"...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, December 30, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Everyone here at Strange Company HQ wishes all of you a Happy New Year!

The wedding of Margaret of York and Charles the Bold.

A stray kitten's merry Christmas.

An eyewitness account of WWI's famed "Christmas truce."

A Christmas Day 1804 petition to the East India Company.

India's singing city.

Worst Christmas gift ever?

The rise and fall of Roman Britain.

The life of a Victorian author of "penny dreadfuls."

Christmas in Tudor England.

A Christmas fund for sandwichmen.

Mattie Lee Price, the Georgian Wonder.

Canada's greatest public toilets.

The frat party that left Americans singing "Auld Lang Syne."

A Fire Department horse who earned his pension.

We've really been underestimating Neanderthals.

How to have one really boring party.

The disease that wiped out the Aztecs.

When chocolatiers go to war.

"Rough music" in Scotland.

In search of the Jersey Devil.

The lost habit of "two sleeps."

Cologne Cathedral, home of the candy cane.

Meet the face of Egypt's most powerful Pharaoh.

A brief history of drinking songs.

The long history of "holy fire disease."

Britain's last witchcraft trial.

A memory of a childhood Christmas.

A bit of shameless self-promotion: Bored Panda quoted me in their article about weird Christmas images.

That's all for this final Link Dump of the 2022!  See you all on Sunday, when I'll look at the most popular Strange Company posts from the last twelve months.  In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

I'm sure I'm not the only one thrilled to see the last of this dystopian pest-hole of a year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

The following New Year's Eve disappearance was covered in the "South Bend Tribune," February 9, 2008.  It appears to be one of those crimes where the police "knew" who did it, but were unable to find enough evidence to make an arrest.  To date, the case is still unsolved, and Pullen has never been found.

What happened to Shirley Pullen, a 70-year-old Niles Township woman who was last seen on New Year’s Eve 1986, is still a mystery. 

But police said they believe answers are out there and are turning to the public for help. 

Authorities consider the former Windward Village Mobile Home Park resident’s disappearance suspicious and said they believe Pullen was possibly a victim of foul play.  However, they have come up short in their attempts to find her body or the person responsible for her disappearance. 

On Friday, the Michigan State Police post in Niles announced that it will reopen the investigation. 

Pullen was last seen by her hairdresser at the Save Mart store near her mobile home park Dec.31, 1986. That night she was reportedly planning to attend a New Year’s Eve party. 

Twelve days later her mobile home park manager reported her missing after Pullen, who always paid her rent on time, failed to do so.

Inside her residence police found indications that Pullen likely left abruptly. Her television was still on, a plate of food was out and a cigarette butt had burned down to the filter, said MSP Detective Sgt. Fabian Suarez, who is heading up the inquiry.  Her vehicle was still at the home. 

“Preliminary indications don’t show she left willingly,” he said. 

Suarez is no stranger to cold cases.  In 2006, he and another trooper turned up new witnesses and evidence that led to a conviction in a 16-year-old Cass County murder case. 

Suarez began reviewing the Pullen case in October 2005.  Four investigators from the Michigan State Police and Berrien County Sheriff’s Department will be interviewing about 50 people over the next few months, and Suarez is hopeful their inquiries will turn up some new leads. 

“By next week we hope to start knocking on doors,” he said. 

Noting that names, addresses and phone numbers have likely changed, Suarez is asking that anyone who was interviewed during the original investigation contact police rather than wait for authorities to track them down. Investigators also are looking for names of people who should have been interviewed originally. 

“Time changes a lot of things,” Suarez said. 

Information from the public could very well provide the answers police are looking for.  Back in 2000, a tipster called after the case was featured on Crime Stoppers and indicated Pullen was dead and that he knew where her body might be.  But the caller,who was instructed to contact the now-defunct Niles Township Police Department, was never heard from again. 

At the time she vanished, Pullen owned two mobile homes in the park, one of which she rented out. 

“She had been having trouble with those tenants,” Suarez said. 

Years after Pullen disappeared, a neighbor came forward and told police she heard “yelling” outside the missing woman’s residence that New Year’s Eve, former Niles Township Police Chief John Street said in a 2000 Tribune interview. 

The neighbor apparently saw Pullen talking with two men, one of whom was the tenant living in Pullen’s other mobile home.  After several minutes of arguing, Pullen went into her residence and the two men drove away. 

The renter, according to Street, denied seeing Pullen that day but told police she had given him several checks after he did some work for her.

Her last check to him,made out for $500, was dated Dec. 30, 1986, and the man claimed it was a Christmas gift for his family. 

Street also said the man indicated that Pullen had granted him use of her Discover credit card to buy more than $1,000 in household items. The card was used twice, on Jan. 11 and 16, 1987, at the former Highland Appliance store in Mishawaka.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Ghost and the Jilted Widow: A "Strange Tale" From Wales

I have mentioned several times before that Wales has produced some of my favorite ghost stories.  An outstanding example was related by Iorwerth C. Peate in the Summer 1975 issue of the journal “Folklore,” under the title of “A Strange Tale.” It’s not every day that you see a dead man turn real estate agent.

The author’s grandfather, David Peate, was a carpenter living at Glan-llyn, Llanbryn-Mair, Montgomeryshire, where he owned two semi-detached houses.  Peate’s family lived in the northernmost of the homes, which was partly built over his workshop.  One night sometime in the 1880s, Peate and his brother (who shared a bedroom) were awakened to the sound of sawing and hammering in the workshop, exactly as if someone was hard at work.  Except…they knew no one was in there.  After a few minutes of uneasy pondering, the brothers decided there was nothing to be done except go back to sleep.  Early the next morning, when they went down to breakfast, they found a neighbor talking to their father.  The man had come to order a coffin for his wife.  She had died at the exact time the brothers had heard the activity in the workshop.

When David Peate married in 1897, he and his wife moved into the southern of the two houses.  Peate’s mother stayed in the other residence until her death in 1907, after which Peate rented the house to various tenants.  Some time around 1918, a widow named Mrs. James, who lived in a neighboring parish, called on Mrs. Peate to ask about the rental.   Mrs. Peate had never met the woman before, but instantly liked her a great deal.  As the two women were having tea, Mrs. Peate decided her new acquaintance would make a very pleasant neighbor.  She resolved to let Mrs. James have the house, although she said nothing about the matter.  When the widow rose to leave, she asked if she could move in within a fortnight.  Mrs. Peate was shocked when she found herself instantly replying, “No, I am sorry; you cannot have the house.”  Mrs. James was quite upset at the news, but not half as much as Mrs. Peate.  She could not imagine what made her turn the woman down.

Before long, the house was rented to a mother and daughter who were both widows.  They were both amiable ladies who were excellent neighbors.  The Peates were taken aback when one morning, the mother stormed into their house, in a very bad temper.  She exclaimed that it was highly inconsiderate for David to be laboring away in his workshop at three in the morning.  The cacophony of his hammering and sawing and planing made it impossible for her to sleep.  The Peates promised her that David had been in bed all night, and certainly had no reason to be working at such a bizarre hour.  While they were talking, there was a knock on their door.  A neighbor had come to order a coffin for a family member who had died during the night.  At 3 a.m.

The ending to Peate’s little narrative is, as he noted, the oddest part of the tale.  One morning, the elder of their two tenants came by, shaking with fright, to ask for Mrs. Peate’s advice.  She said that the night before, she had been awakened by the presence of a man in her bedroom.  She immediately recognized him as “John,” an old beau who had deserted her right before they were to be married.  She was in shock, as she knew he had been dead for many years.  The spirit said he had come to ask forgiveness for jilting her, and asked to shake her hand.  Instead, the poor terrified woman hid under the bedclothes until dawn.

The widow asked Mrs. Peate, “What shall I do if he comes again tonight?”

Mrs. Peate reassured her that the spectral visitor meant no harm, and added, “Are you ready to forgive him?”

“Forgive him, yes, I forgave him many years ago, for I had a far better man than he.”

“Then,” Mrs. Peate replied sensibly, “why not tell him so and shake his hand?”

The next morning, the widow returned to the Peate house, this time beaming with happiness.  She said, “He came and I took his hand and told him that I had long ago forgiven him.  He said: ‘Thank God.  I shall now leave you in peace, but remember that I have tried to take care of you and I did see to it that you should have this house.’”

Mrs. Peate contemplated that peculiar statement for a moment.  Then she asked, “What was John’s surname?”

“James,” her visitor replied.

Mrs. Peate realized that the woman she had so inexplicably refused to have as a tenant was John’s widow.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump kicks off with the last of our Christmas Cats!

The "ghost ship" Baltimore.

The "rendel cruisers" of the Imperial Chinese Navy.

The origins of the phrase "pomp and circumstance."

The boy who claims he is a reincarnated Hollywood agent.

So maybe Attila the Hun had an excuse for attacking pretty much everybody.

Some of 2022's best mysteries.

A look back to when January 1 wasn't the first day of the year.

The physiognomy of Christmas.

The anomaly that wouldn't go away.

A look at the grandmother of Jesus.

A possible serial killer in Florida.

Edward Snow, the "Flying Santa."

The child soldiers of the American Civil War.

An 1858 catalog of Christmas books.

A possible explanation of Spontaneous Human Combustion that, believe it or not, makes it seem even creepier.

The Christmas Punchinello.

The island of Christmas tree sodas.

The sort of thing that could happen to anyone.

A "lost" London neighborhood.

Christmas in 1960s Japan.

Graham Hancock and the Archaeology Wars.

Britain's last witch.

Post-war housing estates in Britain and France.

A light-fingered clerk.

This is not Dracula's house.

Sailing the Mediterranean half-a-million years ago. 

Medieval female self-portraits.

The grave of the Potato King.

A history of Christmas markets.

The Jersey Witching Cats.

The Snyder-Harman murder.

A brief history of Christmas trees.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an unusual Welsh ghost story.  In the meantime, I hope you all have a very merry Christmas, however you choose to observe the day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Newspaper Clippings of the Christmas Day

Via Newspapers.com

This year, I am doing something a bit different with my annual roundup of Christmas clippings: instead of a number of assorted news items, I am focusing on one story.  Because, honestly, I can’t imagine anyone who personifies the Strange Company Yuletide Spirit better than Sarah Childs, of Denham Springs, Louisiana.  No one can say she didn’t give her neighbors a Christmas to remember.  The “Daily Review,” January 8, 2013:

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The holidays may be over, but a Louisiana woman wants to keep a light display on her roof extending a middle finger to her neighbors. 

U.S. District Judge James Brady heard testimony Monday about whether Sarah Childs should be granted a preliminary injunction, barring the city of Denham Springs and police from requiring her to remove the display. The judge didn’t rule and the hearing will continue next week. 

Childs said she put up the roof message in November because she believed a neighbor stole her dog. She said police threatened her with fines and arrest because of the lights. She and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sued the city, its mayor and police. 

Lawyers for Denham Springs and police say officials didn’t threaten Childs and the case has no merit. But they also argue the display isn’t protected speech under the U.S. Constitution because the extended finger is designed to attack her neighbor. 

The judge issued a temporary restraining order in mid-December, prohibiting city officials from interfering with the lights and saying efforts to take down the display would violate her rights to free speech and due process. 

With the Christmas holidays wrapped up and many people packing up their holiday lights, the federal judge asked Monday if the lawsuit still was needed. “Is this matter now moot? Are the lights still up?” he asked. 

“The lights are still up,” said Justin Harrison, an ACLU lawyer representing Childs. 

“And she intends to keep them up?” Brady asked. 

“I think she intends to keep them up, your honor,” Harrison replied. 

According to the lawsuit, Childs removed the lights twice: once after a police officer told her she could be fined and again after another officer threatened to arrest her. But she has reinstalled them, after getting representation from the ACLU and the judge’s temporary order in her favor. 

In Monday’s testimony, Denham Springs police officer Jared Kreamer described two visits to Childs’home in response to complaints from Childs that her neighbors were harassing her. Under initial questioning from Childs’ lawyer, Kreamer said he didn’t recall if he told her to take down the light display or told her she could go to jail because of it. He said he found the lights offensive and thought it could be considered disturbing the peace. 

“I remember telling her if she didn’t take it down, it could lead to trouble,” the police officer said. 

Then, Childs’ lawyers played a partial recording that Childs had made with her cell phone during one conversation with Kreamer in which he told her she could end up in jail because of the lights. Kreamer said he wasn’t threatening her, but was just advising her that she could run into a complaint by her neighbors accusing her of disturbing the peace.

As a side note, we are also told that Childs' version of Christmas caroling was to stand in her driveway singing obscene songs about her neighbors.  The conclusion to this unusual legal fracas was reported in the Opelousas “Daily World” on March 3, 2013:

A lawsuit over a Denham Springs woman's light display, which extended a middle finger to her neighbors, has been settled. Final dismissal documents were filed in Baton Rouge-based federal court this week. 

Sarah Childs said she put up the roof message in November because she believed a neighbor stole her dog. She said police threatened her with fines and arrest because of the lights. She and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sued the city, its mayor and police. ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman described the final settlement as allowing Childs to keep the lights up without harassment and requiring the city to make a payment to the ACLU to cover legal costs. 

"The city agreed to leave her alone and paid $15,000 in attorney's fees," Esman said Friday. 

Lawyer Brad Myers, representing Denham Springs, said the city's insurance company covered the cost, and he said city officials continue to deny any harassment ever happened. 

"The city agreed not to do what it had not done in the first place," Myers said in an email. 

Esman said Childs moved out of the house a few weeks ago. When she left, she kept the lights on the roof.

I’d love to know if the next residents of her house left the lights up.  You must admit, they make a striking display.  

Via Dailymail.com

I'd also like to know one very important fact left unaddressed by the newspaper reports:  What happened to Childs' dog?  It seems to me that the answer to that question would show whether our Middle-Finger Queen was a screwball, or a woman with a legitimate grievance.

Monday, December 19, 2022

A Tale of Two Families: A Grim Christmas Ghost Story

Via Newspapers.com

This odd little story--a holiday tale that’s anything but festive--was published in the British paper “The Norwood News” on December 24, 1954:

It was Christmas. and when the party picked on me I knew they wanted again the real ghost story I was mixed up in about 20 years ago. 

It's all very well to say that the old red-bricked house is no more. The Germans blasted it out of existence with their bombs in 1944. 

So the haunted house isn't there any longer. There is a large block of luxury flats in its place now. 

Twenty years ago I was asked to report on the mysterious death of a family. They had been out for their Christmas Eve celebration: mother, father and their grownup son and two daughters. The daily maid had left them their supper and gone home, leaving a “Merry Christmas" message and saying she would be in good time in the morning. 

And when she came they were sprawled over the supper table--dead. 

I was just thinking of my own Christmas dinner when a crowd of Fleet-street reporters arrived. I was the best man, they said, to tell them about it. 

But all I knew was where the house was. It was the first I heard of what later proved to be a family suicide pact. By the time we had got the details, Christmas Day was anything but a happy, restful one for us.

I lived quite close to that house. Year after year it stood empty, and I noticed that time took down the curtains; decay made the shutters rattle on windy nights as I passed; and the owls from Streatham Common seemed to like the place. 

As the years passed. and the place got more neglected, the memory of that tragedy faded. The "To Let'' board had long been replaced by one "For Sale.” Then one day that went, too.

Then neighbours heard that a family, recently returned from South Africa, were to move in. 

Within a few hours of the Marchby’s arriving I was on that doorstep again. As a newspaper man I thought there may be a story about South Africa. 

Hugo Marchby, as I presently found the husband’s name to be, showed me into the room on the right…the very room where, years ago, I had described that first tragedy.

So I met the wife, and presently there were the girls, Yolanda and Edis. Things were looking much the same as in the old days . . . and when they told me that Denny, their son, had gone to London, but would be back in time for dinner, I gave a silent “Phew," but whispered not a word. It was just like that other family) dead round the table in that very room so many years ago. Only now there was no table, tables had gone out when dining-rooms became lounges.

All I hoped was that no one would ever tell them what had happened and dare not tell them.

But somebody did. 

Yes, they got to know all about it. 

And the ghost story begins there. For them the place was haunted, as it had been for me in all those years, although I saw no ghost. 

They did. 

In a few weeks I saw the faces of the girls blanch and their eyes lose that "home again” expression which delights us when people come back from abroad. 

They were not missing South Africa. I knew that.  They had learned—discovered something. 

Something…something. But what? 

Nobody will ever know.  All I know is that the past did not bury the dead for them.  Edis was the first to go.  I followed her in the last carriage to the crematorium.  Not many months after Yolanda went out of her mind.  I never knew what became of her.  Then the mother died.

For the boy there was another end…And the bomb on that fateful November night in 1944 killed the father.

Funny how things happen on our own doorstep and we think nothing of them until we piece the bits of the jig-saw together at Christmas, when the wind blows eerily, the fire sparkles up and dies down again, and it’s an early time for bed.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by more of our Christmas Cats!

My apologies for the Strange Company HQ holiday party getting a bit rowdy.

The Falkland Hill UFO.

A warrior's welcome home.

A "misbegotten experiment."

The 1550 funeral of Claude of Lorraine.

Medieval people had better teeth than you may think.

The first seeing-eye dogs to ride the New York City subway.

A scandalous relative of Napoleon.

Is Santa Claus buried in Ireland?

On the other hand, he may be in Missouri.

Why cats knead.

Why we need death.

On the other hand, here are broths that never die.

One of the lesser-known awful things Nazis did.

The family who invented snow globes.

Charles Dickens' tragic Christmas turkey.

A brief history of baking powder.

Ivan T. Sanderson and the Warren County Wooo-Wooo.

The pilot who wanted to crash into Mount Everest.

In which we learn that G.K. Chesterson's brother was a stinker.

It's looking increasingly likely that MH370 was deliberately crashed.

They're still finding previously unknown Nazca geoglyphs.

Christmas party games from the past.

A Christmas dinner with the dead.

The first Washington Monument.

An 18th century experimental air rifle.

A brewer is updating an ancient beer.

A tale of financial fraud and murder.

Cats have been ruling us for quite a long time.

What Greenland was like 2 million years ago.

The man who didn't think much of his own funeral.

Underrated artifacts from King Tut's tomb.

That time when England had a mince pie government.

Some newly-discovered cave paintings in Colombia.

The oldest cyclist in the UK.

A riotous Christmas in the Chelsea Workhouse.

A fascinating cave in Australia.

A quack doctor Christmas!

Depression-era "radio recipes."

The Spitalfields Market at night.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll encounter a grim true Christmas ghost story.  In the meantime, here's Willie.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

I post a lot of ghost stories here, but you have to admit that a misandrist, baby-tickling spook is fairly unique.  The “Hartford Courant,” September 26, 1961:

NOTTINGHAM, England (UPI)--England, which has reported more ghosts over the years than any other country has a new one: a woman in pigtails who goes around tickling babies.

Tenants of an apartment house here believe the ghost is that of a woman who killed herself there several years ago. They said she spooks them by: 

Reaching out her arms in a gesture of appeal.

Showing herself only to women. 

Moving articles from cupboards. 

Leslie Weatherill, one of the tenants, said flatly: "We are moving out. We have only lived here a week, but my wife has seen the ghost twice.”

Reginald King, another tenant, said his child began to laugh as it slept in its cot.

“When one of the children we have staying with us got up she asked if that 'strange woman' would be coming back,” King said. 'She had seen her tickling the baby.”

“Although no men here have seen the ghost, all of them will tell you how frightened they are,” King said.  “Even on a warm night rooms go cold and drafty. We know we are being watched." 

Louis Leonardi, another tenant, said a bar of soap was missing mysteriously and later was found.  He also said “knives have been moved mysteriously from cupboards to the table.”

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Fall of the House of Windham

William Frederick Windham was always, to put it politely, a bit odd.  From an early age, he became both a puzzle and a worry to his family, all of them wealthy and respectable members of English society.  From boyhood on, he was anti-social, ill-mannered, headstrong, and bad-tempered.  After his unruly behavior got him kicked out of Eton, “Mad” Windham, as he was known, ignored his social equals, preferring to spend his time with servants and other members of the working class.  He was obsessed with trains, bribing porters and guards into letting him turn the railway into his own personal playground.  Wearing a guard’s uniform, he would parade the platform, herding passengers, blowing a whistle, and generally having a grand time.  He also enjoyed impersonating the police.  Some nights, he would dress as a constable and go about London “arresting” prostitutes.

And then, an event took place that turned his story from farce to tragedy.  For the first time in his life, Windham showed an interest in a woman.  Unfortunately, his choice was a beautiful and highly successful young courtesan named Agnes Willoughby.  When in 1861 he inherited the immense Windham family fortune, he decided that she would make the ideal lady of the manor, and proposed marriage. 

Willoughby was personally repelled by this unkempt, socially inept boor, and she never hesitated to say so in his presence.  However, she had no compunction about selling herself when the price was right, and she knew that in this dotty train-fancier she had hit the jackpot.  She agreed to marry him—in return for fifteen hundred pounds a year and nearly twenty thousand pounds’ worth of jewelry.  The happy couple wed on August 30, 1861.  Three weeks later, the new Mrs. Windham ran off to Ireland to join her lover, the famed opera singer Antonio Giuglini, leaving her husband with a pile of bills she had rung up that amounted to nineteen thousand pounds.

Agnes Willoughby

Windham sought consolation for his romantic difficulties by blowing through the family fortune at a truly astounding rate.  He also executed a deed where an uncle—who stood to inherit what was left of the estate if Windham died without issue—was prevented from succeeding to any of it.  This uncle became so alarmed at the trail of ruin his nephew was leaving behind him that he decided there was nothing for it but to haul him in front of a lunacy commission.  He reasoned that if it could be formally established that young William was of unsound mind—something that none of his relatives had ever doubted for an instant—his marriage could be annulled and this hemorrhage of Windham cash stopped.

The inquiry, which took place in December of 1861, ruled that while William Windham may have been strange and generally unpleasant, he was legally sane. However, the court ordered that he pay twenty thousand pounds in costs.  His uncle’s efforts to save the family fortune backfired dismally.

Windham filed for divorce, which proved as disastrous as every other action of his life.  Agnes asserted she had left her husband on the grounds of his cruelty to her.  Her descriptions of his threats to kill her and overall violently frightening behavior only increased Windham’s already notorious reputation.  There were two hearings on the divorce and a third scheduled.  Before this last court meeting could take place, however, Agnes had lured her cash cow husband back to her side.  This so annoyed the judge that he dismissed the case and ordered Windham to pay not only his costs, but Agnes’ as well.

Before long, the once fantastically wealthy William Windham was completely bankrupt.  In 1864, Agnes had somehow persuaded him to sell his remaining assets to her, not to mention take out no less than five insurance policies on his life where she was sole beneficiary.  The family manor, Felbrigg Hall, which had been theirs for generations, was put up for sale.  It was bought by a merchant named Kitton, which led to a popular music hall song featuring the refrain, “Windham has gone to the dogs, Felbrigg has gone to the Kittons.”  

Predictably, Windham’s reunion with his wife did not last long.  When Giuglini’s star began to fade, Agnes tossed him aside as well and moved on to other wealthy admirers.  The former musical idol eventually entered a private lunatic asylum.

Windham ended up living in utter destitution in a Norwich flophouse, where, after a night of heavy drinking in a round of pubs, he died on February 1, 1866, aged only 26.  After his demise, a London newspaper asked how “a British Jury could have been led into the insane belief that Mr. Windham possessed a sound mind.”

As for Agnes Willoughby, her sins reaped a spectacular reward.  In 1864 she gave birth to a son, Frederick, with the highly dubious assertion that it was her husband’s, and therefore, the rightful Windham heir.  After a great deal of legal brawling with the Windham family, she managed to have this claim legally established.  In 1870, she married the agent of the Windham estate of Hanworth, and settled down to a life of prosperous respectability.  Having grown prematurely plain and dowdy, she turned to good works, becoming a pious, prim Lady Bountiful.  She died in 1896.

Frederick Windham—who proved to be as feckless as his ostensible father—died childless only a few months after the death of his mother, and the venerable Windham line became extinct.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump brings on more of our hard-partying Christmas cats!

Tombstones that contain recipes.

A particularly awful disaster at sea.

Ancient religious icons, or toys made by children?  Archaeologists are stumped.

What to do with all those second-hand tombstones you have lying around.

How to make your very own Hand of Glory.  I kinda hope you don't want to, though.

The oldest known narrative scene.

An ancient jawbone may tell quite a tale.

Robert Walpole and the Atterbury Plot.

The Parrot Fever Panic.

Merle Oberon's hidden past.

A video for everyone who's ever wondered what the Rosetta Stone actually says.

The weird side of being a second-hand bookseller.  You never know when Napoleon's penis might cross your path.

An East India Company ship goes to China.

A New Mexico serial killer who has yet to be caught.

A look at Christmas parties of the past.

A medieval grave has been discovered which is making archaeologists very happy.

The mystery of the Tombstone Pterodactyl.

The battle for the P-51 Mustang.

The perils of being a dissident archaeologist.

A reluctant rebel.

An assortment of old Christmas superstitions.

The Victorian "fasting girls."

A Russian couple in pre-1947 India.

The hotel where people go to die.

A look at one of my favorite poems.  Yes, it features a cat.

Christmas shopping with Charles Dickens.

George Cruikshank illustrates the Christmas season.

The Great London Beer Flood.

Kaspar the Savoy Cat.

The life and confessions of a murderer.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll get handy tips about destroying your family's fortune.  In the meantime, here's an instrument that's new to me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Not George Talkington, but there must have been a strong resemblance.

Many people could be called “accident prone,” but, fortunately, few take it to the level of the subject of today’s post.  From the “Bath Chronicle,” November 21, 1833 (via Newspapers.com):
George Talkington, once a celebrated horse-dealer at Uttoxeter, who died on the 8th of April, 1826, at Cheadle, Cheshire, in his eighty-third year met with more accidents than probably ever befell any other human being. Up to the year 1793 they were as follows:— shoulder broken; skull fractured, and trepanned; left arm broken in two places; three ribs on the left side broken; a cut on the forehead; lancet case, flue case, and knife forced into the thigh; three ribs broken on the right side; and the right shoulder, elbow, and wrist dislocated; back seriously injured; cap of the right knee kicked off; left ankle dislocated; cut for a fistula; right ankle dislocated and hip knocked down; seven ribs broken on the right and left sides; kicked in the face, and the left eye nearly knocked out; the back again seriously injured; two ribs and breast bone broken; got down and kicked by a horse, until he had five holes in his left leg: the sinew just below the right knee cut through, and two holes in that leg, also two shocking cuts above the knee; taken apparently dead seven times out of different rivers.—Since 1793, (when a reference to these accidents was given to Mr. Madely, surgeon, of Uttoxeter) right shoulder dislocated and collar-bone broken; seven ribs broken; breast-bone laid open, and right shoulder dislocated; left shoulder dislocated, and left arm broken; two ribs broken; and right thigh much bruised near the pope's eye. In 1819, in his seventy-sixth year, a lacerated wound in the calf of the leg, which extended to the foot, mortification of the wound took place, which exposed all the flexor tendons of the foot, also the capsular ligaments of the ankle joint; became delirious, and so continued upwards of three weeks; his wonderful recovery from this accident was attributed chiefly to the circumstance of a friend having supplied him with a quantity of old Madeira, a glass of which he took every two hours for eight weeks, and afterwards occasionally. Since then, in 1823, in his eightieth year he had a mortification of the second toe of the right foot, with exfoliation of the bone, from which he recovered, and at last died from gradually declining old age. He was the father of eighteen children, by one wife, in fifteen years, all of whom he survived, and married again at the age of seventy-four.—Oxford and University Herald, April 29, 1826. Communicated by J.J.A.F.

Monday, December 5, 2022

One Night in Paris: A Ghost Story That Wasn't

One Henrietta Leslie wrote the following account, which appeared in the “Occult Review” for January 1920, under the title “An Extraordinary Experience.”  When I first read this story, I fully expected that “Gillespie” had died, and was making one last ghostly visit to a close friend.  The fact that it ended otherwise (spoiler alert!) makes the tale somewhat unique.

A rather remarkable happening was experienced a few years ago by a friend of mine who was spending a week or two in Paris.  Seized with a sudden impulse to attend a late evening service at the Madeleine, she left the friends she was with, promising to meet them later at a much frequented restaurant.  The music at the beautiful church, however, being particularly grand and her mood one of extreme depression, she stayed on and fell into a deep reverie, from which she was at last aroused by the verger touching her upon the shoulder and informing her that they wished to close the church for the night. He indicated,moreover, that she must leave by the side entrance, the large west door being already shut.

On passing out, the girl found herself facing the flower market, which flanks the great church on both sides. It was summer, and the twilight was gradually creeping up and chasing away the remnants of day. She went slowly down the steps, and, as she reached the last, she became suddenly conscious of a group of three people--a man and two women--talking together in animated tones.

The man, who must have caught sight of the girl over his shoulder, for he was standing with his back to her, immediately left his companions and came towards her, raising his hat. She stared at him in amazement through the half light, for it was a friend--one James Gillespie--whom she had last seen in London, and from whom she had, during her Paris sojourn, received several letters, in none of which had he made any mention of coming to France.

“Hullo, Laura!" was his greeting. "Surprised to see me, are you? Let me drive you to your hotel.” And he hailed a passing fiacre.

As my friend was about to step into the conveyance, a little barefooted urchin came running by, with a single bunch of violets upon his tray; these Gillespie purchased and tucked into the girl’s coat. He then gave Laura’s address to the driver--unprompted by her--and the pair set off.

They conversed intimately of subjects known only to themselves, until suddenly, and for no apparent reason, Gillespie seized my friend in his arms and embraced her affectionately.

“You mustn’t do that,” she protested. ”Think of your fiancée.”

“Oh yes--Estelle,” echoed Gillespie, with a blank look.  ”Forget all about it, Laura, please. I want you to meet Estelle.  She’s in Paris now. Will you come to lunch tomorrow--Café de la Lanterne, near the Bourse, you know--at half-past twelve.”

”I should like to come very much,” Laura replied; ”perhaps you’ll write the name down for me. I’ve got no memory at all,” and she handed him her little diary, in which he duly inscribed both hour and address of the projected meeting.

By this time they had reached their destination, and Gillespie, descending from the cab, helped Laura to do likewise and paid the driver.

The hotel proprietor was standing in the doorway of the house and Gillespie wished him a cheery good evening; after which, once more reminding Laura of the morrow’s appointment, he bade her good-bye and disappeared into the night.

At a quarter to twelve the following morning, Laura sallied forth to the Café de la Lanterne, a small restaurant, essentially Parisian in character, with its small check cloth covered tables and sunny veranda. She waited until past one o’clock, and then, as neither Gillespie nor his Estelle had put in an appearance, she wended her way back to her hotel.

In the doorway, as last night, stood mine host.

”Back already, mademoiselle?” he greeted her.

”My friends have failed me,” she told him. ”Did you hear the gentleman who came with me last night mention any hour?”

”Oh no, mademoiselle.” replied the old fellow; ”I only bade ‘ce Monsieur’ bon soir.”

Laura took one more look at her diary, which convinced her that she was not in fault, and resigned herself to the inevitable.

A few weeks later she returned to London. She had made no attempt to clear up the mystery by writing to Gillespie, for she felt that the first explanation was due to come from him.  When she had been home a few days, however, the telephone bell rang and her friend's voice came to her over the wire.

"You’re a nice one,” he abused her, ”leaving a poor fellow to languish like this. What’s the meaning of it, may I ask?”

”Have you any need to ask,” she rejoined, “after what happened in Paris?”

“Paris!” he echoed. ”Why, what did happen there?”

“The way you behaved to me," she enlarged.

“I dare say I should have behaved atrociously had I been there," he laughed, “but, unfortunately, I haven’t--at least, not for about six years. I've not left London since I saw you last.” 

And so it proved to be. Mutual friends gave a detailed corroboration of Gillespie’s account of his doings for the night when Laura had supposed him to be sharing her fiacre from the Madeleine.

Yet against this was the spoken evidence of the hotel proprietor and the written evidence in Laura’s diary. The whole mystery seemed impossible of solution, and has indeed remained unsolved to this day.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn 

This first Link Dump of December is hosted by some of our Christmas Cats!

What you would eat at an ancient Roman tailgate party.

Yet another unhappy wife who opted to say it with arsenic.

The Russian Liberation Army takes on Stalin.

Letters seeking help from the India Office.

A beautiful Scottish castle is on sale for $2 million.  When you consider that a whale skeleton is included, that makes it even more of a bargain.

A tale of a Victorian crossing sweeper.

The deathless Jersey Devil.

A strange ancient bronze figure.

The first American Thanksgiving football game.

Bonnie Prince Charlie in Manchester.

The mystery of the disappearing island.

A brief history of waffles.  Meh, I prefer pancakes, myself.

Intoxicating vegetables.

Yes, they're still trying to figure out what happened to Amelia Earhart.

Yes, they're still trying to figure out what killed Bruce Lee.

The ghosts of Gudgeonville.

Christmas during the siege of Paris.

Spending a penny in the old palace of Westminster.

The fairy witch of Carrick-on-Suir.

A 135-year-old message in a bottle.

Facial reconstructions of people from the past.  There's no way to know how accurate they are, of course, but they're fun.

"Blackout crime" in WWII London.

"Waiting mortuaries" for people who want to make sure they are really dead when they're buried.

It seems fitting that 2022 will bow out with a 48,000 year old zombie virus.

The mystery of the 300,000 year-old footprints.

Mummies with golden tongues.

A Christmas at Belvoir Castle.

How the word "lap" got several different meanings.

The scandalous murder of a Gilded Age entrepreneur.

Cheechee the Cigar Store Cat.

The man with the world's longest nose.

The Veiled Woman of Penn Park.

There is a sporting event known as the Commode Bowl.  Just thought you should know.

Howe and Hummel, two lawyers who were a criminal's best friend.

There may be something really freaking big living under Antarctica.  Not alarming in the slightest.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a strange twist on the old "ghost returns without anyone realizing it's a ghost" stories.  In the meantime, here's everyone's favorite Civil War tune that is not from the Civil War.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

I’ve posted about a number of “ghost cats,” but this one may top them all.  The “Daily Republican Register,” June 15, 1923:

Zion, Ill., June 15. From a cat's grave in the rear of a farm shed, has risen Zion catdom’s latest bid for fame. 

It is Topsy, the ghost cat. 

Topsy has risen to fame in the literal sense, for several days ago she was buried after apparently meeting death in an accident. But with eight lives left to her credit, Topsy wasn't content to remain underground.

Today she is placidly enjoying the second of her nine lives.

Topsy's return from the feline Shadowland is told by Ira Blackwell, one of Lake county’s dry agents.

According to Blackwell, Topsy belonged to one of his cousins. 

Topsy was marked with brown black and white spots, her left hind leg had been broken and had reknit but apart from that, she was an ordinary sort of cat, with no signs of future fame apparent. 

One day Topsy was chasing mice in the corn crib when a heavy barrel fell on her. Topsy’s mashed, bleeding remains were dug out by her owner. There was no sign of life.

It was decided to hold a regular funeral for Topsy. A grave was dug at the edge of the orchard, the remains deposited therein with due pomp and ceremony, and a little mound marked with a headstone heaped on the grave. 

The next day a cat strolled into the kitchen. It was a bit wobbly and its whiskers were dirty. 

It had brown, black and white spots, and seemed strangely at home.

An examination disclosed a left hind leg that had been broken and had knitted.

At last, Topsy’s mourners. hastened to the grave. They opened the grave, and dug down to the bottom. 

There were no cat remains there.

I can only add that I hope Zombie Topsy enjoyed her unusual place in Cat History for a great many years.  And when her people eventually had to do a re-do on her burial, let’s hope they made sure she really needed one.

Monday, November 28, 2022

The Devil's Rocking Chair; Or, The Dangers of Buying Discounted Antiques

Fifteen-year-old Jody Randall of Long Beach, California, was in most ways a typical suburban teenager.  The one thing that set her apart was a passion for antiques which was unusual for someone of her youth.  As a result of spending all her available free time (and her parents’ money) on her hobby, she eventually amassed some impressive pieces, including a doll collection noteworthy enough to earn a writeup in “Teen” magazine.

In the summer of 1970, she sold a vintage French doll to an antique dealer named Marge Lord.  While in Lord’s shop, Randall saw a heavy, ornate rocking chair dating from about 1550, of a style known as “Black Forest sleigh.”  The girl was fascinated.  She knew instantly that she must buy it, even though when she sat in the chair, she had the disconcerting feeling that invisible arms were tightly holding her waist.

Lord told Randall that she didn’t want to sell the chair, but an offer of $1,250 might change her mind.  This was way over Jody’s budget, but the teen was in love.  All she could think of was trying to find some way to get enough money to make the chair her own.

In August, Lord phoned Jody to say that she was now willing to give her the chair for $800.  Randall could even pay her in installments!  Jody was so thrilled to get the antique buy of her dreams, she never stopped to wonder why Lord’s feelings about the chair had changed so abruptly.

By early September, the chair was gracing the Randall living room.  It was not long before the family noticed that there was something…odd about their new acquisition.  No matter how well-lit the room was, the chair appeared to be in darkness, as though it was surrounded by a murky fog.  One afternoon, as Jody sat reading on the floor next to the chair, she suddenly felt a weird blackness surrounding her, leaving her immobilized.  She could not even speak.  After a period of time--she couldn’t even say how long--the dark haze disappeared, leaving her back to normal.  Telling herself that the creepy experience was all in her head, she decided not to mention it to anyone.

About a week later, the black veil again enveloped her--only this time, she saw “hellish-looking yellow eyes” appear over her head.  The terrified girl felt some evil presence was trying to possess her.  The eyes soon disappeared, but the black fog clung to her for some time.  After it finally vanished, Jody was left completely exhausted.

Jody began to feel frightened whenever she was in her house.  She had the sense that some sinister presence was stalking her.  The family’s Yorkshire terrier, Girl Dog, appeared to share the girl’s fear.  Girl Dog avoided the living room, and whenever she was alone in the house, the Yorkie would go next door to the home of Jody’s grandparents, begging to be let in.

One day in October, Jody and her mother were sitting in the living room, when the girl suddenly saw two bats fly through the room.  Her mother had seen nothing.  However, the next day, when Mrs. Randall and some visitors were in the living room, they all saw a weird light appear.  The whole family began to hear strange tapping on the walls, and the sound of invisible hands banging on the front door.  One evening, Mrs. Randall saw the heavy wooden chair vigorously rocking on its own.

Soon after this, Jody was in the kitchen when she heard loud scuffling noises coming from the living room, as if people were fighting there.  When she entered the room, she saw the chair rocking.  She then heard mocking laughter and a voice saying, “Soon she will be in my power.”  After this, the girl frequently woke up in the night to the sound of some invisible being breathing hoarsely in her bedroom.

It began to dawn on Jody why Marge Lord became so willing to sell the chair.

Despite all this, Jody’s father, Jim Randall, remained skeptical.  He did not believe in ghosts, or evil spirits, and remained convinced that the household was suffering from nothing worse than an outbreak of overactive imaginations.  However, realizing that his daughter was genuinely terrified, he offered to buy the chair from her.  He explained that if he became its official owner, she would then be left in peace.  Jim gave Jody $10, and she gave him a formal receipt.

Jim moved the chair to their garage, jokingly telling the antique that if it didn’t behave, he would turn it into kindling.  A few days later, as Jim was gluing formica to a wall, the can of glue mysteriously exploded, covering his legs with burning adhesive.  His burns were so severe he needed a series of skin grafts.

After Jim was hospitalized, his panicked family--now thoroughly convinced something satanic was going on--went to a family friend, Nadine, who was a clairvoyant.  After meditating near the chair, Nadine stated that she saw a monk standing near the rocker, and another man sitting in it.  She sensed that the sitting man was a ruler somewhere in Northern Europe who had sent very many people to their deaths.  She said it was the most disturbing vision she ever had.

Being exiled to the garage did nothing to stop the chair’s malevolent properties.  One day, when Mrs. Randall went to the garage to feed the cat, she saw the chair do its ominous rocking.  A few days later, Jody’s grandmother entered the garage.  She saw nothing, but felt such an air of unease that she left as soon as possible.  The minute she reentered the house, a large ladder that was leaning against the house inexplicably crashed to the ground.

Shortly after this episode, a friend of Judy’s named Bob Anderson playfully sat in the chair and announced that the rocker didn’t scare him.  That night, he was in an auto accident which nearly killed him.

The Randalls--rather late in the day, one would think--decided it was time to get rid of the chair.  A local antique dealer put the chair on sale, without attracting any buyers.  Then, the Randalls had the ingenious idea of writing to Anton LaVey, the notorious founder of San Francisco’s Church of Satan.  The family explained to him that they appeared to have a demon-possessed rocking chair on their hands, and--considering his line of work--they asked if he would be interested in acquiring it.

LaVey was delighted at the idea, and offered them $500.  He cheerfully explained that it was entirely possible to live peacefully with such entities, if you only understood them.

Journalist Marilyn Estes-Smith, who wrote an article about the chair in the July 1973 issue of “Fate Magazine," asked Marge Lord about the rocker’s history.  Lord explained that she had bought the chair from a Mrs. Conger.  She had planned to keep it for her own use, but after coming into the room one day to find the chair rocking on its own, she thought it might be a good idea to let young Miss Randall have the thing.  When Mrs. Conger was contacted about the chair, she became very upset and refused to even talk about it.

The backstory of this antique chair will probably forever remain a mystery.  At least Mr. LaVey had a happy ending from the story.  It’s not every day that a satanist can pick up a cursed rocking chair on the cheap.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Things are a bit hectic around here.  The Strange Company HQ staffers are busy dealing with Thanksgiving leftovers.

Wikipedia strikes again!

Gustave, serial-killer crocodile.

A living room becomes a family history art project.

Pro tip: If you want it to look like suicide, don't shoot your victim six times.

How you can communicate with your cats.  Not that they'll necessarily listen, of course.

The world's first known bad accountant.

Disability in Early Modern times.

A real stand-up guy.

The roundels of Spitalfields.

A famous glutton.

News from the world of underwater archaeology.

The world's oldest ghosts.

Meet beautiful Flossie, the world's oldest cat.

The world's biggest hoaxer.

Some really weird medieval nicknames.

Legends of "lost" Welsh islands might actually be true.

The grave of a man who was buried standing up.

Getting to the English Parliament in medieval times wasn't easy.

The history of various Thanksgiving traditions.

A "misliving singlewoman" in medieval London.

A new theory of why ancient Egyptians practiced mummification.

The Stalingrad Airlift.

The attempted assassination of Viceroy Lord Lytton.

A notorious disappearance in the Grand Canyon.

A ghost that wasn't a fan of mourning clothes.

It seems that humans were cooking food a lot earlier than anyone thought.

Education for girls in the Georgian era.

The fakelore of food.

Contemporary newspaper accounts about the London Blitz.

The heyday of "Princess Alice" Roosevelt.

A village in Romania boasts a matrimonial prison.

The Maury Island UFO.

How cats may come to help solve crimes.

The herding dogs of the Regency era.

A 17th century recipe for sweet potato pie.

The more obscure meanings of the word "plight."

A betrayed brother.

The early years of football in the Gulf.

Anne Greene, one of the luckier people to be hanged.

The GI brides of WWII.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll examine an antique purchase that went very, very weird.  Speaking of weird, here's what happens when a magician builds a guitar.