"...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, May 31, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week, the Strange Company staffers are taking a road trip!

Some remarkable pie art.

The war on East End vice.

Hearing a dead man groan.

A look at the "cunning folk."

Colorado's black cowboys.

A rescue, despite the odds.

That time robbers broke into a jail.

Why we need earthquakes.

The high school library with a mysterious mummified head.

How to dissolve the British Parliament.

Krishna: Man or myth?

From Civil War doctor to cult leader.

The "thousand-bomber raids" against Nazi Germany.

The diary of a Victorian bank clerk.

Wild saints and holy fools.

The story behind "Dali Atomicus."

Why it's called a "hamburger."

The origins of some popular songs.

The birth of Britain's National Gallery.

A look at the "Irish exit."

The world's oldest known pearl.

Jews in 18th century Wales.

The Great Airship Flap.

America's first female POW in Vietnam.

The concept of "sonic seasoning."

The mystery of Neanderthal language.

The mystery of numbers station UVB-76.

A funeral for a very scary ham.

The story behind some hidden love letters.

The man who broke the news that Mount Everest had been climbed.

How mathematical probabilities led to gambling casinos.

The ropemakers of Stepney.

The first celebrity actress.

The unsolved "icebox murder."

You can boil an egg or you can climb Everest.  Not both.

The "Holy Grail of shipwrecks."

Prehistoric domesticated cats.

Empress Matilda, who may or may not have been Queen of England.

The first photo of an electric chair execution.

Not Bruce Mayrock.

Crows can count out loud, which is more than I can say for some humans nowadays.

The Tolstoy family reunion.

A child murders his parents.

The oldest known human viruses.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll meet a resident of an English village who had a few posthumous surprises.  In the meantime, this song seemed appropriate for this blog.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Here’s something a little different for this space:  The adventures of a famed four-legged WWII veteran.  The “Australian Woman’s Weekly,” May 3, 1941:

This is the story of Tawny the Caldew cat, the most celebrated cat of Great War II. Three people helped to make Tawny famous--a young British seaman and two Australian girls in the British Consulate at Gothenburg, Sweden. Tawny's adventures, which began with the torpedoing of the British trawler Caldew, have been chronicled in a despatch to the Admiralty, in the august London "Times," the New York "Times," in Scottish, American, and Belgian newspapers. The "Times" mentioned him in a leading article, a Swedish poet wrote a verse in his honor, and a Swedish cartoonist portrayed him sitting on a copy of the "Times." And now one of the Australian girls who put him on the road to fame, Miss Elizabeth a 'Dare, has returned to Australia with the story. She and Miss Ima Barra, both Australian girls, both actresses, were stranded because of the war in Gothenburg, Sweden.

There they started work at the British Consulate. One day they heard the Consulate's naval adviser, Captain Clover, talking on the trunk line: "Yes, drown the cat," they heard him say. "It's the only thing to do with it." "Drown a cat! Whose cat?" shrieked the two Australians. "A torpedoed ship's cat. British," Captain Clover told them. 

"Well, you certainly can't drown their cat," said the two women. "It costs a lot of money to land a cat in a foreign country," explained Captain Clover.

"It doesn't matter. We'll pay for it," they said.

From Captain Clover they learned the story of Tawny. A week before, an English trawler, the Caldew, put out to sea in the direction of the Faroe Islands. While on its way it was overtaken and stopped by a German submarine. The captain and crew of eleven were given ten minutes to get off the trawler. One of the crew, a boy of nineteen, sacrificed his personal belongings and made a frenzied search for Tawny, the ship's tomcat. Then with Tawny in his arms he joined his companions in the lifeboat.

The submarine then blew the trawler to pieces and went off, leaving the crew tossing in the small lifeboat. A day or two later the men were picked up by the Swedish motor ship Kronprincessan Margareta, which was on its way to Gothenburg. But, the Swedish ship was still outside Swedish territorial waters when she was overtaken by two German destroyers which had orders to stop the Kronprincessan and take the Englishmen aboard as prisoners. The German destroyers, however, refused the cat. Parted from his English master, Tawny made friends with the Swedish crew.

At Gothenburg there were difficulties. To land a foreign cat in any country is troublesome, because of quarantine regulations. The Swedish captain accordingly telephoned the Consulate, first to report the story of the English sailors, secondly to ask what to do with the cat. "It was then that we heard the telephone call," said Miss a'Dare. "Captain Clover warned us of the expense of quarantining and the difficulties of finding a home for the animal. "But we were determined that a cat who had escaped being torpedoed, a cat for whom his master had risked his life, should not be drowned.

"Much telephoning had to be done! First to the ship, to stop the execution order. Then a long-distance call to the British Legation in Stockholm requesting permission to keep the cat. Then to a veterinary surgeon who visited the ship to certify that Tawny was in good health. Finally to the quarantine station, which sent an officer to collect him.

A telegram was dispatched to the British Admiralty to tell of the Caldew's fate. At the end of it was the message, "Ship's cat safe and being cared for by ladies of Consulate." While Tawny was in quarantine his story was printed in Swedish newspapers, and letters poured in from cat lovers, many people sending contributions. (Incidentally the expenses came to nearly £10). One letter was addressed. "Fru Barnes, Cat Lady, British Consulate," another to "Chief of Cat Department," a third to "Kind person who saved katt." Best of all is the following letter brought back by Miss a'Dare.

"I am ola swedish woman. No english can I. My son is a seeman. He speak english like englishman. He helped write this letter.

I red about katt. It is kindly of you to help him. I like them very much. Have 4 self. Such nice animals.

I am poor but send 50 ore' (about sixpence) "Plis by fish for it. Katts like fish. The ware such nice animals. The are too very good for amatism. I have it in my back but wen she steps in my back I am very bettre. Hav you reumatism.

"Yours truly, Hulda Carlasson." 

And another: "I hat read with pleasure so much that you interest yourself entirely about one poor English cat; he is I think saved three times from a death in the sea. "I hope so much that I may be allowed to seen you dear Miss Barnes, one kroner for to buy this cat some good Svedish milk. 

"Yours faithfully, JOHN ERICSSON." 

Miss a'Dare at first hoped to bring the cat home to Australia with her. But when she set about getting visas for herself to travel via Russia, the Black Sea, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and India she realised that quarantines in these countries for Tawny would occupy the rest of his life. So she and Miss Barnes accepted one of the numerous offers of a home for the cat--of an English racehorse trainer in Sweden, Mr. Herbert Brown. With Mr. and Mrs. Brown, two spaniels, and the racehorses, Tawny nowadays travels from one end of Sweden to the other.

Twice he has been kicked by racehorses--because of his habit of jumping on their backs when they are being groomed--and twice saved by the care of the vet. That accounts so far for five of his nine lives. His original rescuer, the young seaman, now in an internment camp in Germany, hears regular news of him from Mr. and Mrs. Brown, Captain Clover became so interested in the animal that he devoted a special file to him in the Consulate records.

This, including clippings, statement of receipts and expenditure, and letters, has been brought to Australia by Miss a Dare, It is labelled "Le Chat Fidele"--the faithful cat--although, as the Stockholm correspondent of the "Times" said, "faithful seemed more a description of the letter-writers than the object of their solicitude."

I was unable to find out anything about Tawny’s subsequent career, but after all his close calls, I hope he went on to have a long and peaceful life.  One where he learned to avoid racehorses.

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Poltergeist of Cisco

The archives of the Humble Oil & Refining Company are about the last place where you’d expect to run across a first-rate poltergeist account, but it just goes to show that we live in a funny old world.  In 1948, a folklorist and historian was browsing through the company’s papers when he came across a letter that had absolutely nothing to do with oil.  It read:

Jan [illegible] '26

Mineral Wells

Manager Humble Oil Co. Cisco

Dear Sir

I know you will think I am batty but I hope I am not. I understand from Mr. R T. Woodson who is figuring with you to lease the old B Y. Woodson farm 6 miles south of Cisco. B Y Woodson was my wifes Grandfather.... Now this is a Spooky Story but Its a fact In the Early day in the Setling up of that Teritory B Y Woodson bought that place from yet an earlier Setler with the one Room log-house which Still remaines in part & after living there some years thare got to be some Strange things going on thare would be Knocking on the wall outside & finally whatever it was would get up Stairs while the family was all in the Room & throw Rocks Eggs Butcher Knives & all Kinds of things from up Stairs & they would rush up Stairs & make a Search & not a thing to be found & hundreds of People went thare & witnessed that performance & the mistery was never Solved & Every one believed that there was Some Kind of Treasure under the house & all at once all of that monkeying quit. If you will go & have a look around just whare the house stands you will find a Tea Pot dome with lots of black Oil & gas rocks on it & thare may be oil there. I forgot to say that the first Strange thing that happened thare was late one night my wifes father & another man was in the Room Setting by the fire & all of a Suddent a small cole black little Negro Boy Stood before them & Said nor done nothing for a flew minutes & then Vanished. Say I'll be(t) an oil well you wont go down there & spend a night in that house all alone. Now if you Will put down a well at the South West Corner of the log Shack you are bound to get a big oil well as thats whare the Spook always started to perform. I go down thare every Fall to gather Pecans... Let me hear how you like this Spook Story.... yours Truly

A C. Traweek

714 E. Hubbard St.

The historian was naturally intrigued, and wondered if there was any way of gathering more details about this bit of The Weird.  After asking around, he was directed to a Cisco oil man, O.G. Lawson.  Lawson was delighted to do a little sleuthing.  In April 1949, his efforts were rewarded when he found an elderly man named Lafayette Walters, who had known the Woodsons well.  Walters introduced him to R.T. Woodson, the last surviving member of the family, who had been a boy of twelve at the time of the “spook story.”  This enabled Lawson to piece together a fairly complete account of those strange days, which he eventually published in the “Journal of American Folklore,” for October-December 1951, under the self-explanatory title, “Texas Poltergeist, 1881.”

B.G. Woodson, along with his wife and six children, settled just outside of Cisco in 1877.  The Woodsons were a hard-working lot, and their farm proved to be a fertile one, so the family soon became one of the most prosperous households in the neighborhood.  They were well respected for their industry, their piety, and their honesty.

In March of 1881, the family’s busy, but pleasant, existence suddenly took a bizarre turn.  One evening, the Woodsons were sitting around the fire when they heard knocks on one of the boards covering a crack in their house.  The father went to the door, but saw no one there.  When the knocks continued, Mr. Woodson decided they must have been caused by a harness hanging on the front porch being knocked around by the wind.  However, taking the harness down failed to stop the noise.

After that, the family heard the knocks nearly every night, usually preceded by the sound of a cat mewing.  The sounds generally ended at midnight, with the closing flourish being a noise resembling a large bird, such as a turkey, flying straight up in the air.  

Other disquieting things began happening.  R.T. Woodson, who shared a bedroom with his brothers Bose and John, recalled that at night, the boys would hear a small animal running up the stairway and into their room, where it hid behind a large trunk near their bed, growling and “popping his teeth.”

After several weeks, the pragmatic Woodsons were able to shrug off the strange phenomena.  Their neighbors, however, took a deeper interest.  Rumors spread that the weird noises were a sign that buried treasure lay somewhere on the Woodson land.

After a while, the Woodsons became relaxed enough to “prank” what they assumed was the family ghost.  They would ask the entity to “make a noise like a broom” or “go like a drunk man,” and the spirit would immediately oblige.  The spirit would answer simple questions, giving one knock for “yes,” and two for “no.”  On one occasion, during a visit from a neighbor named Ira Townsend, someone mischievously asked the ghost, “Did Ira Townsend ever steal a sheep?”  When one particularly loud knock rang out, Townsend indignantly retorted, “That’s a lie!  I never stole a sheep in my life!”  However, after a moment he remembered that, yes, when he was in the Confederate army, he was once desperate enough for food to grab someone’s sheep.

The ghost’s repertoire expanded.  During the day, rocks would periodically be thrown into the living room from upstairs.  The stones were usually decorated with a letter of the alphabet, but efforts to use them to form a coherent message were unsuccessful.  At night, the spirit would hurl around knives, forks, salt cellars, and bottles.  When anyone would be in the barn, they’d be greeted by a rock shower.  However, despite the size of these bombardments, no one was ever hit by them.  Sometimes, when a hen was sitting on eggs in a corner of the living room, the eggs would disappear from under her only to be thrown into the room from upstairs.  Oddly, the hen never seemed disturbed by this.

On at least one occasion, the ghost could be charitable.  Mrs. Woodson occasionally suffered from indigestion, which she would ease by chewing a little tobacco.  One day, she was feeling unwell, but had no tobacco.  As she was sitting by the fire, lamenting her loss, something fell into her lap.  It was a hunk of tobacco.

The Woodson front door was held shut by a wooden pin inserted in a hole in the door jamb.  One evening, in front of the entire family, the pin was thrown to the floor.  That happened repeatedly that night, but never when anyone was looking at the pin.

The strangest event of all took place when the oldest Woodson boy, Columbus, and a friend named Charlie Rucks sat up in the living room all night, in the hope of finally solving the mystery of these manifestations.  As they were sitting by the fire, a black child aged about three years old suddenly stood before them.  After a few minutes of staring silently at them, the child vanished as quickly as he had appeared.

Four weeks and one day after the first spectral knocks were heard, the family breakfast was interrupted by a rock thrown down the stairway.  That proved to be the “spook’s” farewell message.  After that, all the supernatural manifestations ended, for good.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

We have all the news!

The woman who walked across the Soviet Union.  On one leg.

Trying to win WWII with radioactive foxes.

Louis XIV and the Great Cipher.

Alexander the Great and the Battle of the Granicus.

Roman Emperors and their wild dinner parties.

Body lice and the Black Death.

A book annotated by John Milton somehow wound up in a Phoenix public library.

A medieval monk looks at the English Parliament.

In search of the lost apples of the Pacific Northwest.

What defines an English cottage?

Solving an ancient Assyrian code.

Coney Island's backstabbing theme parks.

Fresh flowers for Decoration Day.

A mysterious million-year-old skull.

Early reviews of future musical icons.

The Boss Butcher.

A branch of the Nile used to run past the Giza pyramids.

The execution that was the beginning of the end for the death penalty in Britain.

Did consciousness come before life?

America's first board game.

The woman who was murdered by rats.

The mystery of the Windover Bog Bodies.

An unlikely rescue.

The wolf who was a Navy mascot.

The wild world of sacred geometry.

Oddities and absurdities.

A look at the notorious Leopold and Loeb.

So maybe the British countryside really does have big cats roaming around.

Mesopotamia's haunted soldiers.

The era of Fern Fever.

The origins of the phrase, "like stink."

WWII's Allied air route into China.

Multi-talented medieval minstrels.

Maybe the Stone Age was really the Wood Age.

The boy who ran away to spend a week in a movie theater.

The Jessie Scouts of the American Civil War.

The Massacre of Wassy.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll meet a Texas poltergeist.  In the meantime, let's visit the 17th century:

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

More Mystery Fires, this time affecting a whole town, rather than one residence.  The Glasgow “Daily Record,” October 16, 1933:

Crieff police are puzzled as to the cause of the remarkable series of fires which have occurred this weekend. 

Between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon three outbreaks were reported to the police.

These outbreaks have occurred in a thickly populated area behind a narrow lane called Academy Road. 

Late on Saturday night a fire was discovered in a cellar below a dwelling-house in that area very near to a building which was destroyed by fire on Wednesday night. The alarm was raised by a neighbour who burst open the door. He was successful in extinguishing the blaze.

On Sunday afternoon in the same area an outbreak was discovered in a store belonging to Messrs. Harley and Watts Ltd., chemists. Huge volumes of smoke were observed pouring from the store in which large quantities of straw and packing material are kept. Mr. Alex Love, garage manager of Messrs. Duff and Son, motor hirers, broke down the door and with a fire extinguisher and a small hose prevented the flames from spreading to the large warehouse of Messrs. Fraser (Perth) Ltd. 

Later in the afternoon, the police were again called to deal with an outbreak of fire in a dwelling-house in Hill Street, which they managed to extinguish without summoning the fire brigade. There have been five outbreaks of fire in Crieff within a week.

Various buildings in and around Crieff continued to be plagued by these inexplicable blazes until at least the end of the year, when, as far as I can tell, they finally petered out.  I could not find any indication that the cause of these fires--whether it was a mad arsonist or something more Fortean--was ever discovered.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Missing Money and a Missing Man: Where is Mark Tomich?

"Indianapolis News," March 4, 1994, via Newspapers.com

29-year-old Mark Tomich of Indianapolis, Indiana was one of those people who seemed to have it all.  He was young, healthy, handsome, extremely intelligent, had plenty of money in the bank, and had a well-paying job as an organic chemist at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.  He was considered the perfect employee: organized, reliable, and talented.  Friends saw him as a “down to earth” sort with no vices.  The unmarried Tomich had no known serious romantic relationship.  He lived with his brother Steven, who was not only his sibling, but his best friend.  Mark seemed perfectly happy, and from all outward appearances, had every reason to be.

The morning of March 5, 1992, started off as usual.  Mark took a shower, ate breakfast, and at around 6:30 a.m. set off for work, in his usual good spirits.  He always left early for his job, in order to get his favorite parking space for his treasured white 1990 BMW.  He liked to park the car in a more out-of-the-way spot where it would be less likely to be scratched or dinged.

The first indication that something was wrong came at 8 a.m.  Mark’s boss called Steven, asking why Mark had not shown up for work.  When evening came without Mark returning home, Steven called a friend of his, an Indianapolis State Police trooper named Michael Snyder, to ask what he should do.  When Snyder went to Eli Lilly to investigate, he found Mark’s BMW in the parking lot, but not in its usual spot.  The car was locked, and nothing appeared to be missing from it.  This discovery caused Steven to file a missing person report.

This was one of those cases where law enforcement had virtually nothing to work with.  No one who knew Mark could provide any reason why he would want to abandon his congenial and comfortable life.  They certainly couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to harm him.  He was a likable man with no enemies.  A police detective said that as far as anyone could tell, Mark was “just a normal guy,” with “no skeletons in his closet.”  The one possible clue to his disappearance was the fact that, several weeks before he vanished, Mark withdrew $7,000 from his savings account.  At first, police suspected he had used the money to “start a new life,” but they abandoned that theory when it was learned that he had an even larger amount left in the account.  No one was able to learn what he did with the cash.

To date, that is all we know about the vanishing of Mark Tomich.  Police were unable to find any link between his unusual withdrawal of money and his disappearance, but there almost has to have been some connection.  Under normal circumstances, people do not take a large sum out of the bank without there being some discernable use for it.  Apparently, even his brother Steven was unaware that Mark had withdrawn money.  Perhaps I’m overlooking something, but I can think of only one obvious reason why someone would secretly take a sizable amount of cash from their bank account: blackmail.  Did someone have some kind of hidden information about Mark--not necessarily anything criminal, just something Tomich would prefer the world not know about?  And did this “someone,” knowing that Mark had a lot of money in the bank, seek to make a financial profit out of what they knew?  If this “someone” demanded--as blackmailers inevitably do--a second payment, did Mark refuse, leading to…something bad happening?

This is all pure speculation, of course.  Unfortunately, in the case of Mark Tomich, speculation is all we have.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

Game on!

The bizarre Chowchilla kidnapping.

The photo of what might be the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.

Did Marshal Ney have PTSD?

A visit to John Keats' house.

A pilgrimage ends in murder.

The vampire of Kisiljevo.

A clandestine war mission that ended with a laugh.

Iran's first selfie.

The enigma of "Lead Lady."

The strange doings in Littledean Gaol.

Ben Franklin, America's newsman.

A mysterious structure near the Giza pyramids.

Making the case for mermaids.

A man finds a mysterious inscription under his patio.

Ordinary travel in Early Modern England.

The 1952 Eastcastle Street Robbery.

The 1935 Croydon Aerodrome Robbery.

The history of an MP's court dress.

Beethoven and heavy metals.

Promoting an undertaker.

Christopher Marlowe's Norton Folgate.

The real pirates of the Caribbean.

Let your banquet run on too long, go to jail.

The multilingual medieval world.

A bit of art detective work.

A doctor's particularly disgusting scam.

London's second-best whore.  (Advisory: the story isn't exactly NSFW, but it's not for the kiddies, either.)

A "town of unique distinction."

A renowned eunuch Admiral.

The first human footsteps in North America.

The mystery mummies of San Bernardo.

The man who volunteered to go to Auschwitz.

A brief history of “Frère Jacques."

A pantomime murder witness.

The murder complex.

The animals of Governors Island.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at yet another weird disappearance.  In the meantime, here's some Palestrina.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

It’s Mystery Fires time!  The “Reno Gazette-Journal,” August 14, 1985:

JAMESTOWN, Calif. (UPI) - A historic hotel with a colorful Gold Rush past keeps bursting into flames. Its owners blame an arsonist--one that's been dead 100 years or so. Ghost experts say it could be the work of a grudge-bearing, bald-headed, pajama-clad spirit who may have caused the great Jamestown mining disaster in the 1850s that killed 23 people. In the past decade, the 123-year-old Willow Hotel has been struck by mysterious fires five times.

Flames nearly burned it to the ground in 1975 and the most recent blaze, on July 20, destroyed the former two-story hotel-restaurant's 80-year-old annex. "I said to myself, 'Oh no, not the ghosts again,' " said Deanna Mooney, who bought the hotel with her husband, Sean, in 1972. Former bartender Mike Cusentino, 55, said he first saw the apparition in 1973.

"I woke up one night in one of the eight hotel rooms upstairs and there's this little gray guy right at the door, about 6 feet away from me," he said. "He was in his 60s, bald-headed with a fringe of hair around the top wearing pajamas and a bathrobe. "I stared at him and in a matter of seconds he was gone." 

The Willows was once the pride of the "Gateway to the Mother Lode," as the Sierra foothills town of Jamestown was known during its wild mining days, and boasted gunslingers such as Bat Masterson among its guests. Parapsychologists called in to "exorcize" any spirits said they got rid of three of nine or more ghosts pervading the hotel. Ghostbuster Frank Nocerino said the arsonist could be one of several vengeful ghostly suspects, including the bald-headed spirit who may have also caused the cave-in of a gold mine shaft that runs underneath the hotel in the 1850s.

But he also believes the series of blazes could have been set by several people who died in a fire that burned nine buildings in 1896. The town didn't have water for firefighting, so dynamite was used to put out the flames. "The rest of the town was blown up to save the Willow," Nocerino said. "I guess the people who were killed in the fire resented that."

Monday, May 13, 2024

A Ghostly Revenge

Early 19th century Welsh cottage, as depicted by Richard Redgrave

Some time back, I posted about a man’s supernatural revenge against his sister.  The tale seemed to me fairly unusual, so I was a bit surprised to find a similar story in Edmund Jones’ compilation of 18th century Welsh High Strangeness, “A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Principality of Wales.”

Families, eh?

In the house of Edward Roberts, in the Parish of Llangynllo, came to pass a stranger thing.--- As the servant-man was threshing, the threshel was taken out of his hand and thrown upon the hay-loft; he minded it not much: but being taken out of his hand three or four times gave him a concern, and he went to the house and told it. Edward Roberts being from home, his wife and the maid made light of it, and merrily said they would come with him to keep him from the Spirit, and went there; the one to knit, and the other to wind yarn. They were not long there before what they brought there were taken out of their hands, and tumbled about in their sight; on seeing this, they shut the barn door and came away more sober than they went there. They had not been long home before they perceived the dishes on the shelf move backwards, and some were thrown down: most of the earthen vessels were broke, especially in the night; for in the morning they could scarce tread without stepping upon wrecks of something which lay on the ground. This circumstance being made known, induced the neighbours to visit them. Some came from far to satisfy their curiosity; some from Knighton; and one came from thence to read, confident he would silence the evil Spirit; but had the book taken out of his hand and thrown up stairs. There were stones cast among them, and were often struck by them, but they were not much hurt: there was also iron thrown from the chimney at them, and they knew not from whence it came. The stir continued there about a quarter of a year. At last the house took fire, which they attempted to quench; but it was in vain. They saved most of the furniture, but the house was burnt to the ground; so that nothing but the walls, and the two chimneys, stood as a public spectacle to those who passed to and from Knighton Market.

The apparent cause of the disturbance was this,---Griffith Meridith and his wife, the father and mother of Edward Roberts’s wife were dead, and their son, who was heir to the house, enlisted himself a soldier, and left the country. Roberts and his wife, who were Tenants in the house that was burnt, removed into their father’s house; he being dead, and the house much decayed, they repaired it, and claimed it, as thinking it was their own, and that her brother would never return: but in that year the brother unexpectedly came home, thinking to see his father; he wondered to see the house altered, and making enquiry, went to his sister and claimed the house; which she refused, as having been at charge with it. At last he desired only a share of it, which she also refused; he then desired but two guineas for it, which she still refusing; he went away for Ireland, threatening his sister that she should repent for this ill dealing; and she had cause to repent. 

Now here was very plainly the work of some Spirit, enough to convince, or at least confound an Atheist of the being of Spirits; but whether it was her brother’s own Spirit after his death, or an evil Spirit which he employed to work this revenge upon an unnatural sister, cannot be determined, but the last is more likely.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Behold, the entrance to this week's Link Dump!

I really need to get a pair of these for outside Strange Company HQ.

Watch out for the Wampus Cat!

The bizarre case of the Putney Pusher.

The celebration of strawberries.

The taming of a fungus.

The grave of an unknown shipwreck victim.

Newly discovered rock art in the Sahara.

A phantom sewing machine.

India's first selfie.

The intelligence of plants.

The horrors of 19th century merchant service.

Living in Versailles had it's share of horrors, too.

A bit of High Strangeness in Alaska.

Costa Rica's Cave of Death.  And the name is no joke.

The power of the 16th century veil.

A helicopter heroine.

The unsolved murder of a prospector.

Visits from dead mothers.

A look at time capsules.

The "King of the Beggars."

The rise of Parisian washerwomen.

The East India Company and an "intriguing character."

The origin of "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."

We've probably been wrong about T. Rex.

An important Neolithic monument.

The weird inventions of a science fiction pioneer.

Science confirms some key events in the Bible.

A wartime rescue that ended in betrayal.

Some simple vintage recipes.

When you accidentally dig up a skeleton.

The relics of old St. Paul's Cathedral.

Reconstructing the face of a Neanderthal.

The wife, the farmhand, and murder.

A suspicious death and a murder.

Some portraits of East Enders.

When New York's Tank Corps had a mascot cat.

Yet another domestic murder.

There are people who pay good money to watch the birth of a Cabbage Patch Kid.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll hear a tale of ghostly vengeance.  In the meantime, there's nothin' like 1970s television.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

You have to admit that “I was a crocodile at the time” isn’t an alibi you hear in every murder trial.  The “Greenville News,” March 23, 1963:

BLANTYRE, Nyasaland (UPI) A man accused of killing a child by dragging her into a river while disguised as a crocodile testified Friday he had changed himself into a crocodile through magic taught him by a witch doctor's ghost. Elard David Chipandale, 35, said, however, he could not change into a crocodile before the court because he "threw away my magic powers when arrested" on the murder charge. He said he could not testify in "crocodile language" for the same reason. Chipandale is charged with murdering 8-year-old Mponde Lyton. Also on trial is the girl's grandfather, Odreck Kasoci.

Chipandale told the court his witch doctor uncle's ghost taught him to tie certain "magic twigs and bark" to his body, transforming him into a crocodile. He said the change into a crocodile was gradual. He said "my teeth became as large as index fingers, my mouth and nose became huge, and my fingers became as sharp as knives." He testified Kasoci offered him money to kill the girl but at first he refused because "I was a friendly crocodile who ate only fish." But after persistent requests, Chipandale said he agreed to murder the girl for $12.60. But he testified Kasoci paid him only $1.40 for the job. Several witnesses testified Thursday they believed Chipandale could turn himself into a crocodile by magic, although no one had seen him do it.

The case came to notice in August 1960, 16 months after the girl died, when Chipandale sued Kasoci in a native court for the blood money. At that hearing Kasoci admitted hiring Chipandale to kill the girl, but said the price was only $7. Chipandale won the case and got his money for the job. A native policeman who attended the hearing reported the case to authorities and both men were arrested. The state charged that Chipandale, dressed in the bark of a tree to make himself look like a crocodile, waited by a river for the child.

Then he dragged the girl, slid into the river, stabbed her and broke her left arm. When nearby villagers, attracted by her screams, approached, the "crocodile man" swam off down the river. However, Kasoci denied to the murder court that he paid Chipandale to kill his granddaughter. He said the native court "intimidated" him into paying Chipandale the money. Kasoci testified that police beat him into signing a confession and that he did not pay Chipandale any money.

You probably will not be surprised to learn that both men were sentenced to death.

Monday, May 6, 2024

A Fake Death and a Real One; Or, At Home With the Banish Family

"South Bend Tribune," August 23, 1965, via Newspapers.com

All families have their little mysteries.  Thankfully, however, few are as bizarre and apparently senseless as the one inflicted on a seemingly quite normal household in South Bend, Indiana.

Things began getting weird on the morning of June 3, 1965, when 18-year-old Scott Banish casually told his parents, Edward and Loretta Banish, that he was going with a group of friends to Warren Dunes State Park, to do some swimming in Lake Michigan.  When by the end of the day Scott had failed to return home, his parents went looking for him.

Edward and Loretta found Scott’s car in the lake’s parking lot, with his wallet and clothing inside.  On the beach was Scott’s towel and blanket.  When they failed to find Scott himself, his parents called police.

Investigators learned that the friends Scott was supposedly going to swim with had all called off their plans because the lake was too cold.  Police divers failed to find Scott’s body in the lake, but it was presumed he had drowned.  The young man was pronounced dead of a tragic, but hardly unusual accident.  Little did the Banish family know that their tragedies were just beginning.

On the night of August 22, just over two months after their son’s disappearance, Edward and Loretta were playing cards in their family’s basement game room with their thirteen-year-old daughter Kathy and two visiting relatives.  After a while, Edward announced that he was tired, and would go upstairs to bed.  Soon after he left, Loretta heard loud thuds from above.

When she went to see what was going on, she found her husband standing in the living room, near the front door.  He was covered in blood.  Before Loretta could go to him, Edward collapsed, dead from seven savage stab wounds.  Police assumed that he had confronted a burglar, who then attacked him.

Nine days after Edward’s murder, Loretta received what may have been the biggest shock of all, when police informed her that Scott was alive, if not exactly well, as he had just been arrested in Fort Wayne, Indiana after submitting a forged ID to an army recruitment office.  The recruiter had read newspaper items about Scott’s “drowning,” and immediately recognized him.

When questioned by police, Scott readily admitted to deliberately faking his own death.  His motive was an honorable one, even if his methods were slightly cracked: he wanted to join the army.  The Banish family had a long history of serving in the military, and Scott longed to carry on that tradition.  However, when he had tried to enlist before, he was rejected on medical grounds.  (He had Hodgkin's Disease.)  Scott thought that if he tried again under a new identity, he might be more successful.

The young man immediately became the police’s number one suspect for Edward’s murder, apparently on the theory that anyone capable of faking a death was also capable of creating a real one.  Scott professed to be shocked when he learned his father had been murdered.  He stated that for the past two months he had been working on a tuna fishing vessel, the “Joanne,” operating in the waters off Oregon, under the name of “Danny McFarland,” and he had the paycheck stubs to prove it.  This failed to convince the police of his innocence.  They reasoned that Scott could have sneaked away from the boat long enough to kill his father.  However, when investigators contacted the “Joanne” captain, Paul Vines, he confirmed that a boy matching Scott’s description who called himself “Danny McFarland” had been working for him as a deckhand for the past two months.  Vines added that on the night Edward Banish was murdered, his boat, with “Danny” on it, was one hundred miles off the coast.

This would seem to be about as cast-iron as alibis get, but the police were stubbornly determined to prove that Scott was their elusive killer, especially after the youth failed a lie detector test.  They argued that “McFarland” must have been another young man who happened to resemble Scott, and that their suspect had somehow obtained the pay stubs from him.  The local sheriff, William Locks, hauled the teenager in for interrogation.  Locks bluntly told Scott that there was enough evidence to convict him of his father’s murder--blood had been found on Scott’s pants that was “the same general type” as Edward’s.  After twelve straight hours of what was probably fairly brutal questioning, Scott finally confessed to the slaying.  He told Locks that the killing was accidental--that he had panicked and attacked his father as he was caught trying to find his birth certificate so he could enlist in the army.

Scott was, of course, immediately arrested.  He then repudiated his confession, stating that the sheriff had pressured him into it by threatening to put him in jail for the rest of his life, whether he was “innocent or not.”  Locks told him that the only way to escape a lifetime sentence was if he confessed, after which he would be given probation for involuntary manslaughter.

At the preliminary hearing, the captain and crew of the “Joanne” testified that on the night of the murder, Scott was on the ship, as he had been every night for the two months of his employment.  Two more witnesses who had helped repair the boat on the night Edward died also swore they had seen Scott on the boat.  They were able to provide a log proving they had indeed done this maintenance on the night of August 22.  After this eight-day hearing, the case was sent to a grand jury, which ruled there was not enough evidence against Scott to justify an indictment.

In 1968, Scott sued the sheriff and six of his deputies, claiming false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.  However, the court ruled against him on the grounds that the blood on Scott’s pants, the lie detector results, and his confession all were probable cause for his arrest.

Soon after this, the Banish family moved to Illinois, where Scott led a quiet, respectable life until his death in 2015.  As for his father, this was one of those cases where once the police lost their pet suspect, they simply threw up their hands and moved on to other crimes.  Edward’s unnervingly strange murder remains unsolved.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to the first Link Dump of May 2024!

We're still wondering:  "What the hell was Oumuamua?"

We're still wondering: "What the hell was the Dover Demon?"

We're still wondering: "Where the hell is the Mongolian Death Worm?"

Watch out for those blood-sucking Capelobos!

The days when you could take a hippie bus from London to Calcutta.

The grave of an unhappy civil servant.  (It veers into "libelous tombstone" territory.)

The end of Royal Navy muzzle-loaders.

Victorian "strawberry parties."

The children who remember past lives.

A newly-recovered account of Plato's final hours.

Orangutan, heal thyself.

The Persian king who humiliated ancient Rome.

54 years of Eurovision headlines.

The Baron who gave his name to Munchausen's Syndrome.

Murders at a health care facility.

The man who excelled at pushing peanuts with his nose.  Which just goes to show that we all have hidden talents.

Telephone girls and their shocking hairstyles.

How a ring helped identify a murder victim.

Contemporary reports of the Lusitania sinking.

The "underbelly" of Victorian Paris.

The first seeing eye dog.

The Dark Watchers of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Crowning a dead May Queen.

The WWII spy who used leprosy to her advantage.

The gardeners of the British Parliament.

The Spring dance of German witches.

The letters of a British military wife in India.

The power of the pun.

Headline of the week:  Was Amelia Earhart eaten by giant crabs?

The birth of Pop-Tarts.

The birth of Penguin Books.

Common legal knowledge in 15th and 16th century England.

In praise of the history of words.

A prisoner of war in the House of Lords.

The first murderer to be caught using fingerprint evidence.

From doorstop to Stone of Destiny.

The time a man flew a B-47 under the Mackinaw Bridge.  Maybe.

In search of Hetty Green's heirs.

The first guidebook for American tourists.

A fake lawyer who won a real case.

The areas where WWI never ended.

The long-time mistress of Wilkie Collins.

An eccentric entrepreneur.

Why do we stop finding new music?  (Although I think most pop music made nowadays is unbearable, I do now listen to a lot of classical and Early Music, which I never did in my younger days. So I'm not sure if this article's premise is correct.)

A woman's mysterious death.

The New York City Army Cats.

A husband's revenge.

Science explains the "Pharaoh's curse."

The murder of a young woman.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a bizarre case of a missing person and a murder.  In the meantime, here's some early Nilsson.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This is another of what I call “mini-mysteries”--murder or missing-persons cases where there just isn’t enough information for a regular blog post.  This account of a “Missing 411”-style disappearance appeared in the Glens Falls “Post-Star,” November 15, 2017:

HORICON — Two years ago Wednesday, Thomas Messick Sr. vanished in the woods of Horicon while deer hunting with friends and relatives. And despite the thousands of hours dedicated to the search, it remains unclear what happened to Messick, whether he got lost in the woods, had a medical problem or was the victim of foul play. His son, Thomas Messick Jr. of Troy, said loved ones are hoping for some closure and remain as “perplexed” about what hap- pened as the professional and volunteer searchers who scoured the woods south of Brant Lake for weeks in November and December 2015.

“We’re still praying for answers,” he said. Messick Sr. was 82 when he disappeared Nov. 15, 2015 near Lily Pond in an area of state land that is part of the Lake George Wild Forest. Messick was supposed to remain in a stationary post while others in his party moved into the woods to push deer toward him and another hunter. When the group reassembled late that afternoon, Messick was not among them. The state Department of Environmental Conservation oversaw a massive search that went on for weeks, using dogs, helicopters and divers to check ponds in the remote area, to no avail. The DEC scaled back the effort to a “limited continuous search” after two months, in which local forest rangers and search-and-rescue teams will conduct spot searches and training exercises in the search area and nearby areas not previously searched. State Police Aviation helicopters and forest rangers also periodically checked the lands and waters in and around the search area, but no one has reported finding any sign of him or any of his belongings, including the rifle he carried.

The area is also popular with hunters, anglers and hikers, but no one who has been there in years since has reported finding anything that could be linked to Messick. 

“The search for Thomas Messick remains in limited continuous status since Jan. 20, 2016 after DEC forest rangers and others spent two months and more than 10,000 searcher hours seeking him to no avail,” DEC spokesman David Winchell wrote in an email. “Since that time, DEC forest rangers and others have periodically searched and conducted search training in and around the area where Mr. Messick went missing but have not found any sign of him.

“DEC asks hunters and others in the woods to report any possible signs of Mr. Messick or his belongings to the DEC Ray Brook dispatch at 518-897-1300.” 

Messick Jr., who was not among the family members hunting with Messick Sr. that day, said the family theorized that his father walked off and either had a medical problem (he had a history of heart issues) or got lost and settled in a spot behind a tree or rock where he couldn’t be found. The forest area also has some caves and crevices. 

“They had over 300 people a day in the woods for over two weeks,” Messick Jr. said. “They covered a lot of ground.” 

He said his father was an avid woodsman and hunter. 

“He was a hunter instructor for a lot of years, so he knew what to do,” his son said. 

The State Police continue to investigate an active missing persons case for Messick Sr., but the agency reported no new developments in its investigation as of this week. The disappearance was one of two unexplained missing persons cases in the region involving outdoorsmen in a matter of days in November 2015.

On Nov. 24, Fred “Fritzie” Drumm, 68, disappeared from his property on Burgoyne Road in the town of Saratoga. Police theorized he went for a walk on his 170-acre piece of land along Fish Creek, but no trace of him was found, either. Police do not believe the two cases were related.

To date, no trace of Messick has been found.  As far as I can tell, Drumm remains missing, as well.