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

Friday, March 29, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

The Strange Company staffers are getting ready for Easter!

My favorite historical mystery:  What the hell happened to the sons of Edward IV?  (I recently read a terrific new book, "The Princes in the Tower: Solving History's Greatest Cold Case."  If you have any interest in the subject, it's highly recommended.)

Witchcraft in North Wales.

Folklore of the Wise Men of Gotham.

The spy who saved the Louvre from Hitler.

Easter drama in the streets of Stepney.

History's worst bridge disasters.

The funeral Mutes.

Nabokov's "Homeric retching."

A British 1930 train carriage was found buried in Belgium, and people have questions.

The "greatest bassist in history" is a woman you've probably never heard of.

A letter between two 19th century female activists.

According to DNA testing, Beethoven wasn't very musical, which tells a lot about the value of DNA testing.

When Elizabethan London panicked over fencing.

How the Siege of Vienna gave us the croissant.

The "first suffragette."

Prisoners and embroidery.

The old "unwritten law" defense.

The saga of the stolen ruby slippers now comes with a side order of revenge porn.

An early female movie projectionist.

A typical "skip bombing" mission in WWII.

An early 19th century false imprisonment case.

An infamous female executioner.

Why clocks go forward in the UK.

A brief history of British acid attacks.

A look at Darwin's personal library.

A look at 18th century umbrellas.

The UK House of Lord's "scribbled books."

Language is probably much, much older than we thought.

Can we "feel the future?"

A recently-uncovered ancient Egyptian tomb.

The lost lizard city of Los Angeles.  (Although I can vouch for the fact that if you go into many areas of L.A., you wonder if it was all that lost.)

So, a Chinese man who said he was the younger brother of Jesus started a civil war...

The cat who got cheated out of an inheritance.

A Valentine's Day murder.

Political apocalypses in Victorian Britain.

A mother's revenge.

A royal super-stepmother.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a Navy officer's odd disappearance.  In the meantime, bring on the elephant orchestras!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This account of diabolical doings down on the farm appeared in the “Great Bend Tribune,” September 28, 1908:

Groton, Conn. This town is excited indeed over the amazing happenings at the fine old farm of William Hempstead, a mile east of New London.

Visitors have been going out in automobiles and carriages to study the mystery. Small articles, such as beans, spools of thread, knives, marbles, etc., have been moving about the house in broad daylight. Although the house is next to the old Knowles family cemetery, the phenomena do not seem to be of the ghost or spook variety. The manifestations never take place at night. The house was built in the long ago and is two stories high, roomy, in good condition and happily situated.

The family consists of Mr. Hempstead, a refined and practical old gentleman of 70-odd years. He does not believe in spooks. His wife has no superstitions. They have been married 30 years, and have lived in the old manse since their wedding.

Having no children they adopted 13 years ago the young son of Mrs. Hempstead's sister, Frankie Gardner, and gave him their name. The boy has a brother Charles, who is about his own age. There is employed on the farm Gilbert Edwards, a lad of 16, son of a neighbor, and three hired men. 

"When these strange things first began to happen," said Mr. Hempstead the other day, "I said nothing because I didn't want anyone to think that I was deluded. I was in the cornfield one day when a marble such as the boys play with about the house fell at my feet. Looking toward the house I saw that a screen in the second story had been pushed aside and a cloth was being waved from the window. Going into the house I found that no one had been in the room where the cloth was waved. No one had thrown a marble. The hired men were at work and the boys were out.

"I said nothing, but on Friday we discovered beans moving about the house in a most astonishing fashion. They were the same sort of beans as the ones we raised and had been laid ! out on the attic floor to dry. Of course, beans will sometimes dry in the pods, and on a hot day will split open and bounce around, but I never saw any beans that could come down the attic stairs, move around the room, cut square corners and fall on the floor. There was a bean in the northeast room that came out of the north wall, sailed across the room, cut around the sewing machine and after making several corners fell on the floor. Naturally we began to get nervous when marbles that the boys had not touched for months began to move about the house.  They would come in at a door, move across the room and stop. We made certain that it was not the work of the boys because these things happened when the boys were out of the house. 

"For example, several old rusty keys that had been lost for years came bounding down the stairs from the attic into the rooms upstairs and were picked up. I made sure no one was in the attic. I have heard some of our visitors account for the thing by electricity.  We have a telephone, and the wire runs half around the house and in at the dining room window. But I have never heard that a telephone wire would do this thing." 


One peculiar thing about the phenomena is the queer action of Tige, the watchdog, when anything happens. He capers about the yard, showing no supernatural fear or agitation but every indication of joy. The old house has many rats and squirrels live in the roof, but even they could not do some of the things that have happened.

There are swallows in the chimney, but they never come into the attic. Altogether it is a most remarkable daylight mystery. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Close Encounters of the Floyd Kind

"Akron Beacon Journal," February 27, 1977, via Newspapers.com

It is, of course, common for police officers to chase down suspicious vehicles.  It’s just not every day that the vehicle is a UFO named Floyd.

Our little road trip through The Weird began around 5 a.m. on April 17, 1966, on Route 224 in Portage County, Ohio.  Deputy Sheriff Dale Spaur and mounted deputy Wilbur “Barney” Neff were approaching an abandoned car they had noticed on the side of the road.  It was full of radios and walkie-talkies.  More ominously, on the side of the car was a triangle surrounding a lightning bolt and the words, “Seven Steps to Hell.”

It seemed like the sort of thing that warranted a cautious investigation.

However, the car was soon forgotten when the officers were confronted with something even stranger: a large, brightly illuminated silver flying object emerged from the woods behind them, rising to a level of about one hundred feet.  It was about forty feet wide and eighteen feet tall, and gave off a loud hum.  As the UFO began moving east, Spaur told his dispatcher what they were seeing, and was instructed to start a pursuit.

At first, the men had no trouble following the object, although they had to get up to 100 miles an hour to keep it in close range.  As they drove, they kept the dispatcher informed of their progress.  As they approached East Palestine, Ohio, another officer named H. Wayne Huston happened to listen in on their commentary, and decided to join the fun.  He stopped at an intersection he knew the men would have to pass.  Soon afterward, he saw the UFO glide past him, followed by Spaur and Neff.  Huston started up his car and joined the High Strangeness parade.

The chase finally ended in Conway, Pennsylvania, when Spaur began running out of gas.  He pulled over to ask a local policeman for help.  As the officer was on his radio seeking advice on how to handle a high-speed UFO chase, Huston pulled up with them.  All this while, the flying object hovered nearby, as if it was waiting for its new friends to resume the game.  After a few minutes, the officers heard on their radios that Air Force jets were being sent over to investigate the craft.  Whoever or whatever was piloting the object was evidently listening in, as the news caused it to immediately shoot straight up and disappear.

There was an official investigation of the incident, with the authorities concluding that the men had simply misidentified Venus as the “UFO.”  Or perhaps it was a satellite.  In any case, it was all a bit fat nothingburger.  Case closed.  Move on and shut up.

A word of advice from Aunt Undine:  If you should ever encounter a UFO, it might be wisest to keep that interesting fact to yourself.  The publicity--and public ridicule--that followed news reports of this early-morning chase played hell on the lives of all the men involved.  The Pennsylvania cop Spaur had talked to had to remove his phone line.  Huston changed his name to “Harold W. Huston,” left the police force, and fled to Seattle to become a bus driver.  Neff simply clammed up.  His wife Jackelyne told a reporter, “He never talks about it anymore.  Once he told me, ‘If that thing landed in my back yard, I wouldn’t tell a soul.’  He’s been through a wringer.”  Spaur, who had spoken the most to the press, fared worst of all.  The nonstop harassment from reporters, UFO researchers, and cranks drove him to something approaching a nervous breakdown.  Everywhere he went--even church--he was identified as the local flying saucer-chaser.  Each night, he would have nightmares about chasing the craft.  By the time six months had passed, he had quit his job, his wife divorced him, and for a time he was a homeless drifter, existing on odd jobs.  He once said, “After I saw the damn thing, my entire life came crashing down around my shoulders.”  (Thankfully, Spaur eventually remarried, found new work, and got his life back on track.)

There was a sequel to this ill-starred Close Encounter.  It took place one day in June 1966, shortly before Spaur left the police force.  His department--fearing any more press attention--agreed that if any of them should see the UFO again, they would use the code word “Floyd.”  (Spaur’s middle name.)  As Spaur was driving down I-80 just outside of Cleveland, he saw the silver flying saucer hovering over him.  Spaur muttered into his radio, “Floyd’s here with me.”  He then pulled off the road, lit a cigarette, and brooded for about fifteen minutes.  When he nervously looked out his window again, the craft was gone.

At this point, you’re probably also wondering about the strange “Seven Steps to Hell” car that kicked off this whole Fortean mess.  So is everyone else.  When police went back to where the car had been abandoned, it too had vanished, never to be seen again.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to the first Link Dump of Spring 2024!

The Strange Company staffers have already begun the spring cleaning around Headquarters.

From Richard III to ancient Roman statues: People find the damnedest things in UK parking lots.

Yet another deadly drunken rage.

How a ghost inspired modern chiropractic medicine.

Karl von Drais and his "running machine."

10 lost places.

Don't kiss the bride!

The cats of Turkey.

The father of modern rocketry had some odd ideas about clouds.

HMS Flora, 1780.

The mythology of eggs.

The legend of the Kap Dwa giant.

Stone Age boats.

A genealogical mystery: the life of a black man in early 19th century Iceland.

Henry VIII's pastry tent.

Uncovering mass graves of 13th century Crusaders.

The art of Renaissance clothing.

Amelia Earhart vs. the Queen of Diamonds.

Expressive medieval women.

Swooning medieval knights.

Edgar Allan Poe, time-traveler.

The controversy over the "world's oldest pyramid."

The artists of the East India Company.

Where Easter is all about the hare pie and bottle kicking.

The life of Mary Wollstonecraft.

Painting a dead Emperor.

8,600 year-old bread.

The evolution of pie.

Dogs have been our best friends for a long, long time.

Saving a woman from drowning, 1898.

St. Patrick's portal to purgatory.

A collection of newsworthy dogs.

Arguably the most famous time-slip story.

A famous 1809 duel.

The eclipses of doom.

Why we can't find the source of the Nile.

The face on the barroom floor.

Lester the police horse.

Recreating Otzi the Iceman's tattoos.

Nikola Tesla's mystery signal.

The slang of Smithfield.

Bronze Age "cozy domesticity."

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a remarkable UFO encounter.  In the meantime, here's some Celtic Thunder.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

It’s not every day that your husband’s ghost drops by to warn you that you’re going to Hell.  The “Kentucky Advocate,” July 17, 1874:

Mrs. Eliza Green, aged about 30 years, now living in this place (Springfield, Ky.), a lady of irreproachable character and of decided nerve and courage, having a fair English education, and in possession of tolerable good health, details the following curious incidents as having occurred with her and at her residence since the death of her husband last spring: 

On the 18th of March, 1874, Mr. Green died after a protracted illness, leaving Mrs. Green with a family of six young children with little or no means of support. A short time after Mr. Green's death, say about three months, Mrs. Green heard singular noises about her house after night and sometimes in the day time, heavy breathings and moans resembling a person in the agonies of death, at one time she heard a noise under the house like a horse rolling about and pawing violently as though in the agonies of death. Again she saw frequently in her room at night after the lamp was lighted, a shadowy figure resembling the head and shoulders of a medium-sized man moving around the wall next the ceiling and uniformly as the shadow reached the lamp the flame was extinguished, and this phenomenon happened as often as four or five times in a night. At one time when she and her family with some visitors were sitting quietly in the room, the front door without any visible cause, was seen to fly violently open and shut again as violently, and so violently as to jar boxes of flowers placed In the window out of it.

At other times when the lights were burning, footsteps were heard by her in the room as though a grown person in slippers were walking over the floor, and yet no object could be seen. At one time she thought she heard some person noisily approaching the front door as about to enter. Upon opening the door, however, no one could be seen. Again near the steps of the back door she thought she saw, after dark, a small, white dog resembling one she knew in the neighborhood; that she approached it with the view of taking it up and carrying it in the house, but it eluded her grasp and mysteriously passed away.

At another time the back door of her room seemed half filled with a white, gauzy cloud not resembling anything, only a white figure, which alarmed her, and she ran out of the house; the apparition disappeared. Other persons, friends and relatives, have been present on some of these occasions, and corroborate Mrs. Green's statements. 

The most mysterious and crowning development related by her is said to have occurred on the 30th ult., about 11 o'clock A.M.  She was in the cellar of the house getting kindling wood, and, in stooping down, thought she saw the lower limbs and feet of Mr. Green standing by her, and immediately felt the pressure of a cold band upon her shoulder. She turned and looked, and reports that her husband stood before her just as he appeared when she last saw him in his burial clothes, When she exclaimed: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed me, Dick, what do you want?" and that he spoke audibly to her in his natural tone of voice and language, telling her that the sufferings of this life were in no way to be compared to those of the other world, and that he was permitted to come back to her to advise her of her neglect of duty, and to urge her to act otherwise. He also sent by her messages to his brother Charles Green, Mrs. Rachel Walker, and to Miss Edgerton, all living here. He further requested her to have three masses said for the repose of his soul; one on the first Saturday in this month, and the others on the two following Saturdays. He further informed her that he would not visibly appear to her again, but could have appeared twice more had he desired to do so, but not to her but to other persons named by him his kindred. Then repeating the word "friend" three times he vanished from sight. Mrs. Green says she has heard loud knocking on the floors and heard groanings, as of a person in extreme distress, since, but has seen nothing more.

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Ghostly Strangler

Encountering a ghost may be a strange, possibly terrifying experience, but fortunately they are rarely harmful.  However, every now and then there is an account of a spirit that is not just malevolent, but physically dangerous.  One such story was told by folklorist Mary L. Lewes in the December 1912 issue of “Occult Review.”  It concerns a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Caxton.  At the time of Lewes writing her story, the Caxtons had recently moved to Wales after spending some years farming in South Africa.  As Lewes showed, they had very good reasons to emigrate.

The Caxtons’ South African farm had previously been owned by a man with an evil reputation--so evil, that he finally met his end when one of his many enemies poisoned him.  Thereafter, the farm was considered to be cursed: livestock died unnatural deaths, crops would not grow, and so many other unlucky things happened that most people refused to go near the place.

The Caxtons, however, were strong-willed, fearless, and determined to make a go of the farm. When they would periodically hear a horse galloping to the house, followed by the sound of someone jumping off the animal and banging on the door, only to find no one there when they looked outside, the couple shrugged it off as just part of life’s little oddities.

On one occasion, the Caxtons gave shelter to a passing traveler.  As it was a small house, the man had to sleep in the parlor.  The next morning, the terrified stranger announced that “someone” had tried to strangle him while he slept.

Even this news failed to dissuade the Caxtons.  In the end, it was not ghosts that finally convinced the couple to give up the farm, but their simple inability to make a decent living from the place.  While they were moving out, Mr. Caxton spent one night on a mattress he placed on the parlor floor.  Suddenly, he was awakened from sleep by something that jumped on him and began clawing at his throat.  After a long and violent struggle, Caxton managed to roll against the wall.  As soon as he did so, his invisible attacker disappeared.  When dawn finally came, Caxton found that his throat and chest were covered with large red finger-marks that lingered for days afterward.  The shock was enough to give this normally stoic farmer a nervous collapse.

The friend who sent Lewes the story commented, “My theory about this is that the previous owner, being a very wicked man, was earth-bound and having been hurried prematurely out of life was extra strong, and was simply trying to get hold of a new body…That room was most likely the one he died in, and as he was strongest there, a sleeping person would of course be the very thing for him.”  Neither Lewes nor her informant could explain why Caxton touching the parlor wall caused the evil force to vanish.

All I can add to this eerie little tale is that when people tell you a certain place is cursed, it’s usually wisest to take them at their word.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to our pre-St. Patrick's Day Link Dump!

What the hell were the Phoenix Lights?

An iconic tree is getting a second chance at life.

It's oddly depressing to realize that the ocean's depths are filled with cans of Spam.

The great monkey chase at Bishop Auckland.

A brief history of the lunchbox.

Elizabeth I's Swedish lady of the privy chamber.

Why you would not want to be a Mesopotamian stand-in king.

Merchantman vs. a French privateer.

In which we meet some Cockney Cats.

The time the Nazis tried to bomb a Pennsylvania Railroad.

The darker side of London's Zoological Gardens.

The explosion of the Natchez Drug Company.

The excavation of a Neolithic site.

The manhunt for John Wilkes Booth.

A poltergeist in Zimbabwe.

The notorious "Chicago May."

Why we call them "cottage industries."

UK's giant redwoods.

Mysterious Ice Age "queens."

A 3,300-year-old description of a catastrophic invasion.

Hearing the cry of the banshee.

The beginnings of the Guinness World Records.

Predicting eclipses in ancient China.

The man who spent nearly his whole life inside an iron lung.

Shropshire death folklore.

The enslaved boy who revolutionized the vanilla industry.

A murder-for-hire case featuring death spells.

The only woman to be executed in Minnesota.

The "Bold Defiance" of 18th century journeymen weavers.

A Russian princess in the Age of Enlightenment.

Applications for Trinity House pensions.

The mystery of the Yuba City Five.

The mystery of a Vietnam "lost pilot."

The mystery of the Byward Tower Hand.

In search of the site of a 19th century murder.

The life of Margaret of Austria.

How witches came to be associated with broomsticks.

The life of Henry IV's sister, Elizabeth.

Rethinking George Washington's 1754 defeat.

The kayaker and the "mystery creature."

Sudden deaths and foul suspicions.

A curious herbal.

That wraps it up for another week!  See you on Monday, when we'll meet a particularly dangerous ghost.  In the meantime, here's Patsy Cline.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This account of a UFO (or, if you prefer, “something weird that came down from the sky”) appeared in the Fort Myers “News-Press,” July 28, 1984:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) A spark-tailed fireball splashed down Friday off Lummi Island, sending a plume of water 100 feet high before it sank and bubbled, a fishing boat crew reported. The Coast Guard investigated but found no debris. Checks with other authorities revealed no missing planes or space junk crashing in the area and the object remained an "unknown flying object," said Petty Officer Gene Hoff in Seattle.

"It depends on what you care to believe. I have personally never seen a UFO, but anything is possible, I guess," he said. 

The Coast Guard has no plans to investigate further. The object apparently sank in water 270 feet deep in an area of intense currents in Rosario Strait and it would be "difficult to do a survey down there," said Rich Rogala, the officer in charge of the Coast Guard station at Bellingham, which sent a boat to the scene. "A white and orange fireball trailing sparks was observed by the fishing vessel 'Steeva Ten.' It was traveling west to east and dived into the water," he said.

"The observation was very brief. The impact sent a plume of water about 100 feet in height." The incident was reported at 3:45 a.m. Friday about 1,000 yards south of Lummi Island, about eight miles south of Bellingham In the inland waters of north west Washington. The splashdown was reported to the Coast Guard by the "Steeva Ten," a 42-foot fishing vessel tender. A flash in the sky was noticed at the same time by a tugboat at Anacortes about five miles to the south, Rogala said.

He speculated it could have been a meteorite. But there are a couple of other mysteries in the Coast Guard report. "The crew of the fishing vessel said the object dropped straight down and just before it hit the water it did a 'U' and came back up, then went down," Hoff said. 

And a crewman aboard the Coast Guard vessel that found no debris noticed an "object, white in color, in the sky at the south end of Lummi Island," Rogala said. The crewman saw the object while his vessel was searching for debris from the earlier "flash." 

The Coast Guard vessel searched the area for more than an hour with the master of the fishing vessel, Richard Dale Hartman of Port Orchard, and found no debris, Rogala said. The Coast Guard checked with the nearby Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and nothing unusual had been sighted on radar there, Hoff said.

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Strange Deaths of Ruby Bruguier and Arnold Archambeau

"Sioux Falls Argus-Leader," February 12, 1994, via Newspapers.com

In this blog, I have written about people who die under highly mysterious circumstances--so mysterious, that it is impossible to say whether or not their deaths were the result of foul play.  Other times, there are stories of corpses simply being found in places that make no sense.  The following tale involves both these elements.

Arnold Archambeau and Ruby Ann Bruguier were members of the Yankton Sioux tribe.  They knew each other since childhood, as they both grew up on the reservation in Charles Mix County, South Dakota.  When Arnold’s mother died not many years after his 1972 birth, the boy moved in with an aunt, Karen Tuttle.  Ruby, born in 1974, was one of the eight children of Quentin and Myrtle Bruguier.  Arnold was said to be something of a “party animal,” but he and Ruby were both considered to be “nice kids,” well-liked, close to their relatives and not the sort to get into any serious mischief.  

When Arnold and Ruby were in high school, their long friendship turned into romance, a relationship which resulted in Ruby giving birth to their daughter, Erika Marie, in 1991.  After the baby’s arrival, the new mother and her child also moved in with Arnold’s aunt.  Arnold worked at Fort Randall Casino, where he was considered to be a good employee.

On the night of December 11, 1992, the young couple decided they needed a break from the duties of parenthood.  They left little Erika in the care of Ruby’s uncle, Charlie Dion, and went out for a night on the town.  Accompanying them was Charlie’s 17-year-old daughter Tracy.

When the trio returned to the uncle’s house early the next morning, it was obvious that all three were drunk.  Tragically, instead of insisting that they sleep it off before driving anywhere else, the uncle merely advised them that he would continue to look after the baby until they had sobered up.  For whatever reason--perhaps she wished to avoid a fatherly lecture--Tracy left with her friends.

Around 7 a.m., their car, with Arnold at the wheel, paused at a stop sign.  As the car moved on, it hit some black ice, which led to Arnold losing control.  The car flipped over into a ditch by the side of the road.

Tracy had only vague memories of what happened next.  Arnold was no longer in the car.  Ruby was able to get her door open wide enough to squeeze her way out.  Although Tracy begged her not to leave her there, Ruby also walked away.  As Tracy was upside down and still in the car, she could not see where her friends went, but she did not think they were badly injured.  Tracy, shaken and confused, remained in the car until an ambulance and police arrived on the scene.  These authorities found no sign of Arnold and Ruby.  When Tracy explained what happened, a search was launched in the area of the crash, but no trace was found of the missing couple.  Police quickly concluded that the pair, fearing that Arnold would face drunk driving charges, were merely in hiding.  (Although authorities considered it highly unusual that Ruby would voluntarily disappear, considering that she was still breastfeeding her baby.)  The police reported that a witness had seen Arnold and Ruby get into another car immediately after the crash, but we know nothing more about this claim.

"Sioux Falls Argus-Leader," March 13, 1993

There were subsequent alleged sightings of Arnold.  A woman who knew him well stated that she had seen him on New Year’s Eve.  Other witnesses claimed to have seen both him and Ruby, but these reports were all uncorroborated.  

The whereabouts of the couple remained a mystery for three months.  Then, on March 10, a motorist saw a body floating in the ditch where the accident had occurred.  (Although the ditch had been dry at the time Arnold crashed his car, it now contained a few feet of water.)  The body was so badly decomposed, an autopsy and dental records were needed for it to be identified as the remains of Ruby Bruguier.  When the ditch was drained, Arnold’s body was also discovered.  Curiously, his corpse was much less decomposed--in fact, he looked as if he had died soon before his body was discovered.  While Ruby was wearing the same clothes from the morning of the accident, (although her shoes and eyeglasses were missing,) it’s unknown whether or not Arnold was wearing the outfit he had on when he disappeared.  Strangest of all, Arnold had three keys in one of his pockets.  Investigators were unable to find the homes or cars they belonged to.  A clump of hair was found on the edge of the road about 30 feet from where Ruby’s body was discovered.  Forensic testing determined the hair was hers.  However, it was believed impossible that the hair had remained there for the three months she had been missing.

The coroner determined that both Arnold and Ruby had died of hypothermia.  However, he could not say when or where either of them passed away.  Investigators--citing the failure to find either of them during the initial search, or in the weeks following their disappearance--thought it was almost certain that both of them died elsewhere, with an unknown “someone” subsequently returning their bodies to the scene of the accident.  If such was the case, that leads to some very obvious questions:  Where did Arnold and Ruby go?  Did they really die of exposure, or were they murdered?  Who placed their bodies in the ditch, and why?  No one could say.  

The FBI eventually took over the case, only to close it four years later due to the lack of evidence suggesting foul play.  In the words of Special Agent Matt Miller, “All we know is that they appeared in the ditch and that was it.”  In the years since then, no information has emerged to help change that bleak verdict.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Enjoy this week's Link Dump!

And then feel free to join the Strange Company HQ staffers for some winter fun!

The real-life Moriarty.

History's biggest art fraud.

The Sublime Society of Beefsteaks.

That ongoing debate about whether King Arthur was a real historical figure.

The father of American sign language.

The miser and his cats.

A vagabond Mughal princess.

The sisters who got us all singing "Happy Birthday."

Some of dentistry's weirder moments.

A puzzling grave.

The oldest known human presence in Europe.

The election of an imprisoned MP.

An American GI's remarkable survival story.

Rabies and the mad stone.

Bog bodies as archaeological cold cases.

The ever-popular Comet Strike Theory.

A Swedish female adventurer.

The treasures found in a 1,300-year-old Panamanian tomb.

A mysterious celebrity hangman.

The women of the ancient Roman military.

A case of tooth-snatching.

How gardens can be murder.

The real "Birdman of Alcatraz."

The first powered flight.

The Denisovans really got around.

Surviving Antarctica with silly stories.

The East India Company and the "spinsterhood of India."

The life of Hildegarde of Bingen.

The Flour War.

The horrors of Georgian-era dropsy.

The history behind a portrait.

Some early female detectives.

The face of Dante.

The Witch of Burslem.

The story behind a 200-year-old jumper.

The legacy of Louis Braille.

A case of "justifiable homicide."

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the bizarre deaths of a young couple.  In the meantime, here's what happens when Vikings meet the Rolling Stones.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This odd little story appeared in the “Burlington Republican,” March 20, 1884.  It is a reprint from the “Gatesville (Texas) Advance.” (Via Newspapers.com)

Last week Mrs. Reneau, who with her husband and family lived on Coryell Creek, some five miles from Turnersville, died rather suddenly. At the time of her death several neighbors were present, together with the attending physicians, Dr. J. D. Calaway, of Turnersville, and Dr. Toland, of Jonesboro.

When the spirit had parted from the body and wended its way to the home above, a sight was seen which, to the faithful ones who were watching by the couch, was as startling as it was real. The spectacle presented itself just above the house and was frightful in the extreme. Six coffins of different sizes were seen to come and hover immediately above the house. The night was dark, and ordinary objects at any distance were invisible, but the coffins were as plainly seen as they would have been in broad daylight. When the gaunt and ghastly coffins had been visible for some time they disappeared, and as they seemed to glide gently upward sounds of the sweetest and most melodious music were heard, and seemed to accompany the dark omens in the journey toward the skies.

We did not see any of the parties who saw the strange phenomenon, but no doubt can be entertained of their veracity, or the facts regarding the strange sight as herein stated. The phenomenon was indeed a curious one and we do not remember to have ever chronicled such a rare occurrence before.

Monday, March 4, 2024

All Shook Up: A Case of Louisville Witchcraft

For a period during 1894-5, the “Louisville Courier-Journal” covered--in a remarkably matter-of-fact way--a series of bizarre occurrences taking place in the city.  It is a tale of witchcraft and paranormal phenomena that sounds more like something out of medieval Europe than late 19th century America.

The fun started in November 1894, when Sallie Morton, the proprietor of what the “Courier-Journal” euphemistically called a “disorderly house,” found salt sprinkled in her yard.  Subsequently, Morton found that someone had hidden in her bed a bundle of red flannel containing human hair and three severed human figures.  Folklore says that all these items would bring death upon the unfortunate recipient.  

Clearly, someone was not overly fond of Ms. Morton.  Sallie believed that “someone” was her next door neighbor Alice Tucker, who managed a rival establishment.  It is not clear whether Tucker targeted Morton out of a desire to snag some of her customers, or because of simple personal spite.  Whatever the reasons for Tucker’s witchery, it proved highly effective.  On January 18, 1895, Morton obliged her enemy by suddenly dying of angina pectoris.

Morton’s demise was the kickoff for things really getting weird.  After the coroner had examined her corpse, the body was carried upstairs to be prepared for burial.  While this sad task was going on, everyone present in the house heard “four pieces of mournful music” emanating from the piano in the parlor.

No one was near the piano at the time.  Or, to be more accurate, no one among the living was near the piano.

That night, the bed holding Morton’s corpse began shaking.  Then, the entire bedroom started quaking, to the point where “a glass of water could not be kept on the dresser or mattress without a weight being placed on it.”  A mirror on the wall swayed back and forth. Several women in attendance fainted, most notably Alice Tucker, who was probably shocked by the potency of her curses.  The shaking continued all the following day, attracting a crowd of some 1,500 Louisvillians with nothing better to do.  Policemen were summoned, but all they could conclude was the unhelpful statement that the floor was shaky.

The funeral took place in Morton’s home/bordello on January 20, although there was no preacher in attendance.  A quaint touch was provided by a fellow known only as “Slippery Bill,” who had the brilliant idea of charging people ten cents each for the privilege of entering the house and gazing at the still-shaking bed.  These looky-loos apparently provided the only burial ceremony.  Bill’s entrepreneurial spirit earned him about ten dollars until the police shooed him off.

Even after Morton was buried, she was apparently not resting in peace.  Days after the funeral, Alice Tucker--no doubt unnerved at the possibility of Sallie seeking revenge from beyond the grave--repeatedly called the police complaining of the eerie noises coming from Morton’s now-empty house.  Some of the neighbors were so terrified, they moved away.

As late as 1904, the “Courier-Journal” reported that Morton’s long-deserted home was still believed to be haunted.  The owner was unable to find anyone willing to live there, due to “the taint of the hoodoo.”

Friday, March 1, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

The Strange Company staffers are busy reviewing next Monday's post.

Watch out for Thundercow!

What the hell is the Eye of the Sahara?

The last years of Michelangelo.

Queen Charlotte's Drawing Room, 1818.

A chapel's Victorian restrooms.

This may be the world's oldest known lipstick.

A scandalous Elizabethan viscount.

Sailing craft vs. WWI U-boats.

The bizarre story of the Gold Leaf Lady.

The women of the Roman Empire.

The groundhog watchers.

Mourning as "floral vulgarities."

A look at naval commander Oliver Hazard Perry.

Napoleon's goals.

Julius Caesar's Year of Confusion.

Why Leap Year is in February.

The rock band that literally burned up all its cash.  They really could've given it to me instead.

The old courtship tradition of "bundling."

More evidence suggesting Neanderthals were more advanced than we've thought.

A winter afternoon in Brompton Cemetery.

The wonders of silk.

Remembering Mrs. Charles Fort.

A pregnant woman's mysterious death.

Princess Poniatowski visits England.

Mark Twain and Joan of Arc.

The life of Claude de Valois.

The Great Wall of Mongolia.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at some witchy doings in Louisville.  In the meantime, here's something you don't find every day: Chinese bluegrass!