News!

Hey ODDballs! No episode on Monday the 25th. I’m being interviewed for a podcast called Genuine Chit Chat. If you’d like to listen to that episode and learn a little more about me or just add a new podcast to your listening list, check it out! https://genuinechitchat.podbean.com/

Creep Factor 100: Dudleytown

A few brave souls have explored the now abandoned Dudleytown, undeterred by the police patrols and no trespassing signs, but the majority of sane individuals know to stay away fearing the Dudley Curse. It has been dubbed one of the scariest places in Connecticut and one of the most haunted places on earth. Dudleytown is completely abandoned and unlit at night and it has a rather strange and haunted history surrounding it. The owners of the land aren’t keen on trespassers so most can only hear of the first-hand accounts of those who have been, but those who have wandered into the darkness have seen things—terrible things.

Historically Speaking

Dudleytown was not officially a town. It was named Dudleytown after the Dudley family, a family plagued by death and misfortune (or so the story goes.) It’s located within the town of Cornwall in the northwest corner of Connecticut and was settled around 1740. Dudleytown itself is located in Dark Entry Forest (rather ominously named) on a privately held trust. The area was converted from a forest into farmland but didn’t fare well and by the 1800s, many had made the trip westward for better land that was more reasonably priced. The population dwindled and before long the settlement was completely abandoned. Apparently, it was reforested in the 1920s by a private philanthropic organization that turned it into horseback riding camps and ski areas. However, that’s not all there is to the story though many might want to believe that.

Let’s Get Real

At this point, I want to let our dear readers/listeners know that this story should be read with a healthy dose of skepticism. The story of Dudleytown is widely circulated by teenagers and, as many who listen to our podcast already know, teenagers are often prone to sensationalize these types of situations in order to scare or freak out their friends. I’m not saying that there’s no paranormal side to Dudleytown, but I’m also not saying it’s absolutely haunted. As is the case with many an abandoned location, energies can often stick around long after people have gone.

When I first heard about Dudleytown (it was recommended by a podcast listener) I began to realize that the events that took place there were familiar to me. I’ve covered Black River Falls, WI on a past episode of this podcast and many of the happenings there seemed to mirror those of Dudleytown. It seemed as if people went mad in Black River Falls, dousing themselves in kerosene and striking a match or randomly murdering entire families. Did a similar madness strike the population of Dudleytown?

More History

I suppose it’s prudent to start at the beginning, with the Dudley name itself. Edmund Dudley, an English nobleman, was beheaded for treason during the reign of Henry the 7th. The remainder of his family left England and came to Connecticut, settling in the area now known as Dudleytown. The date the settlement was officially named is not known, but the Dudley’s could track their heritage back to a Saxon named Dud who had the title of Duke of Murcia. The Duke died in 725 AD and the land owned by him would become the site of Dudley Castle. An old English word for a castle was “leigh”, so the area became known as Dudley and when it became necessary to take a surname, Dudley was chosen based on the Saxon name and the location. Other members of the Dudley family came to settle in Dudleytown and slowly but surely the settlement began to grow. At its peak, Dudleytown is said to have had roughly 26 families living there.

The time the Dudley’s spent in Dudleytown was not free of odd occurrences. It is said that a curse followed Edmund Dudley’s family from England (he apparently sentenced many to death for witchcraft) and afflicted all who lived within the settlement. This is where Dudleytown begins to take on similar characteristics as Black River Falls, WI.

The subject of Dudleytown has been covered on numerous blogs and podcasts, so I didn’t really think it necessary to rehash old information. I did find a website called americanhauntingsink.com that explained the alleged curse on Dudley descendants following the beheading of Edmund Dudley.

“Edmund’s son, John Dudley, also attempted to control the British throne by arranging for his son, Guilford, to marry Lady Jane Grey, next in line for the crown. After Edward VI died, Lady Jane became the queen for a short time before the plan failed, ending with the execution of Lady Jane and the two Dudley’s. To make matters worse, Guilford’s brother returned from France, and being a military officer, brought home a plague that he spread to his officers and troops. The sickness wiped out massive numbers of British soldiers and eventually spread throughout the country, killing thousands.

John Dudley’s third son, Robert, Earl of Leicester, a favorite of Elizabeth I, wisely decided to leave England and travel to the New World. It would be his somewhat luckier descendant, William, who would settle in Guilford, Connecticut. Three of William’s descendants, Abiel, Barzallai, and Gideon, would later buy a plot of land in Cornwall township.”

It’s also important to note that Robert Dudley only had 2 sons, one of whom died as a child, and the surviving son went to Italy. He had children, but they all remained there. This means that there was no link between William, his sons (who supposedly founded Dudleytown), and a “curse” that followed them. I think the “curse” on Dudleytown might just be a fantastical rumor spread by high school kids, but that doesn’t discount the strange occurrences that happened there. It seems, in the information I’ve found about the place, that random people vanishing and members of the community completely losing their minds was a fairly regular occurrence. The question remains, why? A paper outlining mental health issues and mental illness in farming communities (CE Fraser, KB Smith, F Judd, JS Humphreys, LJ Fragar, A Henderson) states, “Farmers experience one of the highest rates of suicide of any industry and there is growing evidence that those involved in farming are at higher risk of developing mental health problems.” The paper goes on to say that, “A number of studies also focused on neuropsychological functioning and agricultural chemical use (7), depression (7), suicide (9), general mental health (4) and injury and mental health (1). This body of research studied male farmers, female farmers, farmworkers, farming families, and young people living on farms. Research to date indicates that farmers, farmworkers and their respective families face an array of stressors related to the physical environment, structure of farming families and the economic difficulties and uncertainties associated with farming which may be detrimental to their mental health. Whilst suicide rates in some groups of farmers are higher than the general population, conclusive data do not exist to indicate whether farmers and farming families experience higher rates of mental health problems compared with the non-farming community. It is clear, however, that farming is associated with a unique set of characteristics that is potentially hazardous to mental health and requires further research.”

So, are the *strange happenings in Dudleytown easily explained away as a mental health epidemic? The events are so varied that it’s not really possible to find them all and compile them, but I’ll do my level best.

-Many Native American tribes lived in close proximity to Dudleytown, including the Mohawk Nation. Some battles during the French Indian War (1755-1763) were fought only a hundred miles or so from Dudleytown. Several years after the war, residents were still experiencing the fallout and many residents lost their lives. Could those who seemingly disappeared in the woods surrounding the settlement have been killed? If that’s the case, why were their remains never recovered?

– General Heman Swift served in the Revolutionary War under General George Washington and in 1804 his wife, Sarah Faye, was struck by lightning on their front porch. She was instantly killed.  Shortly thereafter, it is said that Swift went “slightly demented.”

Let’s unpack this one a little bit because actual lightning strikes account for only 3-5% of lightning-related injuries. From Snopes.com:

  • ” Direct [lightning] strikes occur when the victims are outside, often carrying metal objects, such as an umbrella. Metal (e.g., a hairpin) worn in the hair increases the chances of a direct strike compared with a metal object worn lower on the body. Although not always fatal, direct strikes are associated with high morbidity, because they frequently involve the head. Lightning strikes near the head may enter the eyes, ears, and mouth to cause multiple problems.

Lightning can cause mild to severe damage to numerous body systems. Although the current from lightning may flow through the victim’s body for only a short time, it can short-circuit the body’s electrical systems, such as the heart and the respiratory center of the brain.

  • Most victims who survive lightning strikes actually experience not the type of direct hit shown here but rather what is known as a side flash:

A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from taller objects to the victim. In essence, the person acts as a “short circuit: for some of energy in the lightning discharge. Side flashes generally occur when the victim is within a foot or two of the object that is struck. Most often, side flash victims have taken shelter under a tree to avoid rain or hail.

This is actually taken from an article involving a video in which an individual was struck by lightning twice in quick succession. This type of lightning strike is quite rare, but being struck by lightning is still an odd occurrence.

– John Patrick Brophy’s wife died of consumption and his two children mysteriously disappeared in the woods. The children were apparently accused of stealing sleigh robes and wanted to avoid the consequences of their crimes. Brophy, having lost his entire family, left the settlement after his house burned to the ground. There is no evidence as to how the fire started, but Brophy was never seen or heard from again.

-In the 1920s, Dr. William Clarke came to Cornwall and purchased 1,000 acres including Dudleytown. One summer, Clarke went to New York leaving his wife alone. When he returned, he found her completely insane, rambling about creatures living in the forest. Shortly thereafter, she committed suicide. This story is a common thread in the Dudleytown legend.

 

Possible Causes

-The rocks in and around Dudleytown contain high levels of iron and other metals. Are the accounts of madness due to lead in the drinking water? Continued exposure would lead to death, though and why wouldn’t the residents leave if the water was bad?

-The settlement produced flax and some rye. If the rye is left to rot the resulting mold is hallucinogenic. As someone who worships gluten, I can safely say that bad bread is likely one of the most demonic things on the planet.

*Other events like an individual being killed while trying to raise a barn, plague, and insanity due to old age don’t contain much supernatural weight, so I’ve excluded them from the above list.

Ed and Lorraine Warren made a special Halloween trip to Dudleytown in the 70s and the event was broadcast on television. The Warrens experienced an eventful night in the settlement and told the viewing public that the place was a hotbed for demonic activity. Ed Warren stated, “The Dudleys had an ancestor in England who was a judge and condemned many people to death for witchcraft. The curse in Dudleytown started after the village became a thriving town. People went mad and reported seeing monstrosities in the forest—things that were unnatural.” He went on to say, “Curse? What is a curse? Dudleytown is cursed in that it is a tract of land with an aura of disaster. Everyone left the town.”

 

Every manner of demon, strange beastie and poltergeist has been spotted in Dudleytown. Visitors have been scratched and slapped in the face, but the Dark Entry Forest Association refuses to admit that any of the paranormal or strange activity visitors have experienced is real. Perhaps that’s because the curse on Dudleytown is fiction? Perhaps the DEFA are trying to cover up these events? For what reason? Wouldn’t they stand to gain if they held ghost tours and allowed ghost hunters to freely traverse the land that was once the settlement? Truthfully, if it’s strange or unexplained, visitors to this particular patch of land have seen it. I’m not sure what the reasoning is, but you’ll get hauled off by the authorities if you’re caught trespassing.

Rev. Gary Dudley wrote 3 books on the topic of Dudleytown and the supposed curse/ paranormal phenomena. Dudley asserts that moldy rye and a lack of connection between the cursed Edmund Dudley and Joseph Dudley of Saybrook, Connecticut basically debunk all of the campfire tales told by teenagers to spook their friends. Truthfully, the internet is awash with blog posts about Dudleytown and they all basically say the same thing: Dudleytown is a cursed piece of land that is haunted by its past. Supposedly, the stories about the settlement’s terrifying history began in the 1940s with the return of soldiers after WWII. They’d tell their girlfriends scary stories and drive up the Dark Entry road late at night. But is that all there is to Dudleytown? Perhaps we’ll never truly know and perhaps there will always be those who can’t help but believe.

If you’d like to read up on Dudleytown, check out Rev. Gary Dudley’s books. I’m going to grab a couple myself because I’m keen to make sense of all this. I’m including the link for anyone else who would like to learn more. https://www.amazon.com/Gary-P-Dudley/e/B001KHA3OA/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Have you visited Dudleytown? Got a story you’d like to share? Send it to me at theoddentitypodcast.gmail.com.

Your Fellow ODDball,

Janine

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16400909

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/double-trouble/

https://www.damnedct.com/dudleytown

https://www.americanhauntingsink.com/dudleytown

https://www.ghostvillage.com/legends/dudleytown.shtml

Haunted Monterey

S4 Ep. 10: Haunted Monterey

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This week Janine talks to author and journalist Patrick Whitehurst about his new book Haunted Monterey County. Discussion ranges from Whitehurst’s favorite haunted locations to traditional folklore tales and soul-sucking cats.

About Patrick Whitehurst

Patrick Whitehurst is a fiction and non-fiction author. As a journalist, he’s worked for a number of newspapers and covered everything from the heartbreaking deaths of nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots to President Barack Obama’s visit to Grand Canyon. He’s also the author of the novellas Monterey Noir and Monterey Pulp, with a third, Monterey Lies, in the works. His most recent book, Haunted Monterey County, reveals the many ghostly locations found in the Central Coast community. He’s currently at work on a fifth nonfiction book for The History Press, Murder & Mayhem in Tucson, Arizona, due out late next year.

Patrick lives with his fiancé and four little dogs in Tucson, Arizona. Find him online at patrickwhitehurst.com, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Haunted Monterey County available here: https://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Monterey-County-America/dp/1467142352/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3FSJ4JN0C11N7&keywords=patrick+whitehurst&qid=1574050669&sprefix=patrick+white%2Caps%2C159&sr=8-1
https://www.instagram.com/whitehurst12/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3553441.Patrick_Whitehurst

https://twitter.com/pmwhitehurst

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPatrickWhitehurst/

 

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Email your recommendations for spooky places I should cover or send your favorite folklore tales or stories about true paranormal experiences you’ve had. theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com

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New Episode Available for Download!

S4 Ep: 9 Blair Witch Kinda Sh*t

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This week, Janine introduces us to (supposedly) one of the most haunted places on earth: Dudleytown, Connecticut. Does the Dudley curse keep forest creatures away from Dudleytown? Is there something lurking in the woods surrounding it? Is the Dark Entry Forest Association hiding the true sinister nature of the place? Can the cases of insanity be explained away? We’ll explore the history of the settlement and some of the urban legends surrounding the location.

This episode contains sleigh robe stealing shenanigans, the Dark Entry Forest Association, unexplained disappearances, and a beheaded witch hunter.

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The Death Of Halloween

It’s the Halloween season, a season adorned with pumpkins and fuzzy black cat cutouts from Beistle, pumpkin spice, comfy clothes, and healthy hijinks. I love Halloween, it’s my season, but there are some people who get awfully anxious about the holiday and everything it entails. But why? Obviously, kids trick or treating at night should wear something reflective, carry a flashlight, make sure they can see well out of their masks, and be accompanied by a responsible adult. Of course, they shouldn’t crisscross the street and gather their treats from one side at a time and they should absolutely have someone check their treats before anything gets consumed. I remember watching a PSA in school every year up until about junior high. The same little cartoon pumpkin telling us to beware of strangers (stranger danger was in full swing at that time) and not to accept fruit or baked goods while on our trick or treating tours. My father always told me to accept and that we’d throw those things away later. Even he wasn’t safe from the terror of tampered Halloween candy. But where did this fear come from and why are we still so concerned about psychopaths tainting our treats?

I remember filling pillowcases and those plastic pumpkin buckets (which equals roughly 3 lbs of sugar or 9k cal.) with treats from all over the neighborhood. We had a guy on my street who ran a vending company so he handed out nearly expired full-sized Snickers bars and cans of Pepsi to his trick or treaters. We always stopped there last, saving the best. I never once considered that my neighbor, the man who waved at us as we were walking to the bus stop at the base of the hill, would want to murder us with the treats he handed out.

History of Tricks and Treats

The custom of trick or treating didn’t catch on in the US until the 1920/30’s, but this Halloween practice has deep roots. The Celts dressed up as evil spirits to defend against the demons thought to be wandering the earth. They celebrated the New Year on Nov. 1 (All Souls Day) and they believed that those not dressed in costume would be taken by the demons wandering the earth during the time when the veil between the world of the living and the dead was thinnest. Those in costume would be mistaken for a demon themselves and the evil spirits would leave them in peace. The Catholic Church changed the pagan tradition into All Hallows Eve and All Souls’ Day and many of the Celtic traditions were adopted. Though the church encouraged people to dress as saints and angels, some still dressed as devils and goblins. In the Middle Ages, the poor would often dress up and go door to door asking for money or food in exchange for prayers. The tradition was called “souling.” A prayer for the soul offered by a visitor.

Many Halloween traditions came about during this time, including bobbing for apples, pulling candy, and roasting chestnuts. Partygoers to Ms. Marion Bostwick’s Halloween soiree in Janesville, WI in 1889 would enjoy all of the above. They also cut open apples to examine the seeds, “In apple seeds, two are said to signify an early wedding; three, a legacy; four, indicate a great wealth; five, a voyage across the sea; six, fame as a public speaker; seven, the gift most desired by the finder.” (WPR.org) They would also remove the apple’s skin in one piece and throw it over their right shoulder, believing that the shape it took when it hit the floor would be the initial of the individual you were to marry. Celebrations would often give way to vandalism and led to the adoption of a strict trick or treating schedule, but it didn’t really stick. Sugar rationing during WWII put an end to many trick or treating practices, but boomers took it up again as standard practice after the war.

Trick or treaters of today often find themselves going door to door in the afternoon when the sun is high in the sky. Still more find that trick or treating is held one or even two weeks before the actual holiday. This practice is due in part to superstition and the tendency of many people to believe the urban legends surrounding Halloween.

Let’s talk a little about a few of the reasons why Halloween has been castrated.

Cases of Poisoned Treats

Razor blades, poison, drugs, pins, and chocolate-covered laxatives… What do all of these things have in common? They’ve all been found in Halloween treat bags, cleverly disguised by a piece of candy to hide their sinister nature and having been placed there by sinister individuals looking to harm little children.

Wait…really?

Actually, there have only been a handful of cases where children legitimately found harmful substances in their Halloween candy. One child accidentally ate his parent’s heroin stash and died. The parents put some of the heroin in the kid’s Halloween candy to make it look like he’d been poisoned by tainted treats. In another instance, a dentist gave out chocolate-covered laxatives to trick or treaters causing them to become violently ill. The dentist was caught and charges were filed. No fatalities in that case. In New York, a woman handed out poison ant buttons, dog biscuits, and steel wool as treats, something that authorities didn’t find funny even though she assured them it was just a joke and she was trying to get back at the older kids who shouldn’t be trick or treating.

In 2018, Erin Blakemore wrote an article for History.com addressing some of the reasons why Americans are antsy about Halloween and trick or treating. According to Blakemore,

“When they [sociologists and criminal justice experts Joel Best and Gerald T. Horiuchi] conducted an extensive study on so-called “Halloween sadism,” or crimes specifically committed using Halloween treats or customs, they concluded that the threat is greatly exaggerated. Though both parents and kids are taught to be on the alert for tampered-with sweets, most of the cases the researchers analyzed were either overstated or could not be linked to Halloween itself.”

Best and Joriuchi say that many (read most) reports of Halloween sadism are of “questionable authenticity” but Snopes.com will tell you that much.

The fourth and final instance of candy tampering is likely the most disturbing.

The Candyman

On a cloudy Halloween night in Pasadena, TX, Ronald Clarke O’Bryan, his son Timothy (8), and daughter Elizabeth (5) pile into the car to meet a friend from church. O’Bryan had arranged with the fellow parishioner that he and his two kids would join him and his children in their upscale neighborhood in Houston, TX to trick or treat. It’s a damp night and it’s begun to drizzle, but the rain doesn’t ruin their fun. The children run from house to house knocking on doors and laughing. At one house, the porch light is out. The kids knock anyway and O’Bryan, who had been following the children to the doors while the other father waited on the sidewalk, decided to wait for a response while the kids went to the next house. A few minutes later, O’Bryan returns with five 21” Pixy stix. He says something to the other father about the rich people who live in the neighborhood and the “premium treats” being handed out. The stix are too long to fit in the kid’s Halloween bags and buckets, so O’Bryan offers to carry them while they gather the rest of their treats.

Later, once everyone has returned to his house, O’Bryan hands out the Pixy Stix to the kids. He’s still got one left, but he says he’ll eat that one himself. A few minutes later, a group of kids knock on O’Bryan’s door including Whitney Parker, a boy O’Bryan knows from his church. He gives the Pixy stick to the boy.

Once the other kids have left, after all the excitement of the evening has died down, Timothy removes his Planet of the Apes costume and gets ready for bed. He asks his father if he can have some of his Halloween candy. O’Bryan tells him he can only have one, so Timothy chooses the Pixy Stick. The candy is clumped together and Timothy can’t get the candy out. O’Bryan helps to break it up, rolling the stick between his hands, and pours the candy down his son’s throat. Shortly thereafter, Timothy becomes violently ill, vomiting and convulsing. An ambulance is called and Timothy is rushed to the hospital, but it’s too late. Timothy is dead.

c9db4418b05efb818a64fec89ecd197b
Timothy O’Bryan (farthest right) Photo from https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/a39329/halloween-photo-story/

Pasadena police begin going from house to house, waiting with bated breath as the parents, having been awakened at around 3 in the morning, groggily go check on their children. The police find 4 more Pixy Stix, all laced with cyanide. The candy was unopened.

Kids often make up stories about their Halloween candy being tampered with. I did it myself. I put a piece of plastic in a Mars bar and nearly gave my grandmother a heart attack, but it was funny as hell. Of course, the trick backfired and my grandmother threw out all of the candy I’d collected for fear that ALL the candy was tainted. Parents do it, too. There have been multiple instances where parents have actually inserted razor blades and other inanimate or dangerous objects into candy in order to prove a point. I can personally think of a dozen other ways to prove the point that kids should have their parents check candy prior to consumption so that’s quite the trick in my book. No kids have been harmed by this particular trick. But Timothy wasn’t the victim of a trick gone wrong.

It turns out that O’Bryan had taken out life insurance policies on his kids and made up the entire story of the Pixy Stix in order to cover his tracks. With Timothy’s death, O’Bryan stood to gain $100,000. Unfortunately for him, his plan backfired. The individual he accused of giving him the treats, he pointed to the house that had the porch light off that night, was working as an air traffic controller and had over 200 witnesses to corroborate his story. The police quickly honed in on O’Bryan, the man who had openly wept at his son’s funeral and accepted the condolences of attendees. The boy had ingested a lethal dose of potassium cyanide. According to a pathologist, the candy Timothy had ingested contained enough cyanide to kill two adults while the other four candies contained dosages that could kill three to four adults. O’Bryan denied he had anything to do with the poisoning, but it was discovered that he had actually gone to several lab supply companies asking to buy cyanide. O’Bryan was arrested and charged with capital murder and the attempted murder of his daughter and the other children he’d given poisoned candy to on November 5, 1974. His wife immediately divorced him. In prison, child killer O’Bryan was shunned by the other inmates and was said to be entirely friendless. The other inmates even petitioned to hold an organized demonstration on his execution date to express their hatred of him. Phil Donahue (you remember the talk show Donahue, right?) interviewed O’Bryan on death row. When Donahue tells O’Bryan that people have accused him of ruining Halloween for everyone, O’Bryan laughs, gives a peaceful smile, and says, “That’s a matter of opinion.”

O’Bryan was put to death (after several stays of execution) on March 31, 1984, at the age of 39 in Huntsville, TX. His final statement was simple. “I forgive all – and I do mean all – those who have been involved in my death. God bless you all, and may God’s best blessings be always yours.”  O’Bryan never admitted to poisoning his son. Ronald Clark O’Bryan, a seemingly mild-mannered optician, would forever be known as The Candyman or The Man Who Killed Halloween.

 

Halloween PSA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC2NMHMvzZ0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcfkNr9R-T8

Urban legend Halloween candy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRobZovwvkM

Ronald Clark O’Bryan

https://www.history.com/news/how-americans-became-convinced-their-halloween-candy-was-poisoned

https://www.wpr.org/trick-or-treating-newer-halloween-tradition-us

S4 Ep. 8: Laughin’ ’til I’m Coffin

New Episode Available!
S4 Ep. 8: Laughin’ ‘til I’m Coffin
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This week, Katie discusses the strange phenomenon of stairs to nowhere. Janine introduces us to The Man Who Killed Halloween, Ronald Clark O’Bryan.
This episode contains randomly appearing (and disappearing) staircases in random wooded areas, a sprinkle of true crime, a sadistic nanny named Agatha (who we’re pretty sure doesn’t exist), and some Halloween history.
c9db4418b05efb818a64fec89ecd197b
Timothy O’Bryan (farthest right) Photo from https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/a39329/halloween-photo-story/

 

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Sources: