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

Friday, July 29, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

A reminder from the Strange Company staff that if you visit the beach this summer, remember to dress appropriately.

Where the hell was Moses buried?

How "Bad Tom" Smith certainly lived up to his name.

A 2,000 year old earthquake detector.

I really, really hate this trend of food companies coming up with perfectly disgusting creations just for the novelty value.

"Somerton Man," one of the internet's favorite mysteries, has probably been identified.

Decoding encrypted personal ads from the 19th century

A modern-day farm turns out to be hosting a medieval complex.

Some unusual reasons for divorce in 1917.

A handy reminder to avoid sleeping with your alarm clock.

Meditation in the Mughal Empire.

Buster the Battleship Cat.

Japan's underwater archaeology.

Fake widowhood for fun and profit.

Painless Parker, showman dentist.

Recreating a 3,200 year old perfume.

Some rediscovered treasures from Britain's past.

Swan Upping on the Thames.

It seems we've been misidentifying Greyfriars Bobby.

The European heatwave of 1540.

Why Hitler and Stalin hated Esperanto.

10 archaeological mysteries.

Ice Age children may have played in sloth footprints.

An assortment of great death scenes.

New revelations about a Neolithic site.

A brief history of British intelligence.

The Great Plains were just too quiet for 19th century settlers.

The life of a washerwoman turned artist's model.

In which a whole lot of people get pushed down stairs.

Charles Dickens' great-granddaughter and the naming of the Australian accent.

1922's Straw Hat Riots.

Victorian exercise machines.

The Great Seed Detective.

Salvaging HMS Royal George.

Peru's Band of Holes.

The Kelvedon Hatch nuclear bunker.

It's claimed that a dead mosquito helped catch a burglar.

If you ever get a time machine, don't bother going to 536 AD.

The Batman of Mesoamerican mythology.

The Coventry Conspiracy.

How statesmen started WWI.

An English renegade in the Ottoman Empire.

How ancient Egypt was affected by an Alaskan volcano.

Nikola Tesla thought that electricity could cure stupid.  Nick, honey, take it from someone who's been around the block a few times: there's nothing that cures stupid.

Doubt, decency, and English witchcraft.

The end of the Scottish clan system.

Warfare in the Mariana Islands.

The world's largest crystal cave.

A terrifying meteor storm in 1907.

Nothing to see here, just a weird line of holes on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Nothing to see here, just a death pool on the bottom of the Red Sea.

Newspapers and the 1950 census.

The Corn Cutter of Broadway.

That time when most bread went to horses.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at one of the weirder missing-persons cases I've come across.  In the meantime, here's something from 1970s Britain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This grimly terse news item appeared in the “Asheville Citizen-Times,” June 7, 1922:

FORT MADISON, Ia., June 5.--Up and down the old Santa Fe line engine No. 3403 was known as the hoodoo. 

Engineers, old-timers in the service, shuddered whenever it fell to their lot to pilot "ol' hoodoo" over a division. Trainmen, usually carefree and non-superstitious, always were just a bit worried when 3403 was pulling their train. 

"Ol’ hoodoo” was a good engine as engines go. Engineers admitted that even though they didn't care particularly to be assigned to it.

The reason was that No. 3403 had been responsible for one bad wreck and had several close calls with different engineers at the throttle each time. 

Back in November, 1921, No. 3403 crashed into a freight train at the crossover switch near the south approach to the bridge across the Mississippi here. Both the engineer and fireman were killed.

Engineer James Eaton knew the history of No. 3403. He knew its record. But he disregarded it.

Now, he's dead. Died at the throttle when "ol' hoodoo,” pulling "The Scout" flyer ploughed into the California Limited, head-on. 

And right at the spot where the hoodooed engine had crashed into the freight six months ago and killed its engineer--the crossover switch near the Mississippi bridge. "Ol' hoodoo" also claimed the life of Dewey Taylor, fireman. 

Twelve others were injured. 

But "ol' hoodoo" has made its last run, Nothing remains of the engine now but a heap of junk and the memory among Santa Fe engineers that it claimed the lives of two of their brothers.

Always respect the hoodoo.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Poe and Dumas: The History of a Hoax

[Note: I first published this post on "The World of Edgar Allan Poe" in 2010, but I thought its theme of forgery and general historical monkeyshines was relevant to this blog, as well.]

In 1929, a well-known rare book dealer named Gabriel Wells presented the world with an amazing footnote to history. He announced that during a recent trip to Europe, he acquired a document in the handwriting of Alexandre Dumas. The manuscript gave a detailed account of a time, around 1832, when he had at his Paris residence a strange young house guest named Edgar Allan Poe. Dumas supposedly wrote:
"One day a young American presented himself at my house with an introduction from his fellow-countryman, the famous novelist Fenimore Cooper.

Needless to say I welcomed him with open arms.

His name was Edgar Poe.

From the outset I realized that I had to deal with a remarkable man: two or three remarks which he made on my furniture, the things I had about me, the way my articles of everyday use were strewn about the room, and on my moral and intellectual characteristics, impressed me with their accuracy and truth. On the very first day of our acquaintance I freely proffered my friendship and asked for his. He must certainly have entertained for me a sympathy similar to that I felt for him, for he held out his hand to me and the understanding between us was instantaneous and complete...I offered to let Edgar Poe have two rooms in this house for the duration of his stay in Paris.

...Poe had one curious idiosyncrasy; he liked the night better than the day. Indeed, his love of the darkness amounted to a passion. But the Goddess of Night could not always afford him her shade, and remain with him continually, so he contrived a substitute. As soon as day began to break he hermetically sealed up the windows of his room and lit a couple of candles. In the midst of this pale illumination he worked, or read, or suffered his thoughts to wander in the insubstantial regions of reverie, or else he fell asleep, not being always able to indulge in waking dreams. But as soon as the clock told him that the real darkness had come he would come in for me, take me out with him if I was there, or go forth alone if I was not...In these rambles I could not help remarking with wonder and admiration (though his rich endowment of ideas should have prepared me for it) the extraordinary faculty of analysis exhibited by my friend. He seemed to delight in giving it play, and neglected no opportunity of indulging himself in that pleasure...for him, every man had an open window where his heart was."

And so on, with Poe as part Dupin, part vampire. (This account's obvious resemblance to the opening section of "The Murders In the Rue Morgue" should in itself have been a red flag right from the beginning.)

As may be imagined, Wells' hitherto unknown acquisition caused quite a stir. Poe scholars, always desperately anxious to find means to fill in the many blanks in the poet's biography, were thrilled that they may have been presented with new and exciting information. However, after the first wave of excitement had passed, reality sank in, and the story's manifest improbabilities and impossibilities quickly led them to sadly reject the Dumas story as a hoax. (And for Poe biographers to dismiss a tale as incredible is truly saying something.) In spite of this, the "Poe visited Paris" legend is still repeated as fact here and there (usually on the sort of websites that describe Poe as an international espionage agent who was murdered by the Illuminati.)

In spite of the near-universal dismissal of the story itself, there seems to still be some amount of confusion about whether the manuscript was an odd piece of fiction, but truly written by Dumas, or a particularly demented forgery. This reluctance to dismiss the document as a complete fake is astounding--not only because Dumas was hardly the light-hearted practical joker type, but because of the further history of the man who came up with the strange artifact.

The year after revealing his Dumas story, Gabriel Wells--no doubt flushed with the success of his earlier bombshell--announced his acquisition of another previously undreamed-of addition to Poe lore. He claimed that while in Italy, he had also gained possession of three sketches drawn by Poe, supposedly representing Virginia Clemm, a young Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, and a self-portrait. According to Wells, he bought them from "an elderly American" living in Genoa, later identified only as a "W. Mills," who was the descendant of a man named Henry O'Reilly, who had been given the drawings by Poe himself. (There is no evidence that Poe ever knew anyone by that name, much less that "O'Reilly" ever even existed.) Despite this rather dodgy provenance, Poe "expert" Thomas O. Mabbott--on the grounds, evidently, of a combination of wishful thinking and gullibility--immediately and enthusiastically pronounced the portraits to be "genuine and of the greatest importance historically." Mabbott gushed, "The self-portrait of Poe is in one way the greatest find of all...It not only represents him in his prime, but the self-portrait is probably the most satisfactory picture we have of him at this period...But the picture one rejoiced most in seeing is the lovely head of Virginia Clemm Poe. It is said that the only other picture that is accessible was made after her death. But here we have her as her husband saw her--a most romantic and tragic lady, the poet's best love."

These drawings, unique in Poe's history, and with a romantic background, garnered even more ecstatic attention than the Dumas manuscript. Wells consigned his little treasures to one of his regular agents, a salesman with an extremely shady reputation named C.B. Randall, who sold them to Poe collector J.K. Lilly for nearly nine thousand dollars--quite a tidy sum for 1931. Unfortunately, as was the case with Wells' earlier revelations, the intoxication caused by the discovery of these works soon gave way to the inevitable painful hangover. Mr. Mills--who had made earlier appearances in Poe circles--had shown himself to be extremely untrustworthy. (During earlier attempts to sell these same drawings, he had given them an entirely different history.) Other Poe scholars indignantly refuted Mabbott's authentication. Lilly himself came to the conclusion that he had been sold a pup, but chose to keep the pictures anyway--perhaps because if he had disposed of them, it would have been too humiliating a confirmation of how well and truly he had been gulled.

As Michael Deas commented in his fascinating book "Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe," "In retrospect, it seems almost inconceivable that all three portraits could have at one time been regarded as authentic drawings by Poe." Deas--a professional in the art world--noted that while Poe was known to have some artistic ability, at least the "self-portrait" (which, incidentally, could scarcely be said to even resemble Poe) was clearly done by someone with formal training. Also, the drawings, as even my untrained and inartistic eye can see, are completely different in style, and are obviously the work of three separate artists.Alleged Poe Self-PortraitWhat is most interesting--and depressingly revealing--about the whole debacle is how not one of the guilty parties involved paid any price for their mistakes and/or crimes. Mabbott was suitably embarrassed by how he had been had--or more importantly, how he had allowed Mr. Lilly to be had--but not too embarrassed to stop presenting himself as an authoritative Poe source. His reputation as an "expert" was in no way diminished by this well-publicized demonstration of his lack of expertise. The shadowy "W. Mills" went on his merry way undisturbed and free to foment further mischief. According to one source, Lilly had spoken of bringing criminal charges against Randall (both he and Wells had evidently known early on about the dubious background of the portraits but chose to simply keep that knowledge to themselves,) but if so, it came to nothing. Wells continued to buy and sell valuable books and manuscripts, with apparently no one being the least troubled by his adventures in historical shenanigans. The honorary doctorate Rutgers University awarded him in 1935 lauded "his importance as a bookman, author, philanthropist, international authority on rare books, and, above all, a man of integrity." Comment seems superfluous, let alone probably actionable. Suffice to say that I myself would feel extremely uneasy about any document, particularly if it related to Poe, that ever passed through this gentleman's hands--and quite a few of them did.

The spurious drawings of Virginia and Miss Royster still pop up frequently on the Internet (including that vast online horror show, Wikipedia,) as authentic portraits--which just goes to show you can't keep a good fraud down.Elmira Royster forgeryvirginia poe forgery
And so it goes in the World of Poe.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by a medieval cat who personifies the true Strange Company Spirit.

Rock art from a mysterious ancient civilization.

A burial ground with an eclectic clientele.

Yet another murder done to avoid a marriage.

Some Viking jewelry was mysteriously left at a museum.

The world's oldest papyrus and the Great Pyramid.

The patron saints of mice, cats, and thunderstorms.

War in the Mariana Islands.

Mensur: the sport for people who want to feel like they've been put through a paper shredder.

The birth of "kitchen sink realism."

Considering what the world's been like lately, I think this has already happened.

Thanks to the heat, Chatsworth's historic gardens have made something of a comeback.

The American Civil War's first civilian casualty.

A magic mirror that contains a hidden image.

I'm interested in food history, so I enjoyed watching how to prepare dinner, 1807 style.  (And it will give you a fresh appreciation for modern kitchens.)


Some unusual medieval burials.

A cat's dog days.

An April Fool's prank involving a volcano.

When newspapers had "society pages."

How a lost hammer led to the discovery of Roman treasure.

A strangely famous bathtub.

There is an Antiquities Theft Task Force, which is a pretty cool thing to put on a business card.

The U.S. Navy's first major victory.

How vintage newspapers covered astrology.

The link between cheese and witchcraft.  There is definitely something magical about a really good mac & cheese.

I don't know why scientists are surprised to learn that bees are really smart.  But, then, I've noticed that a lot of scientists wouldn't know common sense if it hit them over the head with a two-by-four.

I confess my unpopular true-crime opinion: I don't think Constance Kent was guilty.

Why ships are often painted red on the bottom.

The birth of Atlantic City.

A British officer in late 19th century Sudan.

A husband and wife suffer mysterious deaths.

A modern history of the Loch Ness Monster.

A modern history of plane hijackings.

Budget beauty tips from the 1960s.

The history of nutmeg.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a historical forgery case involving Alexandre Dumas and Edgar Allan Poe.  In the meantime, here's a song from the late 1960s that is so...late 1960s.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

“Anomalous falls from the sky” stories are always fun, and the following is one of the better examples I’ve seen lately.  From the “New York Daily News,” August 19, 1950:

Five ironworkers atop the Empire State Building, 1,250 feet above the ground, fled for cover yesterday when they were struck by a barley storm. 

Experts in the grain, meteorological, navigation, and chemical fields were dubious at first, but became interested later. They were at a loss to explain the strange occurrence. 

The mysterious downpour of grain started at 10 A.M., two hours after the workers had begun their job of clearing away a stainless steel platform to make room for the new television tower. 

Bill Dunn, 30, of New Haven, felt something strike his face. Then pellets started to bounce off the metal flooring. 

"I think it's starting to hail," shouted Dunn. 

The foreman, Al Johnson, of 220-13 Jamaica Ave., Queens Village, Queens, peered at the hot, misty sky and ordered the men off the exposed platform. 

Within a couple of minutes the platform was carpeted with barley. Here and there were kernels of corn.

The fall lasted five minutes. It ended as suddenly as it started. 

Ernest J. Christie, meteorologist at the U. S. Weather Bureau, said that the slight winds prevailing at that time could not have carried the grain. At 20,000 feet, however, were winds of gale force. They were blowing from the direction of the Great Plains.

At LaGuardia Field it was indicated that the grain apparently was not loosed from a plane. The control tower at the field said that at the time of the barley downpour, air traffic was shut down, except for outgoing planes. The planes which left did not pass over the midtown area. 

Chemists said that local breweries using barley could not be blamed. While barley is blown into the air during processing at the breweries, it is always in the form of dust. The barley that fell on the Empire State tower was whole kernels. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

The Egyptologist and the Angry Cat God

Arthur Weigall at the Temple of Edfu

I love tales of ancient curses.  I love tales of sinister ghost cats even more.  Show me a story that combines the two, and I’m in Blog Nirvana.  The following is an excerpt from Egyptologist Arthur Weigall’s 1923 book, “Tutankhamun and Other Essays.”

The large number of visitors to Egypt and persons interested in Egyptian antiquities who believe in the malevolence of the spirits of the Pharaohs and their dead subjects, is always a matter of astonishment to me, in view of the fact that of all ancient peoples the Egyptians were the most kindly and, to me, the most loveable. Sober and thoughtful men, and matter-of-fact matrons, seem to vie with the lighter-minded members of society in recording the misfortunes which have befallen themselves or their friends as a consequence of their meddling with the property of the dead. On all sides one hears tales of the trials which have come upon those who, owing to their possession of some antiquity or ancient relic, have given offense to the spirits of the old inhabitants of the Nile Valley. These stories are generally open to some natural explanation, and those tales which I can relate at first hand are not necessarily to be connected with black magic. I will therefore leave it to the reader's taste to find an explanation for the incidents which I will here relate.

In the year 1909 Lord Carnarvon, who was then conducting excavations in the necropolis of the nobles of Thebes, discovered a hollow wooden figure of a large black cat, which we recognised, from other examples in the Cairo museum, to be the shell in which a real embalmed cat was confined. The figure looked more like a small tiger as it sat in the sunlight at the edge of the pit in which it had been discovered, glaring at us with its yellow painted eyes and bristling its yellow whiskers. Its body was covered all over with a thick coating of smooth, shining pitch, and we could not at first detect the line along which the shell had been closed after it had received the mortal remains of the sacred animal within; but we knew from experience that the joint passed completely round the figure—from the nose, over the top of the head, down the back, and along the breast-so that, when opened, the two sides would fall apart in equal halves.

The sombre figure was carried down to the Nile and across the river to my house, where, by a mistake on the part of my Egyptian servant, it was deposited in my bedroom. Returning home at dead of night, I found it seated in the middle of the floor directly in my path from the door to the matches; and for some moments I was constrained to sit beside it, rubbing my shins and my head.

I rang the bell, but receiving no answer, I walked to the kitchen, where I found the servants grouped distractedly around the butler, who had been stung by a scorpion and was in the throes of that short but intense agony. Soon he passed into a state of delirium and believed himself to be pursued by a large grey cat, a fancy which did not surprise me since he had so lately assisted in carrying the figure to its ill-chosen resting-place in my bedroom.

At length I retired to bed, but the moonlight which now entered the room through the open French windows fell full upon the black figure of the cat; and for some time I lay awake watching the peculiarly weird creature as it stared past me at the wall. I estimated its age to be considerably more than three thousand years, and I tried to picture to myself the strange people who, in those distant times, had fashioned this curious coffin for a cat which had been to them half pet and half household god. A branch of a tree was swaying in the night breeze outside, and its shadow danced to and fro over the face of the cat, causing the yellow eyes to open and shut, as it were, and the mouth to grin. Once, as I was dropping off to sleep, I could have sworn that it had turned its head to look at me; and I could see the sullen expression of feline anger gathering upon its black visage as it did so. In the distance I could hear the melancholy wails of the unfortunate butler imploring those around him to keep the cat away from him, and it seemed to me that there came a glitter into the eyes of the figure as the low cries echoed down the passage.

At last I fell asleep, and for about an hour all was still. Then, suddenly, a report like that of a pistol rang through the room. I started up, and as I did so a large grey cat sprang either from or on to the bed, leapt across my knees, dug its claws into my hand, and dashed through the window into the garden. At the same moment I saw by the light of the moon that the two sides of the wooden figure had fallen apart and were rocking themselves to a standstill upon the floor, like two great empty shells. Between them sat the mummified figure of a cat, the bandages which swathed it round being ripped open at the neck, as though they had been burst outward.

I sprang out of bed and rapidly examined the divided shell; and it seemed to me that the humidity in the air here on the bank of the Nile had expanded the wood which had rested in the dry desert so long, and had caused the two halves to burst apart with the loud noise which I had heard. Then, going to the window, I scanned the moonlit garden; and there in the middle of the pathway I saw, not the grey cat which had scratched me, but my own pet tabby, standing with arched back and bristling fur, glaring into the bushes, as though she saw ten feline devils therein.

I will leave the reader to decide whether the grey cat was the malevolent spirit which, after causing me to break my shins and my butler to be stung by a scorpion, had burst its way through the bandages and woodwork and had fled into the darkness; or whether the torn embalming cloths represented the natural destructive work of Time, and the grey cat was a night-wanderer which had strayed into my room and had been frightened by the easily-explained bursting apart of the two sides of the ancient Egyptian figure. Coincidence is a factor in life not always sufficiently considered; and the events I have related can be explained in a perfectly natural manner, if one be inclined to do so.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

The Strange Company HQ employees all say it's the perfect beach read!

This week in Russian Weird looks at a mysterious ruin in Siberia.

The man whose life was saved by being put in a dungeon.

The difficulty of holding state trials during a smallpox outbreak.

A new theory stating that Europe got syphilis long before reaching the New World.

Pole dancing fire cats!

A few odd vintage news stories.

What may be the oldest house in Wales.

Cider and sea exploration.

Never overcharge a Welsh witch.

Color photos of Russia in the early 20th century.

The "poster child" of the Moulin Rouge.

Some British UFO sightings.

Some Hudson Valley UFO sightings.

Ancient frogs held an orgy, and it didn't work out well for them.

An early 19th century ayah is accused of theft.

A "hidden" self-portrait of Van Gogh.

The mysterious swans of Closeburn.

Lucy, the Elephant Hotel.

The dangers of trying to rescue a parrot.

An 1848 sea serpent sighting.

A house where John Keats once lived.

A murderer's unfortunate wife.

When infatuation leads to murder.

A tool that is among the oldest human-made objects.

A Victorian urban legend about rookeries.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the hazards of offending an Egyptian cat god.  In the meantime, here's some Spanish guitar.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This curious little news item appeared in the “Philadelphia Times,” January 30, 1892:

The home of John Grewson, which is situated just west of the Pennsylvania Railroad and south of Lehigh avenue, upon the unimproved tract lying between Nineteenth and Twenty-first streets, was the scene early yesterday morning of a startling occurrence. 

Grewson, who owns a horse and cart and does work for contractors, was awakened about half-past 2 o'clock yesterday morning by the loud and excited barking of a watchdog in the yard. Going to a window facing the stable he noticed lying upon the ground near that building a strange object which emitted a wavy light. 

At last Grewson ventured into the yard and was surprised to find that although the thing was luminous there was no heat. He applied his hands to it and took it up. It was about the size of a coconut, and was wet and sticky.

Suddenly, as Grewson and his wife were handling the object, which was a grayish waxlike mass, it burst into flame, setting fire to Mrs. Grewson's clothing and the carpet, and burning so fiercely that it was with difficulty that Grewson succeeded in quenching the flames, which threatened the life of his wife and seemed about to destroy his property. 

The Grewsons supposed that the grayish mass which had so suddenly threatened them with destruction might be, as they termed it, "a falling star." It is thought by others that some enemy of the Grewsons, contemplating an incendiary act, and knowing that the building could not be closely approached on account of the savage dog, had resort to a mixture of phosphorus and wax, which fell short of its mark or perhaps rolled from the roof. This theory is strengthened by the fact that the substance was wet when picked up by Grewson, it being necessary to keep phosphorus in water in order to prevent ignition.

I couldn’t find any follow-up stories, so who knows what the substance was.  If the ball really was phosphorus, I can only comment that Grewson had someone who really, really didn’t like him.

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Unusual Return of Christopher Monig

Illustration of a 17th century apothecary in his workshop. No word on if he was alive or dead at the time.

Dedication to duty and a strong work ethic are, of course, admirable qualities.  However, now and then, you come across someone who takes these traits a bit too seriously.  Meet Christopher Monig, a journeyman apothecary who just didn’t know when it was time to quit the job.

Monig lived in Crossen, Silesia.  He died of a brief illness in the spring of 1659, and was given the proper Lutheran burial.  Normally, this would be the end of someone’s story, but Christopher’s had only just begun.  

A few days after Monig’s funeral, his townsfolk were understandably rattled to see him go into his shop, where he did the standard apothecary puttering:  rearranging pots, glasses and the like, examining the medicines, pounding herbs and drugs with the pestle, and so on.  If a customer ventured in, Monig would serve them as efficiently as when he had been alive.  It caused talk.  

After a time, Monig walked out of his shop.  He would enter the homes of people he had known in life, but without speaking a word to anyone.  (Understandably, everyone was too terrified to try initiating a conversation.)  The one exception to this silence was when he told a maidservant to go to her home and dig in a certain lower room of her master’s house.  She would, he explained, find a great treasure there.  Unfortunately, the girl was so unnerved at meeting him that she fainted.  Monig lifted her from the ground, leaving a mark on her that lasted for some time.  

The shock of it all caused the maid to fall ill, but she was able to tell others what Monig had communicated to her.  The place he had indicated was excavated, but nothing was found but a pot containing bloodstones (a gemstone which legend says has healing properties.)

News of Monig’s unexpected return reached the ears of Silesia’s reigning Princess, Elizabeth Charlotte, and she ordered that his coffin be exhumed.  When this was done, it was noted that his corpse was showing the normal amount of decomposition.  Then, someone had the bright idea of having all Monig’s possessions removed from his house.  After this was done, Monig left his lodgings, and Crossen finally saw the last of him.

This strange episode became so well known that it was the subject of a public disputation in the Academy of Leipzig.  You will probably not be surprised to learn that it was of no help whatsoever when it came to explaining the brief second act of Christopher Monig.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

I had to put this one together on my own.  As you can see, the Strange Company staffers are off on their summer vacation.

Where the hell is Attila the Hun buried?

A case of murder in high places.

The aftermath of the Paris Commune.

Some very old fossils turn out to be even older than we thought.

Two peacetime tragedies in the Royal Navy.

A London summer with George Cruikshank.

The history of rodeos.

A seemingly motiveless murder.

Some pioneering female astronomers.

It turns out that Latin is only a semi-dead language.

A look at the famed Berners Street Hoax.

The music of ancient rock paintings.

A London bigamist.

Ice Age cave art.

A haunted beach is being destroyed.  Not by ghosts--by humans.

A 50,000 year old needle.

The Fourth of July in 19th century Boston.

London now has an island of wet wipes.  I don't see that becoming a big tourist attraction.  Although, now that I think about it, maybe it will.  Because people are weird.  Now that I think more about it, dibs on the souvenir shop.

The ocean research that saved lives during WWII.

The oldest-known law.

A flying man, and a flying donkey.

On the origins of "stinking rich."

How NORAD began tracking Santa Claus.

A soldier decorates his own grave.

A mysterious cult older than Stonehenge.

Tudor haute couture.

The woman who gave birth to 69 babies.  

The man who spent 37 years living in a pillar.  Every time I hear this story, I wonder about what he did for, uh, bathroom breaks.  And then I realize I probably don't want to know.

The sign language of medieval Norwegian monks.

A brief history of the hard hat.

A medical student in early 19th century Cairo.

The 1950's temperance movement.

When pineapples were a status symbol.

Excavating an Iron Age burial site.

Contemporary news reports about the "year without a summer."

A "last meal" from 5,300 years ago.

A newly-discovered giant water lily.

A flash-frozen ancient grave.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a man who just didn't know when to quit his job.  In the meantime, here's a classic old folk tune.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Here we have your bog-standard “prophetic dream” story, but with a rather unusual twist.  Usually in such accounts, telling the dream to others saves a life.  In this case, it was what doomed the victim.  From the “Madisonian,” May 25, 1839:

A letter from Hamburg contains the following curious story relative to the verification of a dream. It appears that a locksmith’s apprentice one morning lately informed his master, Claude Soller, that on the previous night he dreamt that he had been assassinated on the road to Bergedoff, a little town about two hours distance from Hamburg. The master laughed at the young man's credulity, and to prove that he himself had little faith in dreams, insisted upon sending him immediately to Bergedoff with 146 dollars (221. 8s.) which he owed to his brother--in-law, who resided in the town. The apprentice, after in vain imploring his master to change his intention, was compelled to set out about eleven o'clock. On arriving at the village of Bellwaerder, about half way between Hamburg and Bergedoff, he recollected his dream with terror, but perceiving the bailie of the village at a little distance, talking to some of his workmen, he accosted him, and acquainted him with his singular dream, at the same time requesting that as he had money about his person, one of his workmen might be allowed to accompany him for protection across a small wood which laid in his way. The bailie smiled, and in obedience to his orders, one of his men set out with the young apprentice. The next day, the corpse of the latter was conveyed by some peasants to the bailie, along with a reaping hook which had been found by his side, and with which the throat of the murdered youth had been cut. The bailie immediately recognised the instrument as one which he had on the previous day given to the workman who had served as the apprentice's guide, for the purpose of pruning some willows. The workman was apprehended, and, on being confronted with the body of his victim, made a full confession of his crime, adding that the recital of the dream had alone prompted him to commit the horrible act. The assassin, who is thirty-five years of age, is a native of Bilwander, and previous to the perpetration of the murder, had always bore an irreproachable character.

As an aside, I'll bet that Soller fellow wound up feeling like a bit of an idiot.

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Girl in the Boat: A Fourth of July Ghost Story

Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland

For this year’s Fourth of July post, I’m bypassing the usual tales of homemade firework disasters and botulism in the holiday picnic for something completely different, and even more frightening: a malicious ghost.  The following tale was related by Roberta Simpson Brown and Lonnie E. Brown in their book “Haunted Holidays: Twelve Months of Kentucky Ghosts.”  

The Browns were spending one Fourth of July weekend with friends in a cabin on Lake Cumberland.  Although they enjoyed sitting on the cabin’s porch and looking over the water, they did not swim.  When the lake was created, it flooded farms, houses, and wild landscapes.  They had heard alarming tales of unwary swimmers encountering barbed wire, huge fish, and other such dangerous items.  As it turned out, the lake harbored something even worse than they had imagined.

One afternoon, a family named Jackson, who were renting the cabin next door, came over for a chat.  Their seven-year-old daughter Tiffany asked if she could walk on the beach.  Both parents replied with a vehement “No!”

Mrs. Jackson explained to the Browns that when they were staying at the lake the previous summer, they had a “terrifying experience.”  As the front yard of their cabin was fenced, they allowed Tiffany to play in the yard alone.  The gate was kept locked.

Tiffany began telling her parents that every day around sunset, she saw a little girl alone in a boat on the lake.  When the Jacksons would go to look, they saw nothing.

One day, Tiffany informed them that the boat was bobbing in the water, empty, and the little girl was walking on the beach, gesturing to her.  Tiffany said that the girl wanted her to go in the boat.

Tiffany’s increasingly disturbed parents sternly warned her that she must never do that.  The Jacksons decided they needed to find this girl’s parents and have a serious talk with them.

Late the following day, the Jacksons went out to the front porch to watch the sunset.  Tiffany had already gone out to play.  They were shocked to find that the gate had been unlocked, and Tiffany was gone.  A moment later, they saw their daughter in a boat just off shore.  It was sinking, and the child was screaming for help.  Mr. Jackson dashed to the lake, rescuing the girl just before she went under.

“What on earth were you doing in that boat alone?”  “How did you get through the locked gate?” the horrified parents asked her.

Tiffany replied, “The little girl opened the gate and helped me in the boat.  She said it would be fun, but it wasn’t.”

The next day, Mr. Jackson went in search of the mysterious child’s family.  Nobody knew of any other little girl currently staying at the lake, but a man who ran a bait shop did remember something:  a couple of years back, a family with an eight-year-old girl rented the cabin where the Jacksons were staying.  One night, the girl sneaked out and took their boat out on the lake.  Gusts of wind capsized the boat, and the child drowned.

The Jacksons still had a week left on their rental, and they were loath to let this disturbing information ruin their vacation.  They decided all would be well if they made certain that the gate and the doors of their cabin were kept locked.  They also vowed to never let Tiffany out of their sight.

That night, they awakened to hear Tiffany calling them.  When the Jacksons came to her room, the child was standing by her window, looking into the yard.  Tiffany cried, “She’s back!  She wants me to go with her again.  She says she wants someone to play with.”

Her parents saw no girl in the yard, but they noticed that the gate they had so carefully locked was now open and swinging in the wind.

They brought Tiffany to their room for the rest of the night.  First thing in the morning, they packed and left for home.  The holiday was definitely over.

The Jacksons told the Browns, “This year we rented a different cabin.  So far we haven’t seen anything unusual, but it doesn’t pay to take any chances.”

So ends our Fourth of July cautionary tale.  If you were planning on going sailing today, my apologies for spoiling your holiday.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The Strange Company staff is ready for the Fourth of July!

What the hell just crashed into the Moon?

Ancient trees tell of the biggest solar storm in history.

Being a professional executioner does strange things to people.

The poet and the Will O Wisp.

The fairy world of ancient China.

This may be the world's first musical instrument.

Books that are allegedly cursed.

What may be among the oldest artwork in the world.

Why Elizabeth I preferred to secretly murder, rather than execute, Mary Queen of Scots.

Famous writers who gave their pets pretty awesome names.  (Kiddleywinkempoops!)

Old newspaper reports of June brides.

Britain's oldest prayer beads.

Dinner with the East India Company.

William Henry Hudson and Kensington Gardens.

Old Tom, the predecessor to Big Ben.

Here's your big chance to buy a haunted bar.

Spooky rock art in Tanzania.

Centuries after he died, Sir Hans Sloane is causing a lot of people a lot of trouble.

The various meanings of the word "slug."

A misbegotten suicide pact.

The world's deepest shipwreck.

The children of the 4th Duke of Marlborough.

The globe-trotting life of Jeanne Baret.

A life-saving Great Dane.

The "Night of the UFOs."

The strange--and short--life of Thomas Chatterton.

An interview with a photographer of the dead.

Five examples of bodies being found with notes pinned to them.

Mapping ancient trees.

French galleys in British waters, 1707.

A Nigerian bronze head is in the middle of one hell of a custody dispute.

If you get an unsolicited box of chocolates in the mail from someone you don't know, it's probably a good idea not to eat them.

The secret society that's preserving the history of the American West.

Forget Stonehenge; meet Seahenge.

The world's oldest pharmacy.

A brief history of the enema.  (Warning: with illustrations.)

A don't-get-out-the-vote drive.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll have something a little different: a Fourth of July-themed ghost story!  In the meantime, here's the perfect hymn for 2022.