Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Mysterious Power of Maria de Agreda

According to legend, in the 1620s, a Spanish nun by the name of Maria de Agreda claimed she would enter a trance while praying and bilocate (a psychic or metaphysical state where a person or object appears in two places at once) to New Spain where she would minister to the native people she encountered. It is said, that from completely unrelated sources, the Jumano tribe of Native Americans living in what is now San Angelo in West Texas were reporting supernatural visits from a woman dressed in a blue cape and head covering that accurately described the habit of the Abbess.

Sister Maria, who had never been to the New World, was able to describe quite accurately the plants and animals found in the area as well as how the Jumanos dressed.

Records indicate that Friar Alonso de Benavides, a Franciscan in New Mexico, first reported her appearances to the Spanish court in 1630. Later, he was able to interview Maria de Agreda himself at her convent in Spain and corroborate much of her testimony.

When Maria de Agreda died, she was declared Venerable by Pope Clement X and a process of beatification was begun in 1673, though it has not yet been completed. Claims of corporeal incorruptibility were bolstered when after various examinations of her body over the years it was determined to have undergone little deterioration. To this day, her remains can be seen on display in the Church of the Conceptionists Convent in Agreda, Spain. In 2002, after the 400th anniversary of her birth, many Catholic organizations began petitioning for her beatification process to resume, in hopes of Maria de Agreda becoming a saint.

Arizona's Haunted Brunckow Cabin


Southwest of Tombstone, AZ lies the blood soaked ruins of the Brunckow Cabin. At least 21 people were killed here by various persons between 1860 and 1890. Many of these were buried on the property. And, according to some, their disquiet souls make the occasional appearance. Is this a testament to the savagery of frontier American life? Or could there be something about the site upon which the cabin was built, something that reaches into men's souls to twist and corrupt?

Many of those who owned the land, lived at the house, or even just visited briefly found themselves meeting tragic ends.

German immigrant Frederick Brunckow arrived in the US around 1850 with an education in mine engineering from the University of Westphalia. This work eventually brought him out to Arizona where he would eventually open up his own mining operation 8 miles southwest of Tombstone where he built a simple adobe cabin as sleeping quarters for his workers. On July 23, 1860, one of the miners--William Williams--returned from a supply run at Fort Buchanan to find his cousin and fellow miner dead. Williams fetched soldiers from the fort. When they returned the next morning, several men were missing and two more bodies were found--including Brunckow--and over $3,000 worth of materials were missing. The cause of death in each of the men indicated murder. Later that night, the camp cook returned to camp with a tale that he had been taken hostage by some of the Mexican miners who had been hired on by Brunckow. As they crossed the border back into Mexico, the men let the cook go.

In 1873, two men -- James T. Holmes and US Marshal Milton B. Duffield both laid claim to the cabin. Their dispute led to Holmes killing Duffield with a shotgun. The Marshal was buried at the cabin and Holmes was arrested.

Prospector and "father of Tombstone," Ed Schieffelin, recorded that even in 1877 there were already several graves at the cabin, likely men who met their fate at the hands of raiding Apaches.

Outlaw Frank Stilwell owned the land for a bit. On March 20, 1882, Tucson deputy marshal Wyatt Earp gunned him down in a Tucson train station.

In 1897, it was reported that a group of thieves that had recently robbed a Wells Fargo shipment of gold quickly began arguing among themselves about how their spoils should be divided. It didn't take long before weapons were drawn and the men all lay dead at the cabin and the gold was reclaimed.

Since the 1880s, reports of ghostly sightings have made their way to Arizona papers and locals began to give the old adobe structure a wide berth. Some witnesses claimed to have seen the apparition of a man wandering about the cabin at night, seemingly in search of something. Lost gold?

Was the thieves massacre born of an evil in the hearts of criminals or did this blood soaked land reach out with supernatural persuasion to whisper further malice into the hearts of these thieves?

Not much remains of the structure today: the foundation supports a couple of crumbling walls. The graves are still there, but most have lost their markers. Time, the elements, and vandalism have left the Brunckow Cabin as a ruin in the Arizona Desert, home only to the ghosts of its tragic history.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Glasgow's Vampire Hunting Kids

One dismal night in 1954, hundreds of Scottish school children--armed with wooden stakes and other weapons--swarmed Glasgow's Southern Necropolis cemetery to slay a vampire. The creature dubbed the 'Gorbals Vampire,' was a 7-foot tall, fearsome apparition with iron teeth. According to rumors circulating among the students, the vampire was responsible for devouring two small boys. The local constabulary was wholly unprepared for the mass of tiny vampire hunters darting about the cemetery's many Gothic Revival tombs as the Hadean fires of a nearby foundry illuminated the cemetery in hellish hues. Policemen such as PC Alex Deeprose were unable to persuade the kids to leave the cemetery. Eventually, it was the chilling rain that dissuaded them from their hunt. Still, they would return for the next two nights before eventually giving up. Or maybe they got their man. In the aftermath of these events, concerned parents, concerned citizens, and local churches began to look for someone to blame in all this. They settled on the Americans and their horror films and comics that were washing up on the shores of Great Britain like so much detritus. Much of this stemmed from the fact that a popular horror comic of the time was titled "The Vampire with the Iron Teeth," completely ignoring that their own cherished Bible contained reference in the Book of Daniel to a dreadful, terrible beast with iron teeth. There was also a legend from the 19th century about an old woman with iron teeth that stalked a local park known as Glasgow Green. So, did the children really let their imaginations run away with them? Or is there something more sinister lurking about the crumbling old tombs of this ancient Scottish city?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Paranormal on the Potomoc: Ghosts of Washington DC


Officially established in July 1790, Washington D.C. (The District of Columbia) has served as the heart of the United States of America, home to the nation's movers and shakers. However, the city isn't all gleaming white and star-spangled; there are darker corners to explore along its well-ordered streets. Let's take a look at some of the many spooky tales surrounding this legendary city.

The nation's lawmaking center, the US Capitol Building, is reputedly haunted by many spirits, among which we find a worker who fell to his death during construction of the dome that reaches 160' above the floor of the Rotunda. The worker has been seen floating about the dome, tools in hand, as still trying to do his job. A stone worker was crushed to death beneath a collapsing wall. He, too, is equally dedicated to his tasks and can be seen throughout the oldest sections of the building. A host of politicians wander the staid, marbled halls like Hogwartian apparitions: Rep Joseph Cannon, Rep Champ Clark, Sen and Rep Thomas Hart Benton, and Rep Wilbur Mills. Even the architect of DC himself, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, has been witnessed sulking at his dismissal and unrealized vision. Former presidents like John Quincy Adams and James A. Garfield also call the Capitol Building home in the afterlife. One can find tales of a phantom feline dubbed the "Demon Cat" that can be seen before national tragedies or the arrival of a new President (one in the same for many, I'm sure). Several unknown soldiers make appearances from time to time, one Revolutionary and another from World War I.

The White House and Lafayette Park
The White House is haunted by more than tarnished reputations. The presidential home was first occupied by John Adams and his wife, and many claim they still call the place home. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, and John Tyler all lay claims to this timeshare of terror. While he didn't die here, Abraham Lincoln is nonetheless a fixture at the house. The Lincoln bedroom is among the most haunted rooms at the White House. Many important, sober-minded individuals have claimed to sense his presence or hear his footsteps. Several have heard him knocking at the door to the bedroom. First Lady Grace Coolidge claimed to see the apparition of Lincoln staring out the Yellow Oval Room toward the Potomac. Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, and Maureen Reagan claimed sightings as well.  Unfortunately, the most recent sighting dates back to the 1980s. Lincoln's not alone. His young son, Willie, joins him in the afterlife at the White House. Many non-residents also strangely call the White House home. David Burns owned the land upon which it was built still hangs about, as does a British Soldier from the War of 1812. Anna Surrat, the daughter of Lincoln assassination co-conspirator Mary Surrat, stalks the halls still. She barged into the home prior to her mother's execution in a vain attempt to beg for reprieve. Every July 6, some say, she comes banging on the doors of the White House, demanding to be let in to again plea for her mother's life.

Due west of the White House lies an expansive French Second Empire style chateau crowned with a delicate mansard roof known as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Employees at this "wedding cake" of an office building speak of apparitions who roam its corridors at night.

Lafayette Square, just north of the White House, is haunted by the ghost of Philip Barton Key (son the famous Francis Scott Key) who was shot in the park by his friend Daniel Sickles when Sickles learned of his wife's affair with Key.

St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from Lafayette Park, was built in 1816 and contains a bell made by Paul Revere's foundry that was installed in 1822. Legend says when the bell is rung in honor of a notable death, six white-robed specters appear along the "President's Pew" at midnight and then suddenly vanish. Why this occurs or who these men are isn't clear.

Across from both Lafayette Square and St. John's is the highly haunted hotel known as the Hay-Adams. The hotel was built in 1927 when developer Harry Wardman razed the historic homes of John Hay and Henry Adams to build his 138 room residential hotel. Later, hotelier Julius Manger purchased the property and converted it into the more traditional hotel we see today. In 1885, when Henry Adams still had a home on the site, his wife Marian (a photographic enthusiast nicknamed "Clover) committed suicide and many believe she still haunts the corridors and rooms of her old home--they just happen to exist within a hotel now. Her presence is often detected by the scent of almonds, the same aroma as potassium cyanide--the darkroom chemical she ingested to end her life. Others have heard the soft keening of a weeping woman or a female voice asking softly, "What do you want?" There are doors that open and close of their own accord and housekeeping staff who claim to have received phantom hugs. Much of the activity peaks in December around the anniversary of Marian's death.

The Octagon House was built in 1801 by Colonel John Tayloe III, a member of a prestigious and storied colonial family. After the burning of Washington, President Madison lived there for a time and even signed the Treaty of Ghent at the house. But the home he had constructed at 1799 New York Ave NW is a darker legacy as well. Legend says in its yard, a slave market once operated and that mistreatment saturates the ground like blood. Two of the Tayloe daughters haunt the home; both young women fell from staircase. Either or both can sometimes manifest as a flickering light that drifts up the stairs like a mote caught in a breeze. Phantom bells are rung by the disquiet spirits of slaves forever chained to the home and its hardships. Dolley Madison (who already gets around the city like an Uber driver) also haunts the home, as does the ghost of a British soldier from the War of 1812 (maybe it's the same one as from the Capitol), and a gambler who had been shot on the 3rd floor in the late 1800s joins in on the fun as well.

Peterson House
Ford's Theater

Ford's theater, which many will be surprised to learn is almost entirely a reconstruction inside, is most famous as the site of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination at the hands of an actor and Southern conspirator, John Wilkes Booth. While mortally wounded in the presidential box, Lincoln was taken across the street to the Peterson House where he died some hours later. Within even the rebuilt theater, witnesses have reported hearing the discarnate sounds are reported reliving the events of that tragic night: The rush of footsteps, a sudden gunshot, and screams. The anguished ghost of Mary Todd been spotted in the President's box. Some say John Wilkes Booth still stalks the theaters backstage. A frequent cold spot manifests at stage left, making some feel ill. There are those who have reported Booth's ghost racing across the stage. And while Lincoln himself has been spotted here, his ghost more often manifests across the street at the Peterson house where he died.

EXORCIST STEPS: While definitely cool with its association to the seminal film, The Exorcist, there is nothing actually paranormal about this steep set of stairs that leads pedestrians up a precipitous hillside in DC's Georgetown neighborhood from one street to the next. Still, if you're looking to up your cardio game...

Also in Georgetown, we find The Old Stone House, which was built in 1765 by Christopher Layman. It's considered the oldest extant home in the DC area. Not surprisingly that through all those years, the home would accumulate a ghostly patina. A woman in a brown dress is sometimes seen near the fireplace. Another, heavy-set woman is spotted by the stairs and in the kitchen. Some have spotted a man in a blue jacket with long blond hair, as well as several other disparate, colonial-era men. There is a little boy who runs down the third floor hallway. We also find reports of a woman in a rocking chair, a slave boy, a German worker, the laughter of children, phantom cooks working in the kitchen... The list goes on. The Old Stone House might well be among the most haunted in DC--if not the country. This is quite a statement, given how small it actually is.


The Smithsonian museum--founded in 1846--is actually many large and small museums spread throughout DC, although most are concentrated on the Mall between The Capitol and the Washington Monument. Among the disparate edifices associated with this storied institution of science, art, and history lies the red sandstone castle that was the Smithsonian's original incarnation. Here, the Smithsonian Institution's founder, James Smithson, has been spotted.  Paleontologist Fielding B. Meek who died in 1876 while living at the castle is also believed to haunt the place.

An article from a 1900 Washington Post article recounts that the spirit of a stuffed bird specimen would fly about the original museum (now the Arts an Industries Building) at night. The article goes on to tell of other strange occurrences witnessed by night watchmen, such as the shuffling of phantom feet, objects that seem to move on their own, or disembodied voices. Among the chief suspects for these spectral shenanigans are the museum's first curator, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and Smithsonian Secretary, Joseph Henry--both of which have been witnessed by night watchmen and other late working staff.

In the Natural History Museum, which boasts an amazing collection of fossil, mineral, and gem specimens, we find the legendary Hope Diamond, which many believe is cursed. While it's true that tragedy had followed the enormous, 45 carat blue diamond its entire life, no actual curse adheres to the gem. In fact, according to the Smithsonian itself, it was famed jeweler Pierre Cartier who created the legend as a romantic way to entice Washington DC socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean to purchase the stone. However, it's a matter of record that darkness followed her purchase. Her husband left her for another woman before dying in a sanitarium; her son and daughter died of drug overdoses. Recalling Cartier's tale, McLean had the diamond subjected to an exorcism, in hopes of ridding the diamond of its curse. After McLean died, jeweler Harry Winston took possession of the diamond and then donated it to the Natural History Museum. The postal worker who delivered the package broke his leg and then endured the death of both his wife and his dog--all within a year of his delivery. While a contentious acquisition at first, the fact remains that millions of visitors have come into the sphere of the Hope Diamond over the past half-century with no discernible pattern of disaster. Whether the curse is real or not, the legend and legacy of this amazing stone is undeniable.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Specters of the Shanley


The historic, and reputedly haunted, Shanley Inn 2.5 hours north of New York City has wealth of paranormal happenings. The 35 room Inn, which has been featured on episodes of Ghost lab and Ghost Hunters, forbids any guests under the age of 16 and requires visitors to sign a waiver.

According to the website, it was built in 1845, but other sources say it was erected in 1895. It’s clear, though, that James and Beatrice Shanley purchased the properly in 1906 as both a home and an inn that saw such visitors as Thomas Edison and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Like many of that era, they saw far too much death. Three of their children died before reaching 5 years of age. An employee’s daughter, Rosie, died after accidentally falling into a well on the property. And Beatrice’s sister later succumbed to the Spanish Flu that ravaged so many at the close of WWI.

Later, during Prohibition, the Inn housed a speakeasy and a bordello. One can still find secret passages contained therein that doubtlessly aided in the execution of these shenanigans.

Among the spirits that haunt the Shanley, we find the aforementioned Rosie as well as a phantom feline, a mourning woman (thought to Mrs. Shanley), and James Shanley can be seen wandering the corridors, smoking his pipe and whistling. There is also an unknown woman in Victorian attire, several young children (perhaps the young Shanley children who didn’t survive), and a former cook known as “Emma” whose presence is heralded by the smell of cooking.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

THE VANISHING OF GERRY IRWIN


On February 28, 1959, US Army Private Gerry Irwin, a Nike missile technician, had been driving back to El Paso's Ft. Bliss from leave in Nampa, Idaho when he spotted a bright object streak across the sky over Route 14 in Utah. When the glowing object disappeared behind a nearby ridge, Irwin feared it might have been a downed aircraft. He pulled over and wrote a note indicating he went to investigate a possible crash, which he placed on the steering wheel of his car. He then wrote STOP on the side of his car with shoe polish and headed into the night.
Some time later, a Fish and Game inspector stopped when he saw Irwin's car. After reading the note, he inspector headed for the Sheriff's station in nearby Cedar City. Less than an hour later, Sheriff Otto Pfief and a contingent of deputies and volunteers headed after Irwin. The men hadn't traveled far when they found the Private laying unconscious on the ground. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where Dr. Broadbent examined the officer, declaring him to be in good physical condition. It was unclear as to why the man had lost consciousness.
A day later, Irwin finally awoke. He was confused and frightened. Where was he? What happened to the plane crash? He also seemed to be missing a jacket. Those who found him, however, related that he had no jacket on when he was found.

Once he was feeling better, Irwin--still with more questions than answers--returned to Fort Bliss where he was admitted to William Beaumont Army Medical Center for further analysis. He was again released for duty but within minutes of walking back to the base, Irwin again passed out. He was taken to El Paso's Southwest General Hospital. He awoke the next day, asking if there were any survivors.

Irwin went back to William Beaumont hospital where he remained for over a month for psychiatric evaluation. As before, no ailment--physical or mental--could be discerned and he was discharged.

Immediately after release in mid-, Irwin went AWOL. He boarded a bus for Cedar City, UT. Upon arrival, he returned to where he had seen the light crash. As he examined the site, he suddenly found his missing jacket draped over a bush. In one of its buttonholes was a pencil with a piece of paper wrapped around it. It's not known what the paper said. Irwin didn't say when he later turned himself in to Sheriff Pfief.

Irwin was sent back to Fort Bliss and endured further psychological evaluations that revealed, as before, nothing unusual. He was again released, but this time he did not return to duty. Ever again. By September, Irwin had officially been written off permanently AWOL.

As far as anyone knows Private Gerry Irwin has never been seen again.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Toprakkale Shuttle


An artifact from near Toprakkale, Turkey near Syria has been a favorite among ancient astronaut theorists for years. Some claim it to be over 2000 years old; others believe its a complete hoax. Superficially, the stone carving appears to depict a humanoid figure in corrugated clothes sitting or crouching within a rocketship--complete with nose cone and thrusters. There isn't a lot of good information on the artifact, as very little original research has been done. It's the sort of story that gets cast out into the river of information to wash up as the truth elsewhere with little examination of its origins. If you Google it, you'll find scores of webpages that have copy and pasted the same exact article over and over, presenting it as their own. I hate that. It's the worst kind of plagiarism. BTW, if you're not reading this on Strange State, then a similar fate has befallen my writing. If anyone knows of a reputable site or (god forbid) and actual book with details concerning this enigma (you know, actual names and dates, etc...), let me know. It's a curious artifact, and I'd love to know if its genuine.

Friday, February 1, 2019

WITCH BOTTLES

Witch bottles date back to at least the 17th century and were used as a protection against witches. The tradition comes from England, but examples have been found during the excavation of colonial American sites. These innocuous glass bottles or clay jars were filled with an assortment of magical countermeasures, including the urine, hair, and nail clippings of the person needing protection. Later, rosemary (a warding herb known since Roman times), needles, and wine were included as well as sea water, dirt, stones, knotted threads, feathers, salt... Frankly, the list goes on. If it has a magical connection, it was probably tossed in. Some early examples were a simple stoneware, glazed with salt, and embossed with the visage of a bearded man. These bottles were secreted away within the walls of the house, beneath its hearth, or buried at the edge of the property. Some were tossed into a fire to break the spell focused on its owner.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Johnny Frank Garret's Curse


Johnny Frank Garret, a mentally handicapped man from Amarillo, was executed by the State of Texas for the rape and murder of Sister Tadea Benz, a Catholic nun at St. Francis Convent, on the morning of October 31, 1981 when he was 17 years old. Garret claimed he was innocent throughout the whole ordeal. Despite requests for stays of execution and even an appeal for clemency from Pope John Paul II, Garret was executed by lethal injection on February 11, 1992. Later, DNA evidence and follow up investigations pointed to Leoncio Perez Rueda as the true culprit.

According to legend, among Garret's final acts was to pen what the Austin Chronicle termed a "theatrical curse" on all those who had a hand in this injustice. And if may have actually come to pass. A number of the attorneys, jurors, and others associated with the case have died peculiarly since his execution. Others found themselves surrounded by tragedy.

One juror's daughter died from an accidental gunshot wound to the head while his sister was killed by a drunk driver. Several jurors and lawyers died of cancer. Medical Examiner, Ralph Erdemann, was convicted of several felonies, including falsifying autopsies. Both a fellow inmate of Garret's and his former school teacher testified against him. They both committed suicide, as did the District Attorney Danny Hill. His daughter hanged herself a few years after. Another attorney's wife committed suicide and his son was accidentally locked inside a hot car, causing permanent brain damage.

Of course, if you take a given group of people over an indeterminate number of years, you will start to rack up a body count. It's the only certainty of life: no one gets out alive. The pool of people associated with his various trials and investigations might run into the hundreds. If 15 of them find themselves embroiled in tragedy, can we really blame that on a curse?

Then again...

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

More Paranormal Potpourri

In 1978 Soviet geologists prospecting by helicopter in remote regions of Siberia discovered a family of six in the forest. The group, which had been living in a primitive dugout with a sagging timber roof, had been so isolated they were unaware World War 2 had ended.

The Oxford Electric Bell has been running continuously on a dry pile battery for nearly 180 years at Oxford's Clarendon Laboratory--and scientists aren't quite sure why.

Transient Lunar Phenomena describes the unexplained flashes of light sometimes seen on the surface of the moon for as long as history records. Theories range from meteor strikes and outgassing to electrostatic events and even aliens.

According to one source, there are over 100 flying saucer patents files over the last 100 years and from around the world. It makes one wonder how many have been responsible for sightings.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Potpourri of the Peculiar

The oddly named Quackers (a Russian onomatopoeia for the sound of frogs) are strange, croaking noises reported by Russian submariners. Most of these reports came out of the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. Icebergs calving? Ultra Low Frequency broadcasts? The jury is out, but Quackers joins other oceanic anomalies such as the famous "Bloop" in showing us how weird the oceans are.

It is thought by some that a Roman legion was captured in a failed attack at the Battle of Carrhae early in the First Century. The victorious Parthians (an ancient Iranian culture) conscripted these Romans into fighting as mercenaries at the Battle of Zhizhi along the border between present day Kazakhstan and China. From here, the Romans may have settled in Zhelaizhai (now Liqian), as many of the modern-day residents of this area claim to be descended from Roman soldiers.


A mastodon discovered in 2017 at the Cerutti site in San Diego County, California dates to 130,000 years ago. But the remarkable thing are the indicators that suggest the animal may have been killed by humans, pushing the known timeline of the Americas back far beyond the current consensus.


Off the west coast of Cuba lies an unusual feature that some believe is a lost sunken city. Sonar scans of the area in 2001 revealed structures that could be interpreted as a city with pyramids. National Geographic editor John Echave said the scans showed "interesting anomalies." So far no one has taken samples or dived on the site, so perhaps in the future we will learn more of this intriguing enigma.


In August 2005, a small mummified body was found in the ruins of the ancient Persian settlement of Makhunik in present-day Iran. According to some reports, the village was replete with scaled-down architecture, suggesting this may have been the home of a dwarf people. A similar site is rumored to exist in Iran's Kerman Province as well. Archaeologists who have studies these sites dismiss the notion these are dwarf cities. Others state the mummy wasn't a dwarf either; it was simply the body of an infant.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

THE MYTH OF THE WAR OF THE WORLDS PANIC

This past Halloween marked the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles' production of H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" for The Mercury Theatre radio program. If you aren't familiar with the tale of Martians invading Earth, then you're at least likely to know the story of the panic that this ersatz news broadcast generated. Or so we're often led to believe. The truth is far less dramatic.

The radio play--done in the style of an actual news report--aired at Halloween with all the requisite disclaimers informing listeners but if you tuned in late, you might be forgiven for thinking the world was coming to an end.


And so the story goes that millions of listeners lost their ever-loving minds over this fake broadcast. However, in reality, hardly anyone was fooled by the broadcast. In fact, the broadcast didn't have a large market share and was in competition with the much more popular
Chase and Sanborn Hour" on another network. 

Much of the hoopla surrounding a supposed panic arose from newspapers at the time, which saw an opportunity to undermine their chief competitor (radio) and reclaim a chunk of their lost business. The increasing popularity of radio as a source of news and entertainment was hitting print media harder and harder as each year passed.

So by lambasting the radio drama as a source of fear-mongering and consternation, the newspapers of the time were able to paint the whole of radio with a broad brush of distrust and misinformation.
And they sold it well.

80 years later, most people are still under the impression that the War of the Worlds broadcast fomented a panic theretofore unseen in the annals of human history. And whenever someone dredges up the old tale at Halloween or such, it all gets regurgitated because their primary sources of information are...you guessed it. Newspapers. When the written record is largely comprised of false accounts, it's easy to see how people decades removed--people accustomed to trusting newspapers--might believe that one little radio broadcast in 1938 nearly destroyed a nation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Legend of Old Rip, The Hibernating Horny Toad

In 1897, the town of Eastland in Eastland Co., Texas began construction on a new courthouse. As it was being built, officials decided a time capsule should be placed within the building's cornerstone. Among the items placed inside to commemorate Eastland at the close of the 19th century was a live horned lizard (or horny toad) they named Old Rip. It was believed at the time that these indigenous lizards could hibernate for up to 100 years.


On February 1928, as the courthouse was being preparing to be demolished, the time capsule was opened in front of 3,000 witnesses. The contents were removed and displayed for those in attendance, including Old Rip who was held aloft by a local minister. As the man held the animal by one leg, the spectators were startled to see its other leg slowly twitch into life. In a matter of moments, the horned lizard then puffed up in a strategy of defense common for its kind.


Shortly thereafter, the amazing spectacle was taken on the road as a side show, eventually touring the United States. Even then President Coolidge marveled at the miraculous lizard.


Unfortunately, after 11 months of the tour circuit, Old Rip died. To commemorate the animal, he was taxidermied and placed inside a tiny, velvet lined coffin and displayed in the new courthouse. Aside from being briefly stolen in 1973, Old Rip has remained at the Eastland County courthouse ever since. You can still visit him today. But some say, when the lights are turned off and all is quiet, you can still hear...Naw, I'm just joking.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Reed Case: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

 
The peculiar, harrowing case of the Reed family remains one of the most baffling instances of a Close Encounter of the 4th Kind, which was described by eminent UFOlogist Jacques Vallee as an event in which a human is abducted by a UFO or its occupants.

One September evening in 1966, 6 year-old Thomas and his little brother Matthew were in their beds at home in Sheffield, MA when Thomas spotted strange, flashing lights coming from a saucer-shaped object that was landing in their yard. Some accounts say the boys had a strange feeling and entered the hall outside their rooms in time to spy two strange figures at the top of the stairs, which they described as "ghosts."

Either way, the brothers inexplicably found themselves outside and approaching the object and its occupants.

Thomas would later describe the beings as 3 to 5 feet tall and looking "like a young, frail humans" with characteristics of insects as well. To his memory, he felt they weren't wholly organic, as if they were manufactured. He said the beings themselves glowed.

The occupants of the strange, Frisbee-like craft, which Thomas described as 15 feet tall, 60 feet round, and looking "a little beat up," took them inside and showed them images of a willow tree and a body of water on a screen. The boys don't remember much after that and they don't recall how they got back home.

This wouldn't be the only time the boys experienced a Close Encounter. The following year, Thomas and his brother spotted a bright light, pouring through their second-story bedroom window. The air grew still and heavy as the light intensified and the boys suddenly found themselves back inside the object. The pair were subjected to various medical exams during this visit. Thomas would later relate how he felt like a "walking Petri dish."

Again, there are disparate accounts. Another telling of this encounter says that only Thomas was initially taken and that Matthew ran to his mother to explain what had happened. Frantic, the boys' mother, Nancy, ran to the bedroom but was startled by a loud screeching accompanied by a door slam. When she turned back to Matthew, she was shocked to find him missing. Now both of her sons were gone and only she and her own mother, Marian, remained.

The grandmother searched the house while Nancy searched their property on horseback. Eventually, she spotted the boys as she rode along the Appalachian Trail. They were 15 feet apart on broad dirt path, staring at one another. They seemed to be in shock and not very responsive. Nancy brought the boys home and eventually they recovered from their ordeal.

Between this event and the next, the boys' mother, Nancy, would marry Howard Reed, to whom she would relate her family's history with such phenomena dating back to the early 1950s. Howard Reed was a local official at the time and he found these accounts disturbing, as they might threaten his political standing.

The third time the boys were taken came in September of 1969 as the family was driving home along Route 7 when their car suddenly stalled and coasted to a stop alongside the road. Within moments, the lights arrived from the woods beyond and the air again grew heavy and silent. A buzzing sensation swept over the occupants.

Suddenly, Thomas was no longer in the car. He found himself inside what looked like a huge hangar and he was walking toward a figure surrounded by light at the far end. Once he arrived, the figure took him along white walled, narrow corridors with equally narrow doors.

Later confirmation among Reeds though indicated that all four of them were taken this time. They recalled being in different parts of the space ship, away from one another. When they were returned to their vehicle, they were each sitting in spots in the car different from the ones from which they were abducted and their grandmother was outside the vehicle, wandering the road.

Shortly after this incident transpired, Nancy sold the farm and they family moved to Connecticut.
Over 40 eyewitnesses spotted a UFO along Route 7 that night, and a picture Thomas Reed drew of the craft now hangs in a UFO museum in Roswell, NM.

Come the 1980s, Howard Reed me Robert Bletchman, an attorney, who began to investigate the Reed's case. He collected reports, data, and testimony from witnesses and various agencies that corroborated the strange goings-on at the Reed Farm and beyond. Much of this would later be presented before a United Nations Symposium in October 1992 that looked into the veracity of these events and whether they warranted further scrutiny.

In 2006, Howard Reed began working on a book detailing his family's ordeal and the evidence gained through various investigations over the years. Unfortunately, Howard suffered a sudden death from Legionnaire's Disease. A possibly apocryphal account details that when the CDC inspected Howard's office, they found a vial containing the deadly virus secreted away in an A/C vent. Given his standing in the community, a day of remembrance was established in Howard's honor by the City of Bridgeport, CT.

The final encounter the Reed family would have with UFOs and their occupants happened to Matthew years later when he was living in Indiana. He had been driving home on night of March 30, 2009 when the lights returned. He saw an orange ball of light briefly hover over the road ahead before zooming away to the south.

His Chevy Blazer then stalled and he suddenly found himself inside a spacecraft where "everything kind of glows." There, he encountered three different types of aliens: Reptilians, the classic Gray, and some large creature with elephant-like skin. The occupants placed Reed on a table and placed a mechanism on his head that emitted sounds similar to a tuning radio.

Again, the abducted Reed was disgorged from the craft in an unknown fashion and returned to his car with only the vaguest of memories. At the time he could only recall that he was outside his Blazer with a bloody nose and mud caked on his shoes. His watch was stopped at 10:30 pm--the time when he saw the light--but the actual time was just after midnight.

When he returned home, he told his mother that he thought it was all happening again.

The instauration of these phenomena in the lives of the Reed sons rekindled the moribund accounts and brought them to the attention of law enforcement officials and high profile UFO investigators, such as those working at the behest of Aerospace billionaire Robert Bigelow. From these renewed investigations, more data was collected that attests to high amounts of radiation and exposure to magnetic fields that affected property and vehicles belonging to the Reed family. Moreover, Thomas Reed was given a polygraph test in 2010 that he passed with a score of 99.1%.

Since then, the brothers to one extent or another have been in the UFOlogy spotlight and their story has been the subject of documentaries, news reports, blogs, and podcasts. While the two maintained a distance as adults, addressing the issue more publicly as they have in recent years has brought the brothers closer than they had been in a long time.