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


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 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


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 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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Lesser Known Folk Monsters

These beasts may not be among the most famous, but they have their followers who, despite evidence to the contrary, insist they are very real creatures worthy of fearing.

Mauthe Doog (Moddey Dhoo) - a legendary hell hound (if hell hounds can be small, black Spaniels) that haunts Peel Castle on the Isle of Mann. This mysterious animal has been reported since the 1700s walking the castle's corridors and sometimes curling up before the fire. The soldiers at the castle were wary of its presence but gave it due respect. The animal disturbed the men so much that they made a point of traveling in pairs and groups anywhere they went in the castle. It never seemed to bother them until one night when a drunken soldier boasted that he wasn't afraid of the Mauthe Doog and wandered off alone into the darkness of the castle. The dog arose from its spot in front of the fire and followed the man. Within a few minutes, the other soldiers were startled by anguished screams and cries of fear coming from the castle's dark recesses. The men raced as a group to the source of the distress and were shocked to find the drunken soldier dead.

The Snow Snake -- An internet urban legend about The Snow Snake has been making the rounds online for several years. The image of what clearly appears to be a rubber snake painted white sitting in the snow has been presented as a dangerous species of viper with a highly venomous bite. We'll just ignore the fact that snakes are cold-blooded and hibernate in the winter.

The Gumberoo -- Arising from tales told by early American lumberjacks, this beast resembles a very large, but hairless bear with a tough, shiny black hide. Legend said that bullets and arrows would not pierce its skin, but that it could be killed by fire.

Monster Turtle -- An enormous turtle is said to live in the waters of Big Blue Pond in Iowa's Clear Lake State Park near Mason City. 

The Ozark Howler -- This bear-sized horned beast is covered in shaggy black fur and emits a blood-curdling scream that is like a wolf and an elk having a drunken argument.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Legend of the Snallygaster

R. M. Hanson
The Snallygaster (a corruption of the German term Schneller Geist, which translates as quick ghost) is an American folk legend coming out of German enclaves of the east coast from around the 1730s.

Much of these are centered around central Maryland and the area around Washington DC. Legend describes this demon as a mélange of nightmarish features: dragons, reptiles, and birds with metallic beaks and razor sharp teeth--even tentacles.

The beast will dive in a sudden, silent attack from the skies to swoop up an unsuspecting victim and carry its prey off into the night. Some accounts say the Snallygaster will suck the blood from its victim like a vampire.

Throughout the region, seven-pointed stars can be seen on barns. This German tradition is a ward against bad luck and evil spirits such as the Snallygaster.

Throughout the years, the legend accreted into a morass of influences that took off in popular culture via accounts published in less-than-reputable papers. These reports included fictitious claims that the Smithsonian Institution was offering a reward for a Snallygaster hide and the President Theodore Roosevelt had plans to hunt for the beast himself.

These days, the regional beast is another entry in the list of local monsters moving merchandise like The Jersey Devil or Sasquatch. These 'Small Town Monsters' seem to be gaining popularity in recent years as legend tripping catches on as a fun, ironic antidote to the mindless and mundane activities that feed our addiction to otherwise sheltered lives spent indoors staring at our phones.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ireland's Carriage of Death

The Cóiste Bodhar (say it like coach-a-bower) is a psychopomp of Irish folklore that appears as either a black coach or sometimes a hearse, carrying a black coffin. The coach is pulled by a team of black horses and driven by the Dullahan, a sort of Headless Horseman of Irish legend. The Dullahan drives the coach to the home of one slated for death to collect his or her soul, much as the legendary Grim Reaper does. According to legend, if the The Cóiste Bodhar is passing through, all gated roads should be opened so as to allow him swift passage through and away to somewhere--anywhere--else.

In 1806, a man lay dying while his family waited for the doctor on the stoop outside. Hearing the furious roar of a fast approaching coach, the family eagerly stood to greet the doctor. Two of the man's sons ran to open the gate but found it locked. It was never locked. This was strange. One of the sons ran back inside to find the keys, but the coach only raced on  at break-neck speed. The family was confused by this and then startled when the dark coach suddenly vanished. It wasn't the doctor who drove by at all; it was the Dullahan atop the dreaded Cóiste Bodhar. When the son came back from inside, he said he found the keys hidden beneath the innkeeper's pillow, as if he knew the sick man in his bed would surely draw the attention of The Cóiste Bodhar.

Probably it is for the best. Legend claims that anyone who opens their door to the apparition, will be splashed in the face by a basin of blood.

It is recommended that anyone who spots the coach avert his or her eyes. Making eye contact with the Dullahan could force him to stop and unexpectedly claim a new passenger.

One man, Michael Noonan, witnessed the coach while out riding and described it as completely silent even though the six black horses pulling it were galloping furiously. Noonan, knowing the legend, quickly averted his eyes and the fearsome carriage flew past him on its silent quest for souls.

On December 11, 1876, a servant working for the MacNamara family at Ennistymon House in County Clare had been walking the grounds late at night when he hear the approach of a carriage. What an odd hour to arrive, he thought. But as he peered into the darkness, the servant had the horrible realization that this was The Cóiste Bodhar. He quickly raced along the road and opened the gates leading to the home before throwing himself into the vegetation at the side of the road just in time to witness the black coach fly past. Sir Burton MacNamara was spared that night as the coach rode past the house without stopping. Unfortunately, it must have rode on to find it's quarry elsewhere: Sir Burton MacNamara died only a day later, in London.

While no one truly believes the legend anymore, the Dullahan and The Cóiste Bodhar are still something of a bogeyman that children in parts of Ireland still fear.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Monsters of the Great White North

The Mi'gmaq people dwelling in the Chaleur Bay area between Quebec and New Brunswick have legends of a beast they term the Gougou that resembles the near-invariable descriptions of Bigfoot: Hairy, bipedal, with large hands and feet.

One of the earliest written accounts comes from Samuel de Champlain in 1603. Locals told him of the Gugwes or Gougous that dwelled on an island at the southern end of the bay. The locals described the beasts as fearsome and of gigantic proportions (the tallest masts of Champlain's ships would scarcely reach the beast's waist).

Champlain then goes on to state that Sieur Prevert and his men had heard the beast as they passed through the area in search of mining opportunities. The French miners were so frightened by the terrible sound, they would hide themselves whenever they heard it.

The legend also brushes against that of the Wendigo. Cultural anthropologist and folklorist Elsie Clews Parsons wrote in 1925 of her time among the Mi'gmaq in the area of Chaleur Bay. In her work, she recounts a murderous and cannibalistic tale of a pregnant woman who was killed and consumed by such creatures that were described as very hirsute with monkey faces. The implication that cannibalism was afoot seems to establish a connection with ourselves, perhaps in how the creatures were closer to man than animal. It might also be reflective of the folkloric creatures such as the Wendigo whose evil natures are born from taboos, often cannibalism.

Similar to the accounts of dog men, such as the infamous Beast of Bray Road, another tale from the area talks about a more canine iteration of hair beasts that stalk the region. Reverend A. Fulton Johnson (1866-1940) told his son, J. Kenneth Johnson, about his days in New Brunswick. The reverend spoke of a strange beast that could be seen occasionally at the edge of the woods near their home. It was squat with long arms and entirely covered in hair. Legend in the area at the time was that these creatures were half man and half dog. Its presence was a concern for many in the area.
Are these all different creatures being described? Are there such things as Dog Men, Gougous, Wendigos, and Wood Apes? Or are we seeing the same phenomenon through very different cultural lenses?