"...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

Monday, February 28, 2022

Jenny Diver, Queen of the Pickpockets

From the very instant that humanity invented pockets and purses, there have been men and women eagerly lining up to pick them.  So numerous and commonplace is this profession, that virtually all of its practitioners have passed through history either unrecorded or long forgotten.  For that reason, the subject of today's post deserves a round of accolades.  Anyone can gain lasting historical fame through acts of heroism or the production of great works of art.  It takes a certain genius to gain it through petty theft.

Mary Jones was born in Ireland sometime around 1700.  She was the illegitimate daughter of a "lady's maid" named Harriet Jones.  After becoming pregnant, Harriet lost her job, forcing her to abandon her baby daughter and resort to prostitution.  Mary was shuffled between several foster families until she was fortunate enough to find a home with an elderly woman of some wealth and social position.  Mary's new guardian taught her to read and write, as well as needlework.  The bright, quick-witted girl proved to be an apt pupil.

Like many an intelligent but impoverished girl, Mary longed to better herself, but saw few chances for doing so.  When Mary was 15, she believed she had found that chance.  It was the oldest one in the book: marriage.  A young man who worked as a servant in a neighboring house fell in love with her.  Mary cared little for him, but adored the opportunity for freedom he represented.  She promised to marry him on the condition that he take her to London.  He agreed.  Unfortunately, his method of financing their wedding trip was by stealing a gold watch and eighty guineas from his employer.  He was soon arrested and transported to the colonies.  Mary--no doubt feeling that everything had worked out for the best--went on to the capital city.

In London, Mary made the acquaintance of one Anne Murphy, the ringleader of a thriving gang of pickpockets.  Murphy agreed to take her on as an apprentice. Mary proved to be a natural-born thief.  The manual dexterity that had made her an accomplished seamstress was put to less reputable, if more lucrative uses.  She soon became renowned for her pickpocket abilities.  On one occasion, it was said, she lifted a diamond ring from a man's hand without him even noticing.   Her skill at "diving" into pockets earned her the nickname by which she has gone down in history, "Jenny Diver."

Mary used her ill-gotten gains to buy an expensive wardrobe, enabling her to mingle freely among her wealthy victims.  She also brought an inventive spirit to her crimes.  According to the "Newgate Calendar," "she procured a pair of false hands and arms to be made, and concealing her real ones under her clothes she repaired on a Sunday evening to the place of worship...in a sedan-chair, one of the gang going before to procure a seat among the more genteel part of the congregation, and another attending in the character of a footman.

"Jenny being seated between two elderly ladies, each of whom had a gold watch by her side, she conducted herself with seeming great devotion; but when the service was nearly concluded she seized the opportunity, when the ladies were standing up, of stealing their watches, which she delivered to an accomplice in an adjoining pew."  As all the while, Mary was sitting with her "hands" primly folded in her lap, no one suspected a thing.

Mary expanded her repertoire to include that favorite money-maker among attractive female crooks: the "Badger Game."  Our heroine would lure rich men to her lodgings, whereupon her associates would instantly relieve him of all his clothes and other valuables.  On one of these occasions, Mary and her gang reputedly earned the princely sum of 100 guineas.

Inevitably, however, Mary's luck began to run out.  In 1733 she was caught in the pickpocketing act, and sentenced to transportation to Virginia.  Before leaving England, she shrewdly scooped up all the stolen property she could get her hands on, and bribed her ship's captain into letting her bring the goods on board, enabling her to arrive in the New World a wealthy woman.  However, Mary just could not leave bad enough alone.  She soon bribed another captain into allowing her to sail back home, boldly ignoring the fact that returning to England before her sentence was up was a hanging offense.  She trusted luck--and the large array of pseudonyms she used--to carry her through.

In 1738, she was again arrested and sentenced to transportation.  (As she was tried under a false name, the law did not connect her to the earlier conviction.)  Within a year, she had paid another captain into taking her back to London.

This proved to be her fatal mistake.  Mary was now nearly forty, and the onset of arthritis took its toll on her legendary skills.  A failed theft led to her arrest in January 1741.  This time, the courts were aware of her previous convictions, which earned her a death sentence.  Mary tried escaping the noose by pleading pregnancy, but a medical examination proved this to be the last of her many frauds.

On March 18, 1741, Mary went to Tyburn in style.  She used her wealth to be driven to the gallows in an elegant mourning coach, pulled by a team of black horses decked out in black crepe.  An estimated crowd of 200,000 gathered to watch her and 19 other prisoners die.  As befitting such a renowned criminal, she reportedly faced the hangman with great composure.

Mary was not forgotten.  Her contemporaries produced many pamphlets extolling her exploits.  John Gay's wildly popular 1728 play, "The Beggar's Opera" featured a pickpocket named "Jenny Diver."  Two hundred years later, "Pirate Jenny" made an appearance in Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera."  In "Mack the Knife," Bobby Darin sang,

"Now Jenny Diver, ho, ho, yeah, Sukey Tawdry

Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown

Oh, that line forms on the right, babe

Now that Macky's back in town."

It's not many thieves who can go from the "Newgate Calendar" to the Top of the Pops.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

It is time for this week's Link Dump!

The strange case of the "ghost gunshot."

Slovenia's supernatural sheep.

An 18th century pop star.

There's something weird in our planet's core.

Shorter version: In the 14th century, you had to be very careful what you called someone.

This week in Russian Weird looks at a Soviet-era underground city.  And a strange ancient Siberian culture.

Herne the Hunter and "mischief acts."

Yes, they're still looking for MH370.

Yes, they're still looking for Troy.

Eight hundred lost children.

Was Hieronymus Bosch all about bad weather and moldy bread?

An 18th century Royal Navy sailor writes home.

The horrors of "Little Auschwitz."

A British commando raid.

German WWI aviators have a "mishap" in Mesopotamia.

The legend of Sybil Ludington's midnight ride.

Perhaps the dying really do see their lives flash before them.

Marie Antoinette's favorite painter.

Grave-diggers and "corpse-quake."

Matrimony joke of the day.

An 18th century recipe book.

Tracking down the source of King Tut's out-of-this-world dagger.

The earliest surviving map of Scotland.

The Bridgend Murder.

Testing the "infinite monkeys" theory.

The case of the Plaistow Ghost.

Two Long Island murders.

An interesting medieval brooch.

An unequal duel.

The mascots of Engine Company No. 65.

A 19th century judge and some of his more notable cases.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at arguably history's most famous pickpocket.  In the meantime, here's some Celtic guitar.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Offer me a newspaper item about a “queer old bugaboo,” and I’m there.  The “Wisconsin State Journal,” carried a reprint of this story from the “Fredericksburg [Maryland] Standard” on November 1, 1883:

A remarkable incident happened to a little daughter of Captain William L. Pratt, of King George County, last Monday evening. At three o'clock she started to the spring, about two hundred yards from the house, for a bucket of water. When about half way, in passing a peach tree near the path, an indescribable sensation came over her. Her hair felt as though it was standing on end and a heavy pressure on the shoulders almost crashed her to the earth. With difficulty she walked to the spring, got her water and started back. Arriving at the same tree something came out of the weeds in front of her, crossed the path and disappeared. The object appeared to be moving just above the ground, but not touching it. It was covered with something like an old coat, with the sleeves hanging down, one on each side. Its head was covered with short, kinky hair and it seemed to have no face, eyes or feet. Its disappearing in an open space seems to be the mystery, and the further fact that the weakness and pressure left the little girl as soon as it disappeared. The little girl was very much alarmed at the time and says while this object was passing she could not have moved out of her tracks or spoken if her life depended upon it. The mother reports that she was as pale as a corpse when she reached the house. 

Her father, Captain Pratt, was in town, and she feared it was a token of some accident that had or would happen to him. She watched steadily for him until he got in sight of the house on his return, when she clapped her hands for joy and shouted: "Papa is coming." Captain Pratt says he is not a believer in ghosts or supernatural things, but this is a mystery which he can not explain and which is giving him much concern. The little girl is about eleven years old.

Monday, February 21, 2022

In Which Mr. Buchmann Takes An Unexpected Journey

"Fairy Folk," Arthur Rackham

If you do any investigation of Fortean phenomena, you soon learn that ancient chronicles are a gold mine for High Strangeness.  If town historians are to be believed, they saw some of the damndest things, and, happily for those of us with a taste for The Weird, they bunged it all down on paper.  The following story is an outstanding example.  It was preserved by one Renward Cysat, the town chronicler of Römerswil, Switzerland, in a document which bears the catchy title, “Collectanea Chronica und Denkwürdige Sachen pro Chronica Lucernensi et Helvetiae.”

On November 15, 1572, 50-year-old Römerswil farmer Hans Buchmann went to the Römerswil inn.  He carried with him sixteen florins, the amount of a debt he wished to repay to the inn’s owner, Hans Schurmann.  When he found that Schurmann was not there, he set out for the nearby village of Sempach in order to deal with other business matters.  When Buchmann did not return home the next day, his wife sent their two sons to find him.  The boys failed to locate their father, but on the path to Sempach, they did find Buchmann’s hat, coat, gloves, and saber.  The boys immediately came to the conclusion that a cousin named Klaus Buchmann, who had been at feud with the family for years, had murdered their father.  Klaus was interrogated by the authorities and his property searched, but found no evidence that he had been involved with the disappearance.

For four weeks, Hans’ family waited in vain for some sign of their missing relative.  Finally, news came of his whereabouts, and it was probably the last thing they were expecting: Hans was in Milan.  On February 2, 1573, Buchmann was finally returned to his family, very much the worse for wear.  His loved ones were shocked to see that he had lost all his hair, and his head was so swollen he was virtually unrecognizable.

The town authorities, evidently suspecting that Hans had been part of some sort of scheme to frame cousin Klaus for his murder, brought Hans in for questioning.  (Renward Cysat was one of the witnesses to the interrogation.)

Buchmann’s story was both extremely simple and jarringly weird.  On the day before he disappeared, he went to Sempach.  He said he had very little to drink while there.  When dawn arrived, he set off for home.  As he was walking through the forest, he began hearing an odd noise.  At first, he thought it was a swarm of bees buzzing, but then it began sounding more like strange music.  He began to feel frightened and disoriented, losing the sense of where he was or what he was doing.  In his panic, he unsheathed his sword, blindly swinging it around him.  While he was lunging around, he lost his hat, coat, and gloves.  As he fell into a faint, he sensed that he was being lifted off the ground.

When he finally regained consciousness, he found himself in Milan.  Two weeks had passed.  His head was swollen and painful, and he was weak from lack of food.  As he was unfamiliar with Milan and did not speak the language, Buchmann would have been in dire straits indeed if he had not found a German-speaking guard who was willing to help him get back home.

And that seems to have been that.  The town officials were no doubt tempted to reply, “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it,” but it was clear that something very unusual had happened to Bachmann on the road between Sempach and Römerswil.  Everyone, evidently, was forced to leave it at that.

Cysat gave his opinion that his friend Buchmann had been kidnapped by fairies.  I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is here!

Let's dance!

How the hell was Stonehenge built?

A Vietnam Soup Nazi.

Robert Beale and the death warrant for Mary Queen of Scots.

The drowning of a Neolithic fisherman.

Strange stories connected with presidential crypts.

The Vatican may be holding Jewish Temple treasures.

Stalin's marginalia.

The "Scottish Nostradamus."

Tales of love gone weird.

A distant star is being orbited by a bunch of mystery objects.

The capture of German Micronesia.

The social center of 19th century Paris.

Some bigamous brides.

How to make vintage recipes.

Colonial India and their breakfast curries.

So maybe the Black Death wasn't quite as deadly as we thought.

A look at Britain just before WWII.

The diary of a tragic castaway.

The "Double V Campaign."

Let's talk dinosaur head colds.

The double lives of Deacon Brodie.

A look at the world of the Boggarts.

A jailhouse romance.

The Great Gasoline Hoax.

That time when people literally danced themselves to death.

Archival items relating to the murder of Lord Darnley.

The evidence behind a popular urban legend.

Edmund Hillary and the Yeti.

People who were killed by their own inventions.

The most lavish Mesopotamian tomb ever found.

How Regency society depended on pilchards.

18th century grifters.

A newly-discovered Neolithic grave is making archaeologists very happy.

This week in Russian Weird looks at some unorthodox art restoration.  To be honest, I think the guard improved the painting considerably.

Yet another tragic marriage.

A Strange Company-style business model.

A Victorian mailman's bad Valentine's Day.

That's it for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll look at a 16th century man's very strange adventure. In the meantime, here's a Canadian singer I recently came across during my wanderings through YouTube.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

I’m pleased to say that this week’s newspaper item features Satan himself in the starring role.  The “Fort Wayne Sentinel,” February 8, 1886:

New York, Feb. 8. The sensation of the day here is the terrible revelations made in a special dispatch to the World from Millersburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. The circumstances are of the most startling nature and serves as a warning against religious mockery. 

Samuel Motter, a vender of patent medicines, entered a hotel where a jovial crowd sat and dared them to imitate the Lord's supper. Beer and bread were at once set forth and the carousers bowed in mock humility and Motter went along distributing a bite and sup to each. Suddenly, when he was about half through, a strange noise was heard and, looking up, the men saw a sight that made their blood run cold. As near as the scared men could describe it, they declare that it was an immense, ill-formed and foul beast, with great cloven feet, painted horns and eyes that flashed fire. With wild yells the men rushed into the open air and scattered in every direction. Finally all reached home except Mr. Motter, who was away for a long time and at last he arrived a maniac. He was put to bed and physicians summoned, but they could do nothing for him. He raved, howled and prayed, declaring that he had seen the evil one and that he was lost. His torture was terrible, but nothing could be done to relieve him and he died in the wildest agony. The death bed scene is said to have been full of horrors that can hardly be described.

I doubt it would be of any consolation to Mr. Motter, but as a seller of patent medicines, he was probably already bound for Hell.

Monday, February 14, 2022

The House of Her Dreams: A Living Ghost Story

Accounts of premonitory dreams are, of course, a dime a dozen.  However, the following story, related by the prolific Victorian writer Augustus Hare in his autobiography, “The Story of My Life,” is unusual enough to be worthy of notice.  It is also one of the relatively rare instances where dreams predicted a happy ending, as opposed to tragedy:

"A  few  years  ago  there  was  a  lady  living  in  Ireland--a  Mrs.  Butler--clever,  handsome,  popular,  prosperous, and  perfectly  happy.  One  morning  she  said to  her  husband,  and  to  anyone  who  was  staying there,  ‘Last  night  I  had  the  most  wonderful  night.  I seemed  to  be  spending  hours  in  the  most  delightful place,  in  the  most  enchanting  house  I  ever  saw--not large,  you  know,  but  just  the  sort  of  house  one  might live  in  one's self,  and  oh! so  perfectly,  so  deliciously comfortable.  Then  there  was  the  loveliest  conservatory, and the  garden  was  so  enchanting!  I  wonder if  anything  half  so  perfect  can  really  exist.' 

"And  the  next  morning  she  said,  'Well,  I  have been  to  my  house  again.  I  must  have been  there  for hours.  I  sat  in  the  library;  I  walked  on  the  terrace; I  examined  all  the  bedrooms;  and  it  is  simply  the most  perfect  house  in  the  world.'  So  it  grew  to  be quite  a  joke  in  the  family.  People  would  ask  Mrs. Butler  in  the  morning  if  she  had  been  to  her  house in  the  night,  and  often  she  had,  and  always  with  more intense  enjoyment.  She  would  say,  'I  count  the hours  till  bedtime,  that  I  may  get  back  to  my  house!’  Then  gradually  the  current  of  outside  life  flowed  in, and  gave  a  turn  to  their  thoughts:  the  house  ceased to  be  talked  about. 

"Two  years  ago  the  Butlers  grew  very  weary  of their  life  in  Ireland.  The  district  was  wild  and  disturbed. The  people  were  insolent  and  ungrateful.  At last  they  said,  'We  are  well  off,  we  have  no  children, there's  no  reason  why  we  should  put  up  with  this,  and we'll  go  and  live  altogether  in  England.' 

"So  they  came  to  London,  and  sent  for  all  the  house-agents'  lists  of  places  within  forty  miles  of  London, and  many  were  the  places  they  went  to  see.  At  last they  heard  of  a  house  in  Hampshire.  They  went  to it  by  rail,  and  drove  from  the  station.  As  they  came to  the  lodge,  Mrs.  Butler  said,  'Do  you  know,  this  is the  lodge  of  my  house.'  They  drove  down  an  avenue--’But  this  is  my  house!’  she  said. 

"When  the  housekeeper  came,  she  said,  'You  will think  it  very  odd,  but  do  you  mind  my  showing  you the  house;  that  passage  leads  to  the  library,  and through  that  there  is  a  conservatory,  and  then  through a  window  you  enter  the  drawing-room,'  &c,  and  it was  all  so.  At  last,  in  an  upstairs  passage,  they  came upon  a  baize  door.  Mrs.  Butler,  for  the  first  time, looked  puzzled.  'But  that  door  is  not  in  my  house,' she  said.  'I  don't  understand  about  your  house, ma'am,'  said  the  housekeeper,  'but  that  door  has  only been  there  six  weeks.' 

"Well,  the  house  was  for  sale,  and  the  price  asked was  very  small,  and  they  decided  at  once  to  buy  it. But  when  it  was  bought  and  paid  for,  the  price  had been  so extraordinarily  small,  that  they  could  not  help a  misgiving  that  there  must  be  something  wrong  with the  place.  So  they  went  to  the  agent  of  the  people who  had  sold  it  and  said,  'Well,  now  the  purchase  is made  and  the  deeds  are  signed,  will  you  mind  telling us  why  the  price  asked  was  so  small?’ 

"The  agent  had  started  violently  when  they  came in,  but  recovered  himself.  Then  he  said  to  Mrs. Butler,  'Yes,  it  is  quite  true  the  matter  is  quite  settled, so  there  can  be  no  harm  in  telling  now.  The  fact  is that  the  house  has  had  a  great  reputation  for  being haunted ;  but  you,  madam,  need  be  under  no  apprehensions, for  you  are  yourself  the  ghost!’ 

"On  the  nights  when  Mrs.  Butler  had  dreamt  she was  at  her  house,  she--her  'astral  body '--had  been seen  there." 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The staff at Strange Company HQ all want to be your Valentine!

Watch out for the Abominable Snowman!

The significance of the 1932 Winter Olympics.

A renovation project is getting some help from a ghost.

Don't go looking for spirits.  You might encounter the really bad ones.

Yet another look at the (staged, IMO) disappearance of Agatha Christie.

The adventures of a spirit photographer.

The days of hotel house detectives.

The history of White House cats.

Recreating a valued ancient dye.

The folklore of "fairy glens."

A case of obsession leading to murder.

The history behind a medicinal chest.

Humans were probably in Europe earlier than we thought.

A hijacking ends peacefully.  Largely thanks to beer.

A particularly strange case of Spontaneous Human Combustion.

The sort of thing that happens when you mix ritual slaughters and drunken priests.

A  1937 typhoid epidemic.

Romance in a hearse.

How to tell if you're an Old Maid.

Figure skaters get some strange things thrown at them.

A Renaissance-era Tarot deck.

An ancient Greek success story.

A once-notorious murder.

The (plentiful) dangers of 19th century stagecoaches.

A newly-discovered daughter of Marco Polo.

How Mary, Queen of Scots was almost secretly assassinated.  Which probably would have been preferable to three hacks on the neck from an incompetent executioner.

A sex scandal in medieval England.

The Ladies of Llangollen.

The heart really can break.

The saga of a cursed ferry.

A famed act of "insane heroism."

Reviving a 400-year-old cheese.

The sad story of San Francisco's "cable car nympho."

Howard Hughes and the Russian submarine.

That time Harlem had a high-society bathhouse for dogs.

A look at early anesthesia.

Cockney cats!

The unsolved murder of a priest.

The unsolved murder of a little girl.

Debunking some Presidential myths.

Female independence and functional pockets.

The culture which may have been destroyed by a cosmic airburst.

Agatha Christie and archaeology.

JMW Turner and the pubs.

More on cracking the code of Charles Dickens.

The Georgian era had a lot of whiners.

"Normal schools," and how they got that name.

Life in an ancient Roman town.

Mary Queen of Scots writes her "gallows letter."

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a case of Fortean house-hunting!  In the meantime, here's some 1930s dance music.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

There are a few stories out there about clocks or watches that serve as omens of death.  This typical example was reported in the “Sioux City Journal,” November 25, 1884:

Washington D.C., Nov, 24.--Lieut. Greely since his return relates a number of curious incidents connected with the expedition during his two years residence in Arctic regions. The most singular one of all is that told to him by Mrs. DeLong, a few weeks since, which she vouched for as being true in every respect, According to her narrative, when Commander DeLong started on his cruise toward the north pole he gave to his wife to keep for him a valuable and highly prized watch. He also left with her a small nickel plated clock. He enjoined her to keep the watch wound up, adding jestingly that it was something difficult for a woman to do for two years.  She continued to perform the duty most carefully, but one day the watch suddenly stopped as also did the clock, and both on the same hour and minute.  Examination of the watch by a jeweler showed a broken main spring, but the clock was without injury. Nothing was thought of the occurrence at the time, though the anxiety of Mrs. DeLong had caused her to make a note in her diary of all the facts. The affair was almost forgotten as a trivial circumstance until the wife received the journal of her dead husband, in which he had noted on a certain date that his watch and the ship's chronometer had stopped; both at the same time, and by a comparison of days and circumstance, it was found that all of DeLong's timepieces, those in the Arctic as well as those at home, had been in perfect sympathy.  All had ceased to tick on the same day, at the same hour, and the same minute.

[Note:  Information about DeLong and his doomed expedition can be found here.] 

Monday, February 7, 2022

Murder on Ice: The Bizarre Killing of Anne Noblett

The murder of a young person whose life had hardly begun is, of course, a particularly tragic crime.  However, relatively few of them are as purely weird as the following case--a case which, while unsolved, is still, to my mind, one where there’s the potential to identify the culprit.

Anne Noblett, who hailed from the English village of Wheathampstead, led a fairly privileged life.  Her father, Hugh Noblett, was a farmer and company director who was prosperous enough to send his teenage daughter to spend four years at a posh Swiss finishing school.  The 17-year-old Anne returned home early in 1957, with the goal of pursuing a career as a children’s nurse.  She was described as a shy, quiet, home-loving girl who seemed perfectly content with life.

On the evening of December 30, 1957, Anne was heading home after attending a dance class.  She got off her bus at about 6 p.m. and began walking to the family farm.  Home was only about a quarter-mile from the main road, but there were no other homes nearby, and her route through Marshalls Heath Lane was unlit and lonely.  Still, it’s doubtful Anne felt she could possibly be in any danger.  This sense of complacency probably lasted until that moment, somewhere along this narrow road, when she met her murderer.

When Anne failed to arrive home at the expected time, her parents began to worry.  At nine p.m., Hugh Noblett phoned all Anne’s friends, and when he learned that none of them knew where she was, he contacted police.

The following morning, law enforcement, as well as volunteers, began searching the Marshalls Heath area.  When they failed to find a trace of the missing girl, Detective Inspector Leonard Elwell of the Hertfordshire CID was brought in.  It was an incredibly extensive investigation.  Some 1,300 soldiers and civilians continued to scour the area.  Newsreels highlighting the girl’s disappearance were played in local movie theaters.  A house-to-house search was conducted.  Over 2,000 people gave statements to police.  And at the end of it all, nobody was one bit closer to knowing what had happened to Anne.

Ironically, after all these valiant efforts, Anne’s fate was discovered entirely by accident.  On January 31, 1958, a RAF serviceman and his brother were walking their dog through Rose Grove Woods on the outskirts of Whitwell, a tiny village about five miles from Wheathampstead.  In a clearing, they noticed someone they initially assumed was sleeping.  When they realized the girl was not napping, but very dead, they rushed back to the village to notify authorities that Anne Noblett had finally been found.

Anne was lying on her back, fully clothed--she was even still wearing her eyeglasses.  Her hands were folded neatly across her chest.  Next to Anne was her purse, which had nothing missing.  Oddest of all, coins had been scattered over and around her.  

The first thing that struck investigators was that the body showed none of the signs of decomposition expected in someone who had been dead a month.  The initial assumption, of course, was that the girl had been confined somewhere and very recently killed.  The spot where her body was found puzzled police.  It was not easily accessible by car, so the murderer must have carried the corpse for at least 300 yards or so.  And Anne had been a solidly-built girl, weighing some 150 pounds.  For whatever reason, her murderer had put himself to a lot of trouble to leave her in that particular location.

It was only when the pathologist, Professor Francis Camps, examined Anne’s corpse that it was revealed just how strange her murder had been.  Anne had been strangled, and the stomach contents established that she had died on the same evening she vanished.   Camps attributed the lack of decomposition to the body being stored for some time at very cold temperatures, such as you would find in a freezer.  Camps also noted that the girl had been sexually assaulted.  From the clumsy way her clothes had been buttoned, it seemed clear that she had been stripped naked, after which the body was frozen for some time, and then re-dressed before being left in the woods.

Naturally, the first thing Inspector Elwell did was have every large freezer in and around Whitwell investigated.  Unfortunately, nothing was found to link any individual to the girl’s murder.  As far as I have been able to tell, investigators were unable to even come up with plausible suspects.  To date, the identity of the man who committed this extraordinarily creepy killing remains unknown.

This is one of those crime cases that on the face of it, should have been solved.  It was clearly a planned killing, committed by someone familiar with the area, and who very possibly knew Anne.  The murderer was someone with access to a large freezer, and who had the comforting assurance that no one would take any inconvenient peeks into its contents.  That must have narrowed the list of suspects down considerably, but the police were apparently completely unable to find anyone who checked all those boxes.  One can only conclude that some evildoers truly have the devil’s own luck.

There is a supernatural sequel to this dreadful mystery.  People frequenting Marshalls Heath Lane began seeing what they swore was the ghost of the murdered girl.  In 1974, the employees of a plant hire company operating near Anne’s old home began noticing some very uncanny things.  Doors would open and shut on their own.  One worker, who was completely alone at the time, got the unmistakable sense that someone was brushing against him.  A local cat who liked to hang out around the buildings was often seen arching his back and hissing at…nothing, as far as anyone could tell.

One evening, a worker saw a teenage girl standing by a storage shed.  When he called to the girl and began walking towards her, she vanished.  He had not gotten close enough to the girl to be able to describe her appearance very well, but another employee, Alfred Spink, (who had participated in the search for Anne those many years ago,) was convinced it was poor Anne Noblett, unhappily haunting the area where her young, promising life had so brutally ended.

About 20 years ago, a group of spiritualists held a seance using a Ouija board in Marshalls Heath Lane.  Allegedly, they were contacted by Anne’s ghost, who gave them the identity of her killer--a man who was at that time still alive, and residing in the nearby village of Whipsnade.

Did these ghost-hunting detectives "solve" Anne's murder?  Or were they merely chasing a supernatural red-herring?

[Note: On the evening of January 5, 1958, 19-year-old Mary Kriek got off a bus only a very short distance from the Eight Ash Green, Colchester, farm where she worked as a domestic servant.  Her dead body was found in a ditch the next day.  Naturally, there was speculation that she was murdered by the same person who killed Anne Noblett, but no actual evidence was found to link the two cases.  Kriek's murder is also unsolved.]

Friday, February 4, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

Just be warned.  The Strange Company HQ staff is in a very bad mood.

Sergeant Nick, police dog mascot.

Finding the world's deepest shipwreck.

Do not read this if you ever want to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese again.

Florida Man has a longer history than you thought.

The world's oldest undeciphered writing.

The wreck of HMS Endeavour may have been found.

One very colorful woman.

The ancient shipwreck which vindicated Herodotus.

Golf just may be older than we thought.

The Italian poet and the unsolved murder.

A look at the Gilded Age.

The mystery of the 1,400 year old decapitated horse.

How the Red Army was defeated by a polka song.

A missionary in Madras.

How London mourned Queen Victoria.

The Prince of Wales visited India in 1921, and everyone wound up regretting it.

Canada Bill, king of the con.

The strange case of the Wollaton Gnomes.

The 1918 pandemic's influence on movie theaters.

Othello in Istanbul, 1866.

A child-killer in Fort Lauderdale.

A record-setting female motorist.

A very weird, very old house in England.

A murderous hired hand.

Somewhere along the line we lost a billion years.  

Was "Drunken Lizzie" murdered by Jack the Ripper?

A mysterious "ghost plane."

A notorious railway murder.

James Dean, plagiarist.

A 12th century description of "ball lightning."

Stray cats save a restaurant.

A look at two Regency-era courtesans.

When dinosaurs had a really bad June.

The claim that octopuses are actually space aliens.

Two sisters-in-law from Hell.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the strange murder of a teenage girl.  In the meantime, let's take a tour of ancient Rome!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This curious little mystery was reported in the “Curtis Enterprise,” November 21, 1963:

The odd metal spheres found in New South Wales and Australia, in April and mid July, still have not been identified, according to the Australian Minister of Supply, Mr. Allen Fairhall.  Minister Fairhall stated that his inquiries to the U.S. and U.S.S.R space agencies have drawn a blank.

The first mystery ball, a 13-pound hollow sphere 14 inches in diameter was discovered on April 8, 1963 in a desolate part of Bouilla Station, New South Wales. Mr. J. McLure, who found it, said no one else had been In the area for 50 years. Scientists failed in their effort to open the sphere with files and hacksaws. 

On April 30, Minister Fairhall told the House of Representatives that the sphere had been definitely identified as part of a space vehicle. He said it had not yet been opened as it might contain "something of scientific Interest.” He added, "It's a million-to-one chance that a piece of orbiting hardware should survive the temperature of reentry and be recovered in one place.” Australian scientists said later It might have been protected by a heat shield. 

On June 29, the second spaceball fell, in New South Wales, 6 miles from the first location. This one weighed 18 pounds and was 16 inches in diameter. It was made of the same puzzling metal. 

The third sphere fell on July 13, near Muloorina, in South Australia. It was six inches in diameter and had an opening in it.

The highly technical work and cost required to build such spheres seems to rule out any hoax answer. Both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. have denied any connection. Even if the spheres were earthmade, all three would hardly fall by accident in this one area.  To drop them there deliberately would require precise re-entry by remote-control, also retro-firing jets, which the spheres did not have. 

If they were extraterrestrial, some more advanced control mechanism might be used.  In this case, the Australian Government may have found the answer--and possibly the clue to their purpose--on opening the spheres. To the best of our knowledge, Australian officials have been silent as to what was discovered.

Although these spheres--which were not the only ones found in Australia over the years--seem to be fairly well-known among UFO enthusiasts, I do not know if it was ever definitively proven what in the world--or, possibly, what out of this world--they were.