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

Friday, September 23, 2022

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to the first Link Dump of Autumn 2022!

The Strange Company staffers are late returning from summer vacation.  Typical of them.


A baby mix-up with a happy ending.

A school in India has a new student.

Prehistoric stone tools from a previously-unknown civilization.

Corpse-hunting on a New York river.

The dubious joys of temperance melodrama.

A structure near Prague that's older than Stonehenge.

In 1978, a Navy frigate was attacked by an enormous (and still mysterious) monster.

 Believe it or not, we're still uncovering dreadful details about Nazi death camps.

That time when Londoners cracked down on freak dances.

When it looked like America might lose WWII.

The last time a king was buried in Westminster Abbey.

A newly-discovered cave that's something of an ancient time capsule.

When Japanese time met a European clock, and things didn't go too well.

There are few foods I love more than sourdough bread, but even I wouldn't want to eat any baked by a 19th century miner.

How nomads helped shape civilization.

JMW Turner's lifelong friendship with Henry Trimmer.

A UFO crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2014. And people would like to find it.

For this week in Russian Weird, crop formations come to Lake Baikal.  

How the Bronx got its name.

The sounds of meteorites crashing into Mars.

When ancient Rome had a monster problem.

The last days of John Keats.

A possible explanation of the "Wow!" signal.

Autumn fashions from 1822.

A very strange murder mystery.

Propaganda and the murder of Jane McCrea.

The last of the Spitalfields Market cats.

The adventures of HMS Nautilus in 1807.

Some autochromes of Tsarist Russia.

A "witchcat" gets away with murder.

The attack on Sempringham Priory in 1312.

Lady Arbella Stuart, the woman who nearly became Queen of England.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look one of those murder mysteries that are seemingly without any clues.  In the meantime, here's some Telemann.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



This quirky little ghost story appeared in the “Buffalo News,” October 25, 1892.  It is a reprint from the “San Jose News.”

"I used to ride in races,and only last year I spun around the track at my home in the East, but I was cured of the sport in a rather remarkable manner," said a visiting bicyclist at the races of the Garden City Cyclers.

The story is a strange one," he continued, "and I have never told it to any one yet that I really think believed it, but so firmly am I convinced of of the reality of an incident that was frightful in some of its details, that for fear of a repetition I have not had the courage to ride in a race since. 

"The races were run on a half-mile horse-racing track that had been rolled and otherwise partially prepared for the purpose. I had never been especially fast, but just before the event I had bought a new pneumatic-tire racer, one of the first seen in that part of the country. The machine was a beauty, full nickeled and with the object of making a display more than anything else, I entered for the five-mile race with a 15-minute limit, the conditions being the same as those of the last race in San Jose yesterday that Wilbur Edwards won. 

"There were seven starters in the race, and we had 10 laps to make. I thought we were making rather slow time, and from some remarks that I overheard from the judges' stand when we passed on completing the eighth lap I was certain that it would be no race, as the winner would not make the distance within the time required. By this time I was well winded, and was sure that I would not come out first, but I did not feel in the least disappointed, as I had not expected to win the race when I started.

"In the beginning of the ninth lap, however, as I was tolerably well in the lead, I thought I would spurt a little. So I forged ahead and was allowed to make the pace for awhile, each of the riders having done this in turn before me. I had been in the lead seemingly only a second when to my surprise I saw just ahead of me a strong-looking rider on an old-style solid-tire wheel. I had not seen him pass and. did not know that any such man had entered the race in the first place.

"The stranger was well in the lead, and felt so much ashamed of myself to think that I was plodding behind on a new-style racing pneumatic while he was making the pace at a swinging gait on a solid tire that I just dug my toenails into the truck, so to speak, and did my utmost in an attempt to pass him. It did no good, however, I could not decrease the distance, although, spurred on as I was, my speed, as I afterwards learned, became something terrific.

"When I passed the grand and judges' stands at the end of the ninth lap for the finish there was tremendous cheering. I could not understand what it was all about, as I did not consider that my efforts on a pneumatic flyer to catch a man on a solid tire with a spring frame were worthy of much applause. I did not have time to look around and see what the rest of the riders were doing.

“On I flew like the wind, every muscle strained to the utmost in my endeavors to catch the stranger, who kept swinging along about 10 feet in the lead. I felt that he must tire out at last, so I did not relax, but rather increased the immense strain to which I was putting every fiber of my being. When we neared the grand-stand I could hear thunders of applause rolling up to greet us, and when I was within 50 yards of the scratch I made a last desperate effort to pass the stranger. 

"In the strain that was upon me I shut my eyes and paddled like lightning. When I was certain that I had crossed the tape I looked up just in time to see a terrible spectacle. The wheel of the rider ahead struck something. He was thrown forward and struck on his head. I was sure his neck was broken and blood gushed forth from his nose, mouth and ears. The sight was horrible, and in my exhausted state I could stand the strain no longer. I fainted and fell from my wheel. 

"The next thing I knew I was stretched out on a blanket in the rubbing-down room with a crowd around me. As soon as the boys saw that I had recovered consciousness all of them began to talk to me at once. They congratulated me on my wonderful victory, all declaring they had never seen anything like it before. They all wished to know, however, why I had exerted myself so much when I was so far in the lead. I had left all the rest of the riders far behind, and yet I swept forward and saved that race, coming in just inside of the 15-minute limit.

"When I spoke of a rider that I was trying to catch all were dumb with amazement. They had seen no such wheelman and the judges had given me the race. When I described the man I saw and his wheel he was recognized as being identical in appearance with a man who was killed under similar circumstances several years before in a five-mile race on the same track. It is scarcely necessary to state that I almost fainted again when I learned that I had been urged forward by a spook. I have never had the courage to get in a race again, for fear that there would be a repetition of my former terrible experience. I had before heard of ghostly riders on horseback, but it was my first, and I hope it will be my last, experience with a spook on a bicycle."

Monday, September 19, 2022

One Night in Maracaibo




The sober pages of "Scientific American" are among the last places where you expect to find a slice of The Weird, but on at least one occasion, that's exactly what happened, courtesy of the following letter which appeared in the December 18, 1886 issue:

The following brief account of a recent strange meteorological occurrence may be of interest to your readers as an addition to the list of electrical eccentricities:

During the night of the 24th of October last, which was rainy and tempestuous, a family of nine persons, sleeping in a hut a few leagues from Maracaibo, were awakened by a loud humming noise and a vivid, dazzling light, which brilliantly illuminated the interior of the house.

The occupants, completely terror stricken, and believing, as they relate, that the end of the world had come, threw themselves on their knees and commenced to pray, but their devotions were almost immediately interrupted by violent vomitings, and extensive swellings commenced to appear in the upper part of their bodies, this being particularly noticeable about the face and lips.

It is to be noted that the brilliant light was not accompanied by a sensation of heat, although there was a smoky appearance and a peculiar smell. The next morning the swellings had subsided, leaving upon the face and body large black blotches. No special pain was felt until the ninth day, when the skin peeled off, and these blotches were transformed into virulent raw sores.

The hair of the head fell off upon the side which happened to be underneath when the phenomenon occurred, the same side of the body being, in all nine cases, the more seriously injured.

The remarkable part of the occurrence is that the house was uninjured, all the doors and windows being closed at the time.

No trace of lightning could afterward be observed in any part of the building, and all the sufferers unite in saying that there was no detonation, but only the loud humming already mentioned.

Another curious attendant circumstance is that the trees around the house showed no signs of injury until the ninth day, when they suddenly withered, almost simultaneously with the development of the sores upon the bodies of the occupants of the house.

This is perhaps a mere coincidence, but it is remarkable that the same susceptibility to electrical effects, with the same lapse of time, should be observed in both animal and vegetable organisms.

I have visited the sufferers, who are now in one of the hospitals of this city; and although their appearance is truly horrible, yet it is hoped that in no case will the injuries prove fatal.

Warner Cowgill, 

U.S. Consulate, Maracaibo, Venezuela, 

November 17, 1886.

Modern students of Forteana have noted the obvious similarity to radiation sickness, with some broad hints that UFOs may have been responsible, but what caused this unsettling incident is still a matter for debate.



Friday, September 16, 2022

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


This week's Link Dump could be called a real fishing expedition.



Street harassment in Victorian London.

The world's most isolated civilization.

This is for all of you who have asked, "Why do you never post photos of Agatha Christie surfing?"

Elizabeth II's life in contemporary newspapers.

The Great Smoke Pall of 1950.

"Playing the game" of Sherlock Holmes.

The time the U.S. Treasury was robbed.

Remembering the "ice widows."

Women go to court, 1300-1800.

"Scraps" of Victorian tradesmen.

The mysterious deaths that inspired a famous horror movie.

A successful amputation from 31,000 years ago.

Jean-Pierre Cherid, the man whose life sounds like something from "The Day of the Jackal."

The mystery of the Orang Pendek.

A lost Iberian civilization.

The Dari Mart murder.

I love the "just" in this headline.

The mourning for a queen.  Victoria, this time.

The hunt for ghost islands.

America's first uprising.

The Victorian journalist and the highly unpleasant sport of rat-baiting.

Another rat-baiting link.  It's just been that kind of week, I guess.

The woman who survived jumping off the Empire State Building.

The days of boxing cats.

Some really cold crime cases.

The first known color photos of Ireland.

Comparing Georgian England's criminal code to that of Austria's.

The abbey and the wood of...Abbey Wood.

The 1860 New York visit of the Prince of Wales.

Some newly-discovered ancient hieroglyphs.

Why 1950s American women were inspired by Elizabeth II.

The Ashland Outrage.

The mystery of the "bog bodies."

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a story that might be UFO-related.  Or might not.  It's one of those strange tales that's hard to categorize.  In the meantime, here's, uh, this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



People who work in cemeteries often wind up with some odd tales to tell, as this item from the “Iowa County Democrat,” April 11, 1895, amply demonstrates:

Sexton Gorham, of Marietta City cemetery, is not a believer in ghosts, but during the many years he has been at work among the dead he has seen two mysterious persons suddenly disappear, that astonished him, says the Atlanta Constitution. 

Eleven years ago, he says, he was at work one Saturday and he noticed a man, dressed in black, standing about where the tool box is now. He says he worked on a short distance from him, and for one hour the mysterious man stood there like a statue. When Mr. Gorham concluded to quit work he placed his tools in his wheelbarrow and started towards the man to put up his tools. When he got within 15 or 20 yards of the man he looked down to guide his wheelbarrow, and when he looked up again the “man in black” had disappeared. 

He said it was an open space where he stood and there was no place for any one to hide. He said he looked all around, but he couldn't find him anywhere. Recently Sexton Gorham has had another experience. He said that he was coming from the new cemetery to the old, through a drizzling rain, and at a newly made grave he saw a woman dressed in black. He watched her closely, and walked toward her to see who it was out on such an inclement day, and when he got very near her he passed around a monument, and when he looked for the “woman in black" again she, too, had suddenly vanished. He went to where she stood and he could see no tracks and he made a diligent search for her, but nowhere was she visible. Sexton Gorham says it put some “curious feelings" on him, and he did not propose to explain the matter.

Monday, September 12, 2022

William Allen White and the Little People




William Allen White (1868-1944) was a prominent Kansas newspaper editor, author, and politician who was a leading member of the “Progressive movement” of the early half of the 20th century.  Sometimes called the “Sage of Emporia,” White saw himself as a spokesperson for small-town middle America.

This is all very nice, but the estimable Mr. White would not be ushered into the hallowed halls of Strange Company HQ if it wasn’t for one memorable brush with The Weird he claimed to have experienced in 1891.  The following account comes from his posthumously-published autobiography.

One other thing I remember--a strange thing and quite mad. The August harvest moon, under which a few nights before I had come home feeling most poetical from my day’s fishing with my visiting editors, was still shining high in the sky when I walked home another night.  Not unconscious of the night splendor, I turned in and slept deeply. Then I remember waking up, when the moon's beams were slanting and the dawn must have been but two or three hours away. Now this is sure: I did wake up. Something--it seemed to me the sound of distant music--came to my ear. The head of my bed was near a south window and I looked out. And I will swear across the years during which I have held the picture, that there under a tree--a spreading elm tree--I saw the Little People, the fairies. I was not dreaming; at least I did not think so then and I cannot think so now. They were making a curious buzzing noise, white little people, or gray, three or four inches high. And I got up out of bed and went to another window and still saw them. Then I lay on my belly on my bed and kicked my heels and put my chin in my hands, to be sure I was not sleeping, and still I saw them.  For a long time, maybe five minutes, they were buzzing about, busy at something, I could not make out what. Then I turned away a moment, maybe to roll over on my side or to get upon my knees, and they began to fade away; an instant later they were gone. And there I was like a fool, gawking at the bluegrass under the elm. I got up and sat in a chair. I was deeply upset, bemused, troubled. I thought: “Maybe I’m going crazy!” I knew well enough of course even then that what I saw I did not see, but when you are cold sober and have the conviction spread over you that you are made, you are bothered--and I have been bothered ever since. It is not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Many years later I heard of transparent fish--with other eyes, other creatures see other things; with other ears they hear much that escapes our human ears. Perhaps in our very presence are other beings like the transparent fish, which we may not feel with our bodies attuned to rather insentient nerves. Heaven knows! For an hour I thought I was crazy. And when I recall that hour and am so sure that I was awake, I think maybe I am still crazy.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

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



A visit to Morden College.

OK, let's talk deviant nuns.

Examining a weird double death.

That time Geoffrey Chaucer's father was kidnapped.  It's quite the medieval soap opera.

The context behind some famous Napoleon quotes.

The world's oldest bottle of wine.  And, no, you would not want to drink it.

The famed Kentucky Meat Shower of 1876.

Cremation in Victorian Britain.

Yes, there are such things as eyelash superstitions.

A man involved in the Berners Street Hoax.

How we began comforting people with the words, "there, there."

The magical calendar which gives the secret to everything.

Scientists are squabbling over a 7 million year old fossil.

So, who's up for having a whisky featuring beaver anal glands?

A Dutch Halloween party, 1899.

Dangerous dancing dandies!

The Bradford Sweets Poisoning.

In search of Mary Seacole, innovative nurse.

The significance of a rock from ancient Greece.

Alaskan UFOs.

Julia, life-saving dog.

A hypnotic murderer.

MONGOLIAN DEATH WORMS.  I am so happy to have the opportunity to add those words to my blog.

Thomas Bewick talks cats.

"Honey, what's for dinner?"  "36,000 year old bison meat."  There are times when I think scientists have way too much spare time on their hands.

A woman who married not wisely, but too damn often.

A leaden coffin and a gloomy vault.

The village that just keeps humming.

One very lonely house.

Meet Jonathan, the world's oldest living animal.

The adventures of a 19th century aeronaut.

Every parent wants their kids to do well at school, but this may be going a bit too far.

The last fight between mounted lancers.

Some archival papers of Prime Ministers.

That time when America banned sliced bread.

A marriage drama in 19th century high places.

Emile Zola, photographer.

Astronomers are seeing some freaky things, and they're not happy about it.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an early 20th century journalist's very strange encounter.  In the meantime, I felt I couldn't ignore the biggest news story of the week.  I'm no royalist, but I liked Elizabeth.  Fate handed her a very strange job, and she performed it as well and conscientiously as she could.  (I always suspected she would have been far happier as country village housewife Lizzie Windsor.)  I'm sorry to see one of the few remaining links to a bygone world go.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



As I have mentioned before, some mighty strange things can happen at wakes.  This example appeared in the “Galesburg Enterprise,” February 12, 1892:

A neat-appearing two-story frame of modern architecture on the Springfield (Ohio) pike is enjoying a reputation as a place for ghosts to hold their carnivals. It is in the interior of this house that the ghostly scenes are enacted. The last person who occupied the house with his family was a gentleman by the name of Prentiss, but himself and family remained no longer than they could help. A little child of Mr. Prentiss died, and several of the intimate friends of the family were sitting up with the remains. 

It was about 12 o'clock at night, and the occupants of the room were dozing from their vigil, when, with a muffled exclamation, one of the ladies arose from the chair, and, with a trembling hand, pointed toward one of the walls of the room. Seemingly a hand of fire had suddenly appeared upon the wall. The hand first appeared near the ceiling, but did not remain motionless. With the index finger pressed against the papered wall, the hand moved downward until the floor was reached. It then returned to the ceiling and back again, making six perpendicular visits downward and upward, after which it disappeared and was seen no more that night. Lately though the apparition has continued nightly.

How long the mysterious proceedings will continue is, of course, unknown, but at the present time it appears as though the hand of fire is going to leave its mark upon every inch of paper upon the wall.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Murder and Mystery: The Tragic Tobin Family




All families experience tragedies, to one extent or another.  However, it is thankfully rare that any clan goes through a string of bizarre misfortunes like those suffered by the otherwise commonplace Tobin family.

In 1885, young Mary Tobin moved from her home in Pennsylvania to Staten Island.  In 1887, she found work as an assistant to a doctor named Samuel A. Robinson.  Tobin was described as an intelligent and extremely attractive girl.  Early in 1889, she excitedly told everyone she knew that she was engaged to be married.  Curiously, however, the identity of her fiance was a mystery to her friends. The only men they had ever seen her with were Dr. Robinson and his son.  By all appearances, Mary was a happy and rather fortunate person, without an enemy in the world.  

Samuel Robinson


On April 13, 1889, she left Robinson’s employ, saying that she was returning to Pennsylvania to visit her family, and would soon return for her wedding.  Two days later, she visited the doctor's office for a second farewell.  She told Robinson that before going back home, she would visit a friend in Long Island, Mrs. Frank McKinney.

That was the last anyone ever heard from her.  A few days later, Mrs. McKinney came to Robinson's office, reporting that Mary's trunk had arrived at her home, but there was no sign of Miss Tobin herself.  A week or so later, Mary's brothers, Daniel and David, also sought out the doctor, asking if he had any idea what had become of their sister.

On May 12, the question of Mary Tobin's whereabouts was finally answered when her body was found off the rocks in Clifton, Staten Island.  The Staten Island coroner stated that she had drowned.  However, another doctor, J. Walter Wood, disputed this, asserting that no water had been found in her stomach, causing him to believe she had been dead before she entered the water.  (Curiously, Wood was not allowed to testify at Tobin's inquest.)  The jury at her inquest gave the unsatisfactory ruling that Tobin had died of asphyxia, from unknown causes.  The mystery of what killed Mary was never definitively solved.  (The entire official investigation into Tobin's death was remarkably slipshod and inept--in the minds of some onlookers, deliberately so.)

A pathologist thought her body had been in the water for eight to ten days.  If so, that would mean her whereabouts were unknown for several days after she was last seen.  The pathologist also addressed some inevitable rumors.  He stated that there were no signs that the young woman had undergone an abortion--in fact, he believed she had been a virgin.  (Dr. Robinson responded to this latter statement by alleging that Mary had been sexually active, earning himself much public criticism for this "breach of good taste.")

It was only after Mary's death that the identity of her fiance finally became known: he was another doctor, William J. Bryan.  As it happened, Dr. Bryan was the last person known to have seen her alive.  After she left Robinson's office on April 15, she went directly to Bryan's place of work, after which he walked her to the train station.  He said that he had left her at the station before her train arrived.  (However, the railroad's ticket agent testified that she had not seen Mary Tobin--whom she knew quite well--on the night of the 15th.)  

William Bryan


Although Bryan conceded that he and Mary had been close, he initially refused to either confirm or deny that they had been engaged.  (A reporter from the "New York World" recorded that when he interviewed Bryan, the doctor presented a strange demeanor for someone whose girlfriend had just turned up dead.  He appeared to be "quite jovial and during the conversation frequently gave vent to laughter.")  Bryan also dished a bit of dirt about Dr. Robinson.  He claimed that Robinson had disliked Mary, and that he had owed the dead woman a sizable amount of money.  (For some years after Mary's death, Bryan and Robinson would keep themselves busy by accusing each other of having murdered the young woman, and then using "undue influence" to stifle the investigation.)

It was noted that there was a problem with Bryan's account of the night Mary disappeared.  He claimed that he left her at the station at 8:54 p.m. in order to make a medical call.  He returned to his office, whereupon an assistant, Timothy McInerney, drove him to the home of one of his patients, E.J. Field, where he arrived about 10:40 p.m.  This meant that according to Bryan, it took one hour and forty minutes to make a trip that should have only taken about half an hour.  (McInerney countered this finding by stating that he and Bryan had made three other house calls before arriving at Field's home, but this claim does not appear to have been verified.)

In May 1891, Bryan's former housekeeper, Mrs. W.S. Glassford, revived the Tobin mystery by going to the press with some scandalous accusations.  She claimed that Bryan had had a most improper relationship with the dead woman.  She also stated that when Bryan walked Mary to the train station, Miss Tobin was crying uncontrollably, and that the girl was "frantic" over Bryan's relationship with another woman.  The incensed Bryan vowed he would make Mrs. Glassford "smart for the lies she has uttered."  "I shall follow her now to the bitter end and force her to prove what she says or suffer."  Bryan went to the DA asking that the examination into Tobin's death be reopened, but he was evidently ignored.

Around this same time, the riddle of Mary's death became even more sinister when the Franklin, Pennsylvania home of her father, N.P. Tobin, caught fire and burned to the ground.  Mr. Tobin’s body was found in the ruins.  However, he had not died from the flames, but had been strangled before the fire was set.

Mr. Tobin had indicated to friends that he obtained some sort of information that would lead to the identity of his daughter’s murderer.  It was speculated that this dangerous knowledge was the motive for his own killing, but this second Tobin death was fated to remain as utterly mysterious as the first.  

This was not the last tragedy to hit the Tobin family.  Four months after N.P. Tobin’s death, the tin shop where Mary’s brother, D.S. Tobin, was a partner also burned down as a result of arson.  This crime was also never solved.  The younger Tobin declared that the same enemy was behind all these catastrophes and the entire Tobin family would be “wiped out of existence” if the fiend was not caught.

The fiend never was.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


After you've read the links, feel free to join the Strange Company staff in a game of croquet!


The Victorian urban legend that scary stories could kill.

No, Lizzie Borden did not confess.

The first-hand account of a woman who survived the sinking of the Titanic.

How a bit of eavesdropping solved a kidnapping.

Not too many people get turned into a sex doll, but that's Alma Mahler for you.

The fugitive Nazi and the Syrian Secret Service.

The possible link between ancient coins and a supernova.

Here's your big chance to explore a really spooky old rail tunnel.

Cricket-player detectives.  Or is it detective cricket-players?

A look at the Isle of Iona.

The man who fought WWII using a bow.

A 1912 chat with a lady undertaker.

The decriminalization of heresy.

The remarkable life of Mughal empress Nur Jahan.

A look at the corpse lily, probably the flower you'd least like to get in a bouquet.

The Onion Pie Murder.

The life story of the girl in a famous Velazquez portrait.

The complicated job of caring for one of the most unusual cloaks in the world.

The lives of soldiers during the Wars of the Roses.

Percy Shelley visits the mountains of West Wales.

That time that America managed to lose a nuke.

Henry VI and the appointment of a Lord Chancellor.

New details about the wreck of the Titanic.

A brief history of the Tunnel of Love.

Digging for Pocahontas.

A rich businessman's puzzling suicide.

The man who loved corvids.

The 1864 Battle of Heligoland.

Rules for fairy fashions.

The untried diplomatic solution for the U.S. to avoid war with Japan.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a family's mysterious multiple tragedies.  In the meantime, bring on the madrigals!


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



In this week’s news item from the past, meet Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Chesley Ott, a couple who provided definitive proof that no love lasts forever.  “Hull Daily Mail,” August 28, 1912:

A courtship which, according to the principals, began 5,000 years ago on the banks of the Nile, culminated yesterday in the St. Louis Divorce Court, U.S.A., when Mrs. R. C. Ott brought a suit for a divorce from her husband and the custody of their two children. 

Mr. and Mrs. Ott both believe in reincarnation, and they declare that their shattered romance had its inception in a former existence once when both were Egyptians. Mr Ott is an artist, and his wife was an artist's model when he married her in 1910, after his return from Egypt, where he went for local colour, to reproduce Egyptian architecture, for a wealthy patron. 

Mr. Ott declares that he had strange dreams in Egypt, and that when after his return he met his future wife, he knew her immediately as Princess Amneris, Pharaoh's daughter, who was his love 5,000 years ago. 

"We first met," he says, “during our previous incarnation in the Queen's Chamber of the great pyramid. Then we used to meet in the palace gardens, and wend our way to the Nile, where she loved to throw sweetmeats to the sacred crocodiles. I recall the great tragic night when Pharaoh discovered us. There were torches and guards, and I was seized." 

Mrs. Ott said: "I remember how we went to the river together and fed the crocodiles.  I remember our first meeting in the pyramid. I had accompanied my father on a tour of inspection, and looking into the Queen's Chamber, I saw the handsomest man in the world. 

"We fell in love at once. That evening he came into the royal gardens, and our love, which has lasted through centuries, began.

“I have beautiful recollections of nights in the royal barge, and I vividly recall my father's anger when we were discovered together. It must have been Isis. Egypt's great goddess, who watched over us all these centuries, and finally brought us together." 

Mrs. Ott now alleges that her reincarnated husband, soon after their twentieth-century wedding, began to throw crockery at her, and became insanely jealous, often insulting her in the presence of guests. She wants the 5,000-year-old romance terminated.

Trying to revive old love affairs is usually a bad idea.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Precolitsch; Or, When Hungarian Gypsies Say There is Trouble Ahead, Believe Them




The “Precolitsch” (or “Prikulics”) is among the more unpleasant figures in Eastern European folklore.  This being--sort of a cross between Bigfoot and a werewolf--is said to live in the Wallachian Mountains.  It is of a great size, possesses the capability to assume various forms, and is of a truly terrifying strength.  And it has no fondness for humans.


Although the Precolitsch is regarded as a mythological creature, there is at least one account claiming it made an all-too-real appearance.  This strange tale--which sounds like a horror movie cliche, but is given as literal fact--was related by Philip Macleod in the September 1913 issue of “Occult Review.”  Macleod stated that this story--which he paraphrased--originally appeared in “a German psychological publication" about sixty years earlier.  The account was written by a Hungarian doctor who heard the tale directly from the army officer directly involved with the incident.  Although this original publication apparently used the officer’s real name, Macleod, for whatever reason, gave him the pseudonym of “Muller.”


At the time our story opens, Muller was an Ensign in the Austro-Hungarian army.  He was stationed at the Pass of Temesn in Transylvania, where he commanded some forty men.  The pass was a long ravine, about fifty yards wide, surrounded on both sides by rocky precipices.  A gated wall had been built across it.  Inside the wall were the buildings occupied by the commanding officer, his men, and other officials.  Two sentries were always posted outside the wall, one by the gate, and the other a bit farther out.


One morning shortly before Christmas, one of the soldiers, a Hungarian gypsy, came before Muller and asked to be granted an unusual favor.  He was scheduled to stand guard that night from 10 p.m. to midnight, at the outermost post from the wall.  He pleaded with Muller that some other soldier be assigned to take his place.  He said that he would most willingly do an extra turn as a guard, if he could just be spared having to do it that night.


Muller naturally asked the soldier his reason for such a strange request.  The man replied that he had been born on “New Sunday,” [the second Sunday after Easter] which gave him the blessing (or curse, depending on your viewpoint) of “second-sight.”  As a result, he knew that if he went out on guard duty that night, something dreadful would happen to him.  After midnight, his danger would be over.  He again begged most earnestly to have his turn as guard reassigned.


Muller was so impressed by the soldier’s obvious sincerity and desperation that his first instinct was to grant his request, particularly as the man had an otherwise faultless service record.  However, he concluded that acceding to such an eccentric supplication would set a bad precedent, one that might ultimately be detrimental to army discipline.  He delivered a brief lecture on the folly of trusting in superstition, and ordered the soldier to mount the outer guard that night.  Muller reassuringly reminded him that the other guard would have him constantly in his sight, so he, as well as the rest of the company, could instantly come to the rescue if required.


That evening, Muller went to the Quarantine Superintendent’s quarters for a game of chess.  At about 9:30, their game was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a man’s face outside the window.  The man had a strange, wild look on his face, and stared at them with an expression of what seemed like “mockery or derision.”  He seemed to be wrapped in a white cloak which was common wear for the local peasantry.  After a moment, the man turned from the window and slowly walked off.


Muller and his friend dashed outside to investigate.  It was a clear, moonlit night, which enabled them to see the man pass along the wall, until he reached a small recess in the structure.  He turned into it.  However, when the two soldiers reached the recess, they found it was empty.  Not knowing what else to do, the pair gave each other quizzical looks, shrugged, and went back to chess.


Shortly after 10 p.m., the game was again disrupted, this time by the sound of two shots, followed by strange noises and shouting.  The two men, as well as the rest of the soldiers, immediately dashed outside.  They found the inner sentry standing in a state of shock, gripping his smoking gun and staring towards the spot where the gypsy was standing guard.


Except…the gypsy was no longer there.


Muller ran to the place where the soldier had been standing.  All he found was the man’s gun lying in the snow, with the barrel bent into a semi-circle.  Also in the snow were tracks of the soldier’s shoes, along with other, shapeless footprints.


They found the soldier thirty paces away, lying below the crest of a slope.  He was unconscious, and moaning in agony.  He was carried to their hospital, where they found that his entire body had been burned black, particularly the face and chest.  He never regained consciousness, and continued his piteous moans and cries until he died the next day.


The other sentry stated that, knowing of his comrade’s apprehension, he had never taken his eyes off him.  The moonlight allowed him to see the gypsy quite clearly.  Then he suddenly saw a black shape standing in the snow a short distance away.  It seemed more animal than human.  The creature began moving toward the outer sentry.  The soldier fired at the figure.  Before the inner sentry could reach him, the Thing grabbed the gypsy, and both instantly disappeared.


And that, as they say, was that.  No one ever learned anything more about the gypsy’s weird and terrible death.  And Muller was left with a lifelong regret that he had not taken the soldier’s “superstition” more seriously.


Friday, August 26, 2022

Weekend Link Dump

 

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Join us in the Strange Company HQ garden while we relax with some links!



A murder with a particularly messy personal background.

A striking new image of Jupiter.

The weird side of medieval medicine.

The man wrongfully executed for starting the Great Fire of London.

Let's face it, the history of the human race is the history of cats.

Conor and Sheila Dwyer attend church, and then vanish.   (Although I don't think this disappearance is very mysterious.  They're somewhere in that river.)

Victorian "Night Soil Men" had a really crappy way to earn a living.

A human heart is on tour in Brazil.

The unique incense clocks.

Archaeologists may have found St. Peter's birthplace.

An interesting study about look-a-likes.

Just a handy reminder that politicians have always been corrupt.

The sort of thing that happens when people with way too much time on their hands contemplate about what to say when you're introduced to someone.

An ancient mansion in Israel.

There may really have been an earthquake on the day Jesus was crucified.

An archival look at the 1572 Paris Massacre.

Elizabethan poet Mary Sidney and the Voice of God.

How to eat well in Antarctica.

Gilded Age strongwomen.

A romance ended by a mourning ring.

The oldest civilization in America.

Tiger Lil, survivor sailor cat.

How to write a message to the future.

In search of Ivan the Terrible's library.

The days of traveling ghost shows.

The evidence suggesting that precognition is real.

One big disadvantage to being a medieval British friar.

Suffice to say that King Demetrius the Besieger didn't get his name for nothing.

Religious reconciliation in medieval England.

When witchcraft was used against Hitler.

Why Caesar invaded Britain.

A zoologist's strange discoveries.

The Dublin Whisky Fire.

A 300-year-old ramble through London.

A cemetery that holds a musical mystery.

Fake demonic possession.  For fun and profit!

The reemergence of an ancient "Spanish Stonehenge."

How certain wines came to be called "claret," "sack," and "hock."

The deadliest maritime disaster ever.  And it's surprisingly little-known.

In which Charles I looks for friends.  Spoiler: he wasn't very successful.

In which we learn that Jacques Derrida loved banana bread.

Possible evidence of a Welsh Atlantis.

The mysterious Brayman Road attack.

Some new finds in the Antikythera shipwreck.

The death of the funeral pie.

The mystery of the "Boy in the Box."

Turmoil on the Seine.

The Chesapeake/HMS Leopard incident.

A forged Galileo manuscript.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a very creepy story from 19th century Transylvania.  In the meantime, let's disco!


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com



You don’t normally see Mystery Blood, a sinister Woman in Black, and poltergeist activity all in the same newspaper story, but I guess this is just our lucky week.  This story from the “San Francisco Bulletin” was reprinted in the New Orleans “Times-Picayune” on September 20, 1862.

A Telegraph Hill Ghostess. The Woman in Black. Allusion was recently made in the Bulletin to a Telegraph Hill ghost story, and as there really is something remarkable about the matter, we now present the whole story as received from an intelligent disbeliever in "spirits." Said he:

It is a week ago last Monday when the first visitation came to a house on Kearney street, between Greenwich and Lombard. George---- something he's an Englishman by birth and a stevedore by occupation lived there. Long ago he married a widow who already had a daughter. The widow died, and George (he's got a curious name that I can’t recollect, so I always call him by his Christian name,) married again; this time to a servant girl in my house. By the last wife George has two children; so the first girl has a step-father and step-mother, you see.

Well, on Monday week, George and his wife had gone out to a neighbor's near by, leaving the children at home.  The little ones after a while saw a lady, dressed in black, walk into the house and through the rooms, to the bedchamber of their parents. There was nothing ghost-like about the woman in black--she looked natural enough, and it was not until she entered their parents’ bedroom that the children became curious and followed her.  They saw her go in and lie on the bed.They then were frightened and ran to find their parents.   The father came in with the little ones, but as he could see no one, he supposed the visitant was simply one of the neighbors, looking, perhaps, tor his wife.

On Tuesday the mysterious visitant again appeared. The father and mother couldn't see her, but the little ones (4 and 5 years of age) could.  She again walked to the same bedchamber. "There, don't you see her?  She's going to the bed again!" cried tho children. The parents saw nothing. "Her face is all bloody!” whispered one of the frightened children. "She's lying down on the bed, and now her face is on the pillow!" As the little one spoke, sure enough, the parents saw a great blotch or wet blood appear on the white pillow, but they could see nothing else.  It was very singular.

From that time until Saturday, dishes and furniture were capsized and broken, and there was the old Harry to pay generally. The eldest girl (the step-daughter) seemed to be the most affected. George's wife, too, who didn't believe at all in spirits, was also attacked. She was sitting in a chair, when she suddenly felt and heard a rap under it. Looking under it, she could see nothing. She had heard how Spiritualists convene with spirits, so she asked: "Are there any spirits present?”   when a loud voice close to her ear exclaimed "Yes!" Yet she was alone.

"Do you want me?" she queried. 

"Yes," said the voice.

“Then you can go to the old fish," she replied; whereupon her chair seemed to be seized by hands on either side and carried all around the room as she sat in it. 

The eldest girl, too, had frequently been slapped on the face by the woman in black, and blood always appeared upon her cheek on such occasions. It was found best to leave the house, so annoying had this come to be, so the family moved to a house on Montgomery street, near Green, still on Telegraph Hill. But the singular woman in black also appeared here. On Saturday, the oldest girl went to the house of Mr. S. It was broad daylight, and, attracted by the mysterious rumor, some thirty or forty persons also went to the house to talk with the girl. While they were there she suddenly declared that the woman in black was approaching her with her bloody hand. Then she was struck again, and bloody marks of fingers suddenly appeared upon her face. The blood even ran down upon her neck. 

Mrs. S. with a damp towel removed the blood from the girl's face, and was standing beside her, talking, when all at once Mrs. S. was herself struck in the face, and blood appeared all over it!  That's about the whole story, but it may be well to add that Mrs. S. and the eldest girl believe to a certain extent in "spiritual manifestations.”

The blood discolored all the water in a basin at Mr. S.'s house, so it is believed to be genuine blood--blood of the body. Some clots of it that dried on the pillow and bed clothes have been preserved for analysis, so as to be sure that no one has been squirting blood-colored liquid at the supposed victims of spiritual assaults.

Very many persons supposed to be rational disbelievers in spiritual manifestations assert most positively that this occurred, and it is rather perplexing to account for it. The father was a firm disbeliever, but now says he can doubt no longer. He hates to talk about it. The mother firmly disbelieved, and won't believe now. although she was carried round a room, heard strange voices, and so on. The eldest girl was perhaps a believer before this happened. The two children knew nothing about such things. Mrs. S. believes in it a little, but not much. 

Part of it is accounted for in this manner: Medical books say that where the skin of the face has been diseased, then from a spasm of fear or pain it sometimes happens that the vicarous blood rushes through the skin just as though it had been brought out by a blow. And it so happens that the girl's face was affected by poison oak some time since.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn anything more about this first-rate ghost story.

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Ghost of Weinsberg Prison




There are many stories of haunted prisons, but arguably the weirdest and the best-authenticated of the lot took place in Weinsberg, Germany in 1835.  The prison physician, Justinus Kerner, published a small book documenting the case, which included sworn statements from the many people who had witnessed the surprisingly lengthy haunting, with all of them concurring that they saw no way that the mysterious phenomena they had seen could be faked.

Catherine Crowe published the most relevant excerpts from Kerner’s book in her 1847 paranormal classic “Night-Side of Nature.”  I am largely reprinting these excerpts below, as I concluded they are simply too full of curious details for any paraphrase to do them justice.

The central figure of our story (aside from the ghost, of course) was an inmate of the Weinsberg prison named Elizabeth Eslinger.  On September 12, 1835, the prison’s warden, a man named Mayer, informed the magistrates that every night at about 11, Eslinger was visited by a ghost.  The apparition said that she was “destined to release it,” and when she refused his pleas for her to follow him, it would press painfully on her neck.  Mayer included a deposition by an inmate named Rosina Schahl, confirming this claim, adding that she herself had seen the spirit standing over Eslinger’s bed.  The magistrates responded with an order that Eslinger be examined by Dr. Kerner, in order to assess her mental and physical health.  Soon after this, Kerner sent the magistrates his report on the beleaguered woman:

“Having examined the prisoner, Elizabeth Eslinger, confined here since the beginning of September, I found her of sound mind, but possessed with one fixed idea, namely, that she is and has been for a considerable time troubled by an apparition, which leaves her no rest, coming chiefly by night, and requiring her prayers to release it. It visited her before she came to the prison, and was the cause of the offence that brought her here. Having now, in compliance with the orders of the supreme court, observed this woman for eleven weeks, I am led to the conclusion that there is no deception in this case, and also that the persecution is not a mere monomaniacal idea of her own, and the testimony not only of her fellow-prisoners, but that of the deputy-governor’s family, and even of persons in distant houses, confirms me in this persuasion.

“Eslinger is a widow, aged thirty-eight years, and declares that she never had any sickness whatever, neither is she aware of any at present; but she has always been a ghost-seer, though never till lately had any communication with them; that now, for eleven weeks that she has been in the prison, she is nightly disturbed by an apparition, that had previously visited her in her own house, and which had been once seen also by a girl of fourteen—a statement which this girl confirms. When at home, the apparition did not appear in a defined human form, but as a pillar of cloud, out of which proceeded a hollow voice, signifying to her that she was to release it, by her prayers, from the cellar of a woman in Wimmenthal, named Singhaasin, whither it was banished, or whence it could not free itself. She (Eslinger) says that she did not then venture to speak to it, not knowing whether to address it as Sie, Ihr, or Du (that is, whether she should address it in the second or third person)—which custom among the Germans has rendered a very important point of etiquette. It is to be remembered that this woman was a peasant, without education, who had been brought into trouble by treasure-seeking, a pursuit in which she hoped to be assisted by this spirit. This digging for buried treasure is a strong passion in Germany.

“The ghost now comes in a perfect human shape, and is dressed in a loose robe, with a girdle, and has on its head a four-cornered cap. It has a projecting chin and forehead, fiery, deep-set eyes, a long beard, and high cheek-bones, which look as if they were covered with parchment. A light radiates about and above his head, and in the midst of this light she sees the outlines of the spectre.

“Both she and her fellow-prisoners declare that this apparition comes several times in a night, but always between the evening and morning bell. He often comes through the closed door or window, but they can then see neither door nor window, nor iron bars; they often hear the closing of the door, and can see into the passage when he comes in or out that way, so that if a piece of wood lies there they see it. They hear a shuffling in the passage as he comes and goes. He most frequently enters by the window, and they then hear a peculiar sound there. He comes in quite erect. Although their cell is entirely closed, they feel a cool wind when he is near them. All sorts of noises are heard, particularly a crackling. When he is angry, or in great trouble, they perceive a strange mouldering, earthy smell. He often pulls away the coverlet, and sits on the edge of the bed. At first the touch of his hand was icy cold, since he became brighter it is warmer; she first saw the brightness of his finger-ends; it afterward spread further. If she stretches out her hand she can not feel him, but when he touches her she feels it. He sometimes takes her hands and lays them together, to make her pray. His sighs and groans are like a person in despair; they are heard by others as well as Eslinger. While he is making these sounds, she is often praying aloud, or talking to her companions, so they are sure it is not she who makes them. She does not see his mouth move when he speaks. The voice is hollow and gasping. He comes to her for prayers, and he seems to her like one in a mortal sickness, who seeks comfort in the prayers of others. He says he was a catholic priest in Wimmenthal, and lived in the year 1414.”

“He says, that among other crimes, a fraud committed conjointly with his father, on his brothers, presses sorely on him; he can not get quit of it; it obstructs him. He always entreated her to go with him to Wimmenthal, whither he was banished, or consigned, and pray there for him.

“She says she can not tell whether what he says is true; and does not deny that she thought to find treasures by his aid. She has often told him that the prayers of a sinner, like herself, can not help him, and that he should seek the Redeemer; but he will not forbear his entreaties. When she says these things, he is sad, and presses nearer to her, and lays his head so close that she is obliged to pray into his mouth. He seems hungry for prayers. She has often felt his tears on her cheek and neck; they felt icy cold; but the spot soon after burns, and they have a bluish red mark. (These marks are visible on her skin.)

“One night this apparition brought with him a large dog, which leaped on the beds, and was seen by her fellow-prisoners also, who were much terrified, and screamed. The ghost, however, spoke, and said, ‘Fear not; this is my father.’ He had since brought the dog with him again, which alarmed them dreadfully, and made them quite ill.

“Both Mayer and the prisoners asserted that Eslinger was scarcely seen to sleep, either by night or day, for ten weeks. She ate very little, prayed continually, and appeared very much wasted and exhausted. She said she saw the spectre alike, whether her eyes were opened or closed, which showed that it was a magnetic perception, and not seeing by her bodily organs. It is remarkable that a cat belonging to the jail, being shut up in this room, was so frightened when the apparition came, that it tried to make its escape by flying against the walls; and finding this impossible, it crept under the coverlet of the bed, in extreme terror. The experiment was made again, with the same result; and after this second time the animal refused all nourishment, wasted away, and died.

“In order to satisfy myself of the truth of these depositions, I went to the prison on the night of the 15th of October, and shut myself up without light in Eslinger’s cell. About half-past eleven I heard a sound as of some hard body being flung down, but not on the side where the woman was, but the opposite; she immediately began to breathe hard, and told me the spectre was there. I laid my hand on her head, and adjured it as an evil spirit to depart. I had scarcely spoken the words when there was a strange rattling, crackling noise, all round the walls, which finally seemed to go out through the window; and the woman said that the spectre had departed.

“On the following night it told her that it was grieved at being addressed as an evil spirit, which it was not, but one that deserved pity; and that what it wanted was prayers and redemption.

“On the 18th of October, I went to the cell again, between ten and eleven, taking with me my wife, and the wife of the keeper, Madame Mayer. When the woman’s breathing showed me the spectre was there, I laid my hand on her, and adjured it, in gentle terms, not to trouble her further. The same sort of sound as before commenced, but it was softer, and this time continued all along the passage, where there was certainly nobody. We all heard it.

“On the night of the 20th I went again, with Justice Heyd. We both heard sounds when the spectre came, and the woman could not conceive why we did not see it. We could not; but we distinctly felt a cool wind blowing upon us when, according to her account, it was near, although there was no aperture by which air could enter.”

As part of the investigation, Mayer’s wife, along with her 19-year-old niece, spent a night in the cell.  Her report to the magistrates went as follows:

“It was a rainy night, and, in the prison, pitch dark. My niece slept sometimes; I remained awake all night, and mostly sitting up in bed.

“About midnight I saw a light come in at the window; it was a yellowish light, and moved slowly; and though we were closely shut in, I felt a cool wind blowing on me. I said to the woman, ‘The ghost is here, is he not?’ She said ‘Yes,’ and continued to pray, as she had been doing before. The cool wind and the light now approached me; my coverlet was quite light, and I could see my hands and arms; and at the same time I perceived an indescribable odor of putrefaction; my face felt as if ants were running over it. (Most of the prisoners described themselves as feeling the same sensation when the spectre was there.) Then the light moved about, and went up and down the room; and on the door of the cell I saw a number of little glimmering stars, such as I had never before seen. Presently, I and my niece heard a voice which I can compare to nothing I ever heard before. It was not like a human voice. The words and sighs sounded as if they were drawn up out of a deep hollow, and appeared to ascend from the floor to the roof in a column; while this voice spoke, the woman was praying aloud: so I was sure it did not proceed from her. No one could produce such a sound. They were strange, superhuman sighs and entreaties for prayers and redemption.

“It is very extraordinary that, whenever the ghost spoke, I always felt it beforehand. We heard a crackling in the room also. I was perfectly awake, and in possession of my senses; and we are ready to make oath to having seen and heard these things.”

On December 9, Mrs. Mayer, her niece, and a maid-servant spent another night in the cell, with similarly weird results:

“It was moonlight, and I sat up in bed all night, watching Eslinger. Suddenly I saw a white shadowy form, like a small animal, cross the room. I asked her what it was; and she answered, ‘Don’t you see it’s a lamb? It often comes with the apparition.’ We then saw a stool that was near us, lifted and set down again on its legs. She was in bed, and praying the whole time. Presently, there was such a noise at the window that I thought all the panes were broken. She told us it was the ghost, and that he was sitting on the stool. We then heard a walking and shuffling up and down, although I could not see him; but presently I felt a cool wind blowing on me, and out of this wind the same hollow voice I had heard before, said, ‘In the name of Jesus, look on me!’

“Before this, the moon was gone, and it was quite dark; but when the voice spoke to me, I saw a light around us, though still no form. Then there was a sound of walking toward the opposite window, and I heard the voice say, ‘Do you see me now?’ And then, for the first time, I saw a shadowy form, stretching up as if to make itself visible to us, but could distinguish no features.

“During the rest of the night, I saw it repeatedly, sometimes sitting on the stool, and at others moving about; and I am perfectly certain that there was no moonlight now, nor any other light from without. How I saw it, I can not tell; it is a thing not to be described.

“Eslinger prayed the whole time, and the more earnestly she did so, the closer the spectre went to her. It sometimes sat upon her bed.

“About five o’clock, when he came near to me, and I felt the cool air, I said, ‘Go to my husband, in his chamber, and leave a sign that you have been there!’ He answered distinctly, ‘Yes.’ Then we heard the door, which was fast locked, open and shut; and we saw the shadow float out (for he floated rather than walked), and we heard the shuffling along the passage.

“In a quarter of an hour we saw him return, entering by the window; and I asked him if he had been with my husband, and what he had done. He answered by a sound like a short, low, hollow laugh. Then he hovered about without any noise, and we heard him speaking to Eslinger, while she still prayed aloud. Still, as before, I always knew when he was going to speak. After six o’clock, we saw him no more. In the morning, my husband mentioned, with great surprise, that his chamber door, which he was sure he had fast bolted and locked, even taking out the key when he went to bed, he had found wide open.”

Mrs. Mayer spent another night in the cell on December 24, but only saw a white shadow hovering around Eslinger.

Frederica Follen, who shared the cell with Eslinger for eight weeks, attested to the haunting, although she only saw the ghost once.  However, it often spoke to her, warning that she should mend her erring ways.

Catherine Sinn, who was confined in an adjoining cell for two weeks, testified, “every night, being quite alone, I heard a rustling and a noise at the window, which looked only into the passage. I felt and heard, though I could not see anybody, that some one was moving about the room; these sounds were accompanied by a cool wind, though the place was closely shut up. I heard also a crackling, and a shuffling, and a sound as if gravel were thrown; but could find none in the morning. Once it seemed to me that a hand was laid softly on my forehead. I did not like staying alone, on account of these things, and begged to be put into a room with others; so I was placed with Eslingen and Follen. The same things continued here, and they told me about the ghost; but not being alone, I was not so frightened. I often heard him speak; it was hollow and slow, not like a human voice; but I could seldom catch the words. When he left the prison, which was generally about five in the morning, he used to say, ‘Pray!’ and when he did so, he would add, ‘God reward you!’ I never saw him distinctly till the last morning I was there; then I saw a white shadow standing by Eslinger’s bed.”

Everyone in the prison, it seems, experienced at least some of the ghostly phenomena.  Aside from the cracklings and shufflings, they would sometimes hear the spirit let out a heartrending cry.  Often, as the inmates lay in bed, the ghost would pull the blankets off them.  Several of the inmates heard it speak.  When the ghost would lean over the women, or whisper in their ear, some of the inmates became so nauseated by his odor that they would vomit.  If he touched them anywhere, those areas would immediately become swollen and painful.  The ghost would also shake the heavy, iron-barred window in Eslinger’s cell so violently that it rattled.  As an experiment, six men tried shaking the window, without being able to move it in the slightest.

Perhaps oddest of all is the fact that on two different occasions, Eslinger saw Dr. Kerner and Justice Heyd enter her cell along with the ghost…when the two men were not physically there.  Both times, Heyd was surrounded by a black cloud.  When Eslinger asked the ghost about the cloud, it replied that it was a sign of impending tragedy.  After the first time Eslinger saw the cloud, Heyd’s father died.  A few days after the cloud’s second appearance, Heyd’s child also died unexpectedly.  Eslinger would occasionally see strangers come in with the ghost.  These people would soon afterward come to the prison in the flesh.

A 16-year-old named Margaret Laibesberg, who was serving a ten-day sentence for stealing grapes from a vineyard, was increasingly terrified by the ghost’s nightly appearances.   On the fourth night, Eslinger came to her bed and said reassuringly, “Do, in the name of God, look at him! He will do you no harm, I assure you.”  

Laibesberg recounted, “I looked out from under the clothes, and I saw two white forms, like two lambs—so beautiful that I could have looked at them for ever. Between them stood a white, shadowy form, as tall as a man, but I was not able to look longer, for my eyes failed me.”

The figure would always ask the girl to pray for him.  It would occasionally touch her on the forehead and eyes.  She would feel pain when it did so, but apparently did not suffer any swelling.  Both she and another prisoner named Neidhardt testified that one night, they heard Eslinger ask the ghost why he looked so angry.  He replied that it was “because she had on the preceding night neglected to pray for him as much as usual.”  Laibesberg was so rattled by her ordeal that upon her release, she vowed to live a virtuous life from then on.

After reading all this, the magistrates decided that a committee consisting of physicians, clergymen, and other local worthies should visit the prison and see the spectral goings-on for themselves.  They all heard the strange noises, saw the lights, smelled the disagreeable odors, and some of them saw the spirit.  After their visit, the men presented the magistrates with a report on their findings which said, in essence, “We dunno.”

After Eslinger was released from custody, the ghost continued to make regular visits to the prison, as well as surprise cameo appearances in various Weinsberg homes.  Some of these residents only heard it, others smelled it, or felt it, and a few had the honor of seeing it.

One Mr. Dorr was an outspoken skeptic about the whole affair.  When Dr. Kerner heard of his mockery at the very idea of “ghosts,” he asked Elsinger to suggest to her spirit friend that Dorr was in need of a personal visit.  She did, with predictable results:  On the morning of December 30, Dorr awakened as usual, and immediately began thinking about some pressing business affairs.  Suddenly, he sensed something nearby, which was blowing a cold draft on him.  Assuming some animal had gotten into his bedroom, he looked around him, but saw nothing.  He next heard a noise which reminded him of electrical sparks, and then a loud bang by his right ear.

Dorr was sold.  He scoffed no more.

There is an oddly touching conclusion to our little tale:  the ghost had repeatedly asked Eslinger to go to Wimmenthal, where he had lived, to pray for him.  On February 11, 1836, she did so, accompanied by some friends.  As she knelt in the open air to pray, her companions saw the apparition hovering around her.   A woman named Wörner--a complete stranger, who had never heard of the Weinsberg ghost--stated that as she stood some distance away, watching Eslinger pray, she saw the apparition of a man, accompanied by two smaller ghosts, floating nearby.  She added, “When the prayer was ended, he went close to her, and there was a light like a falling star; then I saw something like a white cloud, that seemed to float away: and after that, we saw no more.”

When Eslinger finished praying, she fainted.  After being revived, she told her friends that before the ghost and its two companions left her, the spirit asked her to give it her hand.  After wrapping it in her handkerchief, she complied. “A small flame had arisen from the handkerchief when he touched it; and we found the marks of his fingers like burns, but without any smell.”  Unnerving as this was, it was not the flame which caused Eslinger to faint.  She explained that she had been badly frightened by a pack of terrifying-looking animals which rushed past her when the ghost floated away.

That was the last time Eslinger, or anyone else, was visited by the Ghost of Weinsberg.