Thursday, August 15, 2019

WEIRD BLOBS AND SKY FOAM

One night in September 1950, two Philadelphia police officers spotted a glittering disc as it descended from the sky. The pair assumed it was an errant parachute. However, when it landed the officers were astounded by what they saw. The "parachute" was actually a pulsating, scintillating disc of some gelatinous substance approximately 6 feet in diameter and 1 foot thick in the center. When one of the officers tried to take a sample of it, the substance crumbled in his hands and evaporated. All that remained was a sticky residue on his fingers. Within 30 minutes, the disc had wholly evaporated. Later, this incident would inspire the classic 1950s horror film, "The Blob."
New York City


An article from discovery.com in 2009 recounted a similar enigma in Manhattan. In this instance, large globules of soap foam were spotted falling from the sky. Upon investigation, it was learned that maintenance workers were cleaning a ventilation system on the roof of a nearby skyscraper. Foam nearly fits the description of what the officers saw that night in 1950: It is light enough to descend from the sky slowly, its buoyant composition would lend it a jiggle some might call pulsating, and the tiny bubbles would produce a scintillating effect when the officers shone their flashlights on it. Furthermore, it would dissolve quickly and leave behind a sticky residue in ones hands should it be handled. Very large chunks of a similar soapy substance were recorded blowing around the Doukkala region of Morocco in 2016. Some said industrial soap foam was responsible here as well. Others theorized it was seafoam washed inland on strong breezes.


Morocco

Thursday, July 25, 2019

La Malacosa -- A Texas Legend of High Strangeness

The journey of Cabeza de Vaca
Texas weirdness stretches from the latest UFO sighting to the most ancient of enigmas. One obscure account in particular, from nearly five centuries ago, still causes heads to scratch even now. Just what exactly visited one local tribe in the 16th Century? Was it man, demon, or something more out of this world?

According to chronicles published in 1542, Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his beleaguered retinue encountered Native Americans known as Avavares (a Caddoan people) living in South Texas who told him of a visit from a short, bearded entity they received 15 years prior to The Spaniard’s arrival in 1534 .

So vague was their impression of the being, the tribesmen weren't sure if it was even a man, a woman, or what. Sometimes the stranger would attend the tribe's ceremonies dressed as one of their men, and other times he wore women's garments. It was as if he either didn't know the distinction or simply didn't care. While at these festivals, the interloper neither ate nor drank anything. When asked where he came from, the odd man would simply point enigmatically to a hole in the ground and simply respond "from down below."

In Cabeza de Vaca's account, the entity is referred to as La Malacosa, a Spanish compound word for "the bad thing." It's not clear if the Spanish translated a local term as La Malacosa or if this was simply how they described this seemingly monstrous entity. And his actions can indeed be described as such.

The Avavares recounted how La Malacosa would visit their homes at night brandishing a hot firebrand, grab whomever he wished, and slice their sides open. He would then reach into the gaping wound and excise a section of entrails that he would then toss into the fire. He then made three cuts in one of their arms and then another elsewhere. He then dislocated the victims arm before resetting it once more. Strangest of all, when La Malacosa placed his hands on their wounds, the closed immediately. The stranger was also prone to sending their dwellings high into the air and letting them crash to the ground.

The Spaniards didn't believe this tale, brushing it all off as a folk legend. The tribal leader with whom they spoke though took them to others in the village who verified these events transpired just as described. Was La Malacosa a demon from the depths of hell or an alien from a subterranean base? Perhaps a time traveler? A traveler from elsewhere in the world who predated Spanish contact? Maybe La Malacosa was simply a strange encounter with an ordinary man that turned into a fantastic tale as it crossed barriers of language, culture, and time.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Strange Travels: Jamaica. The Roehampton Poltergeist.



While visiting the Island of Jamaica this week, I decided to dig into its dark past to bring you tales that might provide a bit of a chill on these hot Summer days. Enjoy!

The Caribbean island of Jamaica has seen much tumult over the centuries. It has been fought over by warring powers during the height of European colonization; it was a notorious haven for pirates and privateers; and it was, as many of these islands were, a stronghold of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. However, these are the broad strokes; this palm-fringed paradise has also been home to smaller, more mysterious conflicts that defy rational explanation and leave the denizens of Jamaica confused and afraid, as was the case with a tormented young girl over 80 years ago...

14 year old Muriel McDonald—a sensible, unimaginative girl, according to press reports—was living with the head mistress of her school, Miss C. E. Johnson, at the teacher's cottage in Roehampton, Jamaica in the spring of 1931 when peculiar things began to manifest. Stones would be hurled at the cottage by unseen hands, and once inside, would levitate and ricochet around the room under their own volition. Soon books, pots, and jars joined the kinetic maelstrom afflicting the small cottage.

Those in witness of these events quickly noted the strange phenomenon only occurred in Muriel's presence. However, despite taking the brunt of the physical assaults, the young girl seemed unperturbed by it. Miss Johnson, however, was never stuck by any of the stones or other objects. If any of the missiles came near her, they would suddenly drop to the floor. It was as if she had a force field around her. As for Muriel, people had to watch over her constantly to ensure her safety. In one instance, the girl had picked up a hammer only to find it ripped from her hands by this unseen force, fly high into the air, and come plummeting down with frightening speed. It would have struck her head had it not been for the interference of those around her. People began keeping a watch over the pair even as they slept, but it made no difference. Even while dreaming, the stones and other objects would hurl about.

The situation dragged on for weeks. June 6th, 7th, and 8th were among the worst days during the ordeal. Scores of men and women came to the cottage to witness the events and pray for those living therein, but bottles, bricks, and even tables were being violently tossed about the small cottage. A local boy, Martel Hurlock, picked up one of the many stones, wrote his name on it, and flung it out the door. In short order, the same autographed pebble shot back through a window, bounced off the ceiling, and hit the floor with incredible force. One wall of the house was being demolished by the force in order to use its materials as a greater source of projectiles. Eventually Miss Johnson was forced to leave for her sanity and safety.

Those in attendance spoke of other bizarre phenomena. In one instance, a lamp had been hurled through a small hole in a wall, but when an onlooker tried to pass it back through that same hole, it would not fit. A stone weighing roughly half a pound was thrown through a glass pane without damage. Occasionally, it was noticed, that some the stones manifested from the ceiling, leaving the plaster undamaged.

It seemed the consensus was that some sort of malevolent spirit (duppies, as they are known on Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean) was at work, a violent poltergeist. Muriel, in fact, claimed to see a ghostly agent at the heart of the activity, but no one else did. She stated that whenever she tried to draw their attention to him, the entity would indicate threateningly that she should keep quiet. She told how she saw these duppies all the time, but that she most frequently saw a man in white following her about. However, her descriptions don't sound particularly ghostly. She recounted how he spied on her from back of the house and intercepted her as she tried to go to the latrine. On several occasions, she was able to chase him away by throwing a rock or setting her dog on him. Still, she associated this man with the strange happenings at the cottage, indicating that he often slapped, pinched, and otherwise molested her. He would also knock things from her hands or hurl stones and masonry at her. Muriel further indicated that she only encountered the man and the phenomenon at Miss Johnson's cottage. While Muriel said that she was a bit afraid of these strange goings-on, she was nonetheless feeling all right. She added that she loved Miss Johnson and their life together at the cottage.

It should be noted that Muriel's encounter wasn't unique. Other, similar stone-throwing events had happened on the island around the time, including one investigated by Lord Sydney Olivier when he was governor of Jamaica. This case is peculiar in the annals of hauntings and poltergeists because it seems to combine elements of both when they are frequently unrelated phenomena. Parapsychologists and psychical researchers have shown over many decades of research that true poltergeist happenings follow a particular pattern that often includes an adolescent girl around whom these kinetic manifestations center. It is believed these spontaneous psychokinetic manifestations arise from a psyche in tumult as it teeters on the hormonal precipice of adulthood. Yet, for all accounts, Muriel was happy where she was. Still, one has to wonder about the circumstances surrounding her living situation.

No details were given in the reporting of the time to indicate why it was that Muriel was living with her teacher and not her family. Furthermore, there is an almost sadistically lecherous aspect to her encounters with the Man in White that cannot be overlooked. Could Muriel's powerful subconscious be acting out against a suppressed rage? That she would be the focus of the attacks isn't uncommon either. In many of these cases, the agent is the individual most tormented by the force. Some suspect this is tantamount to self-harm, a paranormal manifestation of low self-esteem.

Inexplicably, the spontaneous manifestation of hurtling stones (lithobolia) is a common thread among many of these. As are other aspects of Muriel's case. In fact, it is highly reminiscent of the Centrahoma Poltergeist as well as similar events in Guyra, Australia; Birmingham, England; and New Castle, New Hampshire.

Eventually, Muriel was persuaded to abandon the cottage, after which the stone throwing ceased. This is yet another example of that blurred line between ghostly happenings and psychic phenomena that surrounds this case. It would seem that Muriel’s departure coinciding with the cessation of activity is an indication that she was, indeed, the locus of the phenomenon. However, Muriel wasn’t plagued thereafter, by all accounts, by these strange stone throwing shenanigans, which indicates that these events were location-based.

No proper investigation was conducted by law enforcement, the press, or psychical investigators. Much of what the press reported at the time was tantamount to hearsay, if later investigations are to be believed. While it seems obvious that something happened at the Roehampton cottage, just how spectacular it truly was remains in dispute. Instances of lithobolia, as stated, are not uncommon in poltergeist cases, but as time marched on, the press was relaying increasingly incredible events. It could be these accounts were somewhat dressed up to keep a newspaper buying public interested.

Was there a hoax afoot? Such claims have been levied before against claimants of poltergeist phenomena. Again, the case lacked proper investigation, thus remaining a mystery that provides more questions that it can ever answer.

Much of what we know of this tale comes from Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica (1934), by Joseph J. Williams, professor of Cultural Anthropology at Boston College. In this tome, Williams also recounts how in 1917 he was visiting a ‘notorious obeah district’ (Obeah being a syncretic Afro-Caribbean belief system similar to Vodou, Santeria, and others) in the mountains of St. Mary’s Parish when he was asked by a man to come and bless his house. The man said his family was unable to eat because and Obeah curse had been placed on them all. Whenever they would try to place food in their mouths, it would be flung away by an unseen force. Williams thought it sounded far-fetched, but nonetheless ventured to the village where he was stuck by the general fervor in the air. Clearly something had the locals riled up. When he arrived at the man’s home, a small crowd was already in attendance, awaiting both more strange food-flinging antics and what ministrations Williams could bring to the tormented family. After talking to the locals, Williams came to the conclusion that whatever was going on, they truly believed it supernatural. Still, he saw nothing unusual himself, so he blessed the home and departed the village.

The Ashanti or Asante are a Twi-speaking people of present-day Ghana who ruled over a once rich and powerful empire several centuries ago. During the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, a large Diaspora of Ashanti arrived in Jamaica where their religion co-mingled with that of Christians. Among their beliefs is that of the mmoatia (sometimes referred to as chichiriga), or little people, a duppie that might best be described as something of an imp or fairy. They can be boons or banes, depending on their mood and how they are treated. Most people can't see them and is these that some say cause the poltergeist-like phenomena. It is said when they are mischievous they will throw stones that behave in ways that no stone should, such as passing through walls unscathed or hitting people with little to no effect. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

PHONE CALLS FROM THE DEAD

On 9/20/1988 bestselling writer Dean Koontz received a strange call at his unlisted number. The woman's voice sounded distant and it faded further each time she repeated her urent message: "Please, be careful!" After he hung up, Koontz was left with the impression he'd spoken to his deceased mother. Two days later the author was attacked by his father, Ray, while visiting him in a care facility. Ray had secretly purchased himself a fishing knife which he used to slash at his son but the writer managed to get it away from him. When the police arrived, they pulled their weapons on Koontz who was now holding the weapon, thinking he was the culprit. Recalling the phone warning, Koontz realized THIS was the scenario for which he received the call.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Blue Man of the Ozarks


From the dark forests and hills of the Ozarks comes an old legend of a hirsute figure that stands in testament to the longevity of Bigfoot sightings in the region. In contrast to the assertion that this is a recent phenomenon, the tale of the Blue Man stretches back at least as far as 185 when a renowned trapper and hunter by the name of "Blue Sol" Collins encountered strange tracks in the snow along Blue Creek, near the confluence of the Missouri river and Auxvasse Creek.

Collins described the tracks as bear-like with claws marks, but they would have had to have been the biggest bear he had ever seen. Without trepidation, the seasoned hunter stalked his quarry for many miles, eventually coming to Twin Mountain.

As Collins climbed the slope, he was suddenly assaulted by several large boulders running down the hillside toward him. He was luckily able to dodge the rockslide, but as he looked up, he spotted an enormous, 9-foot tall, hairy man. The figure was clad only in a leather breech, an animal pelt over his shoulders, and primitive shoes tied with strips of leather that left the left the claw-like impressions in the snow.

Collin could see the man--or whatever it was--held a long wood branch that had been used as a lever to dislodge the enormous rocks. The strange figure had set the stones free on purpose.

Collins took stock of the situation and decided--perhaps wisely--to discontinue his pursuit of the hairy figure.

Strange occurrences were reported over the intervening years (missing livestock, etc.), but no sighting of the wild man was reported until 1874 when over a dozen men witnessed it and gave pursuit. Expert as these men might have been at hunting in these woods, they were unable to capture it.

By this time, the name "Blue Man" had come into use in describing the wild man. It is not clear why, but it may be that because "Blue Sol" first reported the strange apparition, that locals took to calling him "Blue's Man" and then later simply "Blue Man." Over the next few decades, like a very long game of telephone, the details would evolve and it would be said the creature was of a purplish-blue color.

Legends even sprang up to explain its existence. One of these involved a French trader who came into the region when it still belonged to France, taking with him a young Spanish woman whom he gifted to a local tribe. From their offspring, the Blue Man evolved, according to a local named "Uncle Jerry" who had lived in the region since the 1820s.

Another search was mounted in 1890 when sightings cropped up. This, too, was an unsuccessful venture. In 1911, a den was found in the hills that locals believed was its home, but the creature was nowhere to be seen.

In 1915, a farmer went in search of two errant lambs. He found their bloody remains in a remote hollow. The following day, the farmer spotted the "Blue Man" chasing after a hog in those same woods. Others had similar sightings.

The descriptions of the creature at this time described a somewhat changed being: thinner, less robust, and its formerly black hair had grown gray. Still, the beast was feared.

Accounts in newspapers seem to die off by the 1930s, but it's likely that the Blue Man was still well known for decades thereafter. While, it's a bit more obscure legend these days, tales of Bigfoot like creatures are still strong in the region.

My grandfather grew up in the area and had his own stories to tell, including the time when I was kid and he had gone outside to scare off a strange, hairy creature that moved on two legs as it tried to get at my grandfather's hogs.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Happy Face Haunting

On the Happy Face podcast, Melissa Moore, daughter of serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, recounts a sleepless night in the room of their home where her father killed a woman, although she didn't know this at the time. She recalls seeing strange splattered stains on the ceiling and cabinet doors that seemed to be opening and closing on their own. She recounts this with a peculiar nonchalance that belies the clearly paranormal implications. Did Melissa witness the haunting of her father's victim?

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.