“IN COLD BLOOD: THE CLUTTER MURDERS” and More True Terrifying Horror Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: (Dark Archives episode with stories from January 15-16, 2019) *** A high school biohacker in France claims he created a DNA sequence out of passages from the Bible and the Koran – and then he injected it into his veins. (God’s DNA) *** A family discovers it might not be a good idea to purchase a home once owned by a child molester. (Childhood Tormentors) *** One town legend from 1577 says a giant hellhound killed two people who were kneeling in prayer after knocking down the church doors amid a flash of lightning. We’ll learn about the Black Shuck. (The Black Shuck) *** In a remote part of northern Tanzania in Africa there is a mysterious lake. The water is so caustic that it can burn the skin and eyes of unprepared creatures. And it can turn flesh into stone. (Medusa Lake) *** But first, we’ll look at the story behind Truman Capote’s best selling novel, “In Cold Blood” – and how it not only terrorized the townspeople in 1959 – but it haunted Capote himself for the rest of his life. (In Cold Blood: The Clutter Murders) *** In the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, the giant threatens to eat Jack by killing him and grinding his bones into bread. But it’s not just fairytales that have human bone bread – it’s a reality in the kitchens of some people. (I’ll Grind His Bones To Make My Bread) *** On December 26, 1900, something strange and unexplained happened on the largest of the Flannan Islands, Eilean Mor, Scotland. Three lighthouse keepers disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. Their mysterious disappearance still baffles historians and scientists. (Disappearance At The Eilean Mor Lighthouse) *** According to legend, one small town in Iowa suffered a very strange fate. No one knows when the town of Urkhammer was established – and nobody knows where it has gone. (Where’s Urkhammer?) *** When a poltergeist finds its voice and starts to talk, you know the haunting you are living through has taken a turn for the worse. (When The Poltergeist Finds Its Voice)
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Note: Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“In Cold Blood: The Clutter Murders” by Troy Taylor: https://tinyurl.com/vdcbu6n
“God’s DNA” by Paul Seaburn: https://tinyurl.com/y8pg7mxj
“Childhood Tormentors” by Illuminati322: https://tinyurl.com/rt4pxy8
“Black Shuck” by William DeLong: https://tinyurl.com/ya399c5h
“Medusa Lake” by Caleb Strom: https://tinyurl.com/ur75h7y
“I’ll Grind His Bones To Make My Bread” by DHWTY for Ancient Origins: http://ow.ly/98wM30nljti
“Disappearance At The Eilean Mor Lighthouse” by A. Sutherland for Ancient Pages: http://ow.ly/1gqR30nljsF
“Where is Urkhammer” by Garth Haslam for AnomalyInfo.com: http://ow.ly/328V30nljyr
“When The Poltergeist Finds Its Voice” by Tim. R. Swartz for Spectral Vision: http://ow.ly/MJKi30nljDZ
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IN COLD BLOOD: THE CLUTTER MURDERS
Truman Capote published his book “In Cold Blood” in 1966 and it detailed the 1959 murders of Herbert Clutter, a successful farmer from Holcomb, Kansas, his wife, and two of their four children. When Capote learned of the quadruple murder, before the killers were captured, he decided to travel to Kansas and write about the crime. He was accompanied by his childhood friend and fellow author Harper Lee, and together they interviewed local residents and investigators assigned to the case and took thousands of pages of notes. The killers, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith, were arrested some six weeks after the murders, and Capote ultimately spent six years working on the book. The book – one of the first non-fiction novels ever written — became the greatest crime seller at the time and is almost universally acknowledged as one of the best books of its type ever written.
Herbert Clutter was a devout Methodist and a widely respected self-made man, who had established a successful and very prosperous farm from modest beginnings. Morally strict and conservative, he employed as many as 18 farm hands, and former employees reportedly admired and respected him for his fair treatment and good wages. His four children—three girls and a boy—were also widely respected in the community. The elder daughters, Eveanna and Beverly, had moved out of their parents’ home and started their adult lives. The two younger children, Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, were high school students living at home. Clutter’s wife, Bonnie, a member of the local garden club, was said to have suffered from a variety of physical ailments and depression, but some have disputed these facts. Regardless, they seemed to be a relatively happy family and completely unaware that death was coming for them.
The murders of the Clutters were committed by two ex-convicts on parole from the Kansas State Penitentiary, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, on November 15, 1959. One of their former fellow prisoners was Floyd Wells, who had worked as a farmhand for Mr. Clutter. Wells told Hickock about a safe at the farmhouse where Herb Clutter kept large amounts of cash. Hickock soon hatched the idea to commit the robbery, leave no witnesses, and start a new life in Mexico with the cash. According to Capote, Hickock described his plan as “a cinch, the perfect score.” Hickock later contacted Smith, his former cellmate, about committing the robbery with him. The information from Wells proved to be false, since Herb Clutter did not keep cash on hand, had no safe, and did all his business by check, to keep better track of transactions.
After driving across the state of Kansas on November 14, 1959, Hickock and Smith located the Clutter home and entered while the family slept. After they roused the family and discovered that there was no money to be found, Smith, notoriously unstable and prone to violent acts in fits of rage, slit Herb Clutter’s throat, and then shot him in the head. Kenyon, then Nancy, and then Bonnie were murdered, each by a single shotgun blast to the head.
Smith claimed in his oral confession that Hickock murdered the two women. When asked to sign his confession, however, Smith refused. According to Capote, he wanted to accept responsibility for all four killings because, he said, he was “sorry for Dick’s mother.” Smith added, “She’s a real sweet person.” Hickock always maintained that Smith committed all four killings.
On the basis of a tip from Wells, who contacted the prison warden after hearing of the murders, Hickock and Smith were identified as suspects and arrested in Las Vegas on December 30, 1959. They pleaded temporary insanity at the trial, but local doctors evaluated the accused and pronounced them sane. After five years on death row, Smith and Hickock were executed by hanging just after midnight on April 14, 1965, in Lansing, Kansas, at the Kansas State Penitentiary.
On November 16, 1959, The New York Times published an account of the murders, which began:
“Holcomb, Kan., Nov. 15 (UPI) — A wealthy wheat farmer, his wife and their two young children were found shot to death today in their home. They had been killed by shotgun blasts at close range after being bound and gagged … There were no signs of a struggle, and nothing had been stolen. The telephone lines had been cut.”
The short, 300-word article interested Capote enough for him to travel to Kansas to investigate the murders. Capote brought his childhood friend Harper Lee (who would later win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird) to help gain the confidence of the locals. Capote did copious research for the book, ultimately compiling 8,000 pages of notes. After the criminals were found, tried, and convicted, Capote conducted personal interviews with both Smith and Hickock. Smith especially fascinated Capote; in the book he is portrayed as the more sensitive and guilt-ridden of the two killers. The book was not completed until after Smith and Hickock were executed. Many believed that Capote held onto his manuscript until after the killers had been hanged so that they couldn’t dispute anything he had written. Even so, both critics and witnesses alike all stated that much of the book was fabrication. Capote’s defense was that it was a “novel” based on true facts.
In the years after the book’s publication, Capote was more sought after than ever. He wrote occasional brief articles for magazines, but mostly worked to entrench himself more deeply in the world of the jet set. Gore Vidal once observed, “Truman Capote has tried, with some success, to get into a world that I have tried, with some success, to get out of.”
Capote never finished another novel after In Cold Blood. The dearth of new writing and other failures, including a rejected screenplay for Paramount’s 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, was counteracted by Capote’s frequenting of the talk show circuit. In 1972, Capote accompanied the Rolling Stones on their 1972 American Tour as a correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine. He ultimately refused to write the article, so the magazine recouped its interests by publishing, in April 1973, an interview of the author conducted by Andy Warhol.
In the late 1970s, Capote was in and out of rehab clinics, and news of his various breakdowns frequently reached the public. In 1978, talk show host Stanley Siegal did an on-air interview with Capote, who, in an extraordinarily intoxicated state, confessed that he might kill himself. With help from Andy Warhol, Capote underwent a facelift, lost weight and experimented with hair transplants, but despite this, he was unable to overcome his reliance upon drugs and liquor.
After the revocation of his driver’s license and a hallucinatory seizure in 1980 that required hospitalization, Capote became fairly reclusive. These hallucinations continued unabated and medical scans eventually revealed that his brain mass had perceptibly shrunk. On the rare occasions when he was lucid, he was still able to write. In 1982, a new short story, “One Christmas,” appeared in the December issue of Ladies’ Home Journal and the following year it became, like its predecessors “A Christmas Memory” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor,” a holiday gift book. In 1983, “Remembering Tennessee,” an essay in tribute to Tennessee Williams, who had died in February of that year, appeared in Playboy magazine.
Capote died in Los Angeles on August 25, 1984, aged 59 from liver cancer. According to the coroner’s report the cause of death was “liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication.” He died at the home of his old friend Joanne Carson, ex-wife of late-night TV host Johnny Carson, on whose program Capote had been a frequent guest. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, leaving behind his longtime companion, author Jack Dunphy.
After his death, fellow writer Gore Vidal described Capote’s demise as “a good career move.”
There are some stories that just scream “Wait, what?” This is one of them. A high school biohacker in France claims he created a DNA sequence out of passages from the Bible and the Koran, converted them into previously unknown proteins and injected himself with them. Did he break any commandments?
***“Since it is possible to convert digital information into DNA, I wondered whether it would be possible to convert a religious text into DNA and to inject it in a living being. It is the first time that someone injects himself [with] macromolecules developed from a text. It is very symbolic even if it does not have much interest.”***
Not much interest? Adrien Locatelli of Grenoble, France, has the Internet’s attention with his self-published paper on what has to be the most creative, if not dangerous, experiment of the year. DNA code is represented by a linear, non-overlapping sequence of the nitrogenous bases Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine (C) and Thymine (T). The four letters are used to create three-letter words strung together to represent a single amino acid in a polypeptide chain. Locatelli claims he created a new DNA sequence using letters he got from the Bible and the Koran.
How? He started at the beginning – Genesis. Locatelli claims he replaced every character in the Hebrew Book of Genesis with a word using the characters AGCT (there are 64 possible combinations). He says he left out Genesis 2:10-14, 5, and 7:1-5 because they were “controversial.” (Genesis 2:10-14 mentions the unknown rivers Pishon and Gihon; Genesis 5 is the family tree from Adam to Noah; and Genesis 7:1-5 is the story of Noah building an ark.) Locatelli then did the same thing with the Arabic letters from the 13th chapter from the Koran, the Surah Ar-Ra’d.
With this new DNA sequence, Locatelli says he used a home gene engineering kit to edit the DNA provided into the new proteins (it’s not clear if he created two or one), then inject the proteins into his legs. And the results? Did he see God? Adam? Noah?
***“The subcutaneous injection of the vector VB180513-1026kbp in my left thigh only caused at the injection site a minor inflammation which persisted a few day and the subcutaneous injection of the peptide RS27 12-16 in my right thigh provoked nothing.”***
Despite that, even with the religious overtones, experts and Internet commenters give Locatelli’s strange experiment a big “Kids – for God’s sake — DON’T try this at home.” Did he take a huge risk? Definitely. Did he break any commandments by taking God’s name in vein? Probably not. (Hopefully that pun doesn’t either.) Did he break any laws of nature? Well, he’s still here.
Will he win the award for the Dumbest Thing Anybody Did in 2018? He’s definitely in the running.
In 1986 my parents purchased and moved into a house. It was an older home and had been inhabited before. I have heard that during the 1970’s it was owned by the boys basketball coach from the local high school; supposedly he was a child molester and was fired for making advances towards his team members. This is unsubstantiated though.
I was born in 1988 and lived there until we moved to another house across town, in early 2004 (I was 15 1/2 at the time). During my childhood I experienced a variety of troubling phenomena and was very, well, troubled as a result. I constantly felt as if I was being watched, followed, and having my thoughts read; I also felt that something was listening to me while I spoke. As a result I was always afraid and could never be left alone; I was always running up and down stairs, looking behind me and looking over my shoulder.
There was also visual and auditory phenomena. Often out of the corner of my eye I saw shadow figures darting through rooms and then disappearing. One night in the summer of 1998 I heard guttural laughter emanating from the far corner of my room; it seemed to echo and multiply itself before eventually fading and ending. In early 2003 I heard a few (2-3) tortured sounding voices calling my name, again in my bedroom.
The phenomenon was the most intense in the upstairs (my bedroom) and in the backroom of the basement. It seemed to decline and eventually end as I entered puberty.
At the time both my parents were staunch evangelical Christians who believed firmly in the existence of spirits. Oddly enough, however, my father did not take me seriously and dismissed it as a form of separation anxiety. As a result he took no action on my behalf. In hindsight I should have been taken to a therapist (to determine if this was simply a product of my mind and if so, why was my mind producing it). If it was not they should have consulted a religious official to have the house examined and, if need be, cleansed.
Alas, he did neither. In fact it didn’t even occur to him to do either and I lived in torment as a result. (His lame band-aid solution was to stay up with me until I fell asleep).
I was discussing this with my mother recently and what she said surprised me. She conceded to me that she too had experienced exactly the same phenomena. However, she began to feel it when they first moved in (1986) and for her it lasted until we moved (early 2004), basically the entire time she lived in the house. She even discussed it with my father.
For his part he maintains he never experienced anything out of the ordinary there, except for a vague sensation of darkness once in the back of the basement.
This has left me with nothing but questions:
Was there a connection between the activities of the previous inhabitant and what I experienced?
Why, despite my parents’ religious faith, were the entities capable of entering our home and afflicting us?
Why did my mother and I experience it but not my father?
Why was my father so passive and complacent in dealing with it?
“He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound.”
People in Bungay, England know all too well what the Black Shuck can do. One town legend from 1577 says this giant hellhound killed two people who were kneeling in prayer after knocking down the church doors amid a flash of lightning.
The ghostly apparition then traveled 12 miles away to Blythburgh Church, the stories say, where it killed two more people.
Clearly, Cujo and the rest of the world’s most fearsome canines have nothing on the mythical Black Shuck.
The first known written text describing a Black Shuck (from the Old English “scucca,” or “devil”) in England goes back to 1127 in the town of Peterborough. Immediately after the arrival of Abbot Henry of Poitou to the Abbey of Peterborough, there was quite a ruckus:
“…it was the Sunday when they sing Exurge Quare o, D – many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats and their hounds were jet black with eyes like saucers and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns.”
Witnesses said that around 20 to 30 of these hellish beings stayed in the area through Lent all the way to Easter, a period of about 50 days.
The events of 1127 are known as the Wild Hunt. It’s not just an English phenomenon. Stories from across central, western and northern Europe recount loud wild hunts throughout untamed lands — and they help explain the mythological underpinnings of the Black Shuck.
Northern cultures associated wild hunts with the change of the seasons from fall into winter, probably because strong, cold winds came blowing over the landscape and forced people indoors. Anyone who didn’t make it inside during the winter could freeze to death.
Interpreting howling winds as a pack of hunters would thus make sense. People were mythologizing their surroundings as a way to warn people to stay indoors. Winds aren’t nearly as scary as a pack of rabid dogs on the hunt, but the outcome could be same. If someone didn’t flee from the Black Shuck, they could be killed.
Particularly in England, when winds would come howling in from the sea, there were stories of black hellhounds in more than a dozen areas. These include Suffolk, Norfolk, East Anglia (Cambridge), Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire, and Leicestershire.
Anyone who saw a Black Shuck described a large dog with black, mangy fur. These dogs would supposedly be larger-than-normal with some even as big as a horse. They were foaming at the mouth as if deranged, rabid, or ravenously focused on hunting for their next meal.
According to one description published in 1901 said:
“He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound… . But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year. So you will do well to shut your eyes if you hear him howling; shut them even if you are uncertain whether it is the dog fiend or the voice of the wind you hear… you may perhaps doubt his existence, and, like other learned folks, tell us that his story is nothing but the old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to us by the Vikings… .”
And in addition to the above, perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the Black Shuck was its eyes, red and big as saucers.
Furthermore, these hellhounds were always said to appear suddenly and without warning, then disappear as quickly as they’d arrived. And if you did catch a glimpse of one, it was believed to be either a protective spirit or a portent of death — a family guardian watching over everyone or a warning of certain doom.
No wonder people feared the Black Shuck.
Of course, the Black Shuck was scary because of more than just its appearance. Stories of the creature in action reveal the true depths of its terror.
In the most famous story of a Black Shuck appearance, Rev. Abraham Fleming of Bungay (modern-day Suffolk) wrote a terrifying account of a hellhound’s attack on the church in 1577 in his essay A Straunge and Terrible Wunder:
“This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely dyed.”
As for accounts of more recent Black Shuck sightings, one man in 1905 claimed that a black dog turned into a donkey and then vanished a few heartbeats later. One four-year-old girl during World War II encountered a large black dog that walked from her window, around her bed, made eye contact with those famous red eyes and then vanished before reaching the door. She didn’t sleep well that night.
A 10-year-old boy wrote in 1974 about an encounter he’d had when he was six. He said he saw a black animal with yellow eyes galloping towards him at night. After he screamed for his mother, she said it was merely a reflection of a car’s headlights from outside his window. The boy read a story about a haunted council house and a black dog spirit, and he then became convinced that his original account of a giant black dog was, in fact, the truth.
In actuality, sightings of hellhounds or other demonic figures and acts are often inspired by fearsome weather phenomena. For example, the sightings in Bungay are often attributed to massive thunderstorms that caused buildings to collapse. Lightning strikes might burn wooden structures or at least cause a few stones to fall from stone churches — which could be seen as the devil’s work.
During the Black Shuck sighting in Blythuburg in 1577, the steeple at Holy Trinity Church collapsed one night in a terrible storm. There were also scorch marks left on the north door (they’re still there today). Rather than take the storm simply as a storm, some saw the destruction — and resulting deaths of two people — as the work of the devil.
As for the devil’s work, some believe that the reported Black Shuck sighting surrounding the steeple collapse in Blythburg spread so much and stuck in people’s minds because of the Reformation that was sweeping through Europe at the time: The Catholic Church may have been trying to scare people into staying with their church.
Additionally, stories of scary black dogs could have also spread as a way to teach lessons. Parents may have used stories of the Black Shuck to keep kids out of certain rooms in the house or to stay away from strange dogs, for example.
News of a giant dog skeleton unearthed near an abbey in Leiston (south of Bungay in Suffolk) in 2013 gave the legend of the Black Shuck new life in the present day. Nevertheless, experts believe it was a Great Dane, one of the largest dog breeds in the world.
And in the end, perhaps that’s all a “Black Shuck” ever really was: just a massive dog. Irish wolfhounds, St. Bernard’s, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, and Great Pyrenees are just a few of the dogs that grow to enormous sizes — big enough to inspire exaggerated myths about hellhounds the size of horses, myths that survive for hundreds of years.
In a remote part of northern Tanzania in Africa there is a mysterious lake. The water is so caustic that it can burn the skin and eyes of unprepared creatures. Its shores are littered with the corpses of birds who perished by crashing into the lake. When the birds wash up onto the shore, their lifeless bodies appear to have been turned to stone. Welcome to Lake Natron.
Lake Natron is a salt lake, meaning that it has no outlet for the water to exit the lake other than evaporation. It also has extremely high alkalinity. The nature of the lake comes from a chemical called natron which is a mixture of sodium carbonate and baking soda. The substance enters the lake through material eroding from the surrounding hills. The natron content in the lake has given it a pH level of about 10.5 which is comparable to that of ammonia. The alkalinity of the lake is what gives the body of water its unusual properties. It can very easily chemically burn animals not adapted to the sodium carbonate-rich conditions. The waters can also reach temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite this hostile environment, the lake is not lifeless. It appears to contain a stable ecosystem consisting of a population of flamingos, at least one species of fish, and algae. These organisms may be evolutionary descendants of animals who lived on the lake before its current chemical environment arose. They may represent the only survivors who were able to successfully adapt as the lake acquired its uniquely hostile characteristics.
The shores of this lake are covered with thousands of intact petrified bird corpses that have washed ashore. The birds appear to have been preserved almost perfectly, feathers and all. They are so life-like that a photographer who explored the lake in 2011, Nick Brandt, started putting the birds in life-like poses and taking pictures of them.
It is not entirely clear how the birds die. One theory that has been suggested by Brandt is that as the birds fly over the mirror-like surface of the chemically saturated lake, they become confused and think they are flying over empty space. This could lead them to accidentally crash into the lake. This is similar to the reason that birds tend to fly into glass doors and car windows.
The birds also do not petrify instantly on contact with the water. This is made clear by the population of flamingos, let alone the fish, that live in contact with the lake without being petrified. The petrification does however appear to happen very quickly.
Lake Natron is remarkably interesting to scientists because organisms do thrive in this extremely hostile environment. There are, however, concerns about the lake’s preservation. Currently there is no legislation to protect the lake and its unique ecology. There are also proposals to build a hydroelectric powerplant on the main source river for the lake. This could impact the survival of the local flamingo population.
Lake Natron is an eerie place because it is a lake where animals appear to turn to stone. Is it possible that places like Lake Natron could be part of the basis for petrification legends around the world?
In many cultures, there are legends of people and animals being turned to stone, often from contact with an accursed thing or as a form of punishment. A famous Greek example is Medusa, a creature whose appearance was so hideous that all who looked upon her turned to stone. In a later medieval legend, it is said that Saint Hilda of Whitby was empowered by God to turn a horde of snakes threatening her to stone. They coiled up and their heads fell off. It is said that the miraculously petrified corpses of the snakes can still be found on the shores of Whitby. A nearby monastery was also built in honor of the legendary event.
What is interesting about this story is that the stones Whitby locals believed for centuries to be the corpses of the snakes are, in reality, ammonite fossils. Ammonites were shelled organisms that lived in Cretaceous oceans over 66 million years ago. The legend appears to have been at least partially inspired by ancient people discovering an ammonite fossil and not knowing how to identify it. If it was well preserved enough so that it still resembled an actual animal, belief that it had been a living creature unfortunate enough to be magically petrified would be a logical guess to someone with a pre-scientific worldview. This possibility is reinforced by the fact that other ammonite rich beaches, besides Whitby, such as those in Somerset, England, also have their own versions of the legend where snakes are turned to stone.
If legends of animals and people being turned to stone can be inspired by the discovery of fossils, it does not seem unlikely that similar legends could also arise from ancient travelers encountering alkaline bodies of water that produce petrified corpses. In discovering a graveyard that turns birds to and other animals to stone, we may have also stumbled upon the real lair of Medusa.
Poltergeist activity has been recorded throughout history and is probably the most prolific of all supernatural events. One of the earliest accounts was from around 500 C.E. when St. Germain, Bishop of Auxerre, was bothered by a spirit that battered the walls of a shelter the Bishop was spending the night in with showers of rocks. Another early case was the Bingen poltergeist, which comes from the Annales Fuldenses or Annals of Fulda. This incident happened near Bingen in present-day Bavaria around 856-858 C.E. A farmer was plagued by a stone-throwing ghost who shook the walls of his house “as though the men of the place were striking it with hammers,” set crops on fire and also shouted obscenities and accusations at the farmer suggesting that he had slept with the daughter of his foremen. The poltergeist would follow the man around and fearful neighbors would refuse to allow him near their homes.
The Bishop of Mainz sent priests with holy relics who attested to hearing the poltergeist denouncing the farmer for adultery. When the priests sang hymns and sprinkled holy water, the poltergeist threw stones and cursed at them.
The Bingen poltergeist had many typical features of a poltergeist that are still repeated in modern times. The fact that this poltergeist could talk is something that has been seen in other cases, but nevertheless, it really doesn’t happen that often.
Poltergeist phenomenon is often placed in the same niche as ghosts and hauntings. The implication is that a poltergeist is a ghost, i.e. a human that has died and returned in spirit form. There is no doubt that there are similarities between ghosts and poltergeist activity. However, a ghostly haunting often tends to have the visual element; for example, a glowing figure dressed in old fashioned clothes is seen walking down a hallway. A haunting also repeats in the same way on a regular basis, much like a recording that is played back over and over. In long-term ghostly hauntings, a ghost will usually ignore entreaties from the living and shows no sign of awareness of its surroundings.
Poltergeist activity, instead, operates in a completely different fashion. A poltergeist almost never makes an “appearance” and becomes visible, but as with ghostly hauntings, there are always exceptions. A poltergeist can do things such as move heavy furniture, instantaneously teleport objects, produce explosive sounds and disgusting odors, create rain inside a building, cause spontaneous fires and other things that seem to be outside of our current understanding of physics.
A poltergeist is extremely aware of its surroundings, and will often quickly respond to suggestions by observers and other external stimuli. This shows that there is some kind of “intelligence” behind its pranks and not just some random psychokinesis (PK). This intelligence, along with an ability to communicate, will manifest in a myriad of ways. Pieces of paper with strange messages appear; writing on the walls, children’s toys will be arranged to make words, and, perhaps the most shocking, they will sometimes start to speak out loud.
When a poltergeist achieves speech, it generally starts out as animal-like growls and whispers that slowly evolve into discernible words. Most poltergeists never reach this stage of their development, but once they do, a clear “personality” emerges from what were previously just random events.
One early case of a talking poltergeist happened in Mâcon, France in 1612 when a Calvinist pastor named Francois Perreaud, (or Perrault), became the target of a very unsettling poltergeist. Perreaud’s poltergeist made its first appearance on September 19, 1612 when invisible hands started shaking bed curtains and tossing bed clothes onto the floor. This continued for several nights and then escalated when Perreaud and his family heard “A frightful din in the kitchen consisting of unearthly rumblings and knockings, accompanied by the sounds of plates, pots, and pans being hurled against the walls.” Perreaud rushed to the kitchen, expecting to find his kitchen destroyed, but was shocked to find that everything was normal and the kitchenware was in its place.
Eventually a voice that was “very distinct and understandable, although somewhat husky” was heard in the house. It sang, “Twenty-two pennies, twenty-two pennies,” then repeated the word, “Minister” several times. Perreaud said to the voice, “Get thee behind me, Satan, the Lord commands you.”
The voice kept saying “Minister, minister,” until the exasperated Perreaud snapped, “Yes, I am indeed a minister and a servant of the living God before whose majesty you tremble.”
“I am not saying otherwise,” the voice replied.
Once the poltergeist began speaking, it would not stop. It recited the Ten Commandments, followed by the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, and other prayers. It also sang Psalms and recited accurate personal details about Perreaud’s family. The voice claimed that it was from the Pays de Vaud, which was at that time infamous for its witch hunts.
The voice told wild stories, made inappropriate jokes and often acted like a child and teased the maid. It was also able to expertly mimic the voices of various Mâcon residents. It also took on several different identities. At one time the voice claimed to be the valet of the original entity, who had left the house and was now in Chambery.
On November 25, the voice announced that it would no longer speak, but its antics in the form of throwing stones, tying knots in the mane and tail of Perreaud’s horse, and other typical poltergeist stunts, continued through until December when it finally disappeared forever.
The Bell Witch poltergeist in 1817 was very similar to the Mâcon poltergeist due to the fact that “the witch” was extremely talkative and could imitate the voices of people from the area. The poltergeist was said to speak at a nerve-racking pitch when displeased, while at other times it sang and talked in low musical tones. In one instance, it was alleged to have repeated, verbatim, sermons administered by two preachers, occurring at separate locations, that took place simultaneously. The sermons recited by the witch were verified by people attending the churches as being identical in voice, tone, inflection, and content. The poltergeist was even known to attend church and sing along with the congregation, using the most beautiful voice anyone had ever heard.
As well, the poltergeist had the ability to change personalities in the middle of conversations with the Bells’ or their visitors. The witch had five distinct personalities, each with different voices and traits which made it easy for the family to separate the perpetrator of the moment. These voices were named “Black dog,” “Mathematics,” “Cypocryphy” and “Jerusalem.”
This ability to produce “different personalities” also shows up in other poltergeist cases, creating a belief that there are a number of different entities haunting a house.
The Bell Witch was very fond of talking about religion and philosophy for hours on end, especially with John Bell Jr. The witch had developed a respect John Bell Jr. due to his tendency to stand up to its abusive behavior. In 1828, the poltergeist reappeared to John Bell Jr. telling him, “John, I am in hopes you will not be as angry at me on this visit as you were on my last. I shall do nothing to cause you offense; I have been in the West Indies for seven years.”
Despite his misgivings, the poltergeist had long talks with him about the past, the present and the future. Years later, he told his son, Dr. Joel Thomas Bell, the details of the poltergeist’s discussions. A book was published in 1934, The Bell Witch – A Mysterious Spirit, which supposedly was met by outrage by other members of the Bell family who felt that details of “the family problem” should not have been made public.
When a poltergeist does find its voice it seems to take great delight in spinning wild tales of its identity and origin. It may at one time say it is the ghost of someone who died years before, only to change its tune later and profess to be the devil or a demon. Like the Bell Witch, the Shawville poltergeist (also known as the Dagg poltergeist), enjoyed entertaining visitors by telling obscene stories and conversely, singing hymns in an “angelic voice.”
The Shawville Poltergeist took place in the Ottawa Valley, Quebec in 1889 and centered on the farm and family of George Dagg. The incidents started with what appeared to be animal feces streaked along the farmhouse floor. At first, a young farmhand named Dean was blamed since he was known to come into the house with dirty shoes. Nevertheless, after the boy had been fired, the strange incidents continued with crockery moving, fires starting spontaneously and windows being smashed.
The Dagg family’s eleven-year-old adopted daughter, Dina-Burden McLean, was also physically attacked by the entity when it pulled her hair so hard that her braid was almost torn off. Later, when Dina’s grandmother was making up one of the bedrooms, the girl shouted, “Oh grandmother, see the big, black thing pulling off the bed clothes!” The woman could see the sheets being pulled up, but couldn’t see what was doing it. She handed Dina a whip, telling the girl to strike out at the invisible being. Dinah struck the air a few times and both the girl and her grandmother heard a sound like a pig squealing.
A few days later a piece of paper bearing the message “You gave me fifteen cuts” was found nailed to the wall.
After this incident Dina claimed that she was hearing a strange, gruff voice that followed her around saying bad words to her. Soon, the entire family and others could hear the gruff, man’s voice who identified itself “as the Devil.” Not everyone was convinced the voice was a supernatural being and blamed Dina for everything. At one point her mouth was filled with water, yet the voice could still be clearly heard by everyone in the room.
Much like the Bell witch, the Shawville poltergeist enjoyed the attention and would talk for hours. It would often give conflicting stories on what it was. Previously it said it was the devil, later, it claimed to be the spirit of an old man who had died 20 years earlier. When George asked it why it was bothering his family, it replied, “Just for fun.”
It also admitted setting small fires in the house, but again only for its amusement. “I set the fires in the daytime, when you could see them. I like fires, but I didn’t want to burn the house down.”
After several months of activity, the voice announced that it was going away. When word got out, crowds began gathering at the house to witness the event. The voice was happy to answer questions from the crowd, but now it claimed, “I am an angel from Heaven, sent by God to drive away that fellow.”
“You don’t believe that I am an angel because my voice is coarse,” it said to the crowd. “I will show you I don’t lie, but always tell the truth.” Instantly its voice took on an “incredible sweetness,” and it started singing a hymn:
“I am waiting, I am waiting, to call you dear sinner, Come to the savior, come to him now, won’t you receive Him right now, right now, Oh! List, now he is calling today, He is calling you to Jesus, move! Come to Him now, Come to Him, dear brothers and sisters, Come to Him now.”
Witness testimony agreed that the poltergeist sang with such a beautiful voice that many of the women were reduced to tears. After several hours of singing, the poltergeist said goodbye, saying it would return the next morning and show itself to Dinah and the other children.
The next morning the children breathlessly told their parents that “a beautiful man, he took little Johnny and me in his arms… he went to Heaven and was all red.”
Under questioning, the children described a man dressed in white with a lovely face with long white hair. He also had ribbons and “pretty things” all over his clothes and a gold object with stars on his head. The man reached down and picked them up saying that they were fine children.
Dinah said he had spoken to her as well, telling her that everyone thought he was not an angel, but he would show he was. Then he had “gone up to Heaven.” Questioned further, she said he seemed to rise up in the air and disappear in a kind of fire that blazed from his feet.
Compared to other poltergeist events, talking poltergeists seem to be in a category all by themselves. They may start out the same, annoying pranks, strange noises, showers of rocks and other debris, but then they seem to turn a corner and gain energy to a point where a consciousness and personality emerges. The personality is much like a child or mentally challenged adult, but it is a personality nevertheless.
Both the Bell Witch and the Shawville poltergeist exhibit almost identical personality traits. Both were fond of using obscene language and taking on the roles of different characters. Both entities were never shy about talking for hours in front of multiple witnesses. In fact, they seemed to thrive on the attention. They also claimed the ability to travel instantaneously to far off locations, bringing back information that could be verified later.
So much has been written about the “Dalby Spook” over the years that there really is nothing new that can be added for this chapter. Nevertheless, considering the similarities between “Gef” and other talking poltergeists, this amazing case does need to be included.
The case of “Gef the Talking Mongoose” started in 1931 on the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.
The farm, located on an isolated hilltop, was home to 60-year-old Jim Irving, his wife Margaret, and their 12-year-old daughter Voirrey.
Jim had been a traveling salesman before taking up farming in his retirement. The farm was not a success and the family struggled to make ends meet. Doarlish Cashen (Manx for “Cashen’s Gap”) was extremely isolated with no electricity, no phone and no radio. By all descriptions, life on the Irving farm was dreary and offered few pleasantries.
This all changed when Gef made his appearance when the family started hearing strange “blowing, spitting and growling” sounds coming from behind the wooden paneling lining the farmhouse walls. Eventually these sounds turned into recognizable words from a very high-pitched voice. The voice introduced itself as Gef and claimed to be “an extra clever mongoose” born in Delhi, India in 1852.
Gef was soon holding regular conversations with the Irving family. He would travel in the space between the interior wooden paneling and the exterior walls of the house. He reportedly would throw objects like pins or rocks from the cracks and holes in the paneling. Although Jim and Margaret both caught brief glimpses of Gef, only Voirrey was allowed to look at him directly. She described him as being the size of a small rat, with yellowish fur, a flat snout like a hedgehog, and a long bushy tail.
Even though Gef acted like a poltergeist, he once told Jim that he was a living creature and was, in fact, terrified of ghosts. Like other talking poltergeist’s, Gef’s voice had an inhuman quality about it. Those that did hear him said his voice was high-pitched, at least an octave above a human voice. Unlike other talking poltergeist’s, Gef did not like to talk to others outside of the Irving family. Paranormal investigators Harry Price and Nandor Fodor went to great lengths to travel to Doarlish Cashen, but Gef refused to speak to them. However, there were plenty of witnesses to Gef’s ability to speak to convince both men that there was some sort of unusual activity at the Irving house.
In their book about Gef, The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap: A Modern Miracle Investigated, Price and R. S. Lambert noticed some parallels to poltergeist cases. They wrote:
“Many of the events related by Irving can be classified by those experienced in psychical research as belonging to the class of ‘poltergeist’ phenomena. Amongst these are Gef’s habit of throwing sand and small stones, also metal, wooden, and bone objects, at persons in or near Doarlish Cashen; the thumping, scratching, rapping, and banging noises which he makes behind the paneling and in the rafters of the house; and the movement of furniture.”
In 1970, Voirrey agreed to be interviewed by Walter McGraw for FATE magazine, Voirrey denied any involvement, and seemed rather bitter about the whole experience, stating, “It was not a hoax…Gef was very detrimental to my life. We were snubbed. The other children used to call me ‘the spook.’ We had to leave the Isle of Man, and I hope that no one where I work now ever knows the story. Gef has even kept me from getting married. How could I ever tell a man’s family about what happened?”
She continued by saying that Gef “made me meet people I didn’t want to meet. Then they said I was ‘mental’ or a ventriloquist. Believe me, if I was that good I would jolly well be making money from it now!”
Gef remains a true enigma in the hallowed halls of paranormal research. One side thinks that Gef was a poltergeist, while the other side thinks he was something else. If you were to compare Gef to other talking poltergeists, the similarities are obvious. Like the Bell witch and the Shawville poltergeist, Gef enjoyed singing hymns. On January 19, 1935, Gef was in “high spirits” sang the hymns, “Jesus, my Savior, on Calvary’s Tree” and six verses of “The King of Love my Shepherd is.”
As well, like other talking poltergeist’s, Gef’s voice was said to be strange and not like human speech. Jim Irving also said that Gef’s laughter varied from what sounded like a small child, an adult chuckle, or a maniacal laughter that left the family thinking that they were dealing with an insane creature from hell.
Gef is also discounted as being a poltergeist because he was seen physically several times. However, a talking poltergeist is often able to make itself visible, but much like the way it can talk in different voices, it can also appear in different forms.
Around the same time that Gef was active, another talking poltergeist appeared in Zaragoza, Spain. The Palazon family was living in an apartment complex on Gascón Gotor street when in September, 1934 they started to hear maniacal laughter and voices coming from inside their home. At first the voice sounded like a woman, but later it would change and appear to be a man speaking. The family was perplexed by the strange sounds, but kept it to themselves for fear of ridicule.
When the din coming from the apartment became too much, neighbors called the police. The voice then started shouting: “Cowards, cowards. You called the police. Cowards!”
When they arrived, the households young maid, named Pascuala Alcocer, told police that when she was trying to light the wood stove, she heard a loud voice coming from the stove saying, “You’re hurting me!”
The police checked the apartment but couldn’t find any source for the mysterious voice. Word quickly spread and hundreds of people gathered outside of Building #2 in hopes of hearing the “duende” (goblin) for themselves.
Local police and judges personally investigated the home, forcing the family to move out as they shut off electricity and phone service as they tore the place apart. This enraged the voice and it shouted to everyone that it would kill them and all the residents in the building.
Authorities also brought in psychiatrists to question Pascuala, whom they suspected of hoaxing everything. The doctors suggested that Pascuala was mentally ill and that she was producing the voice through subconscious ventriloquism. At one point they sent the maid on a vacation along with the family, yet the voice continued to speak. Even moving every resident out of Building #2 failed to stop it.
Whatever the source, the voice was able to see what was going on around the building. It would guess the number of people that were in a room at a time, it would interact with police officers directly when they asked it what it wanted.
“Do you want money?”
“Do you want a job?”
“Every man wants something.”
“I’m not a man!”
One of the original builders was brought in to take measurements of the kitchen, but the voice interrupted saying: “Don’t worry, it measures 75 centimeters.” The mason was so scared he left the building never to come back leaving his tools behind in a closet.
Eventually the voice vanished just as mysteriously as it arrived. Pascuala Alcocer went into seclusion lamenting up until her death years later that “the voice from the wall ruined her life.”
There are many more cases of talking poltergeists that have been carefully researched and chronicled, and probably hundreds more that were never reported for fear of ridicule. The poltergeist by itself is an oddity in the world of paranormal research, and the talking poltergeist goes even further as a head-scratcher due to its outright off-the-wall high strangeness.
All kinds of theories on the true nature of the poltergeist have been suggested. Black magic and curses as the cause of poltergeists are popular in countries such as Brazil where spiritism is still practiced. Folk lore concerning elemental spirits such as fairies, hobs and goblins show that they were also fond of mischievous tricks such as throwing rocks, starting fires and stealing household objects.
Middle Eastern folklore and Muslim theology concerning the djinn and their amazing powers also have similarities to the poltergeist. The djinn are beings with free will that once lived on Earth but were sent away by God to a world parallel to mankind. The word djinn comes from an Arabic root meaning “hidden from sight,” so they are physically invisible from man as their description suggests.
The djinn will take possession of buildings or locations and torment any person who goes to live there. They throw rocks at people. They can levitate and cause objects to disappear. A djinn can quickly travel great distances. One of the powers of the djinn, is that they are able to take on any physical form they like. Thus, they can appear as humans, animals and anything else. They can mimic the voices of deceased humans, claiming to be spirits or Satan. They enjoy playing tricks and frightening people. In fact, they can feel strong emotions such as fear or grief and gain energy from these strong emotions.
Like humans, the djinn have distinct personalities. There are those who are of low intelligence, quick to anger and are fond of playing tricks. Others have a superior intellect and act more along the lines of guardian angels rather than tricksters.
It is interesting to consider that the poltergeist could be an elemental spirit rather than a human. This could explain why poltergeists (especially the more energetic talking poltergeist) are resistant and very hostile, to attempts to get rid of them by using religious methods. If a poltergeist is not a human spirit or a demon in a Christian, Jewish or Muslim tradition, attempts to use exorcism are pretty much useless.
Considering that the poltergeist could be something other than a human spirit, the website The State of Reality, (www.thestateofreality.com) states to be “the combined effort of four professional remote viewers that have set out to share their project findings regarding socially significant, anomalous target sets.” On this site there is an interesting article concerning their remote viewing of the Bell Witch incident.
Jeff Coley writes that the team’s result of their remote viewing attempt came up with the concept of “Something contained, or restrained inside an enclosure. Often this container was sketched and described to be like a bottle, while at other times as a box of some kind, which acted as an enclosure or a tomb. One viewer’s session described this object as an ossuary, similar to what a collector of antique relics might possess within their private collection. Other sessions described what looked suspiciously similar to the idea of a Genie bottle.”
According to Coley something had been contained inside a bottle or box. The viewers described it as a phantom, and intelligence and a thought form. The remote viewing work describes the purpose of this thing as having to do with amusement, recreation, performance, and the idea of sending a message. The viewers also described that the phenomenon was associated with something destructive in nature. One viewer notes that it is like a parasite or a time-bomb that somehow escaped or was accidentally released.
The opinion by the remote viewers was that whatever the Bell Witch was, it had been deliberately contained as a punishment eons ago. Three of the viewers described guards who seem to be keeping this thing bottled-up. One viewer described these guards as ethereal, floating, muscular “brutes,” almost like otherworldly prison guards, while another viewer described something like a sentry, guarding and patrolling.
It almost sounds like the Bell Witch (and it even admitted to John Bell Jr. that it was millions of years old) was an artificial intelligence that had been created by a highly advanced and now vanished civilization that could have been terrestrial or even extraterrestrial. Its purpose might have been to entertain and teach but somehow became uncontrollable and had to be contained.
This is just speculation of course. But considering how unusual and powerful talking poltergeists can be, is it really so far-fetched to say that these invisible intelligence’s might be a form of artificial intelligence? Not an intelligence contained within a machine, but an artificial intelligence without a physical form…in other words, an artificial “spirit.”
Perhaps these AI’s were locked away millions of years ago for some reason. As time wore on, some have managed to escape their confinement and then proceed to wreak havoc in the area where they were kept. Perhaps they have limited energy that can no longer be “recharged.” This could explain why they disappear so abruptly and completely, never to be heard from again.
When you look at past cases of talking poltergeists, they display personalities that if they were human subjects, doctors would describe them as psychotic or schizophrenic. If my thesis is correct, this madness could be the result of millions of years of lonely confinement, with little hope of rescue. The human mind would self-destruct in a matter of months. Consider what this amount of time could have done to an artificial mind.
Rather than fear and loathe these tortured entities, a better solution would be to offer them kindness and understanding. For any creature with a soul, even if it is an artificial soul, deserves happiness and even love. This is a difficult concept considering the torture these things have brought upon their victims, but even a savage dog will eventually respond to a kind heart.
Could the poltergeist respond as well?
I’LL GRIND HIS BONES
I smell the blood of an English man:
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.
The rhyme comes from the popular fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk , and is one of the best-known rhymes in the English language. This rhyme is uttered by the giant, whom the eponymous character Jack encounters on the top of the beanstalk. The idea of grinding human bones to make bread may be reasonably assumed to belong to the realm of fantasy. Nevertheless, instances of human bones being ground and re-used, including for the making of bread, have been recorded in history.
The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is one of the best-known children’s fairy tales in the English language. The tale first appeared in print in 1734, during the reign of George II of England, and is slightly different form the ‘children-friendly’ version that we are familiar with today. One of the characters in the tale is the giant, who threatens to “grind his bones to make my bread” when he detects the boy’s presence in his castle. With this line, the giant is effectively cast as a man-eating monster.
The giant’s threats would naturally send shivers down the spine of any child hearing the tale for the first time, though one may take comfort in the knowledge that man-eating giants are fictional – certainly, they do not exist in the world today. The facts are however sometimes stranger than fiction, and there are several instances in which human bones were ground, not by giants, but by other human beings, to be re-used. One of these is found in the diary of Pierre de L’Estoile, clerk-in-chief of the French Parliament during the 1590 Siege of Paris.
During the second half of the 16 th century, France was embroiled in the Wars of Religion, which saw Catholics pitted against Protestants. In 1590 Paris, which was held by the Catholic League, was besieged by the French Royal Army under Henry of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France). The besiegers sought to force the defenders into starvation and therefore prevented food from entering the city. In the middle of June, de L’Estoile recounts an assembly was called to address the issue of food shortages.
During the assembly, it was proposed that the bones from the charnel house (a building for storing skeletal remains that are unearthed during the digging of new graves) at the Cemetery of the Innocents be ground into flour and made into bread. As a result of their desperation, no one opposed the proposal and the plan was carried out. de L’Estoile notes, however, that the experiment was soon abandoned as those who consumed the bread died nonetheless. This is confirmed by another eyewitness, Enrico Caterino Davila, an Italian historian and diplomat who fought in the French Wars of Religion.
It is not entirely clear, however, as to why the people who ate the ‘bone bread’ died and a number of hypotheses have been put forward. Some of the less plausible ones include the presence arsenic or deadly viruses in the bones, or that the eating of this bread had a negative psychological effect on its consumers (due to the near-universal taboo against cannibalism) thus killing them. One of the more plausible hypotheses is that human bones lacked both calories and nutrients and therefore did not provide the necessary nutrients to sustain a person. In addition, bone is composed mainly of inorganic minerals, which could not be digested and is difficult to be excreted if it is eaten. The accumulation of these minerals in the gastrointestinal tracts of those who ate the ‘bone bread’ may cause intestinal obstructions, which would have been fatal.
Although human bone is poor in nutrients, it is rich in minerals, especially calcium. While the besieged Parisians in 1590 might have not known this Europeans were aware of it by the early 19 th century. In 1815, the Napoleonic Wars ended following Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. This major conflict left many soldiers dead on the battlefield and a few years after Waterloo, their bones (along with those of horses) were being removed and (usually) shipped to Hull, before being sent to bone-grinders. The ground bones, however, were not being used to make bread, but for the production of fertilizers due to their rich mineral content.
Finally, it may be mentioned that there is a type of bread from England called Bone Bread. Fortunately, the recipe does not call for human bones. The name of this bread, as a matter of fact, is derived from the boneyard scavengers who lived along Gloucestershire’s River Severn during the 1860s.
On December 26, 1900, something strange and unexplained happened on the largest of the Flannan Islands, Eilean Mor, Scotland.
Three lighthouse keepers disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. Their mysterious disappearance still baffles historians and scientists.
The three lighthouse keepers, Captain Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald McArthur, vanished on the island without a trace, leaving only speculation behind.
A small ship was sent to the Flannan Islands in the remote Outer Hebrides. Its destination was the lighthouse at Eilean Mor. Named after St. Flannen, a 6th century Irish Bishop who later became a saint, the island was completely uninhabited, apart from its lighthouse keepers.
The ship carried supplies and a change of crew, but due to the storm this was delayed. When the ship arrived at Eilean Mor, there was no sigh of the three lighthouse keepers. Captain James Harvey, who was in charge of the supply ship blew his horn and sent up a warning flare to attract attention, but there was no response.
Under normal circumstances someone should have been waiting at the front of the lighthouse to welcome the ship.
It all seemed very strange. The interior of the lighthouse itself was as should be, with oil in the lamps waiting to be lit and ashes in the grate. The only thing which appeared out of the ordinary was the two sets of missing oilskins – the outdoor gear the keepers donned.
Only one set remained, belonging to Donald McArthur. Obviously he had gone outside in a ferocious storm in just his clothes.
This was not only unheard of, but also illegal. One of the rules of the Northern Lighthouse Board was that one man always must remain inside the lighthouse. So, why did he leave the lighthouse?
Captain James Harvey quickly sent back a telegram to the mainland, which in turn was forwarded to the Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters in Edinburgh.
The telegraph read:
A dreadful accident has happened at Flannans. The three Keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the occasional have disappeared from the island. On our arrival there this afternoon no sign of life was to be seen on the Island.
Fired a rocket but, as no response was made, managed to land Moore, who went up to the Station but found no Keepers there. The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane or something like that.
Night coming on, we could not wait to make something as to their fate.
I have left Moore, MacDonald, Buoymaster and two Seamen on the island to keep the light burning until you make other arrangements. Will not return to Oban until I hear from you. I have repeated this wire to Muirhead in case you are not at home. I will remain at the telegraph office tonight until it closes, if you wish to wire me.
A few days later, Robert Muirhead, the board’s supernatant who both recruited and knew all three men personally, departed for the island to investigate the disappearances.
His investigation of the lighthouse found nothing over and above what Moore had already reported. That is, except for the lighthouse’s log…
Muirhead quickly noticed that the last few days of entries were unusual.
On the 12th December, Thomas Marshall, the second assistant, wrote of ‘severe winds the likes of which I have never seen before in twenty years’.
He also noticed that James Ducat, the Principal Keeper, had been ‘very quiet’ and that the third assistant, William McArthur, had been crying.
What is strange about the final remark was that William McArthur was a seasoned mariner, and was known on the Scottish mainland as a tough brawler. Why would he be crying about a storm?
Log entries on the 13th December stated that the storm was still raging, and that all three men had been praying. But why would three experienced lighthouse keepers, safely situated on a brand new lighthouse that was 150 feet above sea level, be praying for a storm to stop? They should have been perfectly safe.
Even more peculiar is that there were no reported storms in the area on the 12th, 13th and 14th of December. In fact, the weather was calm, and the storms that were to batter the island didn’t hit until December 17th.
The final log entry was made on the 15th December. It simply read ‘Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all’. What was meant by ‘God is over all’?
Investigators concluded that two of the men must have been outside during the storm and were swept away by the waves.
Donald McArthur then ran out to their rescue but was also swept away. But even the official investigation was mere speculation as no proof to this story has ever appeared and the explanation left some people in the Northern Lighthouse Board unconvinced.
Many are still wondering why none of the bodies washed ashore?
It is simply as if the three men walked off the island never to be seen again. Over the following decades, subsequent lighthouse keepers at Eilean Mor have reported strange voices in the wind, calling out the names of the three dead men. Several speculations have emerged, but the fact remains – the mysterious disappearance of the three lighthouse keepers remains unsolved.
The geographically central states of the United States of America have seen their share of small towns; some grew into cities, some maintained their unique small identity, and many, many, many vanished as fortunes and fate drew residents to other places. According to legend, however, one small town in Iowa suffered a much stranger fate.
It’s unknown when Urkhammer, Iowa, was established. It was a standard small town that attracted no real attention previous to an 1929 article published in the Clarion-Sun-Telegraph, newspaper of Davenport, Iowa. According to the article, two very strange things had recently happened in regard to the town of Urkhammer.
First, photos taken by an airplane that flew over the town were said to show the town appeared abandoned, with the fields overgrown and unattended; and some now say that the photos only showed fields where buildings and roads should have been, as if the town was not actually there. Second, the newspaper recounted the experience of a visitor to the town about a week after the photos were taken. This visitor stopped to fill his gas tank, but then had his car run out of gas just two miles out of town. Angry at being cheated, the man walked back to Urkhammer to give the gas station a piece of his mind… but even after two hours of walking, the town never seemed to get closer. He was eventually helped by a passing motorist, who shared gas to his car; but the whole matter had unnerved the poor man enough that he had to spend time in a sanitarium.
Fantastic though these stories are, they were basically lost in the newspaper against the news of the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression. One resident of Urkhammer had seen the articles, and wrote to the editor to protest the apparent attempt to paint the town as either non-existent or ghostly. Miss Fatima Morgana, a strange name for someone claiming to not be strange, gave a brief description of her life in Urkhammer as a school teacher and an ‘Anti-Saloon League’ activist; but her letter was also lost in the paper among the accounts of the fallout of the previous week’s financial crash.
Odd though the stories were, Urkhammer, located along Route #41, was still just another town to passersby, who would wave to children playing in the yards as they drove along the road. In 1932, a caravan of Illinois farm families, heading to California, made camp on the outskirts of Urkhammer one night. The groups pulled together what little money they had and sent two men into the town to purchase some supplies for the trek they were continuing in the morning. The men walked to the general store in Urkhammer, but were mystified when they got there… each attempt to mount the steps into the store failed, as their feet passed through the lowest step as if it wasn’t there. They must have been desperate, for the found a board lying around, and could apparently pick it up, for they placed it over the steps and then tried to walk up the plank… and their feet then passed through that too.
Back at the farmers’ camp, their story was disbelieved until they showed they hadn’t spent any of the money on liquor… then a group of a dozen or so men, some armed, went back to the store to see for themselves what was happening. When they too could not touch the building very clearly in front of them, the whole caravan soon de-camped and left with all the speed they could muster. When the story of the odd experience spread far enough, Urkhammer was then visited by a group of Iowa State Police who headed straight to the town’s Sheriff’s office to compare notes and clear up the obviously silly story. The leader of this group had to later report that his attempt to knock on the door of the building only resulted in his hand passing through the door as if nothing was there.
After this, Urkhammer’s very existence seemes to have slowly disintegrated. Drivers passing by no longer saw children in the yards, and the plant growth in the yards grew wild and uncontrolled. The houses, farms, and other structures became less and less substantial. It was on May 7, 1932, that a passing farmer discovered that the whole town was simply no longer where it was once located; all that occupied the area the town once stood in were abandoned fields, long rotted fences, and one cast-iron bathtub, once used to water livestock, which now sat alone in a field of weeds.
It’s been said that some years after these strange events, the site that was once Urkhammer was briefly occupied by a camp of traveling gypsies… but this group packed up and left almost as soon as they had camped. The leader of this group later told a councilman at a nearby town that the site was “saturated with the tears of the dispossessed, and with the despair of those who had never borne names.”
Where Did Urkhammer Go?
The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: Nowhere.
Urkhammer, you see, never existed. The first mention of the story was in 2015, when it was related in a post in Cullen Hudsen’s Strange State website. According to Hudsen, the story had been found by his mother while she was cleaning out old emails; she was checking them as she went along for anything that might be of interest to her son, who has an interest in oddities. Neither Hudsen nor his mother knew where the short story had originated, but Hudsen was pretty sure it was fictional and supposed that his mother could have written it and forgotten about it later. So the main take from this: in the first presentation of the story, the presentor states he believes the story is fictional… but this particular detail was left out of later re-tellings of the story, most notably in YouTube in 2017, and most recently in the Mysterious Universe website.
An internet search for the town of Urkhammer, Iowa, turns up only references to the story above, and all of them dated for after the 2015 posting of the account to the Strange State website. As a furtherdetail, for those of you still not convinced, the newspaper mentioned in the account above — the Davenport Clarion-Sun-Telegraph, which was mentioned in the original Strange State posting of the Urkhammer story — never existed. So all evidence point to this tale being a pure Internet Legend, introduced by a website and repeated in a shorter form by other websites interested in a good story more than facts.