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

Monday, October 31, 2022

The Cat and the Terrifying Blue Light: A Ghost Story of Sorts

The following creepy little story seemed appropriate for Halloween.  This--for lack of a better word--”haunting” is one I find particularly disturbing, because the…ghost? elemental? apparition? natural phenomena? whatzit? was one that seemed to target not people, but animals.  This account, written by one “G. Llewellyn” appeared in the “Occult Review” for November 1910:

I must inform all and sundry that I am not a spiritualist, and that I know nothing whatever about spiritualism. I have been informed by several people that I am what is termed a “sensitive.”

I have never attended a séance or any meeting or gathering of the kind, nor had I ever read any literature dealing with such subjects as spiritualism or mysticism or occultism or anything of kindred nature until quite recently, when my attention was called to the Occult Review, which I found intensely interesting and illuminating.

As a journalist, and a very busy one, I am, as a rule, so tired when I go to bed--invariably in the small hours--that I fall asleep almost immediately and sleep for hours without ever a break. On a never-to-be-forgotten night I was in my usual state of health, I was untroubled and without a vestige of care.

I had had my usual supper. I had been in bed a short time and was in that blissful condition of mind when one is just dozing off. The room was in total darkness, as I had switched off the electric light and drawn thick, heavy curtains over the holland blinds that covered the two large windows. My pet cat invariably sleeps on my bed, and was in its customary place, curled up on the quilt, fast asleep.

As I lay there, with half-shut eyes, there suddenly appeared at the top of the wall on the right (the side to which I had turned), a long shaft of light, of the most beautiful shade of light bright blue. It moved and quivered along in the direction of the right window, and I watched it with fascinated gaze.

“How extraordinary!” I thought, “I never saw the moonlight come in in this fashion when those thick curtains were drawn right across, and it is a different blue from moonlight blue, too, and moves about so oddly...what can it be?...but of course it must be moonlight, and perhaps there are clouds passing over the moon?”

The light--a heavenly forget-me-not sort of blue--the counterpart of which, however, I have never seen, either before or since, still wavered and drifted across the room in the same part, near the ceiling, and I stupidly looked at the top of the door (over which hung a heavy crimson plush portière) as if a light could have been cast through a solid brick wall!

At last I jumped out of bed, pulled curtains and blind aside and looked out of the window. Nothing but impenetrable darkness met my astonished gaze. No moon, not a star, not a ray of light to be seen! Intense blackness and gloom--nothing more. I could not distinguish the road, or the opposite trees, or, in short, anything at all. The street lights are put out early in the country, and the night was of inky blackness.

“Could it have been some one with a lantern, or a searchlight?” I pondered, still marvelling over the occurrence, as I returned to bed. I was not in the least alarmed, and it had not even occurred to me that there was anything at all supernatural in connexion with the affair.

As I went on puzzling, or rather, trying to puzzle it out, the cat suddenly jumped up on the bed, his fur bristling all over his body, his eyes glaring, and with one bound he leaped to the door; and as he tore frantically at the plush portière, he emitted the most awful howl or scream that I ever heard from an animal--in fact, I did not think such a horrid, blood-curdling sound could have been given. I think my hair stood on end then, but even after this I did not entertain the least idea of anything at all supernatural. My idea was that the cat had suddenly gone mad! As for the blue light, this new and startling development had quite driven it out of my mind.

Hydrophobia or no hydrophobia, I was so distressed at seeing the poor animal’s agony of fear that I took it up in my arms and tried to soothe it. Trembling all over as if with ague, it cowered against me, hiding its head, and giving evidence of the most fearful state of terror and distress. I soothed and petted it, and gradually it grew calmer; but to my astonishment it peered over the side of the bed, glaring fearfully, its eyes blazing as if on fire, and its fur bristling again as at first. I saw nothing, but that the cat saw something I am absolutely convinced, and nothing could shake that conviction.

Feeling safe in my arms, now that the first shock of the horrid sight--whatever it may have been--was over, poor Fluff craned his neck eagerly and looked down on the carpet, watching the movements of the (by me) unseen enemy, as it apparently travelled along the bedside and rounded the end of the bed in front of the dressing-table. The “thing”--whatever it may have been--was on the floor, and made no attempt to get on the bed. Had it approached us, I am certain that Fluff would have expired at once; but, from the safe shelter of my arms, he watched the nocturnal visitor, following it with his eyes along the side of the room, between the bed and a huge mahogany chest of drawers, and round the end of the bedstead to the left. It seemed so strange to see the cat craning its head and following with its gaze some object undiscoverable by myself that I got up, and, leaning over the brass rail at the end of the bedstead, looked anxiously and intently in the direction indicated by the cat. All I saw was the carpet!

But it must be remembered that I saw the blue light when the cat was asleep. It might be suggested that my fear of the light was communicated to the cat, but then I had no fear of it, for I deemed it an ordinary (though perhaps unusually beautiful) shaft of moonlight until I found that there was no moon, and the night was as dark as Erebus.

One friend suggested that perhaps it was all a dream! Well, I know, and am prepared to swear, that it was not. If I had been asleep, the mere fact of getting out of bed, going to the window, drawing the curtains, and switching on the electric light, would have been sufficient to rouse me; and, again, I am not, and never have been, subject to delusions of any sort. As the editor of the Occult Review knows, I am on the staff of a well- known London weekly paper, of large circulation, and my pen-name is known all over the world. I am practical, business-like, and logical--not a dreamer, or a visionary. I may say, too, that my house is a new one. There has never been the slightest suggestion that it was haunted. There have been no other manifestations in it either before or since.

Recent studies of the effects of light upon living things have brought many new and surprising theories to the front. It is said that we are bathed in light, visible and invisible, for there is a radiation which has been termed “black light” which cannot be seen by our eyes, but which may be visible to eyes differently organized. Professor Jerviss declares that it is possible that these ghostly sheaths of ours are perceived by certain animals possessing the power to see in the dark.

Some time after my own remarkable experience my attention was drawn by a friend (to whom I had confided the whole matter) to an almost identical experience related by Mr. Maurice Hewlett to Miss Constance Smedley. There was the same blue light, wavering and flickering; there was a pet animal--a dog, not a cat, in this particular instance--sleeping on the bed; there was the fearful terror of the animal, its whining and moaning and whimpering, and, finally, there were ghostly hands seen passing over the dog, as if stroking it. At length, the whimpers slackened, and, ere long, ceased. The dog was dead…In the event of any one scoffing at my own honestly set down experience, I would ask these questions: Whence came this mysterious light, and how could the cat’s extraordinary terror be accounted for? Suppose, for instance, that my mind might for once have been subject to such an extraordinary hallucination, or that my eyes might, for once, have played me false--for we know that there are such things as optical illusions--it is difficult to believe that the cat should at the same moment suddenly have experienced the same hallucination, delusion, or illusion--call it what you will. Then, too, the cat was obviously terrified to the farthest limit of its endurance--had I not soothed it, and covered its head, I think it would have died from its fright--but I was not alarmed in the least. Puzzled I was, most assuredly, but not alarmed.

Perhaps it was a “cat” phantom, or a “dog” phantom that my poor Fluff saw--the ghost of some former pet of mine that haunted its erstwhile owner, and was suddenly seized with an access of jealousy and rage. It must have been a horrid object, anyway, for Fluff is the quietest, gentlest cat I have ever known. For a long time we fancied he was dumb, for by day or by night no sound was ever heard from his “voice-box.” He was fearfully scalded on one occasion, but even then only gave two small piteous “mious.” On another occasion he was trapped in a door, in a gale of wind, and gave a small and almost human cry at the moment he was released, but the howl he emitted when he saw the ghost--or whatever it was that he did see--was so loud and so horrible that I shall never forget it, nor the sight he presented after I had got a light and I saw him tearing at the plush portière in frantic efforts to escape.

If any one can offer a solution, or even make an attempt at a solution, I should be both interested and gratified. I have no theories of my own on the subject, though I have exhausted every possible field of speculation.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by the last of our Halloween Cats 2022!

An "illicit infatuation" that did not end at all well.

This week in Russian Weird: Want to be buried alive?  It'll cost you.

A famed "living skeleton."

Winston Churchill's secret voyage.

The last of the East Anglia walnut farmers.

The paranormal researcher and Shirley Jackson.

The Willington Mill haunting.

Letters to the East India Company.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel like cooking.

An ancient baby who might have died from lack of sunlight.

Grandma finds a way to greet mourners at her own funeral.

A chilly encounter with a UFO.

The time when London partied on the frozen Thames.

A "hotch-potch ministry."

Etienne Bottineau and the mystery of nauscopy.

A coven of witches in Yorkshire.

The world's earliest known named author.

Svalbard and the frozen coffins.

Chartism and the spirit of Wat Tyler.

Some old cat superstitions.

Katherine Swynford's influence on British royalty.

Some ancient Scottish Halloween customs.

The black cats of Poe Cottage.

Women on 18th century warships.

The eccentric old lady of Stamford Street.

Geomagnetic fields and Biblical narratives.

The UK's oldest known human DNA.  No, it's not called "King Charles III."  Stop that.

That time the rock band KISS had a line of coffins.  To be fair, hearing their music on the radio back in the day often made me wish that I were dead.

Bring on the Banshees!

Bobbie the Wonder Dog.

A rather silly myth about Vlad Dracula.

Some vanished American Halloween traditions.

Some odd little news items from the past.

Ireland's notorious "changeling murder."

Cats often don't care if you're talking to them.  Thanks so much for the info, Scientific Captain Obvious.

A new look at Tutankhamun.

Britain's 1919 race riots.

That's it for this week!  See you on Halloween Monday, when we'll look at a--for lack of a better word--"ghost" that you would definitely not want anywhere near your cat.  In the meantime, here's an unusual musical collaboration.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

It's Mystery Blood time! From the "Ste. Genevieve Fair Play," November 16, 1876:
The village of Victory is situated not far from Rochester, New York. A very mysterious event lately happened there. It was a bloody business which seems to have been without a motive so far as facts have developed. A Mr. F.S. Esmond and his wife boarded at the Covil House, and Mr. Esmond, having business at Seneca Falls, went, one day, to attend to it, leaving his wife in her rooms in the hotel. That night Mrs. Esmond alarmed the house with cries of "murder." The other boarders hurried to her room and found her shrieking and covered with blood. The bed, furniture, her clothing and nearly everything in the room was smeared and bespattered with blood. After a thorough examination it was found that Mrs. Esmond was entirely unhurt. She was not even scratched. The blood was, therefore, not hers. Whose blood it was, and how it came there are questions which at present defy solution. Mrs. Esmond's account of her awakening leaves the whole affair in mystery. She states that she felt something cold on her hand, which awakened her. She found that her hands and clothing were covered with something wet and cold. She struck a light and found it was blood. Then she screamed. Her door was locked. There were blood marks on her door outside, and the bloody print of a man's hand was on the wall near. As soon as the gory exterior of Mrs. Esmond was discovered several doctors and the coroner were summoned, but there was no work for any of them, as the woman was well and whole. Mr. Esmond on returning, thought it was a conspiracy to frighten his wife away from him, and she did immediately leave the hotel and go to her uncle's.
Unfortunately, this is all I've found about the mystery, so I can't say if it was ever resolved. I would also like to know why Mr. Esmond so readily assumed there was a "conspiracy" to separate him from his wife.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Mysterious Death of Annie Mooney

"San Francisco Chronicle," August 27, 1870, via Newspapers.com

One day in August 1870, 13-year-old Annie Mooney she left her home in Brooklyn, California to attend her high school in neighboring Oakland.  When she failed to return that evening, her parents were immediately alarmed, as this was the first time she had remained away from home without their consent.  When there was still no sign of her by the next night, they went to the police, and a search was instigated.

Two days after her disappearance, a young girl registered for a room at San Francisco's Cosmopolitan Hotel.  The clerk noted that she tried to avoid his gaze, and generally acted nervous and peculiar.  She gave her name as Emily Hewitt.  She said she had no money, but that her father, Henry Hewitt, would come by later to pay for the room.  In those more trusting days, this promise evidently sufficed for the moment, and she was shown to room 227.

A short time later, she came down to the dining room for lunch.  After the meal, she asked to see another guest at the hotel, George W. Woods, who was a conductor on the Central Pacific Railroad.  When Woods was told of this request, he was rather puzzled--he knew of no "Emily Hewitt"--but he obligingly went to her room anyway.  When he opened the door, he found her sitting in a chair, writing. 

Woods immediately realized that he did indeed know the young woman--and she was the missing Annie.  "What are you doing here?" he asked in amazement.  

She replied, "Well, I am stopping here: mother thought I had better stop here all the time than be coming over."  When he asked here again why she was at the hotel, she hesitated and avoided giving an answer, although she insisted that her parents knew she was there.  He asked why she had summoned him.  

She fell silent.

Puzzled, and not a little exasperated, Woods turned to go, saying that he would tell her parents she was there.  A short time after he left, she again rang the clerk, saying that she wished to see Woods again.  However, when he returned, Miss Mooney refused to let him into the room.  He told the clerk that the young lady was acting very strangely.  From behind her door, Mooney was heard to cry, "Are you a constable?  Don't let them take me away."

A policeman named Poolewas called in.  He found Mooney so weak that she was unable to stand.  He believed she had been drugged.  Poole later stated that there was a strong smell of gas in the room, but Woods testified that he noticed no such thing.  He and Woods managed to bring her home, where she "stared wildly" at everyone, seemingly too out of her wits to explain herself, and vomited frequently.  A doctor was summoned, but he was at a loss what to do for her.  It appears she may already have been beyond medical assistance, in any case.  By midnight, she was dead.  It was immediately assumed that she had been drugged, likely for a nefarious sexual purpose--by some "inhuman monster."

Curiously, the autopsy was vague about what killed Annie Mooney.  Aside from the medicines given her just before her death, no poison was found in her body, or any evidence that she had inhaled gas.  She had a tubercular right lung, along with "an apparent congestion of the brain," but the doctors who examined the body could not state the cause of death with any certainty.  They were, however, careful to note that the dead girl had been a virgin.

The inquest revealed some curious information.  James Mooney, the dead girl's father, stated that on the evening Annie disappeared, a girl came to the house saying she had a message for Annie.  When told she was not in, the girl left.  James subsequently learned that this girl was a Fanny Woods.  (No relation to George.)  When he went to her house and asked what message she had for his daughter, Fanny denied ever going to his house, claiming that someone must have impersonated her.  However, James later learned from one of his sons that the day Annie vanished, the boy had seen Annie and Fanny Woods on a streetcar headed for the ferry boat.  James Mooney also said that his daughter had been "intimately acquainted" with George Woods, and had often ridden in his train.  "He once invited her to go to Sacramento with him."

Fanny Woods' testimony was suspiciously shifty.  She stated that she saw Annie on the morning of her disappearance at the train station, presumably on her way to school.  Annie told her that George Woods had given her a writing desk.  Fanny went on to say that she had never been to the Mooney home; did not, in fact, even know where it was.  However, two of Annie's siblings contradicted her, saying that on the day Annie vanished, they had met her near their home, and that she had asked them if Annie was at home.  It was established that there was an "acquaintance and intimacy" between George Woods and both the girls.

Fanny Woods was recalled the following day, when she admitted that she had indeed called at Annie's home.  She claimed that the only purpose of her visit was to see her friend "about going a fishing."  Later, she saw Annie at the train station, when she heard of the "very pretty philopena present" from Mr. Woods.  This was, she said, the last time she ever saw her friend.

All of this information was considered sufficient reason to arrest Conductor Woods, that friend and generous benefactor of pretty underage girls, and he was taken into custody.  We are told that courtroom onlookers could be heard uttering "the most unwarrantable remarks" against Woods, but the inquest testimony suggests that they were very warrantable, indeed.

When the principal of her school testified at the inquest, he revealed that the day before Annie disappeared, she was "ill or in a very singular mood."  When the noon recess bell rang, instead of leaving with the other girls, she simply put her head on her desk and remained still until the reassembling bell rang an hour later.  When he asked her if she was ill, she made no intelligible reply. Instead, she walked out of the classroom, and never returned.  She did not appear in school the next day.

A stage driver testified that on the day Annie vanished, he saw a young girl he identified as the deceased walking along the road between Oakland and Pacheco.  He stopped and offered her a ride.  She gave her name as "Emily Hewitt," and told him that she had no money, but wanted to go to Martinez to see her uncle.  He good-naturedly gave her a lift as far as Pacheco, after which he brought her to the Martinez stage-driver.  He found out later that the girl had been making inquiries about how to get to Benecia.

From there, Annie somehow made her way to San Francisco.  She went to an employment office and applied for a job as a copyist.  The proprietor offered her a position as a nursemaid instead.  She rejected the suggestion, and left after a few minutes.  She then went to another agency, where this time she agreed to apply for a post as a nurse to the children of a Mr. and Mrs. Block.  She then went to the  Block home and asked to be hired.  She said she was an orphan.  She had been trying to find an uncle of hers, the girl explained,  but as she had been unable to locate him, she needed to find a job.  Mrs. Block thought she was rather too young for the position, but allowed her to remain overnight in her house.  Soon after that, Annie checked into the Cosmopolitan.

Annie's parents told the inquest jury that they had no idea why their daughter left home.  They described her as a mature, well-behaved girl who seemed happy with her life.

The coroner's jury returned what the "Alta California" justly described as a "most extraordinary verdict."  Even though the doctors all testified that they found no sign that Annie had been poisoned or drugged, they ruled that she came to her death "by narcotic poison, administered by the hand of some person to the jury unknown."  As the jury declined to name any particular person as being responsible for her death, George Woods was released from prison.

And that was that.  The multitude of questions surrounding the mystery--Why did Annie leave home? Why did she want to see George Woods?  What, exactly, was going on between the girl and the conductor?  Fanny Woods obviously knew far more than she revealed at the inquest.  What was she hiding?  What killed Annie?--were all quickly forgotten.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by yet another of our Halloween Cats!

In 1672, an angry mob of Dutchman delivered the ultimate political vote of no confidence.

Alaska's Mystery of the Missing Crabs.

A friendly reminder that if you start messing with Ouija boards, things can get weird.

Fibonacci numbers turn up in the darndest places.

The "world's scariest painting."

Halloween in Victorian times.

A UFO incident over Lake Michigan.

An ancient Roman refrigerator.

Hilary Mantel's brush with The Weird.

Some remarkable ancient rock carvings have been discovered in Iraq.

In 1466, a Swiss nobleman made a pilgrimage to King David's tomb.  And, of course, had to go all "Kilroy was here" on it.  Because tourists gonna tourist.

Utah's creepy Kay's Cross.

The "Titanic" of India.

A Chinese writing system that was only used by women.

Some rainmaking customs.

Engravings of a long forgotten London.

The ancient "tiny people" of Taiwan.

Brownie and Flora of Brooklyn's Pier 12.

A phantom tombstone.

It seems appropriate that "Nosferatu" was the film they couldn't kill.

A visit to the crypt of St. Mary the Virgin.

Ann "No, thanks, I'm really not hungry" Moore.

The 19th century Watier's Club.

The Morant Bay Rebellion.

The tomb of Santa Claus has been found. In other words, no gifts for you this year, kids!

The Knox Mine Disaster.


The theory that Mars used to--and maybe still does--contain subterranean life.

An 18th century "lift-the-flap" book.

The Plaistow Ghost.

"Solving" a 1,300 year old murder.

The 19th century sisters who pioneered the historical novel.

A duel between a bicycle and an umbrella.

Detroit's fiery "Devil's Night."

The man who survived a firing squad.

A contrary Victorian journalist.   (I agree with her about "Jane Eyre," though, so she couldn't have been that contrary.)

Oh, nothing, just black holes burping up stars.

A mysterious Baltimore murder.

Ancient Rome's Gate to Hell.

Elizabethan England's Portal to Hell.

The Churston Bigfoot.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a young girl's puzzling death.  In the meantime, here's Steeleye Span:

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

It occurred to me that this blog has been unaccountably light on “ghost ship” stories, so here’s a fine one from South Africa.  The “Lyttelton Times,” April 16, 1853:

Sir--Permit me to communicate to you the following account of a very singular phenomenon which was observed at Green Point on Tuesday last and which would seem to impart some degree of credibility to the popular legend of the "Flying Dutchman." 

About 2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon as I was standing together with four other persons on the beach at Green Point, near the residence of Mr. Searight, our attention was attracted by the appearance of a large ship of an ancient shape with tall massive masts and snow white sails distinctly looming through a faint mist about half-a-mile from the shore. Her decks were crowded with people and so distinct and vivid was the appearance that one of us observing her through a telescope imagined he could recognise among those on board several familiar forms and faces.  She appeared to be tossing about much without making any great progress through the water and as with a strange mixture of curiosity and dread we stood looking at the singular apparition she suddenly vanished and was seen no more.

Upon subsequent inquiry we ascertained that three other persons besides ourselves witnessed the strange spectacle and were similarly struck with its singular appearance and unaccountable evanescence.  In the hope of eliciting some explanation of this mysterious phenomenon which I imagine--not being myself of a superstitious temperament--owes its origin to some property of light hitherto unexplained, although commonly referred to the effect of mirage, I have been induced to communicate to you the above particulars and trust you will not hesitate to give them publicity--OBSERVER.--Cape Town Mail.

Monday, October 17, 2022

James Arthur Flowerdew, the Man From Petra

The "Treasury" at Petra, via Wikipedia

Once there was a boy in Norfolk, England, who boasted the quintessentially English name of “James Arthur Flowerdew.”  His was a perfectly normal early 20th century childhood, until he reached the age of 12, when some odd and unsettling things began happening to him.  He began having unusually vivid dreams where he saw a large desert city.  These visions left him greatly agitated, although he could not understand why.  As his dreams of this mysterious city went on, they became increasingly detailed.  He saw a temple, a large volcano-shaped rock, streets, lanes, and various military and civilian structures.  So clear were Flowerdew’s tours of the city, he became convinced he was actually there.

One day when he was visiting the seashore, Flowerdew idly picked up some pink and orange pebbles.  As he toyed with them, the image of his desert city suddenly came into his mind.  From then on, whenever he would go to the beach and play with the orange and pink pebbles, he was instantly mentally transported to the city.  He realized that the pebbles were similar in color to the stones of the ancient metropolis.  Such visions were so common, he accepted them as a normal part of his life.  As time went on, flashes of his life in the city began to come to him.  Flowerdew believed that he had been a soldier, who was killed with a spear in or near the temple.

Aside from these strange visions--which he appears to have largely kept to himself--Flowerdew’s life went on in a modest, unremarkable way.  One day, the now-elderly retired Army officer casually happened to watch a BBC documentary about the ancient Jordan city of Petra.  As soon as he saw the ruins, he was stunned.  He immediately recognized it as the place that had haunted his dreams for so many years.

Flowerdew was so thrilled to finally be able to identify the city he had come to know so well, he contacted the BBC.  Perhaps surprisingly, he was taken seriously.  The BBC filmed a short segment about him, after which he was questioned by an archaeologist who was an expert on Petra.  The archaeologist came away perplexed by the depth of Flowerdew’s knowledge of the city--knowledge that Flowerdew could not have gotten without serious archaeological research.  And there was nothing to indicate that this relatively uneducated old man was lying when he insisted that he had never even seen a book about Petra.

Word of Flowerdew’s strange story reached the ears of the Jordanian government, who invited him to see Petra in person for the first time.  (Or for the first time in a very long while, depending on your views of such matters.)  Flowerdew appeared to be right at home, easily navigating the city unaided.  He commented in detail on the various landmarks, and even identified sites that had yet to be excavated.  When shown certain items and structures that were puzzling archaeologists, Flowerdew immediately gave plausible explanations for what they were.  When he went into a military barrack, he pointed out the location of the guardroom, and explained how the check-in system for the guards had worked--something that was unknown even to the experts.  He even showed the place where an enemy had murdered him in the first century B.C.

Throughout his visit, Flowerdew displayed such an intimate knowledge of Petra that the archaeologists, unable to catch him in the slightest error, were baffled.  He even politely corrected the experts when he believed they had wrong information.  One archaeologist commented, “He’s filled in details and a lot of it is very consistent with known archaeological and historical facts, and it would require a mind very different from his to be able to sustain a fabric of deception on the scale of his memories--at least those he’s reported to me.  I don’t think he’s a fraud.  I don’t think he has the capacity to be a fraud on this scale.”

Flowerdew died at the age of 95 in 2002, leaving everyone to wonder if this unassuming old man had somehow pulled off an incredibly challenging hoax, or if he had, as he insisted, once been a soldier in ancient Petra.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by another of our Halloween Cats!

How the hell did King Tut die?

A cursed cruise ship.

The first time American military pilots encountered UFOs.

Newly-found evidence suggesting that Geoffrey Chaucer may not have been a rapist, after all.

Buffalo Bill in Paris.

Some unlikely military victories.

The 17th century Ladies Charity School House in Highgate.

The saga of Lord Uxbridge's leg.

The funeral of King Edward IV.

Some Mayan sacrifice victims had blue string in their teeth, and people have questions.

An early 14th century abduction and rape.

The speculation that extraterrestrials visited ancient Sumer.

The corpse in the train car.

The last African slave to be brought to America.

The shooting at Greenwood Park Mall.

A visit to Old St. Pancras Churchyard.

A very odd case of "criminal conversation."  You don't see too many of those where the dissection of human bodies pops up in the evidence.

Mystic fictions and lawless fantasies.

The world's tallest natural arch.

Stories from the files of M15.

Art as a Tudor political tool.

The ancient Narmer Palette.

A Yorkshire coven.

So, a guy is buried alive, only to have his grave robbed, and he comes to while being dissected by anatomists.  Bad day.

Analyzing Amelia Earhart's hands.

The Witch of Moorgate.

Arson on Easter Island.

Murder in the Vale of Tempe.

Belle Starr, American outlaw.

Queen Elizabeth II's recipe for drop scones.

The wrecking of HMS Sceptre.

Using eggs to predict the future.

An acrobatic spider.

Why you can't tickle yourself.

The mystery of Royston Cave.

Vintage photos of London at night.

Some Liverpool poisoners.

Some interesting modern headstones.

It turns out that Guy Fawkes is everywhere except the British Museum.

A spiritualist killed himself in order to prove that there is life after death.  Didn't go according to plan.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an intriguing case of alleged reincarnation.  In the meantime, here's the Baltimore Consort:

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

I always enjoy a good “anomalous falls from the sky” story, and this is one of the goofier examples I’ve found.  The “Tampa Bay Times,” September 3, 1969:

PUNTA GORDA - It rained golf balls Monday night. 

Well, not really, but it seemed that way to the Punta Gorda Police Department and the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department. 

The night began innocently enough; it was raining and had been raining but that's nothing new. Policemen are a hardy breed and are used to anything, almost, that is. 

But not golf balls, dozens and dozens and dozens of them, were in the gutters, on the street, along the sidewalks and at Punta Gorda Isles. 

Lt. Clarence Walter of the police department tried to convince people that it rained golf balls, not simply five inches, as he began to pick up golf balls.

Patrolman Wade Saurs and John Hause picked up golf balls and then more golf balls. Bill Moore of the security patrol brought in a satchel full and said he was tired of picking them up. 

A check of the country clubs turned up nothing, except more golf balls, but these were supposed to be there. 

So sheriff's department night dispatcher Coleman Naughton found himself staring at a basket full. Punta Gorda Policewoman Bonnie Zimmerman yesterday kept a basket full company. 

The mystery remains.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Brother's Return; Or, Some Hatreds Never Die

Poltergeist events are irritating, disruptive, even terrifying events.  However, they are not usually dangerous, or even obviously malevolent.  One notable exception to this general paranormal rule was related by one “W.K.B” in the “Occult Review” for July 1908.  It stands out as one of the most sinister polt cases I’ve ever come across.

The site for our little tale was a modest house in Cavnakirk, a “townland” (a small geographical division of land) in the North of Ireland.  The cottage was occupied by a farmer named George Wilson and his sister, whose name was not given in the narrative.  They had a younger brother, but after feuding with his sister over some unrecorded matter, he moved permanently to Canada, ceasing all contact with his siblings.

One June evening, George came home from a long day of working his few acres of land.  He tied his two or three cows in their byre [cowshed] just behind his house.  On his way to the kitchen, he passed by his sister, who was heading to the byre to do the milking.  As George sat eating his supper, he could see his sister as she sat milking.  It was a pleasant, peaceful scene in the summer twilight.  He could hear her singing as the soft hisses of milk filled the pail.  Then, out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a dark, indistinct figure dart across the yard.  It left his sight before he could determine its size or shape.  A second later, George heard his sister scream.  As he dashed into the yard, he heard her struggling and panting.

When George reached the byre, he was stunned to see his sister slumped against the wall.  Her face was black, her eyes were bulging, and her hands were at her throat, desperately clawing at some invisible force that was choking the life from her.  As George entered the byre, the pressure on her throat suddenly eased, leaving her gasping for breath.  It wasn’t until an hour later that she recovered enough to be able to speak.

She said that as she was milking, she noticed what seemed to be their younger brother moving across the yard.  Before she could react, the figure--now “dim and shadowy”--lunged at her, closing its fingers around her neck.  She could see the shadowy arms, and feel the fingers strangling her, but when she tried grabbing at the figure, her hands felt nothing solid.  When George rushed in, the figure let her go, and glided out the way it had come.  Before the figure left, it turned and gave her a look of pure malevolence.  She was certain it was the face of their younger brother.  The poor woman was, understandably enough, left in a state of terror, but after the night and the following day passed without incident, she had recovered her equilibrium enough to tell herself that what she had experienced was just the product of her imagination.

That evening, George and his sister retired to bed early, hoping for a well-earned restful night.  However, as soon as night fell, they heard a dreadful din coming from the kitchen.  As soon as George rose and lit a candle, the noises ceased, but when he returned to bed, they started up again, not stopping until dawn.

The siblings--now thoroughly convinced something not-of-this-world was going on--shared their problem with neighbors, several of whom offered to spend the night at their house.  As they all sat in the kitchen, all was quiet, so George suggested that they all go to bed.  As soon as they put out the light and closed the door behind them, they heard a terrible crash in the kitchen.  When they investigated, there was no sign of any disturbance.  Once they left the room, there was another violent crash.  Again, the noises kept going until daybreak.

George and his sister were frantic.  Each night, their cottage was filled with a din which made it impossible to get any rest, and nothing they tried seemed able to rid them of this furious and hateful spirit.  Finally, they appealed to one Richard Robinson, a man who was known throughout the region for his complete fearlessness.  He was a believer in the supernatural, but as he was also a deeply religious man, he felt that ghosts and devils and suchlike had no power over him.  When the Wilsons contacted him to do battle with their invisible foe, he was happy to help.  Some time later, Robinson told “W.K.B.” what happened next:

“It was about nine o'clock on a July evening when I started up the hills for Wilson's place. I had taken the precaution of carrying this sword with me”--here he used to display a long blade of Spanish manufacture--"and I was determined should the ghost appear that I would try the temper of the edge on it. When I reached Wilson's, I found the brother and sister there; the girl wanted to leave, but I insisted that she should remain, and about eleven o'clock I proposed that we should lie down. Previous to this I had examined the house inside and out. I had tried the windows, looked under the beds, and now I locked and bolted the door, raked the fire, and followed the Wilsons to the room. Here we sat for some time; but as everything remained quiet, I made the brother and sister lie down on the bed without undressing, and placing a lighted candle on a table I drew up a chair to the bedside and sat down, with my head resting on the bed. Presently I grew sleepy, and turning round I blew out the candle, and I was just dropping asleep when a scream from the girl made me leap to my feet. ‘There he is!' she exclaimed, and at that moment there was a crash as if a heavy weight had been flung across the room. Nothing moved, but a moment later a chair at the foot of the bed was thrown down. I sprang to the place, but there was nothing there, but another scream from the girl made me turn round, and I saw that the bed was heaving as if some person beneath was pressing it upward. Seizing the sword I flung myself on the floor and cut right and left beneath the bed; the heaving and pitching ceased, but a chair at the opposite side of the room was flung down. Then there was silence for a moment and I rose to my feet, and as I did so the chair I had just risen from was thrown against the door, and a moment later the bed began to heave again. Again I cut beneath it and the moving ceased, but the racket with the chairs began again. I moved to the table and lit the candle. Instantly everything was quiet, but a little later the tongs were flung violently across the kitchen. I rushed down, but the place was empty, but another scream from the girl brought me back to the room, and I found her lying trembling with fear, while the cold sweat streamed down her face. In reply to my questions she said that the moment I left the room a shadowy figure leaped on the bed, and made as though it would have gripped her by the throat. Her brother could see nothing, but he felt the pressure on the bed, and at the first gleam of the candle it was gone.

“I placed the candle on the table and sat down again by the bedside. I sat there for nearly an hour, but everything was quiet both in room and kitchen. Again I blew out the light, but the silence was unbroken. I was beginning to think that the ghost or whatever it was had gone, when I felt a sharp blow against my chair, and the next moment I felt the bed rise up under my arm. That there might be no mistake I flung myself face downwards on the bed, then seizing the sword I cut up and down beneath it, but the pressure still continued. I could hear the cracking of wood as the slats beneath were forced out of place, and dropping to the floor I crawled beneath the bed, cutting to right and left, but save when I struck the posts of the bed the sword touched nothing solid. I crawled out again, and instantly the heaving of the bed ceased, but a moment later there was a crash from the kitchen. Sword in hand, I rushed down, but the moon was shining brightly through the window and the place was empty.

“Soon after this the sounds ceased. There was a crack outside as if a stone had been flung against the byre door, but this was the last, and the rest of the night passed quietly enough.”

When autumn arrived with no sign of this supernatural persecution slowing down, the Wilsons gave up.  They sold off all their effects, and reportedly emigrated to America, where hopefully they managed to elude their spectral tormentor.  The Wilson farm was bought by a neighbor, but the house remained unoccupied.  Some years later, the new owner tried using the cottage as a stable, but the following morning, he found it was empty.  The mare who had been locked up in it overnight was found in a distant field, trembling and covered with a cold sweat.  The owner wisely took the hint and demolished the house.

There is nothing more to add to this story, except that shortly before the Wilsons abandoned their home, they received a letter from Canada, informing them that their brother was dead.  He died on the same day that his apparition very nearly fatally strangled his sister.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

For this month of October, the Link Dumps will be hosted by our Halloween Cats!

What the hell were the Oakville Blobs?

The dogs who survived the Titanic.

Archaeologists discover an "unusual" building.

The possible rediscovery of an ancient "miracle plant."

The cat mascots of the NYPD Harbor Police, 1904.

The cricketer who became the UK's first black peer.

King Wladyslaw the Elbow-High was not elbow-high.  Glad that's settled.

Unearthing a 1,400-year-old royal hall.

The woman who didn't sleep with Charles II.  As you may have guessed, she was in a pretty exclusive club.

Rennes-le-Chateau's blue apples.

A cursed cruise ship.

The Windham Frog Fight.

Post-houses and stage-houses in the early 19th century.

Contemporary newspaper accounts about the introduction of the Model T.

This week in Russian Weird looks at the Empress who forced her jester to get married in an ice house.

The Hillman Electric Resort.

A haunted vicarage.

Arthur Conan Doyle's psychic bookstore.

1881's Great Ghost Debate.

18th century Oxford sausages.

Allen Dulles' secret war.

The world's oldest known song.

The ax murders of Beaver County.

A family gets burglarized by a ghost.

A brief history of dragons.

A "pest of skolds" in the Anglo-Dutch wars.

Churchill's real "darkest hour."

How we carried babies 10,000 years ago.

Ancient megalithic monuments that are not Stonehenge.

A tale from African folklore.

British spying in the Napoleonic Era.

The career of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.

A dog who had quite a maternal instinct.

The Walton-Matthews tragedy.

And, finally: sing along with Pablo the Goat!

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a particularly creepy poltergeist story.  In the meantime, here's what happens when Bach meets Celtic folk:

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

The following case is an example of what--for blogging purposes--I call “mini-mysteries”: crimes that are particularly unusual or baffling, but where there simply isn’t enough information for a regular blog post.  I remember reading about this chilling murder when it happened, and it put me off rest stops for life.  The “Herald-Palladium,” May 16, 1989:

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) - Jane Snow's sons found her body 10 years ago this week in a restroom along a northern Lower Peninsula freeway. Since then, rest stop security has been beefed up and the killing remains unsolved. 

"We've never been able to determine a motive. There was no robbery, there was no sexual assault," said Trooper Ken Burr of the Michigan State Police post at Gaylord, who was on duty when Snow’s body was discovered was found May 15, 1979.

"The biggest problem with this case is that there was very little hard evidence,'' Burr said. "There were no vehicle tracks, no fingerprints."

Snow was 31, recently divorced and headed from Grand Rapids, where she had worked as a nurse, to a new life in Escanaba with her sons Eric, then 9, and Mark, then 7. 

That life, however, ended 200 miles short of Snow's hometown inside the women's restroom at the Loon Lake Rest Stop along northbound Interstate 75.

Her sons had waited for her before going inside and finding her body, stabbed more than 20 times, in front of a row of sinks. 

"The kids saw no one," Burr said. "There's a little lake connected with that rest stop. After they went to the (men's) bathroom they went to the lake and were throwing rocks at frogs, just monkeying around. They got tired or whatever and decided, 'Where's Mama?’” the trooper said. "When they found her they had enough presence to go through her purse to get money for the pay phone, but the phone didn't work. Very shortly after, another car came into the rest area and took the kids to the post." 

Police picked up a hitchhiker less than half a mile from the rest area about the time Snow's body was found. They also questioned a Gaylord resident, but both were released after laboratory tests proved inconclusive, Burr said. 

While police struggled to solve Snow's slaying, state Transportation Department officials responded by forming a special committee to study rest area security. 

Coincidentally, Jay Bastian, then and still head of design and planning for rest areas stopped at the Loon Lake facility the day after the slaying while traveling north on department business. 

“I noticed it was closed, and we drove in and identified ourselves. It was a terrible thing," he said. "We've had some bad incidents at our rest areas, but nothing like that." 

The department since then has improved lighting at some rest stops and has asked police agencies to patrol more often at Michigan's 83 highway rest areas, 90 parks and 40 scenic turnouts, Bastian said. 

In 1982, the department installed emergency alarms meant to instantly connect two Lower Peninsula rest areas with nearby state police posts. The experiment was abandoned amid vandalism and improper use, he said. 

All rest areas now have telephones at which callers can dial a toll-free number 24 hours a day. 

Snow's survivors, meanwhile, still are trying to cope with her death.

Eric Snow is working to save money to return to college and Mark Snow is completing his first year at Lansing Community College, said the victim's mother, Miriam Baribeau of Escanaba. 

"They are very nice boys, especially considering all they've been through," Baribeau said of her grandsons, who lived with their father after Snow's slaying.

Jane Snow’s murder remains unsolved.

Monday, October 3, 2022

The Fairy Thorn: A Cautionary Tale About Fortean Firewood

This week’s post will demonstrate a vital gardening tip:  Never, ever mess with a tree inhabited by fairies.  The Little Folk have ways of making you regret it.

Our story is set in Fintona, a village in County Tyrone, Ireland.  In late March 1950, the Fintona Golf Club received permission from one Raymond Browne-Lecky to do some landscaping on the golf course on his lands.  Among the changes he OK’d was to remove a thorn hedge that was in the way.  Unfortunately, the gardeners hired to do the job misinterpreted their instructions, and instead used a bulldozer to take down a 300-year-old “fairy thorn”--a tree revered in Ireland for its ancient supernatural associations. Fintonans were incensed at the desecration.  “The people in the village are in a rage over it,” Browne-Lecky told a reporter for the “Northern Whig.  “For my part, however, the hatchet is buried, because it was apparently a mistake.  I was not angry because of possible revenge from the fairies--I’m afraid I don’t believe in them.  But many people do, and that’s why the villagers are upset about it.”

It didn’t take long for the fairies to show their displeasure.  72-year-old pensioner James McAnespie took some of the bulldozed tree to use for firewood.  The “wee folk” evidently saw this as adding insult to injury.  As soon as McAnespie began burning the wood, things started to happen.  Mighty strange things.  He began to hear the sound of tinkling bells in his house.  Tiny figures the size of wasps began flying all around him which were impossible to catch.

On April 16, 1950, McAnespie used up the last of the wood, and--showing an astonishing inability to take a hint--set out to get more.  That night, his neighbors noticed that he had not returned home.  That was unusual, as he was normally in his house by 8 p.m. or so.  After they were unable to find him anywhere, the neighbors went to the police.  A search party was immediately organized.

The searchers went across the countryside, calling McAnespie’s name regularly, but without getting any reply.  Then, at 11:30 p.m., they found the missing man standing motionless on the exact spot where the fairy thorn had stood.  As they approached McAnespie, he came out of his seeming trance, and returned to the village with them.

The story he told was this:  He gathered sticks for firewood around the place where the fairy thorn had been bulldozed.  After tying them into a bundle, he began to go home.  However, when he walked over the spot where the tree had stood, he suddenly became unable to move or speak.  “I couldn’t even let go the rope,” he said.  “It was like as if I was riveted to the ground.”  He stood there helplessly for two hours, hearing bells ringing around his feet.  He saw a ditch all around him, and a big house with lights inside it.  He also saw two fairies--”wee fellows,” he called them.  In short, if Mr. McAnespie did not believe in fairies before, he certainly did now.  

After McAnespie died four years later, Irish papers carried brief death notices commenting that he was still remembered as “the man who was seized by the fairies.”