S6 Ep. 1: Palms Up

 

Sandalwood. Yes, that’s what I’m smelling.

I look lazily around the crowded room, filled with crystals and mystical nick-knacks, and the smoke from several incense sticks standing upright in a crystal holder at the center of a round table swirls about my head. A woman in flowing garb, a galaxy of colors ranging from peacock blue and lavender to chartreuse and hot pink, sits at the table, tugging at its ratty cloth with absent fingers, settling in for her next reading. I’m told to clear my mind and extend my arm, placing my hand palm up in front of her.

Her calloused hands take mine and her eyes squint as she runs the tip of a finger along the ley lines crisscrossing my palm. She’s likely in her 50’s, her hair is grey and kept in a tightly braided plat that falls over one shoulder. She’s wearing Birkenstocks and she smells faintly of sweat and, oddly enough, oranges and trout.

She smiles, cradling my palm like a newborn and sitting back, closing her eyes and tilting her head backward, causing the old chair she’s sitting in to creak and groan. The seconds tick past.

After a few minutes, I laugh out of unease. It’s been quiet for far too long and I am far too awkward and odd to allow the silence to stand. “You know,” I chuckle. “I’ve been told by other palm readers that my lifeline doesn’t show longevity.”

Her head snaps up. She blinks. “Most who practice palmistry believe the lifeline has very little to do with longevity. Rather, it’s the combination of heart, head, and lifelines together. Only read the lifeline itself and you aren’t getting the whole story.” She bites her lip, once again tracing the lines, a look of deep concentration settling on her face. “Your story, my dear, has only just begun.”

Hello ODD Balls, and welcome back to the first episode of Season 6 of The ODDentity Podcast, your weekly foray into the weird, wonky, and sometimes downright spooky.

This week, I’ll be talking about the practice of palmistry, its origins, and one of the more famous palmists, Chiro (kairo). Palmistry has a long and interesting history and is still practiced today. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an outdoor carnival or Halloween party that didn’t feature some type of fortune-telling or palmistry.

Before we get started, I wanted to let you all in on what’s been happening behind the scenes. Since its inception, originating as the Haunt Heads Podcast, the Odd Pod has developed a faithful following of listeners from all over the world. I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their continued support and for letting others know about this odd little cast. My email inbox has been filling up with questions about when I’d be releasing a new episode and suggestions for future topics.

The past couple of months have been a little hectic and filled with much uncertainty so I appreciate your sticking with me while I took a little break. Truthfully, I’m sure we’re all a little exhausted both physically and emotionally because of the world we’re currently living in. I don’t like to get political on this podcast as you all know, but I did want to give a shout out to all those in support of and marching with members from the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s important that we are all able to be respected and valued as human beings. As MLK once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Truer words have never been spoken. I stand with Black Lives Matter and support them wholeheartedly. As a white woman, I will never know the types of discrimination and hate that people of color have to endure, but I’m sure as hell not going to sit idly by. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all equal. I want to make sure I’m standing on the right side of history. I know that I am. I hope that you are, too.

I’d also like to take a moment to give a shout out to several of my podcasting pals on Instagram. If you’re not already subscribing, these are some great suggestions for further listening. They range in topics from nerdcore and manga to current events and classic conversation about the weird and mundane.

The Mr. Know It All Podcast

Made In the ’90s

The Nerd Lounge

The Area 81 Podcast

The JB Show

The Brochillians Podcast

Chit Chats w/Professor V

3 Little Blerds

A Shot of Facts Podcast

The Grownup-ish Podcast

I Got Problems Podcast

Ready or Not Radio

Mastermind Team’s Robcast

Bar Study Podcast

Genuine Chit-Chat

The Tragedy Academy

These Dudes Right Here Podcast

Special shoutout to the Black Label Podcast Studio

All awesome pods and all worth a listen! Time to expand your listening horizons and mash subscribe on some new ear candy. You’ll be glad you did! Listening numbers have been down all across the board due to this pandemic (people aren’t listening during their morning commute to work and it shows) and we could use your help.

You might notice a difference in this episode. I’ve found a couple of affiliates that I’ll be promoting. You might hear 1-2 ads per episode, but I’ll try to keep them short and sweet so they don’t take too much away from the show itself. Seriously, though, I was super picky when finding affiliates so the products I’m advertising are ones I use AND love. I’d never advertise something I didn’t believe in or think was generally awesome.

Last but not least, a new issue of Corvus Review is available for download at www.corev.ink. Scroll down to the “Issues” section. The most recent installment is at the bottom of the list. Lots of talented folks this time around and it’s free to download!

Apologies for all the updates this week! I promise there will be MUCH less housekeeping next week.

And now…on with the show!

 

The history of palmistry or chiromancy can be separated into two categories, ancient and modern palmistry.

From Wikipedia,

“Ancient Palmistry is a practice common to many different places on the Eurasian landmass; it has been practised in the cultures of India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Persia, Sumeria, Palestine and Babylonia.

The acupuncturist Yoshiaki Omura describes its roots in Hindu astrology (known in Sanskrit as jyotish), Chinese Yijing (I Ching), and Roma fortune tellers. Several thousand years ago, the Hindu sage Valmiki is thought to have written a book comprising 567 stanzas, the title of which translates in English as The Teachings of Valmiki Maharshi on Male Palmistry. From India, the art of palmistry spread to China, Tibet, Egypt, Persia and to other countries in Europe.

From India, palmistry progressed to Greece where Anaxagoras practiced it. Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) discovered a treatise on the subject of palmistry on an altar of Hermes, which he then presented to Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.E.), who took great interest in examining the character of his officers by analyzing the lines on their hands.

During the Middle Ages the art of palmistry was actively suppressed by the Catholic Church as pagan superstition. In Renaissance magic, palmistry (known as “chiromancy”) was classified as one of the seven “forbidden arts”, along with necromancy, geomancy, aeromancy, pyromancy, hydromancy, and scapulimancy.

Modern palmistry

Palmistry experienced a revival in the modern era starting with Captain Casimir Stanislas D’Arpentigny’s publication La Chirognomie in 1839. The Chirological Society of Great Britain was founded in London by Katharine St. Hill in 1889 with the stated aim to advance and systematise the art of palmistry and to prevent charlatans from abusing the art. Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont (Comte C. de Saint-Germain) founded the American Chirological Society in 1897.

A pivotal figure in the modern palmistry movement was the Irish William John Warner, known by his sobriquet, Cheiro. After studying under gurus in India, he set up a palmistry practice in London and enjoyed a wide following of famous clients from around the world, including famous celebrities like Mark Twain, W. T. Stead, Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison, the Prince of Wales, General Kitchener, William Ewart Gladstone, and Joseph Chamberlain. So popular was Cheiro as a “society palmist” that even those who were not believers in the occult had their hands read by him. The skeptical Mark Twain wrote in Cheiro’s visitor’s book that he had “…exposed my character to me with humiliating accuracy.”

Chiromancy is the practice of evaluating the character of an individual or their future by “reading” that person’s palm. It’s essentially a method of reading lines (heart line, lifeline, etc.) and mounts, sometimes called bumps. This particular aspect of palm reading is called Chirognomy. Other aspects of the palm such as the shape and length of the fingers, fingernails, fingerprints, skin patterns, color, the shape of the palm, and overall flexibility of the hand are also considered. One hand represents the unconscious mind while the other, the individual’s dominant hand (writing hand), represents the conscious mind. The reader will generally begin with the dominant hand though some palmists will examine the non-dominant hand as it is sometimes believed to carry hereditary traits. This preference ultimately depends on the palmist’s cosmological beliefs.ipalmis0

What is considered to be “classical” palmistry, the kind most widely taught and practiced, is said to have roots in Greek mythology, and each section of the palm, fingers, and features relate in some way to a god or goddess. The ring finger is commonly associated with Apollo and might be tied to a person’s associations with music, art, fame, or wealth. It is also a possibility that palmistry originated in the Sanatan Dharma or Indic Civilization and then was carried over to the Greeks. Cheiro himself had stated that his knowledge of palmistry was attained in the Indian village, Konkan.

Hand shape can also affect a reading depending on the type of palmistry being practiced. In fact, in most schools of palmistry, various hand shapes are separated into anywhere from 4 to 11 major types.

The most common classifications used by modern palmists (and variations are many and dependent on the palmist themselves) are:

Earth: palms are broad and square. Fingers are thick and the skin is coarse. The length of the palm is usually equal to the length of the fingers.

Water: palms are long and sometimes oval-shaped. Long, flexible fingers. The length of the palm is less than the width across the widest section of the palm and usually equal to the length of the fingers.

Air: Square or rectangular palms, long fingers, and low-set thumbs. The length of the palm from the wrist to the bottom of the fingers is usually equal to the length of the fingers.

Fire: Square or rectangular palm with shorter fingers, Length of the palm from the wrist to the bottom of the fingers is usually greater than the length of the fingers.

Earth and water hands have fewer lines and those that are present are deeper while air and fire hands have more lines but those lines have less definition.

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Now that we’ve ascertained the four types of palms, let’s take a closer look at the lines marking your palm.

The heart line represents love and attraction and would be the first major line inspected by your palm reader. It is found at the top of the palm and arches slightly downward from your pointer finger to your pinkie. This line represents your emotional life and therefore will offer a look into what the subject will act out or act upon in their emotional life. It’s claimed that the heart line can show intimate relationships and how those relationships will play out. For example, a “chained” heart line (your heard line has a bunch of little lines striking through it) points to a flirtatious attitude and means the individual will fall in love easily. It’s also said that this line is affiliated with heart health and all those little lines could be an indication of high blood pressure. Better cut down on those pork rinds.

The head line travels across your palm and is the line that begins between your thumb and pointer finger and extends toward the outside edge. It is often joined with the lifeline (we’ll talk about that in a minute) where it begins. Palmists see this line as a window into the mind and the way it works. It can relay information like communication style, intellect, and a preference for creative or analytical approaches (right vs. left brain) to life.

The lifeline is the most controversial as it’s believed to represent vitality, physical health, and general wellbeing.  It also reflects major life events like physical injuries and relocations. Modern palmists don’t necessarily believe that the lifeline is tied to the length of a person’s life. If that’s true, I’m living on borrowed time.

The combined length of these lines strung together is also said to have meaning. If the length is longer than the person’s foot, they may be overbearing whereas a shorter line would indicate someone who gives in too easily. A relatively equal length suggests someone who is well balanced. My lines combined are definitely on the shorter side.

” Additional major lines or variations include: A simian crease, or fusing of the heart and head lines, has special significance since this single line must be read to infer details about a subject’s emotional and reasoning nature. According to Cheiro, this line is thought to endow a person with an intensity of purpose or single-mindedness, the nature of which is decided upon by the exact position of this line on the hand and the direction of any branches shooting from it. In hands where such a line exists without any branches as a singular mark, it is taken to indicate an extremely intense nature, and special care is needed for such persons.

The normal position for the simian crease is starting below the index finger and ending where normally the heart line terminates at the edge of the hand below the little finger. The upper part of the palm lying immediately below the fingers is considered to represent the higher or intellectual nature and the lower part of the palm to represent the materialistic side of the nature. If one of these parts is larger than the other, as decided by the central placement of the simian crease, it shows greater development of that aspect of the nature.

Based on this general principle, if the simian crease is placed below its normal position it indicates an intensely intellectual nature. If it is placed above its normal position it indicates an intensely materialistic nature and interests. The direction in which any branches may be found shooting from this line are used to infer more details about the subject’s temperament.

The fate line runs from the bottom of the palm near the wrist, up through the center of the palm towards the middle finger. This line is believed to be tied to the person’s life path, including school and career choices, successes and obstacles. Sometimes this line is thought to reflect circumstances beyond the individual’s control, or alternately the person’s choices and their consequences.

 

The mounts in palmistry:
Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, Mercury, Mars positive, Mars negative, plain of Mars, Luna mount, Neptune mount, Venus mount

Other minor lines:

  • Sun line: Parallel to the Fate Line, under the ring finger; believed to indicate fame or scandal
  • Girdle of Venus: Starts between the little and ring fingers, runs in a rough arc under the ring and middle fingers to end between the middle and pointer fingers; thought to relate to emotional intelligence and the ability to manipulate
  • Union lines: Short horizontal lines found on the percussive edge of the palm between the Heart Line and the bottom of the little finger; believed to indicate close relationships, sometimes—but not always—romantic.
  • Mercury line: Runs from the bottom of the palm near the wrist, up through the palm towards the little finger; purported to be an indicator of persistent health issues, business acumen, or skill in communication.
  • Travel lines: These are horizontal lines found on the percussive edge of the palm between the wrist and the heart line; each line is said to represent a trip taken by the subject—the longer the line, the more important the trip is to the subject.
  • Other markings: These include stars, crosses, triangles, squares, tridents, and rings under each of the fingers; their supposed impact and meaning varies by location on the palm and freedom from other interfering lines.
  • “Apollo line”: The Apollo line is said to represent a fortunate life; it travels from the Mount of the Moon at the wrist to beneath the Apollo finger.”

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Now, let’s get to know Cheiro as he was more famously called, and learn a little bit about his palmistry dealings.

In Palmistry for All, Cheiro included a special intro for American readers.

“There is no country in the world where the “study of character” is more indulged in than in the United States of America. During my many visits there I could not help remarking how even the “hardest headed” businessmen used any form of this study that they could get hold of to help them in their business dealings with other men and also in endeavoring to ascertain the character of their clerks and employees.

In looking over the records of my career I find that in the course of my visits to America I gave private lessons to the heads of two hundred and seventy business establishments in New York, one hundred and thirty-five in Boston, and three hundred and forty-two in Chicago.

All these men were large employers of labour and what they principally wanted was, to have some help beyond that of their own judgment in dealing with those with whom they came in contact in the regular course of their business careers. In no other country did I find the same interest taken in the study of character from a practical standpoint.

It is for this reason that I write a special Preface for this Edition, believing as I do that my American[Pg iv] readers will appreciate the added information I may be able to give regarding the obtaining by a mere glance at a hand a quick grasp of the leading characteristics of the persons with whom they are thrown into contact, or for whatever reason they choose to make use of this study.

Everyone knows that “the face can wear a mask,” that a person may be a good actor and put on a certain expression that may deceive even the best judgment.

But hands cannot change as the result of a mere effort to please; the character they express is the real nature of the individual—the true character that has been formed by heredity or that has grown up with the person by long years of habit.

The characteristics alluded to below are those which may be easily observed and which are aids to a rapid judgment of character and which I have never before been able to give to the public in such a concise way.

The more elaborate details concerning the ultimate success of the person one is talking to, their more intimate character and their future development will be found in their proper place, in the subsequent chapters.”

Born William John Warner (and taking the name Count Louis Hamon in later years), Cheiro was born in Rathdown, a village just outside Dublin. He acquired his expertise in palm reading in India and traveled to the Bombay port of Apollo Bunder where he met the man who would become his guru, Chitpavan Brahmin. Brahmin took Cheiro to his village and was later permitted to study an ancient text that contained many studies of the hand. He spent two years in the Konkan region of Maharashtra and then left for London where he started what would be a long and illustrious career as a palmist.

His following grew over time and by the late 19th/early 20th century he was reading the fortunes of celebrities like Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and Joseph Chamberlain. He documented all of his sittings and encouraged his patrons to sign the book and comment on their experiences. He even read the palm of the Prince of Wales and William Pirrie, chairman of Harland and Wolf, the company that built the Titanic. Cheiro predicted the Titanic’s demise telling Pirrie he “would soon be in a fight” for his life.

Believers and non-believers got their readings from Cheiro and, after living in London for some time and hobnobbing with the upper crust of society there, he moved to America. He spent his last years in Hollywood, California seeing upwards of twenty clients a day. His obituary read, “Count Louis Hamon (“Cheiro”), 69, celebrated oldtime palmist; after long illness; in Hollywood. Author of a book on palmistry at 13, owned an English-language newspaper in Paris, The American Register. On the night he died, said his nurse, the clock outside his room struck the hour of one thrice.” It is said he predicted his own death to the day and the hour.

Cheiro wrote many occult texts on fortune-telling and a large number of them are still in print today. They’re available in both English and foreign language editions so, if you’re interested in numerology, palmistry, or astrology, look up some of his work. He even dabbled in fiction writing with his book A Study of Destiny (published in 1898 as The Hand of Fate.)

You may recall the 1947 cartoon Fun and Fancy-Free where Mickey Mouse, in a telling of Jack and the Beanstalk, reads the giant’s palm to escape being otherwise clobbered by the beast for stealing a golden egg. References like this in cartoons and movies have led to a hefty skepticism of palmistry in general. Even The Simpsons and Harry Potter have jumped on the bandwagon. Truthfully, there is a lack of empirical evidence supporting the efficacy of palmistry and it’s largely seen as a pseudoscientific belief that falls into the realm of superstition. Palmists are also frequently dumped onto the list of alleged psychics who cold read, using high probability guessing and then using cues from the person they’re reading. I think it’s a great bit of fun to go to a palmist and have my lines read, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on any advice I was given. Life tends to work out how it will. Maybe your palmist will hit the nail on the head or maybe you’ll leave feeling like the entire sitting was a waste of time. I suppose you’ll have to go and visit your local palm reader and find out which reading you’ll get and if you’re keen on delving a little more into pseudoscience, I’d recommend The Skeptic’s Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, & Dangerous Delusions by Robert Todd Carroll. According to Carroll, “The Skeptic’s Dictionary is aimed at four distinct audiences: the open-minded seeker, who makes no commitment to or disavowal of occult claims; the soft skeptic, who is more prone to doubt than to believe; the hardened skeptic, who has strong disbelief about all things occult; and the believing doubter, who is prone to believe but has some doubts. The one group this book is not aimed at is the ‘true believer’ in the occult. If you have no skepticism in you, this book is not for you.” As I’ve said many times before, I believe it’s important to have a healthy level of skepticism while still enjoying all the wonderful and the weird that the world has to offer.

 

That’s it for this week dear listeners. I’ll drop a link to Chiro’s book Palmistry for All in the show notes. It’s a fascinating read.

Tune in next week for 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 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!

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Sources:

Palmistry for All (Free Online Access) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/20480/20480-h/20480-h.htm

Link to Carroll’s book https://www.amazon.com/Skeptics-Dictionary-Collection-Deceptions-Dangerous/dp/0471272426/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2H89GOJBPHVUX&dchild=1&keywords=the+skeptics+dictionary&qid=1594314795&sprefix=the+skeptics+dicti%2Caps%2C161&sr=8-1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmistry

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheiro

Not in Vein: Barbers & Bloodletting

We’ve all heard stories that make us do a double-take, tales that just don’t compute and so we sit with our heads cocked like confused spaniels and await a further explanation. Humans are narrative animals, after all, and so we relay important information via storytelling. Sometimes the stories we hear serve a purpose, to warn us away from danger perhaps. Other times, the stories are just for fun, for the purpose of being weird. This is one of those stories.

My grandfather said a barber taught him how to drive a car. A barber, I asked? Why in the world would a barber teach you how to drive a car? Well, it’s wasn’t like I could go to the DMV and take a road test, he scoffed. Things were different back then. So, what happened, I asked? He said he went to the barber for a trim, the guy had his Ford parked by the door, my grandfather got his haircut and the barber, having finished, for the time being, offered to teach my grandfather how to drive. He said the barber took him up the road a ways, told him to speed up, slow down, turn around, and put the car in park. My grandfather did all of this and he and the barber went back to the barbershop and the barber dubbed him able to drive. Apparently, this was a regular occurrence in his small town in the 1930s/40s. Really, I asked? Sure, he said. We had to come back early though because he would have been late for a bloodletting.

Wait…what??

Hello ODD Balls, and welcome back to another episode of The ODDentity Podcast, your weekly foray into the weird, wonky, and sometimes downright spooky. This week, I wanted to focus on the practice of bloodletting, the bleeding of an individual to remove various illnesses. If you’re a queasy sort, I’d maybe skip this one. I don’t expect it to be too graphic, but we’ll absolutely be talking about blood.

Before we get started, I’d like to thank Daniel from Michigan and Cat from Minnesota for their lovely emails. I always enjoy reading about spooky places and practices from other parts of the world and I’ll be adding their suggestions to my ever-growing list. What were their suggestions, you ask? You’ll just have to wait and see!

I’d also like to give a shout out to Mike Burton of the Genuine Chit-Chat Podcast. Interviewing with Mike was a hoot and I’m looking forward to the next time we might sit down and have a chat. If you’re interested in listening to the two-part interview I did with Mike, pop on over to genuinechitchat.podbean.com and check out episode #78 (part 1 and 2.) We talked about a bunch of stuff including some of my collections and my passion for folklore and urban legends. Truly though, Mike has a great podcast and interviews some really interesting people. You should absolutely have a listen to the other episodes as well and subscribe if you like what you hear. Thanks for the time, Mike! And for god’s sake, STOP bleaching your mustache. 😉

Anyway…

Boar bile enemas, urine as an antiseptic, and thick needles used to remove cataracts… Medical history is weird and some aspects of it are absolutely horrifying. I mean, I understand that we had to start somewhere. How were we to know that creating a poultice for an open wound using human excrement was a bad idea? We had to try it and see what would happen! Guesswork. All of it.

In a past episode, I talked about the four humors and how an imbalance in blood and bile was blamed for many ailments. I won’t rehash a lot of that info here, you’ll have to listen to that episode a little later (S2 Ep. 5), but I do want to put things in perspective.

There are four humors: Blood/Sanguine, Phlegm, Yellow Bile, and Black Bile and these four humors (according to Hippocrates) governed a large majority of early “medical” practices.

Blood: Blood is found in veins and arteries (seems pretty normal, right?) and can also be referred to as Sanguine (Latin for to deal with blood.) Hippocrates believed that the liver was exclusively in charge of the blood-making process within the body and that the amount of blood within a single individual could influence their complexion as well as their personality. Production of blood was linked to spring and summer and, as the seasons got warmer, the increasing heat brought blood to the surface of the skin producing sweat in an effort to cool off (likely why the blood humor is linked to heat and moisture.) If you had an excess of blood, it meant you were Sanguine and your personality would be jovial or charismatic. It could also mean that you were big into daydreaming and sociable toward others. Sanguine personalities often had red complexions, further leading *” physicians” of the time to believe that their evaluation of Sanguine individuals was correct. Bleeding was the general cure for too much of this humor.

*Please note that I’ve put the term “physician” within quotation marks. During this time, anyone could be a physician on a whim. There were “good physicians,” but nobody really had a clue as to the inner workings of the human body. Anyone could wake up one morning and decide to start treating patients. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. Moving right along…

Phlegm: You’ve likely become familiar with this humor while hacking up a lung during cold and flu season. Way back when phlegm was associated with winter and cold weather. Makes sense. While it was cold and damp outside, people had a tendency to get sick and, of course, the phlegm itself was considered the cause of the illness (not a byproduct.) The treatment would be to avoid cold foods and liquids. If you’re sick, you don’t really have that get up and go, which is likely why people who were categorized as Phlegmatic were quiet and sluggish. The brain and lungs were said to produce this humor.

Black Bile: It just doesn’t exist within the human body. It is likely that clotted blood was mistaken for black bile and was categorized as such. It was believed that Black Bile was produced by the gall bladder and diseases of “fear and despondency” (read anxiety and depression.) This was later called melancholia (melancholy,) meaning sad. Black bile is associated with the earth and the season of autumn.

Yellow Bile: If you’ve ever gone a while without eating to the point of being physically sick, you’ve likely met this humor. Yellow Bile was associated with aggression and the element of fire. That makes sense because vomiting stomach acid can be very uncomfortable.

The particular episode on which this information was originally shared was about corpse medicine, the use of mummies (yeah, like mummies from Egypt) to cure certain ailments, but these descriptions of what were believed to be the internal workings of the human body are essentially interchangeable. The above informed early “physicians” regarding many medical issues so I think it’s pertinent to know the humors and understand their supposed purposes. Plus, it’s kind of odd and creepy, so totally on brand!

In 1215, the Pope decreed that patients who needed bloodletting would have to go to barbershops. You see, barbers had all the equipment needed to perform the task. They could also pull teeth, administer leeches (we’ll talk a little about those little bloodsuckers later), and amputate limbs if needed. Why would barbers be considered capable? Well, they knew how to use a razor and so presumably they would be skillful at any treatment that involved cutting skin. That seems like quite a stretch to me, but okay.

From The Vintage News, “Blood was removed from the patient’s body by using tools such as lancet (a small surgical knife with a sharp point). Depending on the condition of the patient, different amounts of blood were drawn from the patient’s body. During the procedure, the patients were given a pole which they gripped in order to make their veins bulge.

The blood was kept in shallow bowls or flint glass cups which barbers placed on the windows of the barbershops. The used bandages were hung on the barber’s pole in order to advertise the services that the barbers offered. Today the barber’s poles have red and white stripes which represent the blood and the bandages.”

Surgeons still performed the practice of bloodletting, but in the 14th century, many surgeons were wiped out during the Black Plague and so the number of people seeking bloodletting increased. They would travel from town to town and set up tents where they would perform their services. Don’t worry, I’m sure it was super sterile! The barbers that did this were known as The Flying Barbers. Super cute. Barbering wasn’t completely separated from medicine to be considered an independent profession until the 19th century but it apparently wasn’t odd to find a small-town barber who could drain your blood and teach you how to drive.

So now that we know a little about barbers and bloodletting, let’s get a little into the history of the practice.

Bloodletting, essentially the practice of withdrawing blood from a patient to prevent an illness or to cure a disease, was performed by surgeons from antiquity until the late 19th century. It was used to treat many diseases and afflictions (perceived and otherwise) including acne, asthma, cancer, cholera, coma, convulsions, diabetes, epilepsy, gangrene, gout, herpes, indigestion, insanity, jaundice, leprosy, ophthalmia, plague, pneumonia, scurvy, smallpox, stroke, tetanus, and tuberculosis to name a few. If you got a nosebleed, you’d be bled. If your period was excessive, you’d be bled. If you had bleeding for hemorrhoids, you guessed it, you’d be bled. It seems counterproductive, doesn’t it? There were even some physicians (quotations again) who claimed bleeding would cure heartbreak. From Wikipedia, “A French physician, Jacques Ferrand wrote a book in 1623 on the uses of bloodletting to cure a broken heart. He recommended bloodletting to the point of heart failure (literal.)” Bleed you until you literally died. Seems legit, right?

From History.com, “Considered one of medicine’s oldest practices, bloodletting is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt. It then spread to Greece, where physicians such as Erasistratus, who lived in the third century B.C., believed that all illnesses stemmed from an overabundance of blood or plethora. (Erasistratus also thought arteries transported air rather than blood, so at least some of his patients’ blood vessels were spared his eager blade.) In the second century A.D., the influential Galen of Pergamum expanded on Hippocrates’ earlier theory that good health required a perfect balance of the four “humors”—blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. His writings and teachings made bloodletting a common technique throughout the Roman empire. Before long it flourished in India and the Arab world as well.

In medieval Europe, bloodletting became the standard treatment for various conditions, from plague and smallpox to epilepsy and gout. Practitioners typically nicked veins or arteries in the forearm or neck, sometimes using a special tool featuring a fixed blade and known as a fleam. In 1163 a church edict prohibited monks and priests, who often stood in as doctors, from performing bloodletting, stating that the church “abhorred” the procedure. Partly in response to this injunction, barbers began offering a range of services that included bloodletting, cupping, tooth extractions, lancing, and even amputations—along with, of course, trims and shaves. The modern striped barber’s pole harkens back to the bloodstained towels that would hang outside the offices of these “barber-surgeons.”

So, people went to get a haircut and then had some of their blood drained. Nothing strange about that! The invent of scarificators and spring-loaded lancets in the 18th century did make the process of bleeding slightly less painful, but I’ve never been good with unpredictable pain and “count of three” bullshit. And in case you’re wondering what a scarificator is, the device contained multiple blades that would make a set of parallel cuts in the skin. You pushed a button on top of the scarificator and the blades would flash against the skin. Around this time, bleeding was reserved for the elite. Marie Antoinette was bled while in childbirth. She fainted mid push and was revived by bloodletting! Actually, someone opened a window and the fresh air revived her, but physicians back then were always looking for reasons to extoll the practice.

Leeches were also used for bloodletting. On the morning of July 13, 1824, a French Sergeant sustained a stab wound to the chest. It only took a few minutes for him to faint from blood loss, but once he arrived at the hospital, he was bled another 20 ounces to “prevent inflammation.” During the night he was bled another 24 ounces and another 10 the following morning. Over the course of the next 14 hours, he was supposedly bled 5 more times!

“Medical attendants thus intentionally removed more than half of the patient’s normal blood supply—in addition to the initial blood loss which caused the sergeant to faint. Bleedings continued over the next several days. By 29 July, the wound had become inflamed. The physician applied 32 leeches to the most sensitive part of the wound. Over the next three days, there were more bleedings and a total of 40 more leeches. The sergeant recovered and was discharged on 3 October. His physician wrote that “by the large quantity of blood lost, amounting to 170 ounces [nearly eleven pints] (4.8 liters), besides that drawn by the application of leeches [perhaps another two pints] (1.1 liters), the life of the patient was preserved”. By nineteenth-century standards, thirteen pints of blood taken over the space of a month was a large but not an exceptional quantity. The medical literature of the period contains many similar accounts-some successful, some not.”

There is also another form of therapy called Cupping, a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. Generally, when you start reading about bloodletting and leeches you start to tumble down a black hole of medical quackery. Cupping was believed to be beneficial and generally went hand in hand with bloodletting during medieval times.  From Wikipedia, “While details vary between practitioners, societies, and cultures, the practice consists of drawing tissue into a cap placed on the targeted area by creating a partial vacuum – either by the heating and subsequent cooling of the air in the cup or via a mechanical pump. The cup is usually left in place for somewhere between five and fifteen minutes.

Cupping therapy types can be classified using four distinct methods of categorisation. The first system of categorisation relates to “technical types” including dry, wet, massage, and flash cupping therapy. The second categorisation relates to “the power of suction related types” including light, medium, and strong cupping therapy. The third categorisation relates to “the method of suction related types” including fire, manual suction, and electrical suction cupping therapy. The fourth categorisation relates to “materials inside cups” including herbal products, water, ozone, moxa, needle, and magnetic cupping therapy.

Further categories of cupping were developed later. The fifth relates to the area treated including: facial, abdominal, female, male, and orthopedic cupping therapy. The sixth relates to “other cupping types” that include sports and aquatic cupping.”

You know, all this talk of cupping makes me feel a little uncomfortable so I’m going to move this show along. There’s absolutely no real evidence that cupping offers any health benefits whatsoever and has been deemed complete trash by medical professionals.

The belief here was that it was better to do something, anything, to try and alleviate a patient’s symptoms or suffering than nothing at all. I mean, you could also just throw them in the road and have someone run them over with a cart repeatedly and call that “medicine.” Honestly, if I were suffering from a headache or a broken finger and someone ran me over with a cart, the symptoms I started with would be more or less “alleviated” because they’d be the furthest thing from my mind. “I’ve been run over 35 times with a horse cart and all of my bones are essentially mush, but Christ if only I didn’t have this damned headache!”

Now, by the late 1800s, new treatments had taken the place of bloodletting and many physicians at the time discredited the practice, saying it had no value. But this form of medicine hasn’t fallen to the wayside. In some ways, it has. Bleeding is not the catch-all cure it used to be and is now only rarely used except for a few very specific medical conditions. For example, Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder characterized by excessive intestinal absorption of dietary iron, resulting in a pathological increase in total body iron stores. Humans, like most animals, have no means to excrete excess iron. Additionally, Polycythemia vera is an uncommon myeloproliferative neoplasm in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. It may also result in the overproduction of white blood cells and platelets.

From here I’m going to talk a little bit about self-bloodletting. If you’re triggered by talk of self-mutilation, self-harm, or suicide, I’d recommend skipping this next bit.

There are also individuals who suffer from SBL or Self-Bloodletting. The Eurasian Journal of Medicine published an academic paper by Onur Burak Dursun, Fatma Varol Tas, and Taner Guvenir titled “Self-Bloodletting: An Unusual Form of Self-Mutilation in Adolescence.” In the paper, they address self-mutilation and make the claim that bloodletting can actually be lumped in with eating and personality disorders. There is a sense of euphoria from being bled and people who suffer from SBL will sometimes bleed themselves to the point just shy of death in order to feel the high. “Deliberate self-harm is a common clinical problem in adolescence. Self-bloodletting (SBL), however, is a rare form of self-mutilation that refers to the act of draining one’s own blood by venipuncture or an intravenous cannula [1]. In the literature, this behavior is commonly associated with eating and personality disorders. The French literature describes this as a syndrome called “Lasthenia de Ferjol”, which is characterized by self-induced hemorrhage, anemia and a pathologic personality [2]. ‘Factitious anemia’ is another term to describe obscure anemia cases caused by SBL [3]. Fatalities have also been reported due to SBL. In this paper, we present the in-patient treatment of a 17-year-old female who was letting up to 250 ccs of blood per day. To our knowledge, this is the first adolescent case reported.”

The following is the case of a young woman who, for the purposes of confidentiality, is only referred to as E.B.

“E.B. is a 17-year-old girl studying at a nursing high school. She was referred to our clinic by a psychiatrist for hospitalization.

In the assessment session, we were informed that her problems began two years ago when she began high school. She initially complained of restlessness, especially at nights. Her first method of reducing distress was self-cutting, and she did this several times. As she began her training rotation in hospital wards, she discovered a new way of relieving herself: self-bloodletting. Initially, she took blood from her antecubital vein using a 5-ml syringe. The amount increased to 60 ccs per day. In one incident, she used an IV cannula to let 250 ccs of blood. Following this incident, she discarded blood or flushed it down the toilet. Although her primary aim was to reduce distress and experience relief, in the course of her illness, she also began to perceive bloodletting as an indirect and gradual type of suicide. Six months prior to admission to our clinic, E. B. fainted during her practice in the hospital, and her hemoglobin level was 5 g/dl. Clinicians did not find any sign of blood loss or bleeding from the gastrointestinal, urinary or reproductive systems. She was admitted to the internal medicine ward and received a blood transfusion. Nevertheless, on her second day in the ward, she left the hospital against doctors’ orders to hide the cause of her anemia. Following the advice of the intern doctors, her family decided to seek psychiatric help. E. B. talked about her bloodletting behavior in her mental state assessment and was admitted to our in-patient unit. In her initial assessment, E. B. told her clinician that in the last 6 months she felt upset, tired and had no interest in routine activities. She had also lost appetite and weight. She had suicidal thoughts and overdosed one month before admission.

E.B. had poor peer relationships but high academic performance, especially at her current high school. Her family had a low socioeconomic status; her father was a street vendor, who E. B. described as a distant and cold man. Her mother was a caring housewife. She had two siblings: a 19-year-old sister and a 14-year-old brother. She did not report any psychiatric illnesses, or drug or alcohol dependence in her personal or family psychiatric history. She had no remarkable medical history.

The psychopharmacological section of her treatment began with 50 mg/day of sertraline for her depression, olanzapine 10 mg/day for impulse control and benzodiazepine-only if needed-to reduce distress. She attended group and personal therapy sessions twice a week and all other therapeutic pursuits, except for out-clinic activities due to her high suicidal and destructive risk. During her stay, she showed clear borderline personality disorder behavioral trends. Her mood was unstable and we observed a rapid devaluation of her relationships with other young people and the staff in the unit. E. B. complained of feeling empty. While in a dissociative state, the unit team refused her request for a syringe; she then attempted to choke herself or cut her wrists with any sharp item she could find. These states would last nearly half an hour and could only be ended by chemical or physical restrains. After calming down, she would try to convince the unit team that she was in an unconscious state and did not remember what she had done and would promise not to repeat her behavior.

E.B.’s eating pattern was another concern. Although her symptoms did not fulfill the criteria for a DSM IV eating disorder, she suffered from severe eating problems. In addition to her poor appetite (which was related to her depression), she also refused food. She lost 2.7 kilograms in the first week in our unit. She later managed to convey that refusing food was also a type of self-harming behavior, perhaps with the goal of a painful death.

In spite of all the therapeutic interventions she received, E. B.’s self-destructive behaviors did not diminish during her 2-week stay. Ensuring her safety and maintaining treatment for both her and other patients became impossible; the unit team decided to refer her to a more secure unit. E. B. showed no clinical improvement at discharge.”

 

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

Until next time, Stay Spooky!

If you are contemplating suicide or just need someone to talk to about what you’re feeling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 (in the U.S.) I’m also including a link to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Call 1-800-950-NAMI or Text NAMI to 741741. I’ve also included a list of helplines worldwide.

Please remember: You are not alone.

https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-HelpLine/Top-HelpLine-Resources

https://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines

 

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.

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Sources:
https://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-bloodletting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodletting

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4261330/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupping_therapy

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/02/24/patients-that-needed-bloodletting-were-sent-to-the-barbershops-hence-the-red-white-pole-outside-of-them/

 

Haunted Monterey

S4 Ep. 10: Haunted Monterey

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

About Patrick Whitehurst

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

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/pmwhitehurst

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

 

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

Blog: theoddentitypodcast.wordpress.com

New Episode Available for Download!

S4 Ep: 9 Blair Witch Kinda Sh*t

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

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

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The Death Of Halloween

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

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

History of Tricks and Treats

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

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

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

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

Cases of Poisoned Treats

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

Wait…really?

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

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

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

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

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

The Candyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Halloween PSA

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

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

Urban legend Halloween candy

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

Ronald Clark O’Bryan

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

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

S4 Ep. 8: Laughin’ ’til I’m Coffin

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

 

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Werewolves: Myths and Legends

One of my favorite films is American Werewolf in London. It’s essentially a movie about two college dudes who go on a walkabout in Britain and are attacked by a werewolf that nobody they encounter will admit exists. It’s written and directed by John Landis and contains some pretty fantastic makeup and prosthetic work. It took an average of 5 hours to get it applied. My father tried to make me a werewolf for Halloween one year and I looked like I’d run into a wig shop covered in crazy glue. Trust me, it was bad. Think more along the lines of Cousin Itt. And the Spirit Gum…oh! It was awful…but anyway, here’s a brief synopsis that writer John Vogel did for IMDB.

“Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths.”

I was little more than 7 months old when the movie hit the theaters in August of 1981 and it grossed over 30 million worldwide. Clearly, audiences were interested in werewolves, their lore, and their tortured lives. But stories about werewolves didn’t originate with American Werewolf in London. They actually originated in one of the oldest known pieces of Western prose The Epic of Gilgamesh when Gilgamesh jilts a potential lover because she’d turned her previous mate into a wolf. A total deal-breaker for ‘ol Gilge. In Greek mythology, we are presented with the Legend of Lycaon (Lycan is a term you might have heard used in the Underworld movies, but it’s far older than that) who “angered the god Zeus when he served him a meal made from the remains of a sacrificed boy. As punishment, the enraged Zeus turned Lycaon and his sons into wolves.” Werewolves are also spoken about in Nordic folklore in the Saga of the Volsungs. The story tells of “a father and son who discovered wolf pelts that had the power to turn people into wolves for ten days. The father-son duo donned the pelts, transformed into wolves and went on a killing rampage in the forest. Their rampage ended when the father attacked his son, causing a lethal wound. The son only survived because a kind raven gave the father a leaf with healing powers.” (history.com)

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Serial Killer or Werewolf?

In the early 1500s, a time when flicking a Bic lighter would have sent the average townsperson into a panicked frenzy, two men, Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun, were accused of being werewolves. It all began when Burgot was assailed by three men in black who told him that if he didn’t denounce God they would do something terrible to him. If he did denounce God, they guaranteed the safety of the flock of sheep he was transporting and riches beyond his wildest imaginings. Of course, Burgot agreed because why not. When Verdun (one of the men in black—no not THOSE men in black) told Burgot that they would go together to meet a group of warlocks, things start to get a little weird. Verdun tells Bergot that he should strip down naked and the two began applying some sort of salve or mixture all over their bodies. Burgot and Verdun (according to Burgot) began to immediately grow coarse fur and their hands and feet became clawed. The two then took to the French countryside to murder and eat small children. You know, just a guy’s night out.

Of course, Burgot and Verdun’s rampages came to an end when they were found guilty of mass murder and burned alive (one of the only ways that were considered logical to kill a werewolf in the 1500s.) The witch trials were in full swing during this time so burning at the stake was pretty much a catchall punishment for ungodly acts. Verdun and Burgot are seen by some as serial killers who preyed on the most innocent of humanity while others still believe that the men were indeed werewolves. (https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/burgot-pierre-d-1521)

Another man by the name of Peter Stubbe who was a fifteenth-century farmer in Bedburg, Germany was supposedly a werewolf. Folklore tales tell of Stubbe transforming into a wolf-like creature and devouring any poor villager who might cross his path. Stubbe was cornered one evening by a group of hunters who claimed to have seen him transform from human to wolf and Stubbe confessed to the crimes. He was subjected to gruesome torture for his crimes. He claimed under duress that he owned a belt that was enchanted with the power to turn him into a wolf, but the belt was never found. Some believe that Stubbe was the victim of a witch hunt, but at this point in history there were fears of such creatures and it would have been difficult to find a person who did not believe that werewolves were on the prowl.

There are many logical explanations for werewolf lore and the visage/behaviors that go along with it. For example, lycanthropy is a rare psychological condition that causes people to believe they’re changing into a wolf or some other animal. Rabies can cause even the most “normal” of individuals to go batty. Hypertrichosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes excessive hair growth, could be another affliction that could cause panic. The ingestion of hallucinogenic herbs could be to blame. There are absolutely reasonable explanations out there to explain away the werewolf and its wolfy-ness, but perhaps it’s just more fun to believe that there is more to this world we live in than meets the eye.

 

Shapeshifting

In many cultures, it is believed that a human being can shapeshift into the form of a wolf because a curse has been placed upon that person. Perhaps they’ve been bitten or scratched by a wolf, another cursed human who is doomed to stalk the earth as a creature of the night. Folklore tells us that enchanted sashes, cloaks, or belts are to blame. In many werewolf stories, the person only turns into a wolf when the moon is full.

Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.

You might recognize this poem from the 1941 film The Wolf Man featuring Lon Cheney Jr. It seems like every time someone brings up the subject of werewolves, the townspeople chime in with this little rhyme. This Wolfman is the image that many people associate with film representations of werewolves. But this is not the case in every culture. In Navajo culture, tales of Skinwalkers are often told. Translated, yee naaldooshii translates to “by means of it, it goes on all fours.” From Wikipedia,

“Animals associated with witchcraft usually include tricksters such as the coyote, but can include other creatures, usually those associated with death or bad omens. They might also possess living animals or people and walk around in their bodies by locking eyes with them. Skin-walkers may be male or female. Skin-walker stories told among Navajo children may be complete life and death struggles that end in either skin-walker or Navajo killing the other or partial encounter stories that end in a stalemate. Encounter stories may be composed as Navajo victory stories, with the skin-walkers approaching a Hogan (the traditional dwelling of Navajo people) and being scared away

Non-Native interpretations of skin-walker stories typically take the form of partial encounter stories on the road, where the protagonist is temporarily vulnerable, but then escapes from the skin-walker in a way not traditionally seen in Navajo stories that take place away from home. Sometimes Navajo children take European folk stories and substitute skin-walkers for generic killers like The Hook. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin-walker)

These creatures will knock on windows and bang on walls in an effort to lure their victims outside. Skinwalkers have the ability to steal the faces of people you know and, if you accidentally lock eyes with one, they have the ability to absorb themselves into your body and take control of you. Most Skinwalkers are said to resemble “hollowed out dogs” (not sure what that means, but it sure as hell sounds horrifying) and you can apparently defeat a Skinwalker if you call them by their true (human) name.

I found one particularly horrifying encounter with a Skinwalker on Thought Catalogue. There is a bunch to look through there.

THEY RAN AWAY ON THEIR BACK LEGS

“So this happened about twelve years ago. My family owns a farm in the heart of an Indian reservation. One Winter I was home for Christmas taking care of the farm while my parents were away Christmas shopping. As I was home by myself, way late in the night and I hear all our cows freaking out. I knew it had to be the wild dogs that are rampant in the area. So I throw on some boots, grab a shotgun, load it up, and head out to the field. This was a perfect scenario for a horror movie, it was cloudy but there was a full moon, and it was breaking through the clouds just right to light up all the snow.

I ran out into the middle of the field, and just in time I see two dogs, they were standing up facing each other and fighting. I think “perfect two for one.” So I pump a shell into the chamber of Mr. 12 gauge and then it happened. The two dogs heard the rack, they both stopped, looked over at me, and ran away, ON THEIR BACK LEGS. Immediately I froze, and every ghost story about Skinwalkers and all the other Native legends I grew up with flew through my mind. Keep in mind I am a white guy, and up until then, these were all just boogie man stories the Native kids like to tell to scare us. That night, they became real to me.” (https://thoughtcatalog.com/jacob-geers/2016/10/14-facts-about-skinwalkers-that-will-100-scare-the-shit-out-of-you/)

American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man, Skinwalkers…these are all just fantastical tales that tickle the imagination and serve to creep us out, right? All I can say is, if you hop in your car and drive to Holy Hill Road in Washington County, WI, and hang out for a bit, you might see something you can’t explain. Reports of werewolf sightings in that area go back to the 1930s and they show no signs of slowing down. Steve Krueger, a DNR worker, has encountered a werewolf first hand. When picking up carcasses in the Holy Hill area, Krueger claims he saw a beast that had pointed ears on top of its head. It was stocky, covered in coarse hair, and came in at roughly 6 to 7’ in height. Apparently, there have been many sightings over the years of giant wolves stalking the area. Linda Godfrey, an author, and journalist, has been stalking the werewolf legend in that area for 17 years. She lives in Elkhorn and has received hundreds of reports of sightings, many just miles from her home. A documentary, The Beast of Bray Road is available on Amazon Prime for those of you with access and there are some pretty spooky tales about these creatures. Godfrey has written eight books about The Beast and now she’s getting stories of encounters from all over the world. In an interview with NBC15, Godfrey said, “Whatever it is, there is more than one. It seems to be more of a scavenger that wants to frighten people. Maybe it’s territorial. It seems to want people to leave it alone.” (https://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/70005732.html)

Godfrey believes it might be a timber wolf that has evolved or adapted to walk on its hind legs, but she’s not ready to rule out the supernatural.

Cures

According to livescience.com (https://www.livescience.com/24412-werewolves.html), there are several ways in which an individual could be purged of the werewolf curse. You see, lycanthropy was often seen as a curse and the afflicted was often seen as a monster AND a victim.  Ian Woodward, the author of The Werewolf Delusion, states that werewolves could be cured medicinally and surgically. The afflicted might be exorcized or shot with a silver bullet. For “medicinal and surgical cures” please read “bloodletting, forced vomiting, and vinegar drinking.” At least the “cures” didn’t involve poop as they most often did way back when. I can’t make this stuff up. And luckily, I don’t have to because it’s all written down in historical medical texts! Of course, many victims who were suspected of or believed themselves to be werewolves died while trying these “cures.”

Black-Eyed Kids (BEK’s)

It’s late at night and you’re at home enjoying a little television after a long day at work when you hear a heavy knock at your door. You’re not expecting anyone, but you go to see who might be calling at this hour. Maybe it’s an emergency? You make your way to the front door as the small hairs on the back of your neck begin to rise, a feeling of unease sweeping over you. You look through the peephole and are surprised to see two small children standing on your porch. They can’t be more than 9 or 10 years old and dressed in clothing that looks old and worn. You open the door slightly to ask what’s wrong. One of the children says they’re lost and have nowhere to go. They’re cold, tired, and need to use your telephone. They beg you to let them inside, beg for an invitation to enter. You notice as they step into the light of the porch lamp that their eyes are completely black. Will you let them in? They’re just children…right?

The earliest account of BEK’s in the USA dates back to the 1950s. A boy named Harold was walking home late at night when he encountered a small boy standing alone by a fence. Harold lives in a small town where everyone knows one another, but he doesn’t recognize this boy. Harold asks the boy his name and why he’s standing out here alone, but the boy refuses to answer these questions and instead demands that Harold take him back to his house. Harold then notices the blackness of the boy’s eyes and runs as fast as he can back home to tell his parents. Harold’s father, in the most ridiculous overreaction ever, goes to find the boy with a shotgun in hand. Harold’s mother, believing that the boy has come into contact with the devil, immediately calls the local priest to have him blessed. https://www.ranker.com/list/creepy-stories-about-the-black-eyed-children/lyra-radford

Research done by David Weatherly, a writer, and paranormal investigator, for his book The Black Eyed Children (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15993689-the-black-eyed-children) dates BEK’s back as far as ancient China. He states that these children are being seen all over the world and are most often attired in old fashioned clothing. Their skin is startlingly pale and they speak in monotone. Weatherly also writes that BEK’s have been spotted prior to major natural disasters, in a similar manner that the Mothman appeared prior to the Silver Bridge Collapse in West Virginia.

Stories of BEK’s are many and varied, but how many of these tales are rooted in actual fact and how many are simply urban legends that have been told and retold? How many can be chalked up to the mind playing tricks on a dark night, waking dreams, poor word of mouth or simply just Creepy Pasta contamination? Many popular accounts of interactions with these beings have been eaten up by the internet, lending them very little in the way of credibility. Many times, a family pet will have some sort of reaction to the otherworldly visitors, barking and snarling in a way that’s out of character or outside the norm. Is this fact added for credibility or do these reactions have a basis in fact?

In 1996, in Abilene, TX, journalist Brian Bethel was heading to the offices of Camalott Communications, his internet service provider. He intended on dropping a payment for his current bill into the after-hours slot—it was between 9:30 and 10 pm at night. He parked his car next to a movie theater close by and proceeded to finish filling out the check when he heard a knock on his window. When he looked up, two boys roughly 9 and 12 years of age were standing by his car. The older one was olive-skinned with curly dark hair and the younger was a redhead, freckles peppering his pale skin. Both wore hoodies with the hoods up. The older boy explained to Bethel that they were going to see the new Mortal Kombat movie, but had left their money at his mother’s house and requested that Bethel take them there to retrieve it so that they could purchase their tickets. It was already late in the evening and Bethel could see on the marquee that the last showing of the evening had already begun and there was no way he could get them back in time. Bethel claims that the entire time he was in the presence of the two boys, he felt extreme unease and fear. The older boy continued to try and convince Bethel that he should open the car doors and let them in, saying pointedly that they were just kids and were unarmed. At this point, Bethel finally notices the boy’s eyes and feels his blood run cold. Their eyes are completely black and, as Bethel describes, “soulless.” He mutters some excuse and throws the car into gear, pulling away quickly. When he has finally choked down some of the fear caught in his throat he glances into the rearview mirror. The two boys have disappeared.

Bethel shared his experience with a select few, but once the internet catches wind of the tale it spreads like wildfire. His ordeal has even been featured on a few television shows including a travel show on the Destination America Channel. Bethel says he’s made no money from his story. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151208221117/http://www.reporternews.com/news/columnists/brian-bethel/brian-bethel-recounts-his-possible-paranormal-encounter-with-beks-ep-384772497-348207271.html) In 2013, he recounts his experience with the BEK’s in the Abilene Reporter. Bethel writes:

“What did I see?

Your guess is literally as good as anyones. I’ve had everything from vampires to demons to ghosts to aliens to a somewhat-detailed hallucination posited as possibilities.

I do feel like I can say this with some authority: This was back in the day when freaky coal-black contacts weren’t widely available to a couple of kids in Abilene, Texas, for anything under a small fortune.

And there wasn’t enough time to even put such things on in the short time I broke the spokesman’s gaze if they could afford them.

Will I ever know for certain what I saw?

Probably not.

Do I ever care to see them again?

Hell, no.

As much as I still don’t know about what happened that night and why here’s one thing that I do know. It’s a gut feeling, but one that rises to a level of almost certainty.

If I had given the spokesman and his friend a ride on that long-ago evening, I don’t think I would be here to type this now.

End of story.”

Bethel still remembers the voice of the older boy calling out as he drove away.

“We can’t come in unless you invite us!”

https://texashillcountry.com/black-eyed-kids-legend-abilene/

BEK’s seem to prey on the human need to nurture and protect, asking to come inside, to be invited in, in order to call their parents. They might say they’re lost or scared and don’t know their way back home. Many stories relating to interactions with BEK’s are from the perspective of a child or happen specifically to young people. Is it because they think that children will relate to them better in their current form?

In Louisiana, at a gas station, a man sees 2 children approach on bikes. It’s late and he’s already locked up for the night, he’s just counting the till before shutting off the lights. The children drop their bikes on the pavement and call out to the man, asking to be let in. He can’t just leave two kids outside like that all alone in the middle of nowhere, so he opens the door and lets them inside. They ask to use the telephone to call their mother, but when the man hands one of the children his flip phone, she says, “I need a real one!” The man directs them to the payphone just outside the door. He feels uneasy at the presence of these two and ushers them out, locking the door behind them. They use the phone briefly and then stand to stare at the man through the locked door. Eventually, they turn and get back on their bikes, seemingly disappearing into the darkness.

In Ohio, 2 teenagers tried to gain entry into a data center. A report collected by authorities states that the boys asked to use the phone via the CCTV system and an intercom that was manned by a night watchman. Nobody was allowed inside the center after hours and, though the teens tried to gain entry, they ultimately could not. The watchman says that when he looked into their faces on the closed-circuit system, he couldn’t make out their pupils and their eyes appeared entirely black. When the boys couldn’t gain entry, one went around the back of the building while the other stayed in the front and stared into the security cameras for a long time, unblinking. Finally, both boys disappeared from view and were not seen on any of the cameras again. The watchman called the police, but by the time they arrived, the boys were long gone. They tried to review the security footage, but it appeared as if the system had been turned off.

https://www.ranker.com/list/creepy-stories-about-the-black-eyed-children/lyra-radford

Anthony Milhorn is a paranormal investigator with a branch of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) in Arizona. He seems to take some strong stances on paranormal phenomena, particularly orbs and offers psychological explanations for the presence of BEK’s. According to Milhorn, there are several elements to consider. One is priming. When we read material that’s creepy or that we think might be paranormal in nature, we’re more inclined to be attentive to scenarios in your own life that might mirror what we’ve read. I guess it has something to do with the investment you’ve made into finding this information out. You took the time to do the reading and now it’s in your subconscious. It’s like when you’re looking for a new car and have a particular type in mind. You’ve been reading about it and doing research and suddenly that specific car is literally everywhere! They call that the Baader-Meinhof (pronounced badder mainhoff) phenomena and you’ve likely experienced it more than once. In the case of BEK’s, you might be more inclined to experience unease when speaking to teenagers or kids late at night who might need your help or demand your attention. Stephen Wegner, in an article on the website liveabout.com in an article titled “Black-Eyed Kids: Horror or Hoax,” says that, according to Milhorn, “Only an activator stimulus that is appropriately vague in the right circumstances sets off the connection between the knowledge in your brain and your senses, making a false connection between the two, and leading you to a flawed conclusion that isn’t supported by evidence.” (https://www.liveabout.com/black-eyed-kids-horror-or-hoax-2594476)

Let us know in the comments what you think about the BEK phenomena. Are they just children playing a prank? Are they ghosts or demonic entities? Are they not of this world? If you’ve had experiences with these beings, please drop us a line at theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com or leave us a comment here and, as always…

Stay Spooky!

Janine

Spiritualism and the Stickneys

Spiritualism is a topic I seem to keep coming back to. You might recall a past episode on which I spoke about the Fox sisters, the Stratford knockings and the practice of Spiritualism, but I think I should rehash a little bit to refresh your memory as to what Spiritualism actually is.

Spiritualism is a religious practice or a system of belief that is based upon supposed communications with the dead via a medium. Harry Houdini revealed that the Fox Sisters, Kate (12) and Leah (14) of Hydesville, NY, were simply adept at cracking their joints to simulate knocking noises and had no actual connection with the dead. The girls claimed to have communications with an entity in their home named Mr. Splitfoot (I’m assuming they meant the Devil) and eventually took their show on the road, ultimately making a lot of money through their ruse. He’d to go Spiritualist gatherings and show the assembled crowd exactly what was happening behind the curtain. Houdini was so frustrated with Spiritualists taking advantage of innocent people that he made it his personal mission to debunk every claim made by a Spiritualist who was attempting to swindle money from the bereaved or anyone else for that matter. Shady mediums in the 1850s lived with the fear that, one day, Houdini would enter their establishment, flip a table, and expose them for the charlatans that they were. He legit wasn’t fuckin’ around.

Are there legitimate Medium’s? Probably. We can’t exactly be sure as there’s no real way to measure a Medium’s abilities. With the invent of a little tool called the internet, anyone can Google their arses off and know all about every haunting ever. There are no real secrets anymore. Obviously, some are shadier than others *cough*Long Island Medium*cough* Sorry, I’ve got a bit of a tickle. Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is Spiritualism is a pseudo-religious system. Spiritualists believe that Mediums are capable of communicating with spirits on the “other side” and relay that received information to their paying customers. Again, some are better than others. *cough*John Edward*cough* Sorry, guys. I think I need a lozenge.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time rehashing a lot of what I’ve already said about Spiritualism, though I do find it quite fascinating from a performative standpoint, but I do want to bring you another interesting tale worthy of our weird little podcast.

I present to you the Bull Valley Police Headquarters! Just stay with me here. I’m actually speaking of the George Stickney House or Stickney Mansion which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and became the Bull Valley Police Headquarters in 1985. It’s a beautiful old building with an interesting past and the place is wonderfully spooky.

Entrance_of_the_Stickney_House
Entrance to the Stickney House (By MariahSTI2010 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50333920)

George and Silvia Stickney built the mansion in 1865, choosing a plot of land that was relatively isolated in order to facilitate their practice of Spiritualism. They were both accomplished Mediums and the seclusion offered by the Illinois countryside was perfect. The Stickneys had 10 children, only three making it to adulthood, and it’s believed that their spiritual leanings were due in large part to their children’s passing. They conducted séances to try and communicate with them. They held these events on the second floor of their home in what was, and still is, known as Sylvia’s ballroom. In the years since the Stickneys vacated Stickney Mansion, new owners have reported supernatural occurrences.

“The house itself was very unusual in its design. It has two stories, although the second floor was reserved for a ballroom that ran the entire length of the building. The house is actually very big for being built in the 1800s. Upstairs has two rooms, one with a bathroom, and down the hall is Sylvia’s ballroom that has three more rooms connecting to it. During the Civil War, the house also served as quarters for Federal soldiers and was home to the first piano in McHenry County.” The Stickneys insisted on adding distinctive features into the design of the house. These features, they assured the architect, would assist them when holding seances and gatherings at the property. They believed that spirits have a tendency to get stuck in 90-degree corners.”

Apparently, ghosts and corners don’t mix. They just sort of get stuck there and can’t navigate their way out. Sort of like me when I try to do a sit-up. It’s less fitness and more turtle that’s been flipped on its back. It might also be that the Stickneys believed that corners attracted evil spirits which was a common belief of Spiritualists during that time period. The home is designed to have no 90-degree angles between the walls at all. It is rumored that there was one 90-degree angle in the house which was the cause of George Stickney’s demise, but the house has been laboriously inspected and no 90-degree angles can be found within it. George’s death was undocumented, there is no official cause, though the legend states George found the corner and died of heart failure with a look of horror on his face.

The home changed hands a few times over the coming years. In the 60’s it was supposedly home to a group of hippies who spray-painted the walls and set fires in the middle of the floor. In the 1970s a man named Rodrick Smith purchased the house and claimed that the hippies who once resided there were devil worshippers. They may have painted the rooms gaudy colors and left drug paraphernalia in their wake, but I think devil worship is a stretch of the imagination. Smith was convinced that the hippies had changed the vibe of the house and he felt uncomfortable there. It is said that he only managed to stay in the house for a couple of nights before fleeing in terror. Apparently, Smith experienced paranormal activity (knocking, footsteps, disembodied voices…) and this caused him to sell the property. Eventually (sometime around 1988) Stickney Mansion became the headquarters for the Bull Valley Police Department.

Spooks

Let’s get into a little of the paranormal activity experienced at Stickney Mansion. In 2005 Chief Norbert Sauers described several of his own experiences within Stickney Mansion as well as the experiences of some village employees. The employees have heard many strange noises throughout Stickney Mansion that defy explanation. Footsteps are sometimes heard on the second floor in the ballroom where Silvia held her many séances. The room is used for storage of village records today, but it once hosted lavish parties dedicated to communicating with the dead. The footsteps have also been heard in the stairwell. Sauers claims he’s heard “human-sounding noises or voices” and even hears toilets flushing when nobody else is around. Employees have caught glimpses of human forms reflected in their computer monitors while they’re working.  He’s personally experienced random items moving around on his desk, doorknobs turning and doors opening, and lights turning on and off. He’s also heard voices, having one particularly vocal ghost shout into his ear. Again, he was alone. Another police officer claims to have seen Stickney’s father-in-law appear before his eyes.

Visitors to the mansion have noted cold spots, strange mists, and noises. People who have driven by the building experience car trouble, either the car shutting off completely (in one case the fuel gauge showed empty when the driver had only just filled up) or finding it difficult to accelerate. After a few minutes, the car will turn back on again.

Is Stickney Mansion a haunted hot spot? Many paranormal investigators and enthusiasts believe that it is. I think there’s a lot of energy trapped in that house and, if you don’t believe me, you can ask the real estate agent who listed the home for sale for Rodrick Smith. He snapped photos of the home’s exterior for an online listing and, when he looked at the photos, he could clearly see an older woman looking out through an upstairs window. He insists the woman wasn’t there when he took the picture.

What do you think? Is the Bull Valley Police Station really haunted by the spirits conjured by the Stickneys? Are the Stickneys haunting the location themselves, unable to pass over? Drop us a line at theoddentitypodcast@gmail.com or leave us a comment and, as always…

Stay Spooky!

Janine

 

Sources:

Wikipedia

Prairieghosts.com

https://www.hauntedplaces.org/item/george-stickney-house/