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IN THIS EPISODE: (Dark Archives Double Trouble episode with stories from August 09-10, 2018) *** A teenager suddenly begins seeing disturbing visions when at home. (A Visitor In The House) *** The Snallygaster was labeled as a fictional story created over a century ago to terrorize citizens in Maryland. But now it appears the creature might actually have been real. (Could The Snallygaster Be a Real Creature?) *** The mystery of what happened in room 1046 of the Hotel President remains unsolved to this day, despite endless files of evidence. (What Happened In Room 1046?) *** It is considered one of, if not the most terrifying film of all time. But is the film itself, “The Exorcist” cursed? (Was ‘The Exorcist’ Cursed?) *** It’s been described as part kangaroo, part horse, part bat, part bird, part reptile… what exactly is the Jersey Devil? (Unmasking The Jersey Devil) *** Why have so many classical composers died upon composing their ninth symphony? (The Curse of the Ninth Symphony) *** The RMS Queen Mary is now retired – but it appears some of its passengers and crew never got the message. (Ghosts Of The Queen Mary) *** Could the imaginary friend of a brother and sister not be their imagination? (My Great Grandparents’ Home) *** Zombies are everywhere in pop culture – films, television, gaming, memes, etc. It’s all obviously make-believe, but is it possible for an actual zombie apocalypse to take place in the real world? (Could a Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen?)
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
“Was The Exorcist Cursed?” by Troy Taylor: http://bit.ly/35SwjHB (Theme from “The Exorcist” written by Mike Oldfield, performed by Midnight Reapers from the album, “The Best of Halloween”.)
“A Visitor In The House”: http://bit.ly/2OIpDGo
“What Happened In Room 1046?” by Katie Serena: http://bit.ly/37Vyk7P
“Could The Snallygaster Be a Real Creature?” by Steve Pearse: http://bit.ly/2OH9XTs
“Could A Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen?” by Brent Swancer: http://bit.ly/34Imo7h
“Unmasking The Jersey Devil” by Steve Pearse: http://bit.ly/2Pjndx1
“My Great Grandparents’ Home” submitted to WeirdDarkness.com by Amanda R.: http://bit.ly/35WOtYO
“Ghosts of the Queen Mary”: (link no longer available)
“The Curse of the Ninth Symphony”: http://bit.ly/2Li3V9T
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
WAS “THE EXORCIST” CURSED?
The filming of THE EXORCIST was done over a nine-month period. The main set, a reproduction of the Georgetown home, was built in a warehouse in New York. During the filming, a number of curious incidents and accidents took place on the set and plagued those involved with the production. In addition, the budget of the film rose from $5 million to more than twice that amount. Obviously, any film production that lasts for more than a month or so will see its share of accidents and mishaps, but THE EXORCIST seems to have been particularly affected by unforeseeable calamities. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it left the cast and crew shaken.
The first incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. one Sunday morning when a fire broke out on the set. There was only one security guard at the Ceco 54th Street Studios when the McNeil house set caught fire and burned. The fire was the result of a bad electric circuit, but it shut down filming for six weeks while the set was constructed again from scratch. Ironically, as soon as the new set was ready, the sprinkler system broke down, causing an additional two-week delay.
Few of the actors in the film escaped personal troubles during the shoot. Just as Max Von Sydow (Father Merrin) touched down in New York to film his first scenes, his brother died unexpectedly in Sweden. Von Sydow himself later became very ill during the filming. Irish actor Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings) died only one week after his character was killed by the demon in the movie. Jason Miller (Father Karras) was stunned when his young son, Jordan, was struck down on an empty beach by a motorcyclist who appeared out of nowhere. The boy almost died. Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeill) wrenched her back badly during one scene when she was slapped by the possessed girl. The stunt went badly awry and she was laid up in bed for several weeks afterward, causing more delays in the filming.
In New York, one of the carpenters accidentally cut off his thumb on the set and one of the lighting technicians lost a toe. The location trip to Iraq was delayed from the spring, which is relatively cool, to July, the hottest part of the summer, when the temperature rose to 130 degrees and higher. Out of the eighteen-man crew that was sent there, Friedkin lost the services of nine of them, at one time or another, due to dysentery or sunstroke. To make matters worse, the bronze statue of the neo-Assyrian winged demon Pazazu, which was packed in a ten-foot crate, got lost in an air shipment from Los Angeles and ended up in Hong Kong, which caused another two-week delay.
“I don’t know if it was a jinx, really,” actress Ellen Burstyn later said. “But there were some really strange goings-on during the making of the film. We were dealing with some really heavy material and you don’t fool around with that kind of material without it manifesting in some way. There were many deaths on the film. Linda’s grandfather died, the assistant cameraman’s wife had a baby that died, the man who refrigerated the set died, the janitor who took care of the building was shot and killed … I think overall there were nine deaths during the course of the film, which is an incredible amount… it was scary.”
Things got so bad that William Friedkin took some drastic measures. Father Thomas Bermingham, S.J., from the Jesuit community at Fordham University, had been hired as a technical advisor for the film, along with Father John Nicola, who, while not a Jesuit, had been taught by Jesuit theologians at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. Friedkin came to Bermingham and asked him to exorcize the set. The priest was unable to perform an actual exorcism, but he did give a solemn blessing in a ceremony that was attended by everyone then on the set, from Max Von Sydow to the technicians and grips. “Nothing else happened on the set after the blessing,” Bermingham stated, “but around that time, there was a fire in the Jesuit residence set in Georgetown.”
And while nothing else tragic occurred on the set, strange events and odd coincidences were reported during the post-production work on the film. “There were strange images and visions that showed up on film that were never planned,” Friedkin later claimed. “There are double exposures in the little girl’s face at the end of one reel that are unbelievable.”
The film opened on December 26, 1973 to massive crowds. Within weeks of the first public screenings of the film, stories started to make the rounds that audience members were fainting and vomiting in the theaters. There were also reports of disturbing nightmares and reportedly, a number of theater ushers had to be placed under a doctor’s care, or quit their jobs, after experiencing successive showings of the movie. In numerous cities that were checked after THE EXORCIST had run for several weeks, reporters found that every major hospital had been forced to deal with patients who reported, after seeing the film, severe cases of vomiting and hallucinations. There were also reports of people being carried out of theaters in stretchers. Mere publicity stunts, or the real thing?
The film created a widespread interest in exorcism but the result of this was often questionable. Scores of disturbed people began showing up at churches with claims of being possessed, while their problems should have been attributed to mental illness instead. In addition, renegade priests and self-proclaimed holy men started billing themselves as “exorcists” and “demonologists,” hoping to cash in on the popularity of the film and the widespread interest in the occult that followed its release.
Unfortunately, not much has changed when it comes to that kind of thing.
Rumors and half-truths have surrounded this film for years, including the most controversial one of all — that actual demonic voices recorded during an exorcism were mixed into the soundtrack. Friedkin did admit that he was in the possession on a “cassette recording of an actual exorcism performed in Rome. It’s in Italian. It involves the exorcism of a 14-year-old boy. I got the tape through the Jesuit Provincial of New York and on the tape are the sounds produced by this young man supposedly possessed.”
While Friedkin never claims to have used the sounds in the film, he does claim that he emulated them on the soundtrack for the demon. It has been this rumor that has provoked angry claims that THE EXORCIST is somehow dangerous or evil. Some fundamentalists have claimed there is evil in the very celluloid of the film itself.
While such claims are unlikely, at best, there have been many people over the years who have felt that there are places — and objects — that continue to embody the very real evil that was expelled in St. Louis in 1949.
A VISITOR IN THE HOUSE
My parents bought a big house at suburb when I was 14. My bedroom was at the second floor. Up from the staircase, there is a mezzanine where you can look down to the family room next to the staircase and across to the neighbor over the big window. The rooms are lined up along concave mezzanine barrier. At the corner is a bathroom, my brother’s room next, followed by mine, a computer room, another seating area, then my other brother’s room.
I moved out since I entered college and return a few times a year during holiday. I was 19 at the time and it was around June-July. I never liked that house. It was big with tall ceiling, so many glass windows and rather cold. But that year, it was totally different. The moment I entered that house, I can see visions in my mind, as if I have this image in my head, of a pale man, a little chubby, wearing a traditional clothes. I keep having him in my mind, when I was seated by the family room, or as I lay on my bed at night. But I know the difference between imagination and a vision, so I thought of this as my own imagination.
Until one day, I was stepping out of the bathroom upstairs, as I opened the door, there I saw the man. His entire image is pale, as if I have a blurry vision, but I know what I saw. Somebody was there. He has unkempt hair, pale face, a little plump, slightly rounded belly, wearing traditional clothes, stood by the mezzanine. He was looking across the window to the neighbor house. He seemed undisturbed by my presence. Immediately my heart beat very fast, and in a blink of an eye, he is gone.
I quiver and ran to my mom at the kitchen. I definitely saw somebody. It definitely isn’t human. I never had this experience before. But when I told her, I had nothing to say. I told her I saw somebody. I know he’s a ghost. My mom reaction was calm. Where I’m from, black magic is common knowledge and many people claim to possess it. We always knew the house was built in what once was a forest with many black magic practices. Those who learned black magic, created a supernatural being. If left incomplete, the half-completed being is released in the jungle, and roam for food. I never completely understand what it means, and how it works.
Still within the same month, I stepped out from my bedroom and I saw a glimpse of white image. He passed by right in front of my face. He wasn’t bothering me, he just walked passed me. I can see it is that same man. My heart beat very fast. He vanished in a blink of an eye.
My mom told me next time if I see something, try not to blink, then I will be able to see and observe a little longer.
I have no chance to follow that tips. I didn’t stay long in my parents’ house and the moment I entered the car to leave the house, even when the car was by the porch, I didn’t visualize him in my mind anymore. I never see him anymore over the following holidays. I have no idea if he was visiting or who he was.
The house is now sold away. There are other things happened in the house as well, but I will leave this story for next time.
The Snallygaster is a mysterious unknown cryptid that is said to look like a dragon. The legend of the beast originated with German immigrants that settled in Frederick County in Central Maryland. Maryland is a Mid-Atlantic state that’s defined by its abundant waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. It is a neighboring state west of New Jersey.
The history of Germans in Baltimore began in the 17th century. This area was first settled by German immigrants beginning in the 1730’s. The dragon-like beast allegedly inhabited the wooded hills surrounding Washington and Frederick Counties in the State of Maryland, USA.
The etymology of “Snallygaster” is actually a mispronunciation of the German word Schnellegeister, which is itself a corruption of the German term “schnelle geist,” or “quick spirit.” The German immigrants were said to have a morbid fear of it. German immigrants were known to have painted red hexes on their barns to ward off evil spirits, and they followed this same tradition when they arrived in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
There is some historical information about the Snallygaster and it’s one of the stranger gray-area crypto-zoological creatures in the history of the United States. The eyewitnesses who purportedly saw it generally described the monster as a dragon-like reptile with huge wings, a large beak, and sharp claws – specifically “claws like steel hooks.” Reportedly, this creature made screeching noises “as loud as a train whistle” and had a taste for human blood.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s the monster caused a sensation in Frederick County, Maryland. Jason Burns, a Snallygaster researcher, wrote an essay on the creature based upon old historical newspaper articles about it. The old newspapers gave better information on its appearance; describing it as a bloodsucking dragon-like beast with wings, claws, tentacles, fur, horns, and a long reptilian tail. It is said to look like a green dragon with scales and wings.
It also apparently had a horrible sulfuric smell and a bloodcurdling roar. The earliest stories claim that this monster sucked the blood of its victims. A group of lumberjacks claimed to have come upon one of the creature’s nests, which was perched on a high cliff and contained an egg “big enough to hatch a horse.”
Older stories about the Snallygaster say that it lived in caves. Many of these old accounts describe a foreboding scenario of a terrifying flying monster diving like a predator, attacking from the skies, and snatching up children and livestock. This is exactly what the Thunderbird was said to have done according to many of the Native American tribal oral folktales that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Weeks after the Jersey Devil’s visit to New Jersey in January 1909, reports started coming in saying that people had seen the Snallygaster flying monster in Frederick County in early February 1909. The Cumberland Evening Times reported the first sighting of the cryptid in Middletown in 1909. The story was also carried prominently in Middletown’s Valley Register, a weekly newspaper, for about a month.
In the early issues, the flying beast seemed to be everywhere, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Ohio. Allegedly it created quite a stir in New Jersey, where its footprints were first discovered in the snow. The Snallygaster story was kicked off by the front page banner story of the Middletown Valley Register on Feb. 12, 1909.
It was a sensational story, hot off the press…but it was a fake story. The publisher and editor of the Middletown Valley Register, George C. Rhoderick, and a journalist named Ralph S. Wolf, revived the Snallygaster story to boost circulation of their newspaper with a series of terrifying articles about the creature that are said to have even caught the attention of Teddy Roosevelt.
Thomas C. Harbaugh, of Casstown, Ohio, wrote a letter to the Valley Register in early 1909, telling of a strange beast that flew over him making terrible screeching noises, and mentioned that it was coming in their direction. Harbaugh described it as having two huge wings, a large horny head, and a tail twenty feet long. Harbaugh wrote under various pseudonyms as well as under his own name. However, it turns out that Harbaugh was a personal friend of Rhoderick and was in fact born and raised in Middletown, Maryland, making this another fake story.
A great deal of publicity surrounded this string of appearances, and then the Smithsonian Institution offered a $100,000 reward for the beast. Rhoderick and Wolf helped fan the flames to spread interest in their story, as they also pleaded their readers to remain calm. News of the attacks grew, which got the attention of the Whitehouse. The Snallygaster rampage was so prolific and terrifying that it attracted the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who allegedly planned to kill and mount the beast for display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
President Theodore Roosevelt reportedly considered postponing an African safari to personally hunt down the beast. Soon other papers jumped on the Snallygaster bandwagon, the Baltimore Sun published articles, as did the Washington Post. As scrutiny increased, more pressure came to catch or photograph the monster.
Supposedly, National Geographic was preparing an expedition to capture it on film. The notoriety lasted for nearly 30 days, until the fan fair of the fake lore quietly died out, perhaps because of the heat from the Whitehouse for scaring the public with fake stories. But the creature was still being seen occasionally by people whose stories helped keep the legend of the Snallygaster alive.
The Snallygaster was said to have been seen flying over South Mountain from Middletown and was first seen by Charles F. Main in the vicinity of Braddock Heights. Mr. Main was a Middletown resident and ice cream entrepreneur. Main claims that he spotted the creature in November 1932, 23 years after the first sighting, when he was returning to Middletown from Frederick early one morning. Main said he saw the creature flying no more than 25 feet (7.62 meters) from the ground. He said its wing spread appeared to be between 12 and 14 feet (3.66 -4.27 meters). At times it threw out long streamer-like arms similar to an octopus, but it would draw them in again. Perhaps it had an octopus in its mouth.
The Snallygaster, he added, changed color several times, first appearing as black and then white. If this story was really true, the only thing that I can imagine is that it was black and glistening in the sun. Earlier sightings were reported in Maryland newspapers, going as far back as 1906, when one was seen near Frederick. In 1948, the Snallygaster was seen again, soaring above the spires of Westminster, Maryland.
Searching for answers, the best solution to resolve the identity of the Snallygaster is the examination of the oral history of Native American legends. The description that Jason Burns has mentioned helps to identify the creature by saying that it has a long tail and horns, which matches the description of the Michi-Peshu and the Piasa, which I now believe to be the same creature. The Michi-Peshu was called the underwater panther. But horned serpents appear in the oral history of numerous Native American cultures.
They referred to it as a fierce underwater panther, named in their native Ojibwe language as the Michi-Peshu. It’s one of the most important of several mythological water beings among many indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands and Great Lakes region, particularly among the Anishinaabe tribe.
The legend of the Piasa comes from the Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet expedition down the Mississippi River on May 17, 1673. The Menomonee Indians endeavored to dissuade them from their enterprise, saying that there were ferocious tribes on the great river, some of whom are at war and would kill any stranger; and also saying that horrible monsters and demons would endanger their lives.
They told Marquette that the river was very dangerous when one does not know where there are difficult places and that it was full of horrible monsters (Unktehi), which devoured men and canoes together; that there was even a demon, heard from a vast distance, which barred the way and swallowed up all who ventured to approach it; and finally they said that the heat was so excessive in the area that it would inevitably cause death. Moreover, there was the scary demon Piasa Bird, a Native American dragon depicted in one of two murals painted by Native Americans on bluffs above the Mississippi River.
Comparing the Michi-Peshu to the Piasa shows remarkable similarities, and the physical features of these two monsters aptly applies to the description of the Snallygaster as well. My humble opinion is that the Snallygaster is real and that it’s the Michi-Peshu/Piasa.
On Jan. 2, 1935, at 1:20 p.m., a lone man checked into the Hotel President, in downtown Kansas City.
He had no luggage besides a comb and a toothbrush and asked for an interior room on a high floor of the hotel. He checked in under the name Roland T. Owen and complained to the bellboy about the outrageous prices of a neighboring hotel. After checking in and receiving his room, room 1046 on the 10th floor, he left the hotel, only to be seen intermittently throughout his stay.
Though the man’s behavior struck the Hotel President’s staff as odd, they didn’t think much of him. After all, the hotel often played host to out of towners and businessmen, looking for some late night company, and the less the staff got involved, the better.
The staff wouldn’t give his behavior another thought until six days later, when the man turned up dead, his hotel room a brutal bloodbath. As they described to police the brutal scene, questions arose about the man’s behavior prior to his death, bringing to light just how strange that behavior had been.
On Jan 3, one day after Owen checked into the hotel, the hotel maid, Mary Soptic, stopped by to clean his room. It was around 12 o’clock, and most of the hotel’s residents were out for the day. However, upon reaching Owen room, Soptic found the door to be locked from the inside.
She knocked, and Owen opened the door. After insisting she could come back later, Soptic eventually entered. She found the room in almost complete darkness, with the shades tightly drawn and the only light coming from a small, dim table lamp.
As she cleaned, Owen mentioned that he had a friend coming to visit him shortly, and would she mind not locking the door. Soptic agreed, and Owen left the room.
Four hours later, Soptic returned to room 1046, with fresh towels. She found the door still unlocked from when she had cleaned the room that afternoon, and upon entering found Owen laying fully clothed on top of his still-made bed, seemingly asleep. A note on his bedside table read: “Don, I will be back in fifteen minutes. Wait.”
The next morning, Jan 4, Soptic’s strange interactions with room 1046 continued.
Around 10:30, she stopped by to make the beds, and found Owen door to be locked from the outside, as it would be when patrons left. Assuming Owen was not inside, she opened the door with her master key. To her surprise, Owen was sitting inside, in the dark, in the chair in the corner of the room. As she cleaned, the phone rang, and Owen picked up.
“No, Don, I don’t want to eat. I am not hungry. I just had breakfast,” he said. After a moment he repeated, “No. I am not hungry.”
After he hung up, Owen began interrogating Soptic about her job and the hotel, the first time he had ever really spoken to her. He asked her about how many rooms she was in charge of, what kind of people lived in the Presidential Hotel, if any, and again complained about the price of the neighboring hotel.
Soptic answered quickly, finished cleaning and left Owen alone. It was only after she left that she realized that since the door had been locked from the outside, someone had to have locked Owen in his room.
Later that day, Soptic returned with fresh towels, having taken the ones from the room that morning. However, as she knocked this time, she heard two voices in the room, rather than just Owen. When she announced that she had fresh towels, a loud, deep voice told her to leave, claiming that they had enough towels.
Though she knew that she had removed all the towels from the room that morning, Soptic left the two men alone, not wishing to intrude on what was clearly a sensitive and private conversation.
That same afternoon, the Hotel President got two more guests, whose presence would contribute greatly to the mystery of what happened in room 1046.
The first was a Jean Owen (no relation to Roland.) She had come to Kansas City to meet her boyfriend for the day and decided that rather than drive all the way back to her hometown on the outskirts of the city, she would stay for the night in a hotel. Upon checking into the Hotel President, Jean Owen was given the key to room 1048, right next door to Roland.
That night, according to police statements, she heard a repeated commotion.
“I heard a lot of noise which sounded like it (was) on the same floor, and consisted largely of men and women talking loudly and cursing,” she said in her statement. “When the noise continued I was about to call the desk clerk but decided not to.”
The other hotel guest was not quite a guest all. The bellhop who had been on duty that night described her as a “commercial woman” who often frequented the rooms of the hotel’s male patrons late at night.
The evening of Jan. 4, she came into the hotel searching for a man in room 1026. However, despite being a “very prompt” customer, the woman couldn’t seem to find the man she was looking for. After searching for well over an hour, on multiple floors, she gave up and went home.
Both of the women’s statements would raise more questions about the fate of the man in room 1046.
The next morning, the bellhop received a call from the hotel’s telephone operator. The phone in room 1046 had been off the hook for ten minutes without anyone using it. The bellhop went up to check on Owen and noticed that the door was locked, with a “do not disturb” sign hung on the doorknob.
He knocked on the door, and Owen told him to come in, however, when the bellhop told Owen that the door was locked, he got no response. The bellhop knocked once again, then yelled for Owen to hang up the phone, assuming Owen had simply been drunk and knocked it off the hook.
However, an hour and a half later, the telephone operator called the bellhop again. The phone in room 1046 was still off the hook, and hadn’t been hung up at all. This time, the bellhop let himself into Owen’s room with the master key.
The man was lying naked on the bed, seemingly drunk. Not wishing to deal with him, the bellhop simply straightened the phone, placed it back on the hook, and locked the door behind him, reporting Owen to his manager.
To his surprise, an hour later the telephone operator called again. The phone was again off the hook, though not in use.
This time, when the bellhop opened the door, he found a bloodbath. Owen was sitting curled in the corner of the room, his head in his hands, suffering multiple stab wounds. The bedsheets and towels were stained with blood, and the walls were splattered with it.
The bellhop immediately called the police who took Owen straight to the hospital, where doctors discovered that Owen had been tortured viciously. His arms, legs, and neck had been restrained by some kind of cord, and his chest sustained multiple stab wounds. He also suffered a punctured lung and a fractured skull.
Roland T. Owen was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after arriving.
The doctors also discovered that the wounds on Owen had been inflicted well before the bellhop’s first trip to Owen’s room that morning. They ascertained that he had attempted to call for help multiple times, but hadn’t been able to make it farther than picking up the phone due to his injuries.
When investigators searched the room, the strangeness continued. There were no clothes in the room at all, nothing matching the description of Owen when he checked in. The hotel amenities such as soap and toothpaste were also missing, as well as anything that could have been the murder weapon. The only thing of note that detectives found were four small fingerprints on the telephone stand, though they were never identified.
Furthermore, detectives found that Roland T. Owen never existed. There was no record of any such man having lived anywhere in the U.S., and they implored the public to come forward with any information they had about the mysterious murder victim.
Shortly thereafter, the neighboring hotel that Owen had complained so much about came forward, claiming that a man matching the description had stayed at the hotel on Jan 1. He had checked in under the name Eugene K. Scott. However, upon further investigation, the police reached the same dead end they had with Owen — no man named Eugene K. Scott had any record of ever existing.
Over the next couple of months, various people identified the body as a loved one, though none of the identifications stuck. Finally, the case ran cold, and the detectives decided to bury the body. As they arranged for a small funeral, a bouquet of flowers, and a donation to cover the funeral costs showed up at the funeral home with a letter that read only: “Love for ever– Lucille.”
A year later, a woman named Ogletree claimed that Owen/Scott was her son, who had been missing for years. She claimed his name was Artemis Ogletree, and that he had been staying at another Kansas City area hotel at the time he went missing.
Though there wasn’t any more evidence to her case than any of the others, police were eventually inclined to believe her, though experts claimed it was only based on lack of evidence in the rest of the case.
To this day, the case remains unsolved, opened yearly by the Kansas police as new pieces of evidence unfold. For the time being, however, it seems that the mystery of room 1046 may never truly be solved.
One way a zombie outbreak might occur is through a virus or other disease that serves to dramatically alter the behavior of its host. Perhaps the best known example is that of the rabies virus, a highly virulent and deadly disease that infects a wide range of hosts and is spread through bodily fluids such as saliva, typically in the form of bites from infected animals. The rabies virus does not have a complex lifecycle and is fairly indiscriminate in which hosts it infects, instead incurring a fitness advantage simply by spreading itself as far and wide as possible in a short period of time. Upon infection, the host exhibits a wide range of symptoms as the disease acts upon the central nervous system, including anxiety, restlessness, confusion, hallucinations, paralysis, involuntary muscular contractions, uncontrolled perspiration, salivation, and pupil dilation, and hydrophobia (fear of water), which usually make themselves known after an incubation period of around 10 days.
The most dramatic symptom of rabies is a marked increase in agitation, anger, and aggression, a trait that makes infected animals more likely to bite and thus increase transmission of the virus. Within a period of mere days after exhibiting symptoms, the victim will fall into a coma and die if not treated. Although mostly found in animals, it is possible for a human to contract the disease through a bite from an infected animal, and if it is not treated in a timely manner they will invariably show all of the same symptoms, including the heightened anger and aggression, although our acute self-awareness allows us to somewhat control our primal urges to lash out and bite everything that comes near us, and there has never been any confirmed case of human to human transmission of rabies as of yet.
Spookily enough, if the rabies virus were to mutate fast enough and in a way that allowed it to dramatically shorten its incubation period, decrease its fatality rate in order to allow more time to spread, and additionally become airborne, it could very well turn into something that resembles a full-blown zombie pandemic from a horror movie. Although rabies is now transmitted only through bites from infected animals, for it to become an airborne contagion is not a completely far out notion. All it would have to do is swap some of its genetic material with an airborne virus such as influenza, a process known as “recombination,” and something that different strains of the same virus do all of the time, although rabies and influenza are far too dissimilar for this to feasibly occur in nature. Or it could simply be engineered that way by some nefarious party.
With a very short incubation period, low fatality rate, and highly contagious means of spreading, and perhaps even more acute symptoms of aggression, carriers of the virus would essentially become mindless, furious vectors for the pathogen roiling within them, and it would spread beyond our ability to control it. A professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Maryland, Jonathan D. Dinman, PhD, summed it up nicely in an interview with RedOrbit: *****”So, you start with Rabies virus, but you engineer it so that it doesn’t actually kill you. It just takes over your brain and makes you want to bite other people to spread itself. Infected people just become automatons devoted to spreading the virus. The main viral property you’d want to change would be to convert it from causing an acute infection (like Ebola which tends to kill the victim quickly) to persistent infection (like Herpes, which stays with you for your entire life). Functions you’d want the infected person to retain would be metabolism (so they can produce more virus) and motility (so they can get from victim to victim). You would want the virus to cause infected people to lose the ability to think independently (and therefore come up with a cure).”*****
Rabies is certainly not the only disease that has the potential to produce zombies, and there are other diseases like this that affect behavior as well. One is called encephalitis lethargica, which can cause symptoms such as high fever, sore throat, headaches, hallucinations, atypical behavior and psychosis, tremors, seizures, and eventually a listless, nearly catatonic state in which the victim remains speechless and motionless, as if unaware of the world around them. Even if one is to survive the illness they typically never quite return to normal, and Oliver Sacks said of these patients in his book Awakenings thus: *****”They would be conscious and aware – yet not fully awake; they would sit motionless and speechless all day in their chairs, totally lacking energy, impetus, initiative, motive, appetite, affect or desire; they registered what went on about them without active attention, and with profound indifference. They neither conveyed nor felt the feeling of life; they were as insubstantial as ghosts, and as passive as zombies.”*****
Making it all even stranger still is that it has been reported that despite this seemingly docile catatonic state, victims suffering from the disease are sometimes known to suddenly and violently lash out at physical stimuli as innocent as being simply lightly tapped on the shoulder. It certainly sounds very much like zombies to me. Such viruses might not cause a literal zombie apocalypse now, but what if they were to be manipulated or engineered to such an effect?
Perhaps it would not even take some shadowy organization to concoct such a disease, but rather an entirely different sinister force; Mother Nature herself. Viruses are constantly mutating in nature, and some of these naturally occurring lethal pathogens, such as Ebola, Anthrax, and many others, are every bit as diabolical and deadly as something cooked up in a lab. Nature has a certain knack for coming up with truly wicked ways of invisibly killing us that are often frustratingly difficult for us to combat or fully understand. A line from the movie World War Z sums it up pretty well: *****Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one’s better, or more creative. Like all serial killers, she can’t help but have the urge to get caught or what good would all those brilliant crimes do if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, is seeing the crumbs, the clues there. Sometimes it’s in your thoughts where the most brutal part of a virus is. Turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She’s a bitch.*****
Another potential way to trigger something akin to a zombie apocalypse in humans would be to artificially alter our brain in such a way as to induce an explosive predatory response or to diminish our fear and emotions. Somewhat spookily, this has already actually been on mice in a laboratory setting and the results are rather frightening.
The study was carried out by neuroscientist Ivan de Araujo, from Yale University, along with colleagues Wenfei Han, also of Yale, and Milton Canteras, of the University of São Paulo, and its main purpose was to determine what parts of the brain were responsible for certain motor responses in the animal by studying brain functions that control predatory behavior. The main focus here was a part of the brain called the amygdala, which governs fear and emotional responses, as well as apparently holding motor controls for capturing and killing prey, and they went about tinkering with the neurons there, of which Araujo said, “We targeted the groups of neurons that control predatory hunting, pursuit, capture and killing.” Essentially, they wanted to see if they could induce predatory hunting behavior in these lab mice, which would turn out to be more successful than they may have imagined.
The scientists went about using light to manipulate the targeted neurons, in a technique known as “optogenetics,” in this case via a sensory device equipped with light emitting optic fibers attached to the heads of the mice who had been genetically engineered to have neurons that would respond to the blue light. When the light was turned off the mice were docile and calm, but as soon as the light was switched on they underwent a radical change, transforming to ravenous killing machines lashing out to attack and repeatedly bite anything they could find, including crickets, plastic toys, sticks, and even bottle caps. In addition, the light seemed to give them super biting strength, of which Araujo said: *****Their bite force is kind of powerful and pretty sufficient. When we stimulated these neurons, we observed that the muscles were contracting much more strongly, the bite force was more powerful.*****
This response led to researchers finding that there were two responses coming from the amygdala, one for chasing down prey and one that controlled muscles in the jaw and neck for delivering the killing bite, and it illuminated more on the exact capabilities of this particular region of the brain. Interestingly, this violent response seemed to have some limits. For instance, it seemed to be linked to hunger, with hungry mice responding much more viciously than mice that were full, and the mice did not attack each other or anything unreasonably large. It is thought that triggering this part of the brain is opening a sort of gateway that is usually closed to certain behaviors lurking behind it that are normally suppressed or blocked by the amygdala. Peter Cummings, a neuropathologist at Boston University who has looked into the scientific possibility of zombies and written the book The Neuropathology of Zombies, has said of this: *****If I spilled coffee on you, you might want to punch me in the face. That’s due to the limbic system. But usually the frontal lobe shuts that response down. But if you lose that connection, the amygdala takes over and that response takes over.*****
Of course considering that humans have a very similar organ in our brains is it feasible that someone could further perfect this “switch” and use it to manipulate the brain into turning us into mindless lunatics? Stranger things have happened. It is easy to imagine someone finding such a switch useful for military applications, so although this has only been seen in mice so far and is far from completely understood, it is rather frightening to think about what would happen if someone were to start experimenting with this on us.
Damage or conditions of the brain can cause the same sort of effects, as can be seen with a condition called “Klüver–Bucy syndrome,” which is caused by lesions on the medial temporal lobe of the brain. This causes a wide array of bizarre symptoms, many of which could be seen as quite zombie-like. Victims of the syndrome can exhibit amnesia, dementia, loss of concentration, inability to recognize objects, hyper sexuality, loss of fear, loss of coordination, increased docility or conversely aggression, lack of emotional response, and the desire to eat inappropriate or strange objects or to put these objects in their mouth. Seeing someone with this rare condition could very well make you think they were a zombie.
Besides viruses there are other ways that a zombie outbreak might occur, such as parasites that effect the brain in such a way as to profoundly affect the host’s behavior or even turn them into a real zombie. This is actually already present in nature among some organisms, with the most well-known example being that of a parasitic fungus from the genus Ophiocordyceps. This fungus invades the brain of an ant, and reprograms it to be overcome with the obsessive desire to climb to the highest point it can, after which it will be compelled to clamp down on a leaf or branch as the fungus grows within it, ultimately exploding from the ant’s body to send spores everywhere and start the cycle anew.
A rather gruesome and infamous example is a type of hairworm that infects grasshoppers and takes over their nervous system to compel them to commit suicide by jumping into pools of water, after which the hairworm rather explosively and horrifically spews forth from the host like something straight out of a horror movie to continue its life cycle in the water. There are actually quite a lot more behavior altering parasites like this in nature, overriding the host’s normal brain activity in order to make it do what it wants, and although there are none that are known to affect human beings it is not a stretch to think that one may mutate do so, either naturally or through genetic engineering.
Another classic example of this is the lancet liver fluke, Dicrocoelium dendriticum, which is typically found in the livers of grazing mammals such as sheep or cattle. The first intermediate host is land roving mollusks, such as slugs or snails, the slime trails of which leave behind the parasite, which are then ingested by ants. The next step is for the parasite is to make it into an animal such as a cow, but how to get there? In short, zombification. The parasitic larvae make their way to the ant’s brain, where they encyst and create a strong urge for the ant to climb to the highest blade of grass it can find at night. Upon reaching the top, the cysts cause an involuntary spasm of the mandibles of these “zombie ants” through the release of tetanus, which causes the ant to bite down hard on the grass and prevents it from going anywhere. In the morning, a grazing mammal comes along, eats the grass with the immobile ant on it, and the lifecycle is completed.
Other examples of such host manipulation can be found with thorny-headed worms, which alter the neurotransmitters of their hosts’ brains to achieve the desired result of moving on to birds from its initial host, a type of crustacean known as a gammarid. These gammarids typically live in ponds, and their natural reaction to surface movement or disturbances is to seek darkness and to dive into hiding beneath mud on the bottom. However, when infected with thorny-headed worms, they instead swim up towards light when there is a disturbance at the surface, where they are eaten by birds and therefore complete the parasite’s life-cycle. The worms achieve this by producing a strong immune system response that releases large amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which then disrupts signals from the eyes to the brain and likely tricks the gammarids into confusing up for down and light for dark.
There are several types of parasitoid wasps that also manipulate their hosts in shockingly sophisticated ways. Parasitoid wasps typically lay their eggs in a host, after which the larvae will eventually hatch and feed upon it. One type of wasp native to the rainforests of Costa Rica targets the species of spider Anelosimus octavius as its host. This type of spider generally weaves knotted, gnarled webs of haphazard threads, but infected individuals will go off and spin webs that are completely different in design. Infected spiders essentially have their brains hijacked into weaving webs that have a platform covered by sheets of webbing that protect it from the rain and elements, as well as an odd opening at the end of the platform. When these bizarre webs are finished, the wasp larvae emerges from the spider, killing it, makes its way to the end of the well protected platform, and hangs from a cocoon through the opening that the spider has graciously provided. It is extraordinarily creepy that this parasite can not only alter its host’s behavior, but also essentially have it act as its own personal architect.
The parasitoid wasp, Glyptapanteles, also demonstrates a particularly dastardly form of mind control on its host, actually turning it into a guardian for its larvae. The wasp first lays its eggs within its host, a caterpillar of the moth species Thyrinteina leucocerae, after which they will develop until they are ready to pupate. This is where the weirdness begins. The larvae exit the host peacefully and create cocoons nearby, while the still living caterpillar starts to exhibit highly unusual behavior. The caterpillar stops feeding and ceases all movement, only springing to action when an intruder draws near, when it will suddenly vigorously thrash its head back and forth. This is done at the slightest provocation or disturbance, and serves to discourage any potential predators from feeding on the pupating wasp larvae, essentially serving as their own personal bodyguard until they emerge from their cocoons, after which the caterpillar dies.
One parasite that is known to infect humans and which can also alter behavior in animals is Toxoplasma gondii, which is usually found in rodents such as rats and small birds. Animals infected with the parasite will lose all fear of their natural enemies, and rather than flee from predators such as cats will feel compelled to run towards them. This of course leads to the rat or bird being eaten and the parasite carrying out the rest of its life cycle through the cat and its feces. It is unclear just what effects humans have when infected with Toxoplasma gondii, and there has been debate that it causes everything from no effect at all to major behavioral aberrations and schizophrenia, but it is at this point unknown. Still, it seems possible that an engineered form of such a parasite could lead to something very much like a zombie.
None of these cases we have looked at here involves the process of actually reanimating dead bodies to run amok, but they certainly illustrate the potential for a very real zombie apocalypse that would probably be just as bad. This will probably never happen, at least let’s hope not, but it is interesting to look at the very real scenarios for something out of the movies occurring fore real, and to look at the chilling possibilities that point to the chance of this happening, no matter how slim it may be. We tend to think of zombies as purely fictional constructs, but it seems that there is a very real basis for being at least unsettled by the off-chance that this may happen for real.
UNMASKING JERSEY DEVIL
The legend of the Jersey Devil comes to us from the State of New Jersey, USA and neighboring states. The Jersey Devil’s history places it at the very top of baffling crypto- zoological mysteries. It is a very elusive cryptid that has baffled and mesmerized the public for hundreds of years. The biggest conundrum to dismissing the beast as pure myth is that numerous reputable people, both past and present, have claimed to have seen it.
The Jersey Devil has a strange general description, having the combination of body parts and looks of a variety of currently known animals. The creature is often described as a flying bipedal cryptid with hooves, but there are many contrary opinions as to what it actually looked like. The common description from eyewitnesses is that it kind of looks like a kangaroo-like creature, but with the head of a horse, leathery bat-like wings, and long bird-like legs, claws, hooves, a hideous face, and a forked tail. Several people have even said its body looks like an alligator. It allegedly inhabited the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey and was named the official state demon in 1939 in New Jersey.
It has been reported to move quickly, and has often been described as emitting a “blood-curdling scream.” Eyewitnesses say that it hops like a bird. It has been called a variety of different nicknames such as the flying death, kangaroo horse, flying horse, cowbird, and a prehistoric lizard.
Walter Edge, twice governor of New Jersey, was quoted saying: “When I was a boy–I was never threatened with the bogey man–we were threatened with the Jersey Devil, morning, noon, and night.” It wasn’t a phony creature to Edge or his companions – they had no doubts that it was real. However today the majority of people are skeptical and don’t think it’s real.
There is one name indelibly linked to the legend of the Jersey Devil, Japheth Leeds, and his story also involves a young lady named Deborah Smith who had come from England to the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey to marry him in the 17th Century. They had 12 children. There is no record for any further children after her 12th child. You’ll understand why that is important soon…
The Leed’s were Quakers, who were known to be extremely straight-laced and very superstitious. However, there is a rather unusual footnote about them: On 5/7/1740, the Great Egg Harbor monthly meeting of Friends lists the topic of conversation as: ‘To deal with Deborah Leeds for selling drink. ‘
There was an old folk legend that she was a witch, however, healers or herbalists were often labeled that as well at that time. There is also a strange tale of an exorcism being performed in the year 1740 by a Quaker minister to expel the Jersey Devil, supposedly banishing the beast from their midst for the next 100 years.
Quakers had a ritualistic habit of quoting the bible verse by verse, and they often bought charms to ward off evil spirits. Being highly superstitious, Quakers had a remedy to ward off the Devil, which used a folklore method of throwing salt and pepper around the house. In the beginning, it was known as the Leeds Devil, but the Jersey Devil name became more popular.
Quaker women had a penchant for spinning tall tales when they met. Story telling was a favorite pastime; it was gossipy entertainment, telling thrilling horror stories to titillate their friends. They didn’t have horror movies, but they did have gossipy scary stories to tell over a candle at night to scare children and women folk. This was their style of entertainment: juicy gossip.
One such story claims that during 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night while her friends gathered around her. Born as a normal child, the thirteenth child is said to have changed to a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming, it allegedly killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and heading into the pines.
From January 16 to 23, 1909, the State of New Jersey experienced a major paranormal event, it was seen in person by thousands of people, schools were closed, and factories closed down temporarily out of fear.
Bizarre reports say that people saw a human form, but the eyewitnesses refused to say anything more about what they had encountered. This suggests that the Jersey Devil possesses unusual abilities of shape-shifting to disguise its true form. The following are three unusual cases that took place in the lives of regular people. They’re dramatic narrative stories of real people who said they saw the Jersey Devil in the flesh.
#1: Police Patrolman James Sackville: In Bristol, Pennsylvania one sighting was made by Patrolman James Sackville. Patrolman Sackville was walking his beat Sunday evening. As he was walking toward Buckley/Carson Streets, he heard some dogs barking and howling. As he got closer, he turned and saw a Jersey Devil standing by the canal. He pulled his pistol out and ran up toward the Jersey Devil; the creature then turned and started hopping down the canal towpath, then it took flight to get away.
He got a couple of rounds off as the creature flew close to the ground, then it soared up into the night sky and disappeared. He described the beast as being winged and hopping like a bird, with features of a “peculiar animal.” Its voice was like a terrible scream. Sackville confirmed that it was very peculiar looking.
#2: Mr. Frank Rouh: The next incident took place on Ferry Ave, Camden, New Jersey, January 21, 1909 (Thursday) Time: 1:00 AM in the morning. Rouh was the owner of a saloon. His bar was a local social club called the Black Hawk Social Club, located in the 700 block of Ferry Ave. in Camden. Mr. Rouh suddenly became very bothered and distracted by what he described as an “uncanny sound” coming from outside the back window of the club; he turned around to see a creature looking at him through the window. The story relates that the Jersey Devil was standing outside the building and watching him.
Rouh feared for his life. When others around him saw the Jersey Devil, they fled the club “in abject fear.” Rouh stood his ground and in a desperate stance of self-defense, seized a large club to protect himself, then the Jersey Devil flew off emitting “blood curdling sounds.”
#3: Mr. and Mrs. J. H. White, Ellsworth St. Philadelphia, PA.: One of the most unusual accounts of the Jersey Devil comes from a couple named White. Mrs. White reported that she saw one in her backyard around 4 P.M.; she was walking down the stairs into her yard with a load of clothes, and clearly saw a Jersey Devil crouching nearby.
It immediately stood up, looked at her, and then spewed flames at her. She screamed, fainted, and fell to the ground. Her husband heard her and ran down the stairs, where he saw his wife on the ground. He saw the Jersey Devil shooting flames out of its mouth too. They estimated its height at six feet (1.83 meters) and said that it looked like an alligator. He chased after the Jersey Devil as it jumped over the back fence of their yard, and then it ran into the back alley leading to Sixteenth St., shooting flames at him while he was in pursuit.
The Legend of the Jersey Devil in America is supposed to be a local story. In trying to figure out what the Jersey Devil was, I opted to look into history for some better answers, and I soon found a potential candidate.
In the modern period, the European dragon is typically depicted as a large, fire-breathing, scaly, horned, lizard-like creature; the creature also has leathery, bat-like wings, two or four legs, and a long, muscular prehensile tail. The Jersey Devil is fire-breathing too! This was a likeness too similar to ignore. The “Jersey Devil” is just a dragon’s American name.
For generations, scientists believed that dinosaurs were cold blooded, like fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Then some scientists began to argue that dinosaurs were warm- blooded, like birds and mammals. As it turned out, they were warm-blooded after all. I connected the dots to reach the conclusion that the Jersey Devil was a dragon and a dino-bird.
Das Buch der Natur (Book of nature) is a Medieval Latin compendium of science that was edited and translated into German in the 14th century by Konrad von Megenberg. Please look at the creature in the upper right of the following image; to me it looks like a bipedal winged horse with a long tail. This was published 669 years ago.
The mythology of horse-faced creatures is widespread, and one of the most prevalent is the legend of the Kelpie. Kelpie (Kelpy), or water Kelpie, is a supernatural water horse in Scotland. I believe that they are one and the same creature, making Kelpie the Jersey Devil’s cousin in the UK.
Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Language and Literature, wrote a ground breaking book titled: The history of Zhang Zhung and Tibet Volume One The Early Period (2013), which provides some startling information of the existence of such creatures, specifically stating that they were Non-Human Beings. A quote from that work states: ‘A fundamental point asserted by some traditional historical sources is that in ancient times that this vast country surrounded by snow Mountains was ruled for a very long time by various nonhuman beings.’ The ancient Tibetan name was Bdud, and in Sanskrit it was called Mara.
My theory is that the Jersey Devil is an ancient creature called the Kinnaras and they’re one of the winged flying dino-birds of Earth’s real history. In the Mahabharata, which dates back over 5,500 years, the Kinnaras had their own kingdom in the Himalayas, called the Kinnara Kingdom.
GREAT GRANDPARENTS HOME
My great grandparents spent their entire lives in Johnstown, Pa, a city once vibrant and thriving thanks to the steel mills of of Andrew Carnegie and the like, but has been in slow gradual decline as many cities are now a days. On May 31, 1889 there was a massive flood when the South Fork dam broke killing around 2,200 people.
My great grandfather was a hardworking man, he dropped out of school when he was just 12 to help support his family. He got a job at a local glass factory and worked there for the rest of his life, except the three years he spent in the South Pacific during WW2. When he came home, him and my great grandmother bought a tiny 3 bedroom house in 1945 and moved in. I didn’t come into the picture until 1983, 11 months after my brother Eddie. The first great grandchildren, and not nearly the last. My first memory is of that house, I was in the bathroom and staring at the yellow wallpaper with whimsical cherubs taking baths. Every time I visited my great grandparent’s, I always felt there was something watching me and my brother as we played especially in the garage.
The garage was below the main house. In fact you had to walk up a long thin staircase which at the time had no railing, from the garage to enter the house. Since there was not a lot of space to play upstairs, Eddie and me would play in the basement. We would stare in wonder at my great grandfathers immaculate 1941 Dodge Town Sedan as if it were an ancient relic and play with a box of toys from both my grandfathers and my fathers childhood, which would now all be worth a fortune if they still existed.
From the time I was 4 to the age of 7, we went every Sunday with my grandparents to visit my great grandparents so my folks could take a break from having two rambunctious children running around. Well, we would play with the battling tops, and a jack in the box laughing and enjoying ourselves. We would stop every once and a while to look around as we had felt a breeze as if someone had come into the room. When we saw nothing we would usually just continue to play our games. We would put toys aside and they would move, we would not be able find them. My brother and I would argue about if one of us was tricking the other, but would agree there was no way this could have been done, as we were in each other eyesight the entire time. We would later find the toy hidden somewhere in the garage we had not been anywhere near.
To this day, me and my brother are not sure how this came about, as we were so very young, but we decided that we had an imaginary friend that played with us at Great granpaps house. His name was Donald and he was bigger than us, but very nice. We never played with him anywhere else but in that garage, and boy did we play! Hide and go seek, the aforementioned battling tops, we put on puppet shows, performing fairy tales and fables our mother and grandmothers told us, setting up massive block buildings only to know them down. My brother, me and Donald always had a great time. The only time he seemed to get upset was when we were on the stairs. He wanted us to be careful and we could feel him tense up when we went up and down the steps.
It slowly occurred to our family that my brother and I were not the only ones in the basement. They would hear us speak about Donald and they assumed he was just imaginary and put no thought into it, but when my brother and I would come upstairs and recite stories stories that there was no way we could have known (The babes in the woods, by the Grimm Brother stands out specifically) and using slang we would have never heard (fiddlesticks, dilly, duck soup, etc. ) and my family started to get a little more curious. Saying to each other that is was like when my dad and his brother Marty played in the garage. Didn’t they have an imaginary friend? And didn’t my Grandfather and my Aunt Debbie talk to someone? My Grandfather said he did not remember. I don’t know if they ever asked my Dad. But the adults didn’t seem to concerned as long as we were all playing nicely.
The day of the accident came like any other Sunday before, I was six. Eddie and I had been visiting upstairs and eating lunch. We were excused and went downstairs to play, I was excited because I had gotten a new coloring book and I wanted to show Donald a picture of a horse I had colored for him. I am person who now has the grace of an uncoordinated house cat, so its fair to say my skills to walk down a flight of stairs and flip through a coloring book at the age of six left something to be desired. After going taking about five steps, I missed the next step and fell off the unrailed stairs onto the concrete garage floor, appox. 10 feet below. I am going to quote my brother Eddie for this portion of the story. “I have played that moment back a thousand times in my mind, and every time, I grabbed you before you fell, I caught your leg as you were falling, but I didn’t. I saw you dropped like a stone and crumple into a heap on the floor below before I could even yell for help.”
Eddie did not grab me, but something did. I felt it. I felt a hand grab my ankle and tell me to put my arms in front of my face. The next thing I remember is waking up with my grandmother sobbing and my grandfather telling her not to move me. I broke my left arm and had a mild concussion but no other injuries, the doctor said it was a miracle. I should have broken my neck or cracked my skull. I know Donald had saved my life and for that I have always been grateful. I thanked him the next time we went to that home. I think he said your welcome.
My great grandparents finally put a rail on the stairs shortly after the fall. Eddie and I still played in the basement, and Donald was still there. As we got older we didn’t play downstairs as much. When I was 7 my Mom, Dad brother and I eventually moved out of state to California. We didn’t visit my great grandparents again until I was 12. I have never seen Donald again.
But he is still there, every one of my cousins who visited that home and played in that basement had an imaginary friend named Donald. My great grandmother shrugged and said she supposed Donald had come with the house. When my Great grandparents passed away and we sold the house about 10 years ago. The people who bought the house had grand children. I hope Donald is happy to have more children to play with.
A few years ago on a whim, I decided to look a little deeper into the home I have so many happy memories in. The home was built in 1893 and it always had a treacherous staircase. In the early 1903, a male child died after falling off the stairs. The last name of the family was Weber, but try as I might, I could not confirm the first name. But I know in my heart It has to be Donald.
If you enjoy classical music, you may have heard about the curse of the ninth symphony. It’s an old belief that makes some think a composer will die after completing his ninth symphony. But how and why did this belief spread?
It turns out that the curse of the ninth symphony can be traced to Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer and pianist. When Beethoven died in 1827, he had completed nine symphonies. He started working on his tenth musical work but was unable to finish it because he died.
It’s not unusual that an artist or musician dies before he or she can finish his or her masterpiece, but Beethoven was not the only composer who left this world after completing the ninth symphony.
Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896), an Austrian composer died before he finished his ninth symphony.
From the New World, a popular symphony, was the ninth and last musical work, written by Antonín Dvořák, (1841 – 1904), a Czech composer.
Gustav Mahler (1860 1911), a late-Romantic Austrian composer started to panic when he noticed that so many had died after writing their ninth symphony. He became convinced the ninth symphony must be cursed. Desperately trying to avoid the curse, he cheated. Mahler wrote a musical piece called Das Lied von der Erde, but though it was a symphony he refused to call it so.
In the book, Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies, author Constantin Floros writes that Mahler “did not dare to call it a symphony because he had an outright, superstitious “fear of the idea of the Ninth Symphony”. He firmly held to the superstition “that no great symphonic writer was to live beyond his Ninth.”
Mahler believed that he had fooled the curse and started working on symphony no. 9, though it was really his tenth work. However, higher powers had other plans for him. Mahler died while working on his tenth symphony.
Those who believe in the curse of the ninth symphony say that other composers such as for example Kurt Atterberg, Elie Siegmeister, Alfred Schnittke, Roger Sessions, Egon Wellesz, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Peter Mennin, Malcolm Arnold and David Maslanka, all died before they could begin working on their tenth symphony.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874 -1951), an Austrian-American composer once expressed his concern by saying that “it seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.”
Is the curse of the ninth symphony just a coincidence? Some say, yes, and those who are more superstitious think something sinister is at work here. Many ancient cultures regarded number 9 (or ‘Nine’) as a symbol of perfection, unity, and freedom, but there is no evidence our ancestors associated number nine with curses.
Still, in modern times it’s no wonder that whenever a composer is writing his 10th symphony, he is a little worried. Many say the curse is foolish but they are nevertheless little frightened.
On May 27, 1936, the RMS Queen Mary set sail from Southampton, England, completing her maiden voyage in New York just a few days later. For the next three years, the ship was the height of luxury, transporting such notable passengers as Clark Cable, Bob Hope, Elizabeth Taylor, and Winston Churchill. Its elaborate facilities included two indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries, tennis courts, and more. However, the luxurious amenities didn’t last.
In 1939, the Queen Mary was stripped down and began service as a World War II troop transport ship. For the next eight years, the ship hauled tens of thousands of servicemen across the sea, earning the nickname the Grey Ghost due to its color and speed. After the war ended, the Queen Mary was refitted for passenger travel and again served as a luxury liner until retiring from service in 1967.
Now permanently moored in Long Beach, California, the Queen Mary serves as a popular tourist attraction, complete with restaurants, a museum, and a hotel. Legend has it the historic ship is also haunted by the men, women, and children who died aboard.
A little girl named Jackie reportedly haunts the second-class swimming pool. Legend has it she drowned there, though there are no historical records of such an event. Nevertheless, staff and visitors report seeing a child’s ghostly figure near the pool. An elderly woman in black and white also haunts the area.
On October 2, 1942, the Queen Mary accidentally rammed and sank her escort ship, the HMS Curacoa, as she carried over 10,000 troops to Europe. More than 200 men died in the collision, and now Queen Mary staff and visitors reportedly hear strange sounds coming from the ship’s bow.
In 1988, a former marine engineer told Unsolved Mysteries he once heard the sound of water pouring into the Queen Mary. Thinking there had been a rupture of some kind, the man rushed to investigate but found nothing unusual. The engineer later learned he’d been in the part of the ship that had collided with the Curacoa. Unsolved Mysteries also left a voice-activated recorder in the same area and reportedly captured the sounds of rushing water, tearing metal, and crying men.
A man named John Peddler reportedly haunts the lower area of the ship. It seems John was crushed by Door 13 during a routine drill and now lingers near the site of his death. The legend got its start after witnesses claimed to see a bearded man in blue overalls disappear in front of the ill-fated door.
According to a plaque on the ship, at least 16 crew members died on the Queen Mary, succumbing to everything from tetrachloride poisoning to a fall from the gangway. Some reports place the total number of deaths, including passengers and servicemen, at 49. Is it possible the men, women, and children who died aboard still roam the ship today? Or are the stories nothing more than fanciful legends?