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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Railroads are one of those sites that, for whatever reason, are a particular magnet for ghosts.  The following example comes from the “Minneapolis Star Tribune,” October 26, 1872:

The following wonderful and marvelous story, which comes from a source that prevents its being hooted as a canard, we clip from yesterday's Pioneer and leave our readers to await further developments:

Our readers will all remember the terrible accident which took place in a blinding snowstorm at Randall Station, on the main line of the St. Paul and Pacific Road, in March last, which caused the death of several persons. Among the victims of that terrible accident was a section foreman named Connelly. This man was very much attached to his division, and took great pride in keeping everything right and tidy, as far as his supervision extended. Although his station was located, at that time, in a sparsely settled section of the country on a treeless waste, so to speak, where especially there was nothing to break the force of the wind which at times swept over the bleak prairies with the force of a hurricane, yet so great was Connelly’s attachment to his section that he refused several more lucrative positions which were offered to him.

Upon his death by the accident above referred to, the Randall Station was given to another man, whose name is Connelly.  The latter has been employed on the road for a long time and is known to be a sober, industrious, and intelligent man, one in whose fidelity the company has the most implicit confidence, and the last man almost that any one who knows him, would suspect of being tinctured in the slightest degree with superstitious notions. For some time after assuming charge of the Division everything went along satisfactory. This state of things was not to last however. For some time past Mr. Connelly has complained that he could not sleep nights. He avers that he is visited at all hours of the night by the 


The ghostly form appears at his bedside, and and vainly endeavors to tell his tale by unearthly motions, at times apparently entreating and anon with every appearance of anger and revenge. Several times Mr. Connelly has been thrown from his bed with great violence, and his arms and other portions of his body show the marks of rough handling. The imprint of hands and finger-nails are plainly visible, which he asserts have been left there by his ghostly visitor. To such an extent has this most mysterious visitation been carried, that Mr. Connelly has petitioned to be removed to another section, or granted permission to erect another house on a different portion of the section. He says it is not only these visitations which disturb him, but 


prevents him from performing his duties both day and night. He has seen the awful spectacle in the daytime while at his labors, and the shadowy form has, by unmistakable motions, ordered him away. 

For a long time Mr. Connelly refrained from mentioning anything about these mysterious appearances, knowing that he would not be believed, and in all probability would be laughed at, and it is probable he never would have mentioned it, but for an occurrence which took place a short time ago. 

One evening after the labors of the day had closed, and as Mr. Connelly and the men under his charge were eating their supper, the door of the house opened noiselessly, and in the doorway, in the full gaze of all who were present 


of the dead man. The shadow remained long enough to make a number of demonstrations of a revengeful character, and then disappeared, apparently melting into space. An awful feeling of terror fell upon that small party of men, and for a time they were speechless, gazing into each other's faces with eyes distended with horror. They were not men easily frightened, and some of them had looked death in the face without flinching. But this 


which was recognized at once bv all as the spirit of the man they had all well known while living, was more than they could stand. When their momentary terror had subsided they commenced in awe-stricken tones to tell each other what they had seen. It was then that Mr. Connelly related his experience, and it is needless to say he was not laughed at or disbelieved. The sight had been too real and too palpable to all to admit of dispute. They had seen the veritable ghost of their former fellow workman. Since that time there have been 


taking place at that lonely station on the prairie. Several tools, which were known to have been put away, are missing, and various other things have taken place to hinder Mr. Connelly and his crew of men from performing their work. 

Nor is this all.  The engineer on one of the freight trains avers that several times he has seen the apparition in the night engaged on work upon the track, the same as when dead man was living. At one time it will be engaged with a crowbar, raising the rails, and making motions as though giving directions to a gang of men.

Again he has seen it standing upon the track in advance of his engine, arms stretched out as if to give warning of danger ahead, and the engineer says at such times his engine acts as if plowing its way through drifting snow, and although he pulls his engine "wide open," the speed of the train is sensibly decreased until it reaches a certain point, when it will plunge ahead as though just relieved from some obstruction.

We understand that these most mysterious doings have been reported to the officials but they, of course, are inclined to doubt the truth of the statements; but so serious has the matter become that steps have been taken to have some of the employees of the road stay at the station house a number of nights and have the matter thoroughly investigated.

The above is a statement of facts, which come to us well authenticated, and we give them as one of the most singular stories we remember of hearing. Should any more facts be developed after a thorough investigation of the matter, we shall hasten to lay them before our readers.

The first Mr. Connelly certainly proved that it’s possible to be too fond of your job.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Close Encounters of the Tourist Kind

"Hood County News," August 16, 2005, via Newspapers.com. This is a bed which was built specifically for space aliens.  These people obviously had the right idea.

I’ll be the first to say that the following story is pretty “out there” even for this blog.  It sounds so much like one of the old “Coneheads” skits from “Saturday Night Live,” that, to be honest, I hesitated about devoting a blog post to it.  However, it’s such a delightfully nutty tale, I decided to share it, and all of you can simply make of it what you will.

On the morning of May 15, 1970, Dorothy Simpson was at her job at a motel just outside St. Louis, Missouri.  Everything seemed normal.  As she sat at her desk, going over billing documents, she heard a “whistling sigh.”

That did not seem normal.  And when she looked up from her paperwork, she was confronted by four people, who looked so alike they were presumably family: a man, a woman, and two youngsters, a boy and girl.  This would have been normal if not for the family’s appearance, which was, to say the least, unusual.  They were all so tiny, they could barely look over the top of the desk.  Simpson’s visitors wore elegant and obviously expensive clothes: tailored suits for the males, delicate peach-colored dresses for the females.  Their hair looked so unnatural, Simpson believed they were all wearing wigs.

The man asked her, in a strange, high-pitched voice, “Do you have a room to stay?  Do you have a room to stay?”  Simpson answered in the affirmative, and told him the price of the room.  However, the man seemed oddly befuddled by her answer.  He turned to the woman as if asking for an interpretation of Simpson’s words.  After a moment of awkward silence all around, the man took a stack of bills from his pocket and handed them to Simpson.  She noticed that some of the banknotes were of large denominations and very crisp, as if just off the printing press.  This caused her to suspect they were counterfeit, but a quick test indicated they were genuine.

Simpson took two twenty-dollar bills and handed the rest of the bills back to the man.  He was too small to reach the room reservation form, so Simpson signed for him.  He gave his name as “A. Bell.”  When he stepped forward, Simpson was struck by how odd their faces were.  They had very pointy chins, large dark eyes, virtually bridgeless noses, and lipless mouths that were no wider than the noses.  Their skin was unnaturally pale.  It was as if some alien beings dressed up as humans for Halloween, and did not do an entirely convincing job of it.

“Where are you from?” Simpson asked.

His arm shot upwards, and he replied, “We come from up there.  Up there.”

The woman, obviously irritated by her companion’s candor, pulled his arm down.  She told Simpson that they were from Hammond, Indiana.  (The motel’s manager later told Simpson that the Hammond address they gave did not exist.)  The man then signed the register, but in a very uncomfortable fashion, as if he had never held a pen before.  The family (“family?”) asked where the motel’s restaurant was, and left to get their meal.

The other employees soon noted that their humble little motel was being graced by some mighty strange guests.  Their waitress at the restaurant got a bit unnerved serving them.  Aside from their peculiar appearance, they kept studying the menu, asking questions about where perfectly ordinary foods such as milk or bread came from.  It was as if they knew nothing about human cuisine.  The woman finally ordered peas and milk for herself and the children, and peas, a steak, and water for the man.  They ate one pea at a time, using a knife to bring it to their tiny mouths, and using an odd sucking motion to swallow it.  The man’s mouth was such a small slit, he was unable to eat even tiny slices of the steak.  They all stopped eating simultaneously, after which the man handed the waitress a twenty-dollar bill.  She left to get change, but when she returned, they were gone.

The bellhop got their luggage and began leading them to their room.  When the family saw the elevator, they were obviously confused and terrified by it.  The bellhop did not have an easy time convincing them it was safe.  When he let them into their room, he turned on the lights.  The man immediately began shouting at him that the light would hurt the children’s eyes.  By this point, the poor bellhop was so unnerved that he fled without even waiting for a tip.

The next morning, the motel workers found that their, shall we say, otherworldly guests had vanished from their room.  No one had seen them leave, even though the front door was the only way they could exit without setting off security alarms.

The incident somehow reached the ears of John Schroeder, a member of the UFO Study Group of Greater St. Louis.  After he spoke to Simpson and the other four employees who had dealt with the foursome, he could only conclude that, bizarre as their story was, they all seemed perfectly sincere--and they were also obviously still a little frightened by the experience.

I suppose there’s nothing more to say.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to the first Link Dump of Spring 2022!

To celebrate, let's all have tea in the Strange Company HQ garden.

Where the hell is Christopher Columbus?

Why we all have gotten "The Road Not Taken" wrong.

It turns out that we goofed about the name of "Machu Picchu," too.

A planned trip to the Moon...in the 17th century.

A suicide in Coalbrookdale.

The busy--and certainly unusual--life of Rose Levere.

Tommy James, the Mafia, and "the nastiest person in show business."  This story is quite the wild ride.

Madame Cama, Indian political activist.

The legendary allure of Point d’Alençon lace.

Scottish witches are being pardoned.  Albeit a bit late in the game.

The Great Zeppelin Raid.

The 1922 Wilmcote railway accident.

The Earl who was a particularly eccentric Ufologist.

Native Americans and "little beings."

The odd stories behind some famous artworks.

The other houses of Downing Street.

Some modern-day body-snatchers.

Well, this is one way to cope with burglars.

In search of consolation.

A case where sleepwalking was used as a murder defense.

That dinosaur-destroying asteroid?  It was even worse than we thought.

The bad boy and the funeral.

England's "last alchemist."

The "titans of Antarctica."

A strange 17th century sexual predator.

The trial of the "Carrick Witch."

The women of the Betty Crocker test kitchens.

A 3D recreation of a Stone Age woman.

Some charts that put time in perspective.

The myth of Agent 355.

A mountain in China is laying stone eggs.

In which the Vanderbilts throw a heck of a party.

How "well-heeled" came to mean "rich."

The disappearance of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739.

A famous early American murder case.

How to eat like Ernest Hemingway.

Tige, cat mascot of the NYPD.

The lives of two children of John of Gaunt.

A "love hoax" which did not turn out well.  They seldom do.

The case of the stolen knighthood.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll have probably the weirdest story I've ever had on this blog.  Yes, weirder than the garden hose that kept burying itself.  Weirder than the cookie-loving Martians.  Weirder than Puffy, Cat Hypnotist.  Buckle up.  In the meantime, here's some Vivaldi.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This little oddity appeared in the “St. Louis Globe-Democrat,” January 17, 1876:

A thrilling affair occurred a few evenings since near Sheridan. Our informant, who has not heretofore been a believer in ghosts or hobgoblins and who is a man of strong and steady nerve, was so unstrung by the horrid vision presented to his view that he is rather disinclined to converse on the subject. The following facts, however, were gleaned from his account of the occurrence: 

He was on his way home, on a rather dark and misty night, on horseback, and, as usual, without any thought of danger or of supernatural things, and, when some distance this side of Sheridan, he was astonished at the terror of his horse, which endeavored to turn back, and seemed wild with fright. On looking ahead, a little to one side, the rider was stricken first with astonishment, then with fear, at beholding a bright light on the bank of the lonely creek, at first gleaming brilliantly, and then gradually decreasing in intensity, until it almost disappeared, seeming to recede as if borne backward with incredible rapidity.

Stimulated by curiosity, he endeavored to approach it more closely, but his terrified horse refused to go forward, vainly struggling to turn and rush away. As the light almost disappeared in the distance the trembling animal was urged forward, and was already past the place where it had first appeared, which was some little distance from the road, when far up in a field of rising ground the light again appeared, borne by what appeared to be a human figure, clothed in white, approaching with amazing rapidity, while as it advanced, silently gliding along the ground, the light, which it seemed to carry in one hand, blazed forth with fast increasing brilliancy.

What it was like he could not exactly say, but it was something shadowy and indistinct, and yet horrible and ghastly in the extreme. Horse and rider were motionless with wonder and curiosity, but when the horrible phantom had approached within about 100 yards, terror became master, and the frightened horse sprang forward with a burst of speed that almost unseated his master, and stopped not until he was at his own stable-door, when he was quickly put within, and the man, without mentioning the matter even to his wife, hastened to bed and spent a sleepless night. 

His haggard appearance next day caused inquiry. and he was induced to give his account of the matter to an Eagle representative. It is hinted that a horrible tragedy once occurred near the haunted spot, and that the phantom is seen once every fifty years. How much truth there is in this latter statement our informant was unable to say; but he intends to leave the investigation to someone else, having had enough of ghosts for a long time to come.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Andro Man and the Fairies

Richard Dadd, "Come Unto These Yellow Sands"

Witchcraft trials were inevitably full of all sorts of quaint and curious details, but among aficionados of such things it’s often claimed that the weirdest one of all was of an Aberdeen, Scotland, resident named Andro Man.  Man’s case is unusual because he claimed to hobnob not with the bog-standard devils and witches, but with fairies.

Andro Man was about 70 years old when he became a target in what is now generally called the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.  The Aberdeen resident was accused of being “a manifest and notorious witche and sorcerer.”

That description doesn’t give the half of it.  According to Man’s testimony, when he was a boy the Queen of Elfland visited his mother’s house to give birth to a child.  Beginning around 1565, he began having a sexual relationship with the Queen.  This resulted in the birth of several children, whom he occasionally saw, but had no hand in raising.  He stated that the Queen gave him certain magical abilities, such as the knowledge of all things, and the ability to heal any disease.  (Alas, he was denied the power to raise the dead.)

Man socialized with other residents of fairyland.  At one of their meetings, he was introduced to the ghosts of James IV and Thomas the Rhymer (the latter was also a lover of the Queen.)  Man served an angel-like spirit clad all in white named Christsonday.  (Of course, Man’s interrogators believed Christsonday was the Devil, and the so-called Queen was merely one of his demons.)  Man could summon the spirit any time he wished by uttering the word, “Benedicite.”  (A Latin word meaning an invocation of a blessing.)   Dismissing Christsonday was a bit more complicated.  In order to get his spirit to leave, Man had to place a dog under his left armpit, throw the unfortunate animal into Christsonday’s mouth, and say the word, “Maikpeblis.”

According to Man, the Queen could take on any appearance she wished, have sex with any male who took her fancy, and “makes any king whom she pleases.”  He explained that “The Queen has a grip of all the craft, but Christsonday is the gudeman [husband or master of a household] and has all power under God.”  His interrogators were particularly displeased with Man’s claim that Christsonday was God’s son-in-law.

Man stated that Christsonday gave him a vivid description of the eventual Day of Judgement.  “The fire will burn the water and the earth and make all plain,” after which Christsonday will stand at the gates of Hell with a book recording the sins of every individual.  After the good have been separated from the evil, Christsonday himself will be cast into the flames of Hell.

Man described how on Rood Day [more commonly known as the Feast of the Cross Day] of 1597, he saw Christsonday come out of the snow in the shape of a stag.  Accompanying the spirit were the Queen and a crowd of elves riding white horses.  The elves looked and acted human--they were particularly fond of food, strong drink, and general revelry--but they were far stronger than humankind.  There were other humans there, but they were the Queen’s captives.  (This is a probable reference to the Scottish belief that spirits of the dead could become imprisoned in the fairy realm.)  Man often attended fairy parties and feasts, waking up the next morning in a moss, surrounded by the grass and straw that were the genuine appearance of the lavish furnishings and decorations which had decorated the fairy hall the night before.

On a more practical level, Man was taught how to protect crops and livestock.  He kept cattle from disease by placing four charm-stones in the corners of their field.  To prevent them from running away, he dipped a plough-iron in salmon water.  Before doing any ploughing, he repeated a certain charm nine times to ensure a good crop.  (He could also, if he chose, curse a crop by throwing straw into the corn and saying nine times, “The dirt to thee and the crops to me.”)  Man stated he once cured a man of disease by moving him nine times through a hank of yarn, and a cat nine times in the opposite direction.  This cast the sickness on the cat, which hardly seems fair.  This multi-talented fellow also did a spot of palm-reading.  Unlike most “witches,” his alleged activities were apparently all meant to be beneficial.  That hardly stopped the authorities from arresting him, of course.

At his trial in October 1597, Man tried to escape punishment by turning super-grass.  He not only confessed, he offered to reveal to officials the identities of other witches in the area.  For some weeks, he kept everyone entertained by visiting various localities and pointing to various residents with details about their alleged supernatural wrongdoing.  Fortunately, none of the accused were ever brought to trial.  By January 1598, the authorities had gotten bored with Man’s increasingly unhelpful line of patter.  And the expense of feeding and housing him was getting prohibitive.

So they burned him.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

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

Let's dance!

The origins of "wet behind the ears."

A man disappears while hunting deer.  (This is one of those frustrating cases where you "know" what happened, but nothing was done about it.)

The Duke of Wellington's religious beliefs.

What it's like to find you're sharing a bedroom with a bear.

In search of the burial sites of ancient British kings.

Fake news, 1659 style.

There's a "pulsing radiation source" out in space, and nobody has a clue what it is.  Well, that's encouraging.

Humans were in the Yukon 24,000 years ago.

The terrible truth behind the "Amityville Horror."

The mystery of the pterodactyl of Tombstone.

Ancient tombs have been discovered under Notre Dame cathedral.

The mystery of John Edward Despard.

A disappearance in Jamaica.

Ireland's only female patron saint.

A lighthouse haunted by a ghost that loves bread.

More on that theory that your life flashes before your eyes when you die.

Adam Beringer's "lying stones."

Why we beware the "Ides of March."

The evolution of Charles Dickens.

A very weird family road trip.

The 19th century emigration of orphans from Madras to New South Wales.

An example of why it usually doesn't pay to write thinly-disguised fiction about your neighbors.

The secret messages in famous statues.

A Victorian tale of youthful heroism.

A cat really livens up a church.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a particularly weird witchcraft trial.  In the meantime, here's a bit of beauty for your Friday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Door-to-door salespeople can be a pesky lot, but it would be hard to top the one featured in this report in the “St. Louis Post Dispatch” on August 2, 1908:

That a gypsy woman has bewitched her and her little nephew is the firm belief of Mrs. William Koester of 4126 Osceola street. 

An old gypsy woman, with a pack on her back, who looked like a witch, called at her home last Wednesday and became angry because Mrs. Koester did not buy from her. As she left, the gypsy said: "You will be sorry you did not buy," and Mrs. Koester says the old crone gave her a look that made her think of stories she had heard of "the evil eye." 

"She was the queerest old hag I ever saw,” says Mrs. Koester.  “She was bent and had a hump on her back exactly like the pictures of witches you see in the story books.  When she first came in I was afraid of her. She put her pack down and opened it, and although I told her I would not buy, she insisted on taking out all her goods and showing them.

"And as I refused to buy each article she became more and more angry. At last she packed up and with a look in her eyes that I can never forget she patted my little nephew on the head and then came over to me and rubbed the palm of her hand across my head and mumbled something in a strange tongue.” 

The old gypsy woman had not been gone long from the house until strange things began to happen. The first unusual thing Mrs. Koester heard was the striking of a clock in her front room, although she has no clock in the house. 

“It struck four times slowly and distinctly like the tolling of a funeral bell," says Mrs. Koester.  

Next she saw the table go tipping and dancing across the floor, she says. Then, as she sat at the table, some strange force took the shoe lace from her shoe and wound it around a broom-handle. 

Her little nephew became frightened and declared that he saw a man in the house moving around from room to room. He was a little old man, bent and with an evil-looking face. Mrs. Koester tried to soothe him and convince him that he saw nothing, but every little while he would run, screaming to her and bury his face in her lap and cry out that the man was after him. 

Mrs. Koester’s husband works in a shoe factory; they own their home and they have never been erratic.  But Mrs. Koester told this story last night: 

"As I went into my front room this afternoon leading my little nephew by the hand I saw a man standing at the chiffonier. I saw him plainly. He was small and old and his figure was bent. His face bore a strong resemblance to the gypsy woman. I asked him: 'Who are you?’  He answered: 'I am a friend of yours.' I asked him:’What's your name?' He answered: 'M.W.’  I never knew anyone with a name those initials would fit and I am mystified to know what it means." 

The neighbors are taking a deep interest in the case and nearly two hundred of them visited the house last night.

So now you know why people put up “No Soliciting” signs.

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Haunted Telegraph Tower

A classic horror film formula in three easy steps:

1. A small group of men arrive at an eerie, isolated location.

2. The first thing that greets them is a corpse.

3. Then, strange and frightening things begin to happen…

Such is the situation we will discuss this week.  However, in this case, the plot was from real life, not a Hollywood set.

While telegraph towers were seldom noted for their beauty and cheery atmosphere, the station that once operated in Dale, Georgia, was a standout for its dismal atmosphere.  The nearest habitation was a quarter-mile away.  The tower was, in fact, all there was of Dale, and was surrounded by nothing but an extensive pine forest.  It was only used during the tourist season, between January and April.  The rest of the year, it stood empty, in a silence only broken by the occasional passing of a train.

In short, Dale tower was a place that seemed designed for trouble, and the little building certainly came through.  One day, right in front of the tower, an unknown man was fatally struck by a train.  He was buried near where he had fallen.  After this tragedy, train crews began noticing that strange and ominous things would happen when they passed Dale tower.  The brakemen would hear odd noises around the switch.  The enginemen would find their trains mysteriously uncoupled.  And then came the January morning when the telegraph workers arrived at the tower to kick off the tourist season…and found a long-dead body inside.  It was assumed he was a tramp who sought shelter in the tower, only to die a very lonely death there.  The man (who, like the first casualty, was fated to remain unidentified,) was also laid to rest next to the tower.  Small wonder that it soon got to the point where railwaymen dreaded having to pass the place, and very few had the courage to actually enter the tower.

On January 4, 1911, three men, E.A. Bright, R.L. Davis, and J.H. Clark arrived at Dale tower to begin their season’s work.  For the next three months, the tower would be not just their workplace, but their residence.  (It seems hardly fitting to call such a sinister little dump a “home.”)  The tower consisted of two small rooms, one over the other, with a trap-door closing the stairs leading to the upper room.  It is unrecorded if the three men were aware of the tower’s evil reputation.  If they were not, they would soon learn about it the hard way.

The first odd thing they noticed was that it was impossible to keep the trap-door shut, no matter how tightly they fastened it.  The moment their backs were turned, it would fly open.  They finally nailed the door shut.  Same result.  An iron bar was placed across it.  No luck.

Then, the men began hearing the sound of footsteps on the stairs.  Before their eyes, window sashes would be slowly raised and lowered by invisible hands.  Various items such as cans, lanterns, and pans would drift through the air on their own accord.  A can opener flew about with such fierceness that it fastened itself on the ceiling.  One day, objects were tossing themselves inside the tower with such mania that the men grew frightened for their safety, and fled outside.  As if in response, a chair was hurled out the upper window, narrowly missing Davis.

Understandably enough, the men began to feel that this job was definitely above their pay grade.  Bright twice walked the seven miles to Savannah with the intention of quitting, but on both occasions, he realized he didn’t have the nerve to try explaining that he was being chased out of his job by a ghost, so he returned to the tower.

The three men, desperate for the whatever-it-was to just leave them in peace, decided that perhaps their deck of playing cards was inciting all the trouble.  They tossed it out the window.  Immediately afterward, the cards were found in a bag of rice.  The case which had held the cards was in a tightly closed canister of coffee.

Thomas Hart Raines, who wrote about the case in the May 1911 “Occult Review,” related that the men finally resorted to burning a large amount of sulfur inside the tower.  (The trio obviously felt--not without some justification--that Satan himself was after them.)  Curiously enough, that may have satisfied whatever grim spirit was haunting the tower.  The men told Raines that after this little ritual, the mysterious phenomena troubled them no more. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by some of our All-American Cats!

The Thames River Police.

Controversial Ice Age rock art.

Shackleton's ship "Endurance" has been found.

Shorter version: cat show people are insane.

The sinking of HMS Vanguard.

A couple of vintage puns.

Solving an archaeological mystery.

A Chinese socialite plots an assassination.

The earliest known peace treaty.

The 1816 sun spot controversy.

An ancient stone containing a demon has been cracked open, which these days doesn't surprise me in the least.

The "pit of ghosts."

The monkey in the red bathing suit.

The grim battle of Towton.

Vandalism at London's National Gallery.

The Poe novel that predicted a murder at sea.

A young woman's unsolved murder.

A strange case of amnesia.

A look at "sin-eating."

A possible Neolithic crime scene.

The Temple of Heaven loses its golden bells.

How Robert Frost ended Truman Capote's career as a copyboy.

Frederick the Great, misguided monarch?

Probably the weirdest Mozart monument.  (And considering that Wolfgang had quite the potty mouth, I think he would've enjoyed it.)

A Welsh Mystery Box.

Two real-life characters from "Poldark."

John of Gaunt and the murder of a friar.

An unhappy Gilded Age marriage.

A very old pearl bead.

A mummified ancient Roman freedman.

Early humans had a lot of headaches.

How "lovely" came to be thought of as a "girly word."

The spy known as "The Limping Lady."

The notorious murder of newspaper editor Albert Richardson.

The animal paintings of Edwin Landseer.

The birth of the tomato soup cake.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at spooky doings in a Georgia telegraph tower.  In the meantime, here's some "different" harp music:

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

There is a certain type of what we today call “poltergeist accounts” which have an odd focus on dairy products--butter, in particular.  One of the most notable examples was recorded in the “Manchester Weekly Times,” February 4, 1854:

During the recent week a number of the inhabitants in the villages of Stretford and Barton-upon-Irwell, near Manchester have had their wonder excited by a report that in a certain cottage situate in the latter township, occupied by persons of quiet habits and of rather advanced age, there had been innumerable instances of butter spontaneously and marvellously presenting itself, on the floor, the furniture, and the clothing, and even the beds of the occupants, for which they could assign no cause, and by which they were very much alarmed.  The news of this spread to Manchester and Salford. Our reporter found the matter exciting the curiosity of several individuals who had business at the New Bailey on Thursday. One of them, a farmer, who is the owner of land in the vicinity of the cottage, had himself witnessed the circumstance, and was unable to find any rational solution. Police-constable Bent, whose duties lay in the neighbourhood of Stretford, had also visited the place, but although tolerably clever in detecting parties who are in the habit of illegally taking butter away, he was unable to discover who could be the contributor of it in the case under notice.  With the view of tracing the odd story about the wondrous butter to its source, our reporter proceeded to the place on Thursday afternoon. The topic, he found, was even rife in the railway carriages between Manchester and Stretford. Half an hour’s walk from the Stretford station sufficed to reach the scene of the alleged mystery, and which, it would seem, was threatening to supersede the good offices of that useful animal, the cow, which has hitherto had the sole monopoly of supplying us with butter. The cottage is situate about six miles west of Manchester, between Stretford and Barton Bridge, a little to the right of Moss Lane, a few hundred yards beyond Lostock Hall. There are two double-story thatched cottages adjoining, having gardens and door in front, but only one of these is tenanted. There is no other house within 200 yards, and the others are thinly scattered, and at greater distances.  The cottage, which has a brook running close at the rear, is occupied by Samuel Warburton, a man about 60 years of age (who we understand, has a small income, and weaves a little cotton plaid in a room within the house,) his wife, William Warburton (a brother,) nearly 50 years old, and a girl about 12, the daughter of a relative. William Warburton has also a small income, and was, during some part of last year, a schoolmaster in Hulme, but is not now so engaged. On entering the cottage, our reporter found these four persons within, and a very few words sufficed to explain the object of his visit, for that was anticipated, as many had already preceded him to make inquiries. A glance around the apartment revealed the fact that he was in the fat of the land, for butter seemed to have budded from every description of substance, from living boughs of holly to dead veneers of mahogany, and even glass.

The door had been closed but a few minutes, when a knock was heard. On its being opened, a gentleman remarked, "How do you do, Mrs Warburton; I have heard a strange story, and I am come to investigate it." He was desired to take a seat, and was tolerably silent while the inmates gave an account of what seems to them an impenetrable mystery. They are all professors of religion, and attend the services of the Primitive Methodist Connection. This may not apply to the girl, but she seems steady, and has been several years with her relatives, who have occupied this house about fifteen years. William Warburton, the younger brother, we may remark, was the owner of the house in Urmston where the celebrated Tim Bobbin was born . The following is the narration of the parties:--

Samuel Warburton: The first time we noticed anything particular was last Sunday but one. Just before breakfast, we saw several bits of butter on the floor, upon some of which we had trodden. William (the younger brother) had gone out, and we thought he must have accidentally spilled some. Nothing was said or thought of further until last Saturday, in the forenoon, when he again observed little bits of butter on the floor.

Mrs. Warburton: I said to my husband, it must have been done by William (who had gone to Manchester at the time,) he must have had his coat amongst the butter, and then have shaken his coat, and so thrown the bits about; for I found them against the drawer, the cupboard, the sofa, the clock, the table, and all round.

Samuel Warburton: The girl sleeps in a bed in our room, and my brother William in another room. On Saturday night, they went to their beds about nine o'clock, but I stayed up with my wife, to have a little talk, and a pipe of tobacco. It would be after one when we went to bed. We noticed nothing on the stairs that night, but on Sunday morning there was not, I believe, a single step without butter upon it. It seemed, in many instances, as if we had trodden upon it on Saturday night. We followed the track into each room, and there were marks on the carpets. At first we thought this had come off our shoes, but we don't think so now. We found a piece upon my brother's bolster, also on his night cap. Then we examined the bed clothes, and we found some between the two quilts, which were on the top of the bed; and another piece, being the larger, at the bottom of the bed, where his feet might lie.

He had gone to Manchester, and it kept us busy all the forenoon clearing it away. A piece of paper we found at the top part of the bed by the girl, with butter upon it, but we believe that had only had the butter wiped upon it which we collected, and then accidentally let the paper fall. There were several bits of butter found in our room, too. On Sunday morning last, my brother got up first, as usual, and lighted the fire. He goes to the Primitive Methodist Sunday school, to teach. I and my wife came down stairs about nine o'clock, and we found that bits of butter were all about the floor, and sticking to the furniture.

Mrs. Warburton: I had occasion to go into the garden, and took my shawl out of the drawer; I saw nothing on the shawl when I went out, but when I came in, after a few minutes, there was a large piece upon it.

Wm. Warburton: I found a piece inside my coat, before I set off to the school, in Urmston; and when I came home there was a piece on my trousers.

Samuel Warburton: We kept picking it off the furniture, and still we found it. On Sunday, after dinner, it was again on the furniture. As we sat by the fire we kept observing it on our clothes. We never saw it coming, or  know not how it came. On Sunday evening, I and my brother were going to public service, but my wife and the girl, owing to it, did not like to stay by themselves, so we arranged for my brother to stay with them. When I put my coat on to go there were pieces of butter on it, and my wife took a number off, and then, when she thought I was partly clean, she said, "Will't be off, while thou’s decent."

Mrs. Warburton (appearing very serious): I could not keep straight with it, and I said, “Will’t be off while thou’rt any bit like."

Samuel Warburton: When I came back from the preaching, they told me they had been standing by the fire, picking the butter off each other's clothes. They threw it into the fire and it burned.

Mrs. Warburton: At last I said, “Let's sit down, and let it do as it likes" for I was weary. It never came on our skins, but I found one piece between my dress and my petticoats, and two pieces on my cap, and the girl had some on her hair,

Samuel Warburton: On Monday morning it continued to appear on the furniture, and instead of burning it, as we had done, we determined to keep it. About nine o'clock, I collected what I could see, and put it on that piece of pot on the table. I thought that it must be some black thing or other, and I have a Herbal, and read in this book that holly boughs were good against witchcraft. I thought, "Well, I can easily get them, I'll try that." So I got three holly boughs, and I hung them up to the ceiling of the house, and in half an hour there was a piece of butter on every bough!  So that I am satisfied that holly boughs can do no good.

Mrs. Warburton: As we were going to wash, the girl was putting water into a boiler in a little scullery, and she called me to look at a piece of butter sticking to the side of the boiler.

Samuel Warburton: I weave a little plaid cotton, in a small room adjoining the kitchen, and, on Monday forenoon, when I went to work at my loom there were two pieces of butter on the cloth, and other two pieces on the panes of glass. I read a passage of scripture every morning; and on Monday I was surprised to find several bits of butter between the leaves of different parts of my Bible; and they were not in the places where I had read.

The Bible was then shown, and the greasy marks were visible enough. Of course there was nothing in the stained places referring to the importation of foreign butter, but to satisfy the curiosity of any who might wish to examine for themselves, we may state that the first mark was in 1st Saml. vi. Chap. 5v; and 1st Saml. ix.chap. 2-3v.; Isaiah l,ivii, chap. lv;) and another between the v. and vii. chapters of Revelations.  It was stated that there had been no obvious accumulation since Monday noon, although a few bits were noted on the furniture on Tuesday morning which were not seen on Monday. On Tuesday the head family invited the Rev. J. Garner, Primitive Methodist preacher residing in Warde Street, Hulme (and who was to preach in the neighbourhood) to take tea with him. The particulars of the unusual situation were discussed, but no explanation could be given.

No clear notion of the weight of the butter thus collected could be ascertained, but as the bits were only from the size of a bean to that of a nut, it would probably not exceed a few ounces, although the master of the house said he must have burned hundreds of them.

In answer to various questions, it does not appear that it can be the interest of anyone to frighten them from the house. The house is so isolated, and there are no mischievous boys about, and no one has been near the house. No broken panes were observed, through which the pellets of butter could be introduced, nor does it seem likely they could have come from without, as they were found in the chambers, and inside two other small rooms down stairs, and at the time our reporter was present there were fourteen or fifteen bits collected together, a few of which were brought to Manchester, and there can. be no doubt of its really being butter, from various tests; there were four or five bits adhering to the front of the mahogany drawers; two upon a bookcase, one of them on the glass; three on a waistcoat belonging to the younger brother, the schoolmaster, and three on the holly boughs. one on the frame of a sampler, and another or two on the weaving rooms, inside.

That there can be no such thing as butter springing out of glass, is evident enough; the whole must, of course, be a trick, but it has hitherto been so ingeniously accomplished, that the perpetrator of the deception is undiscovered. The bits of butter are very varied in shape, and although some of them have an appearance which would suggest the probability of their being sucked in the mouth and then ejected, yet others are so irregularly shaped as to preclude any such supposition. One thing was noticeable, however, that some of them had struck the surface obliquely (as drops of rain do when falling against vertical panes of glass,) and thus slid along a little, and thus left a mark at the point of first contact. This ought to have been sufficient to have prevented the idea which the old people seem to entertain, that the substance might possibly grow where it was found.  The young girl does not appear to have anything about her indicative of the artfulness which a series of tricks of this kind would imply. The manner in which the old man and woman speak about the circumstances, and seem to be affected by them, would lead even an observer of the deceptiveness of human nature to acquit them of any participation in the fraud.  Probably the reader of the above will think that the “schoolmaster'' is the most likely person to explain the matter.

I’ve found nothing that takes this story any further, so perhaps the oleaginous mystery came to a swift end.  All I can add is, I’m betting that for years afterward, anyone at the Warburton dinner table who said “Pass the butter” got a swift kick in the shins.

Monday, March 7, 2022

An Incomprehensible Crime: The Murder of Gloria Sullivan

"Chicago Tribune," April 4, 1943, via Newspapers.com

Seemingly motiveless murders are notoriously difficult to solve.  So it is small wonder that the following case--which is about as “seemingly motiveless” as they come--is still remembered as one of the creepiest mysteries in the history of Lansing, Illinois.

Gloria Sullivan had a rough start in life.  In 1933, when she was only four years old, her father Clarence Sullivan deserted his wife Viola and their three children.  What made his abandonment all the worse was that Viola found herself utterly unable to provide for her offspring.  Gloria and an older sister, Theodora, were placed in a juvenile detention home.   A very short time later, Viola died.

Theodora was eventually taken in by a Chicago family, and in 1935, Gloria became the foster daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Brady, of Lansing.  Fortunately, the Bradys were kind, loving people who gave Gloria a good home.  The Bradys wanted to formally adopt the girl, but their inability to contact Clarence Sullivan--who appeared to have disappeared off the face of the earth--made that impossible.  However, this did not stop them from treating Gloria as their biological child.

After Mrs. Brady died of cancer in 1941, 12-year-old Gloria took over as “the lady of the house.”  She managed to juggle housework, school, and frequent babysitting jobs.  Despite all the sadness she had experienced early on, Gloria was now happy and well-adjusted.  She was an intelligent girl who did very well at school, and was clearly unusually mature and responsible for her years.  She seemed to have a promising future.

April 3, 1943, started off as usual.  At 8 a.m., Patrick gave Gloria money to do shopping and left for his job at the Inland Steel Company.  An hour later, Gloria phoned a schoolmate, Dorothy Weidig, to suggest that they go looking for Easter clothes in nearby Hammond, Indiana.  Dorothy agreed, and took a bus to the Brady house.  Also around 9, the driver of a laundry delivery service left some clothes with Gloria.  About half-an-hour later, a neighbor, Viola Tobin, came by to collect a vacuum cleaner Gloria had borrowed.  Mrs. Tobin later said that Gloria seemed perfectly normal.  When she left with her vacuum, Mrs. Tobin had no reason to suspect that she would be the last person to see the 14-year-old alive.

Aside from Gloria’s murderer, that is.  Within less than an hour, something unimaginable took place in the Brady home.

At 10:20, Dorothy Weidig arrived at Gloria’s front door.  She noticed that the door was locked from the inside.  She knocked, and was puzzled to receive no answer.  She tried looking through a window, but the curtains were shut too tightly to see inside.  After about five minutes, she gave up and took the 10:30 bus to Hammond alone.

The Brady home remained quiet--too quiet--until 5:15 p.m., when Patrick came back from work.  As he approached the house, he heard a radio playing loudly inside.  [Note: When questioned later, Dorothy Weidig stated that she did not hear a radio when she visited the home.]  The front door was now unlocked.  When he went into the kitchen, he found a scene of horror: Gloria was lying on the floor, her dead body ravaged by multiple stab wounds.

Police soon ascertained that the girl had been stabbed 20 times in her back, chest, and throat.  There were also multiple defensive wounds on her arms.  Found near the body were the murder weapons--two knives from the Brady kitchen.

From the beginning, investigators were stumped to find a motive for this particularly vicious murder.  Gloria was fully dressed, and showed no signs of sexual assault.  The rest of the house was in its usual perfect order, and nothing was missing--including $200 in cash which was stored in a kitchen cabinet.  Gloria had no boyfriends, and certainly no enemies.

The police found a handful of clues in the house.  In the bathroom was a bloody palm print on the wash basin.  Next to the basin was Gloria’s hairbrush, which was full of long blonde hair.  As Gloria was a brunette and Patrick had gray hair, this was considered noteworthy.  (Although I find it difficult to picture any murderer taking the time to brush his or her hair before fleeing the scene.)  The bathroom also had a bloody fingerprint on the wall and a stack of bloody towels.

Everyone who knew Gloria was questioned by the police, but none of them could name a possible motive for the murder, let alone a possible suspect.  Gloria’s 19-year-old sister Theodora, who was now a telephone operator in Chicago, was equally unhelpful.  She had not talked to Gloria in eight months, and had no idea where their father was.

On the basis of vague, unconfirmed reports that Clarence had been seen in the Lansing area, police toyed with the idea that Gloria’s long-estranged father was the murderer, although they were unable to explain why, after ignoring Gloria’s existence for the past ten years, Clarence would take it into his head to reestablish family ties by stabbing his daughter to death.  An effort was made to trace him, but Clarence had well and truly vanished.  He was declared legally dead in 1950.

While reading Gloria’s diary, investigators noted that someone had “tried to flirt” with her.  When questioned, this male--who was never publicly named--was apparently able to clear himself.

Patrick Brady never really recovered from his beloved foster daughter’s hideous murder.  He would continually haunt the police station, hoping against hope that something would turn up to revive the cold case.  Four years later, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of only 59.  One could argue he was the murderer’s second victim.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

While reading the links, you are invited to relax in the Strange Company HQ garden room!

Ancient Roman makeup.

Julius Caesar and the pirates.

Mummification in Europe may be older than we thought.

Disaster on the SS City of Montreal.

Descriptions of Ukraine in the 19th century.

A unique culture from 40,000 years ago.

The destruction of HMS Crescent.

The strange case of the "Battle of Los Angeles."

The world's oldest known intact shipwreck.

Shorter version: Carlos Castaneda was weird.  If you have read his books, I suppose this will come as no surprise.

A battle that may have had no victors.

A German win in the Franco-Prussian War.

When Yellowstone became America's first National Park.

Urban legends surrounding indigenous burial grounds. 

How to dress a Victorian gentleman.

A new look at the life of Stephen Crane.

If you drink tea rather than eat it, thank this man.

More letters of an 18th century Royal Navy seaman.

Recreating the face of a Stone Age woman.

How to be mourning and fashionable at the same time.

Massachusetts has a Ponyhenge.

Some gossip from the Gilded Age.

Stonehenge as a timekeeping system.

A look at medieval kissing.

In search of forgotten novelist Kathleen Sully.

Shrove Tuesday in early 19th century England.

Pro tip: leave trying to cast spells to the experts.

The man who had way too much of an appetite.

The legend of the Lambton Worm.

Accusations of witchcraft in modern-day India.

A weird image on Mars.

Some horrible housemates.

The invention of the question mark.

The language of birds.

A child's strange disappearance.

The scams of Soapy Smith.

Football in 18th century England.

Yet another case of seduction and murder.

A cursed hotel in Japan.

A trespasser on Mount St. Helens.

The sad fate of a cat heiress.

An odd little Poe forgery.

An Elizabeth Canning-like mystery.

That cursed invention, the laugh track.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a particularly puzzling murder.  In the meantime, I don't know what music exemplifies the Strange Company spirit better than "Heavy metal yodeling."

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

"Detroit Free Press," December 5, 1941, via Newspapers.com

It’s time for the good old Mystery Fires!  The “Detroit Free Press,” December 3, 1941:

A fire blitz was reported Tuesday night from Windsor where firemen maintained continuous watch over the Dominion Golf and Country Club, scene of 30 mysterious blazes within a period of seven hours. 

Many of the fires broke out while attendants at the Howard Ave. clubhouse stood by confused and helpless.  They started in rugs, curtains and even in the straw of a broom that leaned in a corner of the lobby.

"Only a ghost could have touched off the blazes," one of the club employees reported. "After the first fire was discovered, we were on guard, but others broke out under our very eyes." 

Nicholas White, manager and owner of the clubhouse, verified the story, although he was not inclined to believe that a "fire elemental," as occultists describe an incendiary spirit, was responsible. 

"I saw fires break out as I stood in the lobby," White said.

"First there would be a wisp of smoke, then a tiny tongue of flame would appear sometimes on the walls, sometimes on the floor. I was within a couple of feet of a window blind when it blazed up." 

Inspector Claude Anderson, of the Ontario Fire Marshall's office, who examined the premises Tuesday for traces of incendiary chemicals, declined to comment on his findings. Chemicals which ignite spontaneously under certain atmospheric conditions have been used in air raids by both the RAF and Luftwaffe.

As always seems to happen in such cases, the fires appear to have plagued the club for a few days, and then disappeared as inexplicably as they appeared.  What made this case interesting to me is that our fiery forces took their act on the road.  The “Free Press” ten days later:

JACKSON, Dec. 12--James V. Thomson, former chairman of the State Republican Central Committee, now county treasurer here, is trying to solve the origin of mysterious fires in his home, strange fires like those which sprung up in various parts of the Dominion Golf and Country Club near Windsor, Ont, early this month.

Thomson said early Sunday morning his mother-in-law, Mrs. Mary Sanford, saw smoke suddenly burst from a davenport. A few minutes after he extinguished the blaze another fire broke out in an overstuffed chair. Thomson hired an electrician to go over the home lighting equipment after the family spent an uneasy night Sunday. 

As a precautionary measure, Thomson attached a garden hose to an inside faucet. The mystery has not yet been explained, nor have there been any further outbursts of flame, Thomson said Friday.