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IN THIS EPISODE: (Weekend Archives episode, previously released July 24, 2018) *** Was Helen Duncan a fraud, or was she the real deal when it came to the Spiritualism movement? To this day people argue both sides – just as the court did in the 1940s. (Hellish Nell) *** They loved to drink, and party. They both loved kinky sex, fell in love, and decided to move in together. But their strongest bond would came later – when new couple decided to go on a killing spree. (The Sunset Strip Killers) *** No one could believe that mild-mannered Charlie Brandt had mutilated his wife and niece, until they discovered his grisly past… when he killed his mother when he was only thirteen. (Charlie Brandt Couldn’t Stop Killing) *** Encountering the supernatural is no fun and games… unless it is. (Haunted Stuyvesant Hall) *** We’ve all seen plastic bags take on a personality when blown with a light breeze, seemingly dancing on their own power. But what if what we only thought that was a plastic bag in the wind? Could it have been something more? (Last Dance) *** They say, “be careful what you wish for”. That is especially true if you’re doing your wishing through a spirit or Ouija board. (Wishing On the Ouija) *** The executioner tried three separate times to hang the man – rope around the neck, lever pulled… but John walked away alive each time. (The Man They Could Not Hang)
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
“Hellish Nell” by Troy Taylor: (link no longer available)
“The Sunset Strip Killers” by Matt Gilligan: (link no longer available)
“Charlie Brandt Couldn’t Stop Killing” by William DeLong for All That’s Interesting (http://bit.ly/2pY4WfK); Interview audio courtesy of CBS (http://bit.ly/2rrJekF).
“Wishing on the Ouija” by Riley Winters for Ancient Origins: http://bit.ly/34PdxAs
“The Man They Could Not Hang” by Doug MacGowan for Historic Mysteries: http://bit.ly/2X1xm4y
“Last Dance” from Ghosts and Ghouls: (link no longer available)
“Haunted Stuyvesant Hall” from Ghosts and Ghouls: (link no longer available)
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
THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG
John Babbacombe Lee was sentenced to be hanged for murder. Executions in late 19th century England were grisly affairs. The preferred method was by hanging and often a prisoner could twist on the rope for 30 minutes or so before death came. All of the hangings at the time were grimly successful. Except for one.
On February 23, 1885, nineteen-year-old John Babbacombe Lee was brought to the gallows for the murder of his employer, Ellen Keyse. His trial was swift, but the evidence was fairly circumstantial. Keyse had been found stabbed to death in the pantry of her estate house and Lee’s room was off the pantry and the knife was allegedly one of his own.
There were no eyewitnesses, but John Babbacombe Lee was condemned to death by the judge.
On that February day, Lee was led to the gallows and his arms and legs were bound after he was standing on the trap door. John Babbacombe Lee continued to maintain his innocence.
The chaplain spoke to Lee and then the executioner pulled the lever. Nothing happened. He pulled the lever again. Still nothing. John Babbacombe Lee remained standing as warders pounded on the trap door with their feet.
After six minutes, Lee, still bound, was carried off the trap door. The bolts were checked and some of the wood around the edges of the trap door was shaved down a bit. A heavy weight was placed on the trap door and the lever was pulled and everything worked fine.
The chaplain again spoke to John Babbacombe Lee and then Lee was placed back on the trap door and the lever was pulled, but the trap door failed to open.
Once again John Babbacombe Lee was removed and a carpenter worked frantically to assure that the trap door was in working order. Again it was tested successfully.
Lee was lifted back onto the gallows for the third time. The chaplain later said: “The lever was pulled again and again. But…when I turned my eyes to the scaffold, I saw the poor convict standing upon the drop as I had seen him twice before. I refused to stay longer.”
Clearly frustrated, John Babbacombe Lee was removed from the gallows, his ropes were removed, and he was taken back to a jail cell. Soon after he was granted a reprieve by Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt.
Was the trap door faulty? It seemed to work perfectly for other prisoners. Or was it divine providence that prevented Lee’s death sentence from going through?
We will never know. John Babbacombe Lee served 22 years in prison, was released, and then moved to America where he died in 1933.
Charlie Brandt always seemed like a normal guy — until one bloody night in September 2004.
At the time, Hurricane Ivan was barreling toward the Florida Keys, where the 47-year-old Brandt lived with his wife, Teri (age 46). They evacuated their home on Big Pine Key on September 2 to stay with their niece, 37-year-old Michelle Jones, in Orlando.
Michelle was close to Teri, her maternal aunt, and was excited to welcome her and her husband as houseguests. Michelle was likewise close with her mother, Mary Lou, with whom she spoke on the phone almost every day.
When Michelle stopped answering her phone after the night of September 13, Mary Lou grew concerned and asked Michelle’s friend, Debbie Knight, to go to the house and check on things. When Knight arrived, the front door was locked and there was no answer, so she made her way to the garage.
“There was a garage door with almost all glass. So you could see in,” Knight recalled. “I was in shock.”
There inside the garage, Charlie Brandt was hanging from the rafters. He had committed suicide, authorities would later learn.
But Charlie Brandt’s death was just one of the horrible deaths that had happened inside that house.
When authorities arrived at the house, they found a scene that looked like something out of a slasher movie.
Charlie Brandt had hung himself with a bedsheet. Teri’s body was on the couch inside. She had been stabbed seven times in the chest. Michelle’s body was in her bedroom. She had been decapitated, her head placed next to her body, and someone had removed her heart.
“It was just a nice home,” lead investigator Rob Hemmert recalled. “All of those nice decorations and the aroma of her home was masked by death. The smell of death.”
Yet, with all this bloodshed, there were no signs of a struggle or forced entry and the house was locked from the inside. Thus, with two people killed and one having killed himself, authorities quickly determined that Charlie Brandt had killed his wife and niece before committing suicide.
But no one seemed to expect anything like this from Charlie Brandt. Mary Lou said of her brother-in-law, whom she’d known for 17 years, “When they described what had happened to Michelle, it was even beyond description.”
Likewise, Lisa Emmons, one of Michelle’s best friends, couldn’t believe it. “He was just very quiet and reserved,” she said of Charlie. “He would just sit back and observe. Michelle and I used to call him eccentric.”
Not only did everyone find Charlie Brandt nice and agreeable, they all felt like he and Teri had the perfect marriage. The inseparable pair did everything together, fishing and boating near their home, traveling, and so on.
No one had any explanation for Charlie Brandt’s behavior.
Then, his older sister came forward. Angela Brandt was two years older than Charlie and she harbored a dark secret from their Indiana childhood that no one knew about until she told her story. In an interrogation with Rob Hemmert, Angela cried before steeling her nerves and telling her story:
What you are about to hear is the actual audio from her interview… (audio clip)
Some of the interview may have been difficult to hear, so here are the high points.
“It was January 3, 1971… [at] 9 or 10 p.m,” Angela said. “We had just gotten a color TV. We were all sitting around watching The F.B.I. with Efram Zimbalist Jr. After [the TV show] was over, I went and got in bed to read my book like I always did before I went to sleep.”
Meanwhile, Angela and Charlie’s pregnant mom, Ilse, was drawing a bath and their dad, Herbert, was shaving. Then, Angela heard loud noises, so loud that she thought they were firecrackers.
“Then I heard my father yell, ‘Charlie don’t.’ or ‘Charlie stop.’ And my mom was just screaming. The last thing I heard my mom say was, ‘Angela call the police.’”
Charlie, 13 at the time, then came into Angela’s room holding a gun. He aimed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but all they heard was a click. The gun was out of bullets.
Charlie and Angela then began to fight and he started to strangle his sister, which was when she noticed the glazed look in his eyes. That terrifying look disappeared after a moment, and Charlie, as if emerging from a trance, asked, “What am I doing?”
What he had just done was walk into parents’ bathroom, shoot his father once in the back and then shoot his mother several times, leaving him wounded and killing her.
At the hospital in Fort Wayne just after the incident, Herbert said he had no idea why his son would do this.
At the time he shot his parents, Charlie Brandt seemed like a normal kid. He did well in school and showed no signs of underlying psychological stress.
The courts — which couldn’t charge him with any criminal offense, given his age — ordered that he undergo many psychiatric evaluations and even spend more than a year in a psychiatric hospital (before Herbert secured his release). But none of the psychiatrists ever found any mental illness or any explanation at all as to why he’d shot his family.
The records were sealed because of Charlie’s young age and Herbert told his other children to keep things quiet and moved the family to Florida. They buried the incident and put it behind them.
Anyone who knew the secret never told and Charlie seemed fine afterward. But it seems he had been harboring dark urges all along.
After he killed his wife and niece in 2004, authorities investigated Charlie’s house on Big Pine Key. Inside, they found a medical poster displaying the female anatomy. There were also medical books and anatomy books, as well as a newspaper clipping that showed a human heart — all of which recalled some of the ways in which Charlie had mutilated Michelle’s body. Searches of his internet history revealed websites focused on necrophilia and violence against women. They also found lots of Victoria’s Secret catalogues, which proved especially troubling after they learned that “Victoria’s Secret” is the nickname Charlie had given to Michelle.
“Knowing what he did to Michelle and then finding those things,” Hemmert said. “It all started to make sense.” Investigators believe that Charlie had become infatuated with Michelle and that his desires had taken a murderous turn.
Hemmert, for one, believes that Charlie Brandt had always had these kinds of deadly desires and that he was probably a serial killer — it’s just that his other crimes never came to light.
For example, authorities believe that he may have been responsible for at least two other murders, including one in 1989 and 1995. Both murders involved mutilations of women in a similar method to Michelle’s murder.
But no matter how many people Charlie Brandt may have killed, he always seemed normal and even the psychiatrists were always fooled. Perhaps if they’d seen the truth about Charlie way back in 1971, Teri and Michelle would still be alive today.
“There’s a canal near me that is only accessible by foot or bike because it’s a protected area for mangrove tree saplings. To get there, I have to walk or ride a mile, but it’s worth it as the canal has some of the best fishing in the area.
One morning, I drove my truck there. It was around 6 a.m., and though the sun hadn’t risen, I could see a glow on the horizon. I loaded my gear on my modified fishing bike and took off down on the dirt road.
About 3/4 of the way down, I saw the intrusion dam control tower which was surround by a fence. I also noticed what I thought was a large, white plastic bag hanging from the top of the fence. I stopped my bike and grumbled about idiots who litter. I started to peddle my bike towards the ‘garbage bag,’ and that’s when things got freaky!
The ‘bag’ looked like it was dancing. Wind, right? That’s what I thought. I stopped my bike again to take a better look. I saw this ‘garbage bag’ dancing on the fence, left to right, back to front, right to left, and back again! It then moved over to the top of the control tower and hovered, still dancing! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and thought the ‘bag’ was tangled on fishing line or something.
I started peddling closer, and when I got about 40 yards away, this ‘garbage bag’ jumped off the roof of the control tower and took on the shape of a person. I could see the head, the shoulders, an arm and the legs! I kept peddling, but it just vanished when I got near. When I reached the tower, there was no garbage bag, nothing, not even a fishing line draped on the fencing!
I didn’t say anything to anyone for three months, until I went back to the spot. I then asked the regulars if they’d ever seen anything weird there before. One of them told me that back in the 80s, a jealous boyfriend killed the guy he caught fooling around with his girlfriend during a party.
I began to wonder if I’d seen the girl’s dancing ghost. After a little digging, I learned that the area used to be a hotspot for bad deeds. I heard the murder story more than three times from some of the old timers. WOW! I still think about it and wonder. I’ve gone back several times over the last two years, prepped with a camera, but I’ve seen nothing but a raccoon and a few iguanas here and there. Will I ever see the girl again? Or was it truly her last dance?”
WISHING ON THE OUIJA
Ouija boards—also called spirit boards or talking boards—have been part of various cultures long before the introduction of the “game” in the 19th century. “Ouija”, in fact, is the name of the game invented by Elijah Bond. Authentic Ouija boards are known to practitioners as the aforementioned spirit or talking boards. Regardless, these panels all share characteristics: the board itself has each letter of the alphabet dictated, as well as the numbers 0-9, and then whether or not it is inscribed with “hello”, “goodbye”, or other full words depends on the creator of the board. Each board has a planchette, an essential piece in the ritual. It is the planchette which the people choosing to communicate place their hands upon in the hope that the spirits will move it to create a message.
Despite the lengthy history of talking boards, modern scientists are highly invested in disproving their use. One of the prominent theories is called “the ideomotor effect”. This effect can occur in two different ways: either someone intentionally moves his/herself to jostle the table, or the audience accidentally moves the table through subconscious muscular twitches. When paired with a strong desire for a supernatural effect, it is easy for spirit board users to believe the spirits are behind the movements. In essence, the ideomotor effect is most effective when the participants have a strong source of faith in the board.
The ideomotor effect is best exemplified in a parlor trick called table tilting. This practice is precisely what it sounds like—the table shifted and moved, thereby allowing the pointer to as well. This could be a simple actual tilting by a certain person or party, or a more athletic affair. Popular in the Victorian era, when the supernatural and occult were of intrigue to the rich and poor alike, table tilting consisted of the table jerking violently in which “the sitters would find themselves chasing around the room trying to keep up with the table”. Interestingly, though this practice did prove the falseness of the spiritual claims, experiments revealed it was caused by the aforementioned accidental movements or muscular twitches by the participants.
Historically, talking boards find their beginnings in the Chinese Liu Song Dynasty (5 th century AD) and was popularized later in a subsequent Song Dynasty (10-13 th centuries AD). Called planchette writing or fuji (fu chi ), these boards were similarly used to communicate with the deceased, however it was believed to be a form of necromancy rather than a mere instrument akin to a telephone. In fuji, however, the writing was created through a “sieve to which was attached a short stick. It was held generally by two persons at either side to trace characters on sand or ashes…The characters were supposed to have been produced by the gods”. These historical facts are pertinent to the study of talking boards as it reveals the extensive culture surrounding the practice.
In the present day, spirit boards continue to be known as a form of telephoning between the worlds of the living and the dead. The board itself has retained the general template of the earlier nineteenth century patented models (i.e. Bond’s “game”).
The modern-day ouija is not all fun and games, and in one particular case, its use had a very serious outcome. A convicted double murderer won the right to a retrial on the basis that four of the jury had used a ouija board the night before finding him guilty. Stephen Young of Pembury, England, a 35-year-old an insurance broker, was given a life sentence in March, 2017, for murdering the newly-wed couple Harry and Nicola Fuller at their cottage in Wadhurst, East Sussex. However, he was given a retrial after four jury members disclosed that the night before returning their verdicts they had used a ouija board to contact the spirit of murder vicitm Harry Fuller, who they believe told them to ‘vote guilty’.
While talking boards have become less seriously valued among participants today, it does remain an occasional “game” or, more regularly, a daring challenge. For all the experiments science has performed, few things are more powerful than the beliefs of the mind.
One of the low points in the history of Spiritualism involves the career of a British medium named Helen Duncan. Some continue to maintain to this day that she was a “martyr” to the movement but most see her as one of the frauds that helped to give Spiritualism a bad name.
Helen Duncan was born in Scotland in 1898, married at the age of 20 and began to develop psychic talents that were much in demand by the 1930s and 1940s. She traveled the country during this period and held séances in private homes and Spiritualist churches. She convinced thousands of people that the dead could return in various forms but most often, through ectoplasm, that slimy, white substance said to be manifested by spirits. In reality, Helen’s “ectoplasm” was found to be nothing more than a mixture of paper, cloth, egg white and surgical gauze. She was able to regurgitate the substances on demand. Any lingering doubts about this were dispelled by the medium’s husband, who gave an interview late in life that admitted he had seen his wife swallowing various things before her séances.
In addition to her ectoplasmic forms, Duncan also worked with spirit guides. One in particular was a child named “Peggy”, who played an important role during the séances. However, in 1933, at a sitting in Edinburgh, a policewoman grabbed at “Peggy” as she passed by her and discovered that the ghostly girl was actually a torn piece of white underwear! Duncan was arrested, charged with fraud and fined ten pounds. Less than two months later though, she was back at work.
Undaunted by her exposure, Duncan proceeded to give a series of test sittings for the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, under the direction of its founder, Harry Price (who we will read much more about later in the book). Price had already exposed a number of fraudulent mediums but was not a debunker of what he considered to be genuine. He was of the opinion that some mediums, including D.D. Home and Eusapia Palladino had occasionally managed to produce genuine mental and physical phenomena. Price was not forced to classify Helen Duncan as one of these exceptional cases, though. Photographs taken during her sessions revealed that the “ectoplasm” she produced was a length of cheesecloth whose bound edges, texture and creases were clearly visible.
None of her exposures made any difference to Helen’s public. Outside of the laboratories, her fame continued to grow and sitters continued to insist that they recognized departed friends and loved ones in the ectoplasmic faces that she materialized. During World War II, her mediumistic powers were much in demand by relatives of those who had died in the service. She held a number of séances in Portsmouth, Hampshire, the home port of the Royal Navy, and one of these, held on January 19, 1944, was raided by the police. A plainclothes policeman who was present blew a whistle to give a signal and other officers burst in. A grab was made for the ectoplasm issuing from the medium and the séance was abruptly brought to an end. Although nothing incriminating was found, Duncan, along with three others who arranged the séance, Ernest and Elizabeth Homer and Francis Brown, was taken to the Portsmouth magistrate’s court and arraigned on charges of conspiracy.
At the preliminary hearing, the court was told how Lieutenant R.H. Worth of the Royal Navy had attended one of Duncan’s séances and suspected fraud. He bought two tickets for 25 shillings each for the night of January 19 and took a policeman named Cross with him. Cross grabbed the “ectoplasm” that floated past him (which he believed was a piece of white sheet, although no sheet was found when the séance was raided) but he was unable to hang onto it. After the hearing, bail was refused and as a result, Duncan was remanded to Holloway Prison in London for four days before the case was resumed in Portsmouth.
The prosecution seemed to be unsure of what to charge the mediums with. On their first appearance at Portsmouth, they were charged under the Vagrancy Act of 1824; but the charge was then amended to one of conspiracy. When the case was eventually transferred to the central criminal courts, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was cited. Under this ancient act, the defendants were accused of pretending “to exercise or use a kind of conjuration that through the agency of Helen Duncan spirits of deceased persons should appear to be present”. Other charges were brought under the Larceny Act (which was more accurate) and they were accused of taking money “by falsely pretending they were in a position to bring about appearances of the spirits of deceased persons…”
Needless to say, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was hopelessly outdated, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Spiritualists were dismayed by the use of the act to bring about prosecution of the famous medium. They believed that she would be found guilty whether or not her powers were genuine. They were angry because they believed that Duncan was an authentic medium and was being persecuted for her genuine gifts. The prosecution, however, clearly believed that Duncan was a fraud, which was why they charged her with larceny. The use of the Witchcraft Act remains a bit of an enigma but it certainly gained the trial a lot of publicity.
The trial took place in later winter of 1944 and lasted for seven days. Numerous witnesses testified to events they had seen at Duncan’s séances. One of them, Kathleen McNeill, claimed that she had attended a séance where her sister had appeared. This sister had died just a few hours before, after an operation, and news of her death could not have been known to Duncan at the time. At another séance, McNeill claimed that her father strode out of the spirit cabinet, looking just as he had when he was alive.
Two journalists, H. Swaffer and J.W. Herries, were also called by the defense. The flamboyant Swaffer told the court that not only was ectoplasm real; it could not have been regurgitated by the medium. That was ridiculous, he stated. Herries claimed that he had seen Sir Arthur Conan Doyle materialize at one of Duncan’s séances. He noted the author’s rounded features and mustache and recognized his voice, he said. One has to think that Sir Arthur, despite his great belief in the legitimacy of Spiritualism, would have been embarrassed to appear at such a shoddy affair as Duncan was offering.
The prosecution had to make little effort to convince the jury that Duncan was a fraud. They made liberal use of photographs taken at Duncan’s séances showing blatantly fake “ectoplasm” emerging from the medium’s mouth and nose. One particular favorite was a photo of the spirit child “Peggy” slithering out of Duncan’s nostrils. In the photo, the “ectoplasm” boasted a face that was obviously that of a child’s doll!
Prosecuting counsel John Maude produced a long piece of butter muslin and referred to the report by Harry Price, who stated that he believed Duncan swallowed the material and then regurgitated it. The jury seemed convinced that she was a fraud. At the start of the trial, the defense offered the jury an actual demonstration of Duncan’s mediumship but the judge declined the offer and stated that perhaps Mrs. Duncan should testify as a witness instead. The defense replied, however, that Helen could not testify, as she was in a trance during the séances and unable to discuss what transpired. On the final day, the judge changed his mind and asked the jury if they wanted to see Helen Duncan perform. After a couple of minutes of discussion, they declined the offer.
It took just 25 minutes for the jury to return their verdict: they found the four defendants guilty of conspiracy to disregard the Witchcraft Act. They were discharged from giving verdicts on the other counts. The judge deferred pronouncing sentence until after the weekend but when he court did reconvene, he stated that the verdict had not been concerned with whether “genuine manifestations of the kind are possible… this court has nothing to do with such abstract questions. The jury has found this to be a case of plain dishonesty.” He sentenced Duncan to serve nine months in prison and the medium was led away moaning and crying. Of the other defendants, Mrs. Brown was given four months (she had previous convictions for larceny and shop-lifting) and the Homers were each given a small fine and placed on probation for the next two years.
Hellen Duncan served her sentence at Holloway Prison. The Spiritualist movement, shocked by the verdict, called for a change in the law to prevent such prosecutions in the future. They felt that Duncan had been unfairly treated but they did cool their enthusiasm for her after the trial. Public perception was that a fraud had been exposed and officials in the movement decided to put some distance between themselves and the medium.
When she was released from prison on September 22, 1944, Duncan announced that she was retiring from séances, but thanks to the large number of faithful followers that she still had, she soon changed her mind. She continued to offer private séances for years afterward.
In 1951, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed and replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act. Helen Duncan’s trial had certainly prompted this changed in the law but hopes from the Spiritualists that they would no longer be subjected to police harassment were short-lived.
In November 1956, police raided a séance taking place in Nottingham. They grabbed the medium, searched her and photographed her. They shouted that they were looking for beards, a mask and a shroud but found nothing. The medium conducting the séance was Helen Duncan.
Duncan almost immediately became ill after the raid, possibly from shock, and died five weeks later. The doctors listed the cause of death as diabetes and heart failure, but a certain segment of the Spiritualist worth thought otherwise. Some complained of “police brutality” and even “murder”, mostly because the medium had been interrupted during a trance, which all agreed could be extremely dangerous. Even today, Helen Duncan is still seen by some as a “martyr” to the cause of Spiritualism, a victim of the world’s intolerance.
To most though, she is seen as another fraudulent medium that, unlike most in the same circumstances, actually got her day in court. Those who point to the egg white and muslin “ectoplasm”, the phony photographs and the torn underwear “spirit guides” would say that in this case, justice prevailed.
HAUNTED STUYVESANT HALL
“I have always believed in ghosts, but I’ve also tempered my belief with a healthy dose of skepticism. I’m not afraid to call bullocks. I have been ghost hunting with friends before, and while they experienced hair raising, pinching, electricity-over-the-skin feelings and even visual manifestations, I experienced nothing (save for my ability to use dowsing rods and pendulums). In short, I could be in a room full of ghosts and not feel a thing. My experience at college was different. It wasn’t anything frightening. It was far more playful and humorous.
I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University (in historic Delaware, OH) in 2001. During my junior year, I lived in Stuyvesant Hall. ‘Stuy’ opened in 1931 and is the oldest operating dorm on campus. Naturally, it comes with some ghost lore.
According to one campus legend, the dorm was once a hospital/ insane asylum. This is completely FALSE. It has only served as a dorm. The other story I heard about Stuy is one that plays out almost exactly like a well-known urban legend. You know, the one where a roommate returns home without turning on any lights. In the morning, she wakes to find her roommate dead and ‘Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?’ scrawled in blood on the wall. No students can tolerate the room so the Dean stays in the room overnight to prove them foolish and ends up bricking over the door so no one can ever enter the cursed room again. Blah, blah, blah…
I called bullocks on that. I’d heard that urban legend in middle school. However, in a basement hallway of Stuy, there are a few student rooms, a laundry room, and the boiler room. Right next to the boiler room is a former student room which has been bricked up. You can look through the hole left by the missing doorknob and see the bricks. A funny coincidence, I thought.
The rooms in Stuy are set up with two double-occupancy rooms separated by a shared bathroom. The room on the other side of my bathroom was directly above the sealed room. My room was above the boiler room.
The rooms aren’t soundproof by any means, but you can tell the difference between a sound in the room with you and a sound separated by a wall. I would sit at my desk and watch TV with the bunk beds about six inches from the back of my head. After about a month, I began to notice the bed springs creaking as I sat alone in the room. The beds are old and they creak when any pressure is applied to the mattress. You can hear them creaking in neighboring rooms. This creaking was directly behind me. On our bunk beds.
I wasn’t touching the beds in any way. They shouldn’t have made any noise. Yet there I sat with my roommate’s lower bunk creaking like someone was bouncing/ moving around on her mattress. (I’m glad I had the top bunk).
It didn’t scare me. I was more amused than anything. It was a daily thing. I told my roommate about it, since it was her bunk being occupied by something unseen. She also thought it was funny and was even glad it was her bunk that was being jumped on by our ‘ghost.’ My roommate didn’t spend much time in the room alone, and when she did, she sat on her bed with music on. I don’t recall her experiencing the noise. One day, I was trying to study for a test and the creaking springs six inches behind me was too much. I yelled, ‘Get the hell off my bed!!’ The noise stopped and didn’t start up again.
The next day, I didn’t hear it. Nor the next day or the next. I actually felt bad. Whatever it was making itself comfortable on the bottom bunk had gone away. The following day, before my roommate returned from class, I stood in the room and told whatever it was that it could come back as long as it didn’t use the bed as a trampoline. The following day, as I sat at my desk, the creaking mattress made its familiar noise. It continued the creaking until we moved out at the end of the year. I made sure to say goodbye.
Ghost or not, I have no explanation for it. I know the sound wasn’t coming from another room. The girl on the other side of the bathroom wasn’t well acquainted with us so I never knew if she experienced anything. It was just a fun, weird little thing that happened that one year and never happened again in any of the dorms in which I lived. Make of it what you will. It was the only time I experienced anything personally that I couldn’t explain.”
SUNSET STRIP KILLERS
The lovers who became known as the Sunset Strip Killers were both regulars in the seedy Los Angeles bar scene of the early 1980s. It was in these dive bars that Doug Clark gave him himself the nickname “the king of the one night stand.” Clark was an aimless drifter who worked menial jobs around southern California before he decided to dedicate his life to something he felt he could excel at: murder.
Doug Clark met his accomplice, Carol Bundy (no relation to Ted), at a bar they both frequented called Little Nashville in 1980. Bundy also harbored a dark secret: she had the same dark, violent sexual impulses as Doug Clark. The two soon moved in together – and embarked on a murder rampage that shocked Los Angeles.
After the two started living together, Clark began to bring prostitutes home for group sex. Soon enough, however, Clark grew unsatisfied, and he began to tell Bundy how what he really wanted was to murder a woman during sex. Clark’s talk soon turned into action. In June 1980, he brought home two young runaways, 15-year-old Gina Narano and 16-year-old Cynthia Chandler. Clark engaged in sexual relations with the two young women before he shot and killed them. Once they were dead, he raped their corpses. Clark then dumped Narano and Chandler’s bodies on the side of the freeway, where they were discovered the following day.
Three days after Narano and Chandler were killed, the body of another young runaway female was found dead in the San Fernando Valley. The police estimated she had been dead for three weeks, which likely made her Clark’s first murder victim. Less than two weeks later, Clark murdered two more women, shooting them in the head and dumping their bodies. This time, Clark took a twisted trophy: he decapitated one of the women and brought her head home to store in his freezer. Bundy put makeup on the severed heat and Clark had sex with it, before the head was put into a cardboard box and dumped in an alley.
The murders began to haunt Carol Bundy, and she decided to confide in a friend. Bundy met with an ex-boyfriend named John Murray, who sometimes sang country-western music at Little Nashville, the bar where she had met Doug Clark. Murray was understandably shocked by Bundy’s confession, and he told his ex-girlfriend that he believed it would be a good idea to notify the police. Bundy panicked. As much as she was disturbed by the crimes she had helped Doug Clark commit, she couldn’t go so far as to turn him, and herself, in to authorities. Bundy spent more time with Murray and attempted to seduce him, eventually convincing Murray to have sex with her in his van. Once inside the van, Bundy shot and killed Murray and then decapitated him.
The murder of John Murray made Carol Bundy even more paranoid and distraught. A couple of days after she killed her ex-boyfriend, she confessed the murder to co-workers, who in turn alerted the police. Bundy immediately gave the police details of all the murders she and Doug Clark had committed over the course of several months throughout 1980. Clark was charged with 6 murders, and Bundy was charged with 2.
Clark tried to proclaim his innocence during his trial, but the jury had none of it. Doug Clark was sentenced to death, and today he still sits on California’s Death Row. Carol Bundy was sentenced to life in prison for her role in the gruesome string of murders. Bundy died in prison in December 2003 at the age of 61.