Tag Archives: a to z

Z Marks the Spot: A List Of Lost Cities

Ever since Plato first wrote about it, people have been searching for proof of the lost city of Atlantis. The tale has survived centuries and become a staple of Western fiction and popculture. But the spectacular city sunk beneath the waves in a single day and night is far from the only lost city of old.

In 2016, The Lost City of Z debuted in theaters, chronicling Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett’s search for a lost city he believed existed in the jungles of Brazil. Percy had come up with the idea of such a lost city based on his many travels in the region—he believed there had to be ruins of a lost civilization somewhere in the jungle. Like Atlantis, Z remained lost after Percy’s death, although some believe other sites, embellished by native tales, may have been what the British explorer was really after.

Somewhere between Atlantis and Z, between lost and found, there have been many other “lost cities” on our Earth:

El Dorado, the City of Gold

A mythical city that enticed European explorers for two centuries, El Dorado’s origins are more murky than its location. A gleaming city of gold, the fabled location has been suggested by some to be a fabricated tale used as a diversion to send treasure hunters on fruitless quests while the real riches of the Central American region were hidden away.

Madoc’s Settlement

During the Elizabethan era, a tale of a Welsh prince setting forth in the 11th Century on a fantastic sea voyage reached the zenith of its popularity. In the legend, Madoc sails for the New World, not once, but twice, taking settlers with him to the New Wolrd long before Columbus. While many have scoffed at this idea, it was eventually discovered that the Mandan Indians of North America shared many words with that of the Welsh language. Further, ruins were found near Louisville, KY of what might have been an ancient Welsh settlement, long abandoned and forgotten.

North American Vikings

Long before Christopher Columbus stumbled across the Caribbean islands searching for a new trade route to India, Vikings settled in North America, leaving behind settlements in Greenland and Nova Scotia that outlived them and were lost to time. In the 1960s, remains of such settlements were discovered in Newfoundland by the husband and wife team of Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad. Since their initial discoveries, a number of sites have been found, establishing that the Norsemen did indeed at least attempt to settle in the New World.

The Bimini Road

Large, submerged stone blocks set in the sea bed not far from Florida were discovered in 1968 by off the coast of North Bimini island. Many theories have been proposed to account for the megalithic structure, including one theory that the structure was actually an ancient Phoenecian port. Archaeologist William Donato and his team put this forth in May 2005, after cataloging and photographing more than a thousand additional stones beyond those previously appearing on shows such as “In Search of…” and “Unsolved Mysteries”

Pompeii

Buried by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the Roman town of Pompeii was lost to history for centuries, its location and even existence forgotten. Digging in the area in 1592 and again in 1738 eventually led to the city’s re-discovery and this snapshot of what life, and death is still studied today, Pompeii and its inhabitants preserved in grisly effigy due to the heat of a pyroclastic cloud from the volcano’s eruption.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Believed by many to be a fictional tale of God’s wrath in the Bible, the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah were confirmed in 2015 when Sodom’s ruins were discovered in modern-day Jordan.

Teotihuacan

Some lost cities aren’t lost at all, but their origins are. Located twenty-five miles northeast of Mexico City, the sprawling complex of Teotihuacan was discovered by the Nahua people as they emigrated south, in the early twelfth century. Estimated to have been in ruins for more than a thousand years, the repopulated site became one of the first three cities to ally and form the Aztec Empire. But Teotihuacan’s origins, despite being only 25 miles from what today is Mexico City, still remain uncertain.

Troy

Once believed to be a fictional city from early Greek literature, the ancient lost city of Troy was discovered in modern day Turkey in the 1860s. Excavations that continued into the 21st Century eventually revealed that Troy had been destroyed and rebuilt many times, each new version built atop the ruins of the last.

Ubar

A fabled trading outpost in the middle of the Arabian desert, Ubar was believed by many to be a work of fiction until NASA discovered it with satellite scans of the region. Thriving hub of trade in the region, the city was apparently abandoned at some point and buried by the sands, earning it the name “The Atlantis of the Sands”.

Yonaguni

Located off the shores of the Japanese island of Yonaguni lie immense structures submerged below the surface of the sea. While many claim these are nothing more than naturally-occurring geologic formations, there are many who believe the sites to be remnants of a long-lost civilization that existed at a time when the world’s ocean levels were much lower. Backing up this claim that the ruins are indeed manmade are what appear to be carved features, including a dolphin and a human face.

Y is for Yokai: The Japanese Monsters of legend

Japan’s first museum of supernatural monsters opened Friday, April 26, 2019 in Hiroshima. Exhibits at the Miyoshi Mononoke Museum immerse visitors in the strange world of yokai, Japan’s voluminous, colorful bestiary, through historical artifacts and interactive digital installations.

The yokai umbrella covers a legion of legendary creatures including tricksters, phantoms, weird animalistic spirits, and, the unquiet dead known as yurei. Sometimes whimsical and sometimes deadly, these phantasms have a style all their own.

The first reference to Yokai appears in the oldest known work of Japanese literature and the basis of Japanese mythology, the 8th century Kojiki (古事記; Record of Ancient Matters). These spirits embodying the power of place, the ferocity of land and water, and the intensity of human emotion likely grew out of the animism inherent in Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion. Although yokai have ancient origins they have inspired many modern media sensations including Yokai Watch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and, of course, Pokemon.

Although the vengeful hungry ghosts of the variety so famous now in cross-over horror hits like The Ring and The Grudge haunt the most fearsome side of the yokai spectrum, my favorites are those monsters that clearly illustrate the often overlooked Japanese sense of humor. Here are my top 3 yokai!

The Kappa

The Kappa (No, it’s not just a sushi roll.) is a predatory, amphibious water spirit, seemingly half man and half turtle. It preys on unwary swimmers in rivers and lakes drowning them for nefarious purposes. Kappas seek to eat your flesh, suck your blood, and then yank your soul out through your anus. However, the heinous villany of the Kappa can be repelled quite effectively by the common fart. Ubiquitous, embarrassing emissions, in my case, so I’ve never felt so safe . . . and empowered by my wonky digestion. So dear companions, in future, remember, I’m not launching my underwater stink bombs at you. I’m valiantly saving us all from a watery grave.

Tofu Boy

Tofu Kozo, which literally translates as “Tofu Boy”, is a treacherous spirit who takes the form of a small child in antiquated, traditional garb who just wants to offer you some fresh tofu. This would be enough to send most modern Westerners running for the hills. The tofu is not even fried. Instead the block is milky white decorated with a simple red maple leaf. Curiously this sounds a lot like the Canadian flag, but I don’t think we can blame Canada for this one. Apparently the Tofu Boy intends to tempt you with his deadly bait. Even one bite of the tofu will infect you with a nightmarish fatal fungus. But just don’t take tofu from strangers and you’ll be fine.

Tanuki

Tanuki is a shape-shifting racoon dog trickster. The Japanese racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus), also called the tanuki, is a real, four-legged animal, but it only slightly resembles this mischievous bipedal creature. The Tanuki of legend is a fun-loving prankster who may impersonate your friends to cheat you, but he usually just wants some free food. The true superpower of the Tanuki is not his trickery or his shape-shifting ability, but his enormous and supernaturally versatile testicles. Yes, Tanuki uses his scrotum in a variety of imaginative ways — playing it like a drum, wearing it like a hat, or brandishing it like a weapon. He’s even been known to fly away by inflating his extraordinary nut-sack like a hot air balloon. Today you will commonly find Tanuki statues all around Japan, which serve as both a good luck charm and a reminder not to take life so seriously.

For further reading, I would recommend these books. If they don’t save your life, at least you’ll die laughing.

X is for Xenoglossy: Speaking in Unknown and Primeval/Spirit Languages

As we approached the last few letters of the 2019 A to Z Blog Challenge, the letter X loomed ominously before me. With so few “X” words in the English language, let alone in the subset of paranormal topics, what would make for an interesting topic to write about? Luckily, I found a word that will surely remain in my back pocket for future Scrabble games that also describes a fascinating paranormal phenomenon: XENOGLOSSY!

Derived from the Greek words for “xenos” (foreigner) and “glossa” (tongue or language), Xenoglossy is a term purportedly coined by French parapsychologist Charles Robert Richet. He is also credited with originally using the word “ectoplasm”, the slimy substance that would materialize at seances during the Spiritualist movement and was fondly popularized by the character of Slimer throughout the Ghostbusters movies. Richet was adamant about finding scientific explanations for paranormal phenomena and did extensive investigating of psychic mediums. But his research led him to believe that mediumship was a form of extrasensory perception rather than communication with the dead, as many mediums claimed.

At Spiritualist seances, a popular activity was for a psychic medium to “channel” the spirit of someone who had passed on. The voice and/or accent of the medium would change to align with the personality of the deceased, and even their mannerisms and facial countenance would appear different (remember Whoopie Goldberg’s character in “Ghost” when she channeled the Patrick Swayze character?). While this activity could be exhilarating for friends and relatives witnessing the medium in action, it’s a party trick rife for fraud.

Much more perplexing (and difficult to fake) is the situation wherein a person appears to channel someone fluent in an entirely different language. This is not the same as speaking in tongues, or “glossolalia”, which is a more random vocalization common to certain religious movements. Xenoglossy is when real language emerges from someone.

Many believe that Xenoglossy is evidence that spirits can indeed be contacted from beyond by using a human vessel or channel. One medium from the Spiritualist movement, Laura Edmonds, who natively spoke English and knew just a bit of French, would converse fluently with visitors from afar in Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Hungarian, and Native American languages. Although Laura was doing the talking, she appeared to be channeling deceased friends of her visitors. Her father, John Worth Edmonds, was a well respected judge and initially claimed to be a skeptic. But after witnessing his daughter’s multitude of paranormal experiences, he eventually experimented with mediumship himself and became an advocate. I have to admit, if one of my trusted family members started having fluent conversations in a language they never studied, I’d probably become a quick believer, too!

Other cases of Xenoglossy suggest that it is proof of reincarnation. In some instances, the person speaks a very ancient language that has been extinct since well before the medium’s time. One such controversial case involved an English medium known as Rosemary who claimed to be controlled by an ancient Egyptian “Lady Nona”. She was reported to have used 140 different phrases common at the time the Temple of Luxor in Egypt was built, as confirmed by reputed Egyptologist Howard Hulme.

A more modern example of Xenoglossy occurred in 2007, when a Czech motorbike racer suffered a serious crash while racing in Glasgow. Although he was known to have a very limited English vocabulary, apparently while being rescued he spoke English fluently with the paramedics.

Whether Xenoglossy is truly an example of spirits from beyond crossing into our human realm, proof of reincarnation, or something else going on, it’s a phenomenon that currently defies explanation and therefore is worth examining further. And if that’s not enough for you, it’s worth 21 Scrabble points, so file that spelling in your paranormal Rolodex for your next board game night!

W Is For What’s Your Ghost Story?

Ages ago I put a very amateur documentary… it was basically a just-for-fun, home video–style presentation where some friends and I went to haunted locations across Chicago and told ghost stories while on-location. This was in 1999, several years before the first ghost hunting shows are on television. I don’t even know if the term “ghost hunting” was even a thing yet.

I had a website for my production company and I posted information about this documentary. An incredible thing happened. Somehow people found the website and began sharing their ghost stories. They commented on each other’s ghost stories. They began sharing information to help filling in gaps of knowledge about historic sites.  Soon, the web site was getting upwards of 60,000 visitors per month and was an absolute repository for all things spooky.  A community was born.  I rebranded the web site, from the production company Slim Pictures, to the call to action, WhatsYourGhostStory.com.

I learned a lesson in the process: The most important thing about what we do as storytellers and researchers is sharing information.  Amazingly, we actually solved a mystery in the process.  Like any good mystery, the more we learned, the more we were left to wonder.

In Barrington, Illinois stood a grand, abandoned house known only as “The House on Rainbow Road.”  Why are some areas inherently more haunted than others.  Not far from here is Cuba Road, White Cemetery, a haunted bridge and even a phantom train that appears at a railroad crossing.  However, the fabled House on Rainbow Road seems to top them all.

Setting the scene for how the location looked when I first visited this location in the early 2000s, a long and narrow blacktop driveway, dotted with dead light bulbs lead the way to a small but steep hill.  To the right there was a silo, doghouse, chicken coops, and a barn.  To the left was only the footprint and wreckage of the house.  It had been burned as part of a firemen’s training exercise in the late ‘90s.

Something as distressing as it is mysterious about the location is that the second floor of the barn-like building, was always cluttered with baby toys.

When the house stood, it was large and modernist in architecture.  The most curious thing is that when the owners moved on, they did so in a hurry.  The closets still contained clothes and the kitchen drawers still held silverware.

“But is wasn’t just old toys either,” Stephanie Harlan, a friend I interviewed for my book, ” Voices from the Chicago Grave,” said, “there were also newer toys on the ground.”  It seems like, for whatever reason, additional toys have since been added to the mix since the original owners left.

“Then there was the basement of the house,” Stephanie continued.  “I was there with another friend who was poking around and just looking at everything and he asked if I had ever gone into the cellar.  I told him not to do it, because I had a bad feeling about it.”

Another friend of mine, Mike Pry, had an experience all of his own on the second story of the house.  He and some friends went to the property with the goal of keeping themselves occupied for the night and to confront their fears.

Her friend opened the cellar door, “and then all I heard is, ‘Oh, my God!’  There was a huge pentagram painted on the floor, red stuff on the walls, and there were half burnt candles and animal skulls all over the place.”  Stephanie did not stick around long enough to find out whether or not the red that was smeared on the walls was blood or paint.

They started at one end of the top hall and decided to look into each and every room just to be able to say that they did it.  They devised a plan to leave the door open after looking into it as reminder that that room had already been checked.

About half way through their mission they were interrupted.

“Someone whispered my name into my ear from behind me, and I figured it was just one of my friends being a jerk and trying to scare me.  Then I realized all my friends were in front of me and I was the last one in the line.”  Mike turned to see the source of the voice, but instead found that all of the doors that they had left open were now closed except for one – the door at the very end of the hallway.

When asked if they went back to the open door to look inside, Mike replied with a very realistic answer:  “No way, we got the hell out of there!”

Some of the visual apparitions reported there include the ghost of a small boy.  Sometimes he’s seen in footie pajamas with fire trucks on them.  Sometimes he’s seen wearing blue jean overalls over a red shirt.

For years, we only knew about the ghost stories and very little of the reality of this location until one day a contributor to WhatsYourGhostStory.com posted the link to a tiny article in a 1968 edition of the Chicago Tribune that reported the death of a young boy.

How exciting!  For the first time, we have the reports of a documented death on the property and it lines up with what people are seeing, as opposed to the other way around.  People had been randomly seeing a little boys ghost and not knowing why.  They were not visiting the location thinking, “a little boy died here.  Let’s see if we can make contact with his ghost.”

In 1968 William Cokenower III was seven years old when he was climbing on a birdbath.  He ended up pulling the heavy object on to his small frame, killing him.  William lived in the guesthouse with his family with his father serving as the groundskeeper.

One day a woman named Sherry Cokenower was doing research on her family history and stumbled across my web site when searching her departed brother’s name.  She had no idea that there’s a chance that her younger brother might still be inhabiting the area.  I would’ve understood if she was upset about learning this, but instead she was absolutely fascinated.  She then started to ask her dad questions.  The answers we got were ground-breaking.  In addition to sharing with her her conversation with her dad, she even loaned us the police reports and photos taken at the scene.  Her father verified that William had the same pajamas that people have seen this ghostly child wearing and that on the day of his death he was wearing a white shirt with blue overalls.  However, as a result of the accident, it was soaked with blood.

While this story is tragic and the details chilling, it’s absolutely amazing that, with the thanks to a community sharing information and a family that was willing to share some difficult memories, we have found the true history that confirms peoples’ paranormal accounts.

V Is For Valentino: The Ghost of Hollywood’s Original Sex Symbol

I created and ran the LA Hauntings Ghost Tours where I trucked a van-load of tourists, curiosity-seekers, thrill-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts from West Hollywood, through downtown and then down Hollywood Blvd. Whether I was talking about a site we were visiting or filling the time stuck in ‘normal’ LA traffic, one name came up above all others. One might assume I would be talking about Marilyn Monroe or Charlie Chaplin, whose ghosts are reported at multiple locations, but perhaps the most well-traveled ghost I’ve ever heard of is the silent era Casanova, Rudolph Valentino.

Valentino was Hollywood’s first sex symbol. This was at a time when the concept of seeing a person move, larger than life, on screen was a new concept. The blurring of the lines between film and reality, while still tenuous where we feel we ‘know’ celebrities in some way thanks to the familiarity of seeing them repeatedly on screen, must have been even more extreme in this new era of motion pictures. That’s why his sudden and unexpected death in 1926 at the age of just 31 hit fans so hard that suicides were reported, including two girls in Japan who jumped into a volcano as a means to avoid living in a Valentino-less world. Even to this day, funeral services are held on the anniversary of his passing, some 93 years later.

With 13 of his 37 films considered ‘lost,’ we will never have a complete library of Valentino’s work, though his iconic role of the titular character of The Sheik in 1921 has transcended movie history and been the face of everything from Sheik condoms to the current mascot of Hollywood High School.

Unfortunately, Valentino’s reign as one of the top draws in all of film came to a quick end when he died in New York due to series of complications that started with punctured ulcers.

Valentino made an enormous mark on this world and this larger than life figure appears to still have more life left to experience. So, we will now take you through some of the many places Valentino still enjoys.

Though he’s so associated with Hollywood history, Valentino actually shot many of his films in New York. The Famous Players-Lasky studio commissary from the 1920s is currently open as a public restaurant called George’s. It is here that people have spied Valentino sitting at the bar, sipping martinis. The location is still a film studio, now called Kaufman Astoria Studios. This independent lot has been the long time home of Sesame Street and boasts Birdman and Orange is the New Black as some of its recent high-profile productions. If Valentino wants to stay near the action, he’s found a great place to do it!

Heading across the country to LA, Valentino found his dream home perched atop a ridge along Benedict Canyon. In 1925 he and his spiritualist costume designer wife Natacha Rambova moved into the home he would name Falcon Lair after a script that Rambova wrote, which he hoped to star in. The house looks out over Beverly Hills, but the view immediately west would’ve looked considerable different on one summer night in 1969 as the vantage point looks across Cielo Drive and into the Polanski/Tate estate where the Manson family committed one of the most famous mass murders in US history. This is irrelevant to Valentino, but fascinating to point out, nonetheless. This area is also considered a geomagnetic anomaly zone as there is unusually high amounts of EM energy emanating from the earth at this site. Those with an interest in the paranormal speculate that it’s due to all of this energy that allows for spirits to visit more easily from the other side. Perhaps this is why Valentino has been seen at this property by multiple owners and across several decades, starting immediately after his death. Caretakers were surprised to hear phantom footsteps, see door knobs turn and doors open and close by themselves. The only thing more surprising was that the normally alert dogs didn’t seem to notice or care. Perhaps to them, nothing was surprising… their owner was just walking through the house. The last person to publically acknowledge seeing the movie star was tobacco heir Doris Duke and her butler, Bernard Lefferty who saw him on multiple occasions from the 1950s through ‘80s. According to her, his appearances became less frequent as her time there drew on. She passed away in 1993 and the house itself was tragically leveled in 2006. Some remnants still exist, but the hose is essentially lost. Have later tenants experienced anything? We do not know. However, as of this writing, the home on Valentino’s property is up for sale, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the future homeowners will be interested in ghost hunting.

When Duke and Lefferty saw Valentino, he was wearing his horse riding attire. Just down the hill from the house stood the horse stables. Valentino’s ghost has been seen there petting and tending to living horses. One encounter was so surprising that is prompted a stable hand to quit on the spot. Though the stables are currently gone, Valentino’s ghost has still been seen in this area, sometimes accompanied by a phantom horse. Other times, it’s only the sound of a horse that’s heard.

There are stories that Valentino would ride his white horse into downtown Hollywood to drink and tango the night away at the new and swanky Knickerbocker Hotel on Ivar. Once his martini consumption became one-too-many, Valentino would get back up on his trusty steed and pass out. The well-trained horse would then walk back to Valentino’s house. How’s that for a a designated driver? It is said that Valentino can still be seen dancing the night away in the former lounge, now a Russian Restaurant. The only problem with this story is that Valentino died before this building was constructed. That said, in Chicago, we have seen the ballroom ghost Resurrection Mary relocate once her original ballroom closed down. So maybe it is possible to continue exploring new sites after death. Another unique footnote of the Knickerbocker is that this was the site of the famous Holloween night rooftop séance where Bess Houdini attempted to make contact with her late magician husband.

The other possibility is that the Knickerbocker is being confused for the nearby Hudson Apartments on Hollywood Blvd where it is rumored Valentino was involved in the operation of a speakeasy.

The corner of Hollywood and Highland is now the enormous megaplex that houses the Dolby Theter and has hosted every Academy Award ceremony since 2002. However, the location used to house a much more modest Hollywood Hotel. It is at this hotel that, after Valentino’s death, women in room 264 would report a surprise visitation and even get a phantom kiss from Valentino himself. This, or similar stories, is actually associated with a number of locations including Casa Valentino in Oxnard, CA and the Santa Maria Inn in Santa Maria, CA.

A more frightening version of the story took place in 1988 at a site that was rumored to be haunted by the Latin Lover. A woman heard someone else in the room breathing, though she knew she was alone. In moments, someone jumped into bed with her. Fearing the worst, she turned on the lights to find that she was, in fact, still alone. At this point, separated by generations, perhaps the new encounters with Valentino’s amorous ghost won’t be as welcome as they once were. This more frightening encounter, once an apartment building, is now part of the Paramount Studios complex, on 716 Valentino Pl. Since we’re talking about Paramount, it should be noted that the iconic Paramount Gates were constructed specifically to keep out Valentino’s crowds. However, he passed away before construction was complete, so they were never put to their intended use.

The legendary Musso & Frank Grill, also on Hollywood Blvd deserves its own lengthy post (if not a full feature length documentary), so, for now, I will skim over nearly all the history of this, Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, with connections to Charlie Chaplin (and his ghost), Douglas Fairbanks, Johnny Depp, Mickey Cohen, F. Scott Fitzgerald & Charles Bukowski to instead say that Valentino’s charming ghost is still on the scene, catching eyes and smiling warmly at women near the back of the restaurant.

Even Valentino’s dog, Kabar, continues to make his presence known at the Calabasas Pet Cemetery. The same cemetery that holds the remains of the MGM lion and Charlie Chaplin’s cat, visitor’s to Kabar’s grave have reported having their hands licked by a phantom dog.

And now we’re finally up to Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Valentino’s final resting. As one might expect, his funeral was an incredible affair with a procession that started in New York. Much like Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train, crowds gathered from coast to coast to watch it past, including “hundreds of cowboys and Indians” in Yuma, AZ and a horde of onlookers that broke through police lines according to the Oakland Tribune. However, the crowds had diminished by the time the funeral train reached Los Angeles. Only an estimated 200 were gathered to see the casket removed from the train in LA. The funeral was small and invite-only, however hundreds of fans lined the street for the procession from the church to the cemetery where thousands more were waiting. Flowers were dropped by an airplane over the proceedings.

Due to the shocking and sudden nature of Valentino’s death, funeral arrangements had not been made. Valentino was placed, temporarily into a crypt owned by June Mathis, who was a writer who discovered Valentino when she cast him in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. However, within a year Mathis had also died suddenly at age 40 due to a heart ailment. The plan was for Valentino to eventually be placed into a memorial designed for him. However, the high spending Valentino died in debt and the stock market crash sealed the fate. There are reports that Valentino has been seen walking from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery over to Paramount Studios next door, however, Valentino is just one of many reports of many entities making that trek back to work from the cemetery.

The tiny De Longpre Park, houses one of the monuments that was originally designed for Valentino’s memorial. There are claims of paranormal activity at this location, but that pay also be associated with two deaths that have also happened here.

While Valentino may have been struck down at the height of his popularity, it seems that death has not been the end of Rudolph Valentino’s adventures!

U Is For Unicorn: Origins Of A Mythical Creature

Despite saving the human race, Noah often gets a bad rap when it comes to the Unicorn–people blame their absence in the world on him not bringing any aboard the ark. I think this is typically done in jest, particularly by folks that don’t believe in the account of the biblical Flood, or in unicorns. Rest assured, though, the Unicorn did survive the Flood and is even mentioned in later books of the Old Testament:

God brought them [Jews] out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

Numbers 23:22

His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh. 

Deuteronomy 33:17

Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

Psalms 22:21

It should be noted that these verses are from the King James Version of the Bible–most other translations use “Wild ox”, rather than “Unicorn”. This is even more interesting—why exactly do unicorns appear in the King James Bible?

King James’ bible translation began in 1604 and was completed by 1611. But by the time of the translations commissioning, Unicorns were well-known in Europe, appearing on heraldry, while the mythical creatures’ horns (alicorns) were sold and traded, used in scepters, thrones, and ground up for medicinal purposes. Unicorns predate the King James bible by centuries–but just how far? 

Pliny, the Greek philosopher, wrote about the Unicorn: “The unicorn is the fiercest animal, and it is said that it is impossible to capture one alive. It has the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead. Its cry is a deep bellow.”

In the 7th Century, the scholar Isidore of Seville described the unicorn as “very strong and pierces anything it attacks. It fights with elephants and kills them by wounding them in the belly.” He further went on to add that “The unicorn is too strong to be caught by hunters, except by a trick: If a virgin girl is placed in front of a unicorn and she bares her breast to it, all of its fierceness will cease and it will lay its head on her bosom, and thus quieted is easily caught.”

Pierces an elephant in the belly… feet like an elephant. Wait a minute…

Pop culture is not alone in its depiction of the unicorn as a sleek equine. But what if there is a more grounded reality for the creature? What if Unicorns were not only real, but considerably different than the artistic expressions usually made by people who had never seen one? What if… the unicorn is a rhinoceros?

The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is a mono-horned version of the animal so often found in zoos today. It sports a single, white horn on its nose, rather than its forehead. And around the time Pliny described the “unicorn” in his writings, the Greeks were venturing into the Indian Rhino’s native lands…

At this point, you might be thinking “wasn’t the unicorn seen around the world—not just in India?” Well, yes and no. One-horned creatures have been described around the world, not just by the Greeks and Europeans. But that doesn’t mean they were the horny equines so often described. Other creatures can have single horns.

In 2008,  a one year old deer was discovered near Florence, Italy with only one horn—believed to be a genetic defect, as it’s twin had two horns. Could historical unicorns be mutants?

What about the fossil record? Were there ever any unicorns? As it turns out, there was once something more rhino-like, but with a more traditional mono unicorn horn in what is today Siberia: the Elasmotherium sibiricu.  Co-existing with the mammoth, it’s entirely possible carcasses of these creatures were once found and described–or maybe they survived into the modern era, as some claim the Mammoth has

And what about those unicorn horns? Where did they come from? They came from Vikings, who were accomplished sailors who often journeyed into the seas of the Narwhal, another one-horned creature that remained generally unknown until the 16th Century, allowing the trade in faux alicorns to spread far and wide, with specimens even presented to Popes and some horns remaining on display in museums into the modern era.

Whether they were mutants, monsters or just misunderstood, one thing is certain, the folklore of the unicorns will probably outlive the endangered Rhinoceros it was most likely inspired by.

245 – T Is For Terror In The Aisles: Antrum and the Deadliest Movies Never Made

If you read any of paranormal or horror movie blogs this week, you might have seen an article about a new “documentary” coming out that contains a film from the 1970s that has recently been rediscovered called Antrum. It was covered by Bloody Disgusting, Mysterious Universe, Unexplained Mysteries, and even Forbes magazine, who did the original interview with the producer Eric Thirteen.

Thirteen says that the movie was lost after a terrifying incident in a Budapest theater in 1988 and that bad things kept happening to anyone involved in the production of the film, or anyone who even watched it. Indeed the trailer even says that the film is rumored to be “haunted” or “cursed” and that you shouldn’t watch it alone, it says that it absolves the filmmakers of all liability. (Ha, let’s see that one hold up in court!)

The new release of Antrum: The Deadliest Movie Ever Made will feature a documentary with people who know the history of the production as well as have experienced some of the curse effects from watching the movie. What? You’ve definitely got my attention, so this has to be fake, right?

Of course it’s fake, producer Eric Thirteen even compares it to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, a mystical evil spellbook that only existed in Lovecraft’s imagination. That was, until the author’s admirers created it and sold their fan fiction in book stores across the country and some people got convinced it was actually a reprinting of an ancient spellbook. He’s dropping the clues right in the interview that this is going to be a mockumentary!

COOL EPISODE UPDATE

Eric Thirteen himself listened to this episode and left a voicemail for us, which you can hear in its entirety in Episode 246 of See You On The Other Side.

Now, this movie sounds like a lot of fun and I love the cursed film angle as marketing (Zak Bagans even used it in his own documentary Demon House when he suggested that just watching his film could be dangerous and get you a spirit attachment who wouldn’t leave you alone!) But none of these blogs, who normally write about real people’s paranormal experiences bothered to let us know that it’s not a real documentary.

We just thought it was interesting, that these regular paranormal platforms wouldn’t let everyone know that this movie looks cool, but it’s just a movie. So, we wanted to handle that straightaway. This is pop culture using the paranormal as a marketing hook, because of course, that kind of buzz is great for publicity, as shown by the incredible financial success of the grandaddy of modern viral movie marketing, The Blair Witch Project. That was another fictional documentary where they tried to make the media believe it was real, and for awhile it worked just as well as Antrum is.

In this episode, we go into the similarities between the marketing campaigns of Blair Witch and Antrum, we’ll dissect Eric Thirteen’s interview with Forbes (as well as the incredulous coverage of it!), and then talk about some other fake films that used the illusion of versimiltude to get attention and sell tickets (or in our case, video rentals in the 80s!)

  • Faces of Death
  • Cannibal Holocaust (so real that the director was put on trial for murder!)
  • Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?
  • Mondo Cane

And we have bring up some other great films that deal with cursed movies as well.

  • In The Mouth of Madness (itself inspired by Lovecraft)
  • Masters of Horror‘s “Cigarette Burns” (written by a staffer of Aint It Cool News, a site that led the way in the success of The Blair Witch Project)
  • The real urban legend behind The Ring

For the song this week, it was a no-brainer. Just understand that you’re listening at your own risk and we take no liability for anything that might happen to you after you hear “The Deadliest Song Ever Made”!

And of course, to go with the deadliest movie ever made, we had to write “The Deadliest Song Ever Made”. You’ve been warned, listen at your own risk because we take no responsiblity for what happens after you’ve heard it.

Now that you’ve hit play you can’t go back
you’re cursed forever once you’ve heard this track
There’s just something so evil about this tune
It makes the listeners deceased way too soon

So listen at your own risk
you’ve sealed your fate
This is the deadliest song ever made.
Don’t plug your ears,
for it’s too late.
You’ve heard the deadliest song ever made.

It’s the world’s most fearsome melody,
just the sound of it will end your life early.
We’re not saying anything legally,
but you’re damned to Hell for all eternity.

So listen at your own risk
you’ve sealed your fate
This is the deadliest song ever made.
Don’t plug your ears,
for it’s too late.
You’ve heard the deadliest song ever made.

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.

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: