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IN THIS EPISODE: Weirdo family member John Parish discovers something strange going on in his home’s wood shop. (Woodworking Ghost) *** One of the problems with cryptids such as Bigfoot or Sasquatch is that they leave very little evidence behind of their existence. Their cousin the Yowie leaves even less evidence behind – on the verge of none. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any evidence. (Tracks of the Kempsey Creature) *** Creativity is usually admired by those who experience it, reveling in the joy and artistry a creator puts into his work. But when a serial killer decides to get creative, the only one who feels joy is the killer himself. And thus was the case with H. H. Holmes. (America’s Most Creative Serial Killer) *** Did an American serial killer’s reign of terror reach England? One man believes so. In fact, he believes his great-great grandfather was the one and only Jack the Ripper. And that man was H. H. Holmes. (American Ripper)
MENTIONED LINKS AND EPISODES FROM THE CHAMBER OF COMMENTS…
“Hatched: Invisible Spiders – Part 1 of 2” episode: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/4779
“Project Blue Book” episode: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/4750
“Could a Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen” episode: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/1080
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
“Woodworking Ghost” by Weirdo family member John Parish
“Tracks of the Kempsey Creature” by Cropster for The Fortean: http://bit.ly/32ZgptI
“America’s Most Creative Serial Killer” by John Freund for The Line Up: http://bit.ly/2PABl6N
“American Ripper” by C.W.S. for The Line Up: http://bit.ly/2PvOJsC
Background music provided by EpidemicSound and AudioBlocks with paid license. Music by Shadows Symphony (http://bit.ly/2W6N1xJ) and Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ) is also sometimes used with permission.
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
AMERICA’S MOST CREATIVE SERIAL KILLER
In August 1886, Herman Webster Mudgett arrived in Chicago seeking his fortune. A handsome man with startling blue eyes, Mudgett had left his first wife, Clara Lovering, behind in New Hampshire, along with a string of other women with whom he had breached the promise of marriage. According to his own memoir, by the time Mudgett came to Chicago, he possessed the soul of a con artist, having already unsuccessfully attempted life insurance fraud.
Mudgett settled in the booming suburb of Englewood and found work as a doctor and pharmacist in a neighborhood drugstore. The proprietor was dying of cancer, and after the owner’s death, Mudgett insinuated himself into the widow’s graces, taking over the store and solidifying his identity as Dr. H. H. Holmes. The store-owner’s widow disappeared soon after.
Chicago was a chaotic city in the late 19th century, undergoing a transformation unlike any other major city at the time. Construction of the 1893 World’s Fair–celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival to the New World–was attracting builders, architects, designers, and tourists from across the country and even the world.
Holmes capitalized on this broader chaos by blending into the city and using the distracted focus of city officials (including the police) to help conceal his ruthless crimes.
Although married to Clara Lovering, Holmes met a woman named Myrta in Minneapolis, whom he coaxed into coming to Chicago. They soon married, with Holmes neglecting to tell her that he was already spoken for. Two weeks later, he filed for divorce from Clara. Then he proceeded to buy a house for Myrta about 25 miles away in Wilmette, close enough to visit–but far enough to commit his nefarious crimes without interruption.
Unlike many serial killers, Holmes seemed to strategize his eventual murder spree with pinpoint efficiency. He purchased a vacant lot across the street from his drugstore, where he envisioned building a grand hotel, complete with shops, restaurants, and apartments, along with a number of sinister features, such as secret chutes and passages; an airtight, walk-in furnace; and hidden chambers in the basement. Holmes hired an assistant named Benjamin Pitezel and started construction, financed largely through fraud and credit.
Due to the plenitude of desperate laborers, he hired contractors to work on the building and refused to pay them once they completed the work. Because of this high rate of turnover, no one knew the entirety of the building’s secrets. One macabre element of construction involved a large furnace in the basement, ostensibly to manufacture glass. It wasn’t until after Holmes’s crimes were revealed that the furnace-installer recognized that the kiln was perfect for a crematorium, seeing as it produced no odor.
When Jackson Park was chosen as the site of the fair, Holmes was set to become not only flush with cash, but also with a steady stream of young, female victims. His building–which came to be known as the “Murder Castle”–was mostly finished by May 1890. Using a series of aliases, Holmes bought furniture and fixtures on credit and never paid most of his creditors, confident he would avoid prosecution through his exemplary guile and charm.
Holmes’s plan was to lure as many unwitting victims as possible into the Murder Castle between 1890 and 1893. Then after the World’s Fair, he would burn the building to the ground to collect the insurance money and destroy whatever evidence remained. To help deflect any future suspicion, Holmes even went so far as to ingratiate himself with officers of the local police precinct.
One of the workers Holmes hired was Ned Conner, a pharmacist in Holmes’s drugstore. Holmes began paying attention to Ned’s wife Julia and sister Gertrude, and it wasn’t long until Holmes instigated an affair with Gertrude. But with no marriage in the picture and the affair eventually discovered, Gertrude fled back to Iowa in shame, fell ill, and died shortly thereafter. Holmes went on to use his good looks and sly charm to seduce Ned’s wife, Julia.
Around this time, Holmes actually sold Ned his pharmacy. Holmes was likely trying to avoid his debtors by making this sale. Creditors had begun to appear at the pharmacy demanding payment, and now that Ned was the pharmacy’s rightful owner, he inherited all of Holmes’s unpaid debts. With Julia and Holmes’s affair ongoing, her relationship with Ned had grown strained and tumultuous. Ned eventually abandoned Julia and his daughter Pearl to Holmes, moving out of town and filing for divorce as well.
With Ned out of the picture, Holmes grew less interested in Julia and began to turn his sexual attention elsewhere. Yet when Julia surprised him with an announcement that she was pregnant, Holmes actually agreed to marry her, but with one stipulation: that she allow him to perform an abortion.
On Christmas Eve, Holmes subdued Julia with chloroform under the guise of performing an abortion, and then he disposed of his newly betrothed. Holmes also murdered young Pearl. Neighbors asked pointed questions about Julia’s welfare, but Holmes put them at ease with assurances that she left suddenly, merely following her sister to Iowa. Vanishings in Chicago at the time were commonplace, and with an inept, corrupt police force, no one paid attention unless someone wealthy disappeared. Found bodies were often given to the medical college or the hospital for research and instruction, and skeletons were stripped and sold to doctors, museums, or private collectors.
Knowing this, Holmes paid a specialist to turn Julia’s cadaver into a cleansed (or articulated) skeleton and then sold the skeleton to Hahneman Medical College in Chicago. Demand for such bodies was high back then, and grave robbing was commonplace. So, as usual, no one asked where the body came from.
Around this same time, Holmes’s assistant Ben Pitezel visited Dwight, Illinois, seeking a cure for his alcoholism. There, he met young Emeline Cigrand and returned to Chicago with such an awestruck description of her that Holmes immediately sent her an invitation to come to Chicago to be his personal secretary. Beautiful 24-year-old Emeline came to Chicago and quickly found herself ensconced in Holmes’s web of seduction and deceit.
Holmes told Emeline that he had claims to an English lordship, and her infatuation with him led her to take him at his word. Even though he was already married, Holmes asked Emeline to marry him, and she accepted. However, Emeline soon grew suspicious of Holmes’s activities, and she promptly disappeared. Friends and family asked about her, but Holmes responded with a tale that she had married someone and departed. Suspicion simmered, but nothing was ever proven–and her body was never found.
A man named Charles Chappell was the articulator of Holmes’s misbegotten skeletons. Soon after Emeline disappeared, Holmes sent Chappell a female cadaver with the upper body nearly stripped of flesh. Years later, investigators discovered a woman’s shoeless footprint imprinted in the enameled door of Holmes’s large vault. They speculated that Holmes used acid to speed the departure of oxygen from the vault, acid which Emeline stepped in before placing her feet upon the door—possibly in an effort to kick it open.
But none of Holmes’s crimes had yet come to light. At the time, the horizon was rosy. His businesses were booming. His wife, Myrta, and daughter, Lucy, were just far enough away in Wilmette, and the World’s Fair, with its tourists ripe for the swindling, was on its way. All he needed now was a secretary. Fortune brought him Minnie Williams, who possessed talents for stenography and typewriting, as well as the perfect blend of need and weakness. Her guardian-uncle in Texas had bequeathed her a sizable estate (one-and-a-half to three million in adjusted dollars). Holmes met her in Boston some years before, and Minnie had fallen for him. He wooed her to Chicago on promises of European travel, an extravagant life, and children.
When Minnie arrived, Holmes wasted no time convincing her to transfer the deed to her Texas property to one of his aliases. He “married” Minnie quickly, although no official record of their union exists in Cook County, Illinois. Minnie’s sister Anna, however, was skeptical of Holmes, so Minnie invited her sister to Chicago to dispel her fears about her new brother-in-law.
Guests were flowing into Holmes’s World’s Fair Hotel, and the arrival of so many beautiful young female guests put Minnie into a jealous tailspin. Holmes rented a flat for her some distance from the hotel, so he could operate in peace. No one seemed to notice when guests began to disappear. A waitress, a stenographer, and a hotel guest all disappeared from Holmes’s hotel. Inside, the smells of various chemicals filled the air. Loved ones of the missing people asked questions, but Holmes’s answers were always extremely helpful and concerned.
To Holmes, people were objects to be acquired—he enjoyed the possession of his victims, the utter control. He gassed them in their rooms, or snuck in and subdued them with chloroform. He disposed of them via Chappell’s articulation skills, or in his basement furnace, or buried them in quicklime-filled pits.
In mid-June, Minnie’s sister Anna arrived for her visit. Anna was quickly entranced by Holmes and Chicago. The exotic grandeur of the World’s Fair left Anna dumbstruck with awe. Holmes gallantly invited her to stay for the summer, cementing Anna’s good opinion of her new brother-in-law.
Anna wrote excitedly to her aunt in Texas that Holmes was going to take the sisters on a world tour. Before departing, however, Holmes invited Anna on a tour of his hotel—alone.
During that special tour, Holmes murdered Anna in his gas-filled vault. To cover up her disappearance, he invited Minnie with him to the hotel to meet Anna and disposed of her there as well. He gave their clothes to Ben Pitezel’s wife, Carrie, and at least one of their remains was given to Charles Chappell for scientific disposal.
At this point, Holmes began to realize that his many debts and the questions of victims’ family members were growing too intense for him to remain in Chicago. He set fire to his hotel, as planned, but the damage was minimal. Holmes filed an insurance claim anyway, but investigators suspected him of arson. They required payment in person to the beneficiary, which happened to be one of Holmes’s many aliases, so he never collected the settlement.
Holmes’s creditors ambushed him with threats of legal action and jail. He fled the city for Texas, where he planned to stake his claim to Minnie’s land and further enrich himself. He left Chicago with his new fiancée, Georgiana Yoke, and his associate, Ben Pitezel. Before departing, however, he took out a life insurance policy on Pitezel.
In 1895, authorities compiled a list of the “missing” – hundreds of people who went to see the fair and were never heard from again. In June 1895, Detective Frank Geyer of the Philadelphia police force was assigned to find three of the missing children, the offspring of Pitezel. They had last been seen in the company of a suspect incarcerated in Moyamensing Prison, a man named Mudgett, who went by the alias H. H. Holmes.
An insurance company had engaged the Pinkerton Detective Agency to search for Holmes, suspecting him of swindling the company by faking the death of Pitezel. The Pinkertons caught up with him in Boston and had him arrested. He was then extradited to Philadelphia to await trial for insurance fraud. It soon became clear that Holmes did not fake Pitezel’s death at all, but rather killed him and made it look like an accident.
Detective Geyer began his investigation by interviewing Holmes in prison, who claimed the children were traveling in the care of one Minnie Williams, en route to where their father was “hiding.” From a collection of letters taken from Holmes after his arrest, Geyer pieced together what actually happened: Since Pitezel’s wife, Carrie, thought they really had faked her husband’s death, Holmes convinced her to let him take three of the Pitezel children to see their father in hiding. Instead, Holmes traveled with Alice, Nellie, and Howard Pitezel, enjoying his control over them. The girls wrote many letters to their mother, none of which Holmes actually posted.
Months later, Carrie was crushed by anxiety and grief over the fate of her children. Using the girls’ letters to help his detective work, Geyer retraced Holmes’s footsteps with the Pitezel children, starting in Cincinnati. From hotels to rental houses, city to city, Geyer doggedly traced the children’s path to Indianapolis. Here, young Howard became troublesome, and it was here that Holmes disposed of him. Throughout his search, Geyer maintained hope that he might find the children alive. He simply could not fathom how anyone would kill three helpless children; he believed evil had boundaries. From Indianapolis to Chicago to Detroit, Geyer followed leads.
In Detroit, he discovered that Holmes had brought Carrie and her remaining two children and kept them housed separately just a few blocks from each other. In addition, he had a separate hotel for himself and Georgiana Yoke. It was all a game for Holmes, and he reveled in the possession of his pawns. But here in Detroit, Alice wrote in her unsent letters, “Howard is not with us now.”
As Geyer peeled away the layers of Holmes’s crimes, he gained a feel for the man’s lies and behavior, even as he was stricken by the children’s tragic plight, who, homesick and forlorn, were writing letters to their mother without knowing she was only three blocks away.
By this time, Geyer’s search had made the papers, and he became somewhat of a folk hero and celebrity. Readers nationwide followed his search for the missing children, including Holmes. Geyer’s search led him to Toronto, where a tip had come in about a man matching Holmes’s description who had rented a house and once borrowed a shovel. With an associate detective, Geyer visited the address, borrowed the same shovel from the neighbor, and excavated the house’s cellar, where he found the bodies of Alice and Nellie Pitezel.
In Philadelphia’s Moyamensing Prison, knowing that he would soon stand trial, Holmes began writing his memoir: a florid, narcissistic amalgam of slim fact and often outright fabrication. It is unknown whether he was delusional or simply a pathological liar. He even wrote a letter to Carrie, telling her that her children were alive and well with Minnie Williams in London. When Holmes was confronted with the new development regarding the discovery of the Pitezel children, he maintained his innocence. Holmes plotted to have his memoir published to sway public opinion on his behalf.
Geyer, meanwhile, returned to Indianapolis to continue his search for Howard Pitezel. Chicago police, prompted by Geyer’s discovery of the missing girls, entered Holmes’s castle in search of evidence and quickly turned up a wealth of it. Bones, a bloodstained dissection table, surgical tools, quicklime and acid, charred women’s shoes and tattered clothing, human hair plugging a stovepipe, more and more human remains, and the walk-in vault with a woman’s footprint etched into the door. Their searches also uncovered the remains of a child. Geyer traveled to Chicago only to discover that it was the body of a little girl, thought to be Pearl Conner, a name that meant nothing to Geyer.
In all, Geyer and his associates investigated over 900 leads. Finally, on a last, desperate hunch, he stopped at a real estate office in Irvington, Illinois, on the chance that Holmes might have used it to rent a property. Lo and behold, he had. In the rental house, Holmes had installed a large wood stove. Inside the stove and flue, Geyer found human remains. Among other items, he also found Howard’s favorite toy, a tin man that his father had bought for his son at the Chicago World’s Fair.
With the discovery of the final missing Pitezel child, Frank Geyer became America’s Sherlock Holmes. On August 19, 1895, Holmes’s Murder Castle burnt to the ground. Police suspected arson; an attempt to cover up the building’s remaining secrets.
On September 12, 1895, Holmes was indicted in Philadelphia for the murder of Ben Pitezel. Indianapolis police indicted him for the murder of Howard Pitezel, and Toronto police for the murders of Nellie and Alice. Holmes’s memoir–wherein he maintained his innocence–hit newsstands shortly thereafter.
Chicago was humiliated in the national media: No one could understand how the police department could fail to notice Holmes’s tremendous number of crimes. One of the most difficult revelations was that the Chicago police chief, during his previous career as an attorney, had actually represented Holmes in several commercial lawsuits. The Chicago Times-Heraldsaid of Holmes: “He is a prodigy of wickedness, a human demon, a being so unthinkable that no novelist would dare to invent such a character. The story, too, tends to illustrate the end of a century.”
Holmes stood trial for Benjamin Pietzel’s death in late 1895. The Philadelphia district attorney called him “the most dangerous man in the world.” He was found guilty and sentenced to death. As he awaited execution, he confessed to 27 more murders, but his confession was a mixture of truth and lies. Some of the victims he named were still alive. His exact murder count will never be known, but some estimates range as high as 200.
Holmes was hanged in May 1896. In 2017, two of Holmes’s great-grandchildren successfully petitioned to have his remains exhumed, in order to finally put to rest a rumor that Holmes had somehow escaped the gallows and that someone else was buried in his place. Such was the power of Holmes’s mystique–many refused to believe that the infamous ‘White City Devil’ had actually paid for his treacherous crimes.
More than 100 later, Holmes is still the most prominent example of a evil doctor who gave himself license to kill . But there have been many more, including Michael Swango, who was arrested in 1997 for at least four murders. In Swango’s possession at the time: a notebook with quotes from books about killer doctors, including Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.
Is it possible that Jack the Ripper, the still unidentified serial killer who stalked the streets of London in the late 1800s, was the same man who is known for creating a “murder castle” in Chicago?
That man is the infamous H. H. Holmes, one of America’s earliest and most demented serial killers. Holmes was also the subject of the hugely popular 2003 book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. And Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are the executive producers of the upcoming Hulu series based on the book.
H. H. Holmes’ murder castle included a drugstore on the first floor. A con man as well as a serial killer, he would trick people out of their money and property before taking their lives. Appearing as a normal building, the second floor was complete with disorienting connected rooms that were designed by Holmes to confuse his victims. Some rooms were made into gas chambers. To dispose of the bodies, there were actual chutes that dropped into the basement which was filled with acid vats and a crematorium.
Interest in Holmes was recently revived thanks to American Horror Story: Hotel. Evan Peters played James March, a character heavily inspired by Holmes.
The true identity of Jack the Ripper has long haunted true crime aficionados. The serial killer brutally slit the throats of and disemboweled at least five women in 1888 and may have gone on to kill more. Folklore surrounds the legend of Jack the Ripper, leaving nearly every true crime lover with a different idea about who, exactly, this elusive criminal could have been. In fact, there are now over one hundred researched theories, and a relative of Holmes is ready to add another.
This new documentary series, American Ripper, is showing in eight parts on the History Channel, the first of which aired on July 11th. The series takes a look at evidence uncovered by Holmes’ great great grandson, Jeff Mudgett, a retired lawyer. So far, the reviews are not great, pointing to the cliché, clunky feel of the show, as well as the conjecture that is presented as evidence. So far, it doesn’t seem like Mudgett should be as confident as he is with his hypothesis.
In a promo, Mudgett is seen saying, “I am a descendent of the devil. I have uncovered credible evidence which suggests that Holmes was Jack the Ripper.” This tone is carried through the episode, with Mudgett leaning hard on dramatic declarations.
The episode opens on a graveyard where Mudgett and his collaborator for the series, “former C.I.A. operative” Amaryllis Fox, are attempting to exhume the corpse of H. H. Holmes from its supposed resting place. There have long been rumors and questions surrounding whether or not Holmes was able to escape his own execution by bribes and a phony corpse.
Mudgett and his sister, Cynthia, appear to be proponents of this theory. Mudgett strongly believes that Holmes escaped his execution in Philadelphia and then fled to London where he continued to murder. According to Mudgett, Holmes traded places with another convict and was able to fool all those present for the highly documented public execution.
Packed with highly dramatic reenactments, American Ripper shows its hand early, relying on foreboding music to make the story more frightening. A deep voice narrates throughout, a mustachioed actor playing a smirking Holmes in reenactments.
We have yet to see any truly notable evidence that these two killers were the same man, but to be fair, only one of the eight segments has been shown.
Investigator Amaryllis Fox joins forces with Jeff Mudgett on the show to investigate the case by using criminal profiling techniques. She’s skeptical of his claims: “H. H. Holmes is so premeditated that he’s built a hotel for the purpose of killing his victims and disposing of their bodies. Jack the Ripper was looking for targets of opportunity and leaving their bodies for anybody to find. So that’s one glaring difference between them.”
These are big claims—sure to grab headlines and attention. This is a problem within the true crime and investigation genre, a tendency toward sensational conspiracy theories that end up hurting the investigation more than they help. Although the families of the victims of these killers are long deceased, there are many other examples of true crime media frenzies where that is not the case.
The genre of true crime is growing more and more popular in this time when we are all craving answers and clear examples of right and wrong in a world settling forever into the gray. It seems likely that we will see more wild connections and more TV shows, documentaries, and podcasts seeking the answers to old questions. For now, answers do not seem likely, but that won’t stop networks from finding ways to capitalize on the unknown.
TRACKS OF THE KEMPSEY CREATURE
In our 2007 book ‘The Yowie’, Tony Healy and I noted the distinct lack of physical evidence. Unlike its American counterpart, the Yowie appears to be incredibly light on its feet, with very few track reports. Tony and I often theorised why this might the case; perhaps the dryer climate, coarser soil or the smaller population available to find tracks. Of course, there was always the possibility that there never was an animal there to leave tracks in the first place.
In my four decades of research I’ve only seen what might have been yowie tracks on two occasions, both near the small town of Kempsey in northern NSW. The first – the subject of this post – was in January 1995 and the second, covered here, was in 2015. The 2015 case was probably human, while the 1995 report still puzzles me.
The location was a dirt road bordering the Ballengarra State Forest, approx. 11 km south-west of Kempsey, NSW. The date was Sunday, January 22, 1995. The Time: 5.30 pm (daylight saving). The two young witnesses were Romney, 11 years old and James, 10 (both surnames on file).
Both Romney and James had been playing with a neighbours son on her property. Around 5.30 they decided to walk the short distance back to Romney’s parents property (about 1-2km). The dirt track from the neighbours house runs up the side of a hill. After two property gates, the track joined a public dirt road that runs along the top of a ridge line. On one side of the road are a few scattered properties, and on the other steep, wooded gullies that fringe the Ballengarra State Forest. After the boys had passed through the last gate, they turned left and started walking downhill along the road towards the junction with Pipers Creek Rd.
About 100 metres from the neighbours property gate, the boys heard some noises; James thought it may have been sheep or goats and Romney felt it was a bird. Romney also said he heard two heavy footfalls at this point.
After the noises, both boys looked ahead, down the road and noticed a figure standing about 5-7 metres away, in amongst the fern and lantana bushes that fringe the embankment on the left-hand side of the road. The creature was slightly hunched over and facing away from the boys. As they watched, it straightened up, and began moving its head from side-to-side; Romney felt the creature was “sniffing”.
Their descriptions were as follows:
Romney: The creature was 8-9 ft tall and totally covered in dark brown or black hair. Its hair was several inches long, “wild and scraggly” looking. It was “way bigger” than an average person; it seemed to be “in between a human and a gorilla”, as it was “not quite the shape of a human and not quite the shape of a gorilla”. It was a “lot wider” than a human: it was “massive”. Neck of “average” length. No facial features were noted, nor arms or legs.
James: Dark, browny colour – dark. “Pretty high”. Long, wild hair all over it. Did not see arms or legs, just the “back of a big, hairy thing”. Resembled a “monkey or gorilla”.
After only a few seconds the boys turned around and began to walk – and then run – back to their neighbour’s property. Romney said he heard footsteps as they moved away from the animal. They both said they were very frightened. They told one of their older friends at the neighbours and later asked him to drive them home as they refused to walk back past the spot where the animal had stood.
The neighbours mother heard the story from the boys the next day and decided, at their insistence, to visit the spot. She was amazed to discover a series of long, broad tracks at the site. Although still skeptical, Irene later discussed the sighting with Dave Reneke of Kempsey, who (via Fortean colleague Bill Chalker) passed on the report to me.
I travelled to Kempsey on Saturday, 4 February 1995 and initially spoke with the neighbour’s mother. While skeptical, she had been impressed by the boys continued insistence that they had really seen the creature. She told me that the boys were still “spun-out” the next morning, and they wanted her to go up to the spot with her to look around.
We then both visited the site of the encounter where a number of broad, deep impressions were still visible on the overgrown track next to the dirt road. I took several photos, then we moved on to Romney’s property where I interviewed him at length about his sighting.
Romney’s story impressed me; he was an intelligent, articulate and apparently very level-headed 11 year old. His account of his experience was succinct and several efforts on my part to lead him into extra details proved fruitless. It is interesting to note that it was Romney’s account that made their neighbour feel that there may have been something to the boys claims – she felt that Romney just would not make up such a story.
Later that afternoon I again visited the site and took more photos and measurements as well as two casts of the clearer impressions. That evening I spoke to the other boy, James. James was not as articulate as Romney, but he confirmed all of the major details in Romney’s story. It was interesting to note that it seemed clear to me that James had not spoken much about his experience; his mother and father appeared quite surprised at the details that came out during our interview.
Although two weeks had elapsed since the sighting and the fact that there had been rain locally, I was able to locate 16 impressions around the site of the boy’s sighting and took two plaster casts. These imprints stretched from the top of the slope and continued in a definite trail along the track down to where the animal was seen standing. The impressions were roughly an oval shape, although with one end slightly wider than the other but no distinct toes.
The distance between prints varied from 50-100 cm. There were larger gaps between prints, however these may have due to the nature of the ground, as some areas would not have shown tracks.
The average length of the imprints was 30 cm long by 18 cm wide. Almost all of the prints were around 3-4 cm deep; by comparison, if I stood on my boot heel with my entire weight I made a 2 cm heel impression. The soil at the bottom of the prints was quite flat and hard-packed.
No arch or ball was visible, however one cast shows what could be the rounded ‘ball’ of a foot. It is interesting to note that, while the imprints did not immediately resemble human feet, both casts have the general shape-of a large foot.
Around 4 hours after I took the two casts, I left both prints with David Reneke as I went to interview James. Both of the plaster casts still had a substantial amount of soil attached to the plaster as I had only given them a partial clean. On my return, David told me that his dog (a poodle/maltese cross) had reacted in an unusual manner to the casts as they lay in the middle of their lounge room.
David and I decided to attempt to duplicate the animals reaction, but first we placed an large lump of wood in the middle of the room to see how the dog would normally react to the presence of something unusual. The animal seemed uninterested in the wood and happily ran all around the room.
The dog was then removed and one cast was placed in the room. The dog was again allowed in and its reaction was immediate – it stayed 1 -2 metres away and simply stared at the cast. It continued to stare for at least 1 -2 minutes; then it bared its teeth and commenced growling, then barking at the print. David, who was sitting on the opposite side of the cast, attempted to call the dog over to him but the animal refused to budge. The dog continued this behaviour for as long as the cast was in the room. David’s other dog showed no interest in the cast.
David told me he believed that the dog had always been particularly ‘sensitive’ to animal scents. He also indicated the dog had only acted this way once or twice before, always at items with definite animal origins.
A few days after my visit to the area I attempted to interest Port Macquarie National Parks & Wildlife staff in inspecting the tracks. I was unsuccesful, but was referred on to a Port Macquarie-based wildlife research consultant of 30 years experience.
This consultant visited the site on the weekend of 11/12 February with four others. He inspected the tracks, which were still clearly visible despite further heavy rain. He told me later that he was able to locate another 4 tracks further down the slope, yet a wider search revealed no additional impressions. He found no hair samples or indications that any large animal had made its way through the bush.
The consultant indicated that he believed that whatever had made the tracks had weighed around half a tonne. Each track was heavily compressed at each end, however there was a strip in the centre of each imprint where the soil was not heavily packed down. Strangely, he did not believe the tracks were related to what the two boys had seen.
So – 24 years later, do I believe a Yowie left those strange imprints? I remember being impressed by the boys stories, and something big, heavy and bipedal had certainly walked down that isolated bush trail. A few years ago I tracked down Romney and asked him again about his experience – he said he couldn’t even remember it! When it comes to the Yowie, what seems like solid evidence eventually just seems to slowly fade from view and disappear.
But I do still have those casts.
I am an avid woodworking kind of guy and had a really nice woodshop in my basement. Usually I would have all my wood products stacked in correct order so as to not have to look for a piece I was needing. One day I went down to the basement and saw some of my wood moved from their correct place. I put them back in place and started making a piece for either my wife or my daughter. When I had finished, some times I would leave scraps on the bench and clean them up later. After getting back home from either shopping with my wife or just out ofr some fun, I would go back down and begin working on the piece. I got down stairs and saw some of the scraps had been moved. Not thinking, I just placed them in the trash can and went about working.
When finished, I cleaned up the area so as to not have to worry about doing it when I had to start on another piece.
The next day I had gone down and saw some of the oieces I had placed in the trash were scattered on the work bench. I put the scraps back in the trash and emptied them outside in the dumpster. A few days later I started on a new project and again, I left some of the scraps on the bench. My wife had called out to me to go shopping with her. So I stopped what I was doing and went shopping.
We came back home, she put away the groceries and I went back down. I noticed some of thewood I was preparing to work with had been on the floor.
I know no one was home at the time so, before I did anything else, I took pictures of the mess. After, I cleaned up the wood and started back doing the project. Once it was finished I cleaned up the basement and put everything back where they were supposd to be. One night while sitting up in the livingroom, I heard a noise down in the basement. I went down and saw some of the wood was moved. I called out to my daughter to come and see. She went down with me and said, “What is wrong?” I said I had put all this wood back in place and now look at it. She thought I was kidding and laughed. I said, “I know I out it all back.” She suggested I place a recorder down in the basement and let it run all night.
So I got my recorder and set it on the work bench and let it run all night long. The next morning aftr I got up and had coffee, my daughter and I went back down and took the recorder back upstairs. We started playing the recording and after about 10 minutes, we heard wood hitting the floor. Some were being thrown against the wall and some where thrown on the floor. This went on for about 35 minutes and then stopped. After that my daughter told me something that was very interesting. She said, some times when she was downstairs changing her clothes, she heard a voice coming from the far side of the basement. She said it startled her and ran back up.
This house I know was haunted by several spirits, a little girl and 2 adult men. My daughter used to call her Neala and one of the men Dennis. The other she said was mischievious and would do things like hide things or just being a total turd. There were times he would go up the stairs to the bedrooms and just peek just above the landing at my daughter. After a while she got used to it and would tell him to go away and he would. These things which happened in the house is just a few of what went on and in time I will tell you some more.
Until then, thank you for listening.