Category Archives: Blog

S Is For Sea Serpent: Ogopogo, Champ, Caddy, and Storsie

if you’ve ever passed a moving body of water and seen something, barely sticking from the surface, you’ve probably had a fleeting moment of wondering Could that be a monster–like Nessie? Odds are, what you saw turned out to be a stick, a turtle, or even a snake–or maybe just some garbage. After all, Nessie is just from Scotland, right? There aren’t any other sea/lake monsters, are there?

Not surprisingly, there are. Some scoff at this notion and say that swells on the surface of a body of water are caused by underwater currents, or that stationary objects, like submerged trees, create the illusion of something swimming, when really it’s just water flowing around the object. They say that this optical illusion causes us to fill in the gaps and imagine a monster.

Others argue differently. They say there are undiscovered, aquatic cryptids around the world. They have photos, witness accounts and even videos of these alleged creatures. Aquatic monsters are everywhere, it seems.

Ogopogo hails from Canada–Okanagan Lake, to be specific, in British Columbia. It has allegedly been seen by natives since the 1800s, and is described as a 40-50 foot sea serpent, like the Mosasaurus.

In 1946, thirty carloads of people reported seeing the creature from Okanagan Mission beach. In 1968, the creature (or, at least, it’s wake) was filmed moving across the lake. In 2011, Ogopogo was captured–on cell phone video

This isn’t the Americas’ only swimming cryptid, by the way. Champ and Caddy are two more cryptids reported in North America. Champ hails from Lake Champlain, which is near Quebec, New York, and Vermont. Sightings go back to before 1609, when the first European settler (Samuel de Champlain) reported the cryptid, describing it as “20-foot serpent thick as a barrel, and a head like a horse”.

On the other side of the continent, back in the Pacific Northwest, Ogopogo’s cousin, Caddy (short for Cadborosaurus) has been sighted in Cadboro Bay, British Columbia for more than 200 years. Like Nessie and Ogopogo, Caddy too has purportedly been photographed and filmed, and is reported to resemble a “huge sea serpent with a horse-like head”.

Leaving America, and crossing back to Europe, one needn’t return to some of the other Lochs in Scotland to search for lake monsters (although several other Lochs also claim to have them). Instead, you could journey to Sweden in search of Storsjöodjuret, a lake serpent seen in Lake Storsjön in Jämtland, and described as looking like a serpentine or aquatic reptile with fins across its back and the head of a dog.

If you strike out in Sweden, fear not, a quick trip to Norway could put you on the track of Selma, a large, snake-like creature believed to reside in Lake Seljord in Seljord, Telemark, Norway. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, fear not, Selma appears on the coat of arms of Seljord.

There are many, many more alleged aquatic beasts around the world. Until 2016, you could go to Vietnam and would probably catch a glimpse of such a beast–Cụ Rùa (“great grandfather turtle”), a giant, soft shell turtle of the species Rafetus leloii, which resided in Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. There are also countless of tales of giant fish seen as monsters–like the rumored man-sized catfish of Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, or Alaska’s Iliamna Lake Monster, Illie.

It seems that wherever there’s a body of water, there be monsters. Remember that the next time you go swimming and aren’t sure just what that is in the water, just below the surface, heading towards you…

ROC, ROPEN, SCISSORS: TERRORS OF THE SKY

Roc, Ropen, Scissors: Terrors of the Skies

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a bird… It’s a plane… it’s a… cryptid?

Monsters are not just confined to the woods and water. As it turns out, there are a variety of Fortean folktales about giant flying creatures that can swoop down and pluck helpless mortals off their feet and carry them off to unimaginably horrible demises. Here in the U.S., these days Mothman grabs all the headlines, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, if you counted up legends and sightings, he’d easily be dethroned from his pop culture throne by the true reigning champion of aeronautical cryptozoology: the Thunderbird.

Thunderbirds have been sighted all across the United States and North America, long before Europeans fled religious persecution in their homelands and settled here. The native tribes had many legends of these giant birds, and many descriptions as well.

If you read the blog earlier this month, you might have caught mention of winged reptiles swooping down on the surprised citizens of the Southwest in the 1970s. And then there was the tale of a young man in Illinois who was nearly carried off by a strange bird of enormous proportions, much like a scene from the movie “The Valley of Gwanji”. But there’s more to the Thunderbird and its winged cousins around the world than some amazing cinematic stop animation. Nor does the Thunderbird rule its skies—other flying creatures have struck terror into the hearts and minds of the Earthbound, all around our globe:

The Roc is a legendary winged beast from Africa and the Middle East, reported in some instances to be large enough to carry away elephants.

The Ropen is a modern day, extant dino-bird, hailing from Southeast Asia, with reports still surfacing to this day.

Here in the U.S., Illinois was once home to a legendary, chimera-like creature called the Piasa that was described as being as large as a calf with horns on their heads like a deer, a beard like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body covered with scales, and a long fish’s tail.

But by far, the widest reported of all the sky terrors was an enormous bird with a wingspan far surpassing that of any vulture or condor—a black-feather avian powerful enough to lift a small child.

Before we scoff at a report like this, we need to examine whether or not it’s even possible for a feather bird to be big enough to carry a small human. Condors and Turkey vultures are definitely big enough to carry away squirrels and even small house cats, but they have a wingspan that just isn’t wide enough to hoist anything bigger than that.

That wasn’t always the case, though. Turning to the fossil record, scientists have theorized a bird that would make even the inhabitants of Sesame Street shake in terror: Argentavis magnificens. Discovered in Argentina, this giant raptor was estimated to have a wingspan up to twenty-four feet wide. How much could such a beast lift up into the sky? That is debatable, as some scientists have speculated the avian’s own weight may have forced it to run into strong winds to even get aloft. But, if we consider that the Osprey, with a wingspan of up to 26 inches can pluck a fish weighing as much as 10 ounces from the water, it isn’t that much of a stretch to consider that the Argentavis could lift something considerably larger.

If Argentavis doesn’t fit the bill, there was one other bird even larger: Pelagornis sandersi, with a wingspan of up to twenty-four feet and a head that looked more dino than dodo.

Now that we know it was at least once possible for a bird to be big enough to grab a boy, we should look for other accounts of it happening. And, terrifyingly, there are.

Reports may be few and far between less horrible bird stories, but there are tales of Stellar Sea Eagles (with only 8 foot wingspans) attacking children and carrying off small dogs. The Golden Eagle (with a slightly smaller wingspan) is also reported to have attacked children, as in this video from Kyrgyzstan

The girl attacked wasn’t carried off, or harmed all that much, but the point here is that yes, large birds will attack people—and their pets.

Years ago, I read two accounts of Eagles actually attacking children. I can’t find them now, but the first involved a Stellar Sea Eagle attacking a small child, while the second was a report of Eagles plucking babies from the huts of their parents in Africa and killing and eating them.

Sound preposterous? Not really, when you consider that a small deer can be the same size as a baby, and there’s video of Eagles flying one back to their nest and eating it:

But don’t think that means the Thunderbird (so called for the sound it’s wings make, or in some tales it’s ability to summon thunderstorms) doesn’t have a hankering for longpig.

While the Piasa of Illini Indian legends doesn’t look much like an Eagle, it was reported to prefer a Manwich over Bambi. As the legend goes, the Illini unsuccessfully tried to kill the creature, until the Great Spirit appeared in a vision to the chief Ouatoga, telling him how to kill the monster. The chief stood in a clearing, as bait, then twenty of his warriors hid and waited. When the Piasa swooped down to eat Ouatoga, it was instead riddled with poison arrows. In today’s modern age of firearms, the Piasa definitely wouldn’t stand much of a chance, nor would its fellow sky-terror, the Thunderbird.

So, where are all the Thunderbirds? Some have suggested the beasts preyed on the buffalo before it was hunted to near-extinction. Of course, they might still be here, dining on all those missing pets we hear about regularly. Looking up, into the sky, with nothing to judge its size against, it would be hard to distinguish a massive bird from just a large one—unless you happened to be flying alongside it.

Lorraine Warren: MATRIARCH of the Paranormal dies at 92

It’s a rich and storied life that is immortalized in popular film. I would consider myself lucky to one day be essentially sainted by the paranormal community and played onscreen by the likes of Vera Farmiga.

In reality no one is actually a saint and Lorraine Warren and her husband Ed, who died in 2006, certainly had their detractors. But no one can deny that the Warrens were trailblazers in the field for good or ill, or both, as is usually the view history.

Lorraine Warren died April 18th at her home in Connecticut at the age of 92. In life, she claimed to be both a clairvoyant and a trance medium. She and her husband Ed, a self-described demonologist, founded the New England Society for Psychical Research (N.E.S.P.R.) in 1952.

N.E.S.P.R., in contrast to other societies of psychical research, took a religious approach rather than a scientific one to their alleged 10,000 paranormal investigations. The Warrens believed that the entities responsible for hauntings were not “vaporous, indistinct phantoms”, but forces that “exist for the sheer purpose of opposing the works of God”.

They further claimed, according to their website, to have been repeatedly called in by “religious authorities . . . to control some of the most profane outbreaks of diabolical phenomena in the country”. However, it is unlikely that they actually worked with the Catholic Church, as they often claimed, at least in an official capacity.

Lorraine Warren had recently retired from active investigations and personal appearances. She still consulted for N.E.S.P.R., although she passed the directorship to her son-in-law, Tony Spera.

As paranormal personalities the Warrens undeniably led the way in developing opportunities for psychical researchers on the lecture circuit and in the media. In 1952, in addition to founding N.E.S.P.R., they opened the Warren’s Occult Museum. They went full-time paranormal in 1968. By 1974, the Warrens were employing a booking agent to find them paying gigs and writing a regular column about their adventures for a weekly tabloid, The Tattler.

Many claim that Lorraine and Ed lived to help those besieged by evil forces. Yet there also are many who have called the Warren’s credibility into question including at least one psychical researcher who didn’t appreciate them showing up to assist on his case uninvited. One thing is for certain the Warrens are among the most famous paranormal investigators in the world and how they are viewed influences how all other psychical researchers are perceived.

The Warren’s website advises “The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.” Unfortunately, for most of us in the paranormal, the path to credibility is seldom clear. Hopefully, we in the field, will learn everything there is to learn from both the light and the dark views of the lives of Lorraine and Ed Warren. Perhaps familiarizing ourselves with both sides of the story will lead us to a more balanced perspective and help us to more carefully select only the attributes we wish to emulate in their example.

Listen to our full episode on Ed and Lorraine Warren.
http://www.othersidepodcast.com/blog/2016/06/06/95-ed/

Q Is For Queen: The Ghost Of Freddie Mercury

Queen is once again one of the hottest bands around, 28 years after their beloved singer died, thanks to the amazing popularity of the biopic of Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody, as well as an Academy Award for Best Actor for the movie’s star, Rami Malek.

Even though Queen was already seemingly out of vogue by the time I started getting into music, the second tape I ever had was Queen’s Greatest Hits and at 13 years old, it blew my mind. Freddie passed away the November I was a freshman in high school and that brought attention back to the band enough where the deejay let me request “Bohemian Rhapsody” at our dances. Of course, we’d slow dance with our girlfriends to the mellow parts and then rock the f#$% out to the big riff when it came in. When Wayne’s World came out only a few months later and the everybody was headbanging in the car, it felt like it was a window into my teenage experience. That’s when I realized how universal the appeal of Queen really was.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was always too hard to cover, so we just stuck with the easy ones, like “We Will Rock You” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, but they always had a place in my playlist. And still do, here’s a picture of Wendy and Scott from What’s Your Ghost Story at SXSW 2019 where we were partying to a Queen tribute band at the Good Omens launch party. The bald guy is the singer and he was an incredible performer. That dude had balls and we all knew it, because we could see them outlined in his full unitard!

That singer was fearless, and that’s what Freddie could inspire you to be, because as a frontman and a songwriter, he was as bold and audacious as they come. He made the line “I want to ride my bicycle” sound badass, he makes tough guys sing along to “Aw, you’re my best friend” and still think it’s cool! He could bounce from jazz to hard rock to opera in a song and it all felt natural. Not only was he an incredible guiding light for me but for millions around the world, and you can tell how deep is effect was, because people have been seeing his ghost now for decades.

Just in March of 2019, a listener to 97x, a Classic Rock station in the Quad Cities claimed that he captured a picture of Freddie Mercury’s ghost high above the stage at a Queen tribute concert in Moline, Illinois. Now it’s obviously just the way the lights are interacting with the fog machine and it looks like one of those images where people see Jesus with the sun peeking through the clouds, but it’s still pretty fun once you see it.

ghost of Freddie Mercury
Is this Freddie singing along?

Someone posted in the Unexplained Mysteries discussion forum that Freddie visited them while they were listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the best part is how he describes what the singer was wearing.

I was listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen last night and the visage of Freddy Mercury coalesced into cohesion right there in my living room!

he was wearing these snappy red leather chaps and and knee high motorcycle boots! 

I said “Freddy what are you doing in my living room?” and he just snapped both fingers and vanished before my eyes!

outpatient777 – April 16th, 2009

Now the next line he asks, “Am I schizophrenic?” so it’s probably just a silly troll post, but this was a long time before Bohemian Rhapsody came out as a movie. However, they’ve never stopped playing Queen songs on Classic Rock radio, so those songs are never too far from our imagination.

Freddie also visited Jennifer Bennett, a California girl raised in the 70s, she woke up a couple of days after the 22nd anniversary of his death with the lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody” stuck in her head, and what she says was his energy. She says:

Freddie and I have never been particularly close so his presence was curious.  I was a bit embarrassed to to have felt visited by him, or at least visited by the energy that he embodies.  Freddie Mercury – bold, brazen, impressive, self assured, diva.  It felt as if I have something to learn from him.  And, of course, to hear Bohemian Rhapsody as if it was plugged directly into my brain…  Jeez.  The power ballad that puts all others power ballads to shame.  Yet, it was only the first 3 lines I heard this morning, over and over.

The Ghost of Freddie Mercury“, Frame A Mind blog

She talks about how she admired him for his brash fearlessness and how she felt emboldened by his energy. Was it Freddie flitting in and out of her dreams, coming to her with a message that she needed to hear?

This album cover was also the inspiration for Guns n’ Roses original cover for Appetite for Destruction

But while Mr. Fahrenheit might have visited Jennifer Bennett once in the morning, his ghost spent much more time with Christine Burgess. The Decemeber 15th, 1996 News Of The World (a tabloid newspaper that Queen named an album after!) features a story about how Christine said she started an affair with the ghost of Freddie Mercury shortly after his death.

Christine’s husband was said to be frustrated that Christine kept comparing him to Freddy, who he called “Mr. Perfect”. But poor Stuart also insisted that his wife was “mentally unstable” and that seemed to be proven true, because Christine would show up at the home of Mary Austin, Freddie’s sometime lover and longtime companion. Burgess said that she deserved to move into the home, which was left to Austin by Mercury, because “she and Freddie were lovers in a former life.” It wasn’t just Mary, but she hounded Queen guitarist, Brian May, as well as Freddie’s friends. And she wouldn’t be deterred, the article ends with her still claiming:

“These people are frightened because Freddie is with ME.”

Queen guitarist Brian May – he’s also a Doctor of Astrophysics – FOR REAL

And speaking of Brian May, he even mentioned in a 2014 interview with British tabloid, The Daily Star.

I feel him around a lot. I don’t want to be too mystical about it but he is very much a part of what we do.

Brian May about Freddie Mercury

This was right when Brian was producing an animated special called One Night In Hell based on some art he has collecting, but more interestingly they were a about to release three new Freddie Mercury songs that they had found in the archives on a record called Queen Forever. So, obviously he was thinking a lot about his departed friend and hearing his voice in the studio might have brought back some of those familiar feelings. Who knows, maybe Freddie was with them, just like he visited Jennifer a few years earlier.

Actor Rami Malek who won the Oscar playing Freddie Mercury

The most recent story about the ghost of Freddie Mercury comes right from the set of Bohemian Rhapsody, where a source told the online site Dish Nation, that:

There has been feeling from Rami and Brian along with the film’s director Bryan Singer that​ ​Freddie is watching them prepare for filming. Rami believes Freddie’s presence is very much on-set and with him wherever he goes, including when he’s at home practicing singing Queen songs… Rami has ​been dreaming​ of Freddie telling him about how he performed on stage, showing him his moves and how it is to be a rock star.

Anonymous source from the set of Bohemian Rhapsody

But speaking of director Bryan Singer, he has himself been embroiled in controversy over sexual allegations of seducing underage boys. And it certainly doesn’t help that in many people’s minds he’s associated with Kevin Spacey, since Singer was the one who really launched the disgraced actor’s career by directing him to a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in The Usual Suspects. When Malek was nominated for the Academy Award, he was immediately interviewed for the Los Angeles Times, and when pressed about the allegations against Singer, he brings up Freddie’s ghost again.

 I didn’t know much about Bryan. I think that the allegations and things were, believe it or not, honestly something I was not aware of, and that is what it is. Who knows what happens with that … but I think somehow we found a way to persevere through everything that was thrown our way.

Perhaps that was Freddie himself doing it, because we wanted to make a product that was worthy of him. Who knows?

Rami Malek

So, while Freddie’s physical body has been gone almost three decades now, it looks like his spirit isn’t going anywhere. Whether or not it was actually his consciousness visiting Brian May and Rami Malek or it was just his personality was so larger than life that it’s easy to mentally create the energy in our own heads, it doesn’t really matter.

Freddie Mercury is still alive every time we sing along to words we don’t even understand like “Scaramouche scaramouche will you do the Fandango?” Freddie Mercury is still alive every time a teenager bangs his head to that incredible guitar riff and then grabs his partner to slow dance at the end. Freddie’s dead, but we bring him back to life every time we let it rip to a Queen song.

After all, who wants to live forever anyway?

P is for Poltergeist: Not Just For Teenagers Anymore

Although I have respected colleagues in paranormal investigation who immediately dismiss all poltergeists cases as fraud, to a student of history, this approach seems limited and unreasonable. So many poltergeist cases pop up throughout history and across cultures that such casual dismissals don’t make sense. These eerily similar accounts of blatantly nonsensical manifestations are reported by very different populations dating back to antiquity and differ greatly from the usual ghost story narrative. This strongly suggests something is actually happening that goes far beyond mere imagination.

The German word “poltergeist” means “noisy ghost” and refers to the chaotic, cacophonous, house-wrecking phenomena that have been reported for centuries all over the world. These include, but are not limited to mysterious raps and other loud noises, untraceable fires and water damage, and the reckless hurling around of anything not nailed down by unseen forces. The word was first coined to describe such manifestations in 1638. Later Martin Luther would popularize the term in his religious writings. In 1948, the OG ghost hunter Catherine Crowe introduced the term to English usage in her groundbreaking catalog of the strange, The Night-Side of Nature.

The first recorded poltergeist case was in the 4th Century, according to Christopher Laursen, who wrote his PhD dissertation on the history of poltergeist phenomena at the University of British Columbia. Other sources attest such accounts date back to Ancient Greece.

The prevailing hypothesis maintains these violent outbursts may not be due to ghosts or any external forces at all, but to the power of the mind alone. Today poltergeists are mainly viewed as uncontrolled tantrums of telekinesis perpetrated most commonly by adolescent females. The modern study of the unexplained, parapsychology, has largely reclassified poltergeist activity as a human-centric phenomenon with the new label Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK). However, fashionable this current explanation, such activity has not always been blamed on the unconscious psychic machinations of disturbed teenage girls, but to many other monsters including ghosts, demons, fairies, and vampires.

My favorite podcast discussion about poltergeists was with Fortean author Geoff Holder. He spoke with us about his masterpiece of research, Poltergeist Over Scotland for which he examined 134 poltergeist cases documented in the historical record. Many different cultural contexts have been imposed upon poltergeist manifestations over the ages. However, in his opinion, no one explanation applies to all cases, even our modern interpretation. He has found that only 1/4 to 1/3 of poltergeists center on an adolescent human agent. To Holder, poltergeist activity usually has no obvious purpose and may just be the work of feckless entities, essentially the “numpties” of the supernatural.

Whereas most hauntings function as memento mori or cold comfort for mortality, poltergeist activity, on the other hand is often so chaotic it’s more likely to remind us that humans are not the center of the universe. Holder asserts that it may represent a non-human intelligence which is almost entirely indifferent to us.

Although Holder admits hoaxes and pranks do account for some poltergeist cases, as they do for any reported phenomena, he maintains that they cannot explain away the literally thousands of poltergeist cases reported by multitudes of reliable witnesses and the consistency of their accounts over centuries. In his study of 134 cases, he found that only 4.5% involved hoaxing. The analyses of other researchers indicate these numbers are between 3% and 15%.

Holder also hopes that the physical nature of poltergeist cases will open up the possibility for the scientific study of this phenomena. He cites one 2010 study of the unique audio signature of poltergeist raps as a step in the right direction. Conceivably studies such as these could some day lead to the scientific breakthrough for which every psychical researcher has been waiting.

For more fascinating poltergeist cases, listen to the following:

O is for Octopus (Tree): Unbelievable Paranormal Hoaxes

They say that seeing is believing, but that isn’t really true when it comes to the paranormal or supernatural. A long history of hoaxes and the prevalence of photoshop has lessened the ability of a picture to paint a believable thousand words. Today, witness testimonies and recordings of strange noises seem to inspire more belief in something not seen than a glossy 8×10.

But why don’t we believe in photos anymore? Is it because so many have been faked? Or is it because we have been so quick to believe them? To really understand the power a photo used to have, we need to look back in time, to simpler times…

In 1998, a hoax that is sadly forgotten today was launched–the story of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (Octopus paxarbolis). Now, before you roll your eyes and think that this was not a successful hoax (or else, you’d remember it) consider this: Snopes.org, once revered as the go-to site on the internet for debunking hoaxes and half-truths felt compelled, in 2014, to explain to the public that the Tree Octopus wasn’t real. That’s right, sixteen years later, some people still wondered if there really were Tree octopi—even though the webpage asking for help saving them explaining their major predator was Sasquatch.

What is a tree octopus? you might be wondering. Well, according to the official website (https://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/) this gentle cephalopod hails from the rainy forests of the Olympic Peninsula, on the Eastern side of the Olympic mountain range, residing both in fresh water and in the wet canopy of the forest. Its natural predators include house cats, the bald eagle, and sasquatch.

Yes, sasquatch.

Okay, so now you might be wondering how could anyone believe that an octopus could live on land and in fresh water, and that the rainy season of the Pacific Northwest is what allowed its continued existence.

Before you judge a whole generation, take into account the era this took place in.

In 1988, the USAF revealed the existence of the F-117 Stealth Fighter, an “invisible” plane.

In 1989, Bob Lazar came forward, claiming to have reverse-engineered UFOs at the then-highly classified Area 51 military base at Groom Lake, Nevada.

In 1993, The X-Files premiered on television, bringing conspiracies, UFOs and the paranormal into the popculture mainstream.

In 1995, Ray Santelli presented his Alien Autopsy film, which purported to show the examination of an alien body recovered from a UFO crash. (This wasn’t revealed to be a hoax until 2006).

In 1999, the year following the Tree Octopus’ internet debut, audiences were terrified with the “found footage” film, The Blair Witch Project, many initially believing the film was based on true events.

And let’s not forget, the Internet was epically exploding onto the scene, worldwide, in the 1990s, allowing people to not only get information previously hidden in libraries around the globe, but to share reports of the strange and unusual. 1995, for example, saw the formation of the Bigfoot Research Organization.

You also need to remember a similar hoax, revealed in 1993, that was much older: the Surgeon’s Photo.

You might not know it’s name, but this iconic black-and-white image of the Lochness Monster’s head and neck sticking out of the water is known around the world, even today. Despite the fact that it was entirely a hoax, perpetrated by a conspiracy of three men, it is still cited when the Lochness Monster is discussed. The revelation it was a hoax did not diminished belief in Nessie.

According to the website The Unmuseum, Nessie’s most famous photo happened like this:

A man named Duke Weatherell wanted revenge on the London Daily Mail newspaper. This was because in 1933, they had hired him to find the Lochness Monster. He found footprints, made casts and size estimates and sent them off to the London Museum of Natural History. Later, it was discovered Weatherell had been hoaxed himself by locals—the footprints were frauds. The paper who hired Weatherell in turn ridiculed the man and humiliated him.

Fast forward to April 1934, and Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson, a physician (and surgeon), presented the famous Nessie photo we’re talking about. This “proof” of Nessie remained contested, but believed, for decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that the full story came out, thanks to the work of David Martin and Alastair Boyd., who spoke to one of the men really responsible for the Surgeon’s photo, and who confirmed it was indeed a hoax.

Christian Spurling, stepson of Weatherell, admitted he’d made the “monster” out of some plastic and a clockwork, tinplate, toy submarine at his father’s request. Weatherell and his son actually took the completed faux Nessie out and photographed it. But they needed help disseminating the photo, since Duke had already been thoroughly discredited. They enlisted the aid of Maurice Chambers, who in turn contacted Colonel Wilson, who brought the photo forward and claimed credit for taking it.

Just five years after Nessie’s most famous mugshot was revealed to be a hoax, Lyle Zapato brought the plight of this Tree octopus to world attention with the creation of the website dedicated to saving it and used a similar methodology to fool people: he faked some photos (e.g. by placing a dead octopus in a tree and snapping some pics).

Today, the Tree Octopus is largely forgotten–a hoax when hoaxing was significantly harder to do. Hopefully, it and the surgeon’s photo have taught us all a valuable lesson: Don’t believe everything you see.

244 – N Is For Notre Dame: Ghosts And Legends of the World’s Most Famous Cathedral

One of Notre Dame’s notorious gargoyles stares into the void.

Although some claim the thoroughly modern French don’t believe in God or ghosts, let’s be real and face the truth.  Everybody believes in something at least bordering on supernatural, even if they don’t readily admit it.  The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, brutally ravaged by fire on April 15th, 2019, is a prime example.  There’s something in the folklore of Notre Dame Cathedral for everyone — ghosts, curses, holy relics, and miracles.

Not saying it was the candles, but they sure do have a lot of candles.

Ghosts

We discuss this ghost photo in our podcast episode above; click here for additional photo info.

Dozens and dozens of people have killed themselves at Notre Dame Cathedral, and many others have tried.  There seem to be two off-ing options repeated over and over — the classic leap off one of the towers or the showy spectacle of off-loading a pistol into your head at the altar in the middle of mass.  Although it’s no match for the Eiffel Tower, where literally hundreds of people have committed suicide, Notre Dame has its fair share of harrowing stories.  Although the gun to the face before a packed house might seem like the most dramatic choice, the leapers of Notre Dame, especially those of the female variety, take the prize for sheer horror and eerie echoes of detail.

The death of Marie Felix in 1882 is probably the most famous because it is the goriest.  The specifics are so graphic that in the week following Marie’s death, 25,000 Parisians visited the morgue per day just for the chance to view her mangled corpse.  Although her name is forgotten by most, her suicide is the reason most cited to explain any paranormal activity in the cathedral. 

Marie is described in the newspapers as a beautiful, young woman with extraordinarily long hair arranged into two thick braids which she wore rolled around her head. She was first noticed by the cathedral’s security staff one October morning as she impatiently paced about the cathedral for about two hours. Some say she was denied access to the towers without a chaperone, so she was most likely desperately seeking someone to accompany her. As it happened, she would finally meet an elderly lady that morning, whom she kindly invited to lunch.  After Marie provided the unnamed lady with a nice lunch at a local restaurant, they returned to the cathedral at 2 p.m., ostensibly to gaze upon Paris from the vantage point of the towers. However, an unexpectedly heavy downpour forced them to take shelter in the watchman’s sentry-box.  Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Marie made a mad dash, and before anyone could stop her, she climbed the parapet, flinging herself forward. 

Marie immediately fell upon the spikes atop one of the railings, which sliced her body in half at the waist.  The lower half flew backward onto the flags of the porch while the upper half remained impaled.  Her body was broken “completely into pieces by the shock upon the stones of the Place du Paris”, according to another article.  Marie was later identified as the daughter of a local tradesman.  Her family attested that Marie had often threatened suicide and that her actions were not due to any recent disappointments.  The coroner’s post-mortem findings included lesions on the brain which were thought at the time to confirm that Marie suffered from “suicidal monomania” just as her relatives had claimed.

A similar incident in May of 1890, claimed the life of a lovelorn 21 year-old.  The unidentified woman also leapt from the towers and, according to the account, was “dashed to pieces in the street below”. More recently another pair of suicides claimed additional victims. 

In October of 1964, 21 year-old American tourist Veronica Mcconnell had just arrived at Notre Dame, her first sight-seeing spot of the day, when another woman climbed over the balustrade of the North Tower.  Only moments later she took the plunge, falling directly onto Veronica, killing them both.  An almost identical scenario would transpire in August of 1983.  Veronique Stalla-Bourdillon, 24, plummeted to the pavement killing herself and flattening Johanne Pelletier, 29, of Montreal, who had been standing at the doors to the cathedral unaware of her impending doom.  Perhaps this morbid history explains the most reported ghost experience at Notre Dame — encounters with female apparitions seen pacing among the towers, flitting between the gargoyles. 

Cursed Doors

(Not the actual Devil or the ironwork on the Cursed Doors, but this piece by artist Cyril Colnik still seems apropos.)

During the construction of Notre-Dame, a young artisan called Biscornet was tasked with the creation of elaborate ironwork to decorate the cathedral’s doors.  Biscornet soon realized his ambition has gotten the better of him, so he casually called on the Devil for help, as you do.  While Biscornet took a nap, a masterpiece of intricate ironwork magically materialized.  Once completed, the Devil snatched Biscornet’s soul of course.  Yet the doors could not be opened by normal means until they were christened with holy water.

Holy Relics and Miracles

Although many seem ready to deride relics and the miracles with which they are credited, dismissing such notions as magical thinking, there are many more who believe. Can holy objects bestow healing and grace upon the faithful? In the Catholic Church, there is a strong conviction that anything which has come into contact with Christ or the Saints is imbued with extraordinary powers. During WWI, Germans bombed Paris on October 12, 1914.  As bombs fell on and around the Notre Dame Cathedral for some reason they did not explode and the cathedral was undamaged.  Many might consider this a miracle. 

Notre Dame was home to many relics from the Crucifixion including a piece of the True Cross, a crucifixion nail, and, most notably, the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus.  A particular miracle attributed to the Crown of Thorns is called “The Miracle of the Thorn”.  Once every 70 years, when Good Friday coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, the Crown of Thorns is said to once again drip with the blood of Christ.  This fragile relic is encased in a crystal ring, held together by clasps of gilded bronze. Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, assisted by a human chain of volunteers, entered the burning cathedral to rescue the Crown of Thorns from the April 15th fire. The relic is currently being housed at the Louvre for safe keeping.

Here’s Mike’s original photo of the gold cross that survived the fire.
And here’s the iconic image of the cross after the fire.

In addition to the ghost stories and legends explored here, in this podcast episode, we uncover:

  • the real-life inspiration for the fictional Quasimodo
  • the pagan origins of the cathedral site
  • the derivation of the word “gargoyle”.

Plus we analyze the inevitable claim that Nostradamus predicted the blaze!

This is a grotesque, perhaps the most example at Notre Dame named Le Stryge. It’s a scary statue meant to warn away evil. A gargoyle, on the other hand, does double duty, repelling demons while also functioning as a rain gutter.

So many people shared our despair about the destruction of such a famous landmark, we decided to share a Sunspot oldie from our first demo tape, that eventually made on our album. Here’s a track about acceptance, when you just can’t fight anymore; it’s one of our saddest songs, “Defeated”.

Never look directly into the, 
heart of the sun, 
Never leave your battlefield, 
before your fight’s been won, 
and let the ghosts that haunt me, 
come visit me tonight, 
I want to join their midnight dance, 
I want to surrender under the moonlight. 

When will the war inside your heart ever end? 
Why must you fight it all alone? 
Can you fill your empty soul on your own? 

I lay defeated, 
torn and broken at your feet, 
Can I make you happy now? 
I lay defeated, you have brought me to my knees. 
I cannot fight you anymore. 

And I’ll try to hide the bitterness, 
that my heart holds, 
I’ll try to regain the innocence, 
that you bought and sold, 
And I’ll try to pick my broken pieces up off the ground, 
Will you care? 
No, you won’t care, 
when they fall back down. 

When will the war inside your heart ever end? 
Why must you fight it alone? 
I see the blood that’s on my hands is my own. 

I cannot fight you. 
I will not fight you. 
So why can’t I just walk away? 

Does he do the things I never did? 
Does he make you feel wanted? 
Tell him to make you happy the way I never could. 
Even though you’re standing next to me, 
you’re a million miles away. 

Your indifference has defeated me, 
adding insult to injury. 
Now that you have beaten me, 
now that you have victory, 
now that we are history, 
will you ever be happy? 

I lay defeated.

M Is For Major Arcana: Storytelling Through The Tarot

In addition to being lovers of the paranormal and all things Fortean, Wendy and I also have been performing in a rock band since college. The name of the band started as Nevermore, which we thought was sweet because everyone loves Edgar Allen Poe, but we switched it to Sunspot because the lawyers for a power metal band called Nevermore threatened to sue us when they got famous before we did.

Sunspot seemed like a cool name because they’re dark mysterious parts of the sun that interfere with radio waves on Earth. We’re all into sci-fi, so having an astronomical event be the name for our band sounded about right. Plus, it was the 90’s and compound nouns were all the rage then (Pearljam, Soundgarden, etc…)

We’ve always had a touch of an occult bent to the music and have long enjoyed the symbolism and mystery of the Tarot deck. In fact, our band, Sunspot’s first album, Radio Free Earth, featured The Fool from the Rider-Waite Tarot on the cover. I’ve always loved the Tarot, even though I don’t find it particularly mystical.

It’s a great party game, but it’s also a useful tool for self-reflection. The Major Arcana represent archetypes of personalities, and we all have a little bit of those archetypes inside of us at one time or another, so it can almost be a form of psychoanalysis. When you deal the card, what does that archetype mean to you and for your life?

So when, we were looking to create a rock opera that we were going to tour the country with, we knew we were going to be playing for a lot of people who had never seen us before. We needed to find some kind of shorthand that we could use to get a message across quickly to audiences who weren’t very familiar with our music. The Tarot seemed like the perfect and we could even give it a frame story of a lonely guy talking to an Internet psychic and the cards that he deals would then lead into the songs.

But in order to get to that story, we had to work our way through the process of how we would tell a story in a live music performance by using background videos, tarot cards, and loud rock songs. Here is the process we went through and the notes we took to figure out the beats of the story, what Tarot cards would work the best, and then you can see what became the final product, our rock opera, Major Arcana.

What Story Are We Trying To Tell?
“Life is pain. Anyone who says different is trying to sell you something.” – The Princess Bride

We’re all slowly disconnecting from each other. How can it be possible that we know more about each other than ever (we know what someone has to eat through their Twitter update, we know what they’re listening to at the time through Blip.fm, we know the score of their children’s soccer game through Facebook) but we take care of each other less than ever. We know the lives of celebrities better than we know the people who live next door. A recent study found that the number of people with whom Americans can discuss matters important to them dropped by nearly one-third, from 2.94 people in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. Researchers also found that the number of people who said they had no one with whom to discuss such matters more than doubled, to nearly 25 percent. We have more ways to connect with people like us than ever, but there’s nowhere we belong more than ever.

The theme of this work is taking a journey that starts in naivete which leads to mistakes, pain, and isolation. It is only when he doesn’t try to control others but takes control of his own destiny that he rejoins society and finds the place where he belongs. Sunspot’s music and live show is a communal experience for the audience. Bringing people together is something we do extraordinarily well (there have been 4 weddings from people that have met at Sunspot shows!) Our music and performance is about connection from interacting with the audience to communal singalongs. We are all about bridging the gaps in the human condition.

Why The Tarot?
The main character is portrayed as a modernized version of The Fool from the Tarot and is representative of a desperate soul in search of experience. We use graphics and animation during the songs to show the emotional significance and characterization of each experience and to highlight the performance onstage.

Each song is represented by a major arcana tarot card that in its meaning helps represent the song graphically while the music conveys the emotion and the performance makes it real for the audience. By using the Tarot mixed with sci-fi elements we’re combining mysticism and technology. Viewing modern-day problems through the lens of archaic symbolism, much like the main theme of the piece deals with the paradox of how ultramodern forms of communication cannot cure the age-old problem of humans not relating to each other.

By using the Tarot, we don’t have to spell everything out for the viewer and we can use symbols that many are already familiar with, yet simple enough that their meaning can be imported through a few images. Also, it enables us to use a motif that began on our first record and work off the symbolism of each record afterwards because the iconography of our albums can be juxtaposed with the Tarot easily as well as integrating into the show’s themes.

Here is the basic structure of the character’s journey, the symbolism and iconography of each moment:

When The Revolution Comes (The Fool)

The character is an idealist and it’s one of our few songs that is honestly idealistic. It’s pure and sweet and non-ironic.

This is the perfect song to introduce the Fool character. After all, it’s his naivete that sets him on his journey.

The Breach (The Emperor)

Stinging disappointment and the way that idealism and hope can be inverted and crushed. Trust is abused and eventually broken. The descent begins.

The Emperor symbolizes the desire to rule over one’s surroundings, and its appearance in a reading often suggests that the subject needs to accept that some things may not be controllable, and others may not benefit from being controlled.

Sweet Relief (The Hanged Man)/Tunguska (The Wheel of Fortune)


A pean for the beginning of separation, the start of a change. The idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the street. The notion of emotional divorce from the world begins to seem attractive because there has to be a better way.

A pean for the beginning of separation, the start of a change. The idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the street. The notion of emotional divorce from the world begins to seem attractive because there has to be a better way.

The Hanged Man relationship to the other cards usually involves the sacrifice that makes sacred; personal loss for a greater good or a greater gain.

And when the song switches to “Tunguska” it’s the moment of impact, when the isolation begins. The character gets the last vestiges of his hope destroyed, blown away.

The Wheel of Fortune represents the intercession of random chance into the Fool’s path. The card represents the forces that can help or hinder the querant suddenly or unpredictably.

Eat Out My Heart (The Devil)

Here comes the idea that there’s no way to win, that separating from humanity is the best way because when you care too much, you lose.

Or it’s the idea of being a slave to an idea. The character is a slave to his idea that he’s been hurt. “Eat Out My Heart” is a song about hating someone else and being a big old victim. It’s wallowing in self-pity and delusion that someone else is to blame for why the character feels stung. As long as the character is encumbered by those emotions, they never get better. It’s not about being upset with the girl who this song is for, because that girl isn’t suffering. It’s the character singing who is being punished and he’s punishing himself. The Devil is great for “Defeated” but also works for “Eat Out My Heart” to add some levity here.

The Devil is the card of self-bondage to an idea or belief which is preventing a person from growing or being healthy. It is the card of futility, pessimism, and mistakes.

Neanderthal (The Hermit)

The lowest point of the emotional arc. Relationships are about domination and humanity is cast aside in favor of the animal. It’s the heaviest moment, the darkest lyrics.

The Hermit represents the need to withdraw from society to become comfortable with himself. He represents isolation.

Dig Your Grave (Death)

The other side of the door. It’s about seeing how someone else retreats, it’s about how someone else runs away from the rest of the world and in reacting to that event, the character starts to regain his (or her) sense of connection to the rest of the world. Only through forgiving others for how they’ve wronged you, can you start to become part of the community again.

Death implies an end, possibly of a relationship or interest, and therefore implies an increased sense of self-awareness.

Perfect (Strength)

A realization of that’s how life is, that you can’t control what happens around you only how you react to it. The character just wants to decide his own destiny.

“It doesn’t matter if everything’s ugly, it doesn’t matter if it’s all unsafe.” This song works well with this theme right off the bat. It’s a little more fun and the message is more straightforward. It’s happy, but not too happy and would lead well into Summer Day.

The modern interpretation of Strength stresses discipline and control. The lion represents the primal or id-like part of the mind, and the woman, the ‘higher’ or more elevated parts of the mind. The card tells the Querent to be wary of the temptations of the flesh.For example, in The Chariot card, the Querant is fighting a battle. The difference is that in Strength, the battle is mainly internal rather than external.

Summer Day (The Chariot)

I’ll be part of the group but by my own terms. I’ll live my own life and I’ll do it the way I want to. That’s what’s important, that’s what counts. You can’t make me grow up because I’ve seen the pain and the suffering that grown-ups endure. I’ll join, but only if I get to make the rules.

After the impulse that pulls us out of the Garden, we get on our chariot and depart. At that point, we are the Hero of our own story; maybe the Hero of everyone’s story. That Hero might represent Helios, the Greek god who drives the Sun’s chariot across the sky, bringing light to the earth.

No Place Like Home (The Star)

You have to accept that the world will crush your hopes sometimes, and that the world is hard. But it’s not impossible to find your place and sometimes it’s right back where you started, but when you get here this time, you at least have a better understanding and you’ve chosen to be here. So now, you may not necessarily be in the place you think you shoud be, but you’re in the place that suits you best.

The pool of water refers to the subconscious. The land refers to the material world. She renews both. Usually divined as hope for the future, good things to come regarding the cards close to the star. By having a foot in both, this is where the Fool understands that he needs to be part of the material world as well as his own life. This is the reintegration and reconnection back to society.

So, this silly story told through tarot cards consumed about a year of our lives. From the initial concept, to writing new songs, to figuring out how to synchronize the videos and lights, to recording the actors, to booking the tour, and then editing the DVD and all the videos ourselves.

And through that year-long DIY creative undertaking, much like a good Tarot reading, we learned a lot about ourselves. We loved the final result and the show was great (we even recorded a video tour diary as well as a directors commentary track on the DVD!), but it was the processthat we’ll always remember.

By doing it all ourselves and creating everything from scratch (except for the Tarot cards), we put ourselves through what sometimes felt like Hell. But it was our own “hero’s journey” along with the character from the show. And hopefully we too might have started off the trip as the Fool, but came out the other side, The Star.

L Is For Los Angeles: Haunting Pioneers of L.A.

When you think of Los Angeles, images of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood surely come to mind, alongside imagery of traffic and paparazzi. When considering LA’s older ghost stories, you may think of Marilyn Monroe, or silent era icons like Charlie Chaplin or Rudolph Valentino, but LA’s roots go back much further, which some very old structures still remaining, cared for by the watchful spirits of those who helped build (as Steve Martin would misquote in LA Story), “This other Eden… demi-paradise… this ground… this Los Angeles.”

Olvera Street is a marvelously restored, historic section of Los Angeles, just a few blocks from the heart of downtown LA. Spain was aware of the land that would become California and, in 1781, decided to send 11 Mexican families to establish a community here. Russia had already conquered the area we now know as Alaska and the fear was that they would work their way down the Pacific Coast. The first settlements in LA ended up getting washed away by the LA river, but the first community that stuck is this area, originally named (translated) Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, or Los Angeles for short.

Avila Adobe

Located on the North end of Olvera Street, the Avila Adobe is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles. The house was built in 1818 by former mayor Francisco Avila. It was built traditionally for the time and culture, originally featuring a flat, tarred roof, utilizing tar from the La Brea Tar Pits, which was grazing land Avila’s cattle.

This house was Avila’s family’s home, though he himself only visited on weekends. However, it was also a grand house to entertain friends, which the Avila family did frequently. Though, no battle took place here, American troops did take over the house for use as a headquarters until the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed, thus ending the Mexican-American War.

Massive earthquakes in 1870 and 1971 damaged the frail house, making it uninhabitable for large stretches of time. Today, thanks to tremendous preservation efforts, a seven-room portion of the house has been restored and can be visited daily for free.

Today, the home is not only frequented by guests, but also by original owner Francisco Avila, who is said to talk the halls and plaza, continuing to look over his impressive homestead and the village he once presided over as mayor. In addition to being seen clearly in the house, in the courtyard and in front of the house, people have also heard his heavy boots as he invisibly wanders the halls of the house. People have also observed shadow people throughout the structure.

Avila’s first wife, Maria, died in 1822. He later remarried to a woman named Encarnación. It is Encarnación’s ghost that is said to also inhabit the house long after her 1855 death. Some witnesses have seen a female form sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch while others have heard the sound of feminine crying within the home, apparently coming from the master bedroom. The belief is that her immense sorrow of learning of her husband’s death is the intense emotion that still plays out, in residual form.

One of Avila Adobe’s Haunted Bedrooms

Today, the home is not only frequented by guests, but also by original owner Francisco Avila, who is said to talk the halls and plaza, continuing to look over his impressive homestead and the village he once presided over as mayor. In addition to being seen clearly in the house, in the courtyard and in front of the house, people have also heard his heavy boots as he invisibly wanders the halls of the house. People have also observed shadow people throughout the structure.

Avila’s first wife, Maria, died in 1822. He later remarried to a woman named Encarnación. It is Encarnación’s ghost that is said to also inhabit the house long after her 1855 death. Some witnesses have seen a female form sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch while others have heard the sound of feminine crying within the home, apparently coming from the master bedroom. The belief is that her immense sorrow of learning of her husband’s death is the intense emotion that still plays out, in residual form.

Just 500 feet to the south, continuing down Olivera Street and through the plaza is the Pico House, a building once considered the most luxurious hotel in Los Angeles. The building was constructed in 1870 by successful businessman and the last governor of Los Angeles while under Mexican rule, Pio Pico.

The Pico House was an immediate success for years upon it’s opening. The 82-room hotel was in high demand through 1900, when the business center of the city shifted south. It was this shift that ended the glory days for this area.

However, even its glory days were not always so glorious. Just days after the city of Chicago burned to the ground in the great fire, a different kind of fire would rage in Los Angeles. A fire made up of vengeance and anger.

This location bordered the original Chinatown and two warring Chinese immigrant associations were battling each other when Jesus Bilderrain, one of only six police officers in Los Angeles, heard shots ring out. He found one Chinese gang member bleeding in the street when he was struck by a non-fatal bullet in the shoulder. Nearby tavern owner, Robert Thompson, came to aid and was eventually shot in the chest and killed. A city already rife with prejudice against the Chinese exploded. A mob stormed Chinatown, indiscriminately attacking any inhabitant they could find. Buildings and storefronts were damaged, easily hundreds of people were beat up and dozens more were hanged to death throughout Chinatown. The majority of the slayings took place just steps from the Pico House, on the land that is now LA’s Union Station.

In the end, at least 17 Chinese were killed, including young boys. Questions persist over Even Builderrain’s story. Was he a hero cop, shot in the line of duty, or was he merely a key member of a murderous lynch mob? Regardless of how it all went down, there is belief that some of those killed are still present at the Pico House. Some of the spirits are apparently vengeful, as an episode of “Ghost Adventures” talked to a security guard who claimed they were kicked in the back of the leg while walking down a staircase.

Additionally, Pio Pico himself is often seen looking over his land from the roof or upper windows of the Pico house. Much like Mayor Avila, he appears to be keeping tabs on the land he presided over in life. It’s also worth noting that, aside from the lit street lamps and the hum of nearby traffic, the setting is preserved, locked in time, so perhaps its this familiarity that makes Olvera Street, the Avila Adobe, the Pico House and a number of other nearby buildings such a desirable place for past tenants to remain, long after their deaths.

K Is For Kissing: The Blarney Stone And A Mysterious Shadow Cat

This blogpost is adapted from a podcast interview we did with author, Nick Redfern. In the podcast we talk extensively about tulpas or thoughtforms come to life. And you can listen to the episode if you’d like to learn more. Also, if you’re interested in watching me tell the whole story on video, head down to the bottom of this post.

So, while taking a trip to the UK and Ireland in 2008, I was reading Nick Redfern’s book, Three Men Seeking Monsters, which was about Nick and his friends going to the locations of legendary paranormal sightings across Britain, listening to punk rock, and drinking prodigious amounts of ale. That was the kind of trip that I could get behind and it was a fun book to read while we were on our own road trip across the island.

It was a terrifying time for us because I was just about to quit my day job working in software and I wanted to go for it as a musician. My wife, Chris, (girlfriend at the time) was contemplating leaving her career as a music teacher as well. So we were a couple of people who were planning on changing our lives completely.

One of the things that my wife did to lighten our apprehensive moods on the trip was secretly bring along a set of sticky googly eyes and she’d put them in different places (like on the Nick Redfern book) every morning to make us laugh. It was all based around this Saturday Night Live sketch with Christopher Walken where he played a gardener who was scared of plants. So, he’s stick googly eyes on them so he could look them in the eye. It was our favorite skit and we laughed that we’d remember these little jokes if our relationship got rocky, so we wanted to save them “for the hard times”.

So, while we’re in Ireland seeing the sites, we visit the Blarney Castle right outside of Cork. Now, when you visit the Castle of Blarney, you have to go see The Blarney Stone. The legend is that anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone will get the “gift of gab” and they offically call it “The Stone of Eloquence” because it’s supposed to make you more persuasive and be able to tell lies and have other people enjoy hearing it! And I know that sounds bad right before I tell a crazy story.

There are many supposed origins of this urban legend, but my favorite involves a witch who was saved from being executed by Cormac McCarthy, who was the lord of the castle at the time. She supposedly granted him this special gift of eloquence, of being able to lie and exaggerate and persuade, becuase he saved her life.

Surrounding the castle is a beautiful park where there are big rock formations they call a “Rock Close”, they have some old caves they call Druid’s Cave and Witch’s Kitchen. There’s some fun folklore about how the witch is trapped in a stone during the day and only comes out at night, but sometimes you can still see the embers of her fire from the night before burning in the kitchen.

But the most interesting section is the Wishing Stairs, a stairway where you’re supposed to walk up and down it backwards with your eyes closed and focus on a wish and if you succeed in doing so, your wish will come true within a year.

The following paragraphs are taken directly from my journal (which still has googly eyes on it) and I wrote them down as soon as we got to our hotel that night…

We weren’t expecting much but it was awesome. The lines weren’t too bad and it was a little overcast, but the temperature was perfect. The pathways were so wind-y and skinny, it was a long trip for us to get to the top of the battlements, so I can just imagine what it’s like for elderly people who take the journey.

Me kissing the Blarney Stone, it’s actually pretty scary

Kissing the Blarney Stone was way more of a rush than we expected because you have to actually lean back really far over the edge and someone holds you while you kiss it.You’re far enough back though, so it’s scary. That was fun and the castle was magnificent, but the Rock Close was the real treat. We waled along there by the Druid Cricle and up and down the Wishing Stairs (where I wished for financial independence because I was planning on quitting my day job and Chris must have wished something about her cats, but more on that later.)

The Wishing Steps of Blarney

So, we walked away from the Rock Close and to the gardens around the castle. We were completely alone and sat at a bench overlooking a field through the foliage. I told Chris about the Cormons in Nick Redfern’s book because I had just finished it that morning.

In his book, Redfern talks about interviewing an old witch, who told him about these creatures called Cormons. They were summoned to our world centuries ago by some British magicians and Irish occultists who were looking to protect the Isles from foreign marauders like the Vikings. These Cormons were supposed to appear as the darkest fears of the attackers (usually with glowing red eyes) and defend the island. But the magicians and the occultists were slaughtered and the Cormons were free to roam the land and feed on our fearful emotions. He speculated that UFOs, ghost sightings, and other monsters were these Cormons who use our fear as a pathway from their dimension into ours.

I was telling Chris about the Cormons and what an interesting idea I thought it was and she said “How scary would it be if the Big Black Wolf from The Never-Ending Story appeared right now?”

Gmork. “The Big Black Wolf” that Chris was referring to.

Just then a shape appeared in the pathway a hundred yards from us. I took a couple of blurry pictures and adrenaline rushed through our veins. It looked like it could be a wolf from the distance, but we approached it slowly and it was the form of a black cat that jumped into the bushes before we got a good look at it.

nick redfern tulpa
Sorry it’s blurry, but as soon as I saw it, I immediately tried to get a picture.

We never really saw its eyes but looked around for it where it jumped to and didn’t see anything. We couldn’t believe what we’d just seen after what we were talking about, it couldn’t have been written any better.

A closer up shot of the Demon Dog of Blarney! Okay, okay, I guess it does look like a cat

Chris said that it might have been because of the wish she made when she was on the Wishing Stairs. I thought she might have wished that our black cat, Mr. Spock, was okay and that’s why a black cat appeared. But the shape looked like it was a wolf at first, which made it so we just couldn’t believe it.

We were so grateful for the experience that we left googly eyes on a fern at the Druids sacrificial altar that was in the garden as an offering for the Blarney Witch to thank her. We thought she’d appreciate giving her our jokes “for the hard times”. We had a delightful lunch by the horses and took the Woodland Walk, saw Faeries’ Glen and the Horse’s Graveyard, but it’s the Shadow Cat of Blarney that’s the story we will always remember.

The Googly-Eyed Fern that we left for the Blarney Witch

A few years later, my wife told me that when she was on the Wishing Steps, she wished for a sign for her own future. And when she saw the cat, she thought was a miracle, because she’d been offered a position at a cat specialty clinic in town just before we left. She was desperate to find any kind of sign as to what to do with her life and there it was.

Seeing a mysterious shadowy animal while on the trail was one thing, but us both seeing something different was another. And her seeing the Shadow Cat of Blarney helped her make her final decision.