“LE LOYON, THE GHOST OF MAULES” and 5 More True Stories – PLUS BLOOPERS! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““LE LOYON, THE GHOST OF MAULES” and 5 More True Stories – PLUS BLOOPERS! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: Nellie Meunch was accused of kidnapping. Her ingenious scheme to beat the charges? To kidnap again. (Kidnapping, Babies, and Blackmail) *** Before we knew it as tuberculosis, most knew it as consumption – and it was almost always fatal, with those who had it seemingly being consumed by the disease, which is probably how it got its name. So it should be no surprise that homes where the disease took up residence were devastated, and whether or not they are haunted by the paranormal, they are certainly haunted by the dark memories and energies of those who were consumed there. Including one particular home a doctor in 1915 will describe for us. (Consumption Cottage) *** Norfolk’s Horning Village is not your typical residential area of living – the village slips back and forth in time every five years. And one family knows that’s true, because they were stuck in one of the time slips. (Timeslip Village) *** When fans of the paranormal hear the name ‘Rendlesham’, the first thing that springs to mind is an incident that happened over three nights around Christmas 1980, when it was said that several spaceships visited the nearby airbase. What they don’t think of is Ariel the mermaid, or Daryl Hannah from the movie “Splash”. But maybe they should. (The Mermaid of Rendlesham) *** Isabella of France is a fantastically interesting historic figure, even more so because of how little-known she is. You’d think a queen who was known as a she-wolf would be something you might have read about in history class. (Isabella: She-Wolf of England) *** But first, the figure, who is known as ‘Le Loyon’ has been called Switzerland’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster, wears a military uniform and a thick cloak, with a gas mask covering his or her face. Who or what is he? We begin with that story. (The Masked Man Le Loyon)
(Dark Archives episode from September 25, 2020)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
Book: “Cover-Ups and Secrets: The Complete Guide to Government Conspiracies, Manipulations and Deceptions” by Nick Redfern: https://amzn.to/2S20NC5
Book: “Haunted East Anglia” by Joan Forman: https://amzn.to/3i88eCe
Book: “Masks of Time” by Joan Forman: https://amzn.to/2Ez9bWt
Book: Two Suffolk Friends” by William Blackwood and Sons: https://amzn.to/2RYWbMT
Hidden East Anglia website: http://www.hiddenea.com
Griffmonster Walks website: https://griffmonster-walks.blogspot.com/p/home-page.html
“The Twelve Rules” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/7101
“Ghosts on Death Row” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/6868
“The Necropolis Railway” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/7208
“The Horrors of Route 66” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/5594
“Kidnapping, Babies, and Blackmail” by Troy Taylor: https://tinyurl.com/y57vbwpp
“The Masked Man Le Loyon” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://tinyurl.com/y3y746f4
“Timeslip Village” by Stacia Briggs and Siofra Connor for Eastern Daily Press: https://tinyurl.com/y555bl3m
“The Mermaid of Rendlesham” by Stacia Briggs and Siofra Connor for Eastern Daily Press: https://tinyurl.com/y4mcrbry
“Consumption Cottage” by Dr. George Thomas Palmer, M.D. published in Illinois Health News, Volume 1, 1915; pp 69-71
“Isabella: She-Wolf of England” by Gemma Hollman for Just History Posts: https://tinyurl.com/y5qwpug2
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Trademark, Weird Darkness®, 2022. Copyright Weird Darkness©, 2022.
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The shadow of a man dressed in leathers, wearing a gas mask and soldier camo, haunted the forest of Maules, in Switzerland’s Canton of Fribourg. He would walk the same path and always linger just long enough for some passerby to catch a glimpse. They called him Le Loyon, “The Ghost Of Maules”. He became a boogyman to them, an urban legend to scare people who dared to walk alone in the woods. Once a photo was captured of him however, he was revealed as disturbing reality. People demanded action, they demanded fire and pitchforks, they demanded a hunt for the beast.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
THE MASKED MAN LE LOYON
In the early 2000s, reports and accounts began to emerge from Switzerland of a bizarre man, with a gas mask on his face, an ominous-looking military-type boiler suit around his body, and wearing a menacing, hooded cloak-type coat. He would emerge and disappear, seemingly at random, into the nearby forests and woodlands of the picturesque country.
What is perhaps interesting about this mystery figure – named “Le Loyon” by those who told of accounts with it – is despite sightings and reports for almost a decade, there was no actual proof of his existence. That was until the summer of 2013. On that day one onlooker managed to capture a picture of the strange clad person walking back into the greenery of western Switzerland.
Indeed, until that point, tales and sightings of Le Loyon, sometimes referred to as The Ghost, or Hermit of Maules, had a decidedly supernatural feel to them. The strange, dark figure was “a giant” in some accounts (most state him to be just over 6 feet), while others told of a “threatening” feeling that they couldn’t explain.
These were perhaps in contrast to the sightings of the masked stranger picking flowers and even going out of his way to avoid people. Indeed, for all the sightings, tales, and insight into just what this bizarre, hooded figure was, no one who experienced an encounter with this mysterious stranger would ever come to any harm.
There are several claims and theories as to the identity and purpose of this seemingly strange individual. Some of which we will explore shortly. First, however, we will examine some of the initial reports.
Reports began at some time in the early 2000s, certainly no later than 2003. And all of them were very similar in nature. A strange figure wearing heavy clad military attire complete with an old, early-twentieth-century gas mask, an addition that only served to increase the menacing look. The figure also wears a pair of heavy-duty boots and a long, hooded cloak.
[You can see a few photos of Le Loyon, including the 2013 photo of what is suspected to be him, walking down a path, by clicking on the transcript link to this episode which you can find in the show notes.]
While the overall size and build of the person would suggest it is a man – indeed most reports suggest a “masked man” – in truth, it was not known whether the figure was a man or a woman.
In fact, initially, the sightings would take on an urban legend type of status. With some residents suggesting the figure was most likely a strange spirit or a ghost.
Over time, however, most people came to believe the strange masked figure was indeed a person, most likely a man, who had simply taken to living an isolated existence somewhere in the dense forests of Switzerland. Perhaps a person who had chosen to reject the modern world and simply ventured out when required to do so.
What that reason might have been, however, is unclear. Most sightings catch the strange figure either emerging from or going back into the woodland. As trite as it sounds, for example, it is unlikely this person was merely “popping to the shops” for supplies.
Unless, of course, they would discreetly remove their menacing attire before doing so. But what would the reason be for such behavior? Some people have put forward that the person behind the mask may have a disfigurement. Perhaps, the last part of their journey into whatever public space aside, such a grim look not only hides their features but also keeps others at a distance?
The reasons for these regular and persistent appearances remained, and still remain, unknown. However, the sightings and reports of this strange and elusive figure would continue well into the second decade of the twenty-first century. And although there were no known acts of violence, or even threats thereof, most who ran into the strange masked person would recall how frightened the encounter left them.
One local resident and mother would recall: “It scared my children. He came out of the woods with his military clothes. We saw neither his face nor his eyes behind his big, dark gas mask. It was scary!”
Another resident named as Marianne Descloux would bluntly state: “It was a rainy Sunday. He had on a cap, a dark cloak and gas mask. What goes on in his head? I don’t know. It was unpleasant. I hope I never run into him again!”
Indeed, Descloux would further state that she would “never return” to the forest again.
Despite the lack of any threatening behavior, or of the strange figure breaking the law, local police would step up their search for him in 2013 following one resident capturing a picture of the strange figure, which I’ve placed in the transcript to this episode. According to the press report, they wished to request Le Loyon, whoever it might be, to be “less threatening”.
One local farmer, perhaps missing out on the seasonal trade in the area, would complain: “Families simply won’t go into the forest anymore!”
Many local residents would see their once quiet and picturesque town becoming famous for this strange and menacing figure, who, in turn, was quickly becoming the Swiss version of the “Loch Ness Monster”. And for the local population, an annoying and unnerving thorn in their collective side.
In 2013, a picture appeared on a Swiss media platform claiming to be the first evidence of Le Loyon’s existence. The picture, taken by an unnamed photographer, clearly shows the mystery person walking away from the camera.
The picture would come from a local resident with his mobile phone. According to the man, he and Le Loyon were almost face-to-face. The photographer, along with his family, stood staring at the bizarre and grim-looking figure. In turn, it stared back.
After Le Loyon turned and walked away, the man reached for his phone. As carefully as he could, he snapped the first, and only, picture of this cloaked individual.
The unnamed photographer would state: “He had a military cape, boots, and an army gas mask – an antique type…He stared at me and then turned his back on me and left in silence!”
The spotlight of the media and the general public was now firmly on the area in question. And on the real identity of Le Loyon. As claims reached far and wide thanks to the Internet, many adventurers and researchers into the strange and bizarre would descend on western Switzerland. Each looking for their own encounter with Le Loyon. And perhaps to solve the mystery as to just who was behind the mask.
For several weeks, at least in this region of western Switzerland, the atmosphere was reaching fever pitch. Who was this mysterious person? And perhaps more worrying, what would members of the public do next in terms of confronting this masked figure? Indeed, the more fear spread through the community, the more likely a “preemptive attack” became.
Then, however, several months later, things took an even stranger turn.
In late-2013, several months after the picture of Le Loyon appeared in newspapers around Switzerland and online media platforms across Europe and beyond, a website named Le Matin, published what they claimed was a “suicide note”, written by Le Loyon.
According to their report, the note surfaced in a clearing where most of the sightings of the mystery masked man occurred. Along with the long, hooded, cloak-like trench coat.
The note would, if genuine, confirm the person’s identity as a man. He would claim that the constant glare of attention, particularly since the publication of the picture in the autumn of that year, had led him to believe that this “end” was better than then “the risk of a hunt for a beast” by the public. The note would state: “I think the media coverage has had only two effects – to deprive a person of his harmless outlet and to unsettle some!”
Many believe the suicide was not an actual reference to literally ending his life. But merely “killing off” the persona or the character of Le Loyon.
The note would also make several references to Austrian author, and a person largely regarded as being at the beginnings of the sadomasochism movement (indeed – masochism derives from his name), Sacher Masoch. Might this seemingly throwaway line be the main clue? One that while not identifying the person, certainly identifying the motive for their actions?
In fact, these lines, combined with the chosen attire which has echoes of the masochistic world, appear to be both an explanation and a snarling attack on the rest of society?
So, what should we take note of the references to the Austrian author, Sacher Masoch. The writer of the note would state: “You do not seem to know Sacher Masoch. You would discover it takes everything to make a world!”
While it is pure speculation, might it be that the person behind the mask is someone who enjoys such outlets as Sacher Masoch? And even masochism and/or sadomasochism in general?
It is certainly an interesting thought. And is arguably the most likely scenario. And perhaps of more interest, what does the reaction to the sightings say about us as a collective? Realistically, there is no doubt that most of us would indeed stare a little at a person walking out of the forest in such macabre get-up. Maybe even feel a little unnerved and intimidated by it. It is, though, still perhaps a sad condemnation of our society in general.
Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves of the Green Man of Pennsylvania, sometimes referred to as Charlie “No Face”. During the 1950s and 60s, sightings of the Green Man would often occur near State Route 351 near the Peters Creek area. Many bored teenagers would often venture up to this region at night. All had hopes of seeing the faceless man, who also had no right arm.
Indeed, many knew of this bizarre ghost-like monstrosity.
In reality, however, the Green Man was Charlie Robinson, a local man who as a boy would climb a railway bridge in order to see a bird’s nest. In doing so, he would suffer horrific burns from the electrically charged wires above. The burns would leave him permanently scarred all over, including his face, and leaving him blind, with empty eye sockets. Although there were no other long-lasting health effects, Robinson would often only venture out at night. And even then, many not familiar with his story would run in shock at the sight of him.
Are the accounts and sightings of the mysterious man of the Swiss woodlands those of an individual who was simply going about his business, albeit in a manner that most of us would indeed find strange? Did they then find themselves at risk of a potential attack?
It would certainly seem, like the Green Man of Pennsylvania, behind the monstrous mask, there was a very real person. Only, unlike Charlie Robinson, Le Loyon had the option of removing their mask and going back to anonymity.
That being said, as with all things, until we have definite proof then all possibilities, as possibilities, are open to debate. Was there more to this than just a man following his own hedonistic compass? Might the “killing off” of Le Loyon itself have reasons unknown to us? And, perhaps of most interest, will he appear again at some point in the future?
We should, though, be cautious that any sightings that might occur in the future are not merely copycat hoaxes, as opposed to the return of the masked man of the Swiss forests.
Whatever the reasons, and whether or not Le Loyon is “dead and gone”, the incident and sightings are yet another layer of intrigue to our rich and varied collective existence.
Ultimately, the case gives us a lot to think about on several different levels. And, how might that thought process be applied, where appropriate, to urban legends and folklore of the past? Perhaps we might see that some of the tales of “monsters”, “goblins”, and “ghouls” may have more reality at their true origins than we might at first think.
Coming up on Weird Darkness…
A doctor from 1915 describes a home haunted by the memories of what was then known as consumption.
A family in Norfolk’s Horning Village says they went back in time 100 years – and that it might happen again soon in the village.
In late December 1980, there was a series of reported sightings of unexplained lights near Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England which have become linked with claims of UFO landings. Apparently people were too busy looking at the little green men in flying saucers to notice the half-women-half-fish that also might be in the area.
But first, Nellie Meunch was accused of kidnapping. Her ingenious scheme to beat the charges? To kidnap again.
These stories and more, when Weird Darkness returns!
KIDNAPPING, BABIES, AND BLACKMAIL
On August 22, 1936, a St. Louis socialite named Nellie Muench – along with three others – was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy. St. Louis has seen some weird and wacky legal cases and crimes over the years, but there is never a crime that is more sensational than when a member of the upper crust gets caught committing it.
The story started in 1931, when Dr. Issac Dee Kelley was kidnapped after making a house call to a home on Davis Place in Clayton, Missouri. He was released after eight days, but the culprit responsible for his temporary disappearance was unknown.
Three years later, a tavern owner named Adolph Fielder revealed the secret behind the unsolved case: he claimed the kidnapping was the work of ex-cons, gangsters and a woman he only knew as “Mrs. N.” It turned out that the mysterious redhead was Nellie Muench, a resident of Westminister Place, and a prominent member of St. Louis society. She was the daughter of the Rev. William Tipton, sister to Judge Ernest Tipton, wife of Dr. Ludwig Muench, and manager of a boutique in the Central West End called The Mitzi Shop.
It turned out that Nellie was in the habit of sending bills to widows for lingerie their late husbands may have (but probably hadn’t) purchased from her shop. It was later discovered that her background was also sullied by rumors of jewelry thefts and friendships with local gangsters, but her society connections had managed to keep her out of trouble for many years.
After she was charged with Dr. Kelley’s kidnapping, her attorneys got the venue for her trial changed to Mexico, Missouri, a town near Columbia, where her father had his church, and near Jefferson City, where her brother sat on the Missouri Supreme Court. But unsure that even her prominent relatives could save her this time, Nellie came up with a scheme to save herself.
Believing that no jury would convict her if she was a new mother, she concocted a plan to get a baby to claim as her own. Working with her lawyer, Vern Lacey, she located a baby in Chicago and brought him to St. Louis – only to have the baby die. But Nellie was not deterred. She found a second child, the son of Anna Ware, an unwed domestic servant in Pennsylvania who had come to St. Louis to deliver her child – so she took it. Once the jury got wind of the recent “birth,” she was acquitted of kidnapping.
But Nellie just couldn’t stop herself.
She was so sure that people believed the baby was hers that she decided to blackmail one of her husband’s colleagues, Dr. Marsh Pitzman, claiming the baby was his. When Anna Ware went to court to get her child back, Pitzman (who had actually been Muench’s lover) gave her $16,000 for her defense.
Eventually, the whole scheme fell apart and the ruse was exposed. Nellie was sentenced to 10 years for mail fraud (for blackmailing Pitzman); her husband was sentenced to eight years; and two accomplices, Wilfred “Skinny” Jones and Nellie’s friend Helen Berroyer, ended up with five years behind bars.
It was the end of a story that captured the attention of St. Louis and the region and just went to prove that, no matter how much money you might have, a criminal is still a criminal.
An unsettling time slip in Horning: “The three began to feel uneasy, noting that a strange silence had descended…The landscape became blurry and the houses were replaced by ancient cottages.”
It was Norfolk’s own Picnic at Hanging Rock: a village where time stood still and where a family found themselves transported back in time as they stood in shock. The Margolis family were walking around the beautiful Norfolk village of Horning in the summer of 1978 – possibly 1979 – taking in the riverside views at one of the gems in the Norfolk Broads’ crown. Mr and Mrs Margolis and their 11-year-old son were suddenly overcome with uneasiness – the village had suddenly fallen entirely silent and, as they walked, the trio began to feel increasingly dizzy.
Realisng quickly that something was very wrong, they began to feel not only disorientated, but frightened. The landscape had started to melt away “like a big heat haze’ and the houses that they had looked at seconds earlier turned before their eyes into ancient cottages. In amazement they watched as the modern road transformed into little more than a muddy track and the cars into carts. A thin man wearing brown appeared walking alongside a battered cart drawn by a large horse: he didn’t so much as glance at the family. Then, as suddenly as they had moved from one time to another, they heard modern-day noises: cars, voices, the thrum of life with electricity. As quickly as it had appeared, the past had evaporated. In his book Cover-Ups and Secrets: The Complete Guide to Government Conspiracies, Manipulations and Deceptions by Nick Redfern, he quotes an interview given by Mrs Margolis in 1997, after the death of her husband. She said that she appeared to have emerged from the trance-like state induced by the time slip far faster than either her husband or son and that they had seemed “out of it and distracted, as if they were underwater”.
There are many stories from across the world of inexplicable time slips where people find themselves in another dimension or what feels like a parallel universe. Two are from Suffolk, the first happened in October 1957 when three 15-year-olds were taking part in an orienteering exercise on a Sunday morning when they walked into the village of Kersey and, apparently, a completely different period in time. There were similarities to what happened in Horning: all the boys could hear was a stream, the modern houses had been replaced by timber-framed buildings and they couldn’t even hear the ducks that looked as if they were splashing in the stream. Filled with unease, the boys began to look around: there in a butcher’s shop window were skinned oxen, green with age and covered with cobwebs as if the butcher had left in a hurry, weeks earlier. Houses in the village were bare of furniture, just empty, cold shells. Just then, a shiver passed through all three youths as all felt the icy stare of invisible watchers from all around the village tracing their every step. Petrified and nauseous, they walked quickly up the village street, eventually pelting away from the strange, medieval-looking houses, pausing only to glance back to check if they were being followed. Speaking in 1990, William Laing (one of the boys in question) said: “It was a ghost village, so to speak. It was almost as if we had walked back in time… I experienced an overwhelming feeling of sadness and depression in Kersey, but also a feeling of unfriendliness and unseen watchers which sent shivers up one’s back… I wondered if we’d knocked at a door to ask a question who might have answered it? It doesn’t bear thinking about.” Another tale is told in Rougham where a stately Georgian home is said to appear and then vanish, leaving no trace: the Rougham Mirage has been spotted since 1860 and up to 2007.
Some believe the sightings represent a time slip which passers-by are experiencing. Author Joan Forman wrote Haunted East Anglia and wrote another about time-slips called Masks of Time, both of which I’ll link to in the show notes, in which she recounted her own experience at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire where she saw a group of children playing at the top of the stairs – who she later discovered were youngsters from the 1640s, not present day. Ms Forman believed the trigger for a time-slip happened when someone was interested in their surroundings but not concentrating on them, allowing the slip to happen. Others believe that ghosts may be living people who have stepped through a time-slip.
We may, however, be able to test the theories for ourselves because if we return back to Horning, there is a persisting belief that the time-slip experienced by the Margolis family occurs in the village once every five years… if you want to plan a trip and stay a while.
GEORGE THOMAS PALMER, M. D.,
President of the Illinois State Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis.
One becomes accustomed to lurid tales of disease and suffering in the city slums. The resident of the country town is prepared to believe any sort of story dealing with the unnecessary sacrifice of human life in great centers of population. He hears such stories with a certain smugness and self-satisfaction. He forgets,—if he has ever known,—that there are usually disease breeding slums in every city, town or hamlet, regardless of its size or location.
Over in Effingham County, in the outskirts of a prosperous town, stands an old house, situated pleasantly enough in the shade of two giant maples. The country road sweeps past it and green pastures and fields of corn extend away as far as the eye can see. In the morning, robins and jays and thrushes run riot in the trees. There is something homelike in the very dilapidation of the place.
Certainly this is not slums!
But it is. It is very doubtful if any dark and evil-smelling room in the crowded tenements of Chicago can tell a more ghastly story of the sacrifice of human life than this road-side house in Effingham County.
There is nothing very unusual in its appearance. It is old and unpainted; the weather boards are loose and broken and in many places the fallen shingles have left exposed gaps in the roof. Within, there is a living room of moderate size, the wall paper stripped off and with large spaces where the plaster has fallen and the lath are seen. The smooth coat of the walls is almost gone and the rough sand surface is broken in hundreds of places where nails have been driven. The floor is worn and rough and broken.
Opening from this living room, and similarly dilapidated and out of repair, are two little bedrooms, about seven by ten feet in size and one of these is the scene of the repeated tragedies that have occurred in the house during the past fifteen years.
In this room, incidentally, in the year 1900, a man died of tuberculosis. With the death of this man, his wife and children moved away and another family moved in. In this family was a young woman. And this young woman sickened and, in a few months, she died. She died from tuberculosis. She had slept constantly in the room in which the former householder had died.
And so the second family moved away and a man and his wife moved in and occupied the ill-fated bedroom. Ten years ago—in 1904—the wife of this couple died in the house. She died from tuberculosis.
The young widower vacated the place. Shortly after, there moved in a man and his wife and a family of children. So far as can be learned, they were all in good health at that time. But that was several years ago.
It was not long however, until a son of the household,—a young married man,—sickened and, after a while he died,—from tuberculosis, and his young widow went back to her old home town where she died from tuberculosis, leaving two children who were placed in a charitable institution.
Then came the death of a little child in the “death room”;—a death from miliary tuberculosis,—and the following year, the mother of the family died from tuberculosis and was buried at the expense of the county,— for by this time the disease and the expense and inefficiency which go with it were beginning to render the family destitute.
The year following that in which the mother and infant died, a married daughter succumbed, leaving behind her two children, both of whom are now dead, one certainly having died from miliary tuberculosis.
The next year another grown son of the family became a victim of the disease. In 1913, a married daughter, who had been raised in the house and who had left it as a bride, came back to the ill-starred home and died of tuberculosis, leaving three small children who have been farmed out among relatives of the husband.
Just a few weeks ago, another daughter, twenty-one years of age was claimed as a victim of tuberculosis, dying in the little “death room.”
This seems a shocking record for the ramshackle old house;—but it is not all. One of the daughters, who had escaped death in the place, married a prosperous young farmer and moved away. She became the mother of six children, one of whom died from tuberculosis following whooping cough. And then this young mother died of tuberculosis and her remaining five children were farmed out with friends and relatives.
And then another daughter was married and moved to an adjoining county. When she was but developing into womanhood,—at twenty years of age,—shortly after the birth of her first child—she died of tuberculosis and her baby followed her in death—a victim of tuberculous meningitis.
And now of that ill-fated family but three remain,—the father and two children, a boy of ten and a girl of fourteen. The father is gaunt and emaciated. The two children show evidences of the disease which will probably eventually claim them.
While the death record of the house, as it is now written, seems appalling,–while the story of motherless children and of their dependence is impressive—one can only guess at the extent to which the baneful influence of the place will spread. Already the blight has extended into other communities. Already, perhaps, the infection which will wreck other homes has been implanted.
And yet, tuberculosis is a preventable disease.
It takes no very fanciful imagination to see the dreadfulness of all this; but even to the sordid and the cold-blooded there is a definite and unpoetic appeal. This house is said to have already cost the county of Effingham over $2,000.00 for material aid, for medicine, for doctors and for funerals. And that $2,000.00 has not begun to solve the problem.
The house has enormously increased the “pauper expense.” Tuberculosis is not a disease of paupers; but it is essentially a pauperizing disease.
Illinois Health News, Volume 1, 1915: pp. 69-71
THE MERMAID OF RENDLESHAM
Rendlesham in Suffolk has more than its fair share of strange stories, but this one concerns a mermaid rather than little green men.
Britain’s most celebrated UFO encounter, Anglo-Saxon warrior kings, a bizarre creature called a Shug Monkey and now mermaids: is there anything Rendlesham Forest can’t offer when it comes to the strange and unusual?
When fans of the paranormal hear the name ‘Rendlesham’, the first thing that springs to mind is an incident that happened over three nights around Christmas 1980, when it was said that several spaceships visited the nearby airbase. In a memorandum to the Ministry of Defence released in 2002, the base’s then-deputy commander Lt Col Charles Halt described how two airmen, investigating strange lights in the forest, came across a “metallic glowing object” which “manoeuvred through the trees and disappeared”. To many, it seemed like an official endorsement of an extraterrestrial encounter – but it turns out that what it might have been is an out-of-this-world day trip to see a mermaid.
In a book called Two Suffolk Friends, published by William Blackwood and Sons, which I’ll link to in the show notes, the memories of Robert Hindes Groome, Archdeacon of Suffolk (1810-1889) were contained, including the time he spent at Rendlesham between 1813 and 1815. He recalled: “There was a high sandbank not far from the house, through which the small roots of the bushes growing protruded.
“My brother and I never touched these. We believed that if we pulled one of them, a bell would ring and the devil would appear. So we never pulled them.
“In a ploughed field nearby was a large piece of ground at one end, with a pond in the middle of it, and with many wild cherry trees near it.
“I can remember now how pretty they were with their covering of white blossoms, and the grass below full of flowers…but the pond was no ordinary one.
“It was always called the ‘S pond,’ being shaped like that letter. I suspect, too, that it was a pond of ill repute—perhaps connected with heathen worship—for we were warned never to go near its edge, lest the Mermaid should come and crome us in. “Crome, as all East Anglians know, means ‘crook’.”
On Hidden East Anglia’s website, www.hiddenea.com there is a tale of a pond in Rendlesham which is said to be haunted by a ghostly woman in white who has been seen gliding on its surface or rising from its depths. Could this be the mermaid?
Over on the Griffmonster Walks website (griffmonster-walks.blogspot.com) the author speculates that the pond could be the same one found in the present day Cottage Wood, alongside the footpath that runs between Ivy Lodge Road and Ash Road. On an 1881 map, the pond is clearly shown to be ‘S’ shaped. Perhaps the ‘mermaid’ in question is actually a river hag, used by parents to frighten children into being good.
Peg Powler, a hag and water spirit in English folklore is said to inhabit the River Tees and, just like the Grindylow, Jenny Greenteeth and Nelly Longarms, is said to drag children into the water if they stray too close to the edge. Like a bogeywoman, the river hags lure their prey to a watery grave, although in some stories, Peg Powler is described as a beautiful young woman with green hair who seduces men and young boys that see her and then leads them astray and into the river.
The reference to “heathen worship” may be linked to the nearby bowl barrows, funerary monuments that date from the late Neolithic period to the late Bronze Age and which were used for either single or multiple burials. Rendlesham is thought to have been the site of the royal settlement of the Anglo-Saxon kings of East Anglia and was mentioned by historian the Venerable Bede in the 8th Century. Around five miles from the Sutton Hoo burial site, where a burial ship full of treasures was found under a burial mound believed to be that of King Raedwald, Rendlesham is now thought to be where the king and his people lived.
Whatever the draw of Rendlesham is to the curious and unexplained, do be careful if you go down to the woods today and don’t say we didn’t warn you there might be some big surprises.
When Weird Darkness returns we’ll learn of a queen who, when not trying to win the hearts of her subjects, was rumored to be ripping out the hearts of her enemies… some calling her a she-wolf. That story is up next.
ISABELLA: SHE-WOLF OF ENGLAND
Isabella of France is a fantastically interesting historic figure, even more so because of how little-known she is. To have not heard of a medieval Queen, especially amongst the public, may not seem like such a big deal, until you consider the fact that Queen Isabella deposed her husband, Edward II, and seized the throne of England, ruling as regent on behalf of her son for several years before he in turn seized power.
Isabella has garnered quite a negative reputation in modern times, and this was probably helped largely by the fact that one of the first modern historians who wrote about her was a Victorian named Agnes Strickland. Agnes and her sister wrote a comprehensive book about the Queens of England in 1894 and the book is still used by historians today, especially as for some of the lesser-known queens their book still holds one of the most comprehensive accounts of their lives. Agnes did not hold a high opinion of Isabella: she called her “one of the worst women that ever occupied the throne of England”. Even within the last 50 years, Isabella has been labelled by historians as “a woman of evil character, a notorious schemer” [Kenneth Fowler, The Age of Plantagenet and Valois – The Struggle for Supremacy 1328-1498 (London: Elek Books Limited, 1967), 16.]. Agnes’ scathing description of Isabella came largely out of Victorian values – whilst Isabella was estranged from her husband Edward II, she embarked on an affair with another man, an earl named Roger Mortimer. It probably also did not help that Isabella subverted Victorian values of a submissive woman who obeyed her husband at all costs, as demonstrated by her usurpation of the throne.
As always with history, the story was not so simple. Isabella came to England at the age of 12 in 1308 after she had been married to Edward who was at that time 24 years old. She was the only surviving daughter of Philip IV of France and as often happened during the medieval period the marriage was intended to improve relations between France and England. Even from the start the marriage hit problems; Edward had a very close relationship with Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, which has been interpreted by historians as a homosexual relationship, as sworn brothers by oath or simply close friends. Nonetheless, at Isabella and Edward’s wedding, the French emissaries and Isabella herself were insulted at proceedings. Gaveston outshone both the King and Queen at the wedding, dressed more splendidly than either of them, and taking a forefront during the ceremony. Moreover, Isabella did not immediately get her promised dower, nor receive even small sums of money for her daily expenditure, so she was forced to live in the king’s household entirely dependent on him. This was not a situation for a princess of France or queen of England, particularly because one of a queen’s main sources of power came from her dower lands. This caused King Philip to send his personal seal to his daughter so that he could be sure that she could correspond with him about the situation at hand.
However, Isabella was well prepared for the role of Queen of England. Four years after her marriage, at sixteen years old, she held a key role in arranging peace between Edward and his rebellious barons, helped in part by bishops of the church and a team of lawyers sent by her father. Isabella continued to intercede with the barons throughout her husband’s reign as Edward had a tumultuous relationship with his barons, and she became exceedingly popular amongst English subjects, holding great respect. Indeed, the political elite in England held great sympathy for Isabella and felt that she was mistreated by Edward, constantly being shunned for his male favourites.
The events that led up to Isabella deposing Edward II actually unfolded fairly quickly, and it was not as some historians argue a plan long in the making. There is much evidence that Isabella’s main interest was to be a good queen to her subjects and look after the English people, and it was only after her husband made it impossible for her to do her job that her feelings towards him began to change. In 1324, Edward confiscated all of Isabella’s lands as a result of the rising tensions and war in France, and this was a massive blow to Isabella’s source of power and patronage. In 1325, Edward sent Isabella to France to negotiate peace and to try and reclaim the English lands of Acquitaine which had been lost during the previous year. He was supposed to go to France himself to pay homage to the new king of France, Isabella’s brother, Charles IV. However, he did not wish to do this as he feared for the life of his new favourite, Hugh Despenser; his previous favourite, Gaveston, had been murdered by jealous barons in 1312. Isabella agreed to go on the diplomatic mission, and she was successful in her diplomacy, but homage was still required. She persuaded Edward to send their son, the future Edward III, to France to pay homage on his behalf. This he did, and the thirteen year old Edward paid homage accordingly.
However, Isabella refused to return back to England with her son once this was completed. She was welcomed to the French court, as it was filled with members of her family, and in England her life had become unbearable, her position laughable. Edward wrote to Charles to send Isabella home, but Charles replied that the “queen has come of her own will and may freely return if she wishes. But if she prefers to remain here, she is my sister and I refuse to expel her.”
At some point, Isabella began gathering Englishmen who were taking refuge at the French court after fleeing England at various points in the past decade after feuds with the King. Amongst these was Roger Mortimer, and at some point Roger and Isabella became lovers, although historians are not agreed upon when exactly. Isabella began playing a fantastic propaganda game – she dressed in widows clothes, claiming that the King’s favourite, Despenser, had destroyed her marriage with Edward (an idea which many English people agreed upon). She ignored all of Edward’s many letters begging, and threatening, her to come home, and her son also stayed at his mother’s side, ignoring Edward’s letters to him as well. Eventually, Isabella had gathered a sufficient court of exiled Englishmen in France. She just needed an invasion force, and for this she turned to Hainault. A marriage alliance was agreed between Edward III and one of the Count of Hainault’s daughters, whom Edward was given the freedom to choose (probably to aid in his co-operation), and he was duly betrothed to Philippa of Hainault. In return, the Count of Hainault gave Isabella a substantial dowry for Philippa, and the money was used alongside an earlier loan from Charles of France to pay for a mercenary army. Her force set sail for England along with some troops sent by Hainault.
Their small force evaded ships sent by Edward to stop them, and Isabella landed in England on 24th September, 1326 dressed in her widow garments. Her success was swift. The political elite in England supported her invasion – they had respect for Isabella as a model medieval queen, who had interceded in their favour on many occasions, and they hated the Despenser family as much as she did. They felt that Isabella was saving the kingdom from the horrible tumult that it had been under her husband’s rule. Most of the areas of England that Isabella had successfully interceded on behalf of whilst she had been Queen Consort now joined her in her invasion.
Edward and Despenser had fled to Wales, but they were captured and Despenser’s father was gruesomely executed by lords of the realm by being hacked to pieces and fed to dogs. Despenser himself was killed by being dragged behind a horse then hanged, drawn, and quartered. After the main enemies of the lords of the realm had been executed, Isabella – now with Mortimer by her side – began a policy of reconciliation, which worked well with her experience and reputation. Isabella took charge of Edward’s Great Seal, symbolising the fact that she was now ruler of the land, and Edward was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The King’s Council, followed by Parliament, decided that Edward II was to be legally deposed and placed in house imprisonment for life, with his son Edward III to take the throne. Due to his young age, and Isabella’s astounding power at this moment in time, Parliament appointed her regent of the realm during Edward III’s minority. At some point whilst in imprisonment, Edward II died and it was widely believed both then and now that he had been murdered (the suggestion often being that it was instigated by Isabella and Mortimer) although there are many suggestions that he simply died of ill health. There are also some conspiracy theories that Edward did not in fact die at all, and escaped to Europe to live as a hermit for the rest of his life.
Isabella ruled England with Mortimer at her side for four years until 1330, when Edward III seized the throne after the couple grew in unpopularity. Mortimer was seized from his and Isabella’s bed in Nottingham Castle in the middle of the night on 19th October, 1330. Mortimer was later put on trial for treason and sentenced to be executed, but Edward showed him leniency and he was not quartered or disembowelled as was the punishment for those guilty of treason. Edward took control of the throne in full, with his now-wife Queen Philippa by his side. Isabella did not suffer any negative consequences for her actions, and she lived the rest of her life in luxury, experiencing continuous favour from Edward III. Edward appears to have loved his mother deeply, as shown by his support of her coup and his treatment of her whilst he was King. Upon Isabella’s death in 1358, Edward paid great expense for her funeral, paying for hundreds of candles, cloths of gold, incenses and spices to adorn her tomb as well as donated alms to various religious orders and giving generous rewards to her servants. In later years he continued to commemorate her death to great expense.
Isabella was a fantastically interesting character, and not a simple 2D caricature of an evil, scheming queen as she has previously been portrayed to be. She was beautiful, incredibly intelligent, loyal, and she had a great sense of duty to her English subjects and her son. She carried out an incredible feat in deposing her husband so successfully, and wielded power far beyond that experienced by most medieval English Queens. She has been described by many as a She-Wolf, sometimes in a positive way, often in a negative. But she is certainly a fascinating figure to study.