Sunday, October 30, 2016

HGB Halloween Special 2016

You know you've heard it. Deep in the gathering gloom of your room at night. The almost imperceptable sound of creaking. The almost silent footfalls of something unseen.

You know you've felt it. The breath on the back of your neck. The icy chill that raises the hairs on your arms. The feeling of being something...on the other side of the room.

You know you've seen it. The figure standing in the corner that is blacker than black. That thing that swallows every ounce of light in the room. Could it swallow your very soul?

HGB Ep. 160 - The Life and Afterlife of Boris Karloff

 Moment in Oddity - The Land of Giants

Did you know that there is a place in Northern Island that could be considered the land of the giants? Before you go thinking that some kind of fairytale is going live in Ireland, we have to tell you that it is a genetic thing. When a tumor grows on the pituitary gland, it tends to lead to a disorder called Acromegaly or Gigantism. You are probably familiar with famous giants from the past like Alton, Illinois' Robert Wadlow. In Mid-Ulster, Ireland, about 1 in 150 people carry a genetic mutation to the AIP gene that leads to an overproduction of growth hormone. The gene traces back 2500 years and this is the highest proportion of people in the world to have that gene. And while giants in fairytales are powerful and sometimes scary, modern day giants are generally debilitated by the disease and it leads to early death. Ireland is rich in folklore, so it seems only fitting that a land of giants would be found here. A hotspot for giants centered in one small area of the planet, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Black Tuesday

On this day, October 29th, in 1929, the worst stock market crash in history occurs and becomes known as Black Tuesday launching the Great Depression. The Roaring Twenties had ushered in a time of opulence and prosperity. Overproduction in the agricultural sector and excessive speculation helped usher in the beginning of the crash in October of 1929. The slide started on Black Thursday, October 24th, with the Stock Market losing 11% of its value right after opening. The sell-off continued into Monday with a further loss of 13%. The complete crash came the next day on Black Tuesday. There was a record trading of stocks that would last until broken 40 years later on that day and an additional loss of 12% occurred. That day $14 billion was lost. The Great Depression would follow and last for ten years marking the worst financial crisis of the 20th century. The Stock Market Crash was not the only factor leading to the Great Depression, but it helped catapult the economy into the inevitable.

The Life and Afterlife of Boris Karloff (Suggested by Luv2Shop)

Boris Karloff was a man of many talents who made a name for himself on stage and screen. Fame eluded him until he stepped into the heavy boots of a classic movie monster known as Frankenstein's Monster. It was a role that Karloff would not even be credited with, but it launched him into more horror films as he became an overnight sensation. He would do many things in his career, including providing the voice of the narrator and the Grinch in the 1966 classic holiday cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And it would seem that a part of him continues in the afterlife as well. Join us as we explore the life and afterlife of Boris Karloff!

William Henry Pratt was Boris Karloff's birth name and he was born on November 23, 1887 in East Dulwich, London. He was the youngest of nine children and grew up in Enfield. His mother passed away and his siblings basically raised him. When he had grown up, he decided to attend Kings College in London. It was expected that he would follow his brother Sir John Thomas Pratt into the British Foreign Service. Fate had other plans and Karloff dropped out of college in 1909 and he decided to go for a change of scenery in Canada. He found himself working in hard labor and he injured his back and he would suffer from back issues his whole life. Karloff had always wanted to be an actor and he decided to join an Ontario-based touring company of actors. He got into the troupe by lying and telling them that he was an experienced British actor. He had the accent, so why wouldn't they believe him? It was while this troupe traveled the United States that William Pratt would become Boris Karloff. Karloff wanted an exotic sounding name and he thought Boris fit the bill. Karloff was a derivative of Karlov, which had been an old family surname. There are those who claim that he changed his name to prevent embarrassment for his siblings and he figured they would disapprove of his profession.

Karloff decided that he wanted to move from the stage to the screen and he headed for Hollywood. He was broke when he arrived and willing to do any part offered him. He initially found bit parts in silent films. He was usually type-cast as a dark, brooding mysterious figure because of his Anglo-Indian complexion and his heavy-lidded eyes. These parts were generally mystics and Native American warriors. The first paranormal type film he appeared in was 1925's "The Bells." He played a mesmerist. The bit parts were coming fewer and far between and soon Karloff was having to work menial jobs to make ends meet. He was beginning to think that he would never become a star.

Things started looking up in 1931 when he got a good part in a movie that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, "Five Star Final." And then came the movie that would make him a star and that was Frankenstein. Universal Studios wanted Bela Lugosi to play the monster in the film. Lugosi had just made the movie "Dracula" a smash hit the year before, taking his stage performance of Dracula to the big screen. Lugosi was offered the part, but in a decision that he would later regret, he passed on it because it was not a speaking part. He also was not interested in having to wear all the make-up that it would take to become the character. The make-up sessions were so brutal, in fact, that Karloff would become one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild to fight for safe working conditions for actors.

Karloff ended up landing the role of the monster after a chance meeting with the movie's director, James Whale at a studio commissary. He asked Whale if he could do a screen test. Obviously, Whale decided to cast Karloff who was perfect for the part. Karloff worked for weeks with make-up director Jack Pierce refining never before done techniques to bring the monster to life. A brace was made that would force him to walk in an upright and stiff gait. Despite having no speaking parts, Karloff conveys all the emotions and causes the audience to feel empathy for the creature. He would reprise the role in two more movies and he referred to the monster as"the best friend [he] ever had." Fun Fact: Karloff did not get billing in the movie "Frankenstein." The star of the movie was British actor Colin Clive who played Dr. Frankenstein. Mae Clarke played the Bride of Frankenstein and she got second billing. When the Monster characters name came up in the credits, Karloff's name was omitted and there was a question mark in its place.

The horror movie roles continued and Karloff played monsters and madmen and became the king of classic horror. Lugosi was always a rival for that position, but Karloff edged him out. The films that followed Frankenstein were "The Mummy" in 1931, "The Mask of Fu Manchu" in 1932, "The Bride of Frankenstein" in 1935, "Isle of the Dead" in 1945 and "The Body Snatcher" in 1945. Karloff finally returned to London in 1933 to make the movie "The Ghoul." He was nervous about seeing his family because he thought they would be ashamed of him. His brother John told him that he better save his money because the acting wouldn't last, but all the siblings were proud of his success and jockeyed for position to be in pictures with him.

It wasn't just horror films that Karloff starred in through the next four decades. He would do drama and comedy as well. He also played the part of Chinese detective Mr. Wong in three features and a heroic doctor wrongly imprisoned on "Devil's Island." In the 1940s, he took Broadway by storm in Arsenic and Old Lace. Karloff earned a Tony nomination for "The Lark" in 1952 playing the part of the bishop who orchestrated the execution of Joan of Arc. And he lent his unique pipes to radio comedies and dramas. He even entranced a new audience of young viewers with his narration in the CBS television special "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" in 1966. He earned a Grammy nomination for the soundtrack LP. Every Christmas, he dressed as Santa Claus to hand out gifts to children in the hospital over the holidays. He was dedicated to several charities.

His health declined dramatically in the 1960s as emphysema forced him to carry oxygen around with him and he could not stand for long periods. He had married for the first time in 1910. That would end in divorce and he would marry four more times. It was during his fourth marriage to Dorothy Stine that his daughter Sarah was born. Not much is known about his personal life. He was a very private man. He loved cricket and gardening. His daughter Sarah said, "He adored the game of cricket. He thought he had died and gone to heaven when he could go to a five-day cricket match and have smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches.” The movies he made in the latter part of the 1960s were forgettable and most were low budget horror flicks made in Mexico.

In was in his final decade that he finally settled down in England and lived between his flat in London and his beloved cottage in the countryside, "Roundabout." This cottage is located in Bramshott, England. His health continued to decline and he was hospitalized with pneumonia in 1969. He died from that illness on February 2, 1969 at the age of 81. He was cremated and his remains were buried at Guildford Crematorium Garden of Remembrance. There is no marker. After his death, his illustrated likeness served as the sinister host for the comic book series "Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery" that ran for two decades. In 1997, his depictions of the Monster and the Mummy were commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp series celebrating classic movie creatures. He also was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in motion pictures and television.

But that was not the end of Boris Karloff. His spirit still seems to remain in the afterlife. Bramshott Village is in Hampshire and this is where Karloff's Roundabout cottage is located. The cottage was given that name because its back is to the road. It was built in the 18th century, probably around 1750. It's two stories and built from red brick with two rooms. His apparition has been seen in the home and any unexplained occurences have been credited with him. But there are claims that the cottage was haunted by a tall dark figure even before Karloff died. Some claim that he moved to this village and this home because of the paranormal activity.

Bramshott Village is considered to be one of the more haunted villages in England and this is for many of the same reasons as Pluckley Village. Battles came through here, as did the Black Death. A large tree in the center of the village was the hanging ground. Karloff's spirit has ventured out into the village as well. Many people claim to have seen him walking on the street and between buildings. Does Boris Karloff still remain in the afterlife? Is he haunting Bramshott Village? That is for you to decide!

10 Karloff Films to Watch:
Frankenstein (1931)
The Mummy (1933)
The Black Room (1935)
The Raven (1935)
The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936)
The Ape (1940)
Bedlam (1946)
The Scorcerers (1967)
Targets (1967)
Invasión Siniestra (1971)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

HGB Ep. 159 - The Devil's Tramping Grounds

Moment in Oddity - The Dover Demon

In April of 1977, there were three separate sightings of a creature that Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman named the Dover Demon. Bill Bartlett was a seventeen-year-old boy who was driving through Dover, Massachusetts at night. He was shocked when he caught a creature in his headlights. It was the size of a dog and he at first thought that was what he was seeing. But as he looked closer, he saw that it had glowing orange eyes, long spindly legs and a large bulbous head. The thing had slender fingers that it used to grasp the pavement and it was hairless. Bartlett drove away terrified and sketched what he had seen. The next day he showed it to friends. An hour after Bartlett's sighting, a fifteen-year-old named John Baxter claimed to see the creature while he was walking home with his thirteen-year-old friend Pete Mitchell. Baxter described it as bipedal with orange eyes. He drew a similar sketch. The next day, fifteen-year-old Abby Brabham and eighteen- year-old Will Traintor claimed to see the Dover Demon from their car that they had parked on the side of the road. Their descriptions were similar, only they described glowing green eyes. They said it was the size of a goat. They drew sketches as well. All matched even though none of the individuals knew each other from the separate sightings. Many claimed that the Dover Demon was a baby moose. Loren Coleman has pointed out that moose were not found in that area at that time. Others thought it was a hoax. Whatever the case may be, the description of the Dover Demon certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Constantine's Vision of the Cross

On this day, October 27th, in 312, Emperor Constantine has a vision of the cross in the sky. This took place on the eve of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. This would be a battle of Constantine's army against the army of Maxentius right outside of Rome near the Milvian Bridge. Constantine was directed in a dream to fight in the name of Christ and he added an intersected chi (X) and rho (P) to the shields of his men. What was described as a dream could have been a vision that assured Constantine of victory. The author Eusebius, a Constantine apologist, also described the event in "Life of Constantine" as, "He saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, CONQUER BY THIS. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle." Constantine was outnumbered, but he defeated Maxentius’ forces. They retreated over the bridge and it collapsed and many men were trampled or drowned. Constantine took the head of Maxentius and rode into Rome.

The Devil's Tramping Grounds (Suggested by Konda from Germany, McKenna Wilson, Steven Pappas, Bob Sherfield and Whitney Land)

Study a map of the world with a focus on name places that carry the word "devil" in the name or some derivative thereof, and you will literally find hundreds of them. What is the fascination with using the devil's name? There are some who believe these places have been named this way because they harbor some kind of evil. Some of them are located at places thought to be crossroads. And it would seem that some of these places do have strange legends or supernatural activity connected to them. These places could be considered the Devil's Tramping Grounds. On this episode, we are going to focus on a handful of these locations that have some very strange or nefarious happenings connected to them. Join us as we explore the Devil's Tramping Grounds!

Devil's Tramping Ground - The inspiration for the name of this episode is a place that has been dubbed the Devil's Tramping Ground. We'll give Steven Pappas credit for bringing this to our attention. This  legendary area has been talked about for hundreds of years. This area is found south of Siler City, North Carolina. It is a forty-foot barren circle of land that was first mentioned in history before the Revolutionary War when the first settlers came to Chatham County. So what is the reason for this circle of land to be barren? The legend claims that the Devil liked this particular spot to work out his devilish plans. He would walk in circles as he plotted the demise of men. His steps killed all the plants that he trotted across in the circle.

This legend may seem preposterous to most people, but how about an explanation that incorporates two Native American tribes crossing paths in a very violent way on this spot. The losing tribe fled to the coast and became the Croatian tribe. The fight was intense and much blood was shed. So much, that it killed the vegetation in the circle. But this is not why nothing continues to grow there. The natives claimed that the gods decreed that nothing should grow there as a reminder of the war. But logical people believe that science can give us the real explanation. As was the case with the Hoia Baciu Forests, scientists have tested everything in the area. They did find a high content of salt, which could perhaps cause greenery not to grow. But what explains the perfect circle?

There are hauntings related to the circle lending credence to the idea that this is a supernatural spot. Objects placed in the circle will be moved outside of the circle overnight. There are stories that anybody who spent the night in the circle would come out of the circle completely insane. This was because it was claimed that they would see the Devil's true face when they spent the night. A young woman by the name of Sarah camped at the site with some friends. They set up their tents and climbed in for the evening. Sarah was awakened in the middle of night by whispers outside of the tent. She at first assumed another group had ventured to the circle. She poked her head outside and the whispering immediately stopped. And there was no one outside. Sarah went back to sleep, but shortly thereafter there was talking again, but this time it seemed as though something were hitting the tent in several places. Once again, Sarah and her friends found no one outside.

Stories like this have been told by many people staying at the Tramping Ground. People also claim to have seen shadowy figures darting between the trees. It does not help that occult practitioners enjoy using the area for seances and rituals. Have they brought the haunting figures here? We'll probably never know why this area is barren, but it sure seems that something strange is going on here.

Devil's Bridge (Suggested by Bob Sherfield) - The Devil's Bridge is not one particular bridge. There are several bridges in Europe that carry this moniker, including the countries of Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom and others. The bridges share some common elements. They date back to medieval times and rather than just spanning a waterway in a flat line, they are built in a high arch as if to accommodate ships sailing underneath. Some believe that humans could not have built these structures and thus came legends that the Devil built these bridges. In several legends, the price that must be paid to get the Devil to build the bridge is a human soul. He says that he will take the first one that crosses the bridge. Each legend has the Devil being tricked out of his prize when an animal, either a dog or a rabbit, is first to cross the bridge. How did these people know that the architect and builder of the bridge was the Devil? Many would see a hoof from under the long coat he wore and there was a tinge of the scent of brimstone whenever he left.

Devil's Playground - The Devil's Playground was named by the Apaches. This is an area that is drenched in the supernatural with claims that this is a vortex. This is a mountainous area in south central Arizona. Claims made about the Playground are that it has a cave that is an entry into a subterranean world. Supposedly, an ancient spiral staircase can be found in the tunnel that penetrates into the bowels of the earth. Time and dimensional shifts have been reported by visitors. The Circlestone Medicine Wheel is an artifact comparable to England's Stonehenge and is found here, 6,000 feet up in the mountains. 

Devil's Island, Nova Scotia -  Devil's Island off Nova Scotia has a rich history of hauntings and unexplained phenomenon. It is located at the northeast entrance to Halifax Harbour. The first mention of the island came in 1711 when it appeared on a French map of the Province of Nova Scotia. The name used to be Rous' Island because the original owner was named Captain John Rous. The name was changed to Wood Island because of all the trees, but after a fire wiped out all the trees, people started calling it Deville's or Duval's Island, which was later anglicized to Devil's. A community of European settlers grew up on the island in 1830. A school was built along with a general store and there were once two lighthouses. Only one still remains and that is the Southeast Lighthouse. A house once stood on the island that was reputed to be very haunted. As a matter of fact, those early settlers claimed the entire island was haunted.

One year, a lighthouse keeper was working to spiffy up the place and he decided to put a new coat of paint on the stairs. He finished up and turned to collect his painting tools and material. When he turned back around to survey his handywork, he was astonished to find footsteps in the fresh wet paint. He was the only person at the lighthouse. One of the rumors about how the island came to have the name Devil spawns from a story about a man named Caspar Henneberry. He may have had too much to drink one night, but he claimed that one evening he found a talking halibut that claimed it was the Devil himself. Caspar told the townspeople, but they laughed at him. They weren't laughing the next day when Caspar was found hanging over the side of his boat, drowned. And thus the island got its name.

That haunted house we mentioned was the victim of several mysterious fires. People who lived at the house and those who visited claim that objects would move on their own and that weird knocks would be heard in the walls. Foul odors would seem to come from nowhere and disembodied voices were heard. The house was eventually razed, but this hasn't stopped the paranormal activity. Strange lights and fires are seen where the house once stood. In the mid 1990s, a camper, who was also a fan of the paranormal, decided to put the island's haunted reputation to the test. He set up camp near the lighthouse keeper's house. He noticed in the evening that a light was visible in a window. There is no electricity on the island, so he decided to check out the house and see what was making the light. He discovered a candle in the window, but it had been blown out apparently. He felt the wick and it was still warm. He looked around to see if he could find anybody in the house. He found no one and he was quite unnerved because earlier he had explored the island and there was no one on the island but him.

Devil's Backbone (Suggested by Whitney Land) - We know we have many beer drinkers out there, so you might be familiar with the Devil's Backbone Brewing Company. The Devil's Backbone that this is named for was a perilous cliff area in Virginia that was surveyed by men like Thomas Jefferson's father. Their task was to carve and measure a straight line that was 80 miles long and would come to be known as The Fairfax Line. They also wanted to trace the sources of the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers and try to connect them.One of the surveyor's wrote in his journal, “Friday, October 3rd … Thence 604 poles to the top of Devils Backbone to a Chestnut Oak we marked 31 miles. This day several of the horses had like to been killed, tumbling over rocks and precipices, and we ourselves were often in utmost danger. This terrible place we called Purgatory …”

The Devil's Backbone that Whitney suggested is in Texas. It is part of Edward's Plateau and runs from Wimberley to Blanco. The hills are made from limestone. The road people drive along is called Purgatory Road. Occasionally a bizarre creature will appear on the hood of people's cars. Whitney wrote, "One of my favorite features of the Hill Country in Texas is a limestone ridge called Devil's Backbone. It's a beautiful drive and a popular ride for bikers. There are tales of seeing ghosts of Spanish monks, Native Americans, the spirit of a wolf and even confederate soldiers riding their horse. This area had a spot on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries!" There are reputed to be many ghosts here that include a miner's widow and child, a Native American cattle herder named Drago and a wolf spirit. The miner's widow is said to be wandering trying to bring her husband a proper Christian burial.

The ghostly galloping of horses is heard across the Devil's Backbone. Reports claim that the beating of the hooves can shake a house on its foundation. TVs at the Devil's Backbone Tavern turn off and on by themselves. A hunter claimed he would never return to the area after hearing the thundering of what he figured were the hooves of fifty horses. When he looked towards the sound, he saw a Confederate Calvary. A farm family claimed that their son was talking to an imaginary friend who was a little girl he described as having a hole in her head. The girl had told him that her father had shot her. It was a common practice at the time for families to commit murder-suicide during Comanche raids.

Devil's Dyke (Suggested by Bob Sherfield) - This is a V-shaped valley on the South Downs Way in Sussex in southern England. It is believed that the extremely cold climate that existed here 14,000 years ago and river erosion helped form the valley. At least, that is what scientists will tell you. The locals will probably tell you various legends all dealing with the Devil, which is how this dyke got Devil in its name. The Devil was apparently digging this trench with the diabolical goal of destroying the churches in Weald of Sussex with a flood of sea water. The trench was left unfinished. The reasons are multiple depending on the legend told. One claims the Devil stubbed his toe kicking a rock and the injury forced him to stop. That rock landed in a valley in Hove that came to be known as Goldstone because of that rock, which had hints of gold in it. That stone can be seen at the Old Shoreham Road end of the park and may have been a center of worship for Druids. Another reason given for the cessation of digging was the crow of a rooster, which made the Devil think that morning was coming and so he ran. And yet another version claims a woman lit a candle after the digging disturbed her and the light chased the Devil away. He threw one last shovelful of dirt over his shoulder and the Isle of Wight was formed. But consider this: There have been reports for centuries of sightings of a devil-like creature. So which came first? Did the sightings cause people to create the legend? Or has the legend led to people thinking they are seeing the Devil?

Devil's Tree (Suggested by McKenna Wilson) - In Somerset County in New Jersey stands a solitary tree that is known as the Devil's Tree. It's an oak tree with dead limbs that many claim is cursed. Bernard's Township, where the tree is located, was considered one of the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey and this tree reputedly was used to lynch African Americans and rebellious slaves. Another legend claims that a local farmer killed his family and then hanged himself from the tree. Whatever is the cause of the curse, it is said that anyone who disrespects the tree by urinating on it or making disparaging remarks towards it, will have a mishap later. Like a car accident or some other misfortune. Other legends claim that people who get too close to the tree will be chased by a black Ford pick-up truck that will then disappear at a certain point. The ground below the tree does not collect snow in the winter and a nearby rock is referred to as "Heat Rock" and there are claims it blocks a portal to Hell.

Devil's Footstep or Teufelstritt (Suggested by Konda from Germany) - The Frauenkirche is a Catholic Church built in Munich beginning in 1468. It took twenty years to build and architect Jörg von Halsbach designed the structure. It was built in the Gothic style out of red brick because it was a cheaper building material. The church was not completed as designed because construction suffered from many financial issues. Many Gothic features were not included initially for this reason. Two towers would not be completed until 1525. They were suppose to have pointed spires, but instead were completed with dome tops. This again was due to funds and it was thought it would be better for rain. They do not match the rest of the structure, but it makes the church very distinct. It is the largest brick church north of the Alps. There is a unique legend that goes with the church.

Konda wrote, "This story was told to me by Sister Miriam, a nun who had been a close friend of my mother. The biggest and most recognizable Catholic Church in Munich is the Münchner Frauenkirche (translates to women's church.) This is where the Devil's Footprint can be found. It is a black mark resembling a footprint, which according to legend was where the devil stood when he regarded and ridiculed the 'windowless' church. Here is the version of the legend that Sister Miriam told me: The Devil made a deal with the builder to finance construction of the church on the condition that it contains no windows. This would keep the angels out of the church and therefore ensure that no blessings would come from any ceremony conducted there. The architect; however, tricked the devil by positioning columns so that the windows were not visible from the spot where the devil stood in the foyer. When the Devil discovered that he had been tricked, he realized he could not enter the already consecrated church. He could only stand in the foyer and stomp his foot furiously, which left the dark footprint that remains visible in the church's entrance today. Legend also says the Devil then rushed outside and manifested his evil spirit in the wind that furiously rages around the church. This church actually has enormous fallwinds due to the facade and the postioning of the church. Even on days when there is no wind at all, you will always have a breeze there. Another explanation for the wind is that the Devil rode on it to the church and when he became enraged and left quickly, he forgot the wind there and it must stay until he returns to retrieve the wind." This wind has been dubbed "Perpetual Wind."

Does the Devil make himself homes in certain areas on earth? Are these locations harboring something evil? Are these Devil's Tramping Grounds haunted? That is for you to decide!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

HGB Ep. 158 - Witches in America

Moment in Oddity - Crewless Blimp Falls From Sky
Suggested by listener Zoe Zimmerman

During World War II, the United States Navy used blimps to help patrol the coastlines. The main objective was to find submarines. One of these blimps was the L-8 that had been stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco. It left Treasure Island on the morning of August 16th in 1942 with a crew of two men, Lt. Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams. Around 11:30am, people in Daly City, California noticed that the blimp was sagging and descending. The blimp landed on a rooftop and then drifted some more until it became tangled in power lines. It finally smashed into the ground, bending the propellers and smashing the engines, which leaked gasoline onto the street. Police and fire crews rushed to the scene. They found everything in perfect order in the gondola. The lifeboat and parachutes were stowed. A cap still rested on the control panel. The only thing missing was the crew. Searchers were sent out to find the men. They searched everywhere. A couple of fishermen were found who witnessed the blimp descend to an altitude of 300, circle and oil slick and then rise again without dropping any depth charges. They saw nothing leave the blimp, including humans. The pilots had radioed earlier in the day, “Am investigating suspicious oil slick—stand by.” It was the last message sent by the crew. They were never found and declared dead a year later.The disppearance remains to this day one of history's mysteries, and certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Japanese Kamikazes Used For First Time

On this day, October 25th, in 1944, the first Japanese Kamikazes were used. Kamikaze attacks were suicide attacks by military pilots. The tactic was simple. Crash an aircraft into an important target. The pilots were in effect killing themsleves. The first time the Japanese incorporated these kinds of attacks into their strategy was during World War II at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In the Japanese culture, it was honorable to die this way. To be defeated was shameful and the Japanese had been losing air dominance. On October 25th, Seki led five A6M Zeros, escorted by leading Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, to an area where several US carriers were located. Fifty-five other Kamikaze pilots joined them and began the assault. By the end of the day, seven carriers and forty other ships had been hit. Five were sunk, twenty-three were heavily damaged and twelve moderately damaged.

Witches in America (Suggested by Molly Farquhar, research assistance from Kristen Calderon)

Many people are aware of the Salem Witch Trials in America. And while these trials and these alledged witches get most of the attention, these were not the only people accused of witchcraft. It is generally understood that these people were not really practicing witchcraft, but that does not mean that there were not really witches in America. Witchcraft has long been practiced in America and Wicca is an accepted religious practice in our modern era. On this episode, we are going to explore other witch hunts and discuss some possible real witches, including the Bell Witch of Tennessee. Join us as we explore witches in America.

Blue Laws were enacted in the colonies of New England in the 1600s making witchcraft illegal. These laws stated, "If any man or woman be a witch—that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit—they shall be put to death.” Before Salem, Massachusetts conducted its infamous witch hunt, Hartford, Connecticut had its own witch hunt in 1662. The first woman to be accused of witchcraft in that hunt was Goodwife Ayres. But even before this, in 1647, Alice Young of Windsor, Conneticut was sent to the gallows for alledgedly following the customs of witchcraft. She was hanged in Hartford. We don't know specifics of the trial and accusations against Alice, but she was due to inherit a bunch of land from her dead husband and an epidemic had seized the area, making many people ill. She more than likely was not a witch.  In 1650, a servant named Mary Johnson was hanged for witchcraft. She had been accused of stealing and by the time officials were done torturing her, she had confessed to adultery, murdering a child and familiarity with the Devil. The last charge stuck. John and Joan Carsington were found guily of familiarity with the Devil and executed in 1651. Goodwife Bassett and Goodwife Knapp of Fairfield, Connecticut, were hanged 1651 and 1653 respectively, and Lydia Gilbert of Windsor was hanged in 1654.

In 1662, Elizabeth Kelly was an eight-year-old girl who had been out with her neighbor, Goodwife. The day after she returned home, Elizabeth took ill and nobody could figure out what had happened to her. Prior to her death, Elizabeth yelled out, “Father! Father! Help me, help me! Goodwife Ayres is upon me. She chokes me. She kneels on my belly. She will break my bowels. She pinches me. She will make me black and blue.” After Elizabeth died, Hartford caught witch hunt fever and neighbors began accusing each other of witchcraft. Ayers managed to flee and was not hanged.  Four others would be hanged, Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith, Mary Sanford and Mary Barnes. If anything good came out of this epsiode, it was that the laws were changed, so that a person accused of withcraft had to have at least two accusers, rather than just the one that was intitally required when these laws were established.

These weren't the only cases of witchcraft accusations being thrown around for political reasons. Occasionally, the shaman or witch doctor of a Native American tribe has been considered a witch. This witch story comes out of Dublin, Ohio. There was a Wyandot chief named Shatehyarona who most knew as Leatherlips. He was an elder of his tribe and was accused by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh of practicing witchcraft. Leatherlips own brother Roundhead called for the execution of his brother. The real reason for the accusations were more than likely because Leatherlips wouldn't unite with Tecumseh and turn against the white people. Instead, Leatherlips was befriending them and selling land to them, including William Henry Harrison. He was put to death by the tomahawk. They say he haunts Dublin and curses the annual golf tournament with rain. It is believed that the golf course was built over his death and burial site.

There was another Native American population caught up in a witch hunt. These were the Witches of Abiquiu. This outbreak occurred in New Mexico between 1756 and 1766. The Genizaro land grant of Abiquiu was the crown jewel of Governor Velez Cachupin's plan to achieve peace between the natives and the early New Mexican colonists. Part of this peace plan was not forcing the Genizaro to convert to Christianity. They retained their religious ceremonies. The religious leader there was Father Juan Jose Toledo and he didn't like the plan. He claimed that the natives had bewitched the Governor. The Franciscan Father takes on the role as exorcist and many leaders of the native population were accused of being possessed. In the end, the Governor is able to separate out the leaders and bring calm. At the heart of this craze is much of what happened in the witchcraft hunts of the past. There was fear and a desire to take over the land. And the fact that there was no Devil in the native beliefs makes it hard to believe that these people would have made pacts with the Devil.

We all understand that none of these people actually practiced witchcraft. Many were caught up in a hysteria that was very deadly. Does that mean that there were no witches in America? Of course not. Witchcraft has been practised throughout the world in many forms for centuries. Let's look at some of the more famous witches in America.

The River Witch of Marietta - Nellie Noll was a woman living in Marietta, Pennsylvania in 1928 in a home along Front Street. Everyone referred to her as the "River Witch." Nearby was Rehmeyer Hollow, named for the man who lived there, Nelson Rehmeyer. The property soon came to be known as Hex Hollow. This area was rife with magical practices and superstition. Rehmeyer was a practitioner of a type of folk magic known as Pow Wow. It was mainly practiced by the Pennsylvania Dutch and was thought by some to be a type of witchcraft even though many practitioners claimed to be Christian and the Bible is used in Pow Wow. Whether it is technically witchcraft or not, one of the reasons for doing Pow Wow is to put hexes on people. The River Witch managed to convince Rehmeyer's neighbor, John Blymire, that a hex had been placed on him by Rehmeyer. She told Blymire that the only way to break the hex was to get a lock of the Pow Wow man's hair and steal his hex book. He then had to burn the spell book and bury the ashes with the hair. Blymire got the help of two teenagers who he convinced were hexed as well. Things went horribly wrong and the teenagers ended up murdering Rehmeyer. The trial that followed was a sensation and the Philadelphia Record called the trial “the weirdest and most curiously fascinating in the history of modern jurisprudence.” The River Witch never faced any punishment for her involvement. And by another twist of synchronocity, if you would like to know more about this infamous crime, Erik Rivenes at Most Notorious just produced an episode on the murder of Nelson Rehmeyer.

Bell Witch -  The Bell Witch is an entity that tormented a Tennessee pioneer family by the name of Bell. This haunting took place  between 1817 and 1821.  But many believe that the hauntings related to this witch continue to the present day. The Bell Family was headed by John. It was his daughter Betsy who was first attacked by the entity that would come to be known as the Bell Witch. She was tormented by being physically attacked and then the house started experience things that could be equated to hauntings. There was knocking on the walls and disembodied voices. The entire family experienced all of these unexplained events, but they told no one. It was not long before neighbors started experiencing them as well. Eventually, the witch identified herself as someone named Kate and she promised to kill John Bell. And eventually it seemed that she did. To help explain more about this story and to share the hauntings that have resulted and continue, we are joined by one of the foremost experts on the Bell Witch, Pat Fitzhugh. He has written two books on the subject and appeared on numerous paranormal shows.

The religion of Wicca was formally founded in the 1950s in Great Britain. Members worship the goddess and nature. They promise to do no harm when practicing their magical rites. There are hundreds of thousands of Wiccans in the United States. And don't call male Wiccan practitioners Warlocks. This is highly offensive because the term warlock is meant to refer to a person who has been locked out of a coven. This is usually done to an individual who has betrayed the coven or used magic for ill gain. So there really are such things as witches, but they are not the witches of lore that have green skin, wear black pointed hats and fly around on brooms.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

HGB Ep. 157 - Legend of the Djinn

Moment in Oddity - The Azores Mermaid Hoax

In our not too distant past, there were rumors of mermaids in the Azores region of Portugal where the city of Ponta Delgada is situated. The year was 1930 and people were flocking to a seaside resort run by Papa Bernardes. For many years he had been the proprietor of Hotel Bernardes that he ran with his wife and a couple of other workers. The hotel had just been expanded to accomodate all the guests and renamed Hotel das Belhas Sirenas Plaza, which translated, means the Beautiful Mermaids Plaza Hotel. Two mermaids seemed to be living in the waters near the resort. They liked to sun themselves on the Mermaid Rocks in the distance. They mostly appeared at night and Papa Bernardes had ordered two powerful searchlights to attach to the hotel to help guests spot the creatures. And they did spot them. Money was rolling in and Papa Bernardes was a huge success thanks to the mermaids. That was until the new police commissioner in Ponta Delgada decided to investigate the reports of mermaids. He and a couple of Lietuenants jumped into a motor boat and headed out to the Mermaid Rocks. When the mermaids heard the boat, they jumped into the water. The motor boat was faster and caught both the mermaids, revealing that the two creatures were simply Papa Bernardes daughter and his maid, wearing tan colored bathing suits and handmade tails that Papa's wife had sewn. The hoax was revealed. You see, Papa was walking home one evening after having too much wine and he thought he saw a mermaid dive into the water. He kept staring out at the water and his daughter came walking up to him wondering what he was looking at. She was soaking wet because she had been swimming. That is when Papa came up with his idea. The fact that it fooled so many people for such a long while, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - The Disney Movie Dumbo Premieres

On this day, October 23rd, in 1941, the Walt Disney Studios' animated feature film Dumbo premieres. The Disney Company had suffered losses with their film Fantasia and it went back to basics to make the more simplistic film, Dumbo. It was based on a children's book about an elephant with ears so large, he can use them to fly. Dumbo is anything, but simplistic as it pulls at the heart strings. Dumbo's real name is Jumbo Jr. and he is delivered to his mother at the circus. When everyone sees his big ears, they tease him and call him Dumbo. That teasing leads to his mother rampaging and she is locked up. Dumbo's only friend in the world is the little mouse Timothy and eventually Timothy figures out Dumbo can fly and with practice, they use this new trick in the circus. Dumbo becomes a big hit and his mother is freed and the two are given their own private circus car. There's also a drunk Dumbo and Timothy, pink elephants on parade and a magic feather thrown in the mix. The movie was the most financially successful Disney film in the 1940s and grossed $1.6 million during its original release.

Legend of the Djinn (Suggested by Miranda Hofer)

Many people's only experience with the creatures called Djinn are through stories about genies. We've been lead to believe that these creatures live in lamps and can only be released by rubbing the outside of the lamp. Once released, the genie promises to fulfill three wishes of the person who has freed it. The actual legends about Djinn are something quite different. The Djinn can be very frightening entities and have abilities that make them dangerous. They have gained in popularity and moved out from Islamic lore into the pop culture. Join us and our listener Miranda as we explore the legends of the Djinn!

Djinn are powerful magical beings that come out of Arabic writing and the Islamic religion. The Quran mentions Djinn several times and explains that they were created from a smokeless and scorching fire by God. The term Djinn means "beings that are concealed from the senses." They were early on considered to be soul-less creatures living in all areas of Arabia. They have been compared to the faeries of European legend. Some legends claim that they can shape-shift and there are people like Rosemary Ellen Guiley, who is well known in paranormal circles, that claim that the Djinn are really the base of all supernatural entities from aliens to demons to ghosts to werewolves. For us, this seems as preposterous as saying that all ghosts are demons.

Although there is archaeological evidence that Djinn were worshipped long before Islam, it is this religion that really cemented the Djinn position in religious belief. In the Islamic tradition, it is said that the rise of Muhammed and his religion of Islam pushed back the Djinn and they were all forced to make a decision to either help forward Islam or to turn their back and fight believers. Half of the Djinn sided with Islam and they are considered good. The other half are considered evil. At this time, all Djinn were given souls. Christians view all Djinn as demonic, which works for the truly evil ones because then even the good ones are considered enemies. When these entities shape shift, they take on the characteristics of the animals they choose to become and can sometimes retain parts of that transformation, like tails, teeth and horns. They do; however, take on the challenge of being a physical form in that they must follow the laws of nature. This means that they can be killed when in a human or animal form.

The Djinn are said to have five distinct orders. There are the strongest called the Marid, the weakest known as Jann, the Ifrit, the Shaitan and the Ghul. Some traditions split Djinn into three classes rather than orders. These include those that resemble snakes and dogs, those who have wings and fly in the air and those who travel about ceaselessly. Some traditions hold that every person has a Djinn assigned to them, similar to the belief in Christianity that we each have our own guardian angel. This companion Djinn is specifically called a qarīn. They are not necessarily good and can whisper to the soul evil desires. Ibn al-Hajjaj recorded in a hadith that Abdullah reported, "The Prophet Muhammad said: 'There is not one of you who does not have a jinnī appointed to be his constant companion (qarīn).' They said, 'And you too, O Messenger of Allah?' He said, 'Me too, but Allah has helped me and he has submitted, so that he only helps me to do good."

The lifespan of a Djinn is very long and it is believed that the older they get, the stronger and more powerful they will become. They have usually learned to enchant objects and how to control weather patterns in these later stages. They face the same judgement as humans at the end of time and can go either to Heaven or Hell. The Djinn come in both genders and are reputed to be able to procreate.

 As one can see, Barbara Eden's genie in the bottle is something quite different than the Djinn of lore. Do these creatures actually exist or are these just legends passed down through religious tradition? Could Djinn really be affecting the world around us today? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

HGB Ep. 156 - Hoia Baciu Forest

Moment in Oddity - The Frogman of Loveland

It was early in the summer of 1955 when a report of a cryptid creature known as the Frogman came out of Loveland, Ohio. An unnamed business man spotted a group of three creatures near a bridge. He at first thought they were human, but when he got closer, he saw that they were reptilian and frog-like in appearance. They were hairless with leathery skin and stood under four feet tall with webbed hands and feet. They seemed primitive except for a metal object that one of the frogmen was holding. It was roughly the shape of a large wand and he held it over his head while it flashed and sparked. This has caused some to wonder if these frogmen were some kind of alien life-form. The next sighting was in 1972 and it was a police officer who claimed to have seen a frog-like creature cross the road in front of his car. It was night and he was scared by the creature illuminated in his headlights. It stood up on two legs and ran away. The legend of the frogman originates with the Native Americans of this region who talked about a River Demon. This was a reptilian creature that was bipedal. The greatest warrior pushed the creature into hiding and he did not emerge again until the native tribes were no longer there. Loveland, Ohio has embraced their frogman legend, a creature that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Gas Explosion Rocks Cleveland

On this day, October 20th, in 1944, two liquid gas containers explode in Cleveland, Ohio, killing 130 people. The explosion took place at the East Ohio Gas Company. It was mid-afternoon when white vapor was spotted leaking from a natural gas tank. The tank held 90 million cubic feet of gas. At around 2:40pm, the tank exploded unleashing flames that rose to 2,500 feet in the air. The destruction went for a half-mile and destroyed everything in its path. Another nearby smaller tank erupted as well. Evacuation orders were sent out for 10,000 people. It took firefighters an entire day to get the fire under control. First responders found 130 dead, many unidentifiable. Many others were injured, that number reached 215. The damage reached $10 million. An investigation revealed that contraction of the metal tanks caused them to rupture. The natural gas was being stored at -250 degrees. New rules about storing natural gas were implemented to prevent such a disaster from ever happening again.

Hoia Baciu Forest (Suggested by Christopher Klimovitz)

There are many legends that incorporate curses into their telling. A curse is a type of magic that is meant to harm people. It would seem that curses can fall upon the land as well. And there is a place on Earth that is considered one of the largest areas of cursed land. This is a forest that is said to be the world's most haunted forest. A forest so completely terrifying that many have feared even saying its name: Hoia Baciu Forest. There are claims of all types of unexplained and paranormal activity, ranging from ghost and UFO sightings to strange feelings and sickness. People feel an urge to flee the forest. Is this just overactive imaginings or is something truly sinister going on in this forest where the vegetation is weird and in some places won't grow? Join us and our listener Chris as we explore the Hoia Baciu Forest!

Cluj-Napoca (Clooj nah poke ah), Romania is Transylvania's largest city. It dates back to 106 AD and was initially named Napoca. Most locals simply call the city Cluj. The Romans were the first to settle here, but after the fall of Rome, it seemed to disappear from maps. When the Hungarian Kingdom began to grow and prosper in the 10th century, the city was known as Kolozsvár. In the 12th century, Transylvania Saxons moved into the area and built a castle and village. It became an official city in 1316 under King Charles I of Hungary. Stephen Bathory of the Hungarian noble Bathory family, of which Elizabeth Bathory was a member, built a Jesuit academy here in the 1500s, but it did not do well. In the 18th and 19th century, it was considered the capital of the Transylvania area and many still refer to it in that way today. While most travel websites will entice you to visit this city for its arts and film scene, there is an even bigger attraction for those of us into the paranormal on the outskirts of town and that is the Hoia Baciu Forest.

Hoia Baciu stretches out over 617 acres. The forest was named for a shepherd who entered it with a flock of two hundred sheep. He and the sheep were never seen again. If this story is true, what happened to the shepherd and his sheep? While most forests can be chilling just because of their dark nature with trees blocking out the sun, this forest seems to ooze an ominous vibe that leaves visitors with feelings of anxiety and the paranoia that they are being watched. The vegetation of the forest probably does not help matters with unexplained charring on the trees that also seem oddly shaped and a circular area where no trees or plants seem to be able to grow, lending credence to theories that some kind of magnetic pull is causing weird growth and the weird feelings. And while its possible that science has an explanation for the things that take place in this forest that has been dubbed the Bermuda Triangle of Romania, no theory has ever been proven. What of the legends and the tales of curses about this place?

The forest from a municipal viewpoint seems like a great recreation area. Bike paths have been built and many fun sporting adventures are offered in the forest. Nothing seems bad and yet there are claims that locals who live near the forest are afraid to enter it due to the stories and legends that have been handed down. There are those who believe that whoever enters the forest will never return. Still others swear that this is the domain of the Devil himself. The truth is that people do enter the forest and leave, but some have been affected by the forest and complain that they have been physically harmed or that they are sick. Proof is revealed through scratches, unexplained rahses and burns. One of the legends of the forest involves some Romanian peasants.

Deep in the woods of the forest, a group of Romanian peasants cleared out an area and set up a village. Possibly, they wanted to escape the overbearing rule of a king or perhaps they had religious reasons. No one knows for sure and there is no documentation to support the claim that this village ever existed. The legend continues that one day the ruling party decided to bring an end to the village. The entire village was massacred and people believe the souls of those people, became trapped in the woods. And they are very angry about that. A heavy black fog has been witnessed rolling in and pairs of glowing green eyes are seen in either the fog or the darkness. This is what may be causing people to feel as though someone is watching them. There is a round like area that we described earlier where no vegetation seems to thrive. It is within this area that the legend claims this village used to exist.

The Circle, as many call it, is where many claim that all the spirits of the forest seem to gather. There is talk of a portal here. Possibly that is why there are hikers that claim they lose time while traversing the trails. Could this area lead to another dimension? Still others claim that the forest is cursed, either because of the massacre of the peasants or that the massacre occured because a curse had long been over the location. While strange happenings seem to occur throughout the forest, it is near the Circle where things get kicked up a notch. The giggling of girls is heard and strange orbs of light have been witnessed. People have disappeared as well, just like the shepherd for whom the forest is named.The weirdest story reported about this involves a five-year-old girl. She wandered into the forest by herself and no one could find her. Eventually, searchers decided that she had probably died from exposure. Five years later, she walked out of the forest. A five-year-old surviving in the woods alone for five years is strange enough. But this story gets even more bizarre. She had the same clothes on that she was wearing when she disappeared. And they were completely untarnished. She claimed that she could not remember anything that had happened to her.

Alexandru Sift was a biologist who heard the stories about the forest and decided to visit in the 1960s to do some experiments. He was intrigued by the trees that grew in a crooked manner with their bottom trunks running low along the ground. The notoriety of Hoia Baciu grew when Sift revealed several pictures he had taken that seemed to capture the image of a flying disc-shaped object in the sky above the forest. This was not the only UFO picture from that decade. In 1968, Emil Barnea, a military technician, took a picture of another flying saucer over the forest. After this, UFO sightings became a normal thing as were reports of unexplained lights.

Researchers and scientists from around the world have researched the forest. Many of them cannot explain the bizarre faces and manifestations they have captured on video. Soil samples have been collected from the Circle and analized, but nothing has ever been found that would prevent vegetation from growing. Tests on magnetism and its effects on possibly the trees have been inconclusive. Paranormal investigators treat the place like a type of amusement park. Destination Truth visited the forest and aired two episodes with the results. A member of the team named Evan was thrown by some unknown force and he found claw marks on his arm when he pulled up his sleeve. He also became dizzy and started hearing ringing in one of his ears, which started to bleed.

There is no denying that the Hoia Baciu Forest is creepy. But is something supernatural going on inside it? Do people really disappear? Is Hoia Baciu Forst haunted? That is for you to decide!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

HGB Ep. 155 - Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman

Moment in Oddity - The Disappearance of Solomon Northup

Many people know the story of Solomon Northup's life as a slave. He was a man born to a freed slave and a free African-American woman, thus he was a free man. But for twelve years, he was in bondage after being drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. His wife and family had no idea where he was and they assumed he was dead. A Canadian man got word back to New York and several people worked together to free Solomon. He documented these years of his life in a book that became an Academy Award winning movie, "12 Years a Slave." But did you know that Solomon would become lost again, but not only to his family. His disappearance in 1857 is one of history's mysteries. Solomon was on a tour through Canada giving lectures that year. He was in the next stop, which was Streetsville, Ontario, and he just disappeared to never be seen again. People have wondered if he was murdered in retaliation or if he was kidnapped and sold again. Some wondered if he died of natural causes, but surely we would know that. He was a man who was becoming fairly well known and yet he was able to just disappear without a trace. And that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio Founded

On this day, October 16th, in 1923, Walt and Roy Disney founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. It was incorporated in 1929 as Walt Disney Productions. That original company would become the Walt Disney Animation Studios, a division of the Walt Disney Company. Walt was the creative side of the business, while Roy maintained the finances. Roy would eventually be bought out by Walt and become the first CEO of the company. The initial focus was on cartoon shorts, but eventually they would release animated feature films. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was their first full length feature in 1937. Zootopia, which was released in 2016, is the Studio's 55th feature film. The studio was the premiere animation studio and developed many of the early animation film techniques, including storyboarding. These techniques are the core of traditional animation. The Brother's studio made stars of characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.

Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman (Suggested by Lexi Goober & Seth Nathan, Research help from Melissa Cabic)

Photo courtesy of Dawn O'Creene

 Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups,and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash,--he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind. -Excerpt from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a well known piece of fiction written by Washington Irving in 1819. Many of us first heard the story in our youth and the tale fueled our imagination with images of a headless horseman chasing a man through the forest, carrying a fiery pumpkin that represented his head. It was a terrifying tale. But is this just a piece of fiction? Is there some truth to the story? Headless figures seem quite common in the world of the paranormal, so it's not too hard to believe that some may ride horses. And what of this place called Sleepy Hollow? There is a town that does indeed bear this name, as does a cemetery, and both are reputed to be haunted. Join us as we explore the legends of the headless horseman and the history and hauntings of Sleepy Hollow!

Ichabod Crane is like you and I, intrigued by stories of the supernatural. So was Washington Irving. He was born in 1783, the baby of a family with eleven children. The family was living in Manhatten, New York at the time and the Revolutionary War was coming to an end. George Washington was a national hero and Washington Irving was named after him. Like many writers, Irving had a wonderful imagination and he would rather write a story about an adventure than stick to his studies. He regularly snuck out of class and headed to the theater. Yellow Fever broke out in 1798 and Irving's parents sent him to Tarry Town to keep him away from the sickness. Irving fell in love with the area and enjoyed hearing the stories about local lore. He took on many hats as he got older. He went to law school and passed the bar, he worked in his family's merchant business and he fought during the War of 1812. He spent many years in Europe after the war working to save the family's merchant business. He continued writing and in 1820 he included a short story called "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" in a volume of short stories he had written.

The story was set in 1790 in a town called Sleepy Hollow that was a Dutch settlement. In the book, this is a town that is described as a little different than other places. The place seems almost enchanted with residents that believe strongly in the supernatural. This was a village near Tarrytown, New York. The area was first inhabited by the Weckquaesgeck Native Americans that were possibly part of the Mohican tribe. The Dutch set up New Netherlands in the state that would become New York and everything was peaceful for a time. Eventually conflict broke out. The Dutch settled in the area that would become known as Sleepy Hollow. The nearby Pocantico River was known by the Dutch as Slapershaven or Sleepers’ Haven. Sleepy Hollow appears to be a later, Anglicized version of this name and was used to refer to the whole area, not just the river. In 1664, the British took over and renamed New Netherlands, New York. At that time, Dutchman Frederick Philipse made the Pocantico Purchase, which included virtually all of present-day Sleepy Hollow. Philipse built a church, a mill and a manor house in 1685. The area was kept heavily forested and used for farm lands and it remained that way for decades. Tarrytown would industrialize, but Sleepy Hollow kept its quaint charm and Washington Irving loved to explore it and hunt and fish there. The Dutch traditions and stories were strong in Sleepy Hollow. The Dutch Church was a central hub and people came from all over to attend services and gatherings there. Eventually, Sleepy Hollow would be incorporated as North Tarrytown. It wouldn't be until the 1980s that people would start calling for the original name to come back. It did in 1996.

So now we know that Sleepy Hollow was and is a real location. Irving did not make it up. But what of the main antagonist of the story, the Headless Horseman? There was a tradition dating back to a time a few years before Irving came to Sleepy Hollow, that spoke of a headless horseman. He first heard the story from an African American mill worker at Carl's Mill, which was the Sleepy Hollow Mill. The horseman was a Hessian soldier that had served during the Revolutionary War and he had lost his head to a cannonball. Rumors circulated that he haunted the cemetery where he was buried. There was only one cemetery in Sleepy Hollow at the time, the Old Dutch Burying Ground. Hessian troops had raided the various villages during the war and so a Hessian soldier on horseback was a terrifying thing to the local people. The soldier in the story becomes even more frightening because he is without his head. So he more than likely is looking to replace his head. A headless ghost also seems inhuman because it lacks the ability to express emotions. Thus, such a figure is terrifying.

This original legend that Irving based his short story on went something like this: A Dutchman was drinking at the local tavern in Tarrytown and heard the story of a Hessian soldier who was buried in the Old Dutch Burying Ground without his head because it could not be found. The men spoke of a ghost on a horse galloping through the cemetery and they surmised that he was looking for his lost head or attempting to lead the troops in a charge up Chatterton Hill during the Battle of White Plains. The Dutchman laughed at such a story, but when he left the tavern at midnight and began his walk home in the dark, he was no longer laughing. When the graveyard came into sight, he felt an uneasiness and he quickened his step. His eye was caught by a light emitting from the ground in the graveyard. A white mist rose from an unmarked grave. He began to sweat and his heart pounded. The mist formed into a horse with a headless rider and the Dutchman screamed. He dropped his lantern and ran. He ran as fast as he could to the bridge because the lore about water tells us that spirits cannot cross it. He stumbled and tumbled from the road. As the headless horseman galloped past him, he saw that it was wearing a Hessian uniform. He hid in the bushes for a while and then went home to tell his wife what happened. The story soon spread through Tarrytown and people began to believe that the headless horseman was real.

To add more credence to the legend, there are historical facts to back it up. There is a marker on Merritt Hill that reads, "This historic site is Merritt Hill, which marks one of the actions in the Battle of White Plains on October 28, 1776. During the attack on Chatterton Hill, the British marched up the road to Conneticut (Lake Street) to attack the left flank of Washington's defense assmebled on Hatfield Hill opposite Merritt Hill. General Heath under General Washington, had placed Colonel Malcolm, his NY Regiment and Lt. Fenno with one field piece to station Merritt Hill in defense of Hatfield Hill. Lt. Fenno fired a cannon ball directly into 20 British horsemen approaching Hatfield Hill. This single shot caused the British to retreat back towards White Plains." This historic marker details a brief skirmish between American and British forces, but that’s not the whole story – the British also brought along reinforcements in the form of Hessian mercenaries from Germany and it was one of these unlucky men who was to find himself the recipient of one cannonball to the head and live in infamy as “the headless horseman”. As American General William Heath wrote in his journal, “A shot from the American cannon at this place took off the head of a Hessian artillery-man. They also left one of the artillery horses dead on the field. What other loss they sustained was not known”. Irving not only heard tales from the people of Sleepy Hollow, but he read General Heath's journal. Ichabod Crane was an actual military man who served in the War of 1812, who met Washington Irving at Fort Pike in Sackett’s Harbor, NY in 1814 and he was inspired to use this name as his main character.

Stories and legends of a headless horseman are found in Celtic, German, American and Indian folklore. In Ireland, he is known as “dullahan” or “dulachan”, which means "dark man." The dark man is a terrifying figure described as a headless fairy astride a black horse, carrying his head under his inner lower thigh or holding it high so that he can see a great distance. He wields a whip made from a human corpse’s spine. When the “dark man” stopped riding, a death would occur. In some versions, he can be frightened away by wearing a gold object or putting one in his path. In Glen Mor on the Isle of Mull in Scotland rides a headless horseman near the 13th century Duart Castle. The horseman is said to be Ewen MacLaine of Lochbuie. He had a goal of being a chieftain, but that dream was cut short when he lost his head in battle. He continues to search for it to this day. Scots Magazine has a more detailed account of the story behind Ewen MacLaine's demise and here is a brief bit about the legend itself:
"I first became aware of the presence of the awesome spectre of the Headless Horseman that haunted the roads of Mull when I was still an impressionable school boy, with two miles of lonely island road to walk each way to and from school, summer and winter. One morning, I learned that the grocer’s van had been confronted by the spectre at a bend just above our house and had escaped only by cutting the corner and bumping across what was, fortunately, a soft, heathery flat. Why, I saw the evidence of it with my own eyes when I went up and examined the deep tyre marks! As time went on, more evidence came to my notice. In particular, there were two very ancient trees whose trunks grew almost horizontally along the ground, one by the roadside near Salen (now gone since the construction of the new road), the other beside the bridle path where it skirts Loch Ba, the right of way that once crossed the shoulder of Ben More in central Mull.In each case, a Maclean of Duart was walking along in the dusk when he was attacked by the Headless Horseman, who was a Maclaine of Lochbuie and had no use for the Duart Macleans. In each case, the man managed to fend of the ghost attacker with his dirk in one hand, while holding his ground by gripping a young sapling in the other. The struggle went on until cock crow. Then, of course, the spectre had to retire to the Shades, leaving the Maclean men exhausted but safe beside the saplings, which they had almost torn out by the roots during the struggle, and which grew horizontally ever after. Many a time, as I toddled home in the dark, past the cemetery (which was bad enough!), along the winding road lined by dark, humpy bushes concealing unknown terrors. I quaked at the idea of the Headless Horseman suddenly lowering above me on his black charger, even although I wasn’t a Maclean."
Germany has the legend of "The Wild Huntsman" that originated near Saxony. This is a headless horseman who blows a horn to warn hunters not to ride the next day. Its a portend of danger and Germans believe it means there will be an accident. Some variations of the German lore make him out to be a good guy or a type of vigilante dealing swift justice against perpetrators of capital crimes. The headless horseman is seen as a heroic figure in Indian folklore. The “jhinijhar” is described as a Rajput prince who lost his head while defending a village from bandits. He refused to back down, even after being beheaded. In Madh Pradesh folklore, it is said that he is born out of violent and wrongful deaths or deaths that have occurred while protecting innocents. He does not harm innocent people and is vulnerable to powdered indigo dye.

Chicago has its very own headless horseman. This legend dates back to the Pullman Strike of 1894. It was named for George Pullman and the company he created building the Pullman sleeper cars for trains after the Civil War. The company town of Pullman, Illinois was built around a factory. Things were good until the financial panic of 1893. Pullman cut employee wages heavily, but didn't cut the cost of living, mainly rent. The employees were outraged and their union took action. Employees boycotted Pullman trains and threatened to strike during protests. What had started off as peaceful got violent when the government stepped in. President Cleveland sent in the Army. Protestors set fire to buildings and several civilians and soldiers died in the melee. Union leaders were arrested, the strike was broken and the plant reopened. Shortly thereafter, stories of a headless horseman riding near the 4900 block of Loomis Street were told. Many believe he was a calvaryman who lost his life during the strike violence.

So now we know that Irving was inspired by a legend that the people of Sleepy Hollow told and it would seem that this village has a headless horseman spectre. Was Sleepy Hollow as superstitious and haunted as Irving seems to describe in his story? Irving wrote in his story, "Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols."

There are those in our modern era that claim that Sleepy Hollow is one of the most haunted cities in America. There are two cemeteries that are connected to each other. The first is the original Old Dutch Burying Ground that we have mentioned. It is situated next to the Old Dutch Church, which is the second oldest extant church in New York. It was built in 1699 from fieldstone and the walls are two feet thick. Clapboard is above the roofline. The interior furnishings are built from wood. Burials began at the churchyard in 1650. Frederick Philipse is buried here. As for hauntings, of course, there have been sightings of the Headless Horseman.

The other is the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery that was originally named Tarrytown Cemetery. This is where Washington Irving was buried and the cemetery took the name Sleepy Hollow at his request. Other notable people buried at this cemetery are Walter Chrysler, Andrew Carnegie, Elizabeth Arden, William Rockefeller and Robert Havell, Jr. who printed and colored Audubon's Birds of America series. The cemetery opened in 1849 and encompasses 85 acres with 40,000 burials. Very low disembodied whispering has been heard by people walking through the graveyard. An apparition has made an appearance on several occasions and seems to wander between the headstones.

There is a Gothic Revival-styled mansion that overlooks the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York known as Lyndhurst Castle. It was designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1838 and has been home to former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. It was originally named Knoll. The design was so unique that many called it Paulding's Folly. Each of the men who lived in the house expanded it. Merritt renamed it "Lyndenhurst" after all the linden trees on the property. At some point it became simply "Lyndhurst." The mansion has appeared in the 70s movies "House of Dark Shadows" and "Night of Dark Shadows," both based on the famous Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. The grounds have haunts. There is the story of a little girl ghost in a white dress that has been seen running through the bushes and hiding behind trees and visitors claim to sometimes hear a small child’s laugh. When people run over to where they have seen her, they find nothing and no one. It is believed that she is the child of one of the former owners who drowned in the Hudson River. Behind the mansion there is a statue with hands high in the air looking skyward. During the month of October, the statue weeps. The statue is said to haunt anyone who tries to harm it or deface it.

The home where Washington Irving lived in Sleepy Hollow is called Sunnyside. It was a small cottage sitting on the banks of the Hudson River when Irving moved into it in 1835. He renovated the place and expanded it into the beautiful home that it is today. He collaborted with his artist neighbor, George Harvey. The home is enveloped in the vines of an exotic wisteria plant. Most of the furnishings are original. It is reputed to be haunted by Irving and his nieces. Their appartions have all been seen around the house doing things to tidy up.

Irving mentions a location known as Raven's Rock in the short story. This is a place that is described as forboding and dark, on the east side of Buttermilk Hill. The legend that went with this location, according to Irving, was our infamous Lady in White. But there are those that claim there are three ghosts that haunt this place. These three ghosts are described in the book "History of the Tarrytowns" by Jeff Canning and Wally Buxton: “Raven Rock is part of Buttermilk Hill in the northern reaches of the Rockefeller estate near the old Hawthorne Traffic Circle. Legend tells us that three ghosts, not just Irving’s lady in white, roam the area. The lady in white was a girl who got lost in a snowstorm and sought shelter from the fierce wind in a ravine by the rock. The snow drifted in and she perished during the night. It is believed that the spirit of the lady meets the wanderer with cries that resemble the howling of the wind, and gestures that remind one of drifting snow, warning all to stay away from the fatal spot. A more ancient legend tells of an Indian maiden who was driven to her death at Raven Rock by a jealous lover. Her spirit is believed to roam the area, lamenting her fate. The third spirit is that of a colonial girl who fled from the attentions of an amorous Tory raider during the Revolution and leaped from the rock to her death“.

Patriot's Park is a four acre park between Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow that saw activity during the Revolutionary War. It is said that a Hessian soldier was beheaded in the park and that his apparition is seen here. So apparently, there could be two headless Hessian ghosts in Sleepy Hollow or somebody got their facts mixed up. A more prominent haunting is connected to a monument erected in 1853 in honor of an event that occured in the park. Three patriot militiamen stopped a man wearing regular clothing and they started asking him where he was heading. That man was Major John Andre. He did not answer in a timely manner, so they decided to search him and found papers on his person that connected him to Benedict Arnold and some high level espionage. He was quickly arrested for being a British spy. Benedict Arnold managed to run away to Britain, but Andre was sentenced to death by General George Washington. He was hanged on October 2, 1780. An unnatural spirit has been felt near the monument and people claim to see the spirit of Major Andre in his full military dress near the monument. The Major was a poet and sometimes the utterings of poetry by an unseen entity are heard.

Our listener Dawn O'Creene contacted us when she heard the topic of the episode and sent pictures. She said, "While walking the grounds alone, it can feel a little anxious at times or as if you are being watched.  But I've been able to walk through here without much incident.  However, as a photographer, this place is like a carnival for me.  When approaching certain stones, I find myself asking out loud if it's ok, or may I or sometimes I will take a photo, not feeling any resistance and compliment them on their beautiful stone.  There have also been times though where I have felt resistance to the camera...and see a big ole "No" in my head.  I leave those alone and tell them how nice they are anyway (maybe they'll change their mind next time) Enough can't be said for the foliage on the grounds here.  The trees alone seem wise and secretive.  This month, they do have the "headless horseman" making rounds on the weekends at the Old Dutch Church Cemetery.  I went with my 17 year old daughter.  She barely cared.  I reacted as if I saw one of the Beatles."

Sleepy Hollow is a place that is perfect for Halloween, not only because the beloved Halloween classic "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is set here, but because this area seems to be genuinely haunted. Or is it? Were these stories that inspired Irving true or just legends? Do ghosts wander among the tombstones? Is Sleepy Hollow haunted? Does the Headless Horseman really ride in the dark of night? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Cover artwork was by Sara Otterstater: She is available for private commissions at 
Find out more about her: 
Follow her on Twiiter and Instagram: @saralutra

Pictures courtesy of listener Dawn O'Creene:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

HGB Ep. 154 - Catacombs of Paris

Moment in Oddity - Cryotherapy Kills Woman

Cryotherapy is a one of the latest health crazes. People claim that it reduces pain, helps with weight loss, improves sleep and athletic performance and slows the aging process. The participant steps into a cylindrical chamber that leaves only their head outside of the machine. Then supercooled air is blasted all around the body for 2 to 3 minutes. The feeling is similar to an ice bath. We're not sure if cryotherapy actually has any of the benefits it claims to have, but we do know one thing. It can kill you! Near Halloween of 2015, Chelsea Ake-Salvacion was working at a Las Vegas spa that offered cryptherapy. She decided she would like to enjoy a session after hours. She was alone that evening closing up. She was found frozen to death the following morning by co-workers. She apparently lost consciousness and it was ruled that she died from asphyxia due to low levels of oxygen. Cyrotherapy sounds horrifying to us warm weather gals and freezing oneself solid while trying to administer cold therapy, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Three Blind Mice Published

On this day, October 12th, in 1609, the children's nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice" is published. It was written by a teen-aged Thomas Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft was an English musician who collected folk music. He was a music theorist as well. The rhyme did not become a part of children's literature until 1842. It is believed that the rhyme has historical and political meanings behind it. The catchy tune speaks of three blind mice, which historians believe refers to three Protestant bishops who served during the time of Queen Mary I of England, otherwise known as Bloody Mary. She got that nickname because she executed Protestants. These bishops were Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer and they were burned at the stake. The blindness more than likely refers to the fact that they weren't Catholic and Protestants were considered blind. So that should make it fun to sing-a-long with the kids now!

Catacombs of Paris (Suggested by Bob Sherfield)

Paris is the City of Lights, but deep in the darkness, beneath the streets, in the underground, lie hundreds of miles of tunnels that make up a vast ossuary for the dead. These tunnels are dangerous and largely unmapped, with pitfalls and areas filled with water and discarded remnants of the dead. One could easily become lost in the maze of stones and bones. These areas are restricted from public access for good reason. Could there be something down there in the Catacombs that is unseen? Are the spirits of the displaced bones now residing within the stones? Is there something evil down in those tunnels? Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the Catacombs of Paris!

Les Carrieres de Paris are more commonly known as The Catacombs. The name technically means quarries and that is what this tunnel system originally was before it was given its macabre purpose. We need to rewind back millions of years to study the history of this tunnel system. Paris and France were covered by a tropical sea millions of years ago. The sea bed was covered with sediment that covered over everything with lime that eventually became limestone. Much of Paris was built with limestone and it was harvested from these quarries beneath the city. The mining began as early as the First Century AD. Structures like the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral and Place de la Concorde were all built from what has been dubbed "Paris Stone."

A few years before the French Revolution, sickness within the city of Paris was killing many people. Poor sanitary conditions, including how the dead were disposed of, led to the outbreak of disease. The cemeteries in Paris were overpopulated and the result was bodies unearthing themselves and improper burials. People who lived near the cemeteries were complaining of the stench and becoming ill. Something needed to be done and King Louis XV issued an edict in 1763 banning burials within the city of Paris. This was not just new burials, it was the past burials as well. The Church was reluctant to desecrate graves and refused to move any bodies. So nothing was done at that time.

Tunnels would be mined until they were completely emptied of the limestone and the quarries would then be abandoned. There were miles of unmapped tunnels beneath the city and the King wanted to make sure to shore up these underground mazes beneath the city. On April 4th in 1777, Louis XVI established the Quarries Inspectorate and made it responsible for the renovation of the tunnels. This fell under the office of the Police Prefect Lieutenant-General Alexandre Lenoir. In 1780, a long and heavy rain caused a wall of the largest and oldest cemetery in Paris, Les Innocents, to cave in completely. The result was hundreds of rotting corpses flowing out of the cemetery into the city. City officials and the Church had no choice, but to find an alternative for the bones.

Lieutenant-General Lenoir supported the idea of using the abandoned tunnels as ossuaries. The macabre task of moving bodies began in 1786 when the former Tombe-Issoire quarries were blessed and consecrated. The bones were moved under the dark of night by parades of black cloaked wagons. It took two years to transfer all the bones from the Les Innocents cemetery. Bones were moved from the other outer cemeteries over the next few decades. New burials were also brought to the tunnels that were now known as the Catacombs. In the beginning, bones were unceremoniously dumped into the tunnels. In 1810, Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury became head of the Paris Mine Inspection Service and he decided to organize the Catacombs. He implemented stacking bones and skulls along the walls and this same design can be seen today. He also used cemetery memorials to decorate the walls and archways were built.

One of the first visitors was the future King Charles X, who was at the the time Count of Artois in 1787. In 1814, it was felt that the Catacombs were fit to be opened to the public. Many people who came through disrespected the burials and some would take mementos, so it was decided in 1830 to allow only people given special permission to tour the Catacombs. The Church had not been happy with any of the touring going on and in 1833 they demanded that the Catacombs be closed from public view. In 1850, limited visits were opened to the public and those have become more often until our present day, which has almost daily tours that last around 45 minutes. The tour covers less than two miles of the 200 miles of tunnels. Guests are greeted at the entrance with, "Halt, this is the realm of Death!"

Cemeteries are not typically haunted, but the Catacombs are home to so many dead who died in so many horrible ways that it only seems natural that spirits would reside here. People were buried here who had died from sickness and natural death, but others included members of the Swiss Guard killed in the storming of the Tuileries Palace on 10 August 1792.  There was a massacre in September 1792 and those victims were placed in the Catacombs. And there were those killed by the guillotine. They were transferred there from their original burial pits. There were many bones just dumped without ceremony and burials were desecrated. These all make for a perfect storm of paranormal activity.

Legends speak of talking walls within the catacombs. People have ventured beyond the no admittance signs and one urban explorer took a camera with him many years ago. That camera was found laying in a tunnel, but the explorer was nowhere to be seen. The video made it onto TV on the show "Scariest Places on Earth" and features a typical urban exploration video of abandoned tunnels. But the explorer's breathing soon picks up, as does his pace. Soon the video drops to the ground and the explorer is seen running from the camera that tapes until it ran out of tape or battery. There are claims that necromancy and dark black magic rituals have been performed in some of the tunnels. Have they conjured something evil?

Philibert Aspairt was the doorkeeper of the Val-de-Grâce hospital in Paris during the French Revolution. In November of 1793, he decided to venture into the Catacombs to find a hidden stock of liquor. A passage from the hospital led directly to a tunnel of the Catacombs and he used that to enter the ossuary. He carried one candle, which probably lost its light fairly quickly. With a couple hundred miles of serpentine tunnels, it is easy to believe that Philibert became lost. People know that he died down here because eleven years later, his remains were found in one of the galleries and identified by the key ring of the Val-de-Grâce he carried. He also had a bottle of liquor nearby. The tragedy of this was that he was near an exit. He was buried where he was found and his epithet reads:
ON APRIL 30TH 1804
On the 3rd of November every year, it is said that his ghost appears in the galleries of the Catacombs.

Zak Bagans visited the Catacombs without Ghost Adventures. During his investigation, he caught a female voice talking and laughing. There was also an apparition that appeared as a glowing mist moving away fromone of the cameras. The misty figure appears to be wearing a cloak. People claim to hear voices, feel as though they are being followed and some even claim that something has tried to strangle them. Ghost lights and misty images have been captured on film.

sonybravo on Reddit: My girlfriend went there a few years ago but she was only allowed to go in the safe areas. She said she heard a lot of weird noises and footsteps but was only there for two days. She's not a girl to get scared by the paranormal either. But she told me the tour guide said that if you go past the tourist safety areas then you're on your own. I asked her if there was any serious dangerous areas that you couldn't go to and she said yes there is. I asked would it be wise to go near these points and she said No it's not. You can get lost very easily and if you don't know how to get out you will die down there.

The Catacombs are creepy, but also a great location in which to house the dead. They are protected within these walls. Are some of the spirits of the displaced haunting the Catacombs? Is there something evil that has been conjured here? Could something dark be drawn to this place of so much death? Are the Catacombs of Paris haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Video featuring lost urban explorer in Catacombs: