“WAS HE WILLIAM WEST, OR WILLIAM WEST?” and More Trippy True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: In November 1638, Dorothy Talby killed her three-year-old daughter. She admitted so when first arrested. But then she refused to say anything when brought before a judge. But then, what would you expect from a woman, which we all know is more easily persuaded by Satan to sin – and women were much more likely to be seduced by witchcraft. At least, that’s what people believed in the 17th century. (The Case of Dorothy Talbye) *** It’s understood and agreed to by most that while it is a lot of fun to think about, time travel is simply not possible – and will probably never be seeing as we’ve never met any time travelers. Or… maybe we have? (True Time-Travel Moments) *** Stories of shapeshifters seem to be told worldwide – and the Celtic nations are no different. We’ll look at a few shape-changing creatures from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. (Shape-Shifters Of The Celts) *** How do you convince people you are innocent of a crime committed by someone who looks exactly like you and even shares your name? It’s the strange story of William West and… William West. (Will The Real William West Please Step Forward)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Will The Real William West Please Step Forward?” by Dean Jobb for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5y8wybsa), Martin Chalakoski for The Vintage News (https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/th4ujesh), and Lee Ferran for ABC News (https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/sa66vcwf)
“The Case of Dorothy Talbye” by Romeo Vitelli for Providentia: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yu54cyn8
“True Time-Travel Moments” posted at Earth-Chronicles.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/hh8tbwcr
“Shape-Shifters Of The Celts” by Zteve T. Evans for FolkloreThursday.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3m53e2h8
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(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
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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
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Uh, I’m Brian of Nazareth. No, I’m Brian of Nazareth! Eh, I’m Brian! I’m Brian! No, I’m Brian!… Ey, I’m Brian, and so’s my wife!
A few Brian’s later and oh boy, everyone is Brian? That is, if crucifixion is not one’s preferred way of having a good time. While Brian, the naive and simple man, unsurprisingly wasn’t the Messiah in Monty Python’s second feature film, Life of Brian, he was, in fact, the Brian from Nazareth the Romans asked to be released. Due to this absurd situation, the poor man was left hanging, crucified to the tune of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as the credits rolled.
While the scene was undoubtedly funny, in reality, it’s not so amusing if your name is Brian and you look like a Brian who, let’s say, is a criminal wanted for manslaughter, and on top of that, you get arrested for being the closest match. Today a simple fingerprint check will do the trick. However, back in the day and up until the beginning of the 20th century, fingerprinting hadn’t been invented, so if something like this happened to a person, that person would be in quite a pickle, for sure.
In fact, such a situation did happen, yet it wasn’t a Brian but a man by the name of Will West, convicted of a minor crime, who in 1903, upon arrival at the Leavenworth Penitentiary in northeast Kansas, was informed that he was already in prison serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
In November 1638, Dorothy Talby killed her three-year-old daughter. She admitted so when first arrested. But then she refused to say anything when brought before a judge. But then, what would you expect from a woman, which we all know is more easily persuaded by Satan to sin – and women were much more likely to be seduced by witchcraft. At least, that’s what people believed in the 17th century. (The Case of Dorothy Talbye)
It’s understood and agreed to by most that while it is a lot of fun to think about, time travel is simply not possible – and will probably never be seeing as we’ve never met any time travelers. Or… maybe we have? (True Time-Travel Moments)
Stories of shapeshifters seem to be told worldwide – and the Celtic nations are no different. We’ll look at a few shape-changing creatures from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. (Shape-Shifters Of The Celts)
How do you convince people you are innocent of a crime committed by someone who looks exactly like you and even shares your name? It’s the strange story of William West and… William West. (Will The Real William West Please Step Forward)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: WILL THE REAL WILLIAM WEST PLEASE STEP FORWARD==========
When police arrested Donald Smith for the 2008 carjacking and murder of a preschool teacher in Gwinnett, Ga., it seemed certain they had the right man. Smith matched witness descriptions, he seemed to appear on nearby surveillance camera footage and there was DNA evidence apparently proving he was at the scene of the crime.
Throughout it all, though, Donald Smith earnestly claimed that he didn’t do it and instead offered an unusual defense. He said his identical twin brother, Ronald Smith, was to blame, according to police.
When investigators followed up on Donald’s claim, they found a trump card in his favor among a battery of other evidence: Fingerprints at the scene of the crime did not belong to Donald but to Ronald Smith. Even though identical twins share the exact same DNA, they do not share the same fingerprints.
After he was presented with the evidence against him, Ronald Smith admitted to the crime, police said. Ronald’s attorney, Lawrence Lewis, said he has need seen the alleged confession and maintains his client’s innocence.
“This is an unusual case,” Gwinnett County Police Cpl. David Schiralli told ABC News. “No. 1, I’m glad that we were able to find the right brother and that we were able to find evidence to exonerate the other brother. Our investigators were faced with a tough task, dealing with identical twins.”
In a justice system that often relies heavily on high-tech DNA testing, it was fingerprinting, a practice more than a century old, that succeeded where DNA failed.
It’s thanks to a very similar case from more than 100 years ago that fingerprinting is today just as critical to investigations as the much newer DNA evidence.
At the turn of the 20th century, investigators had tinkered with fingerprinting, but the technique was not widely used, according to the FBI archives.
Rather, to identify suspects, investigators relied on the much-trusted Bertillon system, which “measured dozens of features of a criminal’s face and body and recorded the series of precise numbers on a large card along with a photograph,” FBI records said.
That system, which had been used by investigators following its initial implementation in 1882 in Paris, met its match — so to speak — when convicted criminal Will West was marched into Leavenworth federal prison in Kansas in 1903.
The intake process was mind-numbingly routine for Leavenworth’s clerks. Will West, newly arrived in May, 1903 to serve a ten-year sentence in the Kansas prison for manslaughter, was about to become inmate No. 3426.
His name and personal details were written down. Mug-shot photographs were taken. Then staff members produced calipers and rulers to add West’s body measurements to the state-of-the-art Bertillon identification system. They made eleven notations on a standardized card, including his height, the length of his feet, the size of his right ear, and the distance from fingertip to fingertip when he stood with outstretched arms.
The chief of the prison’s identification unit, Matthew McClaughry, was renowned for his ability to remember faces. And he was certain this was not the first time he had seen this face.
“You have been here before.”
“No, sir,” West assured him.
A check of the prison’s files produced a Bertillon card for William West, a man serving a life sentence for murder. His measurements were an almost-perfect match and the attached mug shots were a dead ringer for the new inmate. But according to the card, this William West was inmate No. 2626 and he was already incarcerated in, of all places, Leavenworth.
Will West was shown the mug shot. He seemed confused, and unsure what to say.
“That may be my photo, all right, but I don’t know how you got it,” he insisted. “I’ve never been here before.”
Prison officials suspected West was posing as a newcomer, perhaps in hopes of being assigned to a different work detail. But why would he use his real name, ensuring his ruse would be easily discovered? The truth only emerged when William West, the convicted murderer, was found where he was supposed to be, at his post in a prison workshop.
There were two Will Wests.
Leavenworth’s inmate was brought to the prison’s offices to confront his namesake.
“They could easily pass off for twins,” the Leavenworth Times reported a few years after the encounter. “Each thought he was looking into a mirror.” The men had never met, but they were both from Texas and had been born months apart. And each one had been convicted of crimes committed in what would soon become the state of Oklahoma.
McClaughry concluded the men must be related and were likely cousins. But he realized the discovery of the almost-identical Will Wests was more than an extraordinary coincidence. It could be a deathblow to the Bertillon system—a system his father, Leavenworth warden Robert McClaughry, had introduced to America from Europe and had championed for years.
“If William West had escaped, and in searching for him Willie West would have been arrested,” Matthew McClaughry told the Leavenworth Times in 1907, “nothing in the world but the turning up of William West would have prevented the other from serving out the latter’s term in prison.”
But something in the world could sort out who was who. Their fingerprints.
The identification system that bore Alphonse Bertillon’s name was a scientific solution to a problem that had long bedeviled detectives and judges. Without a reliable means to identify convicted criminals, many recidivists were being punished as first-time offenders and receiving lighter sentences.
Photographs had been used as an identification tool since the mid nineteenth century, and major police forces and prisons maintained “rogues galleries” of offenders. But facial features changed as an offender aged, and a moustache or beard might be enough to alter a man’s appearance and make identification difficult.
Bertillon, a clerk at the headquarters of the Paris police, was familiar with anthropometry, the study of the proportions of the human body, and in 1879 he suggested measuring a criminal’s body parts to identify repeat offenders. While two men might be found to have the same-sized foot, for instance, the chances of multiple measurements being identical were remote, and the odds of finding two subjects with an identical set of measurements was estimated at one in more than four million.
The idea that science could be used to fight crime was novel. Years passed before Bertillon was allowed to test his system, but he identified enough recidivists to prove it worked. Police forces and penal institutions across Europe soon adopted “Bertillonage.” To make a misidentification even more unlikely, the subject’s face was photographed and eye color and any tattoos or scars were recorded.
Robert McClaughry, warden of the Illinois State Prison in Joliet, introduced Bertillonage to the U.S. in 1887. “It substitutes certainty for uncertainty,” he claimed, “a thoroughly reliable identification for the shrewd guess of the detective, or the scarcely more reliable testimony of the photograph.” Within a decade, 150 American police forces and prisons were using the system. Possessing a set of Bertillon’s tools, noted the criminologist Raymond B. Fosdick, “became the distinguishing mark of the modern police organization.”
But Bertillonage had its drawbacks. Trained technicians were needed to ensure measurements were accurate. Tools became worn or bent as they were used, producing results that could match an innocent man to a criminal of similar size and build. And Bertillon records could only be used to identify a repeat offender—it could not link an unknown offender to the scene of a crime. “No man can be pursued by the police or by any detective,” McClaughry conceded, “by means of this system.”
Another method of identifying criminals was on the horizon. Early in the nineteenth century, a Czech scientist remarked on the “marvelous grouping and curvings of the minute furrows associated with the organ of touch,” which proved to be unique to each individual. Their crime-fighting potential was finally recognized in 1880, when a Scottish doctor, Henry Faulds, called on police to collect “the forever-unchangeable finger-furrows of important criminals” for comparison to prints found at crime scenes.
Faulds urged major police forces to adopt the practice, but his breakthrough was ignored for years. Almost two decades passed before Scotland Yard began collecting and indexing fingerprints in 1901, and another four years before they were used for the first time in a British murder case. The New York police would become the first in the U.S. to use fingerprint evidence to solve a murder case, but not until 1906.
Fingerprinting was earning converts as an alternative to Bertillon measurements. But it was still a novel forensic tool when Matthew McClaughry came face-to-face with Will and William West.
McClaughry had studied anthropometry in Paris under Alphonse Bertillon, and by 1903 he was regarded as “the greatest expert in the Bertillon system outside of France.” But finding two men with almost identical body measurements appears to have shaken his faith in the system. There were minor differences between the Wests—one was a half-inch shorter and had a slightly smaller left foot—but one newspaper report asserted that any prison clerk with Bertillon training “would have sworn they were one and the same.”
While the odds of two people sharing the same Bertillon measurements might be four-million-to-one, it now appeared this might not be enough to prevent an innocent man from being misidentified as a criminal.
In 1905, McClaughry convinced his superiors to add fingerprinting to Leavenworth’s identification procedures. “While the Bertillon system is accurate, I believe that the fingerprint system, which is not less accurate, will supersede it,” he predicted. “The fingerprint can be taken without any expensive apparatus and by any person of ordinary skill.”
By then even Bertillon had been won over, and his system’s cards were revised to include a space for a subject’s prints. When the Wests were fingerprinted, the distinctive loops and whorls of their fingertips finally made it possible to distinguish between the doppelgängers.
The discovery of the look-alike Wests has been recounted in books on criminal identification and fingerprinting since 1918 and is cited in the official history of the FBI. But is it a tale too good to be true?
Fingerprinting expert Robert Olsen dismissed the story as “a fable” in the 1980s, after he was unable to find contemporary reports of the look-alikes. In his 2001 book Suspect Identities, criminologist Simon Cole argued the episode was “fabricated”—or at least embellished after the fact—to bolster the reputation of fingerprinting. He cited several discrepancies, including evidence the Will West convicted of manslaughter was lying when he said he had never been locked up in Leavenworth; the clerks did not realize he had served time there prior to 1903, under the name Johnson Williams.
But neither Cole nor Olsen appear to have been aware that the Leavenworth Times had reported on the incident only a few years after it occurred, in a pair of articles published in April 1907. And its significance was obvious from the outset—one of the articles declared it “the greatest victory the Finger Print system of identification has yet scored over the Bertillon system.” These reports also quote Matthew McClaughry, bolstering their credibility.
Regardless of how crucial the incident was to the adoption of fingerprinting, the men’s prison records—including their mirror-image mug shots, matching Bertillon measurements, and mismatched fingerprints—survive to authenticate an amazing coincidence.
Will West, the newer of the two Leavenworth inmates, served his manslaughter sentence and left no trail after his release. William West, the lifer, spent time in solitary confinement for fighting and creating disturbances during his early years behind bars. He was released on parole in 1919, but not before making a dash for freedom.
By 1916 West was a model prisoner and a “trusty,” an inmate entrusted to guard and discipline other prisoners on work details. One afternoon he “succumbed to the temptation,” as he put it, and walked away. He hopped a freight train and made it as far as Topeka before he was arrested the next day and returned to Leavenworth.
The police officers who picked him up did not need fingerprints to confirm he was an escapee. A prison-issued circular bearing his mug shots and a written description had already reached Topeka. Ironically, they were enough to nab a man who had helped to modernize the identification of criminals.
Coming up… in November 1638, Dorothy Talby killed her three-year-old daughter. She admitted so when first arrested. But then she refused to say anything when brought before a judge. But then, what would you expect from a woman, which we all know is more easily persuaded by Satan to sin – and women were much more likely to be seduced by witchcraft. At least, that’s what people believed in the 17th century. That story and more when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: THE CASE OF DOROTHY TALBYE==========
What could cause a mother to kill her child?
Though cases of mothers committing filicide are likely as old as history itself, the kind of punishment these women receive afterward has varied across time and in different societies around the world. Even today, public reaction over stories such as that of Susan Smith and Andrea Yates has ranged from shock and disbelief to calls for their execution. While postpartum psychosis and mood disorder are being increasingly recognized in these cases, treating filicidal mothers as mental patients rather than as murderers is still a relatively recent phenomenon.
Which brings us to the case of Dorothy Talbye…
Life tended to be hard for women living in 17th-century Massachusetts. Along with the widespread belief in witchcraft and demonic possession shared by the deeply religious residents of cities such as Salem and Boston, laws provided little protection for wives dealing with overly brutal or dominating husbands. Women who dared to criticize their husbands or resist their authority in any way risked being placed in stocks or even publicly whipped as “common scolds” or “shrews.” Part of the problem was the widespread belief that women were especially vulnerable to being led astray by Satan, something clergymen frequently declared in their regular sermons.
Even many of the religious books published in that era spoke about how women were responsible for “original sin” (thanks, Eve). William Perkin’s 1596 book, A Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft, was downright lyrical in condemning women. “In all ages it is found … that the devil hath more easily and oftener prevailed with women than with men,” he wrote. “The more women, the more witches.”
Relatively little is know about Dorothy Talbye’s early life though she was later described as being “of good esteem for godliness.” Along with her husband, she was a regular church goer and lived an unremarkable life. But everything changed in 1636 when her daughter, Difficulty, was born. For reasons that remain lost to history, Dorothy Talbye suddenly began experiencing emotional problems which made her increasingly moody and aggressive. According to the diary of Massachusetts Governor, John Winthrop, Dorothy’s bizarre behavior put her at odds with her husband and her church. She was described as “falling at differences with her husband, through melancholy or spiritual delusions, she sometimes attempted to kill him, and her children, and herself by refusing meat saying it was revealed to her, etc.”
Since she failed to improve despite efforts by her church leaders, she was formally “cast out” of the church. If anything though, learning that she had been excommunicated made her even more uncontrollable. After several more incidents involving her husband and children, Dorothy was then charged to appear before the magistrate in 1637 after being accused of assaulting her husband. She was initially sentenced to be bound and chained to a post and later that same year, was sentenced to be whipped over new offenses directed at her husband. The flogging appeared to do the trick and Dorothy began obeying her husband again, at least for a while.
In November 1638, Dorothy Talby killed her three-year-old daughter, difficulty by breaking her neck. Though she freely admitted committing the horrific crime when first arrested, she refused to say anything at her arraignment hearing. Colonial law being they way it was at the time, the governor eventually grew tired of her refusal to speak and threatened to have her pressed to death unless she confessed. Realizing she had no alternative, Dorothy admitted to the murder and stated that she killed her daughter to “free it from future misery.” Throughout her trial, she said nothing more in her defense and mostly refused to cooperate with the court for any reason.
At the time of the trial, there was no such thing as an insanity defense though it would be adopted under Massachusetts law not long afterward. Though people with severe mental illness were typically locked up in asylums to prevent them from harming themselves or anyone else, Governor Winthrop seemed disinclined to show any kind of mercy for Dorothy Talbye. As he later wrote about her in his journal, she committed the murder, not due to insanity, but because “she was so possessed with Satan, that he persuaded her (by his delusions, which she listened to as revelations from God) to break the neck of her own child.”
In the eyes of the Governor and the court, the death sentence was the only acceptable option in Dorothy’s case. By all accounts, she showed little real emotion on being told she would be hanged for her crime and said nothing to suggest that she was sorry for what she had done. She did ask to be beheaded instead of hanged, arguing that it would be less painful or shameful, but her request was denied. On the day of her execution, Dorothy Talbye had to be dragged to the gallows where she refused to stand. Her pastor and several other clergymen went with her hoping to provide some sort of comfort at the end but she refused any last minute rites. She even refused to wear the black hood that was standard for condemned prisoners. Instead, she took off the hood and used it to make the noose more comfortable for her. The actual hanging was a horrible sight since this was long before the use of the “Marwood drop” in which the gallows simply broke the condemned person’s neck. Dorothy Talbye was fully conscious as she slowly strangled to death (she even tried to grab the gallows ladder as she was swinging). She was then declared dead.
So, why was Dorothy Talbye punished so severely? While infanticide is a horrible crime, the courts have always had a fair bit of latitude in sentencing. When Mercy Brown of Wallingford, Massachusetts killed her son in 1691, she also went on trial for her life but was treated much more humanely than Dorothy was. Not only was sentencing delayed because of her “distracted” state, but she eventually received a prison sentence since she was regarded as mentally unfit. In Mercy Brown’s case however, she was openly remorseful and she also cooperated fully with the court, something Dorothy Talbye refused to do.
Instead of recognizing that her crime was due to mental illness, the courts saw her execution as an opportunity to “educate” other women about the consequences of acting “improperly”, i.e., failing to be submissive and obedient as a good wife should. Dorothy Talbye’s fate was sealed by her long history of “unwomanly” behaviour and her refusal to abide by the teachings of her church.
Much as in the Salem witch trials which would take place years later, women of that era were expected to know their place.
STORY: TRUE TIME-TRAVEL MOMENTS==========
Much has been said about time travel, but still few believe that it is actually possible. After all, at first glance, there is no evidence that people or objects can instantly move from one point in time to another. But this is only at first glance…
In 1912, the mayor of the Norwegian city of Ott Johan Nygard sealed with sealing wax a certain package, telling him to open it after 100 years. For 80 years the envelope was kept at the post office in Oslo, and another 20 years it was on display at the Gudbrandsdal Museum. When it was finally opened, everyone was in for a huge surprise.
It was opened in a festive and crowded atmosphere, and TV journalists with cameras were also present. At first, however, the contents were disappointing: inside were some old city office documents of no value and a Norwegian flag. Among the papers were two newspapers from 1914. It seems that the mayor had, after all, opened the envelope two years later in order to put them there. But why?
Meanwhile, experts have determined that the envelope has never been opened since 1912 and that Nygard never had access to the Oslo post office. So where did the newspapers come from?
We have to assume that either Nygard had been to the future, in 1914, and brought the newspapers with him, or that they had somehow fallen into his hands. He decided not to tell about this to any of his contemporaries, but in such an extraordinary way to tell about the anomalous fact to distant descendants …
Such a case is not unique. The Harsfeld family (Louisville, USA) keeps a greeting card received in the mid-1950s with a view of the German city of Frankfurt. Rita Harsfeld received it once from her grandfather, who died in 1959. But the thing is, the postcard itself was issued in 1983 and has buildings on it that were not yet built in the 1950s.
A certain resident of Chardzhou tells an even more amazing story. When he was a kid, for some reason he wasn’t accepted as a pioneer for a long time. The boy really wanted to read the Pioneer Truth newspaper, but only members of the children’s organization were allowed to subscribe. One summer night our hero went to sleep in the yard. He could not sleep, and the schoolboy began to pray to God, in whom his grandmother had taught him to believe: “God, help me become a pioneer and read Pioneer Truth!”
Suddenly there was a whirlwind of dust. And then the boy saw the newspaper swirling in the air. He grabbed it, and the wind immediately died down. It turned out to be Pioneer Truth. The next morning he began to read it and, to his astonishment, discovered that it was dated… next year. Still not understanding where the Pioneer Truth had come from, he decided that it was the newspaper of the girl next door. But the neighbors denied everything… The next year the boy was accepted as a pioneer, and he subscribed to Pioneer Truth. And one day he got exactly the same number of the newspaper as the one that the wind had brought him a year before. So that newspaper really came to him from the future?
Recently it is possible to meet the information about various paranormal phenomena connected with mobile communication and Internet. So, they tell about strange CMC. Someone receives messages from the year 2023, someone – from the year 2080… What they all have in common is that they are written in an unknown language that can not be deciphered by computer means.
Anatoly Grishin is a student, an ordinary citizen of Chelyabinsk. That is, he thought he was until he started receiving mysterious SMS messages. The first of them came on the birthday of a young man. The number was unfamiliar to him, and the text consisted of hieroglyphics. Anatoly paid attention to the date – January 1, 2040. He thought that someone had just decided to play a joke on him by giving him the wrong date and coding. But similar messages began to arrive every few days. And all of them had the year 2040 on them.
That got the guy thinking. He saved all the messages just in case and tried to decipher them on his computer, but only recognized some of the characters.
Calling his mobile operator, Tolya found out that the mysterious CMC did not match the database, so it turned out that he did not receive them at all… He was offered to change the number. After that nothing came for a month, and then he received the text message again, this time not only in hieroglyphs, but also in numbers, and the text was dated 2042.
Trying to find out the telephone number from which the messages came, Grishin found out that it was not assigned to any operator. It was as if the mysterious number did not exist in nature! Soon the student noticed that after receiving each message some unpleasant thing happened to him. For example, after receiving one of them, he had an accident.
Alarmed, Anatoly consulted a psychic. The lady said that there was nothing paranormal in the messages he received: they were written by a man and had nothing to do with otherworldly beings. Most likely, they come from… the future, and the author is one of Grishin’s friends or relatives. Or may be he himself.
The psychic suggested the following hypothesis. The person who writes the messages somehow found out about Anatoly’s future and is now trying to warn him about the coming troubles and troubles. But for some reason he cannot do it directly or does not have the technical conditions: messages reach the addressee only in “coded” form.
A few years ago, computer people noticed an ominous black banner that appeared from time to time on one Web page and then another. Clicking on it led nowhere, and after a while the banner disappeared on its own.
At first, programmers feared that a new virus was masquerading as a black banner. But then unexplainable things began to happen on the servers where the “glitch” was noticed. Thus, physicist Michael Dodgenson from NASA reports:
– When we analyzed the DNS servers, we found 102 links leading to nonexistent resources, or, to put it simply, to nowhere. And all of these links have dates between 2030 and 2070.
At the end of 2000 a person claiming to be John Titor began posting on the Net predictions for the near future. John claimed to have appeared…from the year 2036.
Titor left messages on various sites and forums. Sometimes he took the pseudonym TimeTravel_0. The prophecies made by this mysterious person look pretty grim. This man said that a civil war would break out in the United States, splitting the country into five regions with Omaha as the capital. In 2015 we are facing World War III, which will kill three billion people. And in 2036 a global virus will destroy the entire computer network, which will be a disaster for the rest of the world.
John Titor tells his readers that his mission is to go back to 1975 and to get hold of the IBM 5100 computer which must contain the programs to fight the future virus.
How, then, did Titor get to the year 2000? He really wanted to meet himself at the age of three, he explained. That was how old he was that year. Whether that venture succeeded is unknown. As you know, the theory of time travel denies the possibility of meeting your loved one from the past.
Many, of course, reacted to Titor’s posts with skepticism. But there were those who were interested in his information. For four months Tator answered in great detail all the questions that curious people asked him.
And he described the events of the future in a poetic style, like Nostradamus. Among other things, the mysterious stranger wrote that there were many realities and his own reality might not be related to ours. That is, the future in which he lives may have nothing to do with our past and present.
However, he urged us to prepare for a negative turn of events – in particular, to learn first aid and not to eat beef, because in his reality such a disease as mad cow disease has become a serious threat to mankind.
Titor also talked about some technical aspects of time travel and even posted pictures on the web of the device he supposedly used to travel to the past, although the pictures were not of very high quality.
Titor last went online on March 24, 2001 to offer his end-of-the-world advice to his fans: “Take a gas can with you when you leave your car by the side of the road.” After that, Titor closed all his accounts, and no one ever heard from him again.
Jeremiah is one of our Weirdo family members and he sent in a true story that happened to him called “Cold Hands”. Here is what he wrote:
(this is my first time taking part in something like this. I started listening about a week ago and im pretty addicted to it, so i decided to share my own)
This had happened when i was about 6 or 7,i cant recall correctly tho.
Back then i had lived in pakistan, since my family was Christian, we moved here to the Philippines.
Im 16 now, but i still remember alot that happened back then. Alot of it comes from the house we lived in, it was given to us by the church we went to since our family took part in almost everything.
The house was close to a mansion, it was a giant 1 story house and it had a massive garden surrounding it. A couple of large trees, beautiful flowers, we’d even plant vegetables and fruits in the backyard and i guess it was a picture-perfect life to live. Now heres the thing that really freaked my mom out.
The house had an old jujube tree, it was like the ones youd see in horror movies, filled with those giant roots covering it.
And what was weird was the fact that i used to call the tree my friend and how i wouldnt wanna leave it.
My moms brother and his family would often visit us. His son, who was the same age as me, was basically my best friend back then. This day they had stayed a little later then usual so me and my cousin tired ourselves up pretty good; after we played we ate and after that it was time for them to leave. I said my goodbyes and my mom sent me to my room, this usually wouldnt happen since it was impossible for me to sleep without my mom back then, so i called to her and she told me to go to my room again. I insisted again but then my mom gave me that scary “mom glare” and then of course i went straight in. Since it was 7pm and everyone was outside, all the lights were off, probably also because my grandma was sleeping in her room.
So, i went to the room and put up my moms thick silky sheet and i waited. i could somewhat make out the goodbyes from my room – that kept my scared child-brain at rest. As i waited, i looked at my hands (for some reason i had always been creeped out by hands). Looking at my hands i had started to feel scared and alone. I could no longer hear my parents voices, i thought that they were about to come towards the house. To reassure myself i called out “mama!” And i got no response. After that i wanted to go out to check but i was too scared to get out of my bed, and then suddenly i saw something move near the outside. That creeped me out, but i thought it was nothing. right then i felt a cold hand tickle my foot. It felt small and boney literally like how a dead persons would. I had gotten so scared that i wrapped myself inside of that thick blanket and used the bed as a barrier against me and whatever that thing was. There was silence everywhere, and that silence made me even more afraid. I cried myself to sleep that night. The next morning i woke up to my mother gently scratching my back, i was so relieved and then she told me about what had happened. Turns out my german shepherd outside had bitten my cousin on the leg, they had taken him to hospital while i was basically alone.
Our family Sometimes talks about that house and how many things they had seen there, which leads me to believe that the house was really haunted. Till this day i sleep with my feet inside my blanket because of that ghostly hand.
*** Thanks for story, Jeremiah! I can’t say that I can relate to being afraid of hands – but I will say I’ve seen a few feet in my life that would deter the boogeyman from getting too close! Those feet being mine! If you have a story to share like Jeremiah, you can visit WeirdDarkness.com and click on “Tell Your Story” – or you can call the Darkline to verbally tell your story. It’s a toll-free call: 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-59-44.
When Weird Darkness returns… stories of shapeshifters seem to be told worldwide – and the Celtic nations are no different. We’ll look at a few shape-changing creatures from Ireland, Wales and Scotland, up next.
STORY: SHAPE SHIFTERS OF THE CELTS==========
Shapeshifters are found in most mythologies and folk traditions around the world from ancient to modern times. In such traditions, humans change into vampires, werewolves, frogs, insects, and just any about any other creature imaginable and back again. Sometimes the transformation is controlled by the transformer who shifts shape at will. Other times it is an unwelcome event such as a punishment and sometimes it is forced by a magical spell but there are many other reasons besides. Shapeshifters can be good or bad, often moving the story forward in a novel way or have some kind of symbolism that the teller wants to get across to their audience. There are many different kinds of shapeshifting and here we look at different examples from Ireland, Wales and Scotland that provide differing glimpses of shapeshifters in action in the myth, folklore, and tradition of these three Celtic nations.
In Irish mythology, the Morrigan was a shapeshifting war goddess who could transform into a woman of any age and also change into animal or bird form. She had the power of prophecy and as a war goddess would sing her people to victory in battle. Sometimes she could be seen swooping over the battlefield in the form of a raven or crow and devouring the bodies of the slain.
In the story of the “Táin Bó Cúailnge”, or “The Cattle Raid of Cooley,” the Morrigan appears as a crow to warn the bull named Donn Cuailnge that Queen Medb is plotting to abduct him. Queen Medb attacks Ulster after the bull but is resisted single-handedly by the hero Cú Chulainn fighting a series of duels with her champions at a ford. In battle, Cú Chulainn undergoes a spectacular change in his form described as ríastrad or “warp-spasm” that sees him his body twist and contort into the most grotesque and fearsome appearance terrifying his opponents.
In between the duels, the Morrigan appears before Cú Chulainn as an attractive young woman seeking his love and offering her help. He rejects her and feeling slighted she seeks revenge by aiding his opponents. First, she turns into an eel and trips him. Next she turns into a wolf and causes a herd of cattle to stampede towards the ford. Lastly, transforming herself into a heifer she leads the stampede. Despite the magical shapeshifting she fails and Cú Chulainn manages to wound her on each transformation. Later she transforms into an old woman milking a cow bearing the three wounds. She offers him milk to drink and he blesses her healing her wounds which he later regrets.
There are many examples of shapeshifting in Welsh mythology where a human takes the form of an animal or bird and even flowers are transformed into maidens. In the story of “Math fab Mathonwy“, the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the maiden Blodeuwedd was created by Math and Gwydion out of the flowers of broom, meadowsweet, and oak and was later transformed into an owl. Gwydion had earlier undergone a series of transformations changing into a stag, sow and wolf, even producing offspring as a punishment inflicted by Math.
Arguably, one of the most exciting and extraordinary examples of shapeshifting appears in the story of the birth of Taliesin. The sorceress, Ceridiwen, brewed a potion to give to her son, Morvran ab Tegid, that would endow him with great wisdom and knowledge. She gave a boy named Gwion Bach the task of stirring the brew and tasked a blind man with feeding the fire. As Gwion was stirring three boiling hot drops spat from the cauldron on to his hand. Putting his hand to his mouth to relieve the pain he accidentally ingested the drops. This endowed him, instead of Morvran, with knowledge and wisdom and he foresaw Ceridwen’s wrath at the accidental ruining of her scheme.
Knowing he must escape, he transformed into a hare but she transformed into a greyhound hot on his tail. Therefore, he transformed into a fish and leaped into a river but she transformed into an otter and closed in on him. In the nick of time, he transformed into a bird and flew away. She transformed into a hawk and again began to close in on him. Seeing a pile of winnowed wheat in a barn he dived into that transforming into a single grain of corn. Transforming herself into a black hen she pecked it all up including him. With him inside her, she was now pregnant and nine months later gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Realising the baby was Gwion Bach reborn she wanted to kill him but because of the fairness of his brow could not. Giving him a slim chance of survival, she placed him in a leather bag and cast him into water. He would later be rescued and became the greatest Welsh bard of all time.
In Scottish folklore selkies and kelpies are two very different kinds of shapeshifting entities from examples from the examples from Irish and Welsh mythology we have looked at. They are completely different from each other having very different characteristics but both featuring in interesting legends and traditions. First, we will take a look at the selkie followed by a look at the kelpie.
A selkie changes its form from seal to human by removing its seal skin. To revert to its seal form it must put its seal skin back on. Often it is the female selkie who becomes trapped in a relationship when a man steals her seal-skin while she is in human form. With the theft of her seal-skin, her power has been stolen and she is unable to transform back into her original form and must live on land as a woman. Sometimes she will marry but spend much of her time pining for the sea. She may have children but if she ever recovers her seal-skin she quickly forsakes them and her husband to return to the sea. According to tradition, male selkies are very handsome in human form and women find them very seductive. The male selkie tends to seek out those women who are unhappy in their marriage such as fishermen’s wives who wait patiently at home alone for their husband’s return.
Kelpies are a different kind of entity in Scottish folklore. They are dangerous, supernatural horses-like entities with shapeshifting abilities dwelling in rivers, pools and lochs. According to tradition lone travellers sometimes encountered them lingering near watery places. They often take the form of a beautiful woman or horse but can also adopt other guises such as that of an old man. One sign of their true identity can be revealed when water weed is noticed entangled in their hair.
A folktale from the island of Barra tells how an amorous male kelpie transformed into a handsome young man hoping to seduce and marry a local girl. While the young man was sleeping she noticed he wore a silver necklace which was really his bridle. She removed it and he transformed into a horse. The girl took the horse to her father, who was a farmer, and he put it to work for a year. When the year was up she took it to a wise man, seeking his advice. He advised her she must give the silver necklace back, which she did, and the horse transformed back into the handsome young man. The wise man asked the younger man if – given the choice – he would prefer to live as a kelpie or a mortal man. The young man asked the girl if she would be prepared to marry him if he kept his human form. She confirmed that she would, and the kelpie chose to be a mortal man and married the girl.
From gods and goddesses to witches and sorcerers, to strange dangerous supernatural entities that haunt the wilds, Celtic mythology and folklore have an abundance of shapeshifters. The idea of the transformation of a human to animal or other form predates the Celts and examples are found in the rock art of ancient people all around the world. Similarly in the modern age shapeshifters are found in all of the traditional and modern media which reflects on its continuing popularity and the fact that it still strikes the right chords for many people just as it did for people in antiquity.