is hardly necessary to add, occurred during the night; and when a neighbour, more venturous than wise, volunteered his service to assist in laying the goblin, he received a sound buffeting from an invisible but powerful arm. We have heard that ghostly advice was called in by the alarmed inmates, but without effect: for while two clergymen were engaged in devotions, they were assailed by a shower of missiles, one of which, a table knife, stuck into the floor close by them, but this of course, needs confirmation.  Certain it is, however, that crowds collected around the house where these doings were going on night after night  and the attention of the Police was at length directed to the subject. These guardians of the night were not to be frightened by deeds of darkness like ordinary daylight mortals; their presence soon laid the spirit, while their sagacity shortly discovered the mischievous goblin in the person of a female member of the house, who, in conjunction with a professor of the conjuring art, had been endeavouring to practice on the fears of her father, for a sinister purpose in which she and her assistant were mutually interested. She has, we are told, been sent to jail for 30 days.

Assuming this solution to the mystery is true, and this woman wasn’t being used as a scapegoat for a genuine poltergeist infestation, I'd like to know what that “sinister purpose” was.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Death in the Driveway: A Halloween Murder Mystery

"Staunton News-Leader," November 1, 1967, via Newspapers.com

The cold-blooded shooting of Dr. William Eugene Lynn is probably still the strangest unsolved murder in Rappahannock County, Virginia’s history.  What makes this seemingly completely senseless crime even more eerie is the fact that it happened on Halloween night, that traditional time for ghosts, demons, and other sinister creatures to freely walk the earth.  One has to wonder if the assassin chose the date deliberately.

54-year-old William Lynn appeared to lead an unblemished life.  He was happily married, had three well-adjusted children, and was a fine doctor.  Dr. Lynn was, in short, both well-liked and respected--a “real old-fashioned family physician,” according to a colleague. However, there was at least one person, who, for reasons still unknown to us, thought differently about the doctor.

On October 31, 1967, after an uneventful day at his Front Royal practice, Lynn and his wife Clydetta--a trained nurse who worked with him--drove home.  They arrived at about 6:30 p.m., amid near total darkness.  When Lynn rounded the curve of his driveway, he saw that his way was blocked by several large bushel baskets--some harmless holiday “trick,” they presumed.  Dr. Lynn paused the car to allow Clydetta to get out of the car and clear the path.

Clydetta had almost reached the baskets when a man suddenly appeared from behind a bush and fired a gun into the driver’s side window of Lynn’s car.  Mrs. Lynn immediately felt a sharp pain (later determined to be flying glass from the car.)  “Gene!” Clydetta cried.  “I think I’ve been shot!”

When she got closer to the car, she saw that she had not been the shooter’s target.  Her husband was slumped over the wheel, covered in blood.  Before she could do anything, Dr. Lynn’s foot slipped off the brake, sending the car rolling backwards down the driveway.  Fortunately, she was able to stop the auto before it went careening into State Route 522.  Clydetta did what she could to stop her husband’s bleeding, while blowing the horn and screaming for help from her mother and one of her daughters, who were in the house at the time.  It was all futile.  The doctor had died almost instantly.  By the time authorities arrived on the scene, the killer had plenty of opportunity to escape into the long darkness of that fall night.

This was one of those seemingly motiveless crimes that tend to baffle even the most acute detective.  Police did a searching examination of the dead man’s private life, hoping to come up with some reason why someone would assassinate him in such a particularly chilling fashion.  However, they came up empty.  William Lynn was that relative rarity in murder cases: someone who really was as nice and blameless as he seemed.  If he had a dark side, or unpleasant secrets, he kept them very well hidden indeed.

Although the Lynn case is still technically open, chances are obviously slim that his killer will ever be positively identified, let alone brought to justice.  However, a retired state police officer named Harry Will, one of the investigators of the murder, believed he had solved the mystery--to his own satisfaction, at any rate.  Many years after Lynn’s death, he told a reporter that he believed the doctor was murdered by an unnamed man who was currently serving a life sentence for a particularly vicious attack on a young woman.  Will suspected that this man had committed not only the Lynn murder, but several other unsolved slayings in the area as well.  This man had been seen in the general area of Lynn’s home, buying a box of shotgun shells.

Harry Will even believed he knew why this man had killed Lynn, and it is one of the more bizarre alleged motives on record.  Will’s suspect had originally lived in a neighboring county, but he fled after being accused of setting several fires.  He found refuge with an uncle who lived near Front Royal.  This relative not only gave him a home, but defended him, no matter what he did.  A few months before Lynn was shot, this uncle developed cancer of the penis, which necessitated a partial amputation of the organ.  Will explained, “Our suspect was a sex pervert and had voiced his opposition to having sex organs disturbed.”  Presumably, according to Will’s theory, the man took his outrage at the medical profession out on Dr. Lynn. 

As a postscript, there is a story which suggests that mere death did not mean the end of Lynn’s medical practice.  In the early 1990s, a Front Royal man was badly injured in an auto crash that put him in a coma.  Doctors did not believe he would survive.  According to Lynn’s daughter Patty--who heard the story from the patient’s mother--the man suddenly woke up and said, “I just saw Dr. Lynn and he gave me a shot.”  This man--who was only five when the doctor was murdered--described him as wearing clothing which was identical to items that Lynn wore in life.  After getting the “shot,” the man stunned everyone by fully recovering.

Perhaps the doctor wanted to save a life, to compensate for the one that had so suddenly and inexplicably been taken from him.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the Strange Company Yacht Club!

Why the hell did so many Roman Emperors die violently?  Just do the math!

Afraid of witches?  We have a cake for that.

The British Army experiences some close-run things.

19th century children's book kills off an apple pie.

In which Michelangelo writes a poem crabbing about painting the Sistine Chapel.

Napoleon and suicide.

The County Clerk's office wants people to get married.

We're starting to know how little we know about ancient humans.

The days of professional scissor grinders.

The families who escaped East Germany in a hot air balloon.

The world's oldest known pet cemetery.

Eyewitness accounts of the bombing of Britain.

The legend of Mother Shipton.

In defense of George III.

A ghost in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Two cases of girls killed by their fathers.

In which Harry Houdini gets swallowed by a sea monster.

Ancient drinking games were weird.  And, frankly, pretty unpleasant.

Speaking of weird, let's talk cereal.

Some former Air Force officers are claiming that UFOs are messing with our nukes.

The mystery of the Pakistan mummy.

The diplomat who saved people from the Nazis.

An attempted assassination of King George III.

Some little-known "audacious women."

A ghost in the post-mortem room.

Are young British women being "spiked?"

The link between two 18th century portraits.

The lore of keys.

Turning a bunch of skulls into a "contemplative experience."

The world's oldest ghost.

A 19th century cinchona plantation in India.

Was the Jacobite Earl of Mar a secret agent?

Some tips on how to avoid being buried alive.

Yes, cats can see ghosts.  I know this for a fact, because I have a ghost cat in my home, and my (live) ones see him all the time.  Hell, I saw him the other night. 

A remarkable 500 year old shipwreck.

A brief history of the werewolf.

A brief history of wartime counterfeiting.

Al Capone still has his fans, for some reason.

The evolution of Victorian fashion.

The mysterious disappearance of Masterpiece the Poodle.

Old London as seen from the air.

There's evidence suggesting that Italian sailors knew about America way before Columbus.

A double murder in Michigan.

Ancient ways of toothbrushing.

The mystery of the Barabar caves.

More on the controversy over how to put milk in tea.  And here's why the Brits put the milk in at all.

A strange plane crash in the Andes.

Some ancient Halloween traditions.

Elizabeth I and Parliament.

Why ET might be a computer.

The strange case of the Ourang Medan.

A look at the short life of Stephen Crane.

A visit to Jervaulx Abbey.

That time the Earth flipped on its side.

The most haunted places in Los Angeles County.

An elephant's tombstone.

Margaret Tudor goes to Scotland.

Italy and the Battle of Britain.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a Halloween murder mystery.  In the meantime, here's an oldie from the glory days of Stiff Records.  (Bonus points if you remember Stiff's very NSFW slogan.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

On December 3, 1890, the body of a young woman named Emma Pfitzenmayer was found in the Chester, Pennsylvania home she shared with her sister and brother-in-law, Caroline and Henry Schmidt.  She had died from multiple stab wounds.  Pfitzenmayer had been killed in her bedroom shortly after attending a ball where she had been "the gayest of the gay."  The following year, Caroline Schmidt was tried for Emma’s murder.  The defense put up a vigorous argument that the girl had committed suicide, and the circumstances of her death were just murky enough for “reasonable doubt” to take center stage.   Mrs. Schmidt was acquitted, leaving Pfitzenmayer’s death unresolved.

Well, if this sequel to the case is to be believed, how she died certainly was no mystery to Emma herself.  The “Philadelphia Times,” March 9, 1892:

One of the strangest manifestations known to occult science occurred in Chester last evening in the house in which Emma Pfitzenmayer lived with her sister and brother-in-law, and where she died by violence, either self-inflicted or at the hands of others. The mystery attending her tragic death was most effectually cleared up last night, so far as occult science can do it. 

The Rumford family, who do not believe in ghosts or any kind of spiritual manifestations,and who about one year ago rented the house in which Emma Pfitzenmayer met her fate, declare that for several months past at different times various members of the family have had their attention called most unwillingly to strange manifestations and occurrences, which, though not frightening them, have caused a great deal of perplexity as to their origin or purpose.

First Joe Rumford, tho 15-year-old son of Delaware Rumford, says he saw most distinctly the forehead, eyes and a part of the nose of the departed Emma as if peeping over a chicken coop in the yard just before dusk in the evening. This strange occurrence was commented on and laughed at by the family, which consists of three generations, all living under the one roof. A short time after, as Mrs. Delaware Rumford was passing through the room in which the girl was murdered, she was seized by the arm, but could see no one, and a voice. apparently in dire distress, asked her where her white dress was. Soon after this the spirit of  Emma Pfitzenmayer appeared at irregular intervals to every member of the family except the baby. No particular attention was paid to these strange and peculiar manifestations of an apparently disembodied spirit until about two weeks ago, when Miss Mattie Rumford, the 19-year-old niece of Mrs. Rumford, on going to the room occupied by the murdered girl, was startled to see a young woman dressed in ball costume, with a wealth of blonde hair flowing over her shoulders, rummaging in her bureau drawers.

She was about to speak to the strange intruder, when the blonde turned and seeing Miss Mattie, gave a heart-piercing shriek and suddenly seemed to become enveloped in a peculiar cloud of white smoke. Miss Mattie was so overcome that she fainted and fell down the stairs and when picked up by her sister was bleeding profusely at her mouth and nose. After this strange occurrence the family assembled and discussed the strange manifestations from every possible standpoint, but no definite mode of future procedure was decided upon. 

Soon after the story was made public Mr. and Mrs. J. Jeanes, who keep a photograph gallery and stationery store next door, at 702 Edgemont avenue, and who are well-known Spiritualists, suggested that a competent clairvoyant be brought to the house and that a seance be held in the room in which the girl was murdered.

After considerable persuasion on the part of the Jeanes family it was finally agreed to adopt that course and Mrs. Phillips, wife of Dr. H. S. Phillips, who together have a suite of rooms on the first floor of the Hotel Plunkett at 510 North Eighth Street, and who claim to practice the healing art under the title of magnetic physicians, were engaged to come down and give a seance with the intention if possible of finding out why the spirit of Emma Pfitzenmayer continued to reappear in her old home to trouble the present occupants of the dwelling. 

Last evening was selected as the time to try the gruesome experiment, and what happened at the seance if not calculated to fully convince the most skeptical, was full and varied enough in its features to satisfy the most exacting. Mrs. Phillips has considerable reputation as a platform speaker, besides being considered by the fraternity of Spiritualists as a clairvoyant medium of full power and ability. On the advice of their next-door neighbor, Mr. Jeanes, a small cabinet had been made and put up in the second-story front room, which, however. Mrs. Phillips declined to use, saying she was opposed to all kinds of quackery.

Shortly after 8 o'clock fifteen persons, including the baby, assembled in the room facing the cabinet. Among the party were three patriarchal-looking old men, who have each passed the three score and ten mark. At the suggestion of the clairvoyant Delaware Rumford produced a violin and his son seated himself at the organ. Several well-known melodies were played. All enjoyed the music, but there were no manifestations until the enlivening strains of a waltz floated over the room, when suddenly Mrs. Phillips full into what she terms a trance and exclaimed: "That's It, that's it; it is the last waltz I ever danced!" Her husband, Dr. H. S. Phillips, kindly explained that Mrs. Phillips was now practically no longer herself spiritually and that her body was now actuated and dominated entirely by a spirit of some one not possessed of a living physical body.

"Oh, where is my white dress?" cried Mrs. Phillips, as she got up and walked across the room. As she tried to open the door the knob came off, when she exclaimed: "Not been fixed yet; it was always this way." Proceeding she entered the bedroom formerly occupied by the Pfitzenmayer girl and began rummaging around, all the time asking if any one knew where her white dress was. "Oh, I want my dress; I must have my white dress," and she began to cry in a most realistic manner. Soon she wended her way to the identical room where the tragedy occurred, and a series of performances there occurred that beggars description. The whole scene of the frightful tragedy was rehearsed as if by the living Emma, and if put on or assumed, was certainly artistically done and calculated to fully deceive anyone not entirely bereft of sense or feeling. 

After a time she became more calm and finally returned to the second-story front room. After a long period of silence she suddenly exclaimed: "He put it there; he hid it." 

"Hid what?" was asked by Mr. Jeanes. 

"Why, the dress.”

"Whose dress?" 

"Her dress, her ball dress, the one she wore at the ball that evening." 

"Where did he hide it?" 

"Down by the river, between the boardwalk and the water, in soft mud, and it is there now." 

Prompted by Dr. Phillips, Mr. Rumford asked why she came back to trouble the living? Her answer was, "I did not do it, I was not a bad girl. I did not murder myself and I am troubled because a cruel world has cast a most unjust blight on my character.  I did not kill myself." When asked by gentlemen present if she had ever appeared to her sister, she replied, "Yes, I saw her last week and I will her again soon, but I no longer care to look at her. She suffers worse than I suffer and her tortures are those of the damned. She drinks heavily, but it brings her no relief and when I try to speak to her she shrieks and covers her face with her hands and runs away. I have forgiven my sister, but I no longer love her. No, since the night of the ball, when she told me she would dance with Harry oftener than I and she took Harry away from me." 

"Did Harry cut your throat?" she was asked. 

"No, Harry did not do it." 

"Did you do it?" 

"No, I should not have come back to earth except to tell the world that it has done me an unjust and cruel injury to ever think so." 

After a lapse of considerable time, during which silence reigned, the medium, in the voice of the departed Emma, suddenly pointed her finger to the aperture of the cabinet and said: "She did it!  She did it! It was she who did it all! Poor Harry was asleep on the lounge at the time, and she did it. " 

All strained their eyes toward the cabinet, but to the eyes of ordinary mortals only the dark aperture was visible. After this forcible speech, in which an unseen spirit was denounced as her murderer, the supposed spirit of Emma Pfitzenmayer left the corporal body of Mrs. Phillips, and, with convulsive shudder, she regained consciousness and the seance was at an end.

Well, this was all very entertaining stuff, but just try introducing it in court.  If Caroline Schmidt did indeed murder her sister, she never paid for the crime.  Officially, at least.

Monday, October 18, 2021

A Witch Trial and a Shape-Shifting Apparition: An Obscure Bit of The Weird

The "Memoirs" of Sir John Reresby (1634-1689) contain a reference to a minor witch trial which somehow morphed into one of the oddest "ghost" sightings on record:
Leaving the public affairs for a while, at this untoward pass, I would venture to take notice of a private occurrence which made some noise at York.

The assizes being there held on the 7th of March, 1686-7, an old woman was condemned for a witch. Those who were more credulous in points of this nature than myself, conceived the evidence to be very strong against her. The boy she was said to have bewitched, fell down on a sudden before all the court, when he saw her, and would then as suddenly return to himself again, and very distinctly relate the several injuries she had done him: but in all this it was observed, the boy was free from any distortion; that he did not foam at the mouth, and that his fits did not leave him gradually, but all at once; so that, upon the whole, the judge thought it proper to reprieve her, in which he seemed to act the part of a wise man. But though such is my own private opinion, I cannot help continuing my story. One of my soldiers being upon guard about eleven in the night, at the gate of Clifford Tower, the very night after the witch was arraigned, he heard a great noise at the castle, and going to the porch, he there saw a scroll of paper creep from under the door, which, as he imagined by moonshine, turned first into the shape of a monkey, and thence assumed the form of a turkey-cock, which passed to and fro by him. Surprized at this, he went to the prison, and called the under-keeper, who came and saw the scroll dance up and down and creep under the door, where there was scarce an opening of the thickness of half a crown. This extraordinary story I had from the mouth of both the one and the other: and now leave it to be believed or disbelieved, as the reader may be inclined this way or that.
You have to admit, this is not the sort of thing that happens every day.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Now that all the posts for this week have been completed, the Strange Company staff is getting ready for the weekend.

Shropshire's lesser-known ghosts.

The mystery of Easter Island writing.

A house that really let a burglar down.

It says something about Beate Uhse that being a WWII pilot was the least interesting thing about her.

A greengrocer stands trial for murder.

The biggest whiskey-drinking contest ever.  Warning: just reading about it may make you tipsy.

That time New England got hysterical about vampires.

A new film is based on a real-life medieval rape trial.

In which we learn that Winston Churchill was a firebug.

The Prince of Joinville: an artist and a sailor.

The diary of a "lumber Jill."

A murderous rag-picker.

The world's most expensive garden gnomes.

A tale of a funeral coach.

Spring-heeled Jack visits Sheffield.

An ancient luxury toilet in Jerusalem.

The myths surrounding Victorian post-mortem photography.

The Jacobean trade in peerages.

The 1920s spiritualism fad.

The Nazi-hunting femme fatales.

When Oscar Wilde was a golden boy.

The world's earliest known acrobats.

The Demon Wall of Norway.

18th century naval artists.

The shipwreck and the weird sea creature.

Nothing to see here, just some unknown Thing sending radio waves from the center of our galaxy.

On the difficulty of writing a biography of a court fool.

A triple murder in 1924 Pennsylvania.

A disappearance in the Arizona desert.

Nine surprise military attacks.

The Rational Dress Society.

The murder of "Joe the Quilter."

In which a cobra becomes a murder weapon.

There was a mass extinction about 30 million years ago, and we're only now finding out about it.

In which a woman wakes up to find she's sharing her bed with a space rock.

Isabella of Woodstock, medieval princess.

Caroline Norton fights injustice.

Five writers who predicted WWI.

Kirkstall Abbey and Shakespeare's ghost.

So, let's talk screaming skulls.

A look at an 18th century debtor's prison.

The oldest known footprints of pre-humans.

An art model turned painter.

The world's hardest cheese.

Four audacious women.

Meet the dog who just got into the Guinness World Records.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a short, but very weird ghost story.  In the meantime, our Strange Company HQ staff is here to entertain you:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Late in 1889, a frightfully mangled corpse was found buried in a shallow grave on the banks of Lake Johanna, near St. Paul, Minnesota.  It was buried so carelessly, one arm was sticking above ground.  The words “A traitor” were carved on it.  It seemed obvious that this unidentified person had been murdered in a particularly ghastly fashion, and the entire community was struck with horror at the thought of some fiend lurking in their midst.  The whole awful business remained a mystery until a report published in the November 12, 1889 issue of the “Saint Paul Globe” published the “story behind the story.”  And quite a story it was.

The secret is out at last. The "victim" of the Lake Johanna mystery may lay his weary bones to rest, secure in the conviction that there is no stern necessity for his wraith to perambulate the earth in a search for vengeance on the heads of foul murderers. It is only a poor, harmless cadaver, after all. 

The Globe is in possession of the story in its entirety. As a result those persons who have been wrongfully blaming Sheriff Bean, Coroner Quinnor, or County Attorney Euan will feel it their duty to humbly ask for pardon. No crime has been committed, and no law--not even the health law--violated. These officials, who have the whole story, were entirely right in all that they did, and simply displayed good judgment in sawing wood and doing nothing. The story is furnished by two reputable physicians of St. Paul and can be relied upon as strictly true. It is given in the language of one of them: 


In the middle of the summer an unknown man was killed on one of the railroads, and the fact only chronicled in the Globe. It was the body of a tramp that was picked up, and it was conveyed to the keeping of a prominent surgeon of the city. No claim was ever made for it, and when a week later two medical students, well indorsed, applied for the body for the purposes of dissection, it was turned over to them, as the law provides. The first demonstration was made in their presence by a physician holding an official position. He dissected a portion of the thigh and groin, showing the femoral artery. That physician was myself. Afterward the body was further dissected, the brain being the especial study, and the top of the skull was removed in a not very scientific way. These students, who are the sons of reputable citizens, attend medical lectures in the fall and winter, and therefore they had completed the dissection of the body the time came for them to return East. They desired to preserve the body until spring, when they could pursue their investigations and finally mount the skeleton. Accordingly they embalmed the body in the approved style, by the advice of skilful physicians. They were directed to then enclose it in a tar barrel and bury it outside of the city limits; and this practice, bear in mind, obtains among all reputable physicians. They properly prepared the body, and then took into their confidence a young man who attended the high school, to assist in burying it. This they left to him, and he buried it safely on the banks of Lake Johanna and blazed a neighboring tree to mark the spot. The students returned to school, satisfied. Thus far all was well. But this young high school man had


in him, and is an inveterate practical joker. A short time ago, actuated by his ruling propensity, he went out to Johanna and dug up the body. He says he thought of boiling down the corpse to get the skeleton, but the probabilities are he went there solely to create a sensation. He uncovered the body, mutilated it, and,after carving the sensational words on the head of the barrel, placed the arm above ground and came away and left it. I have not the slightest doubt  he did it to create just the sensation that followed.  He once went up the river, got a bag full of snakes and turned them loose in a Jackson street restaurant just for a practical joke, which shows the character of the young man.

Now, there is the whole story in a nutshell. The proceeding, aside from the 'joke' of the young fellow, was strictly honorable and legitimate. Coroner Quinn will testify that the body was in good condition, as far as the muscles were concerned, and would have kept for ten years. The students were entirely blameless, and were simply pursuing a laudable


I would have made this statement sooner but for one thing. When I first learned of the discovery I could not understand why the body was in that condition, so I hunted up the high school man and got his explanation, but it was only yesterday. He would not admit any intention of a joke or sensation, and told me he left the hatchet there because it got dark so quickly that he could not find it.

There is the whole story in a nutshell. You will see at once that there was nothing wrong in the actions and intentions of the medical men, and that this howl for justice is all bosh, growing out of a want of understanding of the situation. I do not defend the pranks of the would-be joker, but give the story just as it is.

Hey, these things happen to us all.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Bogles of Ballygowan; Or, Never Ruin A Fairy's Ruin

"The Goblin and the Provision Dealer," Arthur Rackham

On August 31, 1866, an Irish newspaper called the “Larne Reporter” informed its readers about an unusual problem facing two unnamed families who lived adjacent to each other in Upper Ballygowan.  At varying intervals during the days and nights, the families were having their homes vandalized by mysterious showers of mud and stones being thrown inside.  Unable to catch the perpetrators in the act, the families asked if the neighbors had any idea who the culprits were.  Nobody did; in fact, residents were shocked and angered that these two innocent families were being treated in such a rude way.

One day, their elusive assailants went further with their attacks: a huge volley of stones were hurled inside their homes.  One of the residents was so irritated by the onslaught that he picked up a musket and fired it in the general direction of where the stones had been thrown.  The response was a peal of evil laughter and another bombardment.  This was shortly followed by a large bag of potatoes being tossed throughout the kitchen of one of the persecuted households.  Whoever or whatever was causing these disturbances, they were obviously pleased by the results.

So far, our little tale sounds like what we today would call a bog-standard poltergeist event.  Paranormal researchers would step forward talking learnedly about spectral forces, the power of the subconscious mind, disturbances in the psychic ether, and whatnot.  These 19th century neighbors came up with a far simpler, and, in its way, more logical explanation: angry fairies.

According to some Ballygowan residents, many years before, a homeowner was so plagued by mysterious disturbances similar to those suffered by the two families that he was forced to abandon the house.  The house stood in increasing ruin for some time, and eventually the families at the center of our story took materials from it to remodel their own buildings, which stood on the same land as the abandoned house.  This infuriated the fairies (or, as they were locally known, bogles.)  Having successfully chased out the owner of the building, they considered the ransacked home to be their personal property, and the disturbances suffered by the two households were the bogles’ way of taking revenge.

The report states that the bogles ceased harassing the two families “some several months later,” so presumably the affronted creatures found another empty ruin that was equally to their liking.

So, if you should ever want to salvage materials from some old home that seems untenanted, be very careful: you just might be trespassing on a prime piece of Fairy Real Estate.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is off to the races!

An early 15th century royal wedding.

Mount Everest just isn't good enough for some people.

It turns out that the "Cats" movie did one good thing.

Oliver, the humanzee.

Meet Mr. Goxx, your new financial advisor.

The cake that finds a spouse for you.

Has the Zodiac Killer been identified?

In search of a forgotten human history.

The life of a British gunner in the Bombay Army.

A medieval unsolved murder.

If you want to move to a haunted city, here's a list for you.

A weird erupting comet.

A "doubly-noble prisoner."

The ghost fighter of Pearl Harbor.

How to make the warmest tent on Earth.

Contemporary newspaper accounts of the Great Chicago Fire.

Patsey, State Street Fire Cat.

Some archaeologists believe they have found Mount Sinai.

The UK Prime Minister who was--according to some rumors--a Communist spy.

If you use a railway car to ship corpses, don't be surprised if it winds up being haunted.

Thanks to astronomy, we know the date--and time--that Mary Shelley came up with the idea for "Frankenstein."

The possibility that we're not this planet's first advanced civilization.

For this week in Russian Weird, some guy wants to trade a Soviet orbiter for a skull.

A brief history of chocolate.

A female 18th century sexton.

The man who found himself.  Literally.

A match-up between two U.S. military planes.

"Seadromes," one of those inventions which never caught on.

A poltergeist in Sauchie, Scotland.

A newly-discovered Siberian geoglyph.

What we do--and don't--know about our sense of smell.

Until I read this post, I had no idea that the question of whether you should put milk in your tea first or last has been controversial for decades.

The real story of "Anna and the King."

A "Cain and Abel" murder.

Why 19th century ghost hunting could be dangerous for the ghost.

Harry Gardiner, Human Fly.

Adelaide O'Keeffe, "rationalistic educator."

Some remarkable carvings made 11,000 years ago.

The hazards of picking your own mushrooms.

The, uh, joys of early 20th century newspaper humor.

The history of Vegemite.

Russian Empresses and their cross-dressing balls.

A "broad-shouldered bully" goes to the gallows.

An 1811 disaster in the North Sea.

A golden sun bowl is the "discovery of a lifetime."

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll learn why you never should mess with a home owned by fairies.  In the meantime, here's some Telemann:

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

The vanishing crew of the “Mary Celeste” is one of the most famous sea mysteries.  However, finding inexplicably abandoned ships is a more common occurrence than you might think.  A typically eerie example was noted in the “San Francisco Call,” January 27, 1892:

One of the very strangest of tales of the sea was that which the Italian bark Colombo D brought to this port. It was fully as strange, though true, as that which Captain Marryat evolved in the world-famed "Flying Dutchman." It has the same elements of mystery with the added fearful uncertainty of the fate of the living men, of whom no trace remains. 

On the 11th inst., while the Colombo D was about 150 miles off the coast of Bermuda, Captain Vigilana states that his lookout sighted a vessel about three miles off on the starboard bow. She was a three-master and square rigged.  She was signaled but no answer came. 

She was steering very erratically too, and although the shadows were gradually deepening into twilight, Captain Vigilana decided to bear down upon and see what, if anything, was the matter. Nearer and nearer they came, but to their repeated hailing not a sound of answer came. 

Not a trace of life was on board. All was silent save the soughing of the wind through the rigging.  Stranger still, all sail was set, and the ship, in charge of the fates, was sailing on with no hand on the helm.  As the Colombo sailed by her stern her name could be plainly made out. It was Hutchins Brothers; a Nova Scotian ship.

Captain Vigilana held a consultation with his officers and called a volunteer crew to investigate, but the night was growing dark and the superstitious sailors refused to go. It was finally decided to stay by the strange vessel until morning. Lights were already in the rigging of the Colombo, but none shone from the Hutchins, giving additional evidence that no life was on board her. 

Strange as had been the experience already, and great the expectancy on board the Colombo, the morning brought deeper mystery, for when dawn broke there was only a waste of water where the lifeless Nova Scotian ship had been. The night had been calm and peaceful. A skiff could have lived in the roll of the gentle sea. There was no land within sight and no storm had arisen, and yet nowhere could be found the strange ship. She had disappeared as mysteriously as she had come into sight.

As far as I know, the mystery of what happened to the crew of the Hutchins Brothers--not to mention their ship--remained forever unsolved.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Mystery At Sea: The Case of the Disappearing Playboy

"New York Daily News," February 1, 1998, via Newspapers.com

With most missing-persons cases, it’s fairly easy to surmise that the person most likely vanished for one of four reasons: voluntary exit, foul play, accident, or suicide. What makes the following disappearance unusual is that it contains a number of confusing, contradictory clues which suggest that any of those four categories is possible. In short, not only do we not know what happened to Hisashi Fujimura, it is impossible to say how he disappeared.

Fuijmura was a high-living playboy, of the type that seems somehow quaintly out-of-date these days.  His two favorite pastimes were gambling for very high stakes and beautiful women, and as head of the Ashai Corporation, one of America’s largest silk importing houses, he had more than enough money to indulge such expensive pastimes.  (His wife--a reclusive woman who spoke little English--was reportedly unaware of his extracurricular activities.)  The Japanese-born businessman had lived in the United States since 1921.  He owned a 50-acre estate in Connecticut, where his wife and four children lived, as well as another mansion in Rye, New York, and an apartment in New York City.  He was a charming, suave, outgoing man who seems to have been generally well-liked.

On August 8, 1931, the 38-year-old Fujimura set out on a six-day pleasure cruise aboard the Red Star liner Belgenland.  Accompanying him was his seven-year-old daughter, Toshika, and a pretty young blonde named Mary Reissner, who had been, to put it discreetly, Fujimura’s close companion for the past year.  (Reissner--who was a showgirl before becoming Fujimura’s “protegee”--was listed on the ship’s registry as “Miss Dale, governess,” a cover story that apparently fooled no one.)

This cruise was prefaced by a decidedly ominous note.  The day before he set sail, Fujimura paid a call on a friend, a plastic surgeon named Joseph Saftan.  Fujimura commented, “You know, Doctor, I fear I may never come back from this trip.”  After Saftan sputtered some words of disbelief, the silk merchant replied, “I mean it.  I owe quite a lot of money to some gamblers, and I have learned that they are going to follow me aboard the Belgenland.”  Reissner later stated that when they went aboard the ship, Fujimura begged her not to let him out of her sight, “because there was a certain man aboard.”  (If he truly felt himself to be in such danger, it is a mystery why he did not cancel the voyage and make himself as invisible as possible.)

Aboard the ship, Fujimura and his daughter occupied stateroom No. 62, while Reissner stayed in No. 60, which connected with 62.  There are conflicting reports of how Fujimura and his “governess” got on during the cruise.  As far as most of the other passengers could tell, the pair seemed happy together.  However, an artist named Jan Ribas, who occupied the room next to Reissner’s, claimed he frequently overheard them quarreling.

The Belgenland touched briefly at Halifax, then began the journey back to New York.  The trip, to date, had appeared uneventful.  On the night of August 13, there was a large party thrown on the liner.  Fujimura did not attend.  At around 1 a.m., Reissner left his company to join the merrymaking.  The ship’s captain, J.H. Doughty, saw him at about 2:45, standing in a small side corridor leading toward his stateroom.  Doughty heard him talking to someone, but in such low tones that he could not hear what was being said.  He also could not see who Fujimura was speaking to.

The party broke up at 4 a.m.  When Reissner went to her room, she saw that the lights in Fujimura’s stateroom were out, and his door was open.  She assumed he was in bed asleep.

The Belgenland was due to dock in New York at 7:30 or 8 a.m.  At six, a steward, following Fujimura’s earlier request, knocked on his door to awaken him.  He found little Toshika asleep in her bed, but no sign of the girl’s father.  Fujimura’s bed had not been slept in.  Toshika and Mary Reissner both stated that they had no idea where he was.

When the ship arrived at its pier, it was searched, only to find no sign of Fujimura.  Federal agents, as well as the missing man’s attorney, Harry Melick, soon came onboard to join the hunt.  No clue to his whereabouts could be found.  Reissner--who quickly went into hiding in Fujimura’s apartment--continued to insist that Fujimura’s whereabouts were a complete mystery to her.  She denied rumors that there had been a loud commotion in her stateroom on the night he vanished, although she admitted that Fujimura had been “drunk and lonely” during much of the cruise, and he had been displeased that she had attended the party without him.

An interesting possible clue surfaced when it was learned that one of the missing man’s bank accounts had shrunk from $333,414.65 on March 1 of that year to $2.65 on August 8.  It was rumored that Fujimura had paid the missing money to blackmailers, but investigators eventually came to the more boring conclusion that he had merely lost all the cash in gambling.  In any case, his friends and business associates pointed out that such sums meant little to someone of Fujimura’s great wealth.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fujimura was hit with an additional tragedy.  Her youngest child, a three-year-old girl, died of a heart ailment just before the Belganland returned to New York.  Six days later, Mrs. Fujimura gave birth to her fifth child.

There was no shortage of theories about what had happened to Fujimura.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Aranow believed that Fujimura had been murdered.  He claimed to have information that four men, including two extortionists, had been keeping Fujimura under surveillance for some weeks.  Aranow went on to suggest that the extortionists had boarded the Belgenland at Halifax, and, using forged Department of Justice badges, tried blackmailing Fujimura by threatening to prosecute him under the Mann Act.  When the silk merchant refused to play ball, they tossed him overboard.  However, Aranow could produce no proof for his lurid little tale.

A week after the Belgenland returned to New York, a taxi driver named Thomas Riley told police that a few hours after the liner docked, a woman and a Japanese girl got into his cab, where he drove them to 56th street, where they were met by a man.  He said that the child was Toshika Fujimura, but the woman was not Mary Reissner, and the man was not Hisashi Fujimura.  Riley added that six days later, he saw Hisashi come out of New York’s International House, where he was joined by two men, one of whom was the man who had earlier been with Toshika and the unknown woman.  The trio approached Riley’s cab.  The taxi driver noticed that the two men with Fujimura kept their hands in their pockets, as if they had guns leveled at Hisashi.  Fujimura told Riley that he wanted to be driven to Norwalk.  After the driver said he didn’t want to make such a long journey, the three men walked away.  This strange story was as unsubstantiated as Aranow’s.

On September 8, the Feds officially closed their investigation into Fujimura’s disappearance.  U.S. Attorney George Medalie announced that “The government’s interest was to determine what evidence, if any, existed to support a belief that Mr. Fujimura was the victim of a murder or that any other crime had been committed on the high seas.  A careful survey of all the evidence fails to furnish any such proof.”

On October 5, an expensive wallet stamped with Fujimura’s name was found by a workman in an unoccupied flat in Manhattan.  The wallet, unlike the other items in the room, was not covered in dust.  The most recent occupant of the apartment was one Pearl Anderson, who had moved out six weeks before.  Authorities failed to find Anderson.  Police learned that the wallet had been given by Fujimura’s company at a banquet two years before.  The missing man had never used it--just tossed it aside with the rest of his effects--so no one could say how it wound up in a Manhattan flat.  This initially intriguing clue, like everything else surrounding this case, went nowhere.

In 1938, Hisashi Fujimura was declared legally dead. We'll likely never know if he disappeared as a result of foul play, suicide, an accidental fall over the side of the ship, or simply a desire to start a new life.  Our little mystery ended on a suitably enigmatic note.  On December 3, Fujimura’s wife and children returned to Japan, for good.  Before Mrs. Fujimura left New York, reporters asked her if she had anything to say about her husband’s disappearance.

She did not.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The Strange Company staff have already settled on their weekend plans.

Who the hell is Tom McCleod?

Con men and glass eyes.

James Dean's last gas station is gone.

A French cavalry officer's exile in America.

The Moon is leaving us, and didn't even bother to leave a note.

Sparta deserves to be remembered for more than its army.

Footprints show that humans were in North America much earlier than we thought.

When colonial America needed women.  And beer.  Not necessarily in that order.

The Venus of the Sewers.

This week in Russian Weird meets a carpet-covered car.

Madame Palatine dishes more Louis XIV-era dirt.

Where the very rich will be spending their weekend while I sit in the backyard drinking beer.

A look at a masterpiece of medieval literature.

A poltergeist who liked marijuana.

The woman who went from geisha to Western theater star.

An examination guide for the Bombay Staff Corps, 1864.

The people who tunneled their way out of East Germany.

Scientists are playing around with medieval gunpowder.

The "restless, turbulent, and bold" British House of Commons of 1833.

A vampire hunt that led to a ban on comic books.

Ian Fleming, craftsman.   I'm no fan of the Bond movies, but I've read some of Fleming's work, just out of curiosity, and I was surprised how good they were.  Spy/thriller fiction is not my sort of thing, but his works were very well-written.

Considering how 2021 is going so far, I'm not surprised that Chernobyl has decided to join the party.

The world's oldest grape vine.

The Prince Regent throws a whopper of a party.

The cryptids of Shropshire.

That time Jimmy Carter saw a UFO.

Beethoven's 10th symphony has just been completed.

A man's request to be buried at sea inside a piano.  He wasn't, though, unfortunately for my Weird Wills collection.

A Vietnam battle that did not go well for America's helicopters.

An ancient document may tell us more about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The accidental color mauve.

The power of presidential photography.

Conservation work on an ancient city in Morocco.

Contemporary newspaper reports about the notorious Kray twins.

Benjamin Franklin, youthful prankster.

The disappearing (and, frankly, terrifying-looking) rope bridges of Peru.

An astonishingly brazen peddler of fake artifacts in India.

The legend of the Japanese Jesus.

The world's oldest jewelry.

The Lenten celebrations of Paris washerwomen.

Afghanistan faces a bleak archaeological future.

Humans have been using drugs and alcohol from way back.

Neanderthals and a discovery in a Gibraltar cave.

The history of Near Death Experiences.

The mystery of the Lambton Worm.

The baffling disappearance of Beverly Potts.

Four times a widower.

A chase scene involving children and dancing elves.

How knowledge about medicinal plants is being lost.

Samuel Pepys and a strange shipwreck.

Earth may have a twin lurking somewhere.

A Phoenix neighborhood has a whole lotta shakin' going on.

A broken engagement leads to murder.

Newly-released letters dealing with Victoria and Albert's marital quarrels.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a rich man's strange disappearance at sea.  In the meantime, let's get piping!