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The Mystery Chronicles

The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files

Joe Nickell
FOREWORD BY JAMES RANDI
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv62q
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  • Book Info
    The Mystery Chronicles
    Book Description:

    With a foreword by James Randi Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell has spent more than thirty years solving the world's most perplexing mysteries. This new casebook reveals the secrets of the Winchester Mystery House, the giant Nazca drawings of Peru, the Shroud of Turin, the "Mothman" enigma, the Amityville Horror house, the vicious goatsucking El Chupacabras, and numerous other "unexplainable" paranormal phenomena. Nickell has traveled far and wide to solve cases, which include a weeping icon in Russia, the elusive Bigfoot-like "yowie" in Australia, the reputed power of a headless saint in Spain, and an "alien hybrid" in Germany. He has gone undercover -- often in disguise -- to reveal the tricks of those who pretend to talk to the dead, accompanied a Cajun guide into a Louisiana swamp in search of a fabled monster, and gained an audience with a voodoo queen. Superstar psychic medium John Edward, pet psychic Sonya Fitzpatrick, evangelist and healer Benny Hinn, and many other well-known figures have found themselves under Nickell's careful scrutiny. The Mystery Chronicles examines more than three dozen intriguing mysteries. Nickell uses a hands-on approach and the scientific method to steer between the extremes of mystery mongering and debunking. His investigative skills have won him both acclaim and controversy during his long career as one of the world's foremost paranormal investigators.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2675-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    James Randi

    I’ve known Dr. Joe Nickell since he was a young man. That was when he was a budding conjuror, eagerly soaking up every secret and angle of the deception-for-entertainment trade. I could hardly have guessed that after entering the conjuring business he would then change direction to become a professional sleuth, and turn out a stream of fascinating books dealing with so many aspects of human frailty and the vultures who await those who have weakened and become potential fare.The Mystery Chroniclesis his latest assault against nonsense.

    Well equipped by both experience and academic background, this author has...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)

    For more than three decades, I have been investigating paranormal claims—that is, those supposedly beyond the range of science and normal human experience. My first important case transpired in 1972 when I investigated Canada’s most famous “haunted” place: Mackenzie House in downtown Toronto. As it turned out, I easily found plausible explanations for the various reported phenomena. For example, the sounds of heavy footsteps on the stairs came from an iron staircase in the building next door—just 40 inches away.

    At that time I was working as a professional stage magician and “mentalist.” I soon went on to...

  6. 1 Mystery of the Nazca Lines
    (pp. 1-9)

    Etched across 30 miles of gravel-covered desert near Perú’s southern coast are the famous Nazca lines and giant ground drawings.

    This huge sketchpad was brought to public prominence by Erich von Dāniken’sChariots of the God?—a book that consistently underestimates the abilities of ancient “primitive” peoples and assigns many of their works to visiting extraterrestrials. Von Dāniken (1970) argues that the Nazca lines and figures could have been “built according to instruction from an aircraft.” He adds: “Classical archaeology does not admit that the pre-Inca peoples could have had a perfect surveying technique. And the theory that aircraft could...

  7. 2 The Fiery Specter
    (pp. 10-13)

    Gruesome deaths attributed to spontaneous human combustion (SHC) continue to intrigue the public. Arch-promoter of SHC, Larry E. Arnold, has produced a weighty tome on the subject, entitledAblaze! The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion(1995). Unfortunately, the cases Arnold hypes have very plausible—indeed, probable—explanations. For example, in the 1951 case of Mary Reeser in St. Petersburg, Florida, it was established that when last seen she was wearing flammable nightclothes and smoking a cigarette, after having taken Seconal sleeping pills. The extreme destruction of her body was almost certainly due to the “wick effect,” in which the...

  8. 3 The Exorcist: The Case Behind the Movie
    (pp. 14-27)

    Belief in demonic possession is getting a new propaganda boost. Not only has the 1973 horror movieThe Exorcistbeen re-released, but the “true story” that inspired it is also chronicled in a reissued book and a made-for-TV movie, both titledPossessed(Allen 2000). However, a year-long investigation by a Maryland writer (Opsasnik 2000), together with my own analysis of events chronicled in the exorcising priest’s diary, belie the claim that a teenage boy was possessed by Satan in 1949.

    Belief in spirit possession flourishes in times and places where there is ignorance about mental states. Citing biblical examples, the...

  9. 4 The “Goatsucker” Attack
    (pp. 28-30)

    Mimicking the “cattle mutilation” hype of yesteryear, during the mid-1990s reports of a bloodthirsty beast—El Chupacabras, or “the goat-sucker”—spread from Puerto Rico to Mexico and, still Later to Florida. According to the Cox News Service (April 1996), “The creature supposedly is part space alien, part vampire and part reptile, with long sharp claws, bulging eyes and a Dracula-like taste for sucking blood from neck bites.” In Puerto Rico, where the myth Originated, “the creature has spawned something near hysteria.”

    It reportedly attacked turkeys, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, cows, and horses, sucking the blood from them. However, as Reuters...

  10. 5 Undercover Among the Spirits: Investigating Camp Chesterfield
    (pp. 31-45)

    Camp Chesterfield is a notorious spiritualist enclave located in Chesterfield, Indiana. Dubbed “the Coney Island of spiritualism,” it has been the target of many exposés, most notably a book by a confessed fraudulent medium published in 1976 (Keene 1976). A quarter-century later, I decided to see if the old deceptions were still being practiced at the camp. Naturally, my visit was both unannounced and undercover.

    Modern spiritualism began in 1848 with the schoolgirl pranks of Maggie and Katie Fox at Hydesville, New York. Although four decades later the sisters confessed that their “spirit” rappings had been bogus, in the meantime...

  11. 6 Alien Hybrid?
    (pp. 46-50)

    In a cabinet in a small natural-history museum in Waldenburg, Saxony, is a strange curio (Figure 6-1) that one writer has termed “Germany’s greatest mystery” (Hausdorf 2000). It is the fetus of—well, that is the question: What is it? Could it me ufologists insist, an alien hybrid?

    Known locally from its strange appearance as the “chicken man,” the fetus can be traced to the year 1735, when it was stillborn in the Saxonian village of Taucha. It was to have been the fourth child of Johanna Sophia Schmiedt, who was in the eighth month of her pregnancy. She was...

  12. 7 Image of Guadalupe: Myth-perception
    (pp. 51-55)

    A radio announcer asked his listeners to brace themselves for a report that would “shock all of Mexico.” When it came, it did not announce an assassination, as some had assumed, but for many it was even worse. It concerned the most popular shrine in the Roman Catholic world next to the Vatican. As the San AntonioExpress-Newsreported in its five-column headline: “Faithful aghast as abbot paints Virgin story as myth” (“Faithful” 1996).

    The reference is to the tale that in 1531 (some 10 year after Cortez’s defeat of the Aztec Empire), the Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian...

  13. 8 Human Blowtorch
    (pp. 56-60)

    This case involves a young African-American man with a seemingly remarkable ability. It has interested a string of mystery mongers, from Charles Fort (1932) to Frank Edwards (1961), Vincent Gaddis (1967), and, more recently, Jane Goldman (1995, 132). Edwards called his account “Human Blowtorch”—a “unique case,” he said, for which “no one ever proposed any explanation” (1961, 163–64).

    A contemporary account was published in 1882 inMichigan Medical Newsand is given here in its entirety:

    A Singular Phenomenon.—Dr. L. C. Woodman, of Paw Paw, Mich., contributes the following interesting though incredible observation: I have a singular...

  14. 9 Remotely Viewed? The Charlie Jordan Case
    (pp. 61-72)

    Was fugitive drug smuggler Charlie Jordan nabbed after a CIA “remote viewer” helped pinpoint his location in northern Wyoming? Does this supposedly successful use of psychic phenomena (or “psi”) by the intelligence agency’s then-secret Stargate program indeed represent “one of their more memorable cases” (Mysteries1998)?

    For an episode of the television seriesMysteries(which subsequently aired in England on November 23, 1998), I was asked by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to examine and comment on claims made about the case. Not surprisingly, I found much more information than my brief on-air time allowed me to relate, and I...

  15. 10 Amityville: The Horror of It All
    (pp. 73-77)

    The best-selling bookThe Amityville Horror: A True Story(Anson 1977) was followed by a movie of the same title and a sequel,Amityville II: The Possession. Although the original proved to be a hoax, that fact does not seem well known to the general public. A book published in 2002 now sheds new light on the sordid affair and reviews the multiple-murder case that preceded it. Written by Ric Osuna, it is titledThe Night the DeFeos Died: Reinvestigating the Amityville Murders.

    The saga began on November 13, 1974, with the murders of Ronald DeFeo Sr.; his wife, Louise;...

  16. 11 Sideshow! Investigating Carnival Oddities and Illusions
    (pp. 78-92)

    Like Robert Ripley, I have always been attracted to the odd and the curious. Growing up in a small town, I tried never to miss a visiting solo act—like an armless wonder or a bullwhip artist—who performed at the local ball park. I paid admission to countless magic, hypnotism, and spook show, not to mention animal and juggling acts, that played in the school auditorium or the local theater. And I must have attended every carnival and circus that came around.

    In 1969 I worked as a magic pitchman in the carnival at the Canadian National Exhibition. It...

  17. 12 “Mothman” Solved! Investigating on Site
    (pp. 93-99)

    The ill-fated 2002 movieThe Mothman Prophecies, based on a book of the same title (Keel 1975), focused on a “flying monster” that plagued the Point Pleasant, West Virginia, area for a year, beginning in November 1966. In addition to giant-bird sightings, the tale involved alien contacts, Men in Black, a tragic bridge collapse, and other elements (Nickell 2002). In April 2002 I was able to make an investigative trip to Point Pleasant, spending a few days there. I came back with some interesting and illuminating information on the case.

    A popular legend of the Point Pleasant area holds that...

  18. 13 Relics of the Headless Saint
    (pp. 100-114)

    For centuries, the site of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain has been a place of reputed miracles, including revelations and healings. Today, among its visitors are New Agers who consider the cathedral “a reservoir of powerful positive psychic energy”; some even claim to see apparitions of earlier pilgrims (Hauck 2000, 133–34).

    On September 6, l997, I made my own “pilgrimage” to the historic cathedral. I had been attending the Ninth EuroSkeptics Conference in the nearby seaport city of La Coruña (“The Crown”), and the cathedral was the focus of one Saturday’s scheduled sightseeing trip—a...

  19. 14 Circular Reasoning: Crop Circles and Their “Orbs” of Light
    (pp. 115-123)

    Since they began to capture media attention in the mid-1970s, and throughout their proliferation and evolution during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, crop circles have generated mystery and controversy. New books touting “scientific research” continue the trend. The topic also got a boost from a 2002 Hollywood movie,Signs,starring Mel Gibson as a Pennsylvania farmer who discovers a 500-foot design imprinted in his crops and seeks to learn its meaning.

    At issue are swirled, often circular designs pressed into crop fields, especially those of southern England. They can range from small circles only a few feet in...

  20. 15 Zanzibar Demon
    (pp. 124-127)

    The scene is modern-day Zanzibar, where a terrible monster, the infamous “popobawa,” is swooping into bedrooms at night and raping men—particularly skeptical men. The demonic beast’s name comes from the Swahili word forbatandwing,and indeed the creature is described as having, in addition to a dwarf’s body with a single cyclopean eye, small pointed ears, and batlike wings and talons. According to local villagers, it is especially prone to attack “anybody who doesn’t believe” (McGreal 1995).

    One 1995 victim was a quiet-spoken peasant, a farmer named Mjaka Hamad, who said he does not believe in spirits....

  21. 16 Winchester Mystery House
    (pp. 128-139)

    It is the work of an eccentric widow, who was supposedly guided by spirits and a construction project that lasted 38 years. It began in 1884 with an existing but unfinished 8-room farmhouse near San Jose, California, and culminated in a 7-story, turreted, Gothic Victorian mansion that once comprised an estimated 500 rooms. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake significantly reduced the stacked and sprawling architectural wonder, but when Sarah Winchester died in 1922 it still “contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 window, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens” (Winchester1997).

    Even more remarkable, the round-the-clock construction yielded...

  22. 17 Voodoo in New Orleans
    (pp. 140-151)

    New Orleans has been declared America’s most haunted city (Klein 1999, 104), and tour guides—following the imaginative lead of Anne Rice—have attempted to overlay its rich history with bogus legends of vampires and other spine–tingling notions. But perhaps the city’s oldest and most profound occult traditions are those involving the mysterious practices of voodoo. During a southern speaking tour, I was able to set aside a few days to explore the New Orleans museums, shops, temples, and tombs that relate to this distinctive admixture of religion and magic, commerce and controversy.

    Voodoo—orvoudou—is the Haitian...

  23. 18 Secrets of the Voodoo Tomb
    (pp. 152-161)

    Among the sites associated with New Orleans voodoo is the tomb of its greatest figure, Marie Laveau (the subject of chapter 17). After the apparent death of her first husband, Jacques Paris, she began calling herself the “Widow Paris.” (The relevance of this will soon be apparent.)

    Controversy persists over where Marie Laveau and her namesake daughter are buried. Some say the latter reposes in the cemetery called St. Louis No. 2 (Hauck 1996) in a “Marie Laveau Tomb” there. However, that crypt most likely contains the remains of another voodoo queen named Marie, Marie Comtesse. Numerous sites in as...

  24. 19 A Case of “SHC” Demystified
    (pp. 162-164)

    A case of March 4, 1980, in Chorley, England, mystifies paranormalists, who invoke spontaneous human combustion (SHC) in a fatal accident. Where is the mystery? Tony McMunn, a fireman who encountered the case and became an SHC enthusiast as a result, insists that “there is not a lot of flesh or fat on the head, and the fire should have gone out.” He and others are also impressed by the severe destruction of the body, in which some of the bones were reportedly calcined (reduced to ash). However, the following investigative chronology, keyed to the pen–and–ink drawing shown...

  25. 20 Tracking the Swamp Monsters
    (pp. 165-175)

    Do mysterious and presumably endangered manlike creatures inhabit swamplands of the southern United States? If not, how do we explain the sightings and even track impressions of creatures that thus far have eluded mainstream science? Do the represent additional evidence of the legendary Bigfoot, or something else entirely? What would an investigation reveal?

    The outside world learned about Louisiana’s Honey lsland Swamp Monster in 1974, when two hunters emerged from a remote area of backwater sloughs with plaster casts of “unusual tracks.” The men claimed that they had discovered the footprints near a wild boar that lay with its throat...

  26. 21 John Edward: Talking to the Dead?
    (pp. 176-186)

    Superstar “psychlc medium” John Edward is a stand-up guy. Unlike the spiritualists of yore, who typically plied their trade in dark-room séances, Edward and his ilk often perform before live audiences and even under the glare of television lights. Indeed, Edward has his own popular show on the SciFi channel, calledCrossing Over. I was asked byDateline NBCto study Edward’s act and find out if he was really talking to the dead.

    Today’s spiritualism traces its root to the mid-nineteenth century. when the craze spread across the United states, Europe, and beyond. In darkened Séance rooms, lecture halls,...

  27. 22 Scandals and Follies of the “Holy Shroud”
    (pp. 187-199)

    The Shroud of Turin continues to be the subject of media presentations treating it as so mysterious as to imply a supernatural origin. One study (Binga 2001) found only 10 scientifically credible skeptical books on the topic, compared with more than 400 promoting the cloth as the authentic, or potentially authentic, winding sheet of Jesus—including, most recently, a revisionist tome entitledThe Resurrection of the Shroud(Antonacci 2000). Since the cloth appeared in the middle of the fourteenth century, it has been at the center of scandal, exposés, and controversy—a dubious legacy for what is purported to be...

  28. 23 “Pyramid Power” in Russia
    (pp. 200-206)

    Still the largest country in the world, Russia retains more than 76 percent of the area of the former USSR, which collapsed in 1991. The collapse, along with the suspension of activities of the Communist Party, increasedglasnost(“openness”) in the new federal republic. With personal freedom, however, has come a rise in pseudoscientific and magical expression.

    I became increasingly aware of this through the visits of three Russian notables to the Center for Inquiry-International: Valerií Kuvakin (professor of philosophy at Moscow State University), Edward Kruglyakov (a distinguished physicist at Novosibirsk, Siberia), and Yurií Chornyi (Scientific Secretary, Institute for Scientific...

  29. 24 Diagnosing the “Medical Intuitives”
    (pp. 207-217)

    Among the dangerous new, pseudoscientific fads is that of “energy medicine,” practiced by self-styled “medical intuitives.” Actually, the practice is not new but only newly resurging, like most other aspects of the so-called New Age movement. It involves using some form of reputed psychic ability to divine people’s illnesses and, typically, recommend treatment for them.

    The best-known exponent of this field was Edgar Cayce, who flourished in the first half of the twentieth century and offered medical diagnoses while hypnotized. He had many predecessors, though, notably the “Poughkeepsie Seer,” Andrew Jackson Davis (1826–1910), a forerunner of modern spiritualism who...

  30. 25 Alien Abductions as Sleep-Related Phenomena
    (pp. 218-227)

    In his book,The Communion Letters(1997), self-claimed alien abductee Whitley Strieber, assisted by his wife Ann, offers a selection of letters Strieber has received in response to his various alien-abduction books, particularly the best-sellingCommunion: A True Story(1987). A careful analysis of the letter is illuminating.

    The 67 narratives that constituteThe Communion Lettersrepresent, the Striebers claim, what “could conceivably be the first true communication from another world that has ever been recorded.” Selected from nearly 200,000 letters, those in the published collection, they assert, “will put certain shibboleths to rest forever”: namely, that the phenomenon is...

  31. 26 “Visitations”: After-Death Contacts
    (pp. 228-240)

    Those who suffer the loss of a loved one may experience such anguish and emptiness that they are unable to let go, and they may come to believe that they have had some contact with the deceased. “It’s commonly reported that the deceased person has communicated in some way,” says Judith Skretny, vice-president of the Life Transitions Center, “either by giving a sign or causing things to happen with no rational explanation.” She adds. “It’s equally common for people to wake in the middle of the night, lying in bed or even to walk into a room and think they...

  32. 27 The Sacred Cloth of Oviedo
    (pp. 241-247)

    Although science has established the Shroud of Turin (see chapter 22) as a fourteenth-century forgery—rendered in tempera paint by a confessed forger and radiocarbon-dated to the time of the forger’s confession (Nickell 1998, McCrone 1996)—the propaganda offensive to convince the public otherwise continues. As part of the strategy, shroud proponents are now ballyhooing another cloth, a supposed companion burial wrapping, that they claim militates in favor of the shroud’s authenticity.

    At issue is the Oviedo Cloth, an 84 X 53 cm. piece of linen, stained with supposed blood, that some believe is thesudariumor “napkin” that covered...

  33. 28 A Typical Aries?
    (pp. 248-251)

    One of America’s best-known astrologers was Linda Goodman. Revealingly, her own death raised serious questions about the validity of astrology.

    Astrology is a means of fortunetelling. Those who believe in it claim it is a science by which a person’s character, as well as his or her future, can be learned from the stars and planets. Depending on when one is born, a person supposedly comes under one of twelve astrological “signs.” These signs are listed in Table 28-1, along with the main personality traits typically attributed to them.

    In fact, however, astrologers often assign contradictory traits to a sign....

  34. 29 The Case of the Psychic Shamus: Do Psychics Really Help Solve Crimes?
    (pp. 252-257)

    Among the cases of alleged psychic sleuthing that I have investigated, some have seemed impressive at first sight, but all eventually succumbed to the light of inquiry. One example stemmed from my appearance on theMark Walberg Show, televised 7 February 1996, with a self-proclaimed psychic named Ron Bard. He boasted that he had “solved over 110 murder cases”; when asked to name one, he cited the case of two girls in Harrison, New York. Bard claimed that a key on one girl’s body led him to the South Bronx where “the key worked in the lock and that’s how...

  35. 30 The Pagan Stone
    (pp. 258-260)

    A carryover from the past that finding new expression in today’s Russia is devotion to a certain ancient stone that was a focus of pagan ceremonies and is reputed to have magical properties (“Kolomenskoye” n.d.). In October 2001, I was able to visit the site with the assistance of a young woman named Nadya Tereshina. (A reception supervisor at my hotel, she was willing to be helpful while at the same time taking the opportunity to practice her English.)

    The stone is in Kolomenskoye, a state museum-reserve in south Moscow. Located on the west bank of the Moskva River, Kolomenskoye...

  36. 31 Benny Hinn: Healer or Hypnotist?
    (pp. 261-270)

    Benn Hinn tours the world with his “Miracle Crusade,” drawing thousands to each service, with many hoping for a healing of body, mind, or spirit. A significant number seem to be rewarded and are brought onstage to pour out tearful testimonials. Then, seemingly by the Holy Spirit, they are knocked down at a mere touch or gesture from the charismatic evangelist. Although I had seen clips of Hinn’s services on television, I decided to attend and witness his performance live when his crusade came to Buffalo, New York, for June 28–29 of 2001. Donning suitable garb and sporting a...

  37. 32 Australia’s Convict Ghosts
    (pp. 271-276)

    It is a spectacular land to which many superlatives apply. Although not, as often claimed, the oldest of the continents (the cores of which are approximately the same age), Australia is the world’s smallest continent and—excepting Antarctica—the flattest and driest one. Separated from the other continents for some 40 million years, Australia has produced unique flora and fauna, and its history “began twice”: first, some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago when the nomadic Aborigines reached the shores; and second, on January 18–20, 1788, when 11 British ships arrived laden with convicts (Chambers 1999, 1–10).

    I had...

  38. 33 Psychic Pets and Pet Psychics
    (pp. 277-288)

    Many believe that the bond between man and animals, known from great antiquity, includes extrasensory perception (ESP). They cite anecdotal evidence, controversial research data, and the claims of alleged psychics. During more than three decades of investigating the paranormal, I have often encountered and reviewed such evidence. I have written about “talking” animals, appeared with a “pet psychic” onThe Jerry Springer Show, analyzed alleged paranormal communications between people and animals (both living and dead), and even visited a spiritualists’ pet cemetery. Here is a look at some of what I have found.

    Alleged animal prodigies—various “educated,” “talking,” and...

  39. 34 Cryptids “Down Under”
    (pp. 289-295)

    The termcryptidwas coined to refer to unknown animal species or to those which, though believed extinct, may only have eluded scientific rediscovery (Coleman and Clark 1999, 75). Examples of the former are the yowie (Australia’s version of Bigfoot) and the bunyip (a swamp-dwelling, hairy creature with a horselike head) (Coleman and Clark 1999, 49–50, 255–57). An example of the latter is the thylacine.

    At a skeptic’s convention in Sydney in 2000, Australian paleontologist Mike Archer discussed the thylacine as part of his talk, “Creationism and Its Negative Impact on Good Science.” Also known as the Tasmanian...

  40. 35 Joseph Smith: A Matter of Visions
    (pp. 296-303)

    Past attempts to understand the motivations of visionaries, psychics, faith healers, and other mystics—seers like Mormon founder Joseph Smith—have often focused on a single, difficult question: Were they mentally ill, or were they instead charlatans? Increasingly, there is evidence that this may be a false dichotomy, that many of the most celebrated mystics may in fact simply have possessed fantasy-prone personalities. Called “fantasizers,” such individuals fall within the normal range and represent an estimated 4 percent of the population.

    This personality type was characterized in 1983 in a pioneering study by Sheryl C. Wilson and Theodore X. Barber....

  41. 36 In Search of Fisher’s Ghost
    (pp. 304-310)

    During an investigative tour Down Under, I was able to examine the persistent legend of “Australia’s most famous ghost” (Davis 1998, 16). I was generously assisted by magic historian Peter Rodgers, with whom I shared several other adventures (Nickell 2001).

    One writer has commented, “It is a mystery why some ghost stories catch the public’s imagination and survive while others, often more shocking and more credible, are forgotten” (Davis 1998, 16–18). Davis cites the story about Frederick Fisher, which has been related in countless newspaper articles, as well as poems, songs, books, plays, an opera, and other venues (Davis...

  42. 37 Ghostly Portents in Moscow
    (pp. 311-314)

    When I knew I would be visiting Russia in 2001, I began to wonder what paranormal mysteries there might be to investigate. Not surprisingly, according to some sources Russia is a haunted place, and ghostly phenomena seem similar to those reported elsewhere.

    For example, a photograph of a “Moscow ghost” illustrates the section on Russia inThe International Directory of Haunted Places(Hauck 2000 129–31). However, the anomalous white shape at the bottom of the nighttime tourist photo seems consistent with other photographs in which foreign objects in front of the lens have bounced back the flash to create...

  43. 38 Mystique of the Octagon Houses
    (pp. 315-323)

    Phrenology, Psychical claims, quack medicine—these and other fringe ideas have interesting connections to the octagon-house fad of the nineteenth century. I have visited a few of these historic eight-sided buildings, including a “haunted” one at Genesee Country Village in Mumford, New York. Individually and collectively, the structures present many features of interest.

    Octagonal structures have a long history. During the Middle Ages they were often attached to churches to enclose baptistries. In America, from 1680 to 1750, octagonal churches were built in Dutch settlements along the Hudson River. Virginians George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were also attracted to the...

  44. 39 Weeping Icons
    (pp. 324-330)

    A paranormal phenomenon enjoying favor in the new glasnost of Russia is that of “miraculous” icons—notably one that was reported to be weeping in a Moscow church in 1998.

    The Russian Orthodox Church has a tradition of venerating icons (from the Greekeikon, “image”), which are painted on varnished wood panels and over time acquire a dark patina from candle smoke. Russian icon were produced in greatest number at Kiev, where Christianity took root in 988 (Richardson 1998, 222). Perhaps because they naturally depicted holy subjects and miraculous events—such as the imprinting of Jesus’ face on Veronica’s veil,...

  45. 40 Spiritualist’s Grave
    (pp. 331-334)

    Among the sites that supposedly make Australia “a very haunted continent” is the Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney(International2000). One of the graves there has a profound link to spiritualism and once attracted famed magician Harry Houdini. It is the burial place of William Davenport (1841–1877), one of the notorious Davenport Brothers and the subject of an interesting story.

    Ira and William Davenport debuted as spiritualists in Buffalo, New York, in 1854 when they were yet schoolboys (aged 15 and 13 respectively). Soon they were touring the world giving demonstrations of alleged spirit phenomena. While the pair were securely...

  46. 41 Incredible Stories: Charles Fort and His Followers
    (pp. 335-340)

    Mystery-mongering sells. Why else would Barnes and Noble issue a 1998 edition ofThe World’s Most Incredible Stories: The Best of Fortean Times?Originally published in London (Sisman 1992), this collection of oddities, anomalies, and occult claims is (as its subtitle indicates) in the tradition of Charles Fort. Fort (1874–1932) loved to challenge “orthodox” scientists with things they supposedly could not explain, like rains of fish or frogs (Fort 1941).

    In the introduction toIncredible Stories,Lyall Watson paints a typically fortean, typically disparaging view of science: an endeavor that “claims to be objective” but is “inherently conservative and...

  47. Index
    (pp. 341-361)