"...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, August 31, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except…the gypsy was no longer there.

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

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

A murder with a particularly messy personal background.

A striking new image of Jupiter.

The weird side of medieval medicine.

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

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

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

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

A human heart is on tour in Brazil.

The unique incense clocks.

Archaeologists may have found St. Peter's birthplace.

An interesting study about look-a-likes.

Just a handy reminder that politicians have always been corrupt.

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

An ancient mansion in Israel.

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

An archival look at the 1572 Paris Massacre.

Elizabethan poet Mary Sidney and the Voice of God.

How to eat well in Antarctica.

Gilded Age strongwomen.

A romance ended by a mourning ring.

The oldest civilization in America.

Tiger Lil, survivor sailor cat.

How to write a message to the future.

In search of Ivan the Terrible's library.

The days of traveling ghost shows.

The evidence suggesting that precognition is real.

One big disadvantage to being a medieval British friar.

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

Religious reconciliation in medieval England.

When witchcraft was used against Hitler.

Why Caesar invaded Britain.

A zoologist's strange discoveries.

The Dublin Whisky Fire.

A 300-year-old ramble through London.

A cemetery that holds a musical mystery.

Fake demonic possession.  For fun and profit!

The reemergence of an ancient "Spanish Stonehenge."

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

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

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

In which we learn that Jacques Derrida loved banana bread.

Possible evidence of a Welsh Atlantis.

The mysterious Brayman Road attack.

Some new finds in the Antikythera shipwreck.

The death of the funeral pie.

The mystery of the "Boy in the Box."

Turmoil on the Seine.

The Chesapeake/HMS Leopard incident.

A forged Galileo manuscript.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you want me?" she queried. 

"Yes," said the voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Ghost of Weinsberg Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorr was sold.  He scoffed no more.

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

While you read this week's links, sit down and join us for some tea!

A historic house of secrets.

In which Earl Warenne looks for a wife.

In which Harvard scientists search for crashed UFOs.

A courtroom killer.

The WWII battle for Monte Cassino.

When Howard Carter helped open Tutankhamen's tomb, he may also have helped himself.

The life of a Judean shepherd from 6,000 years ago.

In which Robin the Trickster battles Stiff Dick.  Not to worry, the story is totally family-friendly.

Some pretty gruesome things happen in Yellowstone.

It's not too many people who can put on their business cards the occupation "football-inventor/mermaid hunter."

The world's oldest toys.

The life and death of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.

The Shropshire Witch.

How cowards came to be called "chickens."

How mammals survived the "doomsday asteroid."

In which Charles Dickens goes ghost-hunting.

Books that are most likely lost forever.

The fatal envelope.

The mystery of the "ghost blimp."

The slave who mailed himself to freedom.

The genetic secrets of a woman who lived in Japan 3,800 years ago.

When New Yorkers could go on a relaxing country drive.

The disappearance--and reappearance--of an Air Force captain.

In which Brendan Bracken writes to Max Aitken.

Cats and the supernatural.

The disappearance of the male movie fan.

A French monster.

A strange case of amnesia.

An 18th century female silversmith.

Morris, a valiant police cat.

The gruesome case of the doll in the coffin.

A 400-year-old shipwreck that turns out to be a time capsule.

In Britain, prehistoric people used rock crystal to mark burial sites.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a particularly striking ghost story.  In the meantime, I recently discovered "bardcore"--modern pop songs given a medieval/Renaissance flavor.  It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

If you’ve lived your life unaware that New York’s renowned Waldorf-Astoria hotel once boasted a ghost cat, this is your lucky day.  The “Hackensack Record,” April 21, 1911:

New York, April 21. Employees and other persons in the Waldorf-Astoria believe the great ballroom of the hotel is haunted by the wraith of a cat. 

For two weeks they have searched in vain for the musical or unmusical animal that interrupts every concert or anything like music in that room. Those of the hotel management taking a lively interest in finding the cat, if alive, or laying its ghost, if dead, differ as to whether pussy has a musical ear, just as nature-writers vary in their opinions of a dog howling on hearing music. Some say it is from anguish and others from pleasure, that the cat meows so incessantly. 

It was at a rehearsal of the Singers' Society a new member first joined the orchestra, then sang second to soloists. The stringed instruments were just getting in form, when the conductor dropped his baton and clapped both hands to his ears. The first violin glared at the cello, who scowled at the harp, who frowned at the trombone, who shook his fist at the cornet, who sneered at the flute, who looked pained at the oboe and all looked at the conductor. 

"Gentlemen." the latter man said smoothly, but shaking with anger, “just a leetle false notes. Now, we try again." 

It was worse this time, and the purple conductor thundered: "You all made it.” 

Everybody was angry at the charge but dissolution of the society was prevented by 


Then all present laughed, the conductor wiped away a frown and apologized. For, in truth, in the long-drawn wail of the cat or its unmusical wraith, in rising and then falling discord had touched upon a false note that might have come from each and all instruments In the orchestra, except the bass horn, who had been absolved from the first.

Word was sent to James Brennan, assistant manager, that a cat was concealed in the room and a request was made somebody remove it. Brennan responded with his assistant secretary Zehner, little Tom McCraw, one of the pages, Paul, the head carpenter, Michael Cuff, assistant houseman, and his assistant, Mike Murphy. They looked under the platform, in every nook of the great hall, and even on ledges outside the windows, but no cat was seen.

Satisfied with having corrected the orchestra, the cat waited until the first soloist began. The singer blushed with vexation when, after holding her high notes for the long time she is famous for, the spectre cat held to it on the wrong key as usual, and doubled her time. 

After that nerve-racking solo, the rehearsal was called off. That night and the next day men, by order of George C. Boldt, the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria, even more thorough search was made, but no cat.

Evening after evening came the interruptions, the cat's voice apparently gaining in strength with practice, and until the hotel employees decided it was the wraith, the doppelganger of a cat belonging to a German musician that long ago had fallen from an upper story and "meowed" all the way down to death.

That is the reason, they think, the interruptions are more frequent and hideous when German music is being played, the cat mourning his owner on earth when the music recalls his kindness.

Yesterday Mike Murphy got a long pole and violently poked a scared pussy from beneath the platform. 

"Here that cat is," he shouted to Brennan.

Brennan was almost in tears as he petted the ruffled cat.

"That is mine," he said. "I put her in there hoping she would coax the other out."

So, the yowling wraith of the musical German's pet still haunts the ballroom.

I couldn’t find any follow-ups, so I am unable to say if the yowls were coming from an unmusical, but entirely corporeal, cat who had somehow found an ultra-secret hiding place, or if it was indeed the spirit of that poor feline who met its death at the hotel.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Mr. Craighead and the Lyke Wake: A Cautionary Tale

The old British custom of “lyke wake” consisted of keeping a night watch kept over the recently dead.  ("Lyke" is an archaic word for "corpse.")  It was usually a quite festive affair, where many people gathered for feasting and frivolity of various sorts.  This combination of dissolution and dissipation was, as you might imagine, the setting for any number of curious events.  One of the strangest “lyke wakes” on record was described by someone using the pen name “Taodunus” in the “Scots Magazine” for March 1, 1819.  This incident--very well known at the time--took place sometime in the middle of the 18th century.  The story is excellent corroboration for one of life’s top lessons: practical jokes involving corpses seldom turn out well.

Mr. William Craighead, author of a popular system of arithmetic, was parish schoolmaster of Monifieth, situated upon the estuary of the Tay, about six miles east from Dundee. It would appear that Mr. Craighead was then a young man, fond of a frolic, without being very scrupulous about the means, or calculating the consequences. There being a lyke wake in the neighbourhood, attended by a number of his acquaintances, according to the custom of the times, Craighead procured a confederate, with whom he concerted a plan to draw the watchers from the house, or at least from the room where the corpse lay. Having succeeded in this, he dexterously removed the dead body to an outer house, while his companion occupied the place of the corpse, in the bed where it had lain. It was agreed upon between the confederates, that when the company was re-assembled, Craighead was to join them, and at a concerted signal, the impostor was to rise, shrouded like the dead man, whilst the two were to enjoy the terror and alarm of their companions. 

Mr. Craighead came in, and after being sometime seated, the signal was made, but met no attention; he was rather surprised; it was repeated, and still neglected. Mr. Craighead, in his turn, now became alarmed; for he conceived it impossible that his companion could have fallen asleep in that situation; his uneasiness became insupportable; he went to the bed, and found his friend lifeless! 

Mr. Craighead's feelings, as may well be imagined, now entirely overpowered him, and the dreadful fact was disclosed; their agitation was extreme, and it was far from being alleviated when every attempt to restore animation to the thoughtless young man proved abortive. As soon as their confusion would permit, an inquiry was made after the original corpse, and Mr. Craighead and another went to fetch it in, but it was not to be found. The alarm and consternation of the company was now redoubled; for some time, a few suspected that some hardy fellow among them had been attempting a Rowland for an Oliver; but when every knowledge of it was most solemnly denied by all present, their situation can be more easily imagined than described; that of Mr. Craighead was little short of distraction; daylight came without relieving their agitation; no trace of the corpse could be discovered, and Mr. Craighead was accused as the primum mobile of all that had happened; he was incapable of sleeping, and wandered several days and nights in search of the body, which was discovered in the parish of Tealing, deposited in a field about six miles distant from the place from whence it was removed.

It is related, that this extraordinary affair had a strong and lasting effect upon Mr. Craighead's mind and conduct; that he immediately became serious and thoughtful, and ever after conducted himself with great prudence and sobriety.  

Such are the particulars of a story, which, however incredible it may appear, I have heard currently reported by many different people, who had no opportunity of hearing it from each other. Since I began to write this paper, I inquired at an acquaintance if he ever heard the story, just mentioning Mr Craighead's name, and the particulars were again repeated to me, such as they were impressed upon my memory twenty or thirty years ago. There seems to be very little difficulty in accounting for the death of the young man, without any supernatural interference; for a combination of compunction and terror might have seized him, (after taking the place evacuated by the corpse,) sufficient to suspend all the functions of life; but the disappearance of the other dead body does not seem to me capable of being accounted for by any natural cause; for it is by no means probable that any present would have had the hardiness to remove it to such a distance, and also subsequent firmness to keep their own secret; we must, therefore, give credence to the agency of some superior being, or disbelieve the matter at once.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

What's summer fun without a family of lucky black cats?

A miniature "book" by Charlotte Bronte goes back home.

Some Nigerian bronzes are going back home.

The lives of lower and middle-classes in Pompeii.

There may be buried treasure under Portland, Oregon.

A very well-preserved medieval kitchen.

The sinking of SS Princess Alice.

A brief history of lipstick.

A work of fiction that was a bit too realistic.

Crime and mystery on British railways.

The ancient people of the Amazon.

A widow's ingenious way of dealing with a deathbed promise.

How a Sultan's skull wound up as part of the Treaty of Versailles.

A unique way of remembering a lost soldier.  This is my favorite story from this week.

Killer ice cream!

In which Andrew Carnegie tells a joke.

The legacy of an amateur glaciologist.

An Irish girl's disappearance.  (This is one of those where it's pretty clear what happened, but nobody can prove it.)

Mrs. Southern's sad (and homicidal) case.

A family claims they were driven from their home by poltergeists.

Hetty Green, notorious tightwad.

The birth of bird-watching.

No, I do not want to upload my brain to a computer.  My life is weird enough already.

The hoax that inspired "Frankenstein."

Some executions of women in Early Modern England.

A treasure trove has been recovered from a 17th century shipwreck.

The beginning of the end for Sir Robert Walpole.

Reporting the fall of Richard II.

What it was like to live on a reduced income in 1868.  (Spoiler: it wasn't fun.)

Explorers were once big on "portable soup."

The grim side of railway work.

When the Thames was a "zombie river."

Some missing monarchs.

Another of the Salem witches has been cleared.  Albeit a bit late in the day.

The members of Led Zeppelin were an unpleasant lot, even by rock star standards.

The bizarre resolution to a missing-persons case.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when two young men stage a practical joke during a wake, and things do not go as planned.  To put it mildly.  In the meantime, here's the late Judith Durham.  I love her voice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

As jails are generally not noted for their warm, happy atmosphere, it is not surprising that they are the setting for a good many ghost stories.  This particularly colorful account comes from the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” August 10, 1956:

MANILA. Aug. 9 (UP) Ghostly goings-on in Legaspi's jail were giving police in that southwestern Luzon city a bad case of the jitters today. 

Sgt. Salustiano Esplana, in charge of Precinct 1, was first to experience the spook. He was walking along a second floor corridor one night when he heard a voice from a cell below pleading in the native dialect: "Sarge, let me out. Please let me out."

Esplana thought the voice belonged to one of the city's regular drunks and paid no attention. The plea was repeated three times and Esplana asked the guard on duty, Patrolman Lucio Barcelon, who the prisoner was. The guard said the cell was empty. A quick check with a flashlight bore him out. Esplana was so unnerved by the experience that he asked for and was granted a leave of absence.

Later an American sailor was booked for public disturbance and locked in the same cell. He made so much noise that Cpl. Mateo Martinez asked Patrolman Barcelon to see what was wrong. Barcelon didn't come back. Martinez found the patrolman unconscious on the floor, his eyes wide open and his body numb. He revived only after a pail of water was thrown on him. Barcelon said that as he neared the cell "some unseen force blew an unusually strong air against my face which made me feel dizzy until I fell."

Still later Patrolmen Vincente Santa and Victorio Basco were strolling near the jail when they heard noises "as if someone was taking a bath in the cell." Investigating, they saw a detached hand overhead pouring a can of water. The patrolmen fled. Even firemen housed in the same building were not spared by the spook.

Marcelo Lascano Goyena and Rodolfo Daep, unable to sleep one hot night, decided to take a bath. No sooner had Goyena dried himself, he said, than an unseen hand poured a basin of water over him, knocking him out. Daep found him in the bathroom. Revived, Goyena told of smelling "an extraordinarily malodorous waft of air" which accompanied the dousing.  Legaspi City's hardened guardians of the law no longer are as sure as they once were that there are no such things as ghosts.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Death, Disappearance, and the Mystery of the Exploding Cabin Cruiser

The following disappearance is one of those cases where we have relatively little information, but we can, to some extent, make an educated guess about what happened to the missing person.  However, what we do know about the mystery is so extravagantly odd that I felt it was worth exploring.

In November 1976, Donald and Juanita Oxenrider were living in Severn, Maryland.  The couple, both aged 29, had been married for several years, and as far as is known were happy together.  Juanita was four months pregnant with their first child.

On the morning of November 14, the Oxenriders took their 28-foot cabin cruiser out on the Patapsco River.  Accompanying them was a friend of several years, 35-year-old Thomas Maynard.  Maynard, whose official occupation was that of bricklaying, was, to say the least, a shifty character.  At the time of this little cruise, Maynard was out on bail, facing charges of smuggling a gun across the Canadian border and burglarizing a home in Pikesville, Maryland.  In 1972, he served four months of a two-year federal sentence for stealing a truckload of video tapes.

At about 10:30 a.m., the cabin cruiser was off Bodkin Point when it suddenly exploded.  It quickly burned to the water line and sank.  Witnesses did not see any sign that anyone was onboard or in the water.

Two days later, authorities raised the boat and brought it to shore.  They found nothing to suggest that anyone was on the boat when it exploded.  They were also unable to determine the cause of the explosion.  Soon after the fire, Donald Oxenrider’s wallet, enclosed in a plastic bag, washed ashore.  That was all that could be found of the trio.

"Baltimore Sun," March 2, 1987, via Newspapers.com

Shortly before the explosion, Maynard had confessed to the police that he was involved in a $300,000 bullion fencing scheme.  Two weeks after he disappeared, authorities raided his home and seized smelting chemicals, along with a fortune in jewelry, gold watches, silverware, and gold and silver bars.  Given Maynard’s lively hobbies, investigators had little trouble coming up with a working theory: perhaps the Oxenriders had been involved with his operation, and that the three faked their own deaths to escape their inevitable arrest.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t prove it.

In May 1977, at least part of this hypothesis was disproved when Donald Oxenrider, in a state of very genuine death, was found in the Patapsco River about a mile from where his boat exploded.  His advanced state of decomposition left it difficult to determine how he died.  The medical examiner believed Oxenrider drowned, but he could not say if it was by accident or homicide.  Burn marks around his head suggested that he had been aboard when the fire began.

There were no further developments in this mystery until June 1986, when Thomas Maynard popped up in Baltimore County, alive, well, and ready to turn himself in to face charges in the 1976 Pikesville burglary.  Ever since his disappearance, he had been hiding out in Canada under the name of “Thomas Miller.”  He explained to the police that he was surrendering because he was tired of living in fear of being traced by the authorities.  In March 1987, Maynard was given a 35-year sentence for burglary, armed robbery and handgun charges.  His brother, Denver Maynard, told the court that the fire on the Oxenrider boat had been “planned” and “everyone escaped safely.”  Although he admitted that he helped Thomas escape to Canada, he professed to have no idea what the Oxenriders did after the explosion.

After these revelations, Thomas Maynard was, unsurprisingly, seen as the vital part of resolving the mystery.  Although it was believed both Oxenriders had been homicide victims, Juanita’s body was never found, raising the possibility that she had not been a victim of Maynard’s, but an accomplice in some murky scheme.

Maynard’s story was this:  By November 1976, he had resolved to leave his increasingly troubled life and go to Florida, where he would start anew under a new identity.  (It is not clear what his wife and two small children thought of this plan.)  After spending some time in Florida, he moved to Washington state and then to Canada, where he was able to kick his addictions to cocaine and amphetamines.

Maynard said that one of the very few people aware of his plans to flee Maryland was Donald Oxenrider.  Oxenrider asked for Maynard’s boat, a runabout, since he would no longer be needing it.  Oxenrider said that he was “going to do something” with his own boat.  Maynard didn’t know what Donald meant by that, and didn’t ask.  He gave Oxenrider the title to his boat.

A witness told police that when the cabin cruiser set out from White Rocks Marina on the morning of November 14, he had seen Maynard with the Oxenriders on the boat.  Maynard denied this, claiming that he had not been on the boat, or even near the marina on that day.

What happened between 10:00 a.m., when the Oxenrider boat left the marina, and the explosion a half-hour later is unknown.  If Maynard knew, he certainly wasn’t telling.

This strange story has spawned any number of lurid theories.  Some suspect that the Oxenriders hatched a boat insurance fraud scheme that went wrong: either they succumbed to hypothermia after falling into the frigid November water, or they were unable to get off the boat in time after setting the fire.  However, it has been pointed out that the boat was only “modestly insured.”  Others have pondered the possibility of a love triangle involving the Oxenriders and a third party--possibly Maynard--but no evidence was ever found to support this scenario.

Further clouding any effort to solve the mystery is the fact that it could never be proven that Juanita was dead.  A former co-worker of Juanita’s told Donald’s family that in late 1986, she saw Juanita at a Maryland mall.  Juanita was with a boy who looked 10 to 12 years old.  The co-worker said that when she confronted them, the woman denied being Juanita Oxenrider and walked away.  

In 1987, State Police Sgt. Donald Hoffman, who had been given the unenviable job of investigating the boat explosion, sighed that the Oxenrider case presents “a mystery of unequaled magnitude for my career. Mr. Maynard is the key to this case.  Absent his willingness to say anything about it, it’s stalemated.”

Maynard never did say anything about what might have happened to Donald and Juanita Oxenrider.  And the mystery has remained stalemated to this day.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

The Strange Company staff thinks that life's a beach!

The female cyclist and the Massachusetts Wild Man.

Shorter version: Scientific researchers have done some of the most damn fool things.

How the executions of Thomas Burdet and George, Duke of Clarence were linked.  Or maybe not.

A British businessman in 19th century Calcutta.

How a sneeze led to the creation of the James Bond theme.

The 1778 Battle of Ushant and the French Revolution.

The women warriors of Dahomey.

John Locke's pancake recipe.

How to tell genuine shrunken heads from the fakes.  Yes, there are bogus shrunken heads out there.  What a world.

Medieval conspiracy theories.

Evidence that humans were in North America a lot earlier than we thought.

Hardtack has found an enduring home in Alaska.

A Bronze Age girl who managed to take it with her.

The truth behind "Go Ask Alice."  I remember reading that book when I was 9 or 10. My two thoughts were: 1. "No way is this a real story." 2. "Real or fake, this is one lousy book."

That previous link about how scientists have done some of the most damn fool things?  This one may top the list.  With a hearty dose of child abuse thrown in.

The libeled Lady Rochford.

This is why we can't have nice trees.

A reporter investigates her great-grandfather's fatal poisoning.

The forgotten "Underground Railroad."

Researchers have found something really weird living on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Contemporary newspaper reports of Princess Diana's death.

When you go out to buy new curtains and wind up owning Stonehenge instead.

Edward I's Warwolf.

A lost Iberian civilization.

A look at Père Lachaise cemetery.

A photographic vintage pub crawl.

That time the Royal College of Surgeons lost an Andean mummy.

Scholars may have deciphered an ancient writing system.

Science believes that when you're dead, you know it.

"Coffin births": one of the Victorian era's creepier urban legends.

Mary Pearcey, the Hampstead murderer.

A brief history of the neighborhood paperboy.

Medieval depictions of the Tower of London.

Oh, Lord, they're still pushing the "Poe died of rabies" story.

The Gaia hypothesis.

The only woman in the room.

Something weird just fell on Mexico City.

A Munich dead-house.

If you think things are bad on Earth now, just wait and see what happens in 20 million years.

Are we the aliens?

A brief history of bourbon.

Remembering the Tylenol Killer.

Phrenology and a murderer.

A restaurant inside of a hot-air balloon, which doesn't strike me as the best idea in the world.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a missing-persons case that in some respects reminds me of the John Iverson mystery.  It was pure coincidence that I happened to come across these two stories at about the same time. In the meantime, bring on the banjos!