"...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, November 29, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This tale of a haunted British pub (there are a remarkable number of them) appeared in the “Regina Leader-Post,” July 26, 1930:

GLOSSOP--A ghost that rings a bell on the tap-room table and hammers on the tap-room door, and other strange happenings, are mystifying the landlord of the Bull's Head, a 800-year-old public horse near Charlesworth. Mr. S. Onslow, the landlord, said that he does not believe in ghosts, and one night with the assistance of a customer he tried to solve the mystery. After a thundering knock at the tap-room door, the customer stationed himself at the back of the door and Mr. Onslow stayed in the bar which looks into a passage leading to the front, and through which anyone coming to the tap-room door must pass. Another terrific knock came. The customer flung open the door as Mr. Onslow flung open the bar window, but neither saw anything. About three months ago, the mystery took a more sinister turn.

Mr. Onslow was awakened from his sleep by a noise like the ticking of a clock. He believes that it was the call of the death-watch beetles, which is said to be a sign of death to those who hear it. Once previously, while living at Southport, had he heard it, and two days afterwards he received word that his aunt had died.

He woke up his wife, who could also hear it. The noise increased as the night went on, and at last Mr. Onslow got out of bed, put on a shoe, and delivered a kick against the wall when the sound appeared to come. On that it stopped, but on the following morning a telegram was received that Mr. Onslow's wife's father had died suddenly during the night. 

"Two nights before this," said Mr. Onslow, "a man whom I had never seen before nor since came into the house. He bore a striking resemblance to my wife's father, but his cheeks were sunken like those of a dead person. I called to my wife, who also noticed the astonishing resemblance.

"The man had his drink and went out."

The Bull's Head has two of the strangest rooms. There is no way Into them from within the house. Obtaining a ladder, Mr. Onslow and I today made a dangerous and grimy ascent to them from an old stable at the rear of the building. Entrance to the first is gained through a hole knocked through the wall, and to the second through a hole knocked through the fireplace. The only things in the second room are a strong hemp rope which dangles from a beam and four bricks placed on top of one another directly under it. Did someone take his life in this room? And is it his uneasy spirit that is responsible for the mysterious occurrences here set forth? But perhaps the most baffling mystery of all is the cellar under the flagged floor of the tap room, for no matter how diligently he searches Mr. Onslow can find no way to enter it.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Vanishing of Brandy Hall

"Florida Today," October 15, 2006, via Newspapers.com

Usually, the missing-persons cases I’ve covered on this blog feature ordinary people, living ordinary, routine lives, going about their ordinary routine business, until suddenly, for no discernible reason, they’re gone.  Their disappearances are particularly surprising because their lives, up till that point, held no surprises.

The following mystery is a bit different.  Long before Brandy Hall vanished, her life had become…complicated.

Brandy Rogge was born in Holopaw, Florida in 1973.  She grew up to be an adventurous, athletic free spirit, fond of wild pranks, like the time she taped shut the jaws of a two-foot long alligator and set it loose in a Burger King.  (Unsurprisingly, this little stunt got her banned for life from the eatery.  What happened to the poor alligator is not recorded.)

When she was 20, Brandy began doing volunteer work for the Palm Bay Fire Department, where she met Jeffrey Hall, who was a firefighter at the station.  In 1994, the couple married, and eventually had a son and daughter.

At first, Brandy’s life seemed happy and fulfilled.  The former “tomboy” became a loving and gentle mother, and, to outward appearances, she and her husband had a good relationship.  Friends marveled at how the couple even seemed to have money to burn.  Brandy started her own airboat business, their children had all the latest toys and games, and the Halls wore good clothes and drove good cars.  It was surprising that they could manage all that on their relatively small salaries.

In 2005, that particular mystery was solved when Jeffrey and his friend Paul Hirsch were arrested.  They were charged with using the Halls’ 13-acre property in Holopaw to grow marijuana.  They sold about 40 pounds of pot every two months, earning a $30,000 profit.  Brandy was arrested a few days later, but the charges were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.  Both she and Jeffrey swore that Brandy had no idea whatsoever of her husband’s entrepreneurial activities, and although the police didn’t believe them--at the very least, she must have had some curiosity about where all their extra income was coming from--nobody could prove they were lying.  Despite her name being officially cleared, the Palm Bay Fire Department fired her.  Things were suddenly looking very bleak for this once-carefree couple.  They had no income, no jobs, and Jeffrey was likely facing a prison sentence.  Brandy eventually found work at the Malabar Volunteer Fire Department, but the job was unpaid.

Brandy spent the evening of August 17, 2005 at her grandmother’s home, scanning the phonebook for places where she might find work.  She then went to her night shift at the Malabar Fire Department, where she did inventory.  Around 9:30 p.m., she phoned her husband, who was at home with their children.  At 10:45 p.m., she left her shift early, commenting that early the following day, she needed to go to Kissimmee for Jeffrey’s sentencing hearing.  (Both Jeffrey and Hirsch were given 18 months in prison and 42 months probation.)  Surveillance video captured Brandy chatting with her colleagues in a seemingly relaxed manner, before leaving the firehouse and driving away.  At 11:06, she phoned the Malabar Fire Department Captain, Randall Richmond.  They spoke for about 10 minutes.  At 11:30, Jeffrey called Brandy’s number, but received no response.  He assumed she was just busy at the fire station.

The following day, a fisherman found her firefighting equipment in a bag floating in a small pond off Treeland Boulevard.  When police arrived at the scene, they saw a fuel slick in the water.  The cooler Brandy habitually kept in the back of her green Silverado truck was floating a short distance away.  The cans inside were still cold.  A search of the pond found Brandy’s truck…but no Brandy.  However, ominously, a substantial amount of what was later determined to be her blood was in the cab of the truck.  For so much of the blood to remain in the cab, it had to have been dried for at least 6-8 hours before the truck hit the water.

The investigation into Brandy’s disappearance became increasingly complex when it was learned that she and Randall Richmond--the last person she was known to have spoken to--were having an affair, possibly for as long as ten years.  (Richmond was also married with children.)  Richmond initially told police that he hadn’t spoken to Brandy for some time.  However, when confronted with her phone records, he was forced to change his story.  He now claimed that when he talked to Brandy, she told him she was leaving town, and that she was waiting at a gas station for some unnamed person to bring her money.  She advised Richmond to throw away his phone after they spoke, and he did.  (A curious side note:  Richmond had been scheduled to appear at Jeffrey's sentencing hearing, as a character witness.  However, on the morning of the hearing, he phoned the courthouse to say he wouldn't be able to make it.  The person who took the call said Richmond was crying as he spoke.)

Naturally, all of this made the police take a great interest in Captain Richmond, particularly after they learned that Brandy and Richmond’s wife Anne-Marie had publicly argued at a recent seafood festival, apparently about Brandy's relationship with Randall.  Anne-Marie didn’t have much of an alibi for the night Brandy disappeared--after getting off her shift as a nurse at 11 p.m., she spent the rest of the night at home with her sons--but there was nothing else to implicate her in the case.  Richmond was on duty the night of the 17th, but it would not have been impossible for him to briefly sneak away from the station.  Shortly after midnight, a police officer named Jasmine Campbell drove by a gas station not far from the fire station.  She saw a woman with long blonde hair--like Brandy’s--sitting in the driver’s seat of a green Silverado truck, with another person sitting in the passenger seat.  A fire truck was parked near the truck, which Campbell thought odd.

Jeffrey told investigators that he had heard rumors about his wife’s affair, but he didn’t take them seriously until after his release from prison.  He found in their home a phone Brandy had secretly been using, and the many messages he found between her and Richmond convinced him the stories were true.

In 2007, a backpack belonging to Brandy was found floating in a canal 30 miles from Malabar.  She used it to carry medication, her Fire Department radio, and her gun.  Instead of these items, the backpack contained clothes, X-rated videos, and her address book.  This canal had been drained soon after Brandy vanished, indicating that someone had dropped it in the water fairly recently.  A year after the backpack was found, one of Brandy’s fire helmets was fished out of a marina a few miles from Malabar.  What, if anything, this latest discovery had to do with her disappearance is unknown.

To date, Brandy--or her corpse--has not been found.  She was declared legally dead in 2015.  Despite Randall Richmond’s claims that Brandy planned to run away, nobody who knew her gave the idea any credit.  Although she reportedly was extremely angry at Jeffrey for messing up her life with the marijuana bust, Brandy was deeply devoted to her 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.  She would never have abandoned them.  Besides, the blood in her truck indicates she had been a victim of foul play.

The three people most likely to have personal issues with Brandy--namely, her husband, her lover, and the lover’s wife--all had weak alibis for the time she disappeared, and Officer Campbell’s sighting is, to say the least, intriguing.  However, we have no proof that it was Brandy’s Silverado that Campbell saw, or that the fire truck had been driven by Randall Richmond.

In 2006, Palm Bay Detective Jess Suelter commented, “This entire situation is odd.  When you step back and look at it, there are so many things that could have happened to her.”

For now, at least, this has been the most anyone can say for certain about the disappearance of Brandy Hall.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

In related news, the staff at Strange Company HQ has gathered for the annual group portrait.

A deadly "obsessed fan."

Vintage tips for making holiday pies.

A "vast, complex" prehistoric society that has only recently been discovered.

The "city of forgotten women."

A tribute to English rural cottages.

History's most famous pot.

The origins of "cahoots."

I'm sure you'll be pleased to learn that there are people contemplating the topic of astronaut cannibalism.

Some myths about Napoleon.

Related: The mystique of Napoleon.

A convict's transportation to Australia.

The benefits of walking backwards.

A pioneering female aviator.

The man who is trying to record all of Britain's folklore.

Coffee: There's nothing it can't do.

A "miracle dog."

An accidental funeral motto.

Reconstructing medieval bread.

North America's first culinary social club.

Ireland's "Cave of the Cats."

Japan's "Cat Alley."

Britain's "corpse roads."

The Welsh "One Night House."

A roundup of recent poltergeist cases from around the world.

Thanksgiving menus from the late 19th century.

A look at medieval bathing.

The origins of the phrase, "talk turkey."

A dinner party on horseback.

Something mysterious crashed into the Moon last year.

The enslaved man who may have been the first person to circumnavigate the globe.

The history of a South Korean amusement park.

Meet Ekgmowechashala, biological fluke.  And spell-check's worst nightmare.

The feline milk steward of the S.S. President Harding.

Literacy in rural Early Modern England.

A Pennsylvania serial poisoner.

Prussia's Potsdam Giants.

England's first celebrity chef.

Nothing to see here, just a mysterious, ghostly nighttime hum.  That travels!

The Trier witch hunts.

The weird side of archaeological artifacts.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a woman's sinister disappearance.  In the meantime, Mozart goes bamboo!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Thanksgiving ghost stories are disappointingly scarce, but I did find this brief, but enticing example in the “Salt Lake Telegram,” December 4, 1902:

GENEVA, NY., Dec 4--As the southbound train on the Lehigh Valley was approaching Marsh Creek the engineer and fireman heard a sharp scream ahead. They saw a tall, white-robed figure standing at the east side of the bridge frantically waving its arms.  The engineer brought the train to a standstill. As he did so the specter gave another shriek and disappeared.

An investigation of the track and bridge disclosed no trace of the mysterious figure, but as the train passed over the bridge the same shriek was heard. It was learned that every year about Thanksgiving day the figure appears. A fireman once lost his life in the quicksand there when an engine went off Marsh bridge and the body never was recovered.

Monday, November 20, 2023

A Very Unidentified Flying Object

During my blog-related browsing through the odder side of life, I occasionally come across a story that I think is worth sharing with you, Dear Readers, but I’m damned if I know what to say.  I just bung it down, hit the “Publish” button, and say, “Here.  You deal with it.”

This is going to be one of those times.

In the July/August 1970 issue of “Flying Saucer Review,” Gordon Creighton shared a story which he titled, with admirable restraint, “A Weird Case From the Past.”  He heard of the “very strange experience” from one John P. Sutcliffe, who in turn had learned of it from one of the people directly involved, a “lady who is well known to him.”

Creighton got in touch with the lady, Mrs. I.J. Goodwin, who lived in Stranden, Bournemouth, and she agreed to share what she remembered about the episode, which had taken place some forty years previously.

Mrs. Goodwin wrote, “I will tell you the facts of my personal experience exactly as I remember them.

“I was  born in 1924 at 57 North Road, Hertford, Hertz.  One day in 1929, at about the age of five, I was playing in the garden.  With me was my eight-year-old brother (Mr. Priest, now living at Moordown, Bournemouth.)  He was suffering from an infected knee, due to a fall, and was consequently confined at that time to a chair.

“At that date the road was a lane, with just two pairs of houses, one of which was ours, and behind the houses there was an orchard.

“So far as I can truthfully recall, what happened was that we heard the sound of an engine--what I would today liken to a quietened version of a trainer plane.  My brother and I looked up and saw, coming over the garden fence from the orchard, this small aeroplane (of biplane type) which swooped down and landed briefly, almost striking the dustbin.  It remained there for possibly just a few seconds and then took off and was gone, but in that short time I had a perfect view not only of the tiny biplane but also of a perfectly proportioned tiny pilot wearing a leather flying helmet, who waved to us as he took off.

“Neither my brother nor I ever spoke of the strange sight, so far as I recall, until about ten years ago when, in the presence of our mother and of other members of the family, I asked him whether he recalled the episode.  He replied that he too had wondered many times, over the years, about that tiny plane and its tiny occupant.

“May I be permitted to add here that my brother is so honest that he would certainly not claim anything beyond what he could truthfully recall of an experience.

“I am very sorry that I cannot swear to the exact measurements, but I would estimate the wing-span of the tiny aircraft at no more than 12-15 inches, with the tiny pilot in perfect proportion thereto.

“Although I do not recall his having said it, my brother apparently went into the house and told mother: ‘That aeroplane nearly hit the dustbin.’

“This is a true and honest account as I remember it.  The house and garden still exist, but the orchard has long ceased to be there.

“I have no explanation to offer, but I do know that this was not a figment of my imagination and, although I have not mentioned this correspondence to my brother, I give you herewith his address so that you may question him too should you wish to do so.

“I trust that you will glean something of interest from my experience, and I shall be most interested to hear of any explanation that you can give.  You have my permission to print this account.”

Creighton believed that we should take stories like the above very seriously, no matter how bizarre they might be.  He noted that “Tiny, shape-changing, size-changing, tenuous creatures of some sort of highly plastic matter have been reported throughout all history and from every land.  We can no longer afford to sit back smugly and laugh them off.  The reports about them must be collected and studied.  We are going to be very surprised by what we find.”

Friday, November 17, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

The Strange Company HQ staffers are ready to let the show begin!

Modern medicine owes a lot to the Middle Ages.

A secret lost language.

Love and lunacy.  And murder.

Scotland's oldest known tartan.

A Post Office cat and the Great Chicago Fire.

The legacy of "Cabinets of Curiosities."

The hunt for Dr. Crippen.

Part 2 about the 1914 Battle of Coronel.

This week in Russian Weird looks at some awful author deaths.

NASA has found a fluffy, sandy planet.

Some vintage celebrity gossip.

China's urban ghosts.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Bird of the Century.  Even if the election was rigged.

Why archaeologists love lice.

A musician who nearly made it big.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in prison.

A look at near-death experiences.

The Leicester Balloon Riot.

The reinvention of Thanksgiving.

Elephants may give each other names.

A female Civil War soldier.

What the well-dressed male mourner is wearing.

Cats have a lot of facial expressions.

Skull surgeries from the Copper Age.

The first dive bombers.

The Carrot Man of Melbourne.

A Thanksgiving miracle.

The resurrection of German mite cheese.

So, what's this African lion doing in a Puerto Rican cave?

A saint's reluctant levitations.

Sketches from early 19th century criminal trials.

Georgian-era firefighters.

The Liverpool Leprechauns.

"Firemen artists" of the London Blitz.

More theories about the Bermuda Triangle.

The days of the Orphan Trains.

The link between modern Western ghosts and zombies.

An attempt to explain Taylor Swift's popularity, something that I consider to be one of the great mysteries of modern history.

A brief history of urban garbage.

A brief history of youth hostels.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at one very weird childhood experience.  In the meantime, bring on the marimbas!

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Every now and then, the news carries stories about people who have kept a relative's death a secret in order to keep collecting benefits paid out to the deceased. The "Coleshill Chronicle" on November 29, 1890, reprinted a story from 1768 describing a man who was probably the world's champion at this particular money-making enterprise.

A woman was buried in St. George's Hanover-square, who had been dead 19 years. The reason of her being so long unburied was, some years ago a near relation of hers died, who left her £25 per ann., as long as she remained upon earth, as expressed in the will: her surviving husband rented a little room over a stable near South Audley-street for £5 per ann. and there she has remained in a very decent coffin all that time. The husband being dead, the landlord of the room wanted to make an alteration, upon which the coffin was discovered. Thus the husband had £20 per ann. for keeping a dead and quiet wife upon earth.

The "very decent coffin" was a nice touch, no?

Monday, November 13, 2023

A Haunting in Cape Cod

In November 1934, "Harper's Magazine" published a first-person account of a ghost-ridden summer cottage, titled, ""Four Months in a Haunted House." The author hid behind the pseudonym "Harlan Jacobs," but it has been verified that the man was exactly who he said he was: an accomplished and well-regarded professor at New York's Columbia University. 

Folklorist and historian Louis C. Jones, who heard the story from "Jacobs" himself before the article was published, vouched for the professor's sincerity. Jones described the academic as "a very kind but practical, hard-headed scholar who vouched for the truth of every word of his article. Knowing him, his word was beyond question. Furthermore, he is not a believer in the supernatural in general, nor in ghosts in particular." 

You may not believe in ghosts, but ghosts definitely believe in you. 

Jacobs did not give the year in which his strange experiences took place, or the exact location. He stated only that the cottage was in a "lonely" location somewhere on Cape Cod. It was a comfortably spacious place, with two large bedrooms on the upper floor, connected by a foyer. Although the house had been built nine years previously, it had sat unoccupied until Jacobs and his wife Helen rented it for the summer. They would be the first people to spend the night there. At the time, they did not stop to wonder why this was the case. 

On their first night in the cottage, Helen Jacobs went to bed early, while Harlan stayed up to work on a manuscript. Mrs. Jacobs slept in one of the bedrooms, while her husband did his work in the other. It was a warm night, so all the inner doors were open. Harlan was a bit surprised when his wife suddenly awakened and called to him, "Was it you who made that tapping noise?" 

Harlan made a few "jogs" to his writing table, and asked if that was the noise she heard. 

"No, no!" she replied. "That's not the sound at all. What I heard was a tapping that seemed to come from the brick walk in front of the door downstairs. It was like somebody tapping on the bricks with a cane. Didn't you hear it?" 

Mr. Jacobs reassured his wife that there had been no such sounds--perhaps she had been dreaming, or something of the sort. They both dismissed the matter from their minds. 

Around ten o'clock the next night, the Jacobs were sitting in the living room downstairs when they began hearing the taps Helen had described. They were again coming from the brick walk just outside the front door. And, indeed, they sounded exactly like a cane regularly hitting the bricks. Harlan grabbed a flashlight and dashed to the door. However, the instant before he flung it open, the tapping ceased. Jacobs searched outside the house, but saw no sign of anyone, animal or human. 

Throughout the summer, the tapping noises on the brick walk kept recurring--Jacobs estimated they heard them at least fifty times. The noises always began around 10 p.m., and all details were invariably the same. In daylight, the couple scrutinized the walkway, but found nothing unusual. Every night just before 10, Harlan would station himself by the front door, ready to pounce, but the tapping would always cease the moment he sprang outside. Little did the couple know that this mystery would soon be upstaged by even weirder events. 

By their second week in the cottage, Harlan began noticing some odd things happening in his bedroom. One night, a minute or so after retiring to bed, he heard something--he thought it sounded like a box of matches--falling from the chiffonier. He turned on the light. He saw nothing on the floor. Nothing had fallen from anywhere. On the following night, he heard the distinct sound of a sheet of newspaper being swished across the floor. And when he turned on the light, there was, of course, no newspaper and not the slightest hint of a breeze. On the third night, Harlan was treated to the sounds of a rolling pin falling with a crash on the floor and rolling across the room until it banged against a wall. 

Jacobs and his wife began hearing a less intrusive, but more frequent noise. It was one they heard at all hours of the day or night, in all areas of the house. They soon dubbed it, "The Universal Click." By their third week, the couple was hearing very noisy footfalls all over the cottage, at irregular intervals. It was exactly as if someone in heavy boots was making a solid march throughout all the rooms. The most spectacular of the spectral sounds came in the middle of summer. One night, the couple heard a deafening crash coming from the garage. It was so violent, it shook the entire cottage. Within a few seconds of the din, the couple had raced to the garage, expecting to find the entire structure had exploded. Instead, the puzzled pair saw nothing amiss. The room, which they had been using for storage, was in perfect order. The ear-splitting noise--which they called the "Grand Piano Smash" happened several more times during their stay. 

One day, Harlan opened the garage to find it was full of moths. When he returned with his wife five minutes later, every one of the insects were gone. It was a well-built concrete and steel structure, kept too tightly closed for the moths to enter or leave. Harlan and Helen finally admitted to themselves that they were spending their summer vacation with a ghost. 

Towards the end of summer, the Jacobs had guests coming over for the weekend: Harlan's lawyer, along with his wife and daughter. Harlan knew the visitors were all hard-headed, practical sorts not given to attacks of nerves, but he felt obligated to warn the family that their visit might not be exactly what they were expecting. It was a waste of time and energy. The lawyer and his womenfolk all laughed at the idea of supernatural disturbances. "For my part," the lawyer scoffed, "I wish to heaven I could hear a little from your precious ghost!" 

Such requests seldom go unrewarded. That very night, the women of the household went to see a play, while Harlan and his lawyer worked on a contract Jacobs was to sign. This dry work was considerably enlivened by the sudden sound of a loud "click" in the wall. 

"Your friend the Universal Click?" the legal eagle inquired. 


"Some little snap in the drying wood," the lawyer shrugged. 

About twenty minutes later came the familiar sound of footsteps upstairs, directly over their heads. 

"What on earth is that?" the lawyer cried. 

"Only the ghost," said Harlan complacently. He was feeling that the spook was finally giving him value for money. 

"Ghost your grandmother! There's a man upstairs!" 

The two men dashed to the upper floor, where Harlan greatly enjoyed watching his naysaying friend desperately searching the cottage for an intruder that Jacobs knew was not there--at least, in any sort of corporeal form. After inspecting the dwelling from top to bottom, the lawyer finally had to admit defeat. He only advised Jacobs not to say anything about ghosts to his wife or daughter. 

The women returned to the cottage soon afterward, and all retired for the night. The lawyer's family bunked in one bedroom, Helen Jacobs took the other, while Harlan slept on a sofa downstairs. The next morning, Harlan could tell just by looking at his guests that their night had not been uneventful. 

"What was that awful crash last night?" they demanded. "It sounded like the ceiling falling in the garage." 

Harlan was really beginning to enjoy himself. With a wink to his wife, he asked Helen, "Did you hear a crash?" 

"Not a sound," she chirped. The curious thing was, this was the one time when the Jacobs truly did not hear the Grand Piano Smash--but their visitors certainly did. 

And with that, Jacobs' story comes to an inconclusive end. Harlan never found a convincing explanation for their experiences during this haunted summer. He and his wife, he noted, were not the sort of people inclined to believe in ghosts. But, he added, "Something strange was loose in that house, and I wish I could discover what it was."

Friday, November 10, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

Enjoy the party!

The practice of hiding ritual objects in homes.

The forensics of the Loch Ness Monster.

Da Vinci's "to-do" lists.

10 places that no longer exist.

The woman who was thrown out of Ireland for kissing her boyfriend.

The Dutch legal scholar who played a role in the trial of Charles I.  It didn't end well for him.  Or for Charles, of course.

A desirable neighborhood in Los Angeles that was built by a con artist.

A visit to Chiswick House.

A lethal apartment.

A brief history of book thieves.

A brief history of American diners.

When Hitler went to prison.

The 1914 Battle of Coronel.

An 18th century painter's hidden demon.

The first Remembrance Day.

Studying "telephone telepathy."

The "Holy Grail" of shipwrecks.

The sad tale of Queen Victoria's dead giraffe.

The search for Shakespeare's lost play.

The execution of a voodoo doctor.

The cemetery that contains some of Los Angeles' hidden history.

What might be the world's oldest pyramid.

A novel (and highly criminal) way to get rich quick.

The world's first Porsche was ignored for over a century.

Princess Charlotte, who died before she could become Queen of England.

A bunch of letters sent to French soldiers during the Seven Years' War have only now been read.

When phrenology was all the rage.

That time when America had an Election Cake.

The Christmas disaster at Oaks Coal Mine.

18th century theaters could get...lively.

A talking, life-saving dog.  Good boy!

America's last lighthouse keeper.

We may now know why ancient Egyptians mummified baboons.

How Mary Ann Patten became the first woman to command an American merchant vessel.

A look at the A-2 bomber jacket.

The strange death of "the last of the Merovingians."

The world's finest cheese.

In praise of traditional Chinese medicine.

A bluestocking influencer.

That wraps it up for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll visit a haunted house in Cape Cod.  In the meantime, here's a bit of Bach.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

The following item from the (Davenport, Iowa) “Morning Democrat” for August 22, 1891 is a brief Ohio poltergeist tale with no further information that I could find, but I thought it was worth sharing for one delightful detail that I think will please you, as well:

St. Mary's, O., Aug. 21. People living at Byer, a small village in Jackson county, are greatly agitated over some strange developments in a haunted house. The house is a frame structure, built by Thomas Woods, who formerly lived in it and kept a saloon.

Five years ago a jewelry peddler stopped there over night and in the morning was found dead in bed, with his throat cut from ear to ear. Since then five persons have died in the home, viz: Thomas Woods, Walker Benson, Teresa Byers, Mrs. Thomas Woods, and James Seery. Some time ago the place was rented to Charles Henderson, and on the second night after his family moved in strange noises were heard and chairs and tables were hurled about the house by invisible agencies. The children screamed with fright, and said they saw a man with a mule's head. The frightened family moved out shortly after midnight.

They could not stand it until morning. Citizens say they heard strange noises while sitting up with the last person who died there. The neighborhood has become intensely superstitious over the place. Two men lately attempted to remain in the house all night, but were so frightened by 1 o'clock in the morning that they quit in haste. A well-known townsman, Mr. Thomas Ray, is going to try a night of it there by himself. He says that if his nerve does not fail and he is permitted to live until morning he will report all there is to it.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Over the Bridge of Time: The Vision of Irene Kuhn

Irene Corbally Kuhn was a pioneering globe-trotting journalist in the first part of the 20th century.  Her 1938 memoir, “Assigned to Adventure” chronicles her career exploits up to that date.  What makes her book relevant to this blog is a passage where she describes an eerie experience that could be classified as either a time-slip or a psychic vision of future tragedy.

In 1922, Irene was working in Shanghai, where she married fellow reporter Bert Kuhn, who was the news editor for the "China Press."  The following year, they had a daughter, Rene.  In May 1925, riots broke out in Shanghai after Sikh police fired on several thousand Chinese students who were protesting the convictions of Chinese cotton-mill employees who had gone on strike.  The situation was so dangerous, Bert persuaded his wife to go with their daughter for a visit to America, while he stayed behind in China.  

One afternoon in December, Irene was walking down Chicago’s Michigan Boulevard.  It was a fine day, and she was feeling in the best of spirits.  Then…

"...suddenly and without warning sky, boulevard, people, lake, everything vanished, wiping from my vision as completely and quickly as if I had been struck blind. Before me, as on a motion picture screen in a dark theatre, unrolled a strip of green grass within a fence of iron palings. Three young trees, in spring verdure, stood at one side; beyond the trees and the fence, in the far distance, factory smoke-stacks trailed sooty plumes across the sky. Across from the trees stood a small circle of people, men and women, a mere handful, in black clothes. And coming to a halt on a gravelled road by the grass was a limousine from which alighted two men who turned to offer their hands to a woman in black, emerging now from the car. The woman was I. 

"I watched myself being escorted against my will to the group which now parted to receive me. I made no sound, but struggled against the necessity of moving towards them. I took one step and then stood stock still. Gently the two men urged me forward, a step at a time, until at last I was among the others, and looked at the small hole cut in the grass--a hole not more than two feet square.

"I looked once and turned my back on it, wanting to run away, but held there by some irresistible force. There was a small box which someone, bending over now, was placing in the earth with infinite tenderness—a box so small and light I could hold it in my hand and hardly feel it. What was I doing here? Where was I? Why was I letting someone put this box into the ground—this little box which held something very precious to me? I couldn't speak or move. These people—who were they?  Then I recognized only the faces of my husband's family, tear-stained and sad. The silence screamed and tore at me. I looked about. All the clan were there. Only he was missing. Then I knew what was in the box, and I crumpled on the grass without a sound."

When the vision faded, Irene was left so visibly weakened that a passing stranger came to her aid.  He called a taxi, which took her to the office of her brother-in-law.  He was so startled by her haggard appearance that he instantly poured her a large glass of whiskey.  Although Irene managed to persuade herself that the incident was merely the product of her imagination, she never forgot about it.

In February 1926, Irene began her journey back to China, sailing from Vancouver on the "Empress of Canada."  As soon as she boarded the ship, the purser advised her to contact the passenger agent.  When she did so, the agent showed her a wire from Bert’s family in Chicago reading, “Please advise Mrs. Bert L. Kuhn husband dangerously ill, best not sail.”  When she left the ship, she received a second wire:  “Bert dead.”

Irene returned to Chicago, where she was given a job on the “Mirror.”  Meanwhile, Bert’s ashes were sent to the city for burial.  She wrote:

"And it was on May 30 that, all arrangements having been completed, I went with my two brothers-in-law in a limousine to Rosehill Cemetery, which I had never seen before.

"We drove across the city, through the cemetery gates and came to a stop. The men got out first and waited to help me. I put my foot on the ground, and something held me back. For a second I couldn't raise my eyes because I knew what I should see. At last I looked. There was the spring grass underfoot. There were the three young trees in fresh leaf; there the fence of iron palings, and the smoke-stacks of the city's industries far beyond in the distance. My feet were weighted with lead.I didn't want to go.

"Bert's brothers urged me forward gently. I saw the ring of black-clad mourners over to one side, waiting. I stopped.

"'You didn't have to open a full grave, did you?' I asked.

"'How do you know?' asked Paul with astonishment.

"'There's just a little square hole big enough to take the box with Bert's ashes, isn't there?' I pressed on.

"Paul's face was white beneath his natural tan.

"'Yes, that's right. They said it would be foolish to open a full grave for a small box of ashes. But how did you know?' he persisted. 

"I didn't answer. I was thinking of that December day on Michigan Boulevard when I had seen into the future, over the bridge of time. . . ."

[Note: Bert's death is in itself an intriguing mystery.  The official medical report said only that he passed away from "unknown causes."  He had secretly worked for U.S. Naval Intelligence, and Irene always suspected that his clandestine activities were somehow linked to his untimely demise.]

Friday, November 3, 2023

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to November's first Link Dump!

While you read, relax in Strange Company HQ's gardens.  They're looking particularly fine right now.

The Tremulous Hand of Worcester.

The latest on the search for Noah's Ark.

How King James I left his mark on history.  Usually not in a good way, IMO.

The Northeastern Blackout of 1965.

A real-life Snow White.

The most kissed man in America.

The reform of 19th century prison hulks.

A writer (maybe) solved a murder while on summer vacation.

The weirdness of the letter "R."

That time Lincoln's corpse was nearly kidnapped.

That time the U.S. Congress paid for a man's tobacco.  To be honest, they've done far worse things with taxpayer money.

The truth about medieval cats.

Public celebrations in the mid-18th century.

The Golden Age of Malay cinema.

More on "Landing the Pie."

Michelangelo's secret room.

The Chillingworth murders.

Victorian killer walls.

The magical Sator squares.

A bad haircut leads to murder.

Bowerbirds and the color blue.

Some weird rejected patents.

A Parisian All Souls' Day.

London's Paper Bag Baron.

Grandiose delusions aren't necessarily all bad. 

The disappearance of Ambrose Bierce.  (For what little it's worth, I suspect that Bierce engineered his own disappearance--that he went off to commit suicide in some remote spot where he knew he'd probably never be found.)

The Star Chamber meets conjurers and crooks.

Scotland's most infamous corpse dealers.  And corpse makers.

The legend of "Soap Sally."

A visit to a haunted London pub.

Manhattan's "Pumpkin House."

The Dead Man in Clerkenwell.

A disappearance and a mysterious cave.

A confusing tale of an infant with two mothers.

Charlotte Bronte and the supernatural.

Archaeologists and the supernatural.

Gravestones that double as recipes.

The minister and the Cemetery Thing.

An 18th century wife, mother, and radical.

The murder of a schoolgirl.

An obituary writer that helps people go out in style.

An asteroid that might be a chunk of the Moon.

The world's oldest trees.

When believing in ghosts became a class marker.

Why it's not called "siteseeing."

The world's biggest ball of twine.

A whole lot of things go missing from museums.

The life of a multi-talented Shakespearean scholar.

An "extinct" flower unexpectedly shows up.

Two men who murdered their families.

If you've ever wanted to turn Lake Superior into a loaf of bread (and who hasn't?) here's the recipe.

The afterlife and the Scole Experiment.

A murderer's last-minute confession.

An 18th century theater token...that may still be valid!

An assortment of British ghost stories.

The secret of Ulysses S. Grant's success.

How books were made in the 16th century.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll visit that ever-popular topic of Death Premonitions.  In the meantime, let's drum up some music.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This story borrows the title of the classic Tin Pan Alley song, “The Cat Came Back” with a little feline telepathy thrown in.  The “Buffalo News,” January 23, 1891.  (A reprint from the “Syracuse Journal.”)

Fritz Heath is the noble son of a worthy mother. Fritz is a large gray and white tiger cat. Fritz and his mother, Gyp. are the proteges of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Heath. Both are cats of unusual size and beauty, that of Fritz being only marred by a jagged rent in his right ear, incurred in some slight youthful disagreement.

Fritz is an amateur acrobat of considerable ability, and will roll over, jump through a hoop and turn somersaults at word of command. He also has the trick of jumping to catch the edge of the table top with his paws and swinging suspended while he surveys the prospect of a good dinner for Fritz. Two years ago there was mourning in the house of Heath. Fritz had suddenly disappeared. At night Gyp came into the house, sniffed at the basket she and Fritz had occupied together since the latter's kittenhood, and walked disconsolately away.

The Heaths thought perhaps their pet had been carried across the canal and could not get back, so they wandered in Finegan avenue and the purlieus of the Fourth ward and searched diligently, but he could not be found. Time heals broken hearts, and as the months passed by all but Gyp forgot the missing member of the household. She could not be induced to go near the accustomed bed still kept for her by the fire, and refused to be comforted. 

A little more than two weeks ago she jumped into the basket for the first time since Fritz's disappearance, and lying down began to purr contentedly. A few days afterward Mr. Heath and his wife returned from an evening call. A cat, which they in the darkness supposed to be Gyp,  was crying on the doorstep, and as they opened the door it ran into the hallway and out again as quickly.  Later in the evening Mrs. Heath heard the crying at the door, and, being possessed of a tender heart toward suffering animals, proposed going down to bring in the poor thing, which had proved not to be Gyp, and give it something to eat. As she opened the door the cat darted into the hallway and up the stairs to the Heath apartments. When it came into the lighted sitting room Mrs. Heath exclaimed, “Why, Tom, it's Fritz!” 

Hearing his name Fritz bounded into Mrs. Heath's lap, from hers to her husband's, turned somersaults, rolled over and performed all the tricks he had been taught, as if to thoroughly identify himself or to express his joy at getting home. "It surely is Fritz," thought the rejoiced Heaths, and they examined the cat's right ear. It was split! There was little doubt then of its being Fritz, but to make assurance doubly sure a small stick was thrown down the stairs into the dark hallway.

"Go get it, Fritz," said Mr. Heath, and the cat darted downstairs, returning instantly with the stick triumphantly balanced in his mouth, a trick, by the way, common enough with retrievers, that few cats have ever been taught to perform. After a good supper the reclaimed Fritz went straight to the basket behind the stove and cuddled down contented. Gyp gave the intruder a smart rap with her paw, but seeming at once to recognize her prodigal son fell on his neck and kissed him. 

Fritz now stays very closely at home.  His two years' absence seems to have given him an increased regard for the shadows of the family roof tree. 

A strange question, and one which should interest psychologists, is this: Did the old cat receive some telepathic information that Fritz was about to return which dispelled her aversion to the basket? Had she seen him prowling around the house for two or three weeks, not daring to come back, or was it simply a coincidence?