I-4 Deadzone

One of the deadliest roads of America is a quarter mile of Florida's I-4 Highway. It is sad that accidents happen for no reason, ghostly sightings are the norm, and other unexplainable phenomena riddle this short stretch of asphalt.

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Before the I-4 Deadzone was known as the I-4 Deadzone, before it Sanford, Florida, it was the home of the Mayaca (also known as the Jojoro). The Mayaca, tragically, were primarily wiped out by early contact with Europeans and the ensuing war and disease that the Europeans left in their wake.

After the Mayaca were wiped out and many Native Americans had left the area, especially after the Seminole wars, Swedish immigrants began working the very same land. Tirelessly, they strove to conquer this strange and somewhat alien terrain with farms, buildings, and more. However, just ten years after the initial colony was created a fire broke out and decimated much of the settlement. Shortly after the fire that razed so much to the ground an outbreak of Yellow Fever followed and, since tragedies came in threes,a historic freeze would ruin the citrus crop and hurt the industry.

A few years after this in the late 1870s Henry Sanford, a prominent businessman, turned his eyes towards Florida, believing he could cash-in. He bought up a lot of land in central Florida, including what would later be called Sanford, and had hopes of building a Catholic farming community.

To his dismay, only a handful of families took him and his business partner up on this offer. And, from the very smart, just like the Swedes, Sanford and those who took him up on his offer were in for hardship. Originally, they established a town called St. Joseph’s but that was soon snuffed out by the mosquitoes and the deadly diseases they carried: yellow fever. The homestead was abandoned by 1887.

The farms and homesteads remained empty until the early 20th century. In 1905 Albert Hawkins bought up the land and whatever was left over on it and built a home and farm for his family. He was likely not very aware of the sordid history of the land and was surprised when he came upon a rusty wire fence with four wooden crosses. As a pious man wanting to respect those who attempted to farm the land before him, he rebuilt and began maintaining this tiny cemetery. He put a new fence up, mowed the lawn, and always kept it spic and span. He was extremely serious about its upkeep and was sure to tell his children and grandchildren to respect the graveyard and stay away from it.

However, not everyone was as respectful as the Hawkins. Rumor has it that a neighbor tore down a piece of the fence that surrounded the cemetery. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but his home was struck lightning the same day and completely burnt to the ground. This would only be the start of strange activity as other neighbors began to complain of strange things happening in their home, like toys moving on their own, rooms with drafts, and more.

It would appear that Albert Hawkins was prudent to respect the family that had once lived on his land, as they seem to be the type to hold a grudge and exact vengeance. According to Wizzley.com “ In the 1950’s, a friend of Mr. Hawkins’ grandson thought it would be fun to kick over the wooden crosses and maybe dig up some bones. The next day as he was walking through town, he was struck by a car and died instantly. The driver was never identified, and witnesses to the accident - lifelong residents of Sanford – didn’t recognize the car.”

Around the same time as this man was hit by a car, a superhighway was proposed. The plan had it cutting right through Sanford. Hawkins’ wife, as he had died, decided to sell the land including the small graveyard. The land surveyors, who were aware of the graves, decided that they were so old that they did not warrant refiguring the highway to go around the graves or exhuming and reburying the graves. Instead, they just decided to build over the small plots.

If kicking wooden crosses and messing with the fence made the spirits of this land angry, you can only imagine what building a superhighway over them would do.

The first years of the I-4 in the early 1960s had drivers reporting glowing orbs, full-bodied apparitions, issues with their radios, and disembodied voices.

At first, many of these happenings were dismissed as drivers being tired, bored, over-imaginative, and even driving under the influence. However, soon enough local law enforcement realized something else was a play. For the stretch of highway that passed through Hawkins’ once well-maintained graveyard, there was an inordinate amount of accidents.

Since the I-4 opened in 1963, there have been over 2,000 accidents in that quarter mile stretch alone. That is why it is called ‘The Dead Zone.’ In fact, in 2017 the I-4, in general, was named the most deadly highway in America.  Using federal data, a study found I-4 that the road held an average of 1.25 fatalities per mile and have increased 10% since 2015.

So, what came first? Was this story created to explain and warn others about the dangerous driving conditions of the I-4? Or, is the land the road is built on dating back to pre-European contact simply cursed...by who and for what reason, we may never know.

Thanks to Ericha Loch T for the blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is unrelated to the story (not taken in the dead zone). It is entitled, ‘Old Florida Interstate 4 shield in downtown Orlando. Taken May 24, 2003’ by SPUI.This work has been released into the public domain by its author, SPUI.

Franklin Castle

Franklin Castle is a gorgeous Victorian home situated on Franklin Avenue in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. It claims to be the most haunted home in Ohio. But, why is that? Is it because of its strange turrets, watchful gargoyles, and odd six-foot iron gate? Or, does this haunting go more than skin deep?

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The home was built by Hannes Tiedmann and his wife Louise. Hannes was a banker and co-founder of Union Bankings & Savings Co. and used his wealth to build the gorgeous home in 1881. Tiedmann decided to name the grand home after the street it was on, Franklin. The home took about three years to complete and the Tiedmanns, along with their young children, moved in in 1883.

Sadly, shortly after moving into this beautiful home tragedy struck the Tiedmanns as their fifteen-year-old daughter, Emma, died from complications of her diabetes. Her grandmother, Hannes’ mother, would die shortly after. However, these deaths would not be the last in the home. By 1887, three more of the Tiedmann children had died in just three years.

In a likely bid to distract himself to the five deaths that occurred in the newly built mansion, Tiedemann continued to expand the home and make it ever and ever grander. He added a ballroom, turrets, and even gargoyles. The Tiedmanns would leave the home in 1896 after Hannes’ wife, Louise, passed away.

Although no activity was ever cited or discussed by the Tiedmanns, their time in their new home was weighed down with tragedy and death. Sadly, rumors that Hannes was behind these deaths swirled in the community. He was also accused of killing his mentally ill niece, his mistress (and servant) Rachel, his four children, and an illegitimate daughter. He would later die of a stroke.

In 1913, the Mullhauser family, who had the home, sold the castle to the German-American League for Culture which some sources report as being the German Socialist Party. The German-American League for Culture taking over the grand home sparked even more rumors that the home may have been chosen for its tragic background or hidden passageways, which the party would use for medical experimentation and spying on their neighbors. During this time the home was known as Eintracht Hall. It was owned by the league for almost fifty years, from 1921-1968.

In 1968, the Romanos and their six children moved into the home. Mrs. Romano had grown up in the area and had always been fascinating by the strange and striking home. Initially, they toyed with the idea of opening up a restaurant within the home although they changed their minds. Mrs. Romano recalls many strange occurrences within the house, including footsteps, disembodied voices, and the sound of people in the ballroom. Scared at the activity, they called a Catholic priest who declined on doing an exorcism. Perhaps this was because he was a not a licensed or trained exorcist? Or, maybe he thought the Romanos were being a little excessive. However, it is said he acknowledged there was something wrong with the home and that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to move. Not prepared to leave the house, they contacted the Ohio Psychical Research Group. Rumors say that one of the members was so terrified he ran screaming from the home. In 1974, the Romanos left the home.

The house was sold to Sam Muscatello who wanted to capitalize on these rumors of a haunting and offered haunted tours of the castle. He made sure to write down every visitor’s experience and often contacted the media to cover the home. This was bolstered by a discovery of a cache of human bones, believed to be baby bones, were discovered. These may have been planted by the owner who wanted to continue the haunted tours, though. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to make Franklin Castle a must-see haunted attraction and sold the place to a doctor who later sold it to Cleveland's police chief, Richard Hongisto.

The Hongistos were allegedly thrilled to snag the home but would abruptly move out just one year later when they sold it to George Mirceta who, not from the area, had no idea of the home’s strange history. Once he did learn of its history, though, he also decided to run haunted tours.

The home was sold again in 1984 to Judy Garland’s final husband, Michael DeVinko. DeVinko would spend almost one million dollars and a decade of his life restoring the home to glory. He said he has no problems with ghosts or haunting activity and jokingly said it was because he was taking care of the home. He would move out ten years later, in 1994.

It was empty for five years but sold again in 1999. However, before the new owner could move in, an arsonist took to the home and caused extreme damage and the new owner would spend quite a bit on repairs but not enough to make it livable. It was sold in 2003 and then stood empty until 2011 when it was announced the castle would be redesigned and zoned to become a three-family dwelling.

Today, Franklin Castle is home to a record company, Norton Records and Zac Webb, an artist who has lived inside the castle since June 2018. According to Cleveland Scene, “Webb's exhibition "Faces of the Castle" will be on display during the party, and is featuring portraits inspired by his time living in the old Tiedemann House. When asked if Webb has ever experienced anything he notes, "I definitely have had a few experiences in the castle, as has everyone that's ever stayed there," Webb says. "As far as 'haunted?' I'm not quite sure." Webb explains that he frequently had unexplained experiences, including noises made when no one else was around.” He also has had strange dreams in the home and these strange dreams and the faces in them were the inspiration of many of the featured paintings.”

Thanks to Sandy C for the suggestion!

The above image is by Christopher Busta-Peck “A view of the Hannes Tiedemann House at 4308 Franklin Avenue, in Cleveland, Ohio. The structure, built in 1881, was designed by Cudell and Richardson, architects. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license.

Church Grims

It is known as the Church Grim or the Kirk Grim in English, Kyrkogrim in Swedish, and Kirkonavki in Finnish. No matter where you may hear the story the lore surrounding this particular creature is fascinating. Church Grims are popular in both English and Scandinavian folklore. Despite its ominous and frightening appearance many believe the Church Grim is an attendant spirit, sent to oversee a church.

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Although they are an attendant spirit, Church Grims are not some dapper gentleman dressed in clothes of old or a gentle animal. Instead, Church Grims usually appear as intensely fierce black dogs ready to protect the church. In some stories, the dogs can also be rams, horses, roosters, or ravens. In Scandinavian legend it is also said that they can also appear as pale, human-like ghosts who were once parishioners.

The Church Grim may not be as cute and cuddly as our beloved Greyfriars Bobby, it does not call forth evil. Instead, the Church Grim’s one goal is to protect the church safe from the devil. It is a guardian spirit and some people believe this was because early Christians may have sacrificed animals when a new church was built and bury them on the north side of the land. Why would they do this? Well, it was once assumed by several different religious traditions, including early Christianity, that whoever was the first and/or last being interred in the Church’s cemetery would be forced to serve as its guardian for all the years to come. So that this tough existence wouldn't be granted to some poor soul at random, an animal was sacrificed and buried in the churchyard or on the church grounds. Some of the more gruesome traditions suggest that the animal would be buried alive.  

However good its intentions may be, you don’t want to bump into the Church Grim. Church Grim’s are often an omen and herald doom and death to those who witness it.

Thanks to Luke C for the suggestion!

The above image is unrelated to the story and is by Flickr user Matthias Ripp. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Smurl Haunting

The Smurl family was just like any other family living in Pittston, Pennsylvania in the 1980s. The Smurls were a family of six, Janet and Jack Smurl were the parents of four daughters: Dawn, Heather, and twins Shannon and Carin. Their story begins with a completely natural phenomenon. Hurricane Agnes flooded their home in 1972. The Smurls moved in with Jack’s parents to a duplex on 330 Chase St. This home would soon send them careening into the hold of something evil.

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The Duplex was originally built in 1896 and was located on a quiet street in a lovely middle-class neighborhood. The house was bought in 1973. Jack’s parents lived on the right half and the Smurl family lived on the left. The Smurls put a lot of love into their side of the home and spent what money they could redecorating and remodeling in an effort to make their new house a home.

The Smurl family was a well-respected Catholic family. Jack and Janet both grew up nearby. They met in 1967 and married in 1968. Jack served in the Navy and would later become a neuropsychiatric technician.

The haunting began innocently enough in January 1974. A strange stain appeared on one of the home’s new carpets that had no explanation and could not be easily removed. Then the floodgates open. A television set burst into flames, pipes continued to leak despite being re-soldered, the new sink and bathtub were unexplainably scratched. In 1975 Dawn, the oldest daughter, began telling her parents she saw people floating around her bedroom.

This activity may be reminiscent to listeners who tuned into the Black Monk series. Just like the Smurls, the Pritchards also experienced strange figures, leaking pipes, and inexplicable mini-disasters. In addition, two other infamous hauntings, the Perrone family and the Hodgson family both had several daughters. Is it possible that the number and gender of children could also be a factor in these kinds of hauntings?

In 1977, after years of intermittent and easily overlooked experiences the phenomena inside the home began to intensify. In addition to the inexplicable things noted above the family also began hearing footsteps. Other incidents like unplugged radios blaring music, cold spots randomly appearing, drawers were angrily opens and closed, also plagued the home. There were reports of a permeating aroma of rot around the home as well. Furthermore, Jack began to feel an unseen hand caress him and the consistent feeling that he was being watched.

In 1985 the activity sparked to an all-time high. During this time Janet gave birth to the twins (Shannon and Carin) which only seemed to further increase the activity. Scratches began appearing on the family members, the walls would rattle, and the dog and Janet experienced levitation. Jack’s parents, the elder Smurls, often heard insults, screams, and other loud noises emanating from the Smurls side of the duplex. However, nothing evr appeared in their own home.

In January 1986 after years of unexplained annoyances and months of terrifying experiences the Smurls decided to try and get in touch with the Warrens. The Warrens responded positively and made their way from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. They brought along Rosemary Frueh who was a nurse and psychic.

Their investigation would last months - well into August, 1986. In their initial walkthrough they believed there to be four different entities within the home. Three were fairly minor and likely responsible for some of the ‘smaller’ unexplained phenomena. However, the fourth entity was very powerful...and angry. According to the Times Leader, Ed Warren said, “The Smurls are truly a family coming under a visual attack,” Warren said. “The ghost, devil, demon – or whatever you call it – is in that home.”

To deal with the most powerful entity, believed to be a demon, Ed Warren decided to contact a Vatican-mandated exorcist - Father McKenna. The attempted an exorcism did not go very well and seemed to only make the demon angrier.

During this time several members of the family reported being sexually violated or otherwise made ill by the entities. According to Helly Star, “Janet said she had been sexually assaulted by the shadows she had seen, one of the twins, Carin, suddenly fell ill and nearly died from this inexplicable infection, and Dawn, the second twin, she became also sexually assaulting the entity. Janet and her mother-in-law had traces of beatings, bites, and bites all over the body.”

Father McKenna attempted another exorcism some months later but, like the first, this exorcism did not yield positive results.

It was during this time of the activity that rumors began to swirl about the family. Many believed the family might be looking to sell their home or make money off the haunting, as they had recently fallen on tough times.

A third exorcism was attempted but this time with several priests as well as a group of parishioners from a local church. It is important to note that this exorcism does not seem to be supported by the Vatican. However, it appeared to work...no phenomenon was experienced for a number of months. Activity began creeping in again, though, and the family decided to finally leave the home.

Rumors of the haunt being a fake were further bolstered when Ed Warren contacted Robert Curran and suggested he write a book about the Smurls and their haunting.

The person who moved into the home 1988 has never reported supernatural activity. The Smurls have not reported any lingering activity in their new home. In 1991, the Haunted (the same name as the book) was made into a made-for-TV movie.

Thanks to Sonya C-S for the topic suggestion!

The above image is unrelated to the story and was taken by Flickr user Hamish Duncan. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


The realm of the ocean is so unexplored that it almost makes sense that some rumored, but yet unseen, creatures may call this strange blue world home. One of these rumored creatures to exist in the great depths of the ocean is the Ningen. The being is huge, stark white, and vaguely humanoid (in fact, the Japanese characters that represent Ningen means humanoid: 人間).

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It was first allegedly spotted by a group of Japanese fishermen who were in the Arctic around 2007. Since then, it has only been sporadically seen and reported although it is becoming more and more well known. They seem to largely populate the icy and distant waters of Antarctica.

As mentioned above they are quite large, some reports saying up to 30 meters although some reports have been smaller. They are also a bright and obvious white, which attracts the human eye. In addition to their size and color, they are also quite humanoid. They have what appears to be a human-head-shaped head, as well as a short and thick neck. The Ningen also seems to have shoulders and two large, long and perhaps unjointed arms. The arms typically end in long fins that are reminiscent of hands, and some reports go as far as to say they have five fingers on the hand (which would seem to be a not very good advantage for swimming and swift movement). These are the main humanoid features, as it appears its torso and rest of its body ends in a tapering body ending in a fin.

In regards to the fact, although it appears human-like, it is flat and smooth and doesn’t seem to have any discernible features besides two very large eyes (which are typically linked to creatures who inhabit the deep ocean) and a long, thin slit for a mouth.

Although it is shocking that something this big could go unnoticed or unremarked, one should consider the giant squid. The first images ever of giant live squid were discovered by researchers in Japan in 2004, and the first live squid found was not brought to the surface until 2006.

Is it possible this strange Ningen isn’t a new creature, but a different kind of giant squid or a deformed giant squid? Like the Ningen, Giant Squids are quite elusive, have massive eyes, barely ever break the surface, have massive bodies, and carcasses of giant squids have been found in all of the world’s oceans, even the Antarctic. In fact, there a specific squid that is called the ‘Colossal’ Squid (M. hamiltoni) that has been found in the Antarctic and the largest specimen ever caught, also the largest cephalopod ever caught alive was also in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic.

Other theories believe that the Ningen may be simple pareidolia, which is the perception of recognizable shapes in a random pattern. Perhaps the Ningen sightings are a result of human-shaped icebergs?

Or, is there a brand new creature that looks strangely human-like trolling the deep?

Thanks to Luke C for the suggestion!

The above image is from Wikimedia commons from AWeith and this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0.

The Van Meter Visitor

It was a seemingly average day in Van Meter, Iowa on September 29th, 1903. However, the creature known as the Van Meter Visitor would radically alter this average day. The nights of Tuesday, Sept 29th through October 3rd would be filled with terror, shock, and the sound of giant wings flapping in the sky.

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The Van Meter Visitor appeared out of, apparently, nowhere. Which is surprising, considering its size. It was reported by dozens of witnesses as roughly an 8 foot-tall half-man-half-winged-beast. It had a horn on its head that, at the tip, shot out a blinding and disorienting white light. To me, it sounds similar to the Jersey Devil but bigger, especially the detail of leathery wings. Although, unlike the Jersey Devil, the Van Meter Visitor seems to have a development that specifically works to disorient and confuse people that see it. Some people even said the light temporarily blinded them.

The first event took place downtown, right in the heard of the city’s business district which meant many credible witnesses and town pillars came out in defense of seeing the Van Meter Visitor. It’s the first appearance, though, happened at 1am.

U.G. Griffith was the first person, it is believed, to have experienced the Van Meter Visitor. Initially, he thought it was a spotlight moving around a rooftop and woke up annoyed and ready to confront whoever was behind it. When he approached the source of the light, something huge jumped to a different rooftop all the way across the street and then completely disappeared into the night.

The very next night around the same time, Dr. Alcott, the town doctor was fast asleep in a room above his office. Like Griffith, he was also was awoken by a bright light shining into his window. And, also like Griffith, he rushed out to confront whoever was shining that light. Gun in hand, he was shocked to discover the Van Meter Visitor, which he described as a humanoid with bat-like wings. He reported that he also saw that the blinding light came from a blunt horn in the creature’s forehead. Shocked, but still well in control of his faculties, he attempted to shoot the creature down a shocking five times. After firing, he noticed that there was absolutely no effect on the creature and fled back into his home.

Because all bad things come in threes, there is one more experience to go over.

Once again the Van Meter Visitor made his nightly rounds, this time shining his onto a watchful Clarence Dunn. By this time and after two encounters by trusted people in the community rumors were just beginning to swirl. Dunn had heard about Dr. Alcott’s experiences (although it is not clear if he had heard about Griffith’s) and decided to keep watch through the night. He posted up in the bank and brought his shotgun along to keep him company, should the Visitor stop by. Although, he still believed clever burglars were behind the strange sightings. Like the other two men, at around 1am the Van Meter Visitor made himself known. Unlike the other experiences though, this time Dunn said he heard a ‘strangling noise’ outside his home and that is what pushed him to investigate, not a light shining in the window. Almost instantaneously, as he moved to open the door he was hit in close range in the face through the window with the blinding light of the Van Meter Visitor. When the light briefly let up, according to The Bigfoot Diaries interview with the authors of the Van Meter Visitor,  “some kind of great from behind the light.” Dunn, instinctively, fired his shotgun at the mysterious being, right through the bank’s front window. Like the shots by Dr. Alcott, it had no effect on the Visitor. The next morning outside of the bank he saw several sets of three-toed footprints (another call back to the Jersey Devil?) and said he made plaster casts of them, although they have never been found.

More sightings were reported throughout the three days. This includes O.V. White, the owner of a local hardware store, who saw the monster asleep on a telephone pole and tried to shoot it. Interestingly, instead of using his light or making a strangling noise, the Van Meter Visitor expressed his annoyance by releasing a ‘terrible smell’ towards White. Mr. White’s neighbor, Sidney Gregg, also saw the creature at the same time dismount the pole and then fly through town, apparently heading towards the old coal mine on the outskirts of town. Most interestingly and semi-related to the Mothman, rather than the Jersey Devil, is the experience at the mine.

Fed up after three days of their town being terrorized at sundown, several people from Van Meter geared up and headed towards the mines, where Sidney had said the creature had flown to the previous day. By this time, strange noises were being reported coming from the abandoned coal mines.

A local allegedly described these sounds as, “though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for a battle.”  When the men got to the mines, they found the Van Meter Visitor wasn’t alone. Instead, it was accompanied by a second creature (which was spotted emerging from the mine and taking off into the night). Before they could confront either creature, they both had fled.

The men decided to wait to see if the creatures returned. They eventually did and the crowd opened fire on the creatures. Apparently, they didn’t think very much of the previous attempts to bring down the Van Meter Visitor with the gunshot. Once again, despite the increased numbers and firepower, they were still shocked when the creatures were completely immune to their firepower.

Unsure of what to do next or how to handle these creatures that could not be easily brought down, they decided to simply brick up the abandoned mines to ensure that those things could never see the light of day again. Perhaps there was another way out and perhaps they flew away into the night, but they were never seen again in Van Meter.

Thanks to Ander S for the suggestion!

The above image is not directly related to the story. It is by Blondinrikard Fröberg, entitled Spotlight Graveyard live at Liseberg, Göteborg, August 6, 2014. It is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Borley Rectory: An Overview of Activity

Borley is a village in Essex that is an exemplary slice of pastoral England. In fact, the Saxon words "Bap" and "Ley", where Borley comes from, translates to "Boar's Pasture." However, this lovely English hamlet was once home to one of the most intense and storied haunted buildings in England and, perhaps, the world: Borley Rectory.

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Borley Rectory was first built in 1863. It was erected on the site of an ancient monastery, potentially dating back to the 13th century. The long history of this particular piece of land was well known during the Victorian Age. In fact, there was even a ghost story. The legend said that, on the site of the monastery, there was a sad, sullen ghostly nun who would walk back and forth on a specific walk and the locals called it ‘Nun’s Walk.’ The nun was said to hail from Bures and that she had fallen in love with a monk at the Borley Monastery. The two had an illicit love affair and even attempted to elope but were tracked down and punished. Both were executed and, as the legend goes, bricked up in the cellar (which, of course, seems like a bit of a stretch).

This is all to say, the land of the Borley Rectory was occupied long before the walls of the Rectory went up.

The Rectory was first built for Reverend Henry Bull and his family of thirteen (often misnumbered as 14) children, his wife Sarah, along with a small staff to run the stately home. It was twenty-three room, two-story red brick home, and its grounds stretched nearly four acres. Shortly after the Bulls and their staff moved in, things began...happening. It was said to have, like most hauntings, begun as fairly benign, footsteps heard when no one was there, whispering, and other small noises. But, as time progressed things became more and more intense.

While the family reported experiencing these haunting and ghostly noises throughout their time there, it remained the family seat until 1892. It seems that, for the most part, the hauntings were limited to noises although there are some claims the family would sometimes see ghostly faces in second story windows or full-bodied apparitions on the house and grounds.

Interestingly enough, Britannica Online reports, “Revd Bull had a summer-house put up overlooking the Nun's walk so that he could watch the manifestations. However, the lady soon became something of nuisance: often startled guests by peering at them through the windows of the new rectory.”

When his father died in 1892, Henry Foyster Bull inherited his father’s home. He moved in, clearly not put off by the haunting, and remained there until his death in 1927. Perhaps the family had gotten used to the extra noises throughout the home or had even struck up a deal with those extra guests in the 60+ years someone from the Bull family lived there.

Between 1927 and when the new family moved in, it was empty for about eighteen months. The new rector, Rev. Guy Eric Smith, moved in with his wife in 1928 but, unlike the Bull family, did not even stay an entire year. It seems that, during the Smiths short stay that the activity really kicked up. They experienced similar hauntings as the Bulls but in addition, also saw lights and heard the servant bells’ ringing despite being disconnected long ago. Perhaps most horrifically, Mrs. Smith discovered a human skull deep inside one of the rectory’s cupboards.

Although they didn’t stay long, it was the Smiths who first brought attention outside of Borley to the Rectory. They contacted the local paper in hopes of getting in touch with the Society for Psychical Research. Unhelpfully, the paper sent out a reporter to cover the story and write articles. At this time, Harry Price, a famed paranormal investigator, was also contacted.

It is said when Price visited the activity got louder and more intense, including objects flying around rooms and loud knocking from inside the walls. Price left without conclusions but after he did leave the grounds the haunting relaxed. Mr. Smith later said he believed Price was behind the escalated noises and experiences.

The Rectory did not stay empty long this time and in 1930, Reverend Lionel Foyster, his wife Marianne, and their daughter moved in. This small family would experience some of the most intense hauntings the home had seen yet.

Unlike previous residents, the haunting seemed particularly focused and attracted to Marianne. Soon, in addition to the disembodied noises and footsteps often heard in the home, messages and her name began to be scrawled randomly on the walls of the home. In one case, it was said witnesses watched this writing manifest before their very eyes. According to Historic Mysteries,  “However, despite attempts at communication, most remained unintelligible. Though one certainly read, "Marianne, please help get" and another, "Pleas for help and prayers".

Interestingly enough Marianne later confessed that much of it had been a hoax. She had been having an affair with one of the Rectory’s lodgers and that she covered up her physical activities with the intense haunting episodes. Although, this could be a falsity, as some sources cite it and others don’t and there doesn’t seem to be any definitive proof she said this. However, it could be a perfect explanation as to why the haunting, even if it was real to a degree, was so hyper-focused on one person whereas before it never was.

After the Foysters moved out in 1937, the next several reverends decided to live elsewhere and the Rectory remained empty. Returning in 1937 almost a decade after his first experience in the home, Harry Price rented the rectory in order to carry out a detailed investigation in May 1937-38.

In his typical and media-centric approach, he contacted the Times and a story about his impending investigation ran on May 25th, 1937 and an ad for ‘Official Observers’ to come to the Rectory. Price was not investigation alone, though. He created a team of 48 ‘official observers’ to lend credibility and insight into his investigation. These ‘official observers’ included an army colonel, a doctor and an engineer. Sadly, no official log of events was kept. But, Sidney Herbert Glanville, who stayed at the rectory on many occasions and wrote up his experiences.

On March 27th, 1938 a seance was held in the home. A voice from beyond shared the fate of the Rectory. It was said that a fire would catch in the hallway that very night and burn down the home. In the ruin of the fire, a nun's body would be discovered amongst the ruins.

Despite this extraordinary, exciting, and dangerous fortune...nothing happened.

In May 1938, Harry Price’s lease ended and he left. The Rectory was then leased by Captain Gregson, apparently unafraid of the Rectory’s hauntings. Like every other person who has inhabited, or even stayed at the home for a few nights, he was subjected to continuing mysterious happenings. Sadly, this included the loss of his two beloved dogs.

One night, exactly eleven months to the day after the seance held by Harry Price that told the fate of the home, an oil lamp unaccountably fell over in the hall and Borley Rectory burnt to the ground.

According to witnesses, ghostly figures were seen roaming around and through the flames and a nun's face peered down at the destruction from an upper window.

In 1943 it appears the final part of the fortune would be found true. Harry Price returned a third time to the ruins of the home. He had a team of excavators under his organization dig in the cellar and remains of the Rectory. Amazingly, a human female jaw bone was discovered. Price believed these lend credibility to the nun story that existed long before the Rectory was eve built. In an effort to end the hauntings of the Rectory’s ruins and the very land itself, Price gave the jaw, along with the few articles found near it, a Christian burial.

Sadly, the origin of the jaw bones and the articles (including medallions) was later contested and disputed. Although no official evidence or reports have been made one way or another.

The Rectory’s remains remained upright until 1944 when it was completely demolished. However, strange reports still flow out of the former place of the Rectory and the four acres it had.

Thanks to Caztor T for the suggestion!

The above image is of the Borley Rectory after the fire incident. It is in the public domain.

Copiale Cipher

For quite some time the Copiale Cipher was a complete mystery, seemingly lost to time. The text is over 250 years old and the title ‘Copiale Cipher’ was the only clear aspect of the text. It contained strange symbols, random strings of letters, and other secrets.

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The text was first re-discovered in 1970 inside of an East Germany library. Although several throughout the years tried to crack the code the book once again fell into obscurity. However, in 2011 it fell into the hands of a private collector who passed it off to an international team of academics and cryptographists from Sweden and the United States.

The book itself is quite beautiful. It is bound in stately gold-and-green brocade paper and is believed to have been published between 1760-1780. Is 105 pages, contains 75,000 characters with 90 different cipher letters.

Astonishingly, the cipher was broken in April 2011. Their first step was to transcribe the entire document into something that could be read by a machine. Then, they ran through 80+ languages to see if they could find a match but that ended in failure. It was then that, according to the Christian Science Monitor, the team noticed something important: “The cryptography team realized the Roman characters were "nulls" intended to mislead readers, somewhat like how pig Latin adds the suffix "ay" to words in an attempt to confuse listeners. It was the abstract symbols that held the message.”

From this, they gathered that the symbols with similar shapes represented the same groups of letters. From this practice and in analyzing these lines, the first words broke through the service ‘Ceremonies of Initiation’ then, ‘Secret Section.’

As more and more words and phrases began to be understood it was revealed that it contained rituals, including a German Masonic ritual. The Oculists, the people who are responsible for writing and ciphering the text, were a group of ophthalmologists.

Their links to ophthalmology help make sense of some of the various strange rituals including an initiation ritual that requires the person to read a blank page. Once they confess their inability to read it, they are given a pair of eyeglasses and asked to try again. Then, again after they wash their eyes with a cloth. The imitation ends in an ‘operation’ in which a single eyebrow hair is plucked.

It is believed the purpose of this text was so that the Oculists, who had links to the Freemasons, could pass along the secret Masonic rites which had been banned by Pope Clement XII.

Thanks to Jon L for the suggestion!

Copiale Cipher; scaled page 16/17 18th century - Kevin Knight, Beáta Megyesi, Christiane Schaefer. It is in the public domain.

Colonel Buck's Cursed Grave

Colonel Jonathan Buck was the founder of a town called Bucksport, Maine, known as Buckstown during his life. Colonel Buck founded in the town in 1763 and was a well-known war hero. For most of his life, he was an admired town leader. However, there were some dark things looming in his past that have followed him to his grave.

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Colonel Jonathan Buck was the founder of a town called Bucksport, Maine, known as Buckstown during his life. Colonel Buck founded in the town in 1763 and was a well-known war hero. For most of his life, he was an admired town leader. However, there were some dark things looming in his past that have followed him to his grave.

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As the legends goes, Colonel Buck in his time as a justice of the peace condemned a woman to be burned alive because she had committed sorcery. Although there are several stories that differ, one says the woman cursed him before she burned saying, “So long shall my curse be upon thee and my sign upon they tombstone." As she said this and the flames consumed her, her leg fell off and rolled out of the fire.

Another story holds that the woman’s son was responsible and took the leg the rolled out of the flames and before running into the woods said, “Your Tomb shall bear the mark of a witch's foot for all eternity!”

In 1902, a story appeared in the New England Magazine that really popularized the story. A section of it reads, “All was ready and the hangman about to perform his grewsome [sic] duty, when the woman turned to Colonel Buck and raising one hand to heaven, as if to direct her last words on earth, pronounced this astounding prophecy: ‘Jonathan Buck, listen to these words, the last my tongue shall utter. It is the spirit of the only true and living God which bids me speak them to you. You will soon die. Over your grave, they will erect a stone, that all may know where the bones of the mighty Jonathan Buck are crumbling to dust. But listen! Listen all ye people — tell it to your children and your children’s children — upon that stone will appear the imprint of my foot, and for all time long, long after your accursed race has perished from the earth, the people will come far and near and the unborn generations will say, There lies the man who murdered a woman. Remember well, Jonathan Buck, remember well!’”

Colonel Buck died in 1795  and in 1852 his grandchildren erected a grand monument near his grave site. Shortly after the monument was installed, a strange image (or stain) appeared on the grave. It seems to depict, albeit crudely, a woman’s leg and foot.

It is important to note that many of the witch trials had already ended before Colonel Buck was even born. So, what came first? The strange legend of the woman Colonel Buck inexplicably ordered to burn or the strange stain on the monument?

Thanks to Gracia B for the suggestion!

This photo of the grave is by DrStew82  is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Lead Mask Case

On what began to a normal day on August 20th, 1966 in Rio de Janeiro ended as anything but that. An 18-year-old, Jorge da Costa Alves was enjoying a beautiful afternoon flying a kite. As he walked back and forth on Vintem Hill, he came upon something undeniably grisly.

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What he saw would forever change his life. After walking through some tall weeds he saw two bodies lying side-by-side on the ground in front of him. Both of the men were dressed in attractive suits with rain jackets. Oh, and both men had lead masks over their eyes. In addition to what Jorge initially saw, both men also had two towels, an empty water bottle, and a note.

Jorge alerted authorities as soon as he was able to. Surprisingly, despite Jorge being able to get up there the police force could not reach the spot until the next day due to the rough terrain. Perhaps this was because they had more to carry or simply weren’t as in good of shape as the 18-year-old Jorge...or maybe it was a way to put off the inevitable.

When the police officers and investigators finally reached the bodies and examine the scene, they found a note in the pocket of one of the men. It read, quite simply, “16:30 be at the specified location. 18:30 ingest capsules after the effect protect metals await signal mask.”

It appears, according to the scene, the note’s instructions were carried out to a T.

Further investigation revealed the identities of the two men were electronic technicians from a nearby town called Campos dos Goytacazes. The men were named Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel Jose Viana. Witnesses noted they left their town on August 17th and told friends and family they were going to purchase work materials in Niteroi, where their bodies would later be found. According to the Vintage News, “A local waitress remembered them entering the bar where she worked and buying a bottle of water. She stated that one of the men looked extremely anxious and kept checking his watch all the time.”

There seemed to be no physical altercation or struggle on the part of the men before their death. No trauma was left on their bodies. Frustratingly, no toxicology tests were performed on the bodies. Even worse, the bodies were not put into cold storage. The two men’s bodies had already been out in the elements for three days, and because there was no room in cold storage for the two men they eventually declared too decomposed for reliable testing. The cause of death for both men was cited as heart attacks.

The deaths of these men are surprisingly for more reasons than just their cause of death. They were both married with young families, had many close friends, and enjoyed their jobs. In fact, anyone who knew them said they dreamed of starting a business together. So, why the strange and unexplained deaths of two men who seemed to be passionate and happy in life?

According to True Noir Stories when Miguel and Manoel saw Miguel’s uncle and told them they were heading to Niteroi to buy equipment and even a car, “Miguel also mentioned during this encounter, that upon their return, the men were expecting to have had some kind of definitive spiritual revelation. Religiously, both Manoel and Miguel were avowed spiritualists, and according to one friend, they were interested in attempting to “contact extraterrestrials or spirits.”

As you can imagine, dozens of theories have cropped up among those who have heard the strange stories of the Lead Mask Case. One of the most plausible theories is that the two men may have been a part of a religious cult of technological spiritualists in which psychedelic drugs played a big part. In fact, there is some resemblance to the Heaven’s Gates suicides (another religious doomsday cult). This is supported by the direction to ‘take one capsule.’

In a similar theory, others believed that they desired a connection to extraterrestrials and were told taking a certain drug at a certain time in a certain place (the hill they went was a rumored UFO hotspot) would allow them to make contact. Perhaps it also caused their death. Again, this theory is supported in the note which orders them to ‘take one capsule.’

However, the above two theories don’t really take into account the need for lead masks as a major component of the strange way the bodies were found.

A bit of a woo-woo theory that places the lead mask theory front-and-center is that the men believed they had found a wormhole on this strange hill. The lead masks were supposed to be eye protection so the could safely travel through the wormhole. But what about the capsules?

Overall, we don’t quite know what happened and it seems that every theory, from the skeptic to the woo-woo, presents holes and questions that cannot be answered or filled.

So, what do you think happened?

Thanks to Jeffrey S. for the suggestion!

The above image is of Niteroi, but not the specific hill. It was taken by Flickr User Gus Valentim and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

The Stocksbridge Bypass

Astonishing Legends is no stranger to haunted roads (seriously, check out our Resurrection Mary series) but we haven’t visited many haunted roads outside of America. Tonight on the blog, we’re exploring the history behind the Stocksbridge Bypass (A616), which links Sheffield to Manchester.  

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The hauntings for this stretch of land didn’t begin with the road. In fact, it seems that the road wasn’t haunted so much as the land it was built on. Several local legends discuss various origins for why the land is haunted or cursed. One of the most popular stories, surprisingly, involves a monk. It is said that the monk had slowly become disillusioned with religion and when he finally passed the church decided to bury him near the future road in an unconsecrated grave. Other stories say that there were mine shafts dotted throughout the area and that these shafts were not clearly marked. Sadly, many children were said to have fallen or gotten lost in these shafts and died, their bodies never recovered.

Now that we have some potential reasonings behind why it might be haunted, let’s discuss some of the experiences travelers have had on the bypass.

The most well-known, and earliest, stories of the haunted bypass takes place in September 1987. While the bypass was being built security guards were hired to protect construction materials and ensure nothing would go awry. Two of these security guards were just going about their business on September 8th. Or so they thought. However, a call received by Peter Owens, the supervisor of these two men, shattered any idea of September 8th being a normal night.

The two men told their story which happened at roughly 12:30am. They had been driving along patrolling the road when they saw the unsettling sight of children playing in the construction zone. While they noticed that the children were wearing out of date clothing, they were more concerned that they were so far away from home and close to dangerous wiring and construction materials.

After watching for a little while they decided to approach and take the children home, but when they walked over to the children they vanished and there were no footprints or signs of children playing.

The next morning after word got out about the story other members of the construction team said they had heard children’s voices during the night, too.

But, that isn’t where the story ends. The following night the same two men were on patrol and this time they encountered something even more haunting. This time they saw a tall, cloaked figure that they described as ‘monk-like’. When they approached this man, just like when they approached the children, he vanished. They called their supervisor once again and called the police station. The officer that answered jokes that it sounded they needed a priest, not a policeman.  The two security guards later reached out to the church and demanded an exorcism on the site.

The police decided to visit the site on September 11th. Thinking they saw something, both men rushed out of the car but it turned out to just be a construction sheet flapping in the wind. When they returned to the car, Officer Ellis got a horrible feeling and, turning to look out the side window, saw a dark, clothed torso pressed against the door. It abruptly vanished and reappeared on Officer Beet’s door. They both jumped out of the car but could not find the body. Returning to the car, they found it wouldn’t start. After several attempts, the car finally started and as they were pulling out they heard a huge bang on the side of the car with no explainable cause.

Both officers reported it had been the most terrifying experiences of their lives.

While this may have been the first encounter it would be long for the last. Since the bypass was completed in 1988, experiences have poured in.

For example, on New Year’s Eve, 1997, a couple was driving home on the quiet road when a figure suddenly appeared in front of them. Startled, and not wanting to cause harm to the person, they swerved violently. Luckily, no harm was done to them but when they went out to retrieve the person, there was no one there.

Paul Ford also had to swerve to avoid something unexplainable. When he was 28 he and his wife were driving to Jane’s sister’s home in Stocksbridge. While driving, Paul spotted a figure in the middle of the road. He says, ‘I just slammed the brakes on and swerved to avoid hitting it, and it was only through Jane grabbing the wheel that we managed to stop the car from crashing.,’ said Paul. Jane added: ‘If I hadn’t have been in the car Paul could have been killed or seriously injured and it left both of us badly shaken up. It was a very frightening experience and I think it might explain why there have been so many accidents on that road.’ The pair continued their journey in a  state of shock and were visibly shaking when they arrived at their destination.”

To this day, he still will not use the road.

Interestingly enough, this particular road has (statistically) some of the worst accident records in the region. So, is the road truly haunted? Or, has folklore sprung up around since its construction as a way to warn people of the dangerous driving conditions?

Thanks to Dave I for the suggestion!

The Stocksbridge Bypass from Underbank Road by Wendy North. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Nain Rouge

The Nain Rouge, also known as the Red Dwarf, a legend that has shaped Detroit, Michigan for decades. The Nain Rouge is also known as the ‘The Demon of the Strait’ and is believed to be the first bad omen for an upcoming disaster. One of the most infamous encounters of the Nain Rouge was when the founder of Detroit, Cadillac, found him sitting on the bank of the Detroit River. Suddenly, he jumped up and thrust a tick at Cadillac. Frightened, Cadillac drew his own sword in response and beat the creature away until it ran. After his experience he lost his entire fortune, went back to France, lost his trade monopoly, and was bereft of the wonderful benefits that had accompanied him throughout life.

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The Nain Rouge doesn’t just have Cadillac to thank for his French name. In fact, French folklore has long depicted trouble-making creatures that hold a grudge and wreak havoc if disturbed. As the decades wore on and Cadillac’s story was told again and again the Nain Rouge also took on several characteristics of Native American folklore.

It has been witnessed right before many of the city’s lowest times. For example, it was spotted by several people racing through the streets on 1805 mere days before much of the city burned to the ground. It was spotted again in 1812 when the British began bombarding the American forces at Fort Detroit.  When General Hull finally accepted the British unconditional surrender, he reported that he saw the Nain Rouge leering and laughing at him through the fog as it cleared.

He has also been seen in the 20th century during the police raid that sparked the race riots of 1967 and, ten years later in 1977, was seen by Detroit Edison lineman while on lunch break shimmy up a utility pole. They screamed at him to stop and when he reached the top dropped to the ground without a scratched, leered at them and ran away. The next day a historic ice storm left roughly 400,000 residents without electricity.

Detroit has been an American city that has seen more downs than ups during its long and storied history. However, much of this is blamed on the Nain Rouge. So much so that for over a decade the city holds a parade to banish the Nain Rouge for another year. “He’s a necessary villain,” said Shane Stroud, one of the marchers from Dearborn, MI. She continues, “He takes the blame for us.”

Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal notes in a 2016 article, “The Nain-bashing has coincided with the city’s recovery. While much of Detroit is still troubled, pockets of the city are starting to see new life. Detroit’s downtown, where visitors could once see trees growing on the rooftops of abandoned office towers, has begun to flourish with restaurants and businesses locating there. Investment is pouring in, and in some neighborhoods, rents and home prices are rising.”

Thank you Brad L for the suggestion!

Representation of "Le Nain Rouge", or "The Red Dwarf", the mythical figure that haunts Detroit and is cause for all of the problems that plague the city by Fujiwara06. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

The Black Mountain

Black Mountain National park, a half an hour from Cooktown, is a place imbued with legends, disappearances, aboriginal history, and the power o the black rock. Originally called Kalkajaka, by the Eastern Kuku Talanji people of the black mountain welcomes visitors but request their respect for this sacred place.

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Not a mountain in the traditional sense the black mountain is a huge mound of slick, black boulders quite apart from the green that surrounds it. While the mountain is within a national park, no one is allowed to climb or even directly approach the mountain. Why? Because the mountain is pitted with tunnels, caves, and bodies. There are also dangers besides getting lost - sudden drop-offs, hundreds of pockets of bad air, snakes, and spiders. Few people that enter the black mountains lives to tell the tale of this labyrinth-like natural wonder.

Kalkajaka translates as the ‘place of the spear.’ This was named by the Kuku Yalanji people who knew better than to get too close to this foreboding mountain.

Disappearances are centuries old at Black Mountain with stories beginning as the white settlers began arriving and did not respect the Kuku Yalanji’s warnings. For example, in 1877 a man went out towards the Black Mountain to locate an escaped calf. When the man failed to return searches were conducted for days but no trace of the horse, cow, or man was ever discovered. Several years later Sugarfoot Jack and his criminal companions decided to take refuge near the mountain after a shootout, knowing not many people would venture there. Despite an exhaustive police search in the following days, no bodies were ever recovered.

In 2001 a tale of a man that made it out alive finally arose. A man named Ivan and his friend Danny decided to camp at the bottom of Black Mountain while on a journey to a different destination. While setting up camp both noticed the complete silence of nature that surrounded them and noted it was a bit off. As the two friends drifted to sleep they were awoken when the sounds of rocks crumbling shattered the silence. Then, they started to hear footsteps that got closer and closer in every step. In a moment of adrenaline-inspired bravery, Danny rushed outside to scare whoever (or whatever) was stalking them away. Ivan, not wanting to leave his friend alone, followed behind him. When they left the tent they saw a huge black mass ambling towards them. Then, it disappeared in front of their eyes. Despite it being the middle of the night the camp as quickly as they could and left the Black Mountain.

It is said that people are often filled with anxiety just by gazing at the strange, dark mountain. There is a theory that the wind and the shifting of the boulders creates a noise similar to moans. Many planes also avoid flying over it and although a magnetic test was done in the 1990s to see if there was a reasoning for an adverse reaction to flying over the mountains, none was found.

Thank you Matthew E for the suggestion.

The above image is of Black Mountain National Park near Cooktown, Queensland, Australia - 20th of August, 2016 by Ben Cordia and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Ghost Lights: An Overview

From centuries-old folklore to contemporary sightings, ghost lights seem to play a part in many paranormal experiences and remain a constant thread of unexplained phenomena through the ages. They have been reported around the world and remain a constant and haunting element whose purpose and intent we can only guess at.

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Many of the earliest mentions of ghost lights call them Will-o’-wisps. These are phantom lights that hover in the wilderness, specifically away from human settlement. Many popular stories of Will-o’-wisps take place in the moors and bogs of England. Will-o’-wisps are simple things - they are balls of light typically described as blue, although red and yellow have also been reported.

Will-o’-wisps, despite their whimsical name, seem to have quite dark and evil intents. They are said to appear as a beacon to lost travelers or children lost in the woods. The victims, thinking they may have found another soul in the marshes or a nearby village, follow the light. However, the light almost always leads them to a deep hole, a deadly muddy part of the bog, or just deeper into the woods leaving them more lost than over. In some cases, the lights are carried or controlled by vicious fae who plan on taking the follower captive in their kingdom.

In addition to being misleading signs of hope, it is also said that these Will-o’-wisps act as powerful omens and warnings of tragedy and death.

Today, they aren’t called Will-o’-wisps as regularly. There are several popular places in America alone that are notorious for ghost lights - Marfa, Texas, Brown Mountains, North Carolina, and the Paulding Lights of Michigan!

The mysterious lights of today seem to move in a similar way to Will-o’-wisps - they bob, change their speeds, weaving through the air, and are rarely still or are on a clear path. They have also been assigned new names like spook lights and corpse candles.

But what are ghost lights? Are they the same vicious fae of Will-o’-wisps lore? Are they intent on confusing travelers? Or, are they something else? Some theorize that they may be ghosts or even UFOs. On a skeptic level, many believe it is methane gas that has caught fire and appears to float due to fumes rising or headlights of cars that have been distorted..

Thanks to Kimbery G. for the suggestion.

The above image is from The Public Domain Review and is  entitled will o the wisp. It is licensed under the public domain.

Genghis Khan’s Tomb

Genghis Khan, undoubtedly, changed the entire course of world history. We’ve heard intense and detailed accounts of his warfare, his power, and even his personal life. However, his death and final resting place remain shrouded in mystery. We believe he died August 18th, 1227...but that is all we know. Because of the mysterious legends and theories on where and what is buried with Khan continue to swirl centuries after his death.

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In addition to not knowing where he is buried, we have no idea how Genghis Khan died which is surprising considering how much information we had of Khan, especially in the last years of his life. We do know that Genghis Khan actually carried quite a bit and his heritage and before his death had requested to be buried following typical Mongol customs - without markings and his body in an open field to be devoured by animals. But because of the mysterious recordings rumors immediately swirled regarding a secret tomb.

The search and evidence for a tomb are prominent enough that National Geographic created a project called ‘Valley of the Khans’ which uses satellite imagery in a gigantic hunt for the gravesite. This is just one of many projects and initiatives of varying sizes that have tried to locate the tomb.

However, recently a break may have been made in the case thanks to folklore. Local folklore in the area asserts that Khan was buried on a peak in the Khentii Mountains (specifically called Burkhan Khaldun). It was on this peak he had hidden from men trying to kill him and vowed to return in his death should he live through the ordeal. BBC quotes Dr. Sodnom Tsolmon, ““It is a sacred mountain,” acknowledged Dr. Sodnom Tsolmon, professor of history at Ulaanbaatar State University with an expertise in 13th-Century Mongolian history. “It doesn’t mean he’s buried there.”

Burkhan Khaldun has been off-limited to researchers (and forbids women), which means that although this may be his final resting place there is no real way of checking.

So, what was his tomb even be like? Well, the most fantastical of stories hold that the tomb would be a vast necropolis nestled deep within the mountains. One of the reasons many theorize that word never got out about the location was because soldiers and those extremely loyal to Khan and his wishes to be left alone is that all the builders were executed. Others say that a forest was planted over the top of the site to completely obscure it.

Like all well-hidden tombs, it is also rumored that if the great Khan had one and it was discovered those who entered would be cursed.  We know this is likely as another tomb for a Mongol military leader was inscribed with phrases like: "When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble." and Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I." The Russian archaeology team that first discovered the tomb ignored these warnings. Three days later Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the largest military invasion on the Soviet Union. Of course, this may be simply coincidence...but what if it wasn’t?

If the Khan’s tomb exists and was ever found...would you want it opened or not? Thanks to Nolan Bryan L. for this suggestion!

Thanks to Nolan Bryan L. for this suggestion!

The above image is entitled, Burkhan Khaldun mount by Ganzorig Gavaa, licensed under

CC BY-SA 2.0

J’ba Fofi

Through the years tales of a strange creature located deep in the Congo Jungle have arisen. It goes by the name J’ba Fofi and is said to be a spider of incredible size with a 6-foot-across leg span and is said to feast upon monkeys, birds, and even small antelopes. J’ba Fofi translates to the ‘great spider.’

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One of the earliest stories is from R.K. Lloyd and his wife in 1938. It scurried across the road in front of them and they believed, at first glance, it was a monkey scurrying. However, they soon realized it was a gigantic spider.

However, locals have reported seeing this strange creature long before the Lloyds saw them in 1938. In addition to their grotesque size, they are brown in coloring (and said to be darker and darker the older they get) and have a large purple mark on their abdomens. They are said to live similar to the much smaller trapdoor spider (in burrows at ground level).

It is not just their size that makes them dangerous but also the way they hunt. As mentioned above they are able to hunt large prey (or, at least, larger than other spiders’ prey) and they d this by creating intricate and almost invisible webs. These webs are constructed between two trees with a ‘trip line’ across them to alert the spiders when an animal is about to be caught. When the animal hits the trip line they are forced into the web and pounced upon by the J’ba Fofi.

Many locals say that the J’ba Fofi used to be much more prevalent and feared in the area however continued human encroachment, development, and expanse has led them to be seen less and less.

So, why haven’t we seen any? Well, Giant invertebrates were once a reality. So, were the locals seeing the last of a long-preserved but dying breed? Or, had the stories ben passed down for so many generations that perhaps, just maybe, a human did once lay eyes on the J’ba Fofi? Other sources believe that the locals weren’t seeing spiders at all but very large land crabs, similar to the frightfully large coconut crabs. Perhaps the J’ba Fofi is a land crab who, like the coconut crab, burrow underground.

Thanks to John G. for the suggestion!

The above image is unrelated to the story and is by Flickr user patchattack, entitled web. It is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0.!

Man from Taured

July 1954 was a fairly unremarkable month at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo. That is until the man from Taured arrived. The man, who would become known as the Man from Taured, looked at first glance like any other smartly dressed businessman. While going through the motions of normal border control he was why he was traveling. The man said it was just another business trip, one of many, that he had taken this year. However, something about this man demanded further questioning and that is when his strange background was discovered.

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The man was purportedly caucasian and his primary language was believed to be French. However, he was able to communicate effectively in Japan and also said he spoke several other languages. His bags included currency from several recognizable European countries which seemed to confirm his statement that he traveled often for business.

Up to this point, the questioning was proving unnecessary as everything the man was saying could be verified. However, things went wrong when airport officials asked his country of origin. Nonplussed, the man responded he was from Taured, a country he clarified was on the border between France and Spain. Airport officials were completely baffled because no country named Taured had ever existed.

Surprisingly, the man pulled out a Taured passport which seemed legitimate enough considering that country didn’t exist. However, it did show corresponding stamps for his travel to Japan as well as other European countries.

Likely annoyed at this time, the man from Taured encouraged airport officials to call his company. However, when that company was called where he was supposed to have a meeting they reported they had never heard of him. His hotel that he was supposedly booked for did not have his reservation and the bank listed on his checkbook was shown to not exist.

Confused and afraid of trafficking or another scam, they decide to put the man from Taured in a room while officials figure out next steps and contact the authorities. However, when they return to the room (which was several stories up and contained no openable windows) the man is, inexplicably, gone.

So, was the man from Taured a time slip that corrected itself? Was an interdimensional or time traveler that went to the wrong dimension or time? Or, is this just a clever and creative story propagated and made real by the internet?

Thanks to Bruce C for the suggestion!

The above image is not connected to the story and is by Ian Mackenzie, entitled Passport stamp: Grenada. It is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Mirrors & the Paranormal

Mirrors have played a major part in folklore and, more recently, the horror movie genre for decades. But why are mirrors, and reflections, so central in our folklore of fear? There are hundreds of tales of haunted mirrors, from ancient mythology like Narcissus to the sleepover urban legend of Bloody Mary and all even movies like Oculus (2014).

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Many believe that ever since human beings became aware of reflections, both their own and the world, there has been a fascination and folklore, and even myths about mirror worlds, in the cultural consciousness. As we know them today mirrors haven't been around that long. In fact, according to LiveScience, “In 1835, German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a pane of clear glass. This technique was soon adapted and improved upon, allowing for the mass production of mirrors.” But, even before the 1830s we still could see reflections in things like glass, metal, and, of course, water.

But why are we so frightened and intrigued by mirrors?

It seems that we see more in mirrors than our own reflections. One of our favorite astonishing beings often makes appearances in mirrors: Shadow People. Shadow People are often seen standing near or close by mirrors or, even worse, appearing in the mirror’s reflection but being nowhere in actual sight.

Perhaps even worse than Shadow People, Exemplore writes that strange, unknown, and grotesque faces are the most common. “This is by far the most frequent manifestation reported by people in association with haunted mirrors. The faces are, most of the time, human - and sometimes known to the witnesses. But there are a number of accounts where people have reported other entities/demonic faces appearing.”

Even today, mirrors still terrify us. In a dynamic experiment, Giovanni Caputo at the University of Urbino in Italy conducted a study of mirrors in 2010. In the analyzing the results article, published in Perceptions, describes a terrifying experience. In total, 50 participants were asked to stare into a mirror for 10 minutes in a dimly lit space. An astonishing 66% witnessed huge deformations of their own face, 18% percent saw an animal such as a pig or cat in the mirror, 28% observed a completely unknown person, and a shocking 48%  beheld monstrous or fantastical beings. So, it seems, there is something to the legends.

Thanks to Kellie Dawn O for the suggestion!

This image is unrelated to the above story and is entitled, “Marsden J. Perry home, Providence, Rhode Island. Interior scene, detail of piano, crystal chandelier, mirror, and door Abstract/medium: 1 photographic print.” by Frances B Johnson

Hungry Grass

Hungry Grass, also known as Fear Gortach, is popular in Irish folklore. So, what makes it so different from normal grass? Well, it is said to be indistinguishable from a normal patch of grass, but if you stand in a patch of hungry grass you’ll immediately be overtaken by hunger, sleepiness, and you may even faint.

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What causes hungry grass to spring up in otherwise normal fields? Some say that it arises when someone dies violently, others say it happens when someone starves to death. Even more, believe they are the victims of the Irish famines. In reaction to these painful realities, the land responds.

Another theory of hungry grass springing up is it is a fairy curse. Recently, I was learning about Fairy Paths. Fairy Paths typically connect the various places where fairies frequented, including their hills, raths, gathering places, and meadows. People tended to avoid taking these paths, building on them, or otherwise obstructing them. If you did obstruct them or even walk there, the fairies might get upset and punish or play with you. Perhaps the hungry grass is a reaction to those messing with common fairy paths?

Whatever causes hungry grass to spring up, almost unnoticeably, once it does the grass becomes predatory. Anyone who walks across it feels a deeply insatiable hunger, even if they just ate. People who live near known patches of hungry grass try to keep some extra food on hand for those walking and who don’t know to avoid certain parts of the meadow.  

Today, the threat of hungry grass seems to have abated. However, a common phrase is "The fear gortach is on me", which means ‘I’m very hungry!’ so it isn’t wholly missing from cultural consciousness.

Thanks to Brenden K. for the suggestion! This image is entitled “Mowing grass at Bridge-end Pasture The path from Crook Hill Farm provides some splendid views of the Hope Valley, Snake Pass and Derwent Edge (On a clear day !)The conifers on the right are at the edge of Hagg Side Plantation. Forestry Commission have just started major tree-felling work here” by Peter Barr and is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0

Thanks to Brenden K. for the suggestion!

This image is entitled “Mowing grass at Bridge-end Pasture The path from Crook Hill Farm provides some splendid views of the Hope Valley, Snake Pass and Derwent Edge (On a clear day !)The conifers on the right are at the edge of Hagg Side Plantation. Forestry Commission have just started major tree-felling work here” by Peter Barr and is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0

Mandy the Doll

There is something strange and unsettling around certain dolls (to find out why that may be, you can check out this post). You may have heard of Robert the Doll and Annabelle the doll, but have you heard of Mandy? Mandy is a porcelain doll, believed to have been constructed in the early 20th century, specifically sometime between 1910-1920. She was donated, with much surprise, to the Quesnel Museum in British Columbia in 1991.

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The Quesnel Museum is not a paranormal museum, a doll museum, or a toy museum. It is a small, local museum in British Columbia that centers on the community of Quesnel and shares its space with the visitors center. Mandy first came to, as the museum staff says, “live here” in 1991. Her doll clothing was far from prim and proper, parts of her limbs were ripped, and her little porcelain head had cracks in it. Now, this isn’t unheard of for a doll that is close to 100 years old...but how did she end up there?

The donor, who remains anonymous to this day, had several chilling experiences and wanted to get rid of Mandy. Not wanting to destroy the historical doll that had survived so much, she didn’t just want to throw Mandy away. The donor came to the end of their rope one night when they heard chillingly loud cries in the middle of the night. The donor got up and traveled to where the sound was coming from when they realize the sound was radiating from the basement, where the doll had been kept for some time.

There was no baby in the home.

After hours of trying to ignore the noise, the donor realized they had to stop the shrieks. They mustered all the courage they could and ran down the basement stairs. Once at the bottom of the stairs, they see nothing is amiss in the room beside an open window. Shockingly, Mandy was nowhere to be found.

But, she made her return the next morning.

Shaken and at the end of the rope but still not wanting to throw away the doll, the owner drove to the Quesnel Museum. While she shared the brief story of her final night, the only other detail the donor gave was scant at best.

Part of me wonders what would prevent the donor from just throwing Mandy away, burning her, or simply getting rid of her and not donating her to a museum. Although it is a historical object, it wasn’t necessarily unique or recognizable, nor was it in the best shape. Why would the donor feel compelled to ‘keep’ her ‘alive’ in some way? Was it just in reaction to preservation? Or, was Mandy herself exercising some strange will over the donor to preserve her own ‘life.’

The museum notes that soon after they required Mandy but before they placed her in a specific display, “weird and unexplained events; lunches would disappear from the refrigerator, and be later found tucked away in a drawer; footsteps were heard when no one is around; pens, books, pictures, and who knows what else would go missing, some never to be found and others which would turn up later. Of course, it was passed off as the staff being more absent-minded than usual.”

It took a bit of time for Mandy to pick her spot because, once again, there seems to be a strange influence or power exerted by Mandy to pick where she would like to be and seems to have rejected the first few placements. First, they had her in a chair ‘greeting’ the visitors, although visitors complained or shared feelings of being watched, uncomfortable, or even disturbed by the doll. So, the museum moved her into a case with other dolls but, according to rumor, she began ‘hurting’ the other dolls. Perhaps out of jealousy or an unwillingness to be anything but the center of attention.

Finally, she found her choice spot in a private display away from other dolls.

According to Helly Star, “One of them admitted that once Mandy fell awkwardly on the floor, real blood flowed from his head and several cracks appeared. Ruth Stubbs is a very Cartesian person, but faced with the scale of the phenomena, she decided to contact a retired curator known to have the gift of perceiving vibrations by touching objects. When he took the doll in his hands, he felt cold chills all over his body, and urged the curator of the Quesnel Museum to contact the former owner, to get more information about Mandy.”

One of the strangest events was also reported on by the Helly Star, “Thinking that she was alone in her window, the employees decided to buy him a little sheep to keep him company, but the next day they found him at the foot of the window while the latter was closed. In any case since her arrival, she has never hurt anyone and never has anyone.”

However, while Mandy has done some disturbing things and even thrown a tantrum or two she has never shown negative aggression or violence towards humans. In fact, it even seems she pranks or plays with people (the missing lunches are a great example of this).

The above image is not a photo of Mandy the Doll by Florian Lehmuth, entitled bisque doll. Liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).