S5 Ep. 9: Big Bad Bodie

Hopers and dreamers make wonderful things happen. They have a fleeting thought, an idea that nibbles at them until they take the first steps to creation. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” Trailblazers. Hope and a dream.

It was the winter of 1859, cold and unforgiving. The gold rush was on and men from every walk of life crowded to Bodie, California in hopes of striking it rich. Of course, the place wasn’t named Bodie when they arrived, the name came later, but let’s just say that people were mining and panning in an area in eastern California, just north of Mono Lake. A man whose first name was Waterman set down roots here, having come from Poughkeepsie, NY to find his fortune. In the 1845 edition of the Poughkeepsie Business Directory, he is listed as a tin manufacturer with his shop address as 345 Main Street. His home address is listed to be on the corner of South Hamilton and Montgomery streets. The important thing to remember here is that the man’s last name was Bodey, B-o-d-e-y, later misspelled by a sign painter as B-o-d-i-e. The land he claimed would later become known as Bodie Bluff and a town was built there to house the many prospectors that made their way there.

Unfortunately, Bodie wouldn’t live to see his name be attributed to the place because, as the weather was inclined to do in the winter months, there was a terrible snowstorm. Bodie, needing supplies from Monoville, decided to travel with a Native American companion through the storm regardless of the risk. Slogged down by snow and howling winds, the two quickly became disoriented and walked in circles endlessly. They found themselves without shelter, a fire, or food. Bodie perished in the storm, being unable to walk any further, and his body was found during the spring thaw.

Sometimes hope and a dream can only take you so far. Sometimes you also need shelter from the storm.

Hello ODD Pod listeners and welcome back to another episode.

This week, I bring you an in-depth look at Bodie California and the ghostly history that still lingers within some of the dilapidated buildings. I realized recently that I hadn’t taken you to a haunted location for a little while and I thought Bodie would be perfect.

Before we get started, I’d like to thank everyone for their well wishes regarding my thesis. The document is finally finished and submitted to my university for their archives. I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ll get my diploma in May, but I’ve been working toward this accomplishment for 2 years and I’m more than happy to be done. So, thanks to my faithful followers for the notes of encouragement and support. Also, big thanks to my lovely wife and to my dear friend Tony who helped to keep me on track and heading toward that goal. You guys are awesome.

Anyway, on with the show!

Interest in Bodie may have been high at the start, but by 1868 only two stamp mills had been built in Bodie by two separate companies. Both failed. But don’t despair for Bodie just yet!

From Wikipedia, “In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5,000–7,000 people and around 2,000 buildings. One legend says that in 1880, Bodie was California’s second or third-largest city, but the U.S. Census of that year disproves this. Over the years, Bodie’s mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.

Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid– to late 1880. The first newspaper, The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County, published its first edition on October 10, 1877. Starting as a weekly, it soon expanded publication to three times a week. It was also during this time that a telegraph line was built which connected Bodie with Bridgeport and Genoa, Nevada. California and Nevada newspapers predicted Bodie would become the next Comstock Lode. Men from both states were lured to Bodie by the prospect of another bonanza.

Gold bullion from the town’s […] stamp mills was shipped to Carson City, Nevada, by way of Aurora, Wellington and Gardnerville. Most shipments were accompanied by armed guards. After the bullion reached Carson City, it was delivered to the mint there, or sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco.”

At its peak, Bodie boasted around 2,000 buildings including:

McDonell/Dolan House Donald and Mary McDonnell lived here with their son Frank around 1920, and later schoolteacher Alice Dolan lived here from 1935 to 1937.
Methodist Church The church was built in 1882 and is the only one left in Bodie.
D. V. Cain House This was built in 1873 and housed David Victor Cain and his wife Ella M. Cody.
Red Barn While faded over time, there is still some red paint left on the barn.
Miller House Tom and Jessie Miller lived here with their two children. Tom worked as a teamster for the Bodie Railway and Lumber Company.
James Stuart Cain House James S. Cain and his wife Martha Delilah Wells lived here. Cain was a lumber merchant and banker, owning many of the properties in Bodie.
Saddle Room This was owned by Harvey Boone, operator of a general store.
Morgue This mortuary still has caskets inside. This is the only building in town made from red brick that was laid 3 layers thick. It was likely to help maintain a cooler temperature for the deceased.
Miners’ Union Hall This served as a gathering place for union members and was used to host large festivals. It has since been renovated into a museum and gift shop.
I.O.O.F. Hall The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was a fraternal society that operated in Bodie.
DeChambeau Hotel As of 1879, it was initially a post office, but it later became a hotel and finally a bar and café.
County Barn
Swasey (Swazey) Hotel Horace F. Swasey bought this building in 1894. Later it became a clothing store and casino.
Boone Store and Warehouse Harvey Boone and James W. Wright operated this general store, which had a Shell gas station adjacent to the right.
Lottie and Eli Johl House The Johls were successful mining investors who purchase many properties in Bodie. This building housed the post office from 1932 to 1942.
Sam Leon’s Bar Sam Leon was owner of the U.S. Hotel until it was destroyed in a 1932 fire. In 1937 he opened a bar in this location.
Joe Hahner Barber Shop Joe Hahner was the last barber to work in Bodie.
Firehouse Bodie was subject to frequent fires, most notably in 1892 and 1932. The California Conservation Corps rebuilt this building in the 1930s.
Wheaton and Luhrs George H. Wheaton and Nicholas C. Luhrs operated a general store here in the 1880s, which was later purchased by James Cain in 18998.
Hydroelectric Building This was an electricity substation for the town.
Schoolhouse Having reached a maximum enrollment of 615 in 1879-1880, the school finally shut down in 1942.
Gregory House Nathan Gregory was a cattle rancher who lived here with his wife Catherine and their four children.
McMillan House A. E. McMillan served as secretary of the Bodie Miners’ Union.
Miller Boarding House William and Annie Currie Miller ran this boarding house, providing lodging primarily to single miners.
Conway House Thomas Robert and Annie Conway lived here with their three children.
Dr. Street’s House John A. Street worked as a doctor for the Treadwell-Yukon Mining Company from 1930 to 1932.
Quinville House Frank F. Quinville, a blacksmith, lived here with his wife Mary and their five children.
Standard Mill The Standard Consolidated Mining Company was the most important mining company in Bodie, and this was their stamp mill. This area has been deemed unsafe and visitors may not enter except as part of a guided tour.
Chinese Laundry Previously this site was home to Bodie’s Masonic Hall, Lodge No. 252, but a laundry building was moved here after the lodge was consolidated with the one in Bishop in 1918.
Bodie Bank The ruins consist of the bank’s brick vault, the only thing left after it was destroyed by a fire in 1932.
Kirkwood Stable Stewart Kirkwood ran a stable with a blacksmith shop inside. Horses and mules were used to transport goods on wagons.
Jail Constable John Kirgan ran the jail from 1878 to 1881.
Moyle House (north) The Moyle family owned two houses, the other one further south.
Stewart Kirkwood House In addition to running the stables, Kirkwood was also a deputy sheriff.
Bell Machine Shop Son of Lester Bell, Bobby Bell worked in mining and assisted in the establishment of the state park.
Reddy House Patrick Reddy was a California State Senator and defense attorney who had offices in both Bodie and San Francisco.
Murphy/McRae House The 1880 census identified this as the Murphy house, but it is unknown who exactly lived here out of the many Murphys. Carpenter William McRae was the last known resident.
Cody House Michael J. Cody, a miner and Mono County Sheriff, lived here with his wife Catherine and their six children.
Menesini House Joseph and Fortunata Menesini lived here with their daughter.
Lester E. Bell House Bell managed Standard’s cyanide plant, which used cyanide to extract gold from low-grade ore.
Cameron House Andrew P. Cameron, a miner, lived here with his wife and two children.
Seiler House August Seiler, a saloonkeeper, lived here with his wife Theresa and four children.
Donnelly House Charlie Donnelly and his wife Annie Pagdin lived here, and afterwards Emil W. and Dolly Billeb moved in.
Sawmill The sawmill provided firewood to help residents endure Bodie’s harsh winters.
McDonald House Dan McDonald worked for Standard, where he was injured in an explosion. Later Solomon Burkham came to own this place.
Metzger House Henry Metzger, foreman of Standard Mill, lived here with his wife Lena and their five children.


Blogger Jason Abplanalp describes early life in Bodie vividly on his blog. “At its peak between 1879 and 1881, Bodie’s main street reached over a mile in length. During this time, Bodie had 2 churches (Catholic and Methodist), at least 2 newspapers, a telegraph station, post office, 22 operating mines,  many large (and very noisy) stamp-style ore mills, multiple motels, several general stores and mercantiles, stables, doctors and pharmacists, union halls, schools, breweries, and several dozen saloons. Although it is difficult to accurately gauge the size of the town due to the transient nature of the region’s population in the 1870’s and 1880’s, Bodie was likely the 6th or 7th largest city in California at this time.

Aside from the vast mineral wealth and the rough and tumble reputation of the town, Bodie’s next claim to fame is the installation and operation of the world’s first long-distance electrical transmission network. In 1892, the Superintendent of Bodie’s Standard Mine began designing an electrical system to replace the facility’s expensive and laborious steam plant. After locating a suitable site for a hydroelectric station on Green Creek near Bridgeport, 12.5 miles of suspended power lines were strung linking the 3300-volt hydroelectric station to the mine. At this time, electrical transmission over such a great distance was unheard of and many of the mine’s investors were skeptical of the undertaking. Once the lights turned on and the machinery began turning on electrical power, the skeptics were turned to believers and industry was revolutionized at a global scale.”

Some parts of Bodie were civilized, filled with upstanding citizens who used their wealth to better their living situation, while many more spent their money on women, booze, and gambling. It was sometimes so rowdy, that the town earned the nickname Big Bad Bodie. The local Methodist minister, Rev. F.M. Warrington commented that Bodie was a “sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion!” The town was also a magnet for other unsavory characters like murderers and thieves who likely knew that Bodie only had one jail and hardly enough police presence to keep the seedy side under control. At least one person per day met their end at the hands of one of these cutthroats. The funeral business was booming in Bodie.


People in Bodie were able to make a life for themselves and they lived well, but in 1917, the Bodie Railway was abandoned and its iron tracks were scrapped, though Bodie had first been described as a ghost town two years before that. An action like this can be the first indicator of the doom of a small town and it absolutely was. Truthfully, people had already started to leave Bodie for Montana, Tombstone, and Arizona in the 1880s. These places were next in line to experience the boom that Bodie once had. In the summer of 1892, a kitchen fire destroyed much of the town west of Main Street. Although the buildings were rebuilt, many residents decided to leave. Another fire in the summer of 1932, started by a boy playing with matches, was the final nail in the coffin. There’s a story that goes something like, the boy was upset he didn’t get the birthday cake he wanted so he lit a table on fire. I’m not sure if I believe that. The last mine closed in 1942, due to War Production Board order L-208. This meant that all non-essential gold mines were shut down during WWII.  Mining never resumed after the war.

By the tail end of the 1940s, Bodie was only really visited by tourists who were interested in the historical value of the place. In 1962, after years of negligence, the town became a State Historic Park. Eventually, it graduated to become a California Historic Site.

Of course, a place like Bodie, steeped in so much history, is never truly empty. In fact, some of the residents of Bodie never left. They’ve lingered there, keeping an eye on the place from the afterlife.

A lot of people were killed during Bodie’s gold rush era either by a bullet, a mine collapse, or just poor living conditions. The history is a little dicey here, so bear with me. According to some, the spirit of a man named Ed haunts Bodie, shaking his fist at onlookers. Ed was a resident of Bodie who lived with his Native American bride. I’m not sure what caused it, but one day Ed shot his wife fatally. She died in the hospital. Three townsfolk who decided to take the law into their own hands tied Ed up and took him to a nearby creek. They kicked and beat him until he went unconscious, then left him to drown. As the story goes, these three men died one after the other in a series of strange occurrences after Ed’s ghost appeared to them shaking his fist. One man died after sustaining a huge gash to his face, the second died from a hemorrhage that caused fluid to build up in his head, the third disappeared and died in a ravine. Did they all die because Ed had placed some sort of curse on them? Was it just the luck of the draw given the conditions in Bodie?

There are many active shadow people in Bodie, seen out of the corner of your eye peeking out a window or a door that’s ajar and some of these spirits see fit to punish those who choose to ignore the rules of the park. Visitors aren’t allowed to take any sort of souvenir from the place as these items are historic, but people try to break these rules all the time. Dutiful spirits keep an eye on visitors and, if someone chooses to break the rules, they are doomed to experience misfortune. It is supposed that the spirits are cursing stolen objects the visitors are bringing home with them. The park rangers regularly receive letters and packages containing items that were stolen in hopes that returning the item might lift the curse placed on them.

So, let’s visit some of the haunted locations within Bodie, starting with the Gregory House. The house is relatively small with only enough floor space for a chair, a bed, and a small table. Historians believe the home was much larger as it belonged to a wealthy family and that this is all that remains of the structure. Visitors have reported seeing an old woman rocking in a rocking chair inside the house, knitting peacefully. Occasionally, the chair can be seen rocking by itself with nobody in it. There has been no evidence captured of this particular entity, but rangers, volunteers, and repairmen have all said they’ve seen her and can even pick out her facial features clearly when she manifests.

A man named Mendocini drive freight trucks from Aurora to Bodie and had a modest home there. The Mendocini home is one of the structurally sound buildings in town and rangers often live there in season. The Mendocini children are often heard playing and laughing inside and outside the home and they are curious about the people who inhabit their home. The spirit of Mrs. Mendocini or the eldest daughter Anna often offers hospitality to the rangers any way they can. Sometimes, the house smells of wonderful Italian food or strongly of garlic. One park ranger, after wishing he had garlic for the lasagna he made had to leave the house when a strong aroma of garlic began to make his eyes water and his sinuses burn. Yet another ranger was sitting alone reading when he heard the sounds of a raucous party going on. He heard loud voices and glasses clinking. The ranger checked outside but saw no one. When he entered the house again, he thanked the hostess for inviting him to the party, but he had a lot of reading to do. The disembodies voices and general noise completely disappeared.

John S. Cain wound up owning the Standard Mine and Mill in Bodie and became the town’s principal property owner. He was very rich and the level of his wealth is apparent in the house he built for his family. It’s filled with beautiful woodwork, large windows, and a second story. Cain could even afford to hire servants that took care of all the chores in the working of the house and his family. Supposedly, Mr. Cain was having an affair with one servant in particular and, when Mrs. Cain found out about it, she promptly told him to fire her. The woman, having had a reputation destroyed and unwilling to join the sex trade, is said to have taken her own life. In the Cain house, doors open and close on their own. The spirit of the female servant is said to make her presence known, particularly in the bedrooms and often tries to “play” with children who are staying at the house or touring it. Her figure can be seen in the upstairs windows, smiling down at people on the street. The sound of a music box playing can be heard in an upstairs bedroom.

Many rangers have reported waking suddenly to an almost suffocating pressure on their chest. Some of the ranger’s wives have also reported this. Whoever this female servant was has a problem with couples who stay at the Cain House.

Our last stop on the Bodie tour is the Bodie Cemetery. As I mentioned before, there’s a “good” cemetery and a “bad” cemetery and those who committed crimes weren’t permitted to be buried within the fence. They were laid to rest outside the fence.

From hauntedhouses.com, “Bodie Cemetery has around eighty tombstones still marking the graves of the departed. There are three official large sections of sub-cemeteries that make up the majority of graves in Bodie Cemetery: The Miner’s Union Cemetery area; (38 marked graves), for the general public: the Wards Cemetery area; (29 marked graves), and The Masonic Cemetery area; (9 marked graves).

The other people while alive that didn’t quite measure up to social ethnic standards […] and/or behavioral standards; (*sex workers, thugs, etc,) were buried outside the perimeters of the Bodie official cemetery plots, due to their line of work when they were alive.

Just west of the three sub-cemeteries was the Chinese Cemetery. The Chinese who died in California wanted to be buried only long enough for their bones to be clean, so their family members could take their bones back to the homeland. Unfortunately, several hundred Chinese remain buried in their cemetery section because of the need for their relatives to leave Bodie due to violent prejudice and to find work elsewhere.

The outcasts of Bodie, that include gunmen, murderers, prostitutes, children born out of wedlock, were buried in their own section, marked with only posts or piles of rocks.”


Some of the more frequently seen spirits in the cemetery are those of children. Often, these spirits appear to children who are the age they were when they passed away. One little girl named Evelyn who was accidentally struck in the head with a pickaxe, often appears to other little girls who visit the cemetery. When parents ask their kids who they’re talking to or playing with, some children have said they’re playing with the little girl who has a hole in her head. Adults have also heard Evelyn. A male tourist heard “a plaintive, hopeful little cry from an unseen child presence say “Daddy?””

The area outside the cemetery is home to many Chinese individuals who were interred there often based solely on their ethnicity. Their spirits are often seen wandering, likely longing for the place they once called home and seeking rest with their ancestors. The portion of Bodie known as Chinatown is long gone, likely burned in the 1932 fire, but the staff who work there often experience lights turning off and on, cold spots, doors opening and closing, and disembodied voices. Perhaps these spirits aren’t just confined to the cemetery.

In many cases, the tombstones on these graves cannot be read as time has washed away the names, but efforts have been made to identify those who were laid to rest there. I’ll drop a link into the show notes so that you can pay your respects. There are over 150 markers and 200 known burial sites so it might take you a while.

Annually, Bodie sees around 200,000 visitors who come to explore the dirt roadways, cemeteries (there are 2, one for respectable citizens and one for “others”, which made up a lot of the population of Bodie during its heyday), and stamp mill. Though some of the buildings are used as residences for the living (park rangers and volunteers in season), many venture to into Bodie hoping to catch a glimpse of what life was like for prospectors and maybe even meet a few spirits along the way. Just remember to leave things as you found them and don’t take anything home.

That’s it for this week, dear listeners. I’ll be back again next week with more tales of the creepy, weird, and paranormal.

Until next time, Stay Spooky!


The ODDentity Podcast is brought to you on a weekly basis by host Janine Mercer.

The podcast is written, produced, and edited by Janine Mercer (unless otherwise stated), and the music is provided by Garage Band.

Find the odd pod on Twitter and Instagram @oddentitypod and on Facebook as The Oddentity Podcast. You are welcome to email suggestions for future episodes to theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com and if you’d like a transcript of this episode, one will be available at theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com.

Please take a moment to leave a 5* review on iTunes and, if you haven’t already, please make sure to mash that Subscribe button to be sure you’re in the know when a new episode drops. Sincerest thanks to those who have promoted The ODDentity Podcast to their family, friends, and coworkers. Every little bit helps!





Pay your respects to the spirits of Bodie at https://www.bodie.com/history/cemetery/


S5 Ep. 8: The 13th Child

S5 Ep. 8: The 13th Child


This week, I bring you the tale of a favorite cryptid of mine, The Jersey Devil, and the folklore that surrounds this fascinating creature. This show suggestion has been hanging around for a little while and I thought with all the unknowns we’re dealing with in our crazy world, a cryptid wouldn’t go astray.

I’d also like to fill you all in as far as what’s happening in my world right now. Currently, I’m in the process of editing the thesis for my MFA program (a 200-page document) and I’m fitting that in between work and the podcast. For the next couple of weeks, I won’t be posting episodes as I’ll be waist-deep in that document, but I’ll return on the 27th with a new episode.

This episode contains a very shitty Benjamin Franklin, a creepy cryptid, and some unreliable news sources.

Pregnancy comes with its own set of fears and frustrations. Some mothers worry their baby might be born with a deformity while others fear they might have to be pregnant forever. Others simply become frustrated with the experience, the uncomfortable nature of carrying around new life, swollen ankles, and the cravings for, often disgusting, concoctions. Jane Leeds was no different. Her frustrations came to a head when she was told of the birth of her 13th child. Jane had already given birth to 12 children and was at her wits end after receiving the news. The year was 1735, long before contraception or abstinence was an option. Infant mortality rates were high and having so many children was a necessary evil. But up until this point, Jane didn’t know evil. She cursed the child in frustration, crying out that the child would be the devil. On a stormy night as the wind and rain raged outside their small home, Jane gave birth to her 13th child. Appearing normal at first, the child gradually morphed into a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. The creature gained its footing and attacked the family members present, killing as many as it could. Then, it turned and flew up the chimney, destroying the structure. The remaining family members cowered in fear, listening to the creature’s bloodcurdling shriek as it disappeared into the night.


This week, I bring you the tale of a favorite cryptid of mine, The Jersey Devil, and the folklore that surrounds this fascinating creature. This show suggestion has been hanging around for a little while and I thought with all the unknowns we’re dealing with in our crazy world, a cryptid wouldn’t go astray. I’d also like to fill you all in as far as what’s happening in my world right now. Currently, I’m in the process of editing the thesis for my MFA program (a 200 page document) and I’m fitting that in between work and the podcast. For the next couple of weeks, I won’t be posting episodes as I’ll be waist deep in that document, but I’ll return on the 27th with a new episode. I also think it’s important to take time to breathe and I feel like I haven’t been giving myself much of a chance lately. I pretty much just go from episode to episode and never really take time to enjoy the content. I’ll be doing a little of that as well during this downtime.

In addition to that news, I wanted to give a shout out to Lawyer Douglas and Tyler Zottarelle, owners of The Wilde Collection in Houston, TX. I visited Houston a few years ago because I’d been invited to sit on a panel at a writing conference there and happened upon The Wilde Collection. The store was simply amazing, filled to the brim with amazing taxidermy and one of a kind items. It was beautiful and mesmerizing and I seriously could have lived there. In November of last year, a man suffering from mental health issues walked into the store, poured gasoline, and lit a match. The beautiful Wilde Collection went up in flames and, although the owners have found some artifacts amongst the rubble that could be saved, the store itself is a total loss. A terrible loss. They’re very close to their $70,000 clean up goal, but I wanted to reach out to my listeners and see if anyone could lend a hand. The Wilde Collection was such an amazing place. It absolutely deserves to return and bring joy to oddies hearts once more. Lawyer Douglas has started a Go Fund Me page in order to offset the repair costs not covered by insurance. I’ll drop the link into the show notes so that you can navigate there easily. The loss of The Wilde Collection is a terrible tragedy. My thoughts are with Lawyer and Tyler during this difficult rebuilding process.


And now…on with the show.

Whether you believe the tale of the Leeds family or not, you have to admit that the legend surrounding the Jersey Devil is fascinating. The story has been told and retold, but the facts remain basically the same. Not often the case with these kinds of stories. Many once referred to it by different names like Jabberwock, air hoss, and wozzle bug, but the term Jersey Devil has stuck around.

Now, I relayed the most popular folklore related to the Devil in my intro this week, but I also wanted to present a couple of other tales that have worked their way into this already odd story.

From AtlanticCounty.org, “Another story tells of a young Leeds Point girl who had fallen in love with a British soldier. The British had come to the region because the iron furnaces at Batsto were supplying the privateers. In 1778, the British engaged the Americans at the Battle of Chestnut Neck. The townsfolk opposed the match, calling her liaison an act of treason. They cursed the girl. According to legend, when she later gave birth to a child – it became known as the Leeds Devil.

A variation on the tale tells of a young woman who encounters a passing gypsy begging for food. She was frightened and refused. The gypsy cursed her for her refusal. Years later in 1850, with the curse forgotten, when the girl gave birth to her first child – a male – he became a devil and fled into the woods.”

The Jersey Devil (sometimes called the Leeds Devil or Devil of Leeds) is known by many either as being connected to the Leeds family or Leeds Point in New Jersey. Historically, some threads have been found to connect the dots and make the legend make sense, though I wonder if the researchers were just grasping in order to create something tangible. “Mother Leeds” has been identified by some of these researchers as Deborah Leeds. Her husband was Japhet Leeds and they lived in the Leeds Point section of (now) Atlantic County where the Jersey Devil is said to reside.

From Wikipedia,” Brian Regal, a historian of science at Kean University, theorizes that the story of Mother Leeds, rather than being based on a single historical person, originated from colonial southern New Jersey religio-political disputes that became the subject of folklore and gossip among the local population. According to Regal, folk legends concerning these historical disputes evolved through the years and ultimately resulted in the modern popular legend of the Jersey Devil during the early 20th century. Regal contends that “colonial-era political intrigue” involving early New Jersey politicians, Benjamin Franklin, and Franklin’s rival almanac publisher Daniel Leeds (1651–1720) resulted in the Leeds family being described as “monsters”, and it was Daniel Leeds’ negative description as the “Leeds Devil”, rather than any actual creature, that created the later legend of the Jersey Devil.

Much like the Mother Leeds of the Jersey Devil myth, Daniel Leeds’ third wife had given birth to nine children, a large number of children even for the time. Leeds’ second wife and first daughter had both died during childbirth. As a royal surveyor with strong allegiance to the British crown, Leeds had also surveyed and acquired land in the Egg Harbor area, located within the Pine Barrens. The land was inherited by Leeds’ sons and family and is now known as Leeds Point, one of the areas in the Pine Barrens currently most associated with the Jersey Devil legend and alleged Jersey Devil sightings.

Daniel Leeds was a Quaker and a prominent individual of pre-Revolution colonial southern New Jersey where the Pine Barrens are located but he was ostracized by his congregation because he published almanacs containing astrological symbols in 1687. These Pagan practices were blasphemous and the Quaker community confiscated and burned the writings. Leeds continued to publish, writing about Christian occultism and mysticism, cosmology, demonology, and natural magics. In the 1690s, Leeds, after further censorship of his work, converted to Anglicanism and published anti-Quaker documents that criticized the theology and accused Quakers of being anti-monarchists. Eventually, Leeds’ writings would be endorsed by Lord Cornbury, a man the Quaker community despised, and Leeds himself would work as a councilor to Cornbury. The Quakers saw Leeds as a traitor for rejecting Quaker beliefs and aiding the crown (leading me to believe that perhaps Leeds calling Quakers anti-monarchists actually wasn’t a far cry from the truth) and condemned him as evil.

When Leeds’ son Titan inherited his father’s almanac business, he began to include his family crest on the documents. It depicted a wyvern, a dragon-like creature that stands upright on two clawed feet. Perhaps the poor reputation of his family and the inclusion of the crest caused some to put two and two together to make 5 and create a monster. The beef between Benjamin Franklin and Titan Leeds for readers likely didn’t help either. Leeds “eventually competed with Benjamin Franklin’s popular Poor Richard’s Almanac. The competition between the two men intensified when, during 1733, Franklin satirically used astrology in his almanac to predict Titan Leeds’ death on October of that same year. Though Franklin’s prediction was intended as a joke at his competitor’s expense and a means to boost almanac sales, Titan Leeds was apparently offended at the death prediction, publishing a public admonition of Franklin as a “fool” and a “liar”. In a published response, Franklin mocked Titan Leeds’ outrage and humorously suggested that, in fact, Titan Leeds had died in accordance with the earlier prediction and was thus writing his almanacs as a ghost, resurrected from the grave to haunt and torment Franklin. Franklin continued to jokingly refer to Titan Leeds as a “ghost” even after Titan Leeds’ actual death during 1738. Daniel Leeds’ blasphemous and occultist reputation and his pro-monarchy stance in the largely anti-monarchist colonial south of New Jersey, combined with Benjamin Franklin’s later ongoing depiction of Titan Leeds as a ghost, may have originated or contributed to the local folk legend of a so-called “Leeds Devil” lurking in the Pine Barrens.”

Angela Tung from The Week wrote in 2014, “Crackpots aren’t the only ones who claim to have seen the creepy critter. In the early 19th century, U.S. Commodore Stephen Decatur is said to have seen it when he was “testing cannonballs in the Pine Barrens.” Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon (yes, that Napoleon) and Bordentown, N.J., resident, had his own sighting as well. According to Mental Floss, he was hunting alone in the woods when he heard a “strange hissing noise” and found himself face-to-face with an animal with a “long neck, wings, legs like a crane with horse’s hooves at the end, stumpy arms with paws, and a face like a horse or a camel.” It hissed once more before flying away.

Since then sightings of the monster have spread to areas all over the Garden State. […] For many New Jerseyans, the legend of the Jersey Devil is a fact, or fiction, of life.”

In case you’ve never been, the Pine Barrens area in New Jersey is almost impenetrable and filled with thick groundcover. It’s difficult to traverse and getting in to that place to take a look around is a challenge. This practically impassible area makes for the basis of some great creepy stories, but what about sightings of the Devil on the Garden State Parkway and the Jersey turnpike? People have clearly seen the creature in these areas as well and they’re pretty clear on what it was they saw.

Let’s look into some of the many reports from 1909. From Weird New Jersey, “In 18th and 19th centuries, the Jersey Devil was spotted sporadically throughout the Pine Barrens region, frightening local residents and any of those brave enough to traverse the vast undeveloped expanses of New Jersey’s southern reaches. Unearthly wails were often reported emanating from the dark forests and swampy bogs, and the slaughter of domesticated animals would invariably be attributed to the Phantom of the Pines. Over the years the legend of the Leeds Devil grew, occasionally even overstepping the boundaries of its rural Pine Barrens haunt to terrorize local towns and cities.

The most infamous of these incidents occurred during the week of January 16 through 23, 1909. Early in the week reports starting emerging from all across the Delaware Valley that strange tracks were being found in the snow. The mysterious footprints went over and under fences, through fields and backyards, and across the rooftops of houses. They were even reported in the large cities of Camden and Philadelphia. Panic immediately began to spread, and posses formed in more than one town. Fear and intrigue grew even greater when it was reported that bloodhounds refused to follow the unidentified creature’s trail in Hammonton. Schools closed or suffered low attendance throughout lower NJ and in Philadelphia. Mills in the Pine Barrens were forced to close when workers refused to leave their homes and travel through the woods to get to their jobs.

Eyewitnesses spotted the beast in Camden and in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and in both cities, police fired on it but did not manage to bring it down. A few days later it reappeared in Camden, attacking a late-night meeting of a social club and then flying away. Earlier that day it had appeared in Haddon Heights, terrorizing a trolley car full of passengers before flying away. Witnesses claimed that it looked like a large flying kangaroo. Another trolley car-full of people saw it in Burlington when it scurried across the tracks in front of their car.  In West Collingswood it appeared on the roof of a house and was described as an ostrich-like creature. Firemen turned their hose upon it, but it attacked them and then flew away. The entire week people reported that their livestock, particularly their chickens, were being slaughtered. This was most widespread in the towns of Bridgeton and Millville.

The marauding misanthrope reappeared later in the week in Camden, where a local woman found the beast attempting to eat her dog. She hit it with a broomstick and it flew away.

While there has not since been another week to match the frequency, fervor, and intensity of the January 1909 rampage, numerous sightings of the Jersey Devil have continued to be reported to this day.”

There are many old stories about the Jersey Devil but the Philadelphia Inquirer warns that journalistic standards were “loose” and newspapermen would often write stories as favors for people who gave them free meals or alcohol in payment. Newspapers would also try to outdo one another in terms of sightings.

One such Philadelphia newspaperman/vaudeville publicist, Norman Jeffries was likely to blame for a lot of the fake news circulating at the time. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“On Jan. 22, 1909, thanks most likely to Norman Jeffries, the Inquirer ran a story that offered a possible explanation to the mystery.

“VAMPIRE MISSING; LOOK OUT, JERSEY,” a headline on Page Two shouted. “Australian Wonder, Cross Between a Kangaroo and Bat, Strangely Disappears,” the subhead noted.

From where it disappeared and when, the story did not say, but it did recount a series of supposed encounters with the creature around South Jersey.

That very day, a hunting party “captured” the creature in Fairmount Park, the Inquirer reported Jan. 23.

It was, the story said, a cross between “a kangaroo and an Australian water bird” and called a “kangowing,” a made-up name for a nonexistent creature.

On Jan. 24, an ad for the struggling Dime Museum at Ninth and Arch Streets, which Jeffries had represented for years, appeared in the paper announcing that the captured Leeds Devil would be on display.

After the creature was reportedly captured in “the wilds of Fairmount Park,” ads invited the public to see the “Leeds Devil” at a museum at 9th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia.

A follow-up story that could have been written by Jeffries himself reported that “thousands” had turned out to see the “fuming and fretting” creature chained in a cage.

Some newspapers, however, were not buying it, and instead reported that the Leeds Devil was killed when its tail hit the electrified third rail of a train line in Gloucester County, disappearing in an explosion that left behind only a large patch of melted snow.

Years later, Jeffries, whose name also appears as Jefferies in newspaper clips, confessed to staging the stunt.

When he died at the age of 67 (or 57, according to the New York Times), the Inquirer said, “Reports that the Jersey Devil had reappeared aroused his showman instinct and he used all the arts of a press agent to build up the belief in the legend.”

As for the devil that appeared at the museum, Jeffries’ obituary said it was a “cleverly disguised kangaroo” — one that, despite its intent, did not save the showplace. It remained open for only a few more weeks, according to phillyhistory.org”


So, should the old accounts be believed? Given the propensity for papers at the time to weave tales to boost readership, they’re not reliable sources. But, if that’s really the case, if the Jersey Devil was simply made up to sell newspapers, why are people still seeing the Devil today? Let’s get into some reported sightings of the Jersey Devil that can’t be lumped in with the 1,000 or so sightings from 1909. These reports are all from nj.com and are likely the most popular sightings, not the only reported sightings.

In 1927, a cab driver in Salem City was changing a tire when he was allegedly attacked by the beast. This happened years before electric streetlights so it would have been extremely dark. The creature was screeching and screaming. He told police that he jumped back in the cab as quickly as he could and the creature was “pounding on the roof of the cab” as he drove away.

In the 1960s, screaming sounds could be heard at night. There was no explanation for the noises, though one could speculate it might have been a raccoon that found a nest of baby rabbits or a coyote. Regardless, randomly hearing something screaming late at night is unnerving. I’ll give them that. Several residents of Mays Landing heard the sound and contacted local authorities. Police tried to let people know that the Devil was a hoax, but “a circus owner countered their appeal by offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who could capture the creature.” The reward was never claimed.

It was on a night in 1972 when Mary Ritzer Christianson got a creepy feeling while driving from Blackwood to Glassboro. She claims she saw a figure cross the road 25’ behind her car, something taller than average that appeared to have thick haunches and a large head like that of a goat. The sighting was on Greentree Road.

In the early 1980s, a forest ranger, Chief Ranger Alan MacFarlane, came upon a scene on a South Jersey farm where a pack of pigs had been killed. He said, “the backs of their heads had been eaten and their bodies were scratched and torn.” There were no visible tracks and no blood found on the ground.

Fast forward to 1988, a Howell Township resident tells a reporter about an encounter with the Devil that he’d had 7 years prior. The account is highly detailed, right down to the teeth the creature had.

Somewhere between ’88 and ’89, a group riding dirt bikes in the Pine Barrens experienced malfunctions with their bikes. They wouldn’t start. The group was about 100 yards from a camp that they’d set up when they heard “a piercing, inhuman scream coming from the woods.” They quickly returned to camp and those who had stayed behind said they’d heard the screams too. When one of the riders visited a bar a few days after the incident, the bartender who overheard the story said he thought the rider had an encounter with the Jersey Devil.

In 1993, Forest Ranger John Irwin saw a strange creature in the road ahead of him along the Mullica River. Irwin reported it was about 6’ tall with horns and matted black fur. The creature stared Irwin down for a few moments before turning and running into the forest.

Fran Coppalo, owner of the Smithville Inn in Galloway Township witnessed a strange shadow on a wall in front of her while taking out the trash. Coppalo says she felt a strange calm when she saw the winged beast.

On Route 9 in Bayville, cars were forced to slam on their brakes when a 10’ tall figure came out of a wooded area and ran across the roadway. It disappeared just as quickly into the trees on the other side.

In 2015, in Galloway Township, Little Egg Harbor resident David Black was driving home on Route 9. He was near a golf course when he says he saw what he thought was a llama at the tree line at the side of the road. The creature suddenly spread its wings and flew out of sight. There’s a cell phone video of this sighting. I’ll add a link to the show notes. A few days after this video appeared, a woman named Emily Martin also caught the creature on video. Both Black and Martin claim the videos are unedited, but I think you’ll have the same suspicions I do. https://youtu.be/cXjUDCA2ovI

On Jan. 21, 2019 an article appeared in the Inquirer with a headline that read, “WHAT-IS-IT Visits All South Jersey.” A photo with “footprints” accompanied a story which told of “hoof-like tracks” that could be seen on “practically every block” of Burlington City. According to the Inquirer, “hounds put on the trail refused to follow the tracks and, with bristling hair and the picture of terror, ran home.” Farmers in the township tracked the Devil for four miles but found the trail went cold and the Devil had disappeared. There were, as I said before, different news reports in different papers, some amped up to gain more readership, but many of those papers reported that South Jersey residents were invoking the Leeds family name and telling the folklore of the Leeds Devil to explain the events.

The Leeds Devil has existed since the 18th century, but Regal claims the more modern version of the Jersey Devil became standardized during the 20th century, specifically 1909. Bat-like wings, a horse’s head, claws, and the general appearance of a dragon (or wyvern) now seem to be the standard. Among those who live in the Pine Barrens, this is the image of the Devil that is most familiar to them. It’s also common knowledge that the New Jersey Devils hockey team adopted the cryptid as a mascot and New Jersey is the only state to have an official state demon. Many people have witnessed the creature, their reactions ranging from inquisitive to absolutely horrified, and there is a strong belief held by many Pine Barren residents that it does exist.

From the Pinelands Alliance website, “Countless stories have circulated describing the Devils escapades, raiding chicken coops and farms, destroying crops and killing animals. His presence has been seen and felt by many in at least fifty different towns when he emerges from his natural lair in the Pinelands and wanders throughout Southern New Jersey, sometimes intriguing and sometimes terrorizing the residents. Posses were constantly formed to apprehend the Devil, but to no avail and at one point, as much as $250,000 was offered for the capture of the Jersey Devil, dead or alive. Several reports of the Jersey Devil’s death also proved to be inconclusive and even the scientific community could not explain its existence.

Belief in the Jersey Devil is quite real and based on records of concrete occurrences. Reliable people, including police, government officials, businessmen and many others who so integrity is beyond question, have witnessed the Devil’s activities. To this day, people traveling down the Garden State Parkway or the Atlantic City Expressway reported sightings of “something” or tell stories of strange occurrences. Many continue to believe that the legendary being is still around disturbing the region and will continue to do so for generations to come.”

Television shows like Scariest Places on Earth and Paranormal State have tried to track the Devil and explain away the strange occurrences that many have reported, but the tale of the Jersey Devil seems eternal, unwilling to die out with the previous generations who have witnessed it, and existing in a sort of limbo as a cryptid, a tourist attraction, and a mascot. Does the Devil exist? Perhaps we’ll never really know.

That’s it for this week, dear listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in. I’ll be back again soon with more tales of the creepy, weird, and paranormal.

Until next time, Stay Spooky!

The ODDentity Podcast is brought to you on a weekly basis by host Janine Mercer.

The podcast is written, produced, and edited by Janine Mercer (unless otherwise stated), and the music is provided by Garage Band.

Find the odd pod on Twitter and Instagram @oddentitypod and on Facebook as The Oddentity Podcast. You are welcome to email suggestions for future episodes to theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com and if you’d like a transcript of this episode, one will be available at theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com.

Please take a moment to leave a 5* review on iTunes and, if you haven’t already, please make sure to mash that Subscribe button to be sure you’re in the know when a new episode drops. Sincerest thanks to those who have promoted The ODDentity Podcast to their family, friends, and coworkers. Every little bit helps!









S5 Ep. 5: Through A Glass, Darkly

Through A Glass Darkly

This scene is likely familiar to you. You’re standing in your best friend’s bathroom, probably the one in the basement because you’ve been told the sleepover is in the rec room, staring into the mirror. One of you has smuggled in a lighter and a single votive candle in front of the mirror illuminates the scene. The door is closed tight and you can hear your friends laughing just outside, calling out that you can’t leave the bathroom until you do it! If you refuse, you’ll be ridiculed, but if you call upon the demonic entity they wish for you to conjure, you’ll be terrified. You’re already terrified. You close your eyes and steady your breathing, summoning all of your courage to say the words. Three times. You have to say it three times or it doesn’t count. Eyes open. Into the mirror. Unblinking.

Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary.

You jump back suddenly as the face in the mirror, the one you once knew as your own familiar visage, distorts into the face of a monster. Sunken eyes and teeth protruding from a black hole of a mouth. There’s a keening sound, a sound normally associated with frightened animals, filling the room and you realize…it’s coming from you.

Hello ODDPod listeners and welcome back to another episode. This week, I’d like to introduce you to Mary Worth, otherwise known as Bloody Mary (depending on who you ask) and the urban legends surrounding this common childhood experience. And speaking of blood…as I posted on social media, the 21st of February was my birthday and I took the weekend off to celebrate. My friend Patti made the most amazing cake; an (almost) anatomically correct heart with fondant superior vena cava and brachiocephalic trunk, blue fondant cardiac veins (visible when you cut into the cake,) and dripping in raspberry cake filling. It was delightful and truly memorable so this week’s shoutout goes to Patti Wolf and the best organ cake I’ve ever tasted. I’m hoping it won’t be the last!

And now…on with the show.

Email first became popular in the 1990s and apparently, people had nothing better to send than chain letters. The year is 1994 and chain letters are in abundance, but one, in particular, stands out. It’s the story of Bloody Mary or Mary Worth. You likely received it yourself.

“When I was about nine years old, I went to a friend’s place for a birthday/slumber party. There were about 10 other girls there. At about midnight, we decided to play Mary Worth. Some of us had never heard of this, so one of the girls told the story.

Mary Worth lived a long time ago. She was a very beautiful young girl. One day she had a terrible accident that left her face so disfigured that nobody would look at her. She had not been allowed to see her own reflection after this accident for fear that she would lose her mind. Before this, she had spent long hours admiring her beauty in her bedroom mirror.

One night, after everyone had gone to bed, unable to fight the curiosity any longer, she crept into a room that had a mirror. As soon as she saw her face, she broke down into terrible screams and sobs. It was at this moment that she was so heartbroken and wanted her old reflection back, she walked into the mirror to find it, vowing to disfigure anybody that came looking for her in the mirror.

After hearing this story, which was told very scarily, we decided to turn out all of the lights and try it. We all huddled around the mirror and started repeating ‘Mary Worth, Mary Worth, I believe in Mary Worth.’


About the seventh time, we said it, one of the girls that were in front of the mirror started screaming and trying to push her way back away from the mirror. She was screaming so loud that my friend’s mom came running into the room. She quickly turned on the lights and found this girl huddled in the corner screaming. She turned her around to see what the problem was and saw these long fingernail scratches running down her right cheek. I will never forget her face as long as I live!”

You’ve likely received a chain letter or two in your time, either a physical copy or an email, but I bet you’ve never really thought about the origin story of the annoyance. Have you? Chain letters have a pretty interesting history. Apparently, 55 years after Jesus had been resurrected and ascended to heaven, he authored a chain letter. Yeah, apparently Jesus was kind of a douche. A young boy retrieved the letter from under a rock that he was mysteriously able to lift (read: he put it there in the first place) and the letter was copied and circulated from there. It read, “He that copieth this letter shall be blessed of me. He that does not shall be cursed.”. I’m not a believer in this story and it’s likely that neither are you, because the origins of chain letters are often muddy and can serve a multitude of purposes, everything from sending good vibes to manipulation.  When you think about it, it’s actually not a terrible way to get someone’s attention. Chain letters are a great way to pique someone’s curiosity or agitate their superstitious streak. I’ve written a couple myself, just to get the water bubbling, but chain letters aren’t always about manipulation. Sometimes they mean well.

For example, I remember one of my friend’s grandma’s sending out a bunch of little cards that said, “Send .10 cents and receive 1 prayer.” I’m sure that grandma thought she was very forward-thinking in trying to pad the collection plate at her church, but it wasn’t a new idea. From Mental Floss,

“In 1888, a Methodist women’s missionary group was having serious cash flow problems. Additions to their facilities had added up to an astounding $16,000. While the group leaders prayed for assistance, they also acknowledged they might need to take the initiative.

Just when all hope seemed lost, a woman who had heard of their troubles said that she had a possible solution: Someone had told her that arranging for a chain letter could be a possible avenue to financial reward. Around the same time, the church received a chain letter requesting funds for another now forgotten object, sent to them by someone who thought it would work for this group as well. The head of the congregation, Lucy Rider Meyer, took the suggestions seriously and drafted a letter that contained both a solicitation to send her one dime and to send a copy of the letter to three friends, who would (hopefully) repeat the process.

Meyer dashed off 1500 copies and waited. The responses came pouring in. The missionaries eventually raised $6000, with many people sending more than a dime and others even using the letter as the inspiration to join their flock. In spirit and cold cash, the chain letter had been a success. Mostly.

While most recipients were happy to either contribute or disregard the letter, a few took the time to write back and complain about being targeted multiple times. One irritated addressee wrote:

“To tell the plain truth, I am exasperated with this plan. I am a very busy woman, and this is the third benevolence I have been asked to help in this way.”

Others took a more direct way of holding on to their cash:

“I have figured up, and you must already have an abundance of money for the house. So I won’t send any.”

The missionaries dubbed the chain letter a “peripatetic contribution box,” a kind of postal hat-passing that immediately began growing in popularity. Newspapers like the New York World printed forms to raise money for a memorial for Spanish-American war soldiers; in 1898, a 17-year-old volunteer for the Red Cross devised a chain that solicited money for ice to send to troops stationed in Cuba. So many thousands of letters poured in that they choked her Babylon, New York post office, prompting her mother to issue an open plea to stop people from sending any more.

While potentially annoying to some, many of these letters were altruistic in nature—an attempt to drum up financial support for what was considered to be a worthy cause. But it didn’t take long for the template to be adapted to a less noble pursuit: conning people out of money.” (mentalfloss.com)

As was the case with the missionaries, grandma received many a nasty note back admonishing her for wasting people’s time and demanding money outside of normal collections. You see, grandma wasn’t the first person to think of asking for money in this way and people were just kinda over it. By the time she got to it, the idea was out like stirrup pants, but to be fair stirrup pants were actually a fantastic idea, though unflattering on most people.

The sending of a dime was also a popular money-making scam during the depression era. People were asked to aid the Send-a-Dime effort and were given a list with a bunch of names on it. Their name was on the list, too. So, when their turn came around, they would also receive money. Unfortunately, many people fell for this scam and lost what little money they had banking on the concept that because they had been good, good would come their way soon enough. The postal service even threatened to sue Western Union for over 27 million dollars for helping to execute such a fraud. You’d think that people would have learned that chain letters don’t pay by the 1970s, but no. The Circle of Gold scam involved a letter being purchased for a hundred bucks, $50 of which would go to the seller and the other $50 mailed to a name at the top of a random list of people. Sound familiar? Then, the name at the top of the sheet would be removed and the next name would move up a space. If you think these attempts at scamming people out of their hard-earned cash have fallen by the wayside, you’d be wrong. Ever hear of the Holiday Wine Exchange? It seems to make the rounds every year. The message reads,

Let’s be clear here. You’re not going to get “an insane amount of wine.” You’re going to get scammed, which will make you very sad indeed. Someone else will get an insane amount of wine and you’ll be forced to buy your own…which will obviously make you even sadder. Just don’t do it, okay? Okay. Besides, you might get nicked for mail fraud because USPS (that’s the United States Postal Service for my pals abroad) has some very strict rules about gambling and pyramid schemes. The bottom line is, it’s illegal. Sending vino via the post is also illegal. Also, you have to consider the fact that the people you’re mailing wine to are not of drinking age. It’s just bad all around.

Anyway…now that we know a little bit about the origin of chain letters in general, let’s talk about the practice of gazing into a mirror and calling upon a power greater than yourself. “The art of scrying is rooted in antiquity. The practice is to use a shiny device like a darkened mirror, or reflecting water surface and gaze towards it to see visions of the future. It’s a bit like how you alter your gaze when looking at one of those 3D images that suddenly pop out when your focus is adjusted. Not only is it little-known, scrying is one of the more difficult divination techniques.” (psychic-junkie.com)

Apparently, the practice of scrying is pretty old and was first described in the Bible. I’d like to pause a moment here and let you know that this has not suddenly become a religious podcast. I respect everyone’s religious beliefs and their right to believe whatever they want. It just seems like this particular topic has some religious roots. Foretelling the future by “see[ing] through a glass, darkly” is described in 1 Corinthians 13. There’s also mention of the use of a mirror for divination in Chaucer’s “The Squire’s Tale,” written in 1390 and in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” written in 1606. In all honesty, if you’ve ever read any sort of fantasy novel, you’ve likely been exposed to fortune-telling or divination of this type. I remember being terrified of the Disney movie Snow White because of Maleficent, but I also remember that the evil queen had an affinity for gazing upon herself in her magic mirror. The original story was written by the Brother’s Grimm and, as is the case with many a Disney adaption, the Disney movie is decidedly lacking in dark underbelly. The original is horrifying. Of course, I recommend you read it. 😊 Even Sir John Tenniel, creator of the illustrations in Alice in Wonderland touched upon the looking glass in his work. In Tenniel’s The Haunted Lady, a woman in finery looks with horror upon the woman who created her dress and observes the true cost of her finery. The woman on the other side of the mirror appears to have met death after a hard life of working for starvation wages under inhumane conditions. Now, I’m not sure how difficult scrying is, I suppose you have to believe in the practice to get the most out of it, but I wonder if something else might be the cause of a successful scrying session. The Troxler Effect.

Maclen Stanley, a staff writer at Psychology Today writes, “In a study conducted by Dr. Caputo of the University of Urbino, participants were asked to stare into a mirror in dim lighting for ten minutes. Results demonstrated that 66% of participants experienced huge deformations of their own face, 28% saw an unknown person, and 48% saw fantastical and monstrous beings.

These surprising results beg the question: How can staring into a mirror possibly cause our faces to shapeshift into unknown and potentially terrifying deformations? The answer lies in our brain’s penchant for selective processing. In simple terms, our brains can only handle so much information at a time. Right now, as you’re reading this article, you probably aren’t noticing the feeling of your clothes against your skin, the pattern of your breath, or any of the delicate sounds around you. Your brain simply turns a blind eye to these various stimuli to better focus on what it deems most important (right now, these words). Our sense of sight works no differently. When faced with an abundance of visual stimulation, only some of which are considered relevant, our brains will tune out the non-relevant parts.

This phenomenon is termed the Troxler Effect, discovered long ago in 1804 by a physician and philosopher named Ignaz Troxler. It is this effect that underlies many of the optical illusions you can find on the Internet. Stare at a red dot in the middle of a circle for long enough and suddenly the outside circle fades away and disappears. This is because your brain has deemed the outer edges irrelevant and it has lessened its processing burden by simply fading it out of our perceptual domain.

Having tried this experiment myself, I can attest that the effect is real. While I did not see or experience anything particularly traumatizing, I was nevertheless greeted with noticeable deformations in both shape and color along the outer edges of my face and eyes. My eye sockets, already deep-set by nature, appeared to sink further and further into my face, looking like two lunar craters. For those venturing to experiment with this effect, I admonish that the experience, while intriguing, can also be immensely uncomfortable.”

It’s also important to consider the myths and legends surrounding mirrors that we still take to heart, for example covering mirrors when a loved one passes. Some believe this is done out of respect for the dead while others think that an exposed mirror is an invitation for spirits to enter the home or for the spirit of the deceased to become trapped there on its journey out of the earthly realm. I still worry that I’ll incur 10 years of bad luck for breaking a mirror. I personally try to avoid looking into the mirror late at night when I’m on the way to the lavatory or the refrigerator. There’s something about gazing into a mirror at a face that you know is your own and seeing it shift in unfamiliar ways that cause my insides to buckle. I’ll even stand to the left of the medicine cabinet and open it to get out whatever I need and then leave it ajar while I take whatever med I’ve squirreled out of there, just to avoid looking at myself in the dim light. As Stanley said, it’s uncomfortable.

I’m not alone. Clearly, there are many, many other people who have experienced seeing their visage in a mirror in a dimly lit room and been frightened by what they saw. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Bloody Mary.

The legend itself is many-sided and many variations of it exist. For example, sometimes Bloody Mary appears after 3 chants of her name. Sometimes it’s 7. Sometimes it’s 13. Older versions of Mary Worth involved walking backward up a darkened staircase while holding a candle and a hand mirror, something I don’t think I’d be able to pull off so I’m glad that Bloody Mary evolved into a game played in front of a bathroom mirror. Or am I? In Japan, Hanako San haunts the bathroom and sometimes protects those who use it from other toilet ghosts. Just when you thought it was safe to go to the bathroom… Doesn’t Moaning Myrtle haunt the bathroom at Hogwarts? Also, isn’t it interesting that Japanese folklore contains stories about haunted bathrooms while most of the North American tales of haunted places revolve around basements or attics? That’s a tangent for another day.

I don’t think there’s anything scarier than dying in a toilet stall, except maybe having to ask the person in the can next to you for TP.

From an article by David Emery titled Explaining the Legend of Bloody Mary in the Mirror, “As best anyone can tell, the legend of Bloody Mary and its comparably gory variants emerged in the early 1960s as an adolescent party game. In most versions, there’s no connection drawn between the Bloody Mary whose ghost haunts bathroom mirrors and the British queen of the same name. Likewise, there is no apparent connection between the Mary Worth of the legend and the Mary Worth of comic strip fame.

Folklorist Alan Dunes has suggested that Bloody Mary is a metaphor for the onset of puberty in girls, describing both the fear of one’s body changing and the excitement of the taboo nature of sex. Others argue that the story is just the product of overactive childhood imagination. Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget describes this as “nominal realism,” the belief that words and thoughts can influence real-world events.”

Emery goes on to discuss the film Urban Legend (1998) and Candyman (1992,) two films I know I’ve spoken about on this podcast before. Can you say Candyman 5 times in front of a mirror in a dimly lit room and NOT think that Tony Todd, 6 feet 5 inches of him, is going to magically appear and rip you to shreds with his hook? I know I can’t. Snopes.com states that the folklore/legend of Bloody Mary/Mary Worth/Hell Mary only extends back to around 1978 when folklorist Janet Langlois published her essay on the topic, “Mary Whales, I Believe in You: Myth and Ritual Subdued”. At this time, belief in the legend was widespread. Generally, if there’s a sleepover and a bathroom with a large mirror, someone is going to suggest calling upon Bloody Mary. Why bathrooms? Langlois explains that most suburban bathrooms have large mirrors and generally have smaller windows making them darker. I think it’s likely because having to walk backwards up the stairs caused too many house fires and fatalities. I could be wrong.

Alan Dundes work Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety was published in Western Folklore, volume 57 in the 1990s. He disagrees with Langlois’ interpretation of the Bloody Mary legend. He also disagrees with Jan Harold Brunvand’s interpretation, a reaction to Brunvand’s work that’s a little odd given that Brunvand is the authority on many urban myths and legends (recommended reading: Encyclopedia of Urban Legends.) I certainly hang my hat on his work/research. Dundes admonishes Brunvand and Langlois for not investigating the legend more fully stating that, “if folklorists themselves are unwilling or unable to interpret folklore, they can scarcely blame others for holding the discipline in such low intellectual repute.” Yikes.
Dundes writes:

“What exactly does the reflection of Bloody Mary mean? Or is it essentially meaningless? And why does the ritual almost invariably take place in a bathroom? What is the significance, if any, of the names: Mary Worth, Mary Whales, Bloody Mary? No analysis of an item of folklore can be deemed complete unless it can explain all of the traits or details of that item. There are important clues in the texts reported by Langlois, clues which have thus far not been adequately explored by folklorists. For example, more than half of the texts she elicited herself (as opposed to those on file in the Indiana University folklore archives) were combined with the ‘Vanishing Hitchhiker”. So one additional question to be asked is why is the “Bloody Mary” ritual attached to this particular legend? Let us consider the first text presented by Langlois.

It was collected from twelve-year-old Anna L. in February of 1973:

  1. Have you heard about a dead girl called Mary Whales or Mary Worth?
  2. Yes, I’ve heard about Mary Whales. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know much about her. All I know is that she stood on [the] corner when it rained and she had a long white dress on. and when someone stopped to give her a ride she would disappear in the back seat and just leave a wet spot with blood on the seat, and she wouldn’t be in [the] car anymore (1978:13).

What is noteworthy about this abbreviated legend is the reference to a “wet spot with blood” in the backseat of the car. There are numerous recorded versions of this popular legend (Motif E 332.3.3.1, The Vanishing Hitchhiker; for more than one hundred references, see Bennett and Smith 1993:338). But in those versions where an object is left behind as “proof’ of the truth value of the legend, that object can be “a purse, a suitcase, a blanket, a sweater, a scarf or some other item of clothing, or simply footprints or water spots in the car” (Brunvand 1981:27). There is no mention of blood at all. Wet spots or footprints in the car are “often mentioned in connection with American vanishing hitchhikers,” notes Brunvand, the acknowledged authority on this and other modern legends, but “Why, or how, a spirit would get wet feet is not explained, though” (Brunvand 1993:251). The wetness motif is explained by neither the folk nor folklorist Brunvand. By now the astute reader may already suspect what the possible significance of the “Bloody Mary” ritual might be. But for those who may still be in the dark, let me present a small but representative sampling of 10 texts from more than seventy-five reports, collected in 1996 unless otherwise noted, from my undergraduate folklore students at the University of California, Berkeley.

Text 1: Bloody Mary During recess at school, you go into the girls’ bathroom. Your friends wait outside because only [one] person is allowed in at a time. One girl stands at the door to turn out the lights once you’re positioned in front of the mirror. Once the lights are out, you close your eyes and turn around three times. Then you open them and stare straight into the mirror and chant, “Bloody Mary, show your fright. Show your fright this starry night.” You have to chant slowly so she has time to come from the spirit world. Then you wait to see her face. Once you see her, you have to run out of the bathroom where your friends are waiting. If you’ve sinned or done anything evil in your life then you will have three scratches of blood on your cheek. (Learned in the third grade in 1983 at Apollo Elementary School in Bossier City, Louisiana by the female collector, age 20)

Text 2: A bunch of us young girls went into the bathroom to call Bloody Mary. We turned off the lights, turned around 5 times chanting “Bloody Mary” over and over; then stopped quickly and looked in the mirror We were supposed to look for a headless female in a white gown with a bloody knife in one hand and her head in the other. (Learned in California by a female, age 20, when she was between the ages of ten and twelve)

Text 3: A group of girls usually go into a dark room where a mirror is present. Then everyone starts chanting “Bloody Mary” until it appears. A woman’s bloody face will appear in the mirror. (Learned by a nineteen-year-old Mexican-American female in Riverbank, California, when she was in the sixth grade [circa 1989])

Text 4: Okay, you go into the bathroom and you turn out the lights and you turn around three times and you say “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” and then Bloody Mary’s head is supposed to appear on the mirror. (Learned by a sixteen-year-old Chinese-American female as a sixth-grader when she attended slumber parties in Palos Verdes in Southern California)

Text 5: If you go into a bathroom mirror every night for three nights, and you say “Bloody Mary” three times, then the first night a spot of blood appears and the second night, it’s a little bigger, and the third night, it’s supposed to be a woman’s face. (Collected in 1994 from a 22-year-old Irish-American female who learned it at a slumber party in Los Altos, California, in 1979, when she was a second-grader)

Text 6: To make Bloody Mary appear, you look into a mirror at midnight and chant “Bloody Mary” three times. You are then supposed to see your own bloodied face in the reflection. (Collected from a 23-year-old female who learned it in sixth grade in Fairfield, California)

Text 7: When I was in grade school (about fifth grade), I would go into the girls’ bathroom at St. Thomas Aquinas school [in Monterey Park, California] with two or three of my friends to see Bloody Mary. We turned off the lights, approached the four-foot-wide mirror, and sprinkled water on the mirror. After the sprinkling, we chanted, “Bloody Mary” three times in hopes of seeing her in the mirror. Then we flushed all of the toilets in the stalls and ran out of the bathroom. Bloody Mary’s mark would appear later on in the day through bleeding. For example, after I had completed the Bloody Mary ritual, I went to play frisbee during recess. In trying to catch the frisbee, I jammed my index finger, causing it to bleed. All of the girls who had done the Bloody Mary ritual with me attributed the bleeding to Bloody Mary. (Collected from a female, age 20)

Text 8: It can be any time of day, but you usually do it at night. You go into the bathroom, the hot water has to be on, you turn on the hot water full blast, and the bathroom has to have a mirror. Then you flush the toilet and as you’re flushing the toilet, you say, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”-three times you say “Bloody 124 BLOODY MARY IN THE MIRROR Mary” and you turn three times while you’re saying it. and then you look in the mirror and some people say you see Bloody Mary. If you see her, she haunts your house. (Collected in 1995 from a 9-year-old female who learned the custom in the second grade at the Hamlin School for Girls in San Francisco)

Text 9: “Bloody Mary” You go into the bathroom at school, turn out the lights, and close the door. You can go by yourself or with two or three friends. I’m not positive, but I think boys can do it too if they want to. You light some red candles, like about three, and you put them in front of you in a triangle, two on a side and one in the front. Then you keep on chanting “Bloody Mary” like about three times or something. You’re sitting there and looking at the water in the toilet and chanting. And they say she will appear, her face in the water. Then you have a weird reaction or something and she pulls you down into the toilet and flushes your head down the toilet. And you never come back or something. (Collected from an 11-year-old Vietnamese-American female who learned it in third grade, in 1992, at Hellyer Elementary School in San Jose, California)

Text 10: When I was in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, many of the girls celebrated their birthdays (turning age 9, 10, 11) with a slumber party. I remember the game being played a few different ways. The idea was that you go into the bathroom alone and the light would be off, or there would be a candle or flashlight so that it would be barely visible in the bathroom. Then you were supposed to chant “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” as you look in the mirror After you say “Bloody Mary” three times, there were a couple of things that could happen: 1) An image of a woman covered with blood would appear in the mirror 2) You see your own reflection in the mirror but the mirror would soon be covered with blood so that it looked like you were covered in blood. At this point, the girls would either run out of the bathroom screaming or at some parties I remember the girls had to flush the toilet before they could come out. I think the toilet flushing was supposed to make the image go away, but no one ever stayed in the bathroom long enough to see anything disappear. As soon as they pushed the toilet lever, they would run out scared and screaming. The other version of Bloody Mary I remember goes like this: You say “Bloody Mary” three times, in a dark bathroom, but this time instead of looking at a mirror, you look at the toilet. After you finish the chant, the toilet water was supposed to turn red, or bloody, and then you had to flush the toilet in order to come out. Or, after the chant, you flush the toilet and as the toilet is flushing, the water turns red. (Collected from a 21-year-old Korean-American female who learned it in Downey, California, in 1978)

These ten texts should suffice to demonstrate both the traditionality and the gamut of variation of the Bloody Mary ritual. Moreover, it should be abundantly clear that this girls’ ritual has something to do with the onset of the first menses. The dramatic change from girlhood to womanhood is signaled physiologically by this catamenial condition.”

[Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety Author(s): Alan Dundes Source: Western Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 2/3 (Spring – Summer, 1998), pp. 119-135 Published by: Western States Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1500216 Accessed: 29/2/2020 3:12:37 PM CST]

Bloody Mary in the Mirror is available for free online through JSTOR. I’ll pop the link into the show notes for anyone who’d like to peruse the work further.

So, let’s talk a little about Mary Worth (Tudor). I know David Emery says there’s no connection between Bloody Mary and Mary Worth (Tudor), but I think it’s important to address the fact that Mary (if this is indeed the same Mary we’re talking about) earned her nickname. The monarch, daughter of Henry the 8th and Catherine of Aragon, was determined to make England a Catholic country (again with the religion, I know. Bear with me.) and burned an estimated 300 people at the stake for being Protestants. Mary was keen on conceiving a child to validate her marriage to Prince Philip of Spain once she took the throne in 1553. If you’ve never watched The Tudors, I heartily recommend it as all of the above is outlined in the show. Unfortunately for Mary, Philip was 10 years her junior and didn’t exactly have the same sexual desire or amorous feelings (he basically did what he had to do, punched the time clock as it were and went back to being all monarch-y) so when she did become pregnant, she was overjoyed. 6 weeks prior to the baby’s arrival, Mary sequestered herself with a handful of servants and excitedly awaited the arrival of (what she hoped would be) a male heir, but after her delivery date had been pushed back several times it appeared that no heir was on the horizon. It is thought that Mary, so desperate for a baby, had invented the pregnancy in her mind and her body had responded with the ceasing of her menstrual cycle and the bloating of her belly. It’s also speculated that Mary suffered from uterine or ovarian cancer, illnesses which, at the time, could only be treated with bloodletting. Mary believed that God was punishing her for her inability to conceive. She would never produce an heir and passed away at the age of 42.

In my opinion, there is some evidence that the story of Mary Tudor survives to this day in the form of the Bloody Mary urban legend. Bloody Mary often appears to those who chant her name holding a baby, the one she was not able to conceive in life. The burning of so many for their religious beliefs adds to the darkness of the tale. Perhaps those who relay the legend now are largely unaware of who Mary Worth actually was, but I think it’s entirely possible that way back when people believed the benevolent spirit of the English monarch appeared to them in the looking glass.

That’s it for this week, dear listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in and special thanks to those who shared their experiences with me for this episode. I’ll be back again next week with more tales of the creepy, weird, and paranormal.

Until next time, Stay Spooky!


The ODDentity Podcast is brought to you on a weekly basis by host Janine Mercer.

The podcast is written, produced, and edited by Janine Mercer (unless otherwise stated), and the music is provided by Garage Band.

Find the odd pod on Twitter and Instagram @oddentitypod and on Facebook as The Oddentity Podcast. You are welcome to email suggestions for future episodes to theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com and if you’d like a transcript of this episode, one will be available at theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com.

Please take a moment to leave a 5* review on iTunes and, if you haven’t already, please make sure to mash that Subscribe button to be sure you’re in the know when a new episode drops. Sincerest thanks to those who have promoted The ODDentity Podcast to their family, friends, and coworkers. Every little bit helps!











Dundes Article http://home.iscte-iul.pt/~fgvs/Dundes%20bloody.pdf

[Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety Author(s): Alan Dundes Source: Western Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 2/3 (Spring – Summer, 1998), pp. 119-135 Published by: Western States Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1500216 Accessed: 29/2/2020 3:12:37 PM CST]

S5 Ep. 4: World’s Fair

In October of 1871, Chicago was a tinderbox. The city’s 185 firefighters were exhausted and things wouldn’t get better anytime soon. In the last 3 months, Chicago had only seen an inch of rain and the wooden structures and raised wooden sidewalks painted a picture of disaster. The Chicago fire was absolutely that. The fire swept through the city at an alarming rate, turning everything in its path to rubble and cinder. People scattered to escape the flames, grabbing what little they could. There were many people trying to flee the destruction via Randolph Street Bridge. There are collisions between wagons, trucks, and people. Many lives are lost and the level of damage and loss almost unimaginable.

All of this loss and destruction is in the past by the time the Columbian Exhibition opens in 1893 and, as I’m sure was the case for many Chicagoans, there was a collective sigh and a sense of awe associated with the event. Columbus had arrived in the new world 401 years earlier and Chicago beat out New York, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. for the privilege of hosting the World’s Fair. Chicagoans were so invested in fact in the idea of having the fair in Chicago, large crowds would gather in front of the newspaper offices and await the tallies to see who would win the prize of being host to the event. The city had hosted the Centennial Exposition in 1876, but the World’s Fair would be far larger and feature a wide range of acts, new inventions, and speakers.

From Chicago: City of the Century on pbs.com, “Daniel Hudson Burnham, of the Chicago architectural partnership Burnham and Root, the chief of construction for the fair, enthusiastically adopted this proposal. Burnham then suggested that the greatest American architects of the time contribute designs for the buildings. The contributors included Richard Morris Hunt (who built the façade of the Metropolitan Museum in New York), Charles McKim (New York Public Library), Robert Peabody, George B. Post (New York Times building), Henry Van Brunt, Louis Sullivan, and William LeBaron Jenney (Home Insurance Building of Chicago, among the first with a steel skeleton). The sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, as artistic director, oversaw the decorative program of the fair, which included works by Daniel Chester French, who later created the statue of Lincoln for that president’s memorial, and the Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.

When the architects met in Chicago in 1891 to share their designs with one another, Olmsted noted, “the general comradeship and fervor of the artists was delightful to witness & more delightful to fall into.” Together, they collaborated on a magnificent vision — and enjoyed their own audacity in dreaming it up. Saint-Gaudens compared the group to the Italian Renaissance geniuses who built Florence. “Look here, old fellow,” he said to Burnham, “do you realize that this is the greatest meeting of artists since the fifteenth century!”

The Neo-Classical buildings of Hunt, McKim and the other eastern architects stood around a basin in the Court of Honor; Sullivan’s multicolored Transportation Building was off to one side. A mile-long commercial strip, the Midway Plaisance, provided entertainments nearby.

The Court of Honor’s buildings served as exhibition halls, housing the newest inventions and appliances for the home and farm, many of them powered by electricity. Visitors gawked at electric incubators for chicken eggs, electric chairs for executions, an electric sidewalk, an early fax machine that sent pictures over telegraph lines, electric irons, sewing machines and laundry machines, and Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, the first moving pictures. For many of the fairgoers, Edison’s fourteen-year-old invention, the electric lightbulb, was a novelty they had never seen before. That the Court was lit at night was itself astonishing. The exhibits helped to demystify the many mysterious new inventions of the age.”

There were boat races, donkey races, international tug of war competitions, swim races in the lagoon, tightrope walking, parachute drops, and George Washington Gale Ferris’s gigantic wheel ride; the first Ferris wheel ever built. Over the course of the exhibition, 1.4 million people paid .50 cents apiece and experienced two revolutions. The 250’ diameter wheel brought riders higher than the crown on the Statue of Liberty. This was likely the closest that many of these riders would come to actually flying.

On the Midway, escape artist Harry Houdini entertained and mystified onlookers, Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show delighted and amused (Cody had apparently been denied a spot on the Midway, but set up on the outskirts and ran his show anyway because fuck the police, I guess?), and ragtime pianist Scott Joplin tickled the ivories. Americans experienced hamburgers and carbonated beverages and purchased a new invention called a postcard which they could send to their friends or family and regale them of their time at the Columbian Exhibition. There were Hindu jugglers, beauty contests, and even a two-headed pig. And while all of this was going on, while the city delighted in the new ideas brought forth by this event and ate their hamburgers and laughed and basked in the glory of the White City, in the shadows a monster was lurking. A monster who would take advantage of the large crowds and use the climate to his own benefit. A living darkness that would soon open its mouth and scream.

Hello dear listeners, and welcome back to another episode of The ODDentity Podcast. The podcast your mama warned you about…or likely recommended you listen to! I’m hoping it’s more of the latter!

This week, I’ll be taking you to the Windy City of 1893, the World’s Fair, and introducing you to a, particularly diabolical fellow. A man who saw the fair as an opportunity to swindle and to murder. A man by the name of Herman Webster Mudgett, otherwise known by his alias Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.

Before we get started, I’d like to thank Cindie Harper, the Director of Historical Research and Paranormal Documentation at Sweet Springs Sanitarium in West Virginia. The interview I did with Cindie will be available on a future episode, but I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for the time Cindie spent talking with me about Old Sweet, the paranormal happenings there, the fascinating history of the place, and the restoration efforts that are ongoing. Thanks, Cindie! I’m so glad I had the opportunity to chat with you. It’s always a treat to meet a fellow paranormal enthusiast and to learn about a new haunted location! Say hi to the spirits for me.

There’ll be more info about Old Sweet when that episode goes live, but I do want to let you know that there is an effort to collect funds for the rebuilding and repair of structures at the Sanitarium. If you’d like to help out, pop on over to sweetspringsresortpark.org and mash that donate button!

And now…on with the show.

Herman Webster Mudgett was born in New Hampshire in 1861to Levi Horton Mudgett and Theodate Page Price. Both parents were descended from the first English immigrants in the area and Herman was the third child. He had an older sister, Ellen, an older brother, Arthur, a younger brother Henry, and a younger sister, Mary. There is some speculation regarding Mudgett’s past and whether or not he exhibited the tell-tale signs of becoming a serial killer later in life, but there is little proof to substantiate such claims. There is a story of young Mudgett being locked in a doctor’s office with a human skeleton, but Mudgett himself has told this story and I find him to be a rather unreliable narrator.

At age 16, Mudgett graduated high school and began teaching in Gilmanton and Alton. In 1878, he married Clara Lovering who gave birth to a son, Robert, in 1880. Mudgett enrolled at the University of Vermont in Burlington, but left after only a year. He was 18 years old. In 1882, he enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery and passed his exams in 1884. While in attendance at U of M, he worked in the anatomy lab under the chief anatomy instructor, Professor Herdman. Mudgett had also apprenticed in New Hampshire under noted advocate of human dissection, Dr. Nahum Wight. Later in life, Mudgett would admit to using cadavers to defraud insurance companies. By 1884, Clara and Robert had moved back to New Hampshire to avoid Mudgett’s violent outbursts which were many. Apparently, some of his housemates had witnessed this behavior.

Mudgett’s next moves were meandering. He spent some time in Mooers Forks, New York, leaving quickly after he was under suspicion of being seen with a small boy who later disappeared. Mudgett claimed the boy had gone back to Massachusetts and the authorities must have accepted his word as fact because there was no investigation. Mudgett left town after this incident. From there, he traveled to Pennsylvania and got a job at the Norristown State Hospital but he quit after a very short time. He also worked at a druggist in Philadelphia but immediately (and a little suspiciously) left the city after a boy fell ill after having taken medicine prepared at the store. Mudgett again denied any involvement.

From Holmes’ Own Words (H.H. Holmes’ Biography): (Read P. 19 – bottom)

I’m not sure why Mudgett would run unless he was guilty of the crime or he was worried his past deeds would be brought to light if authorities became involved.

Right before his move to Chicago, Mudgett adopted the alias of H. H. Holmes, likely to cover his tracks and to avoid possible prosecution for his previous scams.

From Wikipedia, “In late 1886, while still married to Clara, Holmes married Myrta Belknap (b. October 1862 in Pennsylvania) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He filed for divorce from Clara a few weeks after marrying Myrta, alleging infidelity on her part. The claims could not be proven and the suit went nowhere. Surviving paperwork indicated she probably was never even informed of the suit. In any case, the divorce was never finalized; it was dismissed June 4, 1891, on the grounds of “want of prosecution”.

Holmes had a daughter with Myrta, Lucy Theodate Holmes, who was born on July 4, 1889, in Englewood, Chicago, Illinois; as an adult, Lucy became a public school teacher. Holmes lived with Myrta and Lucy in Wilmette, Illinois, and spent most of his time in Chicago tending to business. Holmes married Georgiana Yoke on January 17, 1894, in Denver, Colorado, while still married to both Clara and Myrta.”

By the time Holmes arrived in Chicago, he was already wanted for several insurance scams. Holmes would mutilate cadavers donated to medical schools for dissection in order to defraud insurance companies, claiming the already deceased individuals were the victims of some terrible accident. He was a con artist and a bigamist and fled from one town to the next to escape prosecution.

In Chicago, Holmes set his sights on a pharmacy at the corner of 63rd and Wallace streets and began working there, but his eye soon wandered to the location across the street where he would eventually begin building a large 3 story structure that would take over an entire city block, contain more than 100 rooms, and would become known as the Murder Castle. It would contain a drug store, retail space, and apartments, though Holmes’ definition of “apartment” would eventually prove to be a little different. Holmes himself called it the World’s Fair Hotel and said it would accommodate tourists visiting from outside the city who wished to enjoy the fair, but the building served a much darker purpose. Women seeking better opportunities came to the city in droves and the large crowds gathering for the Exposition would create a perfect storm for these women to disappear without a trace.

During construction, Holmes would suddenly fire workers and hire new ones in order to keep the plans of the location a secret. He would get one carpenter to build a wall and immediately let the man go, then refuse to pay him claiming shoddy workmanship. The cycle repeated all the while the building was being constructed. Holmes himself hid supplies he had purchased on credit within the Castle and refused to pay his bills.

From All That’s Interesting, “There were hinged walls and false partitions. Some rooms had five doors and others had none. Secret, airless chambers hid underneath floorboards and iron plate-lined walls stifled all sound.

Holmes’ own apartment had a trapdoor in the bathroom, which opened to reveal a staircase, which led to a windowless cubicle. In the cubicle, there was a large chute that tunneled through to the basement. (Spoiler: It wasn’t used for dirty laundry.)

One notable room was lined with gas fixtures. Here, Holmes would seal his victims in, flip a switch in an adjacent room, and wait. Another chute was nearby.

All of the doors and some of the steps were connected to an intricate alarm system. Whenever someone stepped into the hall or headed downstairs, a buzzer sounded in Holmes’ bedroom.”

At one point, a large safe was purchased and a room was built around it. The safe would come to serve a nefarious purpose in suffocating victims who Holmes trapped inside. When the company came to Holmes demanding their safe back, he supposedly told them that they could have it but only if they could get it out without damaging the room around it. By 1892, the Murder Castle was complete…just as the grounds of nearby Jackson Park were being prepped for the Columbian Exposition.

Now, at this point, I think it’s important to go through the supposed list of victims. Some believe there were over 200 victims, others 27, but it seems that there is a master list of 9 that is pretty consistent. I’d also like to point out that the hotel portion of Holmes’ Murder Castle was never opened. He likely never intended to use it as a hotel and just used the ruse of opening a large and luxurious hotel to swindle investors out of their money. Holmes was a con man and a swindler for sure. I’m not going to list all 27 supposed victims here, but you can find a comprehensive list at mysteriouschicago.com Adam Selzer has left a list with all 27 victims and the stories behind their supposed murders here and has written about H.H. Holmes. He does a lot of research and is a tour guide and Atlas Obscura field agent with 10+ years of experience in the city of Chicago. He’s also often called upon to offer expertise on varying topics on The History Channel and The Travel Channel. He’s also got a podcast called Cemetery Mixtape which is phenomenal. Absolutely worth a listen.

The 4 known victims of Holmes are Ben, Howard, Alice, and Nellie Pitezel. These four were murdered in the autumn of 1894 and their bodies were recovered. All but Howard’s body were positively identified. Howard’s remains were burned and could not be identified. Holmes only received a conviction on Benjamin Pitezel’s murder and never stood trial for the other 3.

The assumed victims of Holmes are Julia and Pearl Conner who were both murdered in 1891, Emeline Cigrand who was murdered in 1892, and Minnie and Nannie Williams who were murdered in 1893. Julia, Emeline, and Nannie and Minnie Williams remains were never recovered. There is speculation that Holmes sold their skeletons to medical schools and disposed of the rest of their remains. Holmes claimed that Julia and Emeline died during illegal abortions and Holmes admitted to one of his attorneys that he had killed Julia. It’s unlikely that Holmes would have been convicted of their murders as there were no bodies or evidence to prove it. Bones found in the basement of the Castle were said to be those of Pearl Conner, but forensics was a new idea at the time and the bones couldn’t be positively identified. It is believed however that Holmes did, in fact, kill the 5 women.

Selzer states on his website that newspapers at the time would publish a story about Holmes or the Castle investigation, the finding of remains, etc., and authorities would come to find out that the items found weren’t human remains at all. This correction wouldn’t be published and so the original story would be the only one available. He also states that writer Herbert Asbury suggested at one time that the total number of Holmes victims could be in the hundreds. This is simply not true.

In an effort to make some fast money and possibly avoid the death penalty, Holmes began writing his memoir in prison. He cut a deal with Philadelphia publishers Burk and McFetridge in 1895, the year after his arrest. The book is titled Holmes’ Own Story and a copy cost 25 cents. The book itself was likely another scam to trick the public into believing that he was simply a man trying to make his way in the world and squeeze a penny out here and there when he could. His crimes had been published in every newspaper at the time, painting him as a horrifying monster and degenerate swindler and he likely created the manuscript to further con those individuals who had read the accounts of his heinous crimes into believing that he never perpetrated the murder of which he was convicted. It was also likely to explain away the other murders he was suspected of committing but never stood trial for. In the Author’s Preface to the Original Edition, Holmes lays out his intentions for the book. He writes:

Holmes goes on to outline every moment he spent with his supposed victims. The stories appear to be well-rehearsed in his mind and I wonder how much time he spent during the act of murdering each of these people and the time spent in prison putting all of this together. Upon reading the entire collection of Holmes’ written work, I can only say that the man was a pathological liar. At the end of the memoir, as it’s published by Parnilis Media, there is a confession letter. Holmes sent this letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On May 8th, 1896, the New York Times published an article titled, “Holmes Cool to the End.”  (Avail. on podcast only)

Holmes swung by the neck until dead, approximately 20 minutes because his neck apparently didn’t snap like it was supposed to. He is buried outside Pennsylvania at Holy Cross Cemetery. His remains were encased in cement and buried 10’ deep to deter anyone from using his body for dissection.

As Holmes stated in his memoir. “I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.”

That’s it for this week, dear listeners. I’ll be back again next week with more tales of the creepy, weird, and paranormal.

Until next time, Stay Spooky!


The ODDentity Podcast is brought to you on a weekly basis by host Janine Mercer.

The podcast is written, produced, and edited by Janine Mercer (unless otherwise stated), and the music is provided by Garage Band.

Find the odd pod on Twitter and Instagram @oddentitypod and on Facebook as The Oddentity Podcast. You are welcome to email suggestions for future episodes to theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com and if you’d like a transcript of this episode, one will be available at theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com.

Please take a moment to leave a 5* review on iTunes and, if you haven’t already, please make sure to mash that Subscribe button to be sure you’re in the know when a new episode drops. Sincerest thanks to those who have promoted The ODDentity Podcast to their family, friends, and coworkers. Every little bit helps!







Parnilis Media’s Holmes: a serial killer in his own words

Holmes’ Own Story by Herman Mudgett alias H. H. Holmes

Happy Medium

Candlelight dances against heavy black curtains as you take your place around a large round table in the center of a cluttered room. Ornate fixtures adorn the walls and the space is so poorly lit you can barely see the gentleman sitting across from you. You don’t know him, but you know why he’s here. This gathering is taking place in the home of Eva C, a medium with a following that includes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She is well known and said to be reputable so you’ve come to try and make contact with a family member who has passed recently. Eva C will conjure the spirits and you will see them plainly with your own eyes as they materialize in her parlor. As the woman enters the room and takes a seat at the head of the table you think about leaving, feeling that the individual before you cannot possibly talk to spirits. There doesn’t seem to be anything special about her, but the room is so dark that you doubt you’ll find your way out. You choose to stay because it’s the only choice you can make.

A voice rises in the darkness, commanding the spirits to come forth and make themselves known. There is one spirit, Bien Boa, who will guide the attendants on their spiritual quest this evening. He will bring their loved ones back from the other side. The voice becomes haggard and forced, stuttering and stammering, the table begins to shake and rise in front of you. In the near-darkness, you notice that Eva C is slumped over, muttering incoherently, seemingly talking to someone who isn’t there. The spirits? She suddenly sits up and you watch wide-eyed as ectoplasm, white and flowing, runs from her mouth and onto the table. The assembled crowd gasps collectively. Then, suddenly, a face appears. Is it the face of your deceased loved one? No. But it looks so familiar. You can see an eye, part of a mouth, Eva C chokes out more ectoplasm, the scene plays out in minutes that seem like hours before she slumps forward again, limp on the tabletop. One of the attendants moves to help her, but she holds up a hand.

Eva C, visibly shaken, enters a cabinet draped in black cloth. The door is closed behind her and the assembled crowd of eight or so, begin to sing a hymn, Abide with Me. In a few moments, a form emerges from the cabinet, luminescent in a flowing white gown. The figure seems to create its own light. Upon its head is a crown made from a cloth that resembles thick cobwebs. Everyone is immediately silent, their eyes transfixed, and a booming voice tells you that you are now in the presence of 300-year old, Indian Brahman, Bien Boa who is the direct connection to the spirit realm. Eva C has conjured him forth.


This week, I wanted to focus on mediumship and present to you one of the most notorious mediums of all time. Even more cringeworthy (by today’s standards) than The Long Island Medium. I’m speaking of course of Eva Carriere, a woman with the unique ability to produce “ectoplasm” (cheesecloth) from every orifice of her body. You could look at Eva and think she’s a charlatan who cheated people out of their money and made the bereaved believe they were actually communicating with deceased loved ones ( a super shitty thing to do indeed) or you could examine the woman herself and her life and admire her dedication to the craft of deception. And the woman was dedicated.

Marthe Béraud, the woman who would eventually be dubbed Eva Carriere (or Eva C.), was born in France in 1886.  Her father was a French army officer stationed in Algiers, the capital of Algeria, in northern Africa. The bulk of her early life is a complete whitewash, but we do know that she was engaged to the son of French General Elie Noël. His name was Maurice. At 18 years-of-age, Beraud intended to marry Maurice, but he died on a trip to the Congo having caught a tropical virus while there and was unable to recover.

Traumatic events including but not limited to the death of a loved one, no matter how unexpected, can cause people to do outlandish things. It can also encourage them to see the world around them in a different way. The death of her beloved Maurice seemed to change the world in a big way for Beraud and she began holding seances at the family villa, Carmen, in Algiers. She settled at the villa with General Noel and his wife and would hold many seances there. I wonder what the Noel’s thought of this. Perhaps they felt sorry for Beraud and offered their home to the grieving woman. Apparently, Madame Noel had been contacting a spirit named Bien Boa via the Ouija board and the spirit claimed to know Beraud from a previous life. Not long after, Bien Boa began making appearances at Beraud’s séances. I wonder if Ouija communication somehow influenced Beraud to become a medium? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Albert Freiherr von Shrenck-Notzing, a respected German physician, psychotherapist, and researcher of paranormal activities was a frequent visitor and took photos while she performed her seances in an effort to lend credibility to her practice. He would eventually publish a book of these photographs as well as his notes on the subject titled “The Phenomena of Materialisation” (1920). Shrenck-Notzing’s book only served to shed light on the ruse that “Carriere” was perpetrating. If it quacks like a duck… I still admire his spunk. In time, Shrenck-Notzing became enamored with mediumship and attended many sessions, but his first was with Eusapia Palladino.

From occult-world.com, “Shrenck-Notzing’s first foray into his new field came in the form of telepathy experiments, modeled on those of [psychologist Charles] Richet. The direction of his research changed sharply, however, when Richet invited him to participate in a series of sittings with Eusapia Palladino at his home on the Ile de Ribaud in France in 1894. Palladino was a physical Medium who, although she was not above cheating when given the chance, could produce Rappings, tilt tables, and move objects without physical contact. Although according to Spiritualism such effects are accomplished through spirit agency, Richet and his friends at the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR), some who were present at these sittings as well, believed them to be produced by Palladino herself, by some paranormal means.”

The connection made with Richet is pertinent because it brought Shrenck-Notzing to Marthe Beraud. Richet had previously worked with Beraud in Algiers in an effort to expose her as a fake and pointed Shrenck-Notzing in her direction. The German psychotherapist was fascinated by Beraud’s ability to produce a white, flowing material from her various orifices (seriously, all of them). Richet called the substance ectoplasm. Many mediums of the time produced rappings (some mediums would crack their joints in order to create knocking noises for their crowds. The Fox sisters were infamous for this) or tilted tables, often just lifting the edge of a table with their knee in the dark was enough to send spectators reeling, but Shrenck-Notzing found Beraud’s performance unique. Her materializations, the process of forming “solid” spirit faces or figures during a séance, were the tipping point for Shrenck-Notzing and he further studied Beraud, whom he named Eva C., for a period of 4 years in a Paris laboratory. Richet had been ridiculed as well as the subject of his research, Palladino, so it’s likely that Shrenck-Notzing gave Beraud a fake name to save her (and himself) any possible embarrassment.

From Phenomena of Materialisation, “Any dealings with the discredited so-called “spiritistic” phenomena are attended, even now, by certain disadvantages to the investigator. Not only are his powers of observation, his critical judgment and his credibility brought into question, not only is he exposed to ridicule by the reproach of charlatanism […] but he even incurs the danger of being regarded as mentally deficient, or even as insane […].” Shrenck-Notzing goes on to write that even “the well-known psychologist, Charles Richet, has for the present entirely withdrawn from any dealings with the forbidden subject” for the reasons listed above.

Shrenck-Notzing took his work with Eva C. very seriously and the book is a testament to that fact. Each séance is entirely documented with photos, detailed notes, and diagrams. The reader is led through the entire experience from start to finish. Even “almost” séances are documented. One entry from May 20th,1910 reads, “Negative. Eva was indisposed. Hot and stormy weather.” There are several mentions of the séance being canceled due to inclement weather while some entries simply read “Negative.” One thing all of the sittings have in common is Shrenck-Notzing’s seemingly unflappable belief in the process. Of course, once he published his book many people realized that the process was a sham, but let’s explore how Eva C. entertained her audience and what went into her very convincing performances. In the intro, I gave you a little taste of what it was like to sit in on one of these séances, not just a séance with Eva C, but the experience of a séance with any medium during that time period. Of course, each medium had their own little tricks and claims to fame, but Eva, with her ectoplasmic ejections, was somewhat of a pioneer.

Upon entering the space, the medium intended to use for the séance, participants would be asked to sit. In some cases, the participants are looking for a lark. In others, they are the bereaved, those who have lost loved ones and desire a message from the other side. Occasionally, one or more of the participants is a plant, someone who knows the medium’s game plan and gives aid in the form of a knock or a whisper in the dark when the show is running a little slow. It was not uncommon for those who attended séances to sit in a darkened room for upwards of one hour waiting for a message from the other side. During this time, the medium would be sitting at the head of the table, behind a heavy black curtain, or inside a cabinet awaiting the arrival of their conjured spirits. The last option seems particularly uncomfortable given the close quarters and my personal dislike of confined spaces. Did I mention I now record this podcast in a walk-in closet? No? Well, that’s a thing now. Moving right along.

Eva C. and Cutout

The participants would be asked to sing a hymn of some sort. It didn’t matter which one, so long as it preoccupied the gathered crowd long enough that the medium could gather her “spirits” in whatever form she’d chosen. For some, “spirits” took the form of a table seemingly rising on its own. For others, the “spirits” would rap on the floor, the wall, or the underside of the table. Eva’s “spirits” were often cardboard cutouts or clippings from an issue of a magazine called Le Miroir wrapped or draped in cheesecloth (or fabric of similar composition), then attached to her clothing or her hair. The purpose of the hymn is not only to create ambiance but also to distract and to create a noise loud enough to mask the obvious sounds of a medium clumsily flopping around in a cabinet. Eva’s “spirits” in particular drew the interest of her crowds. Some of those assembled likely thought the faces in the cheesecloth looked familiar. Not necessarily like family members or friends of theirs, but royalty or women from magazines. Little did some of them know. From Wikipedia, “Miss Eva prepared the heads [chosen from the magazines] before every séance and endeavored to make them unrecognizable. A clean-shaven face was decorated with a beard. Grey hairs became black curls, a broad forehead was made into a narrow one. In spite of all her endeavors, she could not obliterate certain characteristic lines.

Now, the really interesting thing about Eva’s ectoplasm was that it supposedly appeared out of nowhere. Literally out of thin air! Shrenck-Notzing writes of this in Phenomena of Materialisation because it was obviously necessary for him to cover all his bases.

At this point, I’d like to let our listeners know that the information immediately following this disclaimer will likely completely cover “the talk” if you’ve not yet had it with your kids. Eva C. wasn’t shy about letting attendees “check” for deception. It’s not super graphic, but there are some *ahem* “medical terms and examinations” to follow. I also think it’s pertinent to add that Eva C. may have been a lesbian. Many of her sessions included a Mme. Bisson who would often, and thoroughly, check the medium for signs of deception. As this is the case, I shall furthermore refer to the female sex organ as a cumquat. I can’t say for sure that Eva C. and Mme. Bisson were in a sexual relationship, but I can say that being a lesbian in 1910 likely wasn’t super cool with a lot of folks, if a lot of folks even really knew what a lesbian was…? A commentary might go something like this, “I don’t know what’s up with Eva. She sure wears a lot of pants!” Scene. Thank you…thank you…I’m here all week. Anyway…

“When the medium put on the knitted hose garment, before the sitting, Mme. Bisson, in my presence, introduced her finger into the medium’s [cumquat]. She was also explored by Professor B. and the author through the garment, but with a negative result.

Assuming that a female medium wished to use the [cumquat] as a hiding place for closely rolled packets eg. chiffon, gauze, she would have to attach some kind of cord or ribbon to the packet beforehand in order to be able to withdraw it. The cord would be detected at the mouth of the vagina, and any finger introduced into the [cumquat] would feel the foreign body.”

Shrenck-Notzing then goes on to describe the wide-mouthed vs. small-mouthed variety and he’s not talkin’ about bass. He also discusses hiding items in the anal cavity. What? What did you think I meant when I said Eva liked to play “hide the gauze?”

“The restoration of the material to its hiding place would be even more difficult. It presupposes a careful folding up and packing in the darkness of the cabinet. An introduction of the packet into the anal opening would be almost unthinkable without the use of Vaseline.”

Yep! He went there, but he doubts SHE did. I also love that this is “almost unthinkable.” Is he speaking from experience?

So, what I’ve related to you previously will likely make this next bit very VERY gross, but considering Eva invented Ectoplasm, I think it’s pertinent to share.

“Eva’s left hand rested in the hands of Dr. B, who sat in front of her. Her right was held in both my hands. The curtain was fully opened. Suddenly, I felt on my hand a cool, sticky mass, which touched me. I took hold of it and brought it carefully outside of the curtain without letting go of Eva’s hand. The mass lengthened out my fingers and down from my hand, and I could observe it for one or two minutes. But while I continued to unravel it carefully it dissolved and disappeared in my hands. It was very difficult to describe this substance. I had the impression of a flat, striped, thread-like, sticky, cool, and living substance. It was odorless and had a light grey or whitish color. My fingers remained moist from the touch. The phenomenon was repeated about eight times, and four times I was able to take hold of the mass and show it to Dr. B.” He goes on to tell of another event in which Eva cried out when he took hold of the ectoplasm. She said, “That hurts me, but I wish it all the same!” Following an inspection, Shrenck-Notzing writes that the ectoplasm was “reabsorbed and disappeared.”

In the 1920s, through an investigation by the Society for Psychical Research, it was found that the ectoplasm was primarily made out of chewed paper.

Once the medium was thoroughly checked for signs of deception, Shrenck-Notzing went about the grueling task of cataloging every event, no matter how minuscule. He set up cameras and proceeded to take photos of the proceedings using a flashlight, a device that had only been around for ten or so years at this point in time. The photos themselves are pretty damning in terms of proving that Eva C.’s mediumship was a complete hoax, but he went about recording the event in hopes of convincing his readership of the complete opposite. You see, Shrenck-Notzing was utterly convinced, as were many of the other attendees of Eva’s séances. From what I’ve read, many of her participants were male and they were likely distracted by a nude woman being “checked for deceptions” and gallivanting around in the nude…which was absolutely a thing. Some of the evenings with Eva and Shrenck-Notzing were described as pornographic and often devolved into sexual escapades.

From here, I think I’d like to read you one of Shrenck-Notzing’s accounts. It helps to put one of these scenes into perspective and will give you a good idea of what one of his investigations entailed.

(An additional reading can be heard on the podcast (S4 Ep. 11) at oddentitypod.podbean.com.)

I’d like to thank you all for listening this week and for all the awesome feedback I’ve been receiving from our listeners. Shout out to Dave in Sweden for his kind email! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the show, Dave, and I hope I can continue to creep you out!

If you’d like to connect with me on social media, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @oddentitypod. Find me on Facebook at The ODDentity Podcast. If you’d like to shoot me an email with some feedback, to share a paranormal experience, or to suggest a topic for an upcoming show, that address is theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading and, as always, Stay Spooky!







Phenomena Of Materialisation: A Contribution to the Investigation Of Mediumistic Teleplastics by Albert Schrenck-Notzing

S4 Ep. 11: Happy Medium

This week, I present to you one of the most notorious mediums of all time. Even more cringe-worthy (by today’s standards) than The Long Island Medium. I’m speaking of course of Eva Carriere, a woman with the unique ability to produce “ectoplasm” (cheesecloth) from every orifice of her body. She was also super keen on cutting photos out of magazines.

This episode contains SO much chewed paper, a 300-year-old spirit, a rousing game of “Hide the Gauze”, and a disillusioned German psychotherapist.

Get Social!

Twitter and IG: OddentityPod

Facebook: The ODDentity Podcast

Email: theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com






Phenomena Of Materialisation: A Contribution to the Investigation Of Mediumistic Teleplastics by Albert Schrenck-Notzing

Haunted Monterey

S4 Ep. 10: Haunted Monterey


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





Get Social!

Please leave a 5* review on iTunes when you’ve got a minute. I’d really appreciate it!

Find The ODDentity Podcast on Twitter and IG as @oddentitypod.

Facebook: The ODDentity Podcast

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

Blog: theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com

New Episode Available for Download!

S4 Ep: 9 Blair Witch Kinda Sh*t


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.

Get Social!

Facebook: The ODDentity Podcast

Gmail: theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com

Twitter & IG: oddentitypod

WordPress: theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com

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.


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.

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



Urban legend Halloween candy


Ronald Clark O’Bryan



S4 Ep. 8: Laughin’ ’til I’m Coffin

New Episode Available!
S4 Ep. 8: Laughin’ ‘til I’m Coffin
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.
Timothy O’Bryan (farthest right) Photo from https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/a39329/halloween-photo-story/


Get Social!
IG and Twitter: Oddentitypod
Facebook: The ODDentity Podcast
WordPress: theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com
Email: theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com <<————-Send us your stories of true paranormal encounters, favorite haunted places, or urban legends. We want suggestions for future episodes! 😊