The Golem of Prague

You may be familiar with Golems from other parts of folklore. If you are not, golems originate in Jewish folklore is a being animated by humans created from entirely inanimate matter, typically clay. The figure is brought to life by magic and bound to its creator to mindlessly fulfill their whims. This brings us to a peculiar entry into the golem mythos, the Golem of Prague.

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The story begins with Rabbi Judah Loew, who was a rabbi under the reign of Rudolf II. He decided to create a golem, despite its potential dangers, to help protect the Jewish people of Prague who were being continually attacked.

The golem Rabbi Loew created was from mud gathered on the banks of the Vltava River. Rabbi Loew made the creature monstrously huge, ensuring it would a great protector from the dangers that lurked in dark alleyways and preyed on unsuspecting people. Some reports say it was between 8 and 9 feet tall and appeared human-like.  After its creation, Rabbi Loew spoke the final incantation and bid the golem to protect the Jewish people of the Prague ghettos. Before the golem left his care, Rabbi Loew carved into its forehead the word ‘emet’, which means truth.

As the golem set out on its task, it became stronger and more violent. The golem was typically placated when it was corralled back inside by Rabbi Loew and allowed to rest on the Sabbath. However, one Sabbath day Rabbi Loew forgot to bring the creature into rest.

Sadly, this made the creature all the more violent and aggressive. Soon, the maker of the creature was revealed to be Rabbi Loew, several aggressors that were violent towards the Jewish people approached him and promised the violence would stop if the golem was destroyed.

Rabbi Loew agreed, fearful of what his creature had wrought, and set out to destroy the golem. When he confronted the being, he removed the letter ‘e’ from the golem’s forehead. This transformed the word to ‘met’, which means death. This de-animated the golem and its reign of terror was ended.

However, it was said that Rabbi Loew did not destroy the golem. Instead, he heaved the now lifeless mud being into the attic of the synagogue. He let the aggressors know that if the hatred toward the Jewish population continued, he would not hesitate to re-animate the fearful being.



Thanks to Rima M for today’s #Blogstonishing suggestion!


The above image is entitled Rabbi Löw oživuje Golema and is licensed in the public domain.



The Simonside Dwarfs

The Simonside Hills rise up against the Northumberland town of Rothbury like green jewels. To this day, these hills remain part of a national park and so their natural beauty, and isolation, weighs heavy against the surrounding towns. It is a place where, even in the 21st-century one can find solitude, wonder...and perhaps something a little closer to myth than some people would like. You see, people and animals may not be the only things inhabiting these hills.

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In fact, it is likely that the history of the hills goes back before written record existed. Burial cairns have been found among the hills, along with ring rock carvings and other offerings. It seems that although no permanent settlements were ever established in the hills, people visited them quite often and for specific, usually reverent, reasons. 

The legend of the Simonside Dwarfs have been part of local legend for generations, as beings to respect and fear. They are said to live within the hills and, for the most part, they stay away from the local towns that remain close by. However, if a traveler wanders through the hills or if someone dares to trespass on their lands...they may not return.

Their history, and the respect locals have for them,  is centuries old and have been recorded for quite some time. For example, the Morpeth Gazette noted in 1889 that “it was dangerous for the solitary wanderer to venture” among the “tribe of ugly elves and dwarfs.”

They have multiple ways of accomplishing their terror. Sometimes, like spooklights or Will-o-Wisps they are said to mislead travelers by creating lights in the distance that resemble a home’s heart, thus leading weary or lost travelers deeper into the hills and closer to their death.

Simonside Dwarfs didn’t just rely on misleading lights, though. It was also said they used a whole host of glamours they would enact upon unsuspecting travelers. For example, one story highlights a man who, while lost, roamed into the hills and, near exhausting, was able to find a small cabin where he could rest and light a fire. Relieved at being safe for the night, the traveler soon settled in. However, as he was about to nod off his eyes suddenly fluttered open and he realized it was all an illusion and that he was about to roll off a high precipice.

Like other fair folk, you must be aware of their wily ways. If you see any small beings you must work hard to avoid them. Even if you are near danger, you must avoid their offers of food or shelter...lest you end up their victim.


Thanks to Kevin R for today’s #blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is of a Simonside Crag by JohnDal licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.





The Pope Lick Monster

The Pope Lick Monster didn’t get its name because it once licked the pope. Instead, it gets its name from the nearby creek, Pope Lick Creek. Specifically, the Pope Lick Monster is said to stalk the trestle bridge which is on the Norfolk Southern Railway track. 

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Like many creatures made infamous by local stories, the Pope Lick Monster’s description varies although there are certain similarities that are similar in every story. One of them being that the Pope Lick Monster is humanoid. It is typically described as having the body of a man with the lower torso and legs of either a goat or sheep...almost like some weird, demonic centaur. I think it is particularly important to note that both goat and sheep have cloven hooves, and we all know what kind of creatures cloven hooves are associated with. In addition to having the lower half of animal, the Pope Lick Monster is sometimes said to have a short pair of gnarled horns protruding from its head.

But, if the trestle bridge is haunted why do the stories continue ad how does the Pope Lick Monster continue to generate more tales of horror? Well, like the sirens of older lore it is said that the Pope Lick Monster has a special call that lures wayward travelers to its hunting grounds. Once the people are close enough, the Pope Lick Monster hypnotizes those unlucky wanderers. It is said then, interestingly enough, that he does not kill them himself but rather lures them to their deaths in front of an oncoming train or by falling off the bridge.

It’s also said that sometimes the Pope Lick Monster doesn’t have a siren call, but rather the ability to mimic human voices. Sometimes, it mimics the voice of another victim, of a child calling for help, or a voice that is somehow familiar to its intended victim.

Unsurprisingly, visiting the Pope Lick Monster and the trestle bridge soon became a rite of passage for teenagers in the surrounding area. A long-time resident of Fisherville, Martha Williams said, “There would be just mobs of kids out there near the trestle and climbing up on it.  It used to be a favorite thing to do…the boys would con the girls into it. Most of the ones that came out here were no locals. The locals sort of knew better.”

However, tragedy has happened on the bridge quite often in recent times and many believed it has been pushed forward by the legends of the Pope Lick Monster. In 1987, Jack Charles Bahm II, a Spalding University student, was killed by a train while on the trestle. Nicholas Jewell of Mount Washington, also died after falling from the trestle. His four friends would later tell police that Jewell had been attempting to cross the trestle when the train approached.

Signs remain up warning against entering the train tracks or trying to cross the trestle bridge. Locals, like Martha Williams, also warn local kids off the area when they can. 

Interestingly enough, where the Pope Lick Monster is said to hunt marks a strange area called ‘The Big Lick’ triangle, which is said to be a strange window of fortean activity that includes haunting reports, UFO sightings, and cryptid reports.



Thank you to Reynolds M for #Blogstonishing suggestion!








Pope Lick Trestle, in Louisville, reputed home of the Pope Lick Monster by Ihoyc licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.




Commander Bodler’s Undersea Wheel of Light

On November 11th, 1949 in the Hormuz Straits in the Persian Gulf USN Commander Bodler and his team witnessed a strange USO - an Unidentified Submarine Object. The following event would be recorded, remembered, and wondered about by the UFO community ever since.

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Commander J.R. Bodler wrote in an article that appeared in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings writing, “About four points on the port bow, toward the coast of Iran, there was a luminous band which seemed to pulsate. Its appearances suggested the aurora borealis, but much lower’ in fact on or below the horizon. Examination with binoculars showed that the luminous area was definitely below the horizon, in the water, drawing nearer to the vessel. With the approach of this phenomenon, it became apparent that the pulsations seemed to start in the center of the band and outwards towards its extremities.”

Imagine how stunningly strange this must have been to behold. These seafaring men were aware of the Aurora Borealis and the extreme beauty and power it had...and now they were seeing something similar, impossibly, below the horizon that seemed to be pulsating and moving closer and closer to the ship.

Commander Bodler continued, “At a distance of about a mile from the ship, it was apparent that the disturbance was roughly circular in shape, about 1,000 to 1,500 feet in diameter. The pulsating could now be seen to be caused by a revolving motion of the entire pattern about a rather ill-defined center; with streaks of light like the beas of searchlights, radiating outward from the center and revolving like the spokes of the gigantic wheel.”

I find it quite interesting that although this was originally compared to the Aurora Borealis, natural phenomena, it is clearly very different. Unlike the Aurora Borealis, this wheel of light is described in mechanical terms, almost like a machine although what its use would (or could) be baffled the Commander and his crew.

The vessel, at one point, occupied the center of the phenomenon which must have been initially terrifying to the crew. “Slightly curved bands of light crossed the bow, passed rapidly down the port side from bow to stern, and up the starboard side from the aft, forward. The luminosity was sufficient to make portions of the vessel’s upper works quite visible. The bands of luminance seemed to pass a given point at about half-second intervals. As may well be imagined the effect was weird and impressive in the extreme; with the vessel seeming to occupy the center of a huge pinwheel whose spokes consisted of phosphorescent luminance revolving rapidly as the vessel a hub.”

Commander Bodler did not specifically believe this strange phenomenon to be unearthly at first. In fact, he believed that “the actual illumination was caused by the natural phosphorescence in the water, periodically stimulated by regular waves of energy” and that the machine-like appearance could have been caused by “schools of fish, porpoises, or similar cause.” 

This would happen two more times on this clear night, with the third and last being smaller and much less brilliant. 

Commander Bodler ended the report with, “It is the present writer's conviction that he has been privileged to witness one of the rare instances of a most curious and impressive natural phenomenon. If other seafarers have had a similar experience, or [if] anyone of scientific bent can offer an explanation of the foregoing, he would be most interested to learn more on the subject.”

It does cause me to wonder...with a man with so much experience and a crew full of men who had been at sea for weeks, months, and years that they could not identify this phenomenon and could not even confirm it was fish. Although it happened three times and it was a clear night, there was never a clear answer to this strange phenomenon.


I am unsure if anyone ever reached out to Commander Bolder with a similar experience, or he had ever witnessed anything similar the rest of the time he spent at sea. One thing is certain...whatever was seen, whether it be natural or supernatural, was certainly astonishing.



Thank you to Marco A for this #Blogstonishing suggestion!






The above image is of the Aurora borealis in Torkilstöten, Ljungdalen by Arild Vagen licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0








The Crying Boy Painting

Some say there is no accounting for bad taste...but what about haunted taste? Why one would desire a picture of a crying toddler hanging in their house is beyond me...but, many people in England during the 1980s had a picture that is now known as ‘The Crying Boy’ painting hanging in their homes. However, strange things seemed to happen around this painting, even prints, and soon The Sun broke one of the strangest stories about an equally strange image.

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Although the crying boy paintings existed, likely, before 1985, that is when they entered the cultural consciousness. In September 1985, Ron and May Hall’s home in Rotherham caught fire. Most of the downstairs was destroyed or, at the very least burned. However, a print of the crying boy which was hanging downstairs remained completely unscathed by the flames. 

The homeowner’s brother, Peter Hall, further stoked the strange fire when he reported this was not the first untouched crying boy painting he had come across. Hall was a firefighter and claimed that he had come across several fires where the only unaffected item was a print of the crying boy.

Who had painted these strange crying children...and why were they seemingly so impervious to flames?

After The Sun story came out, along with the reports of the other crying boy paintings impervious to flames, people began throwing out their similarly described paintings en masse. Why Well, some believed that the paintings were cursed and were the reasons behind the fires. If the paintings could not start the fires, it was said they acted out in other ways such as bringing bad luck to the home. Some even reported seeing movement within the painting, along with short bursts of poltergeist-like activity around the area where the painting was hung. 

For some time it was difficult to track down the artist behind these seemingly cursed paintings. However, they were finally tracked down to a Giovanni Bragolin, whose name was inscribed on several of the paintings. Not much was known about Bragolin, which further fueled the rumors spreading about his paintings. 

However, in 1995 a high school teacher named George Mallory claimed that the man behind the paintings was Franchot Seville. It was said that Seville had painted a young boy named Don Bonillo. Don had allegedly started a fire in Spain that had killed his parents. From this moment on, Don was cursed and it was said a fire followed him wherever he went. He soon gained the nickname Diablo. However, there seems to be little proof to this rumor.

Other theories claim that the boy was crying about something horrific, such as a loss, abuse, or other kind of significant trauma and that imbued the painting, which captured this moment of grief, with a strange curse. 

A more skeptical theory is that the crying boy mass-produced prints may have been treated with a very strong fire repellant that has since fallen out of use, was proprietary knowledge, or perhaps was illegal some way in its makeup. This would help explain why no one came forward. 

Whether or not this particular run of paintings were cursed or not may up for debate, but the effect the story had is not. Although these paintings were plentiful and cheap decor in the 1980s, but the 1990s they had all but disappeared and seemingly production had ceased. Some who are curious may find one lurking in the back of an antique store or second hand shop. But are you willing to risk a fire to satisfy your curiosity? 




Thanks to Vicki F for this blogstonishing suggestion! 





The above image is from flickr user MarLeah Cole and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)










Ourang Medan

On an indeterminate day in June, 1947 a strange May Day broadcast lit up the radios of several large ships sailing on the Strait of Malacca. The ship issuing the May Day was the S.S. Ourang Medan, a dutch ship. The S.S. Silver Star, among other ships, copied down the message sent in Morse Code: “All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead."  

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Several more seemingly garbled messages came in that were not able to be decoded. But the final message came in quite clearly - “I die.”

Working fast to respond to the May Day, Dutch and British listening posts were able to work together to triangulate the present location of the S.S. Ourang Medan. The S.S. Silver Star, who had copied down several of the messages, were deemed the closest and they were ordered to answer the S.S. Ourang Medan’s call for help. The crew of the S.S. Silver Star, an Australian ship, made their way towards the S.S. Ourang Medan. 

They were able to locate the S.S. Ourang Medan but found the ship to be eerily quiet, considering they had recently sent out a May Day. A rescue party in small boats approached the vessel and found it to be undamaged and seemingly in good working order.

However, upon boarding the ship it appeared that its outward appearance was very misleading. The rescue party embarked on the ship to find the entire crew dead, including the dog.The cause of death seemed unknown, as there were not any major injuries nor was there a lot of blood. However, every single crew member had their eyes opened and their faces twisted in agony. Some reports also add that several had the corpses with their arms extended or pointing towards the sky, seeming to attempt to fend something off. 

According to a May 1952 report of the Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council, several years after the event, wrote: “their frozen faces were upturned to the sun, the mouths were gaping open and the eyes staring…”  The captain remains were on the bridge, the officers were in the wardrooms the radio operator was still in the communications room, his now cold hand still on the Morse Code transmitter. It appears all hands have perished at their work stations. During the search the crew notes an unnatural chill in the cargo holds. This is written off in the moment as the outside temps reach 110 degrees,  so any shade must feel cooler.”

Horrified, and likely scared for their own fates, the rescue team worked as quickly as they could to try to prepare the S.S. Ourang Medan to be towed into shore by S.S. Silver Star. However, once they began to establish the tow line, flames erupted from a cargo hold and quickly engulfed the cargo decks. Then, almost inexplicably fast, the S.S. Ourang Medan blew up. According to the report the explosion was so powerful that the S.S. Ourang Medan “lifted herself from the water and swiftly sank.”

Theories run the gamut, from the S.S. Ourang Medan simply being a strange, urban legend of a ghost ship all the way to conspiracy theories like it was carrying a top secret chemical weapon (which explains why the incident was not reported on until years later). Which, perhaps if it is the latter, explains why the men died so suddenly and so strangely - had the chemical they were transporting somehow been exposed to them?



The above image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, taken by XEON.







The Entombing of Julia Legare

In horror movies, books, photography, and in other forms of media the fear of being buried alive seems to be pervasive in our culture and easily one of the most frightening ways to die. While most of our folklore relates to the dead coming back to life...what happens when the living are buried like the dead? Enter the tragic tale of Julia Legare.

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Our story begins on Edisto Island, South Carolina. Edisto has a long history of inhabitation first beginning with indigenous people, followed by plantation owners in the 1700s. Julia Legare was visiting the island in the mid-1800s. While visiting she became quite ill and fell into a coma. Her family was quite worried, as her health seemed to be declining rapidly. However, days passed and she never awoke from her coma. A family physician declared Julia, who at the time was in her early teens, dead.

The family weathered the tragedy of Julia’s early death as best they could. As the years passed the family crypt remained closed until one day, about fifteen years later, her brother also met an early end. The family crypt was open to bury another Legare and found a gruesome site. Julia’s skeleton was pressed closely against the crypt door and there was evidence of scratching on the doors and floors of her final resting place.

Her family, understandably, was horrified at the horrific events that had transpired in Julia’s final days. However, from the day the crypt was opened and her body was discovered strange hauntings plagued the area. The mausoleum door was found open again and again to the point where cemetery employees decided to remove the door in an attempt to appease Julia’s final wish - to be set free from the crypt.

Sadly, this seems to be more of a tale of a great fear than a reflection of reality. Dottie Thomas, a local tour guide and historian sets the record straight..."The fact is Julia was buried there. Two years after she was buried, her four-year-old child passed away, and after he was buried, the door opened again mysteriously. Two years after the child died, her husband died. He was buried there, and the same thing happened, so they took the door off and sealed up the floor." So, while the tale is strange because opening a crypt door is always eerie, it does not appear Julia was entombed alive, nor was she even a child when she died. Perhaps her spirit is unrestful due to her and her family’s untimely deaths, but her end does not seem to be as horrific as the stories lead many to believe.



Thank you to Tabitha F for the #blogstonishing suggestion!


The above image is of Portion of Wescott Road, lying just west of South Carolina Highway 174 on Edisto Island. Photo was taken at about sunrise taken by Ammodramus. It is licensed under CC0.


 


Ogopogo

As far as lake monsters go, you’ve probably heard of Nessie...but have you heard of Ogopogo? Ogopogo hails from Canada’s Lake Okanagan and its legend goes back to the First Nations. Unlike the seemingly gentle Nessie, the folklore behind Ogopogo casts it as an aggressive, even bloodthirsty monster. But, could there be any truth behind this strange creature?

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The First Nations, specifically the Salish speaking tribes, have folklore that acknowledges a strange creature lurking in Lake Okanagan. However, they did not call this creature ‘Ogopogo’ instead, it was referred to as N’ha-a-itk, which roughly translates to ‘Lake Demon.’ It was also referred to as the snake-in-the-lake.

N’ha-a-itk ruled the lake with a harsh disregard for humans. If one expected safe passage across the lake, N’ha-a-itk demanded a sacrifice. Often, chickens and other small creatures were killed and then thrown in the water to honor N’ha-a-itk and ensure a safe journey. 

Based on the pictographs and on sightings that date back to the 1800s, Ogopogo is often described as a giant snake with shiny gray or green skin. Some reports also claim it has at least one hump and a head that looks like a snake, alligator, or other aquatic beast. There are some reports that claim the head has some sort of horns or antennas attached to it.

That first alleged sighting is believed to have occurred in 1860 or 1872, depending on what you believe. The 1860 account occurred on Rattlesnake Island. According to the tae, a man was on a team leading several swimming horses across the lake and passed by the island. Inexplicably, the horses began being pulled under the water by an unseen, magnificent force. 

But the legend of Ogopogo really took off in 1926, years before the infamous Nessie sighting. This sighting, unlike many cryptid sightings, was seen not by just a few people but over thirty eyewitnesses. The sighting was so well-regarded that it was even reported on by the Vancouver Sun. Roy W. Brown, the editor at the time wrote in the article: “Too many reputable people have seen [the monster] to ignore the seriousness of actual facts." 

Since these stories and sightings became popularized, sightings of Ogopogo have remained consistent.  John Kirk of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club notes, "The catalogue of films and video of Ogopogo are more numerous and of better quality than anything I have personally seen at Loch Ness and I believe that several of them are very persuasive that a large, living, unknown creature inhabits the lake."


Thanks to Kendra P-G for this #Blogstonishing topic!

The above image is Okanagan Lake and steamboat, 1897. It is licensed under Public Domain. 



The Mysterious Death of Roland Owen

The evening of January 2nd, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri began as a fairly unremarkable winter day. This was the night that Roland T. Owen checked into the Hotel President. Just a few days later, Roland would be found dead...and his death and its strange circumstances remain a mystery all these years later.

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While he was checking in, Roland told the Hotel President staff that he was disgruntled. He had been at another, unnamed, hotel that he believed had been overcharging him. When interviewed at a later date, hotel staff noted that the man had said he was from Los Angeles and had hopes of becoming a professional wrestler. Despite his original location and professional dreams, staff did find it strange that he did not seem to have any significant luggage with him. Just a few belongings, like a comb and toothpaste. 

The wrestler story seemed to check out. It was noted that he had the infamous wrestler’s condition, cauliflower ear, as well as several scars on his face. Roland’s age would be disputed by all those that came into contact with him. Most believed him to be quite young, between 20 and 25. However, some people who met this stranger believed him to be as old as 35.

Despite being kind, the hotel staff believed found him odd and skittish. He had been very specific in the kind of room he wanted: he had requested an interior room without a window that looked onto the street. This turned out to be room 1046. According to some reports, several of the maids who had cleaned his room or near his room they had heard him on the phone with someone named ‘Don’, as well as reports of hearing two male voices in the room. 

On day three of his stay, Mary Soptic, a maid at the hotel, walked in on Roland. Soptic did not expect to see a guest there, as his door was locked and Roland did not seem to have a key. She reported that he looked nervous. The shades were drawn and only a single lamp was lit in the room. Roland asked her to leave the door unlocked as he passed by her, as he was expecting a friend to stop by. Soptic would later report to the police that Roland was “either worried about something or afraid.” 

About fifteen minutes after this slightly strange interaction, Soptic stopped by room 1046 again to drop off some fresh towels. When she entered the room she encountered a fully dressed Roland lying on the bed. There was a note on the desk that read: “Don, I will be back in fifteen minutes. Wait.”

Although all of these circumstances seemed a bit odd, Soptic didn’t seem to think much of it. The next morning she returned for the morning clean at about 10:30 am. She noticed that the door had been locked from the outside and assumed Roland was up and about. However, Owens was sitting on his bed with the lights off, which meant someone else had locked the door from the outside.

On January 4th, at around 7 AM, the hotel phone operator noticed that Roland’s hotel phone had been off the hook for a significant amount of time without any apparent use. Slightly concerned, and perhaps he had the stories of this strange guest, the phone operator sent up a bellboy to check the room. On the door, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hung but the bellboy knocked a few times. Frustrated, the bellboy yelled through the door for Roland to hang up his phone.

An hour and a half passed and Roland’s phone remained off the hook. Frustrated, another bellboy named Harold Pike decided to go upstairs and check on the strange guest. He entered the room through a hotel skeleton key. Almost immediately he knew something was strange. Originally, he believed Roland was laying in bed naked and drunk and noted that the bedding around him was darkened. Freaked out but determined, Pike put the phone back in its cradle and left the room.

The hotel believed the problem was solved until 10:45 am rolled around and the phone was once again off the hook. A third bellboy was sent up to the room to resolve the situation...but he was not prepared for the scene he walked into.

The bellboy told police, “[W]hen I entered the room this man was within two feet of the door on his knees and elbows—holding his head in his hands. I noticed blood on his head." 

Then, the bellboy decided to turn on the lights and return the phone to its cradle once again. It was then that he “saw blood on the walls on the bed and in the bathroom ..." The terrified bellboy fled the room and rushed downstairs to the nearest manager to handle the horrific scene in 1046. 

Roland’s injuries were quite extensive. According to police reports, he had been tied up with a cord around his wrists, ankles, and neck. His skull was significantly fractured, he had a punctured lung, and had been stabbed in the chest multiple times.

Shockingly, when police arrived at the scene in the room Roland was alive. When police questioned him who had been in the room he hauntingly said: “Nobody.” He claimed that he had just fallen badly in the bathtub. He soon lost consciousness as he was taken to the hospital. He lived for several more hours before succumbing to his injuries in the hospital that night. It was believed his injuries had occurred approximately 5-6 hours before he had been found.

After failing to find any relatives or friends, it was reported in the paper that Roland would be buried in a Potter’s field. Strangely enough, the Melody Mcgilley Funeral Home, where his body was being held, received an anonymous call that night on March 22nd. The caller said they would send money necessary for a proper funeral and to not bury Roland in a Potter’s field. The next morning, the money was found wrapped in a newspaper. Sent to the funeral was a lovely flower arrangement. The card simply read: “Love Forever, Louise.” 

The case seemed to be closed and Roland had been buried. But, in 1936 the police station received a call from Ruby Ogletree. She had seen an article in the American Weekly about Roland and identified her as her son, Artemus Ogletree who would have been about 17 at the time of his death. Strangely enough, Ruby had received several strange letters from her son during the spring of 1935...after his death.

Theories on what may have happened to abound in this case, which remains unsolved to this day.

One of the most promising leads happened shortly after Ruby identified her son. In 1937, a man who went by the name of Joseph Ogden (a fake name) was arrested when he killed his roommate. Interestingly enough, one of his other known aliases was ‘Donald Kelso’ and apparently his appearance was similar to the Don that staff at the St. Regis. However, this was lead was never pursued (which I found quite shocking). 

Others believed that it could have been a hit from a jilted lover, Louise, who had gotten Roland/Artemus into a bit of a jam. Her jealousy may have gotten so out of control that she ordered his death or was somehow involved in the jam that cost him his life. 

However, even these two theories are quite bare. What happened to Roland? And how could this young man, who was strong, well-mannered, and healthy by all accounts, have met his death so young?





Thanks to Janelle V for this #Blogstonishing topic! 





The above image is of The NRHP-listed Hotel President in Kansas City, MO taken by BriYZZ and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


Overtoun Bridge

West Dubartonshire, Scotland is a picturesque town just west of Glasglow. It has charming museums, lovely greenspaces, and, of course, Overtoun Bridge. Connected to Overtoun House, a 19th-century country house, Overtoun Bridge has a more sordid history than one may imagine...especially if you love dogs.

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It seemed to have begun in the 1950s, but, for the last 60 or so years approximately fifty dogs have escaped their owners and jumped off Overtoun Bridge. However, i is believed more than 600 dogs have jumped off the bridge yet survived with minor injuries. What’s strange is the ones that survive the fall sometimes make their way back only to jump off again. Why they dive from safety off the fifty-foot bridge is a mystery that no one has quite solved yet. 

Unfortunately nicknamed the ‘Dog Suicide Bridge’, ‘Overtoun Bridge is alleged to be haunted or cursed by an unseen force, or, perhaps, a force only dogs can see. Over the years the bridge and the strange phenomena tied to it have brought it international infamy. There have been various investigations, ranging from ghost hunters to psychologists to try and discover what makes dogs leap from it. 

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals decided to send a team to the bridge in order to get to the bottom of the Overtoun Bridge. Animal psychologist Dr. David Sands and animal expert David Sexton headed to the bridge and came to an interesting conclusion - an overpowering scent of mink could be the culprit luring them off the bridge. 

Others believe that, perhaps, the area is a place where the veil is thin...maybe especially so for dogs. Water is usually believed to be a conductor for the paranormal energies that prove compelling for humans. So, is it possible that this bridge over water could be a place where the veil is thin for dogs...even if humans cannot perceive it? 


Either way, many dog owners avoid walking across this strange bridge...just in case.


Thank you to Kevin R for suggesting this Blogstonishing topic! 



The above image is Overtoun House and bridge, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, by Rosser1954 and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.



















The Zone of Silence

One of the strangest places in the world is right in the middle of the searing Chihuahuan desert in Mexico. This strange swath of land is also known as ‘The Zone of Silence’ and seems to be similar to a land-bound Bermuda Triangle where the seeming laws of nature are broken and ignored.

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Similar to the rumors of what happens in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle, it is said that radio signals routinely fail without explanation, compasses spin out of control, and things seem to inexplicably go wrong. The Zone of Silence is roughly 30 miles wide of largely uninhabitable land.

Humans have resided in and around the zone since prehistoric times, it has always been sparsely populated. Even today, the closest community is Ceballos which is still about 25 miles away from the main portion of the Zone. And, despite not being directly in The Zone of Silence, television signals cannot be transmitted to Ceballos.

We have Engineer Harry de la Pena to thank for the name ‘The Zone of Silence’, as he was the first outsider to interact heavily within the zone. Penna and his party, tasked with scouting locations for an oil company, arrived at The Zone of Silence with no idea what they were headed into. As their group spread out,they realized they weren’t able to communicate on their walk-talkies and that the radio transmissions in their small portable radios were also failing.

While there were events that preceded what put The Zone of Silence on the map, the Zone of Silence really entered into public consciousness on July 11th, 1970. The Athena Missile, an American Missile, was fired from the White Sands Missile Base. Unfortunately and without explanation, the missile went off course. It crashed in the middle of The Zone of Silence. Just a few years later, an upper stage from one of the boosters used on the Saturn in the Apollo project broke apart over The Zone of Silence.

Wernher Von Braun, whose name you may recognize from America’s early Space exploration days, even traveled to The Zone of Silence to investigate this stretch of land on behalf of the American government. It seemed no expense was spared. Benjamin Palacios, whose father personally greeted Von Braun when he arrived, described what followed Von Braun: “The Americans brought temporary dormitories, labs, kitchens, medical facilities, and set them up right here in the desert. They even built a runway to transport cargo directly to Houston. By rail, they hauled away tons of debris.”

In addition to technological failures and seemingly intense exploration by the American government, The Zone of Silence also seems to get quite a bit of UFO-related activity. One of the most interesting of these cases occurred on October 13th, 1975. Ernesto and Josefina Diaz drove into The Zone of Silence in their Ford pickup which they had recently bought. They had decided to travel into The Zone of Silence to search for interesting rocks and fossils. As they explored, they didn’t notice that a big desert rainstorm was headed straight for then. Once they did notice, they were worried about the threat of a flash flood, so they decided to pack up their findings and head out. However, they were not quick enough to beat the rain and were soon stuck as the terrain became softer and softer.

The couple hopped out of the car and attempted to free their vehicle. As they struggled in the torrential downpour, they saw two figures approaching them. These figures, which they described as very tall men, were wearing bright yellow raincoats with matching hats. They offered the Diazs help with their car. Oddly enough, the men instructed them to get back into the car. As they started up the pickup truck, they hear a pop and realized their car was back on solid ground.

Incredibly relieved that their new car would not be ruined or damaged, Ernesto got out of the car to thank the men. However, the men had disappeared. There were no footprints or vehicle prints, nor any evidence of what tools the men had used to free their truck so easily. 

Were these strange men from somewhere else? 

Other UFO evidence has been experienced around The Zone of Silence including colored lightings, humanoid sightings, and strange effects around the flora of the area (such as burning or unexplained diseases).

The Zone of Silence, like the Bermuda Triangle, does not seem to have a clear answer or direction. The phenomena that occurs seems to run the gambit, which cements the weirdness of the Zone.


Thanks to Kenny V for suggesting this Blogstonishing topic! 



The above image is not from the Zone itself but rather, Big Bend National Park and Chihuahuan Desert by Adbar and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0







The Elmore Rider

The Elmore Rider weaves a tale of love, tragic loss, and a headless ghost that can’t help sticking around. Elmore, a town in northern Ohio, and its population was a mere 1,410 as of the last census. At the time of our tale, shortly after World War I,  it was a little more booming thanks to the surrounding industry.

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Like many love stories, our main characters were separated by something, in this case WWI. After our Elmore Rider was drafted, his sweetheart promised to wait for him in Elmore until his return. After letters going back and forth discussing their love for each other and their impending marriage, the Elmore Rider was finally headed home.

As a celebration, on the last leg of his journey back to Elmore he bought a brand-spanking new Indian brand motorcycle for his ride home. He decided to cut the engine a bit as he neared her house, intending to surprise her. As he passed by and parked his bike, he could see her working in the kitchen and decided to sneak in behind her and surprise her with a hug. Sadly, he did not quite get the happy, affection-filled reunion he thought he was walking into.

His love screamed and soon her face contorted into horror as she realized who had hugged her. She had thought her love had died in WWI and had accepted a marriage proposal from someone else.

Shocked and upset, he barely let her explain before hopping on his motorcycle and driving off into the night. Sadly, he didn’t make it very far. He lost control of his new bike and police were called to his scene, where his head lay several feet away from his body on a nearby bridge.

Since then, there have been reports of blinding lights around the bridge followed by eerie and heartbreaking screams. These can be heard throughout the year but on March 21st, the alleged date of the incident, it said that a ghostly bike driven by a headless rider can be found driving that stretch and vanishing from the bridge around the midpoint. Others claim that you don’t see an entire apparition, but a single ghostly orb making the same journey.  It’s also said that if you stand on the bridge during the anniversary, you may end up thrown from it. Although the bridge is not very high, it would still cause quite some damage.

According to the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society, “Richard Gill was a student at nearby Bowling Green University and had an avid interest in the paranormal. As March 21 neared, he and a friend decided to stake out the haunted bridge. They brought along a movie camera, a still camera and a tape recorder. They parked their car on the far side of the bridge and then followed the procedure that, legend had it, caused the ghost light to appear. He blinked his car lights three times and then honked his horn three times. Suddenly, the light appeared near the farmhouse and flew toward the bridge, where it vanished.”




Thanks to Mel B for this suggestion for Blogstonishing 2019!






The image is Entering Elmore, Ohio by David Wilson and is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Zigmund Adamski

More interesting than his captivating name, Zigmund Adamski’s death has been whispered about in the corners of the paranormal world for decades. He left his house on the evening of June 6th, 1980 for potatoes and would be found inexplicably dead just five days later. But how did Polish-born miner end up dead on top of anthracite coal in Todmorden, England?

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56-year-old Zigmund seemed to live a fairly normal life. However, that changed on the eve of his niece’s wedding when he left the house on routine errands. When he did not return home that evening his wife was distraught and called the police. She was afraid he had been kidnapped (although why anyone would kidnap a relatively unknown middle-aged miner is unknown) and a search for Zigmund began.

Sadly (and strangely), his body was found just five days later on June 11th, 1980 in the town of Todmorden. If that name sounds a little strange to you...maybe it should. Todmorden translates, roughly, to ‘kill the dead’ in German (well according to google translate, anyway). However, it is believed to be an odd coincidence.  But this does beg another question...why is there a town named Todmoern in West Yorkshire?

Anyway, back to Zigmund! Zigmund’s body was discovered on top of a 12-foot pile of anthracite coal. Anthracite coal is hard coal that has the highest energy density and fewest impurities of all types of coal. A miner being found on top of a pile of coal may not seem too strange, but Zigmund had no ties to Todmorden and was roughly 20 miles away from his home. His body was discovered around 3:30pm by Trevor Parker, the son of the owner of Tomlin’s Coal Yard where Zigmund laid.

Police arrived on the scene a short while later and the Police Constable, Alan Godfrey, examined the body to the best of his ability (although he was not a trained medical professional) and decided it was likely Zigmund had died from a heart attack. 

Although this seemed like a routine cause of death...there were some questions about the scene that even the seasoned PC Godfrey had. For example, how had the body made its way facedown on top of the coal pile? Furthermore, there was no evidence that this person had been roughing it, homeless, or in any way anything but a normal man. Although he was dressed smartly in his suit, his shirt was missing along with his wallet and watch. Some reports claim that it appeared someone had re-dressed Zigmund, but had done a poor job of it...almost as if they had no idea the right way to tie shoes, use buttons or fasten pants.

Besides his clothing, there were also strange burn marks around his neck and shoulders which appeared to be covered in a green gelatinous substance, like a salve...although its origin could not be identified. 

Even stranger, once it was established that the body was that of Zigmund’s, was the time of death. Although he had been missing for five days, Dr. Alan Edwards, the consulting pathologist at the Royal Halifax Infirmary, concluded that Zigmund died between 11am and 1pm on June 11th, just mere hours before Trevor Parker discovered him.

What’s more is he, as the police on the scene had noticed, had not appeared to have been roughing it or under any extreme physical distress. Furthermore, according to the corner he only had about one day of beard growth, despite being missing for several days. 

The burn on his neck was also believed to have happened about two days before his death and, as mentioned before, the apparent ointment that had been rubbed on the wound could not be identified. Ultimately, after some debate, it was determined that the cause of death was a heart attack. The strange burns and his strange final days were never addressed or discussed.

Questions about Zigmund’s strange death and the circumstance his body was found in began to swirl and soon rumors of a potential abduction began to brew. Some believe that this may have been a Close Encounter of the Sixth Kind. According to Hynek’s scale, the Sixth Kind is “Death of a human or animal associated with a UFO sighting, although some might consider this as a more severe example of a second-kind encounter.”

Several months later, PC Goddard had another strange experience that became tied to Zigmund’s story. On November 28th, 1980 PC Goddard was driving around Todmorden shortly after 5am in the morning. He saw what he believed to be a bus and its headlights coming towards him. However, as he drove closer he realized that what he had perceived as a bus was floating roughly five feet above the ground. He attempted to radio in this sighting but his car radio and walkie-talkie both failed. Nervous about what he had experienced, he later heard that four policemen in the nearby town of Halifax had reported something similar. This encouraged PC Goddard to submit his own sighting. 

UFO researchers later heard about this sighting and contacted PC Goddard who believed he had been missing roughly 15 minutes of time. He was encouraged to undergo hypnosis to see if any memories of that time could be dredged up.

A journalist, John Sherard, watched a video of the hypnosis video and wrote in an edition of Sunday Mirror  (published on 9/27/1981) Goddard’s strange words...

“They’re horrible…..small…three to four feet, like five year old lads! There are eight of them. He’s touching me…..He’s feeling at my clothes. They have hands and heads like a lamp. They keep touching me…….they are making noises……Joseph, I know him as Joseph. He has told me not to be frightened.

They are robots! They’re not human! They’re robots! They’re his! They are Joseph’s robots! There’s a bloody dog…..it’s horrible! The size of an Alsatian!”

As a note...I googled Alsatian...it appears to be a breed of dog, or, someone from Alsace.

So, was there a strange flap in Yorkshire in the 1980s? Or is this just a very strange missing-and-then-found case? What do you think?


The above image from Anthracite Coal 01 10x Photomicrograph From Randolph Black licensed in the Public Domain.

Thanks to Tracey S. for this blogstonishing suggestion!





The Wendigo

Wendigos intersect many of the stories of America’s strangest places. But what is the folklore behind these strange creatures? Although Wendigos exist in several different Native American tribes, the most infamous of these stories seem to hail from the Great Lakes Region, all the way up to central Canada. Although the stories paint the Wendigo in different ways, there always seems to be one similarity: they represent what happens when you break society’s taboos. 


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According to some legends of the Wendigo...they don’t exist outside of humans. In fact, becoming a Wendigo is the punishment for very human failings...failings so intense that they fundamentally make humans inhuman. It is believed that a Wendigo is created whenever a human being consumes human flesh. The act of consuming human flesh creates an insatiable hunger for human flesh and Wendigos then are compelled to hunt humans. 

These creatures are incredibly malevolent, terrifying creatures. They are usually associated with greed, murder, and cannibalism. It makes sense that one of the most horrific creatures in Native American folklore focuses on these three traits, especially given the difficult winters the Great Lakes Region is known for. A single person displaying these traits could have the power to bring down an entire hunting party or even an entire community.

Physically, the creatures are quite revolting. They are said to be humanoid creatures with some animal-like features, like long yellow fangs, claws, and lolling tongues. Wendigos are always depicted as being bigger than an average human but woefully underweight, which is a nod to their constant state of never being sated with enough human flesh. Their eyes also purportedly glow red, which makes them easy to identify in the dead of night. But their eyes are their only hindrance in hunting humans. They are said to be stealthy, have excellent tracking skills, and, in some cases, can even use dark magic in their hunt for humans.

If one becomes a Wendigo, or if people suspect someone is in the process of turning into a Wendigo there is only one answer: to kill the Wendigo. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a reverse to the curse of becoming a Wendigo. However, the bit of person that remains inside the horrendous body of the Wendigo does have a chance to have their soul saved. It is believed that by ritually killing a Wendigo, you can save the human soul that resides within it.

Although it is not always heavily discussed or represented in art regarding Wendigos, they are often believed to be coated in ice. In particular, their human heart would be displayed in ice - the only reminder that this beast was once a person. 

Ultimately, the Wendigo myth seems to promote community and urge others to avoid gluttony, murder, and cannibalism even in the face of a cold winter. 




Thanks to Brandon W for the suggestion for this blogstonishing topic!





This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Attribution: Paul LaRocque. It is of Wendigo Lake.


Pedro Mountain Mummy

Astonishing Legends’ listeners are no strangers to the Egyptomania that swept America thanks to our Kincaid’s Cave episode. Mummies, specifically, were at the top of many American’s minds during the first half of the 20th century. So, you can imagine the interest that arose in 1934 when prospectors Cecil Mayne and Frank Carr discovered a sealed cave in the San Pedro Mountains containing a very strange mummy. 

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Mayne and Carr were not originally prospecting for mummies when they came across what would become known as the Pedro Mountain Mummy. Instead, they were searching for gold near the Pathfinder Reservoir. They found what they believed would be a good place to perhaps find a vein of gold and set up some dynamite to open up the earth. When the dust settled, they found a cave which lead to a rock ledge and a sealed cave. While there were not any gold veins, they did discover the sealed cave which only held a mummy.

But this mummy was not like the Egyptian mummies whose pictures had been widely circulated. Instead, the Pedro Mountain Mummy was incredibly small, about 6.5 inches, sitting cross-legged. Its skin had long been brown and wrinkled and its features showed a flat nose, heavy lidded eyes, a wide mouth and thin lips. With a simple initial look, it looked like a wizened old man. 

Upon closer inspection, it had fingernails and there was a jelly-like substance on the top of its head. It also had teeth, although they appeared to be a full set of canines. 

The prospectors, eager to capitalize on anything after failing to find gold, instantly shared these findings. Believed to be a hoax, anthropologists and scientists were soon shocked to find that, in x-ray, it appeared to be an actual human skeleton. What’s more is that further analysis showed that the being had been killed quite violently - it’s skull had been smashed by a heavy object, its spine was damaged, and it had a broken collarbone. 

After initial testing, it was believed to be a fully grown adult male who was about 65 at the time of his death. 

The mummy was sold and it made its rounds throughout the years. It was in sideshows, displayed in a pharmacy to bring in customers, and even used in car commercials. Unfortunately, it was stolen in the 1950s.

Years later, after purportedly hearing about the strange mummy from his students, University of Wyoming physical anthropologist George Gill gave the images a close look. Instead of an old pygmy man, Dr. Gill believed that the mummy was an infant suffering from anencephaly, which would explain the apparent head trauma, slightly strange features, and size.

In 2005, John Adolfi of Syracuse, New York, offered a $10,000 for the mummy’s safe return. However, no one has claimed the reward and the mummy’s location remains a mystery.

Thank you to Addey L for providing this topic for #Blogstonishing 2019!




Here are multiple known photos and x-ray taken of the Mummy found in the San Pedro Mountain Range, WY. It is licensed under the Public Domain! 




The Dungarvon Whooper

Along the Dungarvon River, logging was quite popular in the late 1800s into the 1900s. It is no surprise that during the long winter months, the winter camps soon filled with men and their stories. One of the most prominent stories, trafficked almost as heavily as the wood, was that of the Dungarvon Whooper.

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The story of the Dungarvon Whooper begins with a young cook at a lumber camp named Ryan. Ryan was said to have been working lumber camps for a few years and was quite transient. When he arrived at the latest logging camp he brought a simple sack filled with all of his worldly possessions and bulging money belt. Although he was a bit braggadocious at times, Ryan was generally well-liked, especially for his talent. Even though Ryan was small, he could whoop and holler and yell better than any man at the camp. 

Ryan, as the camp’s cook, awoke far earlier than the rest of the camp to begin preparing breakfast for all the men. Once he was finished cooking breakfast and filling up the lunch pails, he would let out a tremendous whoop to awake the entire camp and rouse them for breakfast.

One day, the boss of the lumber camp arrived. The boss was a stranger to the camp, but, as he was responsible for their paychecks, the men respected him. Once breakfast was made and the men left for the day, it was pretty much just the boss and Ryan alone at camp. When the men returned for dinner...they found Ryan’s lifeless body without his money belt. 

One of the men confronted the boss and claimed that the young cook had suddenly taken ill after the men had left and gotten worse and worse until succumbing to his death. The lumberman, loyal to their cook, asked if this was true where was the money belt that Ryan was never seen without?

The boss said something non-committal and a horrible storm began to rage. Not wanting their friend to go without a proper burial, they buried him in the forest. As they made their way back to the storm in the middle of the night and through the eye of the storm, they heard dreadful whooping emitting from all around them. It continued throughout the night from every conceivable direction and terrified all those in the camp.

The men went back with a priest shortly after to give a proper burial...but his body was nowhere to be found in the shallow grave the men had made. Following this failed attempt at a proper burial and Ryan’s missing body, every night after dark a bone-shivering whooping would echo throughout the camp.

Despite being a profitable camp, the lumbermen abandoned their work as soon as spring came and made for different camps never to return. Although the camp was disbanded, the Dungarvon Whooper did not stop his whooping and his tortured calls would ring throughout the forest for years.

Throughout the New Brunswick area there are slight variations to this tale. Some of the stories claim that the whooping ended decades later when a priest came and blessed the land. Other stories claim that the whooping can be heard to this day.

So, is it the just the wind whipping through the forest at night that makes this baleful whooping? Or, is it something more sinister?









Thanks to Tyson T for submitting this topic for #Blogstonishing 2019!









The above image is Dungarvon River at "The Jaws", New Brunswick, Canada (IR Walker 1988).  from lesfrenck and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0





The Gorbals Vampire

Just a hop skip and a jump away from the main streets of Glasgow is a place known at The Gorbals. The Gorbals has been a part of Glasgow for centuries and originally began as a fashionable village which soon took off in popularity. However, it soon became known as one of the poorest parts of Glasgow and was often overcrowded, dingy, and even a bit scary. Although police showing up to the Gorbals isn’t exactly notable...one event in September 1954 stands out and started off a fear for the Gorbals Vampire.

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On September 23rd, 1954 police were called to the Southern Necropolis, one of the graveyards in the Gorbals. Alex Deeprose, a police constable, was the first to arrive on the scene. And he was in for quite a shock. Seemingly inexplicably, hundreds of children were running all around the graveyard. The kids, though, were armed - they had crosses, crucifixes, axes, and even knives. The children ranged in ages from 14 all the way to toddlers. But why were they running around a graveyard with weapons in the middle of the night?

Deeprose, in a bit of a panic, didn’t know how to corral the unruly horde. He finally got a hold of some of the children and asked them what they were doing. They replied simply that they were hunting the Gorbals Vampire, a 7-foot tall creature with iron teeth sharp enough to eviscerate other children. They believed that this creature was behind the murders of two other children that had recently died in the graveyard.  

More police arrived on the scene but they were unable to calm the children as they continued to hunt for the monster that had taken their friends. Finally, it began to rain and a local headmaster told the children to scram (apparently, headmasters are more frightening than police officers) and the children disbanded.

However, the children returned in full force the next night...and in varying numbers for the rest of the week. At this time, the police had been called multiple times and the legend of the Gorbals Vampire was beginning to spread amongst the residents of the Gorbals.

Parents began to worry about the creature that was stalking and killing children in the dead of night and rumors continued to spread on the playground.

A student at the time, Kenny Hughes, when interviewed years later said, “The children’s terror ‘built up and built up until it basically became mass hysteria.”

And, perhaps, this strange tale of the vampire with iron teeth and children swarming the graveyard was just that...a strange tale. While the children vampire hunting in the graveyard at night, illuminated by the fire of the nearby steelworks, was very real...the tale of the vampire may just have been a tall tale. According to investigations by the police at the time and later legend-hunters, no children were reported missing or found dead in the area during the time. 

According to the Scotsman, the children may have updated the town’s local boogeyman into something more easily hunted, “Myths of iron-toothed monsters have haunted Glasgow for some time. According to Tam Smith, parents sometimes warned their badly behaved offspring that the ‘Iron Man’ – a local ogre – would get them.”

Vampires appearing as villains in comics around this time were also blamed for the updated iron-tooth monster. Not to mention that vampires, unlike nondescript iron-toothed monsters, have very specific things that can kill them. Which, may have made the hunt for them even easier and more attractive to the child horde that would descend upon the Necropolis. 


Thank you Kristy R for contributing this topic suggestion for #Blogstonishing 2019!








This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. It was posted by Robert Kelley.

Spriggans

Spriggans are said to be the security force behind the fairy worlds. Unlike some fairies which serve to treat or trick humans, the Spriggans are said to measure out justice to humans who have unduly crossed fairies. They would dole out punishments, both big and small, to anyone who dared mess too much with the otherworld.

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Although Spriggans are said to be quite small, that doesn’t mean their punishments are any easier to escape. They typically appear to humans as small, wizened creatures lurking in the ruins of castles. However, don’t let their initial appearance make you feel more comfortable...it is said they have shapeshifting abilities can quickly grow to gigantic proportions. 

Spriggans are naturally hateful and wary of humans. Unlike some other fairy folk that can help humans or even bestow gifts upon them, Spriggans usually have nothing but ill will towards humans. But, you can’t really blame them. As the bodyguards and justice-bringers of the fairy world it is their job to avenge their brethren. 

The punishments they dole out are similar to what other folkloric creatures can bestow upon humans if mistreated. Some of the punishments are seemingly small, such as sending storms on inopportune days. However, they can also be gut-wrenchingly tragic such as stealing their children, blighting their crops, or cursing those who mistreated the fairy world with unstoppable bad luck.

In addition to righting the wrongs of the fairfolk, Spriggans are also often tasked with guarding fairy treasures. If you attempt to steal fairy treasure or just happen to accidentally stop by a hiding place, they will punish you.

If you want to avoid being punished by the Spriggans, the easiest thing you can do is make sure not to offend any type of fair folk in any way. The second thing you can do...avoid tempting them. Even if you haven’t initially done something to offend the fair folk...the Spriggans may still be tempted to enact a little pre-revenge, just in case you were to wrong the fair folk. They are said to lead lonely travelers who are lost into swamps, near crumbling cliffs, or to the precipices of broken castles they inhabit. 

 As guards to both standing stones and hidden treasures, they correspond very closely to the Breton korred. They are also busy thieves and expert kidnappers of children.








The above image is of a ‘Green spriggan sculpture by Marilyn Collins, in an alcove of the wall at the footbridge before the former Crouch End station. According to a local urban legend, a ghostly 'goat-man' haunted the walk in the 1970s and 1980s. The sculpture, and Parkland Walk generally, provided the inspiration for Stephen King's short story "Crouch End". By Peter O’Connor licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0.


Catoptromancy

There may be more than Bloody Mary lurking behind your mirror. Mirrors and reflections seem to have always entranced people. In fact, the word 'mirror' comes from the Latin word ‘mirare’ which means "to wonder at." So, it should come as no surprise that there is a sect of divination specifically to do with mirrors. It’s called Catoptromancy, but is also known as mirror-gazing.

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Instead of simply being reflections of our present, there was a belief that mirrors could reveal the future as well. Catoptromancy is a form of scrying, and if you don’t know what scrying is it’s a way to tell the future using a reflective object or surface (typically a crystal ball). Catoptromancy is specifically using a mirror. 

The practice dates back to Ancient Greece and was recorded by Pausanias, a Greek geographer. He wrote, “Before the Temple of Ceres at Patras, there was a fountain, separated from the temple by a wall, and there was an oracle, very truthful, not for all events, but for the sick only. The sick person let down a mirror, suspended by a thread till its based touched the surface of the water, having first prayed to the goddess and offered incense. Then looking in the mirror, he saw the presage of death or recovery, according as the face appeared fresh and healthy, or of a ghastly aspect.”

Typically, to begin a Catoptromancy you can go one of two ways. First, you can position a mirror in a scrying plate fashion at a 90-degree angle on a table. Then, add a flame or small light near the mirror which allows the light to reflect back onto the scrying mirror. From there, the scryer would interpret messages or discern answers to questions from the reflection of the light in the mirror and the perceived images that may dance upon the mirror. As a second way, if you are alone, you can look into a mirror in a dimly lit room. Try to look through the surface of the mirror instead of just your own reflection. After some time, images and color will begin to appear and you begin your question and answer section. Because the requirement to discern images and colors that appear in a mirror, the practice has often been compared to dream interpretation. 

As a note, as mentioned in our Bloody Mary blog post “staring too long at a reflective surface, like a mirror or a crystal, in a dimly lit room could lead to hallucinations, visual distortion, and, in layman's terms, your eyes playing tricks on you.”



The blog header image is of ‘Claude Lorrain mirror in shark skin case, believed at one time to be John Dee's scrying mirror. Front three quarter view. Case open. Graduated grey background’. Image is coursey of the Wellcome Collection


London Necropolis Railway Station

The title of this blog isn’t your new favorite fantasy series or the name of a nu-metal band. Instead, it is the very real train for the dead that was used to ferry the dead to their eternal resting place. This station was erected in the mid-1850s to combat a very real and very morbid problem: the cemeteries filling up. The London Necropolis Railway Station would run every day for nearly 90 years before fading gently into its own death.

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Today, a beautiful red building stands on 121 Westminster Bridge Road in London. It’s elegant design and eye-catching front door may ensure a passing glance of interest but it is hard to tell the dark history of this building. One would hardly believe that thousands upon thousands passed through that large entryway, a former train tunnel, for over eight decades.

This building is all that remains of the London Necropolis Railway Station. This railway company was created for one purpose and one purpose alone: getting corpses out of city center.. By the 1850s, London’s inner-city cemeteries were full and despite trying to maximize space...there was simply no more room.

So, a cemetery were built in nearby Surrey. But, in a bustling city like London, carting out the dozens that died each day to Surrey efficiently seemed an almost insurmountable task. Planning began with the living in mind. The station was very beautiful and included lovely waiting rooms for mourners to wait until the one train of the day stopped by. The rail route would take the deceased’s family through a scenic journey and would catch views of Westminster and Hampton Court as they traveled with their loved one’s corpse. The journey was a little over 20 miles and took less than an hour. 

According to Look Up London, Railway Magazine wrote in 1904, “Possibly this is the most peaceful railway station in the three corners of the kingdom — this station of the dead. But this is a sad station, the saddest in our islands. For every time it is used means an occasion of grief and pain to those who tread its platforms.” Railway Magazine (1904)

The scheduling was also very considered. The train would leave at 11:40am, plenty of time for mourning family members to make their way to the station while staying out of the way of rush hour hustle and bustle. They would arrive at about half-past noon and be able to have a funeral service on the cemetery grounds before taking the train back to London at 3:30pm, which would have the mourners arriving before the end of the work day. It was almost as if the mourners were shuffled in and out while the city was busy at work so that other citizens wouldn’t be confronted with the awful truth at how close death really is.

According to BBC, during its peak years from 1894-1903 the trains would carry over 2,000 bodies per year. By its close it would carry over 200,000 bodies to Brookwood Cemetery, the end of the line. 

The London Necropolis Railway would begin to slow with the introduction of a motor hearse in 1909 which, by 1920, would far outpace the train. Many preferred death to remain private and taking a private vehicle instead of a train filled with other mourners (and bodies) seemed preferable to many. The train’s schedule changed from once daily, to every other day, and finally by the mid 1930s to just once or twice a week.

I find this, in some ways, a little strange. One would think that being near to other mourners might make the whole strange process of death feel a little more universal. Perhaps a person mourning alone would find comfort that they were not alone in their struggle of sadness. However, there were issues especially regarding classes during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unfortunately, separate entrances to the train station were created and one could buy first or second class tickets. In fact, even the corpses could have first or second class tickets, one way of course.

However, the true death of The London Necropolis Railway occurred in 1941. During the Blitz, bombs dropped on April 16th caused huge amounts of damage and death, including to the station. Most of the main station was destroyed, although the gorgeous Victorian facade would remain. Instead of reconstructing, the railway company decided to completely close down the line.

Although it still stands today, the inscription of LONDON NECROPOLIS RAILWAY has been etched out of history and out of many people’s memories. 

The blog image is of the Westminster Bridge Road entrance to the first London terminus. The ornate gates were originally designed for the Great Exhibition.