Friday, February 20, 2015

The Beast of Bald Mountain

Author Maurice Russell* had retired to a cabin in the mountains of Northern Georgia to work on his writing. His abode was somewhat remote, so a knock on the door was always a surprise.

However, this day the surprise was somewhat unsettling.

A new neighbor, who had just moved into a cabin down in the valley, introduced himself as Carl Janus. Russell was taken aback by the man's rude appearance: a wild mane of dark, untamed hair framed a ferocious countenance of piercing eyes and a powerful jaw swathed in a bushy black beard; his canines were pronounced to an unsettling degree; and the man's hands were comprised of haggard digits, terminating in claw-like nails.

In all, the man was more beast than anything--or at least it seemed to Russell.

After bidding farewell to the unkempt stranger, the writer was left with many puzzling questions. However, he needed only to wait a week to get some of the answers.

Another neighbor, Sol Pritchard came by to chat about something that had just happened.  The son of another local man, Tom Westerfield, had been walking across a field when a large dog or wolf had attacked the boy, tearing him to pieces.

It was then that the image of Carl Janus came unbidden to Russell's mind. A wolf, he though. That's what Janus looked like.

Over the next few weeks, four more men were attacked by the local predator. None of the locals could manage to track the beast. It seemed to manifest from the ether, attack, and then disappear whence it came.

One night Russell's neighbor Sol was driving his wagon home from business in town, tracing the sinuous route up Bald Mountain, when suddenly his horse reared up and to Sol's horror he spied the beast. The animal burst from roadside, launching itself in Sol's direction. Thinking quickly, the old man grabbed his pitchfork and jammed it into the body of the descending monster. The dog or wolf--or whatever it was--let out a terrible cry of pain. Without so much as a glance back, Sol drove his horse swiftly from the scene.

The next day, after telling locals of his harrowing ordeal, a group of men went out to the spot where Sol had stabbed the beast. But no animal lay dead. There was only the bloody pitchfork tossed aside like garbage.

The locals never did find the creature, but the attacks ceased. Perhaps Sol managed to inflict a mortal wound upon the animal, which limped off into the brush to die somewhere remote.

That's what happened, the locals will say.

But Maurice Russell and Sol Pritchard have a different thought on the matter. Some nights after the attack, the pair arrived at Carl Janus' cabin in the valley. They knocked on the door, but no one answered. Since the door wasn't locked, the men decided to poke their heads inside. There, laying on the bed, was the body of Carl Janus. His shirt front was stained with blood.

Gingerly, the men unbuttoned the shirt and gasped when they discovered three deep, pitchfork-like wounds in the man's abdomen.
*I believe this is the same author of a notable--if forgotten--collection of folk tales entitled "As Told To Burmese Children"

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Ghosts of Shakespeare

Dressed in white as she exits the old hotel, a lovely woman of graceful form walks down the street and is lost along the curving track of the long dead rail line....

It is now little more than a cluster of adobe buildings, including a hotel in which Billy the Kid worked as a dishwasher, but the small New Mexico community of Shakespeare was once a bustling town where people lived, loved, and died. Like many mining settlements, this one rose, bloomed, and then passed into oblivion as the years went on and the mines played out. In time, the railroads whisked away what few residents remained.

At one time there were a reported dozen ghosts remaining to occupy the old town.

Writer Ted Raynor shared in 1969 that there was a famous “lady in white” who haunted the town.  She was reported by longtime residents, who had first heard the story from their own ancestors.

It was the classic story of long lost love.  In the 1880s a woman came to the community in search of her fiance, a notorious gambler.  She discovered that he had gone south into Mexico and so she remained to wait for his return.  Soon, however news of his death reached her and she walked away from her room one day, leaving behind her only a wedding dress in her room.  No one ever saw her alive again in Shakespeare but her ghost became a regular feature.

When seen she was she was usually in white but sometimes in black causing some to wonder if she grieved at times for her lost love and unused wedding dress?

The small community is said to be home to at least a dozen specters who return from time to time to provide a glimpse of the unknown under the desert skies. There were the ghosts of three murdered African American miners who were robbed and their bodies dumped in the spot that took their name, Arroyo de los Negros.  

A gambler who, despite warning to the contrary, carried his winnings on him as he headed out into the night.  And a man who must have enjoyed meals at the local spot called the Grant House. His shadow could be seen there, looking like a man casually smoking after a delicious meal long after the last meals were ever cooked and prepared.

Other reported sightings, some that seem to have faded away, and some that remain included the ghostly canine capable of putting fear into the husky heart of a police dog and a strange ghost thought to be made of sulfur fume that would crawl up from beneath the basement of the old general store, and a gentle ghost that seemed merely to guard the resting sport on the hillside where so many were laid to rest over the years.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Two's A Dream, Three's Company

The City of Limerick, a 1300 ton vessel built in 1867 by the Royal Mail Steamship Co. and sailing out of London, had spent the past nine days being tossed about by storms in the North Atlantic. One of its passengers, S. R. Wilmot* of Bridgeport, CT, was returning home to his factory, his children, and his wife, Margaret. Or at least he hoped to.

The relentless squalls were casting a pall over the whole trip. Finally, on the 10th night, the seas calmed and Wilmot looked forward to the first decent sleep in a week in his cabin, which he shared with a man named William Tate** who slept in the bunk above his.

Wilmot lay there in the dark, listening to the gentle creaking of the ship and to Tate's sonorous breathing when suddenly the door creaked open. Wilmot opened his eyes to find a woman standing in the doorway. After a long moment of staring at her in the dim light from the hall, he was startled to realize it was his own wife.

"Margaret," he called out. "What are you doing here?!"

She said nothing, but rather seemed to float across the floor to where he lay. Margaret gently touched his face with her hand and then leaned over to kiss him.

Surely, he thought, this can't be a dream. It felt so real. Suddenly Margaret vanished from his eyes. In the confusion, the overworked gears of his brain, racing to fathom the reality of his experience, began to shut down and sleep soon overtook his exhausted mind.

In the Morning, Wilmot resigned himself to the conclusion that he had had a dream and nothing more.  And he would have been fine with that had his cabin mate not asked him who the woman was that came into their room last night.

Wilmot was shocked. How could Tate have seen his dream? It simply wasn't possible.

When he docked, Wilmot raced to his wife, eager to tell her of his strange experience. But before he could even recount the tale of his peculiarly shared vision, his wife asked him why it was that he didn't have a private room on the ship.

Startled by the curious question, he asked her to clarify.  Well, there was a man sleeping above you, she responded. "How could you know?" he asked, as a cold, queer feeling rose up from the depth of his being.

She explained how she couldn't sleep last night, having read about the storms affecting his voyage. When she did finally drift off she had a strange dream where she floated across the sea and aboard his ship where she entered his cabin and kissed him.

The date of the tale isn't clear, but it must have taken place between 1867 and the The City of Limerick's notorious vanishing (it was as the heart of a mild scandal involving the Centaur Line's newly lengthened steamers that all went down along the same route within a short time of each other) in January 1881. One source has his trip as being October 3, 1863, but the ship had yet been built in 1863. Perhaps there is confusion on which ship he actually sailed. Or perhaps this source is in error as to the date. 

*S. R. Wilmot was a businessman working in the metal industry in the latter half of the 19th Century. He had several successful patents, including improved methods for joining metal sheets and for a successful style of burner plate for oil lamps. 

**In some accounts, his name has been spelled Tait. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Son Sacrificed Mother in 'Aztec' Ritual

On the frigid morning of January 27, 1958, the savaged head of Edna Burns was found in the vestibule of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The culprit was the woman's own son, Bobby Joe Burns. The 28 year old man with a history of paranoid schizophrenia and drug abuse claimed his mother agreed to the decapitation as part of an Aztec ritual. The victim had garnered the release of her son from a state mental facility the previous year.

After leaving her head at the church, Burns crossed over into Oklahoma and spent the night sleeping in a field.

During his interrogation, the clearly disturbed Burns snacked on candy bars and drank sodas. At one point, his brother brought him some cigarettes and said, "We don't blame you for what happened."

The family, it seems, had tried to convince Edna Burns to send Bobby back to the hospital, but she seemed to think he was well enough to handle himself on the outside.

Eventually, the courts had Bobby Joe Burns recommitted to the hospital where he spent the remaining decades of his life. He died there sometime in the 1980s.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Michigan's Fire Breathing Man

A. William Underwood (1855) was a young African-American man from Paw Paw, Michigan who many believed could breathe fire.

Pyrokinesis one might call it in the parlance of parapsychology. In 1882, Dr. L. C. Woodman, a local physician, investigated the man's uncanny talent, eventually publishing an article in the Michigan Medical News.

Of his peculiar ability, Woodman had this to say:

"I have a singular phenomenon in the shape of a young man living here, that I have studied with much interest, and I am satisfied that his peculiar power demonstrates that electricity is the nerve force beyond dispute.  [Underwood's] gift is that of generating fire through the medium of his breath, assisted by manipulations with his hands. He will take anybody's handkerchief, and hold it to his mouth, and rub it vigorously with his hands while breathing on it, and immediately it bursts into flames and burns until consumed."

Despite Woodman's claim of rigorous testing, skeptics believed otherwise. Some, such as Dr. R. Thomas of De Pere, Wisconsin, suggested Underwood hid small pieces of phosphorus (which burns at temperatures as low as 86 degrees Fahrenheit) in his mouth that would ignite under the heat of his breath and rubbing hands. Given its volatile nature, phosphorus seems like a dangerously unstable thing to keep in one's mouth for the sake of a 25 cent sideshow routine. And how was it missed when Underwood's mouth was thoroughly checked during Woodman's investigation?

Was Underwood a genuine talent or a skilled hoaxer?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Psychic Dream Saved Six

In November 1852, Captain George Yount (Yountsville, CA is named for him) accompanied Henry Horn on a hunting trip in the mountains. One night, Yount had a dream about a party of nine immigrants trapped in a snow storm through the Carson Valley Pass. So certain was he that the dream was prophetic, he told his companion he was heading back to town to gather a rescue party. For three days the men searched without success, but as they approached the pass proper they discovered deep snow everywhere, as if an avalanche had occurred. Soon they spotted a 16 year old immigrant boy who told them that his party of nine was trapped in the snow not far away. The rescue party was able to save six of the nine travelers. Yount could offer no explanations for his dream. Did someone in the party send out a psychic distress call? Or did some force on high direct his thoughts to the plight of the trapped travelers?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Confessions of a Sometimes Psychic

There are many people who have on and off experiences with the paranormal.  Untapped skills and abilities that rise once and awhile to leave a lot of unanswered questions in their passing.  This is one such story.
"It was a cold day, just before my birthday in January of 1975, and the news brought a story of bodies found at an old abandoned farm.  Two women and a child under 5.  Looking out the kitchen window at the bleak frigid winter day of northern Kansas, I felt my heart grow cold as an ice cube. 
Suddenly in my mind there was such a sharp image of a farm yard, old overgrown, dirt scraped away in places.  I saw a small child wandering around weeping his heart out, lost and lonely, and cold in a thin shirt.  I knew that he would wander around in ever increasing circle looking, searching, and trying to get a response from the people who could no longer answer.  Afraid, lonely, and cold he walked without pattern, direction, or intent. All the while he was just crying, crying….
Then, in sheer desperate exhaustion, he would finally collapse to sleep. The cold night air would take his fragile and sad life from him. I felt the nip of the sharp cold air, I could hear the sobbing cries punctuated by hiccupping breaths. My lips chattered in the cold I felt.  I could see this, all in my head as if I had flipped a switch on the television and then, swiftly, changed channels to a vivid “you are there” channel.  It was vivid, harsh, and the emotional impact sliced me like a knife.  
In its wake was a bubble of grief so deep I felt intense pain. An image rose in my head of my own little boys.  I sank to the floor in the tiny kitchen and wept for the small child who had been left to die by the monster who had killed his mother and her friend. The victims had been Cheryl Young, 21, her son, Guy 3, and Diane Lovette, 19 all of Fort Madison, Iowa.
The murders, both by intent and neglect, occurred in a house on a little-used, dead-end road about 15 miles north of I-70. The site is about 15 miles northeast of WaKeeney, Kansas. The killer was Francis Donald Nemecheck.
I would have only two more such incredibly intense visions or dreams in years to come.  After that, out of sheer self-preservation, I blocked a lot of “stuff” just to not have these intensely uncomfortable experiences. Having your emotions regularly scraped to the bone is not very enjoyable.  Feeling fear and tasting death are not pleasant in any manner."

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Spot of Death

A marker denotes the spot where
Wood was killed.
On the night of July 16, 1823, William Wood, a weaver, was returning home to his small village from selling his wares in Manchester, England. On a lonely stretch of moorland road between Disley and Whaley Bridge, a gang of highwaymen attacked and killed Wood, clubbing the traveler to death and robbing him of his possessions.

So hard was Wood hit that his head left a deep impression in the soft ground. Oddly enough the hole remained so for many years, despite rains and winds that shapes and erodes the rest of the landscape. Moreover, what vegetation once grew there soon died and the spot remained lifeless thereafter.

A local legend arose from this oddity, one that reached the attention of Alfred Fryer, a famous naturalist. Fryer visited the spot in 1859 with a local man who told him how neither rain nor wind had managed to deposit any sediment over the years.

Scoffing at such ridiculous nonsense, Fryer packed dirt and stones from the road into the barren hole and retired to a nearby pub for a pint. When he and his companion returned an hour later, Fryer was shocked to discover the dirt and stones scattered about, seemingly ejected from the cavity produced by William Wood's head.

Fryer repeated his attempt several more times to the same shocking conclusion. So dumbfounded and shaken by this inexplicable occurrence, Fryer didn't even bother with an explanation. He simply walked away from the bizarre and unnerving mystery.
"Barren Ground" Incredible But True (Radio Programme) 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mysterious Unmoving Mirror

Jeffrey DuRossier lay dying in a ward at the War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. His nurse, Adeline Neuf, watched over his final hours. At one point, the old man suddenly awoke from his ceaseless slumbering to beg with an exhausted voice for a mirror.

Feeling this might be his last words ever, Adeline promptly snatched an unremarkable mirror from a table nearby. The old man took the piece of glass into his trembling hands and drew it up to his face. DuRossier cried out in terror and tossed the mirror to the bedside table. But it did not break.

Startled, Nurse Adeline raced over to the old man. The commotion brought in others from outside the room as well. Before collapsing into unconsciousness, DuRossier whispered one final thought that everyone in the room heard: "That mirror. You won't be able to pick it up."

Later, after DuRossier had passed, the nurse prepared the room for another patient. She went to pick up the mirror from the table, but to her horror it remained steadfastly affixed to where it lay. Frightened, Nurse Adeline raced into the hall to fetch a doctor. She had to prove to herself that this couldn't be real.

When she explained the situation to the man, he chuckled in disbelief and explained that it was all just in her mind. To prove so, he went in to show her how easily the mirror could, in fact, be plucked from its place. The smile that once rested condescendingly comfortable on the doctor's face quickly vanished with the disturbing fact that the nurse was correct.

Over the next 24 hours, many of the staff came into the room to see for themselves the seemingly cursed mirror that would not move.

The next day, when Nurse Adeline returned for her next shift, she once more confronted the mysterious mirror. The fellow patients in the ward looked on nervously as she attempted once again to lift it from its resting place. The woman had scarcely touched the thing with one tremulous finger when it suddenly exploded upward into the air and clattered back down, again without breaking.

From then on, the mirror could be picked up as easily as it always could. Interested parties with the wherewithal to do so examined the mirror and found no traces of any adhesives that could explain why the mirror clung so fiercely to the bedside table.

What did the old man see? And why did he proclaim that the mirror would not move? As weird as the circumstances are, they might just have been weirder still if only we could have seen things through the eyes of Jeffrey DuRossier.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Comic Con Panel with Paranormal Pop Culture Guru

Yesterday, I made a mad dash (fighting post game-day traffic) to Tulsa for the Wizard World Comic Con where I sat on a panel with Teri White of Tulsa Spirit Tours and the book Tulsa's Haunted Memories and Paranormal Pop Culture's Aaron Sagers who weighs in on the paranormal in books, movies, and TV for the likes of the Huffington Post, MTV, and others. I met a lot of great locals and to any of you who were in attendance that have a story or two to tell, my ears are wide open. Shoot me an email and tell me your weird tale.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tulsa Comic Con Appearance

Come out to Wizard World Comic Con this Saturday from 6 to 7 at the Cox Business Center in Tulsa. I and other local purveyors of the paranormal, including Tulsa's own Teri White (PITT; Tulsa Spirit Tours; author of Tulsa's Haunted Memories) will be discussing local legends and sightings on a panel hosted by Paranormal Pop Culture's Aaron Sager.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I gave it a shot last winter without any success, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel quite yet. To that end, I'm resurrecting the mouldering corpse of last year's inaugural WRITE IN THE DEAD OF WINTER contest, but doing so early enough that hopefully more people will get on board. I don't have all the details hammered out, but I'm thinking cash prize and I'll post the entries at a new blog I'm setting up: Dark Passages, which is incidentally the name of the new imprint for all Whorl Books horror titles going forward. Maybe we'll even publish some type of anthology.

So click your pens, whip out your laptops, or pluck a quill from a crow and pen your darkest fears in the thickest blood... These will be short stories and microfiction (aka, short, short stories or flash fiction) on whatever dark theme you feel like hitting up: psychological horror, terror of the uncanny, classic gothic ghost story, Lovecraftian horror, good old-fashioned monster tale.... Make us shiver. WRITE IN THE DEAD OF WINTER.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Professor's Relic Revelation Haunted Career

Professor Florentino Amanghino, an Argentine scientist (1854 - 1911), was the founding father of South American paleontology and a driving force in the field world wide.

However, according to one source, a curious gift was once delivered to his office from the region of his country known as Patagonia that would baffle the Professor and cause him to question his scientific beliefs. Inside, according to an attached note, was a partial specimen--a piece of hide--of an animal the locals had killed but were unable to identify.

Shaken, Amanghino asked a colleague how old he estimated that bit of skin to be.  The man agreed that it couldn't have been more than a year old, given its fresh and pliable state. "What sort of hide is it," the man asked.

The professor paused, knowing his words wouldn't be believed, "It is from a giant sloth."

As expected, the Professor's colleague sputtered his incredulity at such a preposterous assertion. "Are you mad? The giant sloth died out 25
million years ago!"

Professor Amanghino remained convinced he had correctly identified the sample for the remainder of his career, begging the question: Do extinct creatures still roam the wild and remote environs of Patagonia?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Phantom Monk of Sawtooth Mountain

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Holland decided to leave the hustle and bustle behind and vacation in the remote environs of Alaska at the foot of Sawtooth mountain one summer in the early part of the 20th century.

One evening toward the close of their trip the couple found themselves talking to a barkeep in their village about venturing through a pass in the mountains to explore a nearby valley. The couple was concerned about getting lost since they had heard there were snowstorms through there almost daily.

"Oh, you'll get lost all right," the bartender said. "But don't worry about it. You'll be okay."

The man's assurances didn't quite quell the couple's concerns, but since the following day began so beautifully, the pair decided to give it a go. They hitched up a team of dogs to their sled and proceeded into the mountains.

However, as they approached the pass, the once beautiful skies grew leaden, the wind picked up, and fat flakes of snow began whipping around them.

It wasn't long before visibility was nearly nothing and the couple grew nervous. Had this all been a terrible mistake? Should they turn around?

The two argued these points for several minutes when suddenly the wife called out.

"Look over there! There's a man out there in the storm."

The husband soon saw the figure, too. He seemed to be dressed as a monk. What's more they noted a dog trotting alongside.

The stranger in the snow motioned for the couple to follow him. Hesitant but desperate, the couple guided the dogs to follow the strange figure through the blizzard.

In a while they came through the valley and the skies cleared some. The wife leaped from the sled to thank the stranger, but he was gone.

Later, when the couple finally returned to the village, the once again met up with the barkeep.

"Well, you made it through, I see." The bartender commented.

"We almost didn't," the wife admitted. "If it hadn't been for..."

"A monk?" The bartender asked.

"Why, yes. How-how did you know?"

Apparently, the vanishing monk had been guiding travelers through the valley for almost 200 years.

Sawtooth Mountain lies roughly 60 miles northwest of Fairbanks, between the Yukon and Tanapa rivers and rises 4,639 feet. To the west of the mountain lies the interestingly named Blizzard Creek. Stibnite (or Antimonite) has been mined on the mountain, but no roads reach this remote region. Instead, travelers come up by river and then proceed on foot or by sled. If there was once a village in the vicinity of the mountain, it seems to be lost to history.

A popular radio program from the 1950s, Incredible, But True, might have been the genesis for the preceding legend. It seems every reference I can find to the Monk of the Sawtooth Mountains links itself to that show. If there is an actual local legend about a phantom monk, it's an obscure and likely moribund one. However, it is also likely that the talented and creative writers behind Incredible, But True conjured many of these otherworldly tales from their own imaginations.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Brit and the Beast

Captain Choate, Order of Distinguished Service, was stationed in Nigeria during World War I as Great Britain kept its grip on the former German colony.

It was in October 1918 that local tribal leaders told him about a man who transforms into a Hyena. The hunters knew this because they had followed the hyena prints after several attacks on both people and livestock. The men were amazed to see how the hyena prints transformed into human ones as they approached the next village.

Captain Choate joined the hunters as they tracked the creature to a moonlit clearing. Once spotted, the Captain took aim and fired. The men started as a fearful scream erupted from their quarry. Surely this must have been a mortal wound, they thought, and raced to the spot where the Hyena fell.

However, once they arrived they found no sign of the creature. To their discomfort, however, there was a bloodied human jaw on the ground--and a trail of blood leading in the direction of a nearby village. The Captain knew his aim was true. Now it was simply a matter of tracking the beast before it could attack another poor soul like this man whose jaw now sat in the bloody grass before them.

They followed the trail toward the next closest village, but it abruptly vanished. Exhausted by the hunt, the men went to the hut of an old man and asked if they could pass the night in his home and resume the search at first light. The man agreed and the hunting party settled in.

When the awoke in the morning, their host was gone. But as they stepped out into the early light, they spotted the old man coming down the path toward them, seemingly agitated. The old man told the hunters that he had gone to see his neighbor, another elder in the tribe, but found him dead. Someone had shot him in the face, shearing off his jaw bone in the process.