Saturday, October 29, 2011

Classics from the Crypt and Haunted Tours

Looking at the past few weeks on our blog and Facebook page I noticed we've had fewer posts the past month because we have been very busy. Earlier this month we had the opportunity to work with a museum near my hometown in northern Illinois. Our good friends at The Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum in Rockford asked us if they could sell some of our pictures for their upcoming paranormal tours, photos we had taken during our spring trip earlier this year. They also asked us to design a graphic for t-shirts to sell during the event. Of course we jumped at the chance and worked hard to design something they would be proud of. If you are ever in the Rockford area you MUST stop at the Tinker Swiss Cottage and take a tour of this beautiful home. Steve and the staff are very knowledgeable and passionate for the history of the place, plus they are truly wonderful people to talk to. Don't forget to take their Paranormal Tour in the fall...just the thing to get into the Hallowe'en spirit!

During the past few weeks we also designed a poster and program cover for an upcoming concert "Classics from the Crypt". The Wausau Symphony and Band will play music from movies like Jaws and Harry Potter. During the performance we will also have an exclusive art exhibit featuring photographs from our collection. If you are in the Wausau, Wisconsin area Saturday, October 29th, visit the Grand Theatre at 7:30 to enjoy the haunting music and visit us in the Great Hall next door to view our display or just to hello.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

800-year-old Remains of a Witch Discovered

By Nick Pisa
Macabre: Archaelogists believe this is the skeleton of a woman who was thought to be a witch
Macabre: Archaelogists believe this is the skeleton of a woman who was thought to be a witch

These are the 800 year old remains of what archaeologists believe was a witch from the Middle Ages after seven nails were found driven through her jaw bone.

The grim discovery was made during a dig on what is thought to be a 'witches graveyard' after another woman's skeleton was found surrounded by 17 dice - a game which women were forbidden from playing 800 years ago.

Experts say they believe the women are aged around 25 - 30 years old and were found buried in a simple shallow grave in the ground with no coffin or shroud.

The macabre remains were found during a dig close to the sea at Piombino near Lucca in Italy's Tuscany region and the woman had seven nails through her jaw as well as another 13 nails surrounding her skeleton.

Archaeologist Alfonso Forgione, from L'Aquila University, who is leading the dig, is convinced that the women were suspected witches because of the circumstances in which they were buried.

He said: 'It's a very unusual discovery and at the same time fascinating. I have never seen anything like this before. I'm convinced because of the nails found in the jaw and around the skeleton the woman was a witch.

'She was buried in bare earth, not in a coffin and she had no shroud around her either, intriguingly other nails were hammered around her to pin down her clothes.

'This indicates to me that it was an attempt to make sure the woman even though she was dead did not rise from the dead and unnerve the locals who were no doubt convinced she was a witch with evil powers.

'The second skeleton we have found was buried in a similar fashion but this time we found 17 dice around her - 17 is an unlucky number in Italy and also dice was a game that women were forbidden to play.

'The way the bodies were buried would seem to indicate some form of exorcist ritual and the remains will be examined to see if we can establish a cause of death for them.'

One puzzle that the archaeologists have been unable to explain is why the women if they were evil witches were buried in consecrated ground as the area is the site of an 800 year old church.

He said: 'The only possible explanation is that perhaps both women came from influential families and were not peasant class and so because of their class and connections were able to secure burial in consecrated Christian ground.'

The team is trying to find the burial place of the St Cerbonius, a bishop who died more than 1,500 years ago and who is the local patron saint of the area.

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The team is trying to find the burial place of the St Cerbonius, a bishop who died more than 1,500 years ago and who is the local patron saint of the area.

Pictures traditionally show him having his feet licked by a bear after legend has it the animal refused to eat him after he was condemned to death for sheltering Roman soldiers by the Barbarians who had invaded Tuscany.

Two years ago a Medieval woman's skull was found near Venice with a stone driven through its mouth - which experts said was the traditional way of dealing with vampires and preventing them from rising from the dead.

Number's up: The skeletons were found with dice, which women were not allowed to play

Number's up: The skeletons were found with dice, which women were not allowed to play

Dig: Skeletons scattered around the site in Tuscany

Dig: Skeletons scattered around the site in Tuscany

It comes a day after the skeleton of a Maya Queen - with her head mysteriously placed between two bowls - was found among treasures in a 2,000-year-old rodent-infested tomb.

Priceless jade gorgets, beads, and ceremonial knives were also discovered in the cavern - which was found underneath a younger 1,300-year-old tomb which also contained a body - in the Guatemalan ruins of Nakum.

The two royal burials are the first to be discovered at the site, which was once a densely packed Maya centre.

Piombino in Italy: Where the graves were found
Piombino in Italy: Where the graves were found

Friday, September 2, 2011

Featured photos in Wisconsin Trails Magazine

We are excited to finally announce news we've been waiting to share: Phantasmagoria Photography has a few photos PUBLISHED! Check out Wisconsin Trails magazine September/October page 25,with text by paranormal researcher and author for Unexplained Research Chad Lewis.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Extremely Rare 100-year-old Fortune Teller Found

VIRGINIA CITY, Mont. (AP) — The Gypsy sat for decades in a restaurant amid the Old West kitsch that fills this former gold rush town, her unblinking gaze greeting the tourists who shuffled in from the creaking wooden sidewalk outside.

Some mistook her for Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine featured in the Tom Hanks movie "Big." Others took one look at those piercing eyes and got the heebie-jeebies so bad they couldn't get away fast enough.

But until a few years ago, nobody, not even her owner, knew the nonfunctioning machine gathering dust in Bob's Place was an undiscovered treasure sitting in plain sight in this ghost town-turned-themed tourist attraction.

The 100-year-old fortune teller was an extremely rare find. Instead of dispensing a card like Zoltar, the Gypsy would actually speak your fortune from a hidden record player. When you dropped a nickel in the slot, her eyes would flash, her teeth would chatter and her voice would come floating from a tube extending out of the eight-foot-tall box.

Word got out when the Montana Heritage Commission began restoring the Gypsy more than five years ago, and collectors realized the machine was one of two or three "verbal" fortune tellers left in the world.

One of those collectors, magician David Copperfield, said he thinks she is even rarer than that.

"I think it's only one of one," Copperfield said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Copperfield wanted the Gypsy to be the crown jewel in his collection of turn-of the century penny arcade games. It would occupy a place of pride among the magician's mechanized Yacht Race, Temple of Mystery and various machines that tested a person's strength.

Copperfield acknowledged approaching the curators about buying the Gypsy a few years ago but declined to say what he offered. Janna Norby, the Montana Heritage Commission curator who received the call from Copperfield's assistant, said it was in the ballpark of $2 million, along with a proposal to replace it with another fortune-telling machine. On top of that, he pledged to promote Virginia City in advertisements.

But Heritage commission curators, representing the Gypsy's owner — the state of Montana — rejected the idea, saying cashing in on this piece of history would be akin to selling their soul.

"If we start selling our collection for money, what do we have?" said Norby, the commission's former curator of collections.

The commission's acting director, Marilyn Ross echoed Norby's sentiments: "That is not something we would ever consider, selling off these antiques."

That dismissal has set collectors grumbling. Theo Holstein, a California collector and renovator of such machines, said he thinks the Gypsy is wasted in Virginia City and should be placed in a private collection for proper care. He said he is trying to gather investors to make a $3 million bid that would top Copperfield's offer.

"They don't have any idea what they have. It's like they have the world's best diamond and they just pulled it out of their mineshaft," Holstein said. "It's good that it's there and it survived, but now it really needs to be part of the world."

Holstein said he wouldn't be surprised in the machine ultimately sold for $10 million or more. Copperfield also said he is still interested in purchasing it.

That could put pressure on the state, which, like the rest of the nation, is facing hard fiscal times. Montana's budget is in the black, but keeping the effects of the recession at arm's length has meant deep budget cuts.

Those cuts have hit the Montana Heritage Commission particularly hard. Just weeks after Norby spoke to the AP, her position and three others were eliminated as part of a larger reorganization to cut $400,000 from the commission's budget, Ross said.

The state agency that oversees the commission, meanwhile, is not so quick to reject the idea of selling the Gypsy. Department of Commerce deputy director Andrew Poole said he has not seen any offers in writing, and if one were made, it would go through a bid process that includes the scrutiny of the commission and input from the public.

The state inherited the Gypsy in 1998 when it paid $6.5 million to buy nearly 250 buildings and their contents in Virginia City and nearby Nevada City from the son of Charles Bovey. The Montana collector spent years buying up the buildings to preserve the two crumbling ghost towns and he stocked them with his ever-growing collection of antique games, music machines and oddities.

Bill Peterson, the heritage commission's former curator of interpretation, said the collection includes hundreds of thousands of items, so many that curators are still discovering them.

The Gypsy was made sometime around 1906 by the Mills Novelty Co. In restoring her, the curators either replaced or repaired frayed, worn or broken parts with exact replicas. When they couldn't find replicas or period materials, they didn't replace the parts.

"We don't want to make her anything that she wasn't," Norby said.

In 2008, they installed the Gypsy as the centerpiece of the Gypsy Arcade amid the ancient wooden buildings of Virginia City's main street. Calliope music spills out into the street, beckoning the tens of thousands of visitors to enter and view the stereoscopes, shock tests, tests of strength, fortune telling machines and love letter machines. The Gypsy presides over the menagerie in the rear, ropes keeping visitors at a distance.

All of that care in restoring, preserving and displaying the Gypsy causes state curators to reject Holstein's argument that the machine should be removed from Virginia City and placed in a private collection.

"A lot of these collectors, they come and say the same thing: 'Why is this out in the public? Why don't you just take the money and have a collector restore it the way it should be restored and have it in his private collection?' Well, nobody would ever see it," said Peterson, whose position also was eliminated in the cutbacks.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stowaway bat forces Atlanta-bound plane to return to Madison

(Story form Wisconsin State Journal)
A problem passenger fitting a new profile — winged, blind and potentially rabid — caused a shriek-out moment for 49 passengers on a Madison flight bound for Atlanta early Friday morning before being sequestered in the lavatory, drawing cheers but causing the plane to turn around.

The Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight departed Madison at 6:45 a.m. At 7:08 a.m., pilots notified air traffic controllers that a winged animal was on board, saying the flight would reverse course and land back in Madison, said airport spokesman Brent McHenry. 

A video posted to CNN's website by an unnamed Kansas City man shows the creature, which appears to be a bat, making at least five trips up and down the cabin, encountering plenty of turbulence as screaming passengers swatted at it with newspapers. 

The end came when a man at the back of the plane shooed it into the only lavatory and quickly shut the door. Other passengers cheered. One gave the thumbs-up.

When the plane landed back in Madison, the human passengers deplaned and airport staff got on to help root out the critter, McHenry said. Initial batfinding efforts failed but eventually the elusive flyer took flight — through the plane and out the door into the terminal, where about three dozen people were seated, McHenry said.

A maintenance staffer coaxed it out the terminal door and back into the open air, he said.

The plane was again cleared for takeoff, said airline spokesman Jarek Beem, and the passengers reboarded after a delay of a few hours, he said. 
No injuries were reported.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Website Up and Running

We just finished our new website! Feel free to stop by and have a look and tell us what you you think.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Tragic Story of Murderous Mary, Erwin, Tennessee

Like so many other abused elephants during the late 18 and early1900s, the five ton Asian elephant Mary was also abused by her handlers of the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. But one day she had had enough. That day would haunt the small Tennessee town of Erwin forever.

Only a few days after being hired, September 12, 1916, Red Eldridge, a hotel worker hired as assistant elephant handler, lead Mary to a pond to for a drink and to splash around. On the way to the pond Mary bent down to eat part of a watermelon. Eldridge, being impatient, prodded Mary behind the ear with a hook. Mary went into a rage. With her trunk she grabbed Eldridge, tossed him against a drink stand, and stepped on his head.

According to reports at that time, after crushing Eldridge's head Mary, calmed down and didn't threaten anyone. But with all the commotion everyone began to chat "Kill the elephant"! A blacksmith tried to kill her by shooting over a dozen rounds into Mary which had no effect.

Word quickly grew of the incident, nearby towns wouldn't allow the circus in to perform if Mary was part of the show. Some reports indicate that Mary had killed trainers in the past and that made communities even more hesitant.

After much pressure, circus owner Charlie Sparks reluctantly decided to squelch public fear and save the reputation of the circus by publicly executing Mary.

On a foggy and rainy September day in the nearby town of Erwin, Tennessee, a crowd of over 2,500 people gathered at the Clinchfield Railroad yard to watch the execution of Mary. The elephant was strung up by her neck with the use of a chain connected to a railcar-mounted industrial crane. As she was hoisted up the chain snapped and Mary fell, breaking her hip. Many children watching the spectacle ran in terror. Finally with a heaver chain the second attempt was successful in killing Mary. She hung for half an hour until she was declared dead. After the execution Mary was buried next to the tracks and she was known as "Murderous Mary".

95 years later the residents of Erwin, Tennessee would like to move past the strange event that has haunted their town. But many are still intrigued and keep this historic event alive. An antique shop named "Hanging Elephant Antique Shop" opened in Erwin memorializing the event. There you can purchase tee-shirts with the image of Murderous Mary hanging from the railcar crane.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Sweetin Mansion and its Lost Treasure, Greene County, IL

Engulfed by encroaching vines, trees and brush from the nearby woods, the Sweetin Mansion feels as if it's hiding a dark secret from the world. Built in 1848 by English immigrant Azariah Sweetin, the house is a shadow of its former glory. The ruin sits in a remote part of the countryside in western Illinois. The crumbed limestone walls and broken timbers slowly destroyed by time only hint at its dark past.

Also known as Hartwell Ranch House and “the old stone house,” the manor was constructed with three floors, walnut woodwork, a grand ballroom, three foot thick walls, and the unsual feature of a natural stream running through the basement for a water supply and to keep the house cool. For some strange reason the Sweetin family didn't move into the house until fourteen years after construction began.

History has it that on July 4th, 1862, a party was held for two farmhands Henson and Isham who had recently enlisted in the Union army. The two began to quarrel. During the argument Isham thought Henson was going to throw something at him so he pulled out a knife and stabbed Henson in the back. As Henson lay bleeding to death in front of the third floor fireplace, a large stain of blood seeped into the stone floor forming a shape of his body. Many years after the event the blood stain could never be removed. The ghost of the young Henson would often be seen in this area when the house was still intact.

With the country in the middle of the Civil War in the 1860's many farmers suffered financial hardship but Sweetin prospered during this time trading cattle. Sweetin had a distrust of banks so he began stashing jars of gold coins throughout the property. After a horse riding accident in 1871 Sweetin's mind was so damaged from being thrown from the horse, he couldn't remember where he buried his tresaure; his ghost is said to be still searching for it.

Family members had tried in vain to find the gold but where unsuccessful. Treasure hunters have also tried searching, but turned up nothing. There is another legend that two Sweetin farmhands had found the gold and disappeared shortly after Azariah Sweetin had died.

On our journey to this location in June of 2011 the air was hot and muggy when we found the ruin off the main road. We almost drove past the mansion because the vines and trees had hidden much of the outer walls. With a change of clothes we walked through chest-high grass to reach the ruin. (I worried that we could encounter poisonous snakes hiding in the grass.) Large pieces of the wall had fallen and the overgrown trees had made entering the heart of the structure very difficult and precarious. We felt like explorers entering an ancient castle. Inside the structure we saw the stream that still flows through the basement. Large pieces of the wall had disrupted the naturall flow, causing a large pool to form at the inside base of the structure. The large wooden beams that once held the second floor were still set inside their footings. The site was incredible to see but difficult to photograph, with much of the outside structure covered over and mature trees growing on the inside. These obstacles made photographing an exterior and interior overview shot impossible. I was able to obtain only portions of the overall impression this old house ruin made.

We left the Sweetin Mansion very satisfied. The house was well worth the long trip. We can see how legends of haunted ruins have captivated people for years. The sad feeling of a once grand home now destitute makes one wonder what happened to allow its owners to let such a property fade away…

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Haunted Castle of Chicago, Irish castle, Beverly Unitarian Fellowship

Robert C. Givins, a successful real estate developer, drew the Irish Castle in Chicago entirely from memory. The three-story castle was built in 1886, designed with nothing more then a hand sketch of a castle from the designer's ancestral home of Ireland, the building was constructed out of limestone from a nearby quarry and was situated on a hill overlooking Longwood Drive. Three crenellated towers pay homage to the medieval castle on the River Dee, between Dublin and Belfast in Ireland. The house's fifteen rooms were decorated with tapestries, ornate chandeliers, copper gaslights, tiled fireplaces and stained glass windows.

The Givins family lived periodically in the house until 1909. During that time the Chicago Female College rented the castle from 1895 to 1896. After the Givins left, John B. Burdett and his wife Jessie bought the house and added electricity and installed additional amenities of that time. They lived there until 1921. Later Dr. Miroslaw Siemens, a prominent physician, lived in the house until 1942, after which time the house was purchased by Beverly Unitarian Fellowship and extensive remolding began changing the look of the interior.

The first sightings and strange activity began in the 1960s when a church custodian making her cleaning rounds noticed a young girl in a long dress standing in one of the rooms. The custodian approached and the girl remarked how the place had looked so different since she had lived there. The custodian left the room, then realizing how strange the remark was because no one lived in the castle in over 20 years. The custodian returned to the room finding the girl had vanished.

The phantom is believed to be a girl who died in the early 1930s from a serious case of influenza during the time that house was the Chicago Female College.

There are other more recent occurrences. Late at night a light from a candle has been seen floating across windows and up the staircase when the castle is unoccupied. The church's pastor was even touched by unseen arms. Strange sounds of clinking of flatware and glasses like sounds from a party have been heard despite no one having such an event.

When we found that Chicago had its own haunted castle we became very excited and immediately wanted to go visit to get some photographs. As we were in Chicago during a family vacation in late spring, we decided to make a quick drive over and take a look at the castle.

Late in the day we finally found the church after driving through some very interesting (!) neighborhoods. As we looked up we admired the imposing structure that was set back from the road, its dark windows felt like eyes staring at us. We remained taking pictures until the light faded, happy that we had chosen to make our stop to explore this fascinating location and its legends.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Most Haunted Cemetery in the Midwest, Bachelors Grove Cemetery

Bachelors Grove Cemetery is one of the most haunted places I know, a mysterious and foreboding land steeped in legend and myth. This abandoned cemetery has long been a source of intrigue by many who have entered its twisted metal gates. One of the oldest cemeteries in south Cook County, Bachelors Grove Cemetery, has developed a reputation as the most haunted cemetery in the Midwest.

On a chilly spring day I found the overgrown trail leading to the cemetery entrance. The road was covered with leaves from last year's autumn season; the trees seemed to arch over the road, engulfing the trail and hiding it from the world. The trail was once a section of the Midlothian Turnpike but was closed in 1960s.

Named for the large number of bachelors buried in the cemetery, Bachelors Grove has been neglected even before the Midlothian Turnpike closed. Teenagers would frequent the area for drinking and other activities. Chicago mobsters often dumped the bodies from their murders into the adjacent pond. Satanists used the place for conjuring during their rituals, grave robbing, desecration and vandalism has been a part of the cemetery's long sad history.

As I walked along the trail with my cameras the spring day I visited, I began to feel anticipation of the unknown. The trees seem to tighten around me as I traveled deeper into the woods. This is where tales of a phantom farm house in the woods have been seen. Descriptions of the house have been consistent through the years, a white house with porch pillars, a swing and a soft light burning in the window. When anyone approaches, the house is said to vanish. Legend has it if you reach the porch of the house you will never return. For years records and explorations of the area have given little proof of a house ever being built in the woods near the cemetery until recently. Indeed, two foundations of a house were uncovered, adding a mysterious validity to the legend.

Deep in my thoughts about the many stories of this notorious cemetery, I was startled by the unexpected appearance of the entrance to Bachelors Grove Cemetery. The winter snow that receded only a few weeks previous had weighted down the long overgrown weeds and grass exposing a handful of broken tombstones. I also noticed that no birds were singing around the cemetery.

I looked at the various tombstones, many leaning and broken, as I walked through the cemetery. One particular tombstone jarred my memory; the tombstone had an unusual checked pattern and was the very tombstone from the famous photograph, taken by Mari Huff ,of the White Lady of Bachelors Grove ghost sitting on the tombstone.

So many haunted and bizarre experiences have accrued here its hard not to believe something very strange is happening in this isolated place. Many have seen the phantom of the farmer who was pulled into the water by his plow horse and both drowned by the weight of the plow in the 1870's. Strange colored ghost lights have been seen darting around the tombstones and in and out the surrounding trees. A two-headed creature has been seen several times rising from the muck of the pond. On nights of the full moon the White Lady of Bachelors Grove has been spotted wandering among the tombstones carrying her baby in her arms. Apparitions of monks in long black robes have been observed. Ghostly cars have appeared and disappeared on the road that bridge over the pond.

While I was taking pictures I constantly felt I was being watched. Often times I looked over my shoulder thinking someone or something was standing near by. Once my pictures where shot and my equipment packed up, I was happy to leave. I felt relief as I gained distance walking on the trail from the cemetery. When I reached the edge of the woods I noticed the birds were singing once again.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

John Zaffis in new SyFy series Haunted Collector

Last week with the lights dimmed down we enjoyed watching the premiere of SyFy's new paranormal TV series Haunted Collector. The show features John Zaffis, eminent paranormal investigator and demonologist, along with members of his family and team as they investigate paranormal activity and look for items that may be causing a haunting. Zaffis will later remove the item at the owner's request. It's really great to see such a well- known and seasoned investigator working a case. Zaffis portrays a relaxed and gentle personality that is highly knowledgeable about the paranormal field. He gives creditability to his evidence and how he obtains it. I was surprised how little equipment he carries; most of the time he just uses a digital tape recorder.

With over 35 years of experience Zaffis has worked on cases like the case in Connecticut on which the movie "A Haunting in Connecticut" is based on. Zaffis runs the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England which he founded in 1998. He began his supernatural study under the guidance of his uncle and aunt Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are also well known in the field from their work on the Amityville house case. He continued his studies under prominent exorcists in that field like Bishop Robert McKenna, Malachi Martin, and Reverend Jun.

Over the years Zaffis began collecting souvenirs from cases and stored them in a barn in the back of his Connecticut home. At over a 1000 items, he wondered what he could do with all the items he amassed. Zaffis decided to set up a museum to tell the stories about the items that interfered with people's lives and how the individuals were affected. Named the Paranormal Museum, items included are as diverse as the places they are from. The collection features dolls, guns, clocks, musical instruments, carved items, clothing and even paintings. Zaffis, upon removing the object after finding them in clients' homes, often experiences car trouble as he drives the item to the museum. As quoted on his own website, Zaffis reports, that "before items are brought into the museum, binding rituals are performed over each item by clergy. The goal of these rituals is to cease any spiritual phenomenon associated with the item. Items that are particularly active are kept in cases. Each time the item is removed from the case, another ritual is performed on the item".

But sometimes "unhaunting" proves to be difficult. Says Zaffis: "Some items are so strong that the binding rituals performed over them are not completely effective. Although the specific phenomenon associated with the items stop for the most part, many people describe a distinct feeling upon entering the museum". A few items are unable to respond at all. "There have been some items which carry with it such a strong spirit that a cleansing ritual will not be effective". When Zaffis comes across an item that seems unable to fully respond to the binding rituals it is either disposed of, buried in the ground, or thrown into a body of water. Destroying such an object would cause more harm then good; according to Zaffis, the spirit attached to that object will often gravitate towards the individual who destroyed it.

Zaffis is no stranger to TV. He is often seen on paranormal shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. A documentary film was recently made of the museum, written by and starred in by Zaffis himself. The film talks about his experiences and the stories behind the creepy items. Fans of paranormal TV shows can see Zaffis in action on Wednesday nights after the SyFy channel's highly popular Ghost Hunters with Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ships' Logs and Sea Monsters

From Fortean Times Magazine By David Clarke
The Ministry of Defence does not keep any secret files on sea monsters reported by Royal Navy personnel, but crews of ships and submarines who make unusual sightings can record their experiences in official logbooks that are public records. This emerged as a result of a Freedom of Inform­ation request made to the MoD by marine bio­logist Sebastian Darby in February. Darby’s request asked the MoD if there were “any abnorm­ally large, or dangerous sea monsters hundreds of metres under the sea that haven’t been revealed to the public”. If such creatures did exist, he argued, it would be in the public interest to publish the facts as marine bio­logists’ lives could be at risk.

Navy FOI officer Heather Godfrey’s response admitted neither the Navy nor the MoD maintained “any form of central repository of information purely devoted to sea monsters”. Although there was no formal requirement, the Navy did encourage personnel to record sightings of marine mammals “and it’s possible this could include unusual sightings”. All such reports were sent to the UK Hydrographic Office in Somer­set, while individual ship’s logs are retained until they are deposited at The National Archives after 30 years. But a search of thousands of ship’s logs for entries on sea monster sightings would exceed the cost limits allowed for a FOI request.

Nautical folklore is replete with such stories and first-hand accounts of sightings have been recorded in Atlantic waters since the Middle Ages. In more recent centuries, one of the most cele­brated sea serpent reports was made by the captain and officers of the frigate HMS Daedalus off the Cape of Good Hope in the South Atlantic on 6 August 1848 (see 'The Golden Age of Sea Serpents'). On arrival in England, the captain, Peter M’Quhae, sent details to the Admiralty and to The Times. He supervised a detailed drawing of the 60ft-long creature that was visible for 20 minutes. But his story was rejected by palæonto­logist Professor Richard Owen, who insisted the crew had seen a giant seal.

A number of other 19th-century accounts have emerged in British Admiralty files deposited at The National Archives in Kew. One contains an account of a sea serpent written by Captain James Stockdale in May 1830. Stockdale and the crew of the barque Rob Roy were near the island of St Helena when they heard a scuffling noise in the water. As they turned to the port bow, they were amazed to see the head of “a great thundering sea snake” whose head rose six feet out of the water “as square with our topsail [and] his tail was square with the foremast”. Stockdale said his ship was 171ft long with the foremast 42ft from the stern, which would make the monster 129ft long. He reported to his masters in London: “If I had not seen it I could not have believed it but there was no mistake or doubt of its length – for the brute was so close I could even smell his nasty fishy smell.”

A Board of Trade file from 1857 contains an account from Comm­ander George Henry Harring­ton of the 1,063-ton merchant ship Cast­ilan, again near the same South Atlantic island. On 13 December of that year, he and two officers saw “a huge marine animal” which suddenly reared out of the water just 20ft from the ship. For a few moments, its long neck and dark head, shaped “like a long buoy” and covered with white spots, were clearly visible “with a kind of scroll or ruff encircling it”. The creature was submerged for a moment and then reappeared, leaving the crew in no doubt they were watching a sea monster “of extraordinary length [which] appeared to be moving slowly towards the land”. The boatswain, who watched it for some time, said that it was more than double the length of the ship, which made it 500ft long.

Both reports appear to have been filed away without comment by the Admiralty, in much the same way that the Air Ministry dealt with reports of flying sauc­ers and UFOs from RAF crews during the 20th century. Unless a clear threat was identified, either from sea monsters or aliens, unusual sightings like these were classified as interesting but of “no defence significance”.
[PA] D.Telegraph, 16 May 2010; Rickard & Michell: “The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomena”, 2007

The Most Haunted House in the Midwest, McPike Mansion, Alton IL

The McPike Mansion in Alton, IL sits atop a hill surrounded by large gnarled oak trees, giving the derelict house a foreboding sinister feel. When I arrived one early morning I was taken aback by its presence. The house seems to be sitting, brooding over its former glory. It has the look and feel of every image a haunted mansion should be: iron fence around the property, broken windows, a graveyard in the back, and plenty of ghosts. No wonder McPike has been given the unique distinction of being one of the most haunted houses in the Midwest, if not the country.

Built in 1869 by architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger for Henry Guest McPike and his family, the house was built in the Italianate-Victorian style, featuring 16 rooms, 11 marble fireplaces, beautifully carved stairway banisters and a vaulted wine cellar. Many of the wonderful architectural features vanished when it sat abandoned for years. The only hint to its golden years is an intricate carved trim that still borders the ceiling in one of the front rooms.

Originally on a country estate of fifteen acres of land called Mount Lookout Park, the mansion was the perfect place for Henry McPike to practice his love of horticulture. Trees, shrubs, orchards, flowers and extensive vineyards made the home one of the most beautiful in the area. During his time at the mansion Henry McPike perfected his McPike Grape, which became well-known all over the country. Some of the vineyards still exist today. McPike and his family lived in the house until 1936.

Paul A. Laichinger, purchased the house around that time and owned it until his death. It's unclear whether Laichinger lived in the house or rented it out to tenants. The house became abandoned and has remained that way since.

In 1994, Sharyn and George Luedke purchased the house during an auction. Their dream has been to restore the mansion to its former glory and turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. With extensive repairs and upkeep the restoration has been long and expensive. To help finance the restoration the Luedke's hold regular ghost tours and overnight campouts in the front yard.

When the Luedke's first purchased the mansion they never imagined that the place was haunted. Six weeks after purchasing the house Sharyn was tending plants in the front yard and looked up to see a man standing in the window looking back at her. The man disappeared but she noticed he was wearing a striped shirt and a tie. After researching the history of the building, Sharyn came across a photograph of Paul Laichinger wearing the same outfit.

Visitors have seen figures throughout the house. Many have had the sensation of being touched yet no one else is there. Sounds of footsteps are heard pacing up and down hallways and down the staircases. Objects vanish only to materialize in other odd places of the house.

The wine cellar is the most active place in the mansion, where footsteps and voices are heard. Several times a strange mist has materialized from nowhere and follows visitors around to the many rooms in the basement. The large heavy metal door that leads into the basement opens and closes by itself as it scrapes across the floor. Many people think that Henry McPike, members of his family, former owner Paul Laichinger, and a domestic servant haunt the mansion.

The Luedkes' love for the mansion shows by how much attention they give to investigating and learning about the history of the house. They have welcomed visitors from all over the country and are eager to share what they have learned with those who are brave enough to venture inside.

On my visit, Sharyn Luedke walked with me talking about the history of the mansion and the many strange events that have happened, while a black cat followed us around adding to the mystique. As I walked through the abandoned mansion, I noticed the wooden slats exposed from the fallen plaster. Many areas are too dangerous to walk through due to large holes in the floors. A large crack can be seen running from the bottom of the foundation to the roof of the house. Seeing this reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe's classic story "Fall of the House of Usher".
Sharyn told me of again seeing a figure standing in the upper part of the home with the window swung opened to the outside except the windows on that floor only open to the inside of the house.

Outside magnolias from a nearby bush were in bloom, giving the air a sweet scent in contrast to the melancholy atmosphere of the mansion. As we ventured out Sharyn mentioned that an unknown child's grave can still be seen on the grounds. The lid of the exposed vault is broken and has been overgrown by the surrounding vegetation.

Unfortunately I didn't experience anything unusual that day, but my wife and I would love to return and hopefully feel and see what the most haunted house in the country has waiting for us.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review "The Perfect Medium Photography and the Occult"

Photographs are like ghosts of the past, they can show us where we have been and show us who we are. Pictures speck to us, we can view a passed-on loved one's face and remember the time we spent with them. We can enjoy a laugh with friends viewing vacation photographs of days gone by. Photography has always been a record of the past but in some ways it may show us where we should go for our future.

Doing researching on haunted places has led us to many fascinating and unusual avenues, such as Castle Frankenstein and the most notorious haunted house in Wisconsin called Summerwind Mansion. We have a passion for history which plays a big part in what we do.

Being a photographer I love pictures especially vintage photographs and the history of the early days of photography. We enjoy finding unusual books about the paranormal and learning about its legends from its early forms to modern day hauntings. One book I came across the blended both of the passions was "The Perfect Medium Photography and the Occult" by Cheroux, Fischer, Apraxine, Canguilhem, and Schmit, published by Yale University Press. Written in 2004, this large book discuses a topic that is virtually obscure and has been taken for granted.

The book has three parts, Photographs of Spirits, Photographs of Fluids, and Photographs of Mediums. The book begins with the early days of Spiritualism in the Victorian era and the spirit photographs that came about during that time. Photographers like William Mumler gave rise to spirit photography and in Europe began with Frederick Hudson. The reproductions of the photographs and collection of cartes de visites are amazing. The images are clear and well reproduced. Some spirit photographs are obvious fakes but the information on the photographers is very interesting, thorough, and well researched.

The second part, Photographs of Fluids, chronicles photography's use in providing evidence of the invisible world like the aura of a human hand or the life force of a freshly plucked leaf. The universal fluid was a theory developed by German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, who suggested that every living thing has a universal fluid, a magnetic field that governs the body and its surroundings. The photographs of the "fluids" are both strange and fascinating. I found myself staring at them for long periods of time trying to make sense of them all.

The final part of the book, Photographs of Mediums, shows mediums at work levitating, levitating tables, producing ghosts at will, vomiting ectoplasm and other various phenomenons. The photographs in their time may have been used as a tool for debunking. They are a treasure trove of various occult images, along with a well researched narrative and historical context for the contents..

The only complaints I can really come up with that the book is a bit pricey at $45. I also wish they would have included modern ghost hunting photographs. I think this is an important part in the larger scope of photography and the occult. The book appeals to anyone with an interest in ghosts, photography and history, I find myself referencing it often and find it highly recommendable.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Built for the Dead, Stickney Mansion - Bull Valley, Illinois

Since I was a child I've heard legends about the "mansion with no corners." For years I thought it was all a myth, until I researched for this project and found that the mansion does exist and the legends are true. When we found and stood on the grounds of the mansion a few years ago, a chill ran up my spine as I thought about the story associated with this mysterious house.

Both accomplished mediums and devout practitioners of Spiritualism, George and Sylvia Stickney built this unusual two-story house in 1836 on an isolated country highway in Bull Valley, Illinois, thinking this corner-less design would assist them when holding séances and gatherings at the property. The couple had twelve children but only three survived to adulthood; they would often try to contact their nine dead children during their séances.

The Stickneys' believed that spirits have an inclination of getting stuck in the corners of houses, producing terrible results. They also felt that having a 90 degree angle corner would attract evil spirits. Therefore, all the rooms in their mansion have round smooth corners except one. For some unknown reason this room accidentally ended up with a 90-degree measurement.

According to legend, George Stickney was one day discovered slumped to the floor, dead from an apparent heart failure next to the only corner in the house located in that very mysterious room.

Reports claim Sylvia Stickney continued to live in the house as an accomplished spirit medium. People from all over the world come to take part in séances upstairs in the converted ballroom.

In the 1970s, Rodrick Smith moved in and began to hear strange noises and his dog began to exhibit strange behavior. After awhile Smith became more and more uncomfortable in the house and decided to research the home. According to Smith's findings, satanic worship took place in the mansion during the sixties and the black magic rituals conjured up an evil presence which resides in the house. Other researchers feel it was hippies during that time that changed the atmosphere of the house with drug use and painting the rooms dark colors, spray painting messages and leaving their abandoned drugs after they left.

The mansion was later sold and the Village of Bull Valley police department moved in as their headquarters. The police have reported hearing footsteps in the ballroom area, formally the séance chamber. Disembodied voices and strange noises have been heard on the stairwell and through out the house several times. Objects have moved on their own, door knobs have been seen turning on their own. Lone workers have seen and heard doors opening and closing on their own when no one else was in the building. One police officer saw the apparition of what he later described as Stickney's father-in-law. Two police officers have quit due to the disturbances that take place in this bizarre house.

Further research into town cemetery records often yield different facts to the dates in this story, but little else is recorded of this time. We have the old legends and the stories from the mansion's modern-day occupants to work from on our journey. Most important of the details, is the fact that the reputation of the house is firmly based in the Stickneys' practice Spiritualism and the regular attempts to commune with the spirits who have passed on into the beyond.

The day we arrived to visit the mansion two springs ago was bright, warm, and friendly. On the grounds of the mansion, however, the air was still and tense. The home felt isolated on its road winding off of the main road through town. Walking around the mansion, we felt uneasy staring into the black windows as if the house was watching us. The very look of this odd house makes one feel uncomfortable, which shouldn't be a surprise since it was built specifically to talk to the dead. Perhaps the spirits still wander freely through its rooms and corridors waiting to make their presence known.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fan Request...

Hi Blog and Facebook Fans,
We recently received a blog comment from Marisela about her dream wedding at one of our possible haunted destinations, the Jacob Henry Mansion in Joliet, IL.
She and her fiance would like to have a dream wedding there, since her fiance Chris is into haunted happenings, and are part of a Crate and Barrel Dream Wedding contest: Marisela and Chris
Click on their VOTE button, login to the Facebook link that pops up on the left and, viola!  You have helped a sweet couple get closer to their dream.
By the way, if any of you are interested in a more imaginative photography duo for weddings, we'd LOVE to put Corey's infrared and our color photo skills to work to give your event a flair that reflects your interests.  There aren't a lot of edgy photogs out there in the wedding world.  We could change that!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Haunted Road Trip

During the winter months we spend much of our time researching and looking for new ideas and places to photograph. We find inspiration from many sources from music, movies, stories and converstions we have with others. So when the snow starts to melt, weather begins to warm-up and the grass begins to turn green we get very excited because another season of photographing haunted places begins. At the beginning of the year our trip had taken on many forms and not until recently we decided on certain places that would work for our schedule. We have found some new and wonderful mansions to photograph they are just beautiful and mysterious from the pictures we have seen. I don't want to revel to much detail on where we will go, but you will not be disappointed by them I assure you. Here is a few place we are wanting to go to. If any one has suggestions of places that would be great for us to photograph feel free to send us an email with a picture and a bit of the history (if you know it) behind the place. We would love to see it and included in it in upcoming trips.

Lincoln-Tallman House, Janesville - WI

Jacob Henry Mansion, Joliet - IL

Hegeler-Carus Mansion, LaSalle - IL

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Premature Burial at Rosedale Cemetery, WI

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) himself like many others of his time feared being buried alive, which inspired the author to write one of his greatest short stories in 1850, “The Premature Burial”.

“Fearful indeed the suspicion–but more fearful the doom! It may be asserted, without hesitation, that no event is so terribly well adapted to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress, as is burial before death”.

"I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The ghastly danger to which I was subjected haunted me day and night. In the former, the torture of meditation was excessive–in the latter, supreme. When the grim Darkness overspread the Earth, then, with every horror of thought, I shook–shook as the quivering plumes upon the hearse”.

On March 30, 1898, The Pardeeville Crank newspaper reported a gruesome discovery at Rosedale Cemetery, which is next to the Rosedale Presbyterian Church a few miles east of Pardeeville. The grave of Julia Sarah Smith daughter-in-law of John Smith was opened for the purpose of removing the remains to an adjacent lot. Upon opening the coffin, it was found that she had been buried while in a trance, she must have come to after being interred. There where signs she had partly turned over and the right hand was drawn up the face and the fingers indicated having been bitten in agony of finding herself interred alive. She had been buried thirteen years.

There is no doubt the suffering that many have experienced being buried alive. The strain of mind that the victim surely must possess laying in complete darkness with muffled cries of agonized “help” being unheeded. Many have been known to have lain in a trance for the period of six weeks and then revived.

The fear of being buried alive was so real that it led many inventors to find a variety of ways to allow the interred to signal up to the service that they are still alive and needed to be rescued.

In 1897 Count Karnice-Karnicki of Belgium patented a rescue device, which mechanically detected chest movements to trigger a flag, lamp, bell, and fresh air. Along similar lines, in Great Britain various systems were developed to save those buried alive, including breakable glass panels in the coffin lid and pulley systems which would raise flags on the surface.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Facebook Visitors Get Free Things

Hello to both new and faithful blog followers.

Please be sure to occasionally drift over to our Facebook page from time to time. We are prone to frequent print giveaways as we gain more and more followers. We'd love to see you there now and again. ~C&A

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Castle Frankenstein, Germany

“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” These are the horrific words that describe the creation of the monster in the classic gothic novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus written by 19 year-old Mary Shelley.

The story was created on a dismal rainy summer vacation in Switzerland, where Mary Shelley and her soon to be husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and friend Lord Byron amused themselves with opium, alcohol, and the telling of German ghost stories. They whiled away the hours discussing topics of galvanism and the occult while writing their own supernatural stories to help pass the time. One night during a terrifying nightmare Mary had a vision which began the seed of inspiration for the classic novel. "I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

The next morning Shelley began writing the short story and was later persuaded by Percy Shelley to expand the idea into a full novel, which became her greatest and most influential story that still resonates today.

The mystery still remains to where Mary Shelley came up with the name Frankenstein. Mary may have visited the Darmstadt region during her travels and heard the local folklore of Burg Frankenstein and the German alchemist Johann Konrad Dippel, whose life has a has a close parallel with Victor Frankenstein in the novel.

Built in 1250 by Konrad Reiz von Breuberg, Burg Frankenstein sits on a hilltop about 5 km south of Darmstadt, Germany. The once large fortress was the part of territorial and religious disputes between the Catholic Frankensteins and the Lutheran landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt, the family in 1662 eventually sold their possessions around the Castle to the landgraves and retired to their possessions in the Wetterau. The Frankenstein family died out in 1602. The castle fell into ruin in the 19th century and, along with many ruined castles of Germany, became inspiration for poets, authors, and artists traveling through the country during the Romantic area. Today only two towers, the chapel, and fortress walls remain.

Several legends are connected to the castle and the Frankenstein dynasty. One is of a vampire that frequented the castle in medieval times, roaming abroad at night to drink the blood of the villagers, and a young Frankenstein bride who was said to have been found, pale and lifeless in one of the castle’s many towers. The other tells of Georg von Frankenstein, the Dragon Killer, who liberated the people of the valley from the terror of a giant reptilian monster in the 16th century. He was mortally wounded in the battle and his sepulchral effigy can still be seen in a nearby church, the monster beneath his feet.

The most well-known legend is that of Johann Konrad Dippel. With no relation to the Frankenstein family, Dippel (1673-1734) was born and lived at Castle Frankenstein. For school purposes 'Frankensteinensis' was known to be twice added for administrative purposes to his signature, indicating his birth place. Dippel studied theology, alchemy, and philosophy. Folklore of the region accuses him of body snatching in an attempt to bring the dead to life. In a secret laboratory Dippel was said to conduct his experiments for the search of the secret of life by boiling bones and hair with iron flecks and blood clots. He also attempted to create an “elixir of life” which he claimed would keep him alive to 135 years of age, and which upon taking it, killed him.

This colorful history has lead to many supposed supernatural occurrences on the castle grounds. The place is said to be haunted by several ghosts including Dippel and those he exhumed for his experiments. Dippel is said to haunt the roof of the chapel. The chapel is also said to be haunted by the last knight of Frankenstein, Philipp Ludwig who died at the age of 20. The knight was on his way to see his girlfriend while riding his coach too fast and was thrown out and broke his neck. The one of the two remaining towers was where Dippel was said to have had his secret laboratory and is where the ghost of Anne Marie, a figure associated with a Knight George legend, settles down to cry and pray hoping for her boyfriend to come back and be with her in the tower. Two ghosts who don’t want the castle disturbed are said to throw stones from top of the tower at visitors. Shadows and disembodied voices have been seen and heard in the chapel and tower. Another legend tells of a series of labyrinth vaults that store the Frankenstein families treasure beneath the castle.

Most of these stories about the castle’s history and the haunted legends are highly contested. Mary Shelly’s own connection to the castle and her Frankenstein figure’s parallel to Dippel’s life have come under scrutiny in recent history, as well. Fact and fiction have become difficult to separate. In recent years the owners of the land and restaurant have given in to the legends, running a year-round Horror-Mystery theater and ultimate haunted house for the month of October No matter what the true story is, the legends make this destination an even more interesting destination for those intrigued by the potential for supernatural comings and goings.

We began our own journey in the morning after breakfast at a hotel in Darmstadt. We took a train as far as we could and walked the rest of the way up a very steep hill through the town of Malchen. Carrying a pack full of camera equipment we wove our way through the paths and roads of the Odenwald Forest that lay beneath the castle. In Germany most locals can find where they need to go so many destinations are not well marked for tourists. The walk seemed to last forever, especially knowing the overcast skies could open up on us at any time. Once we found signs leading to the castle we both felt the sun started peeking out behind the clouds.

The incredible journey came to an end 35 minutes after we began the hike up the hill. We made it! After a short rest enjoying the view from the overlook frequented by locals on the north end of the grounds, we entered the courtyard and were taken aback by the size of the ruin, which must have been impressive in its day. We walked around taking photographs and enjoying the more impressive view that can be seen from the tower where Dippel setup his secret laboratory. The room inside the tower was small and dark. It must have been very cold and lonely those hundreds of years ago, if Dippel truly did frequent that tower for his experiments. It was a chilling thought while standing in that space.
The sounds of swords clashing together from medieval re-enactors were heard during our visit. We also visited the chapel that looks nearly the same since medieval times, and studied the wonderful figurative effigy of Philipp Ludwig, made of alabaster and sandstone.

We stayed as long as we could, then we began our walk down hill to the small village of Malchen where we had started. As we walked through the village we passed a very old church which featured a tree in the courtyard that was reported to be 500 years old.

Our journey was memorable and we could see how Burg Frankenstein inspired such a wonderful timeless novel for Mary Shelley. We felt this place held a sense of foreboding mystery that just resonated with us and our photography. The lure of the Frankenstein legend that captivated generations will continue to be the source of nightmares and monsters.