S6 Ep. 4: Monstrous


In an article for Vice by Av Hani Richter from February of 2015, a Somali woman claims to have given birth to twins, one a boy and the other a snake. The woman was from the Afgooye district of Mogadishu and was shocked when she realized what she had delivered. She was expecting two human babies, after all. A family relative named Ali Muhammad travelled to visit the mother and new arrivals and was shocked to hear what had occurred. He said when he arrived that the mother told him the snake would only come out when she was alone and would otherwise hide under a bed or in the cupboards. Both the father and mother believed that the snake child was a miracle bestowed upon them by god himself. Of course, it’s more likely that the snake found its way into the woman’s bed and was mistaken for a delivered child.

This is not the first instance of human beings giving birth to animals. Of course, many of the documented occurrences from the 17th century involved deformities, babies born with extra limbs, fingers or toes, or without eyes. For example, a physician named Pietro Castelli stated that he had seen to two women who had given birth to “creatures.” One birthing what Castelli called “a monster” and one a “cyclops.” Castelli also claimed a woman had given birth to a “dog-like creature” in Sicily, Italy. Modern medicine has identified many deformities and defects and it’s more likely that these children fell into these categories.

A woman in Indonesia reportedly gave birth to a lizard. She exhibited every sign of pregnancy, but instead of birthing a human baby, she pushed out a lizard. The creature was covered in blood and mucus, I’m supposing they mean afterbirth, and there was no baby found in the womb. It is speculated that the woman had a miscarriage and the lizard happened to be underneath her at the time.

In the 18th century, a woman named Mary Toft gave birth to rabbits, seventeen to be exact, and for several months following this spectacle, the whole of the nation was mesmerized by the occurrence even King George I.


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

This week, I’ll introduce you to Mary Toft, an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she seemingly gave birth to rabbits.

Shout out to Ed from Ontario for suggesting this one. Apologies that it’s taken so long.

And now…on with the show!

Let me begin by saying that scientifically, it’s impossible for human beings to give birth to hybrid creatures and it’s likely that the majority of cases in medical history can be explained by a severe deformation, causing the child to resemble a snake or a dog. But what about a woman who gives birth to actual rabbits? Floppy, hoppy, bunnies. Well, let’s start from the ground up and work our way back to this peculiar case, shall we?

Mary was born on February 21st of 1703 to John and Jane Denyer. At 17 years of age, Mary married Joshua Toft who was 18 at the time. It wasn’t uncommon for people to marry at a young age in the 1700s. Toft was a wool-cloth worker which essentially means he worked in the textile industry doing anything from the physical labor of carrying bailed wool or cotton goods in a mill to cleaning and fine-tuning machinery. There isn’t much information about John’s means of putting bread on the table, but it’s safe to say that the Toft’s were treading the poverty line at best. Mary was born into a poor and illiterate family, was employed as a laborer in a hop field, and her marriage to John likely gave her a slight step up in terms of income, but perhaps one that was hardly noticeable. That will play into her story, as well.

From What Mary Toft Felt: Women’s Voices, Paint, Power, and the Body by Karen Harvey, “Their first child Ann was born on 27 March 1723, though she appears to have died in July of that year. The birth of their son James followed twelve months later on 8 July 1724. Thus, at the time […] Mary had given birth to two children with one still living. A third and final child, Elizabeth, was christened on 4 February 1728 […]. Mary’s parents, John and Jane Denyer, had five children of whom Mary was the second eldest. She was, though, the oldest girl; this may be why she left home to marry so early, though it is also possible there may have been an earlier pregnancy. Her parents are entirely missing from the story of the case, typical of the severing of these connections when a woman married, though the absence of her mother is perhaps peculiar given the nature of events. Joshua Toft, Mary’s husband and senior by only two or three months, was the sixth of twelve children. Joshua was named after his father and also shared this name with his elder brother, his parents’ first son, who had died two years before Joshua (jun) was born. Such naming practices were not unusual and reflected the importance of lineage and the family community. Mary Toft’s miscarriage of spring 1726 and the animal births that followed thwarted the powerful impulse to reproduce this family. The early newspaper accounts of the case and the account given by Mary in St. Andre’s pamphlet were produced when Mary was in Godalming. She was subsequently moved to the town of Guildford and then to London, where she came under the closer observation of the doctors and also of men representing the criminal justice system.”

Before we delve into Mary Toft’s specific situation and the doctors who attended to her, let’s talk a little bit about false/phantom pregnancy or pseudocyesis. Nausea, fatigue, and swelling in the breasts are common while a woman is pregnant and all of these symptoms can also be present in a woman experiencing pseudocyesis. It’s an uncommon condition, but it can cause a woman to believe she is pregnant. In phantom pregnancies, there is no conception and no baby, but the symptoms can cause a woman to believe she’s expecting.

In an article titled False (Phantom) Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments by Jessica Timmons explains, “Some mental health professionals believe it’s related to an intense desire or fear of becoming pregnant. It’s possible that this affects the endocrine system, which in turn causes symptoms of pregnancy.

Another theory relates to wish fulfillment. Some mental health professionals believe that when a woman yearns to be pregnant, possibly after experiencing multiple miscarriages, infertility, or because she wants to get married, she may misinterpret certain changes in her body as a clear sign that she’s pregnant.

The third theory is related to certain chemical changes in the nervous system that are related to depressive disorders. It’s possible that these chemical changes are responsible for the symptoms of false pregnancy.

A false pregnancy often resembles pregnancy in every way, minus the presence of a baby. In all cases, the woman is absolutely certain that she is pregnant.

Physically, the most common symptom is a distended abdomen, similar to a baby bump. The belly can begin to expand just as it does during pregnancy when a developing baby grows. During a false pregnancy, this abdominal extension isn’t the result of a baby. Instead, it’s believed to be caused by a buildup of:

  • gas
  • fat
  • feces
  • urine

Irregularity of a woman’s menstrual cycle is the second most common physical symptom. Between one-half and three-quarters of women experiencing pseudocyesis reported feeling the baby move. Many women also report feeling the baby kick, even though there was never a baby present.

Other symptoms can be just as difficult to distinguish from those experienced during an actual pregnancy, and can include:

  • morning sickness and vomiting
  • tender breasts
  • changes to the breasts, including size and pigmentation
  • lactation
  • weight gain
  • labor pains
  • inverted bellybutton
  • increased appetite
  • enlargement of the uterus
  • softening of the cervix
  • false labor

These symptoms can be so believable that doctors can even be deceived.”

And, in Mary’s case, they were.

False pregnancies disproportionately occur in women who are experiencing psychological issues and it’s not uncommon for women in this situation to believe they’re pregnant. For example, Mary Tudor believed herself to be pregnant several times. The first false pregnancy in 1554 occurred when Mary was 38 years of age and likely distressed that she would not be able to produce an heir to the throne. Of course, women these days are conceiving in their 40’s, but Mary was already concerned about her biological clock and the stress of producing an heir likely sent her into a mental tailspin. There was also no way to tell that Mary was pregnant aside from the fact that she’d put on weight and her garments no longer fit her. The sheer panic she experienced when a child was not delivered several months after her due date likely added to her stress and Mary blamed the lateness of her child’s arrival on the protestant dissenters, leading to a round of executions, not the first round by a longshot. They didn’t call her Bloody Mary for nothing.

In September of 1726, King George I was informed of the birth of several rabbits by a woman located in Godalming, near Guildford, in Surrey. The woman, Mary Toft, had experienced a miscarriage only a month before (August of 1726) and still appeared to be pregnant. A neighbor, Mary Gill attended Toft during her labor and delivery of something resembling a cat with no liver. I’m having a hard time picturing what exactly that might look like. It was at this point that the family decided to contact John Howard, an obstetrician in Guildford. Upon his arrival at the Toft home, Ann Toft showed Howard the animal parts that she claimed Mary had delivered during the night. The day after, Howard helped to deliver more animal parts and continued to return and aid in the delivery of rabbit’s heads, the legs of a cat, and in one single day nine dead rabbit kits. Howard was flabbergasted by these events, having seen nothing like this before in his career in medicine, and sent letters to England’s greatest doctors. He also sent a letter to the King’s secretary informing of what he called “miraculous births.”

From The Monstrous and the Sportive Grotesque in the early Eighteenth Century by Ian David McCormick,

“The case is interesting because it displays both the danger of the female imagination and the tendency to deceive. Those who believed her story, as the account will show, were as much victims of a deception as of their own oppressive will to construct the female as an innately fanciful and monstrous construct. At the outset, Mary Toft claimed that she had encountered a hare during pregnancy and that this made an undue impression on her mind. Entering labour, she was delivered first of what was taken to be the guts of a pig; but when her labour began in earnest, it was found that she was apparently producing rabbits at an astonishing rate. […] The surgeon dealing with the case invited anyone to verify the evidence by attending a delivery. Meanwhile, nine rabbits were delivered and Mary was moved to Guildford. Mr. St Andre accepted a surgeon’s invitation to observe the case, and he verified the monstrous birth. Upon inspection, further evidence of the authenticity of the case was volunteered by Cyriacus Ahlers, Surgeon to His Majesty’s German Household.”

Nathaniel St Andre was a Swiss physician who, thorough an effort to teach fencing, was injured and became fascinated with medicine. He was impressed by the wealth of the surgeon who saw to him and decided to apprentice with a surgeon in London. Eventually, he was able to set up his own practice and gave lectures on anatomy and surgery. Eventually, St Andre examined the King and was given a sword in thanks. It was King George who sent St Andre to Howard’s aid, along with Ahlers and Samuel Molyneux (Secretary to the Prince of Wales), and also to return information to him regarding what was happening with Toft.

All of the men who witnessed the births were convinced of its authenticity. St Andre even went on to publish A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets [sic], a 40-page document outlining his experience.

St Andre begins by outlining the situation in which he finds himself and gradually moves into the purpose for his writing, including letters from John Howard to His Majesty for his evaluation.

“Since I wrote to you, I have taken or deliver’d the poor woman of three more rabbets, all three half grown, one of them a dunn rabbet; the last leap’d twenty three hours in the uterus before it dy’d. As soon as the eleventh rabbet was taken away, up leapt the twelfth rabbet, which is now leaping. If you have any curious person that is pleased to come post, may see another leap in her uterus, and shall take it from her if he pleases; which will be a great satisfaction to the curious: if she had been with child, she had but ten days more to go, so I do not know how many rabbets may be behind; I have brought the woman to Guilford for better convenience.

I am, Sir,

Your Humble Servant

John Howard”

Alexander Pope, a poet and satirist, wrote to John Caryll on December 5th of 1726 asking for more information on the case. He asked, “I want to know what faith you have in the miracle at Guildford; not doubting but as you past thro’ that town, you went as a philosopher to investigate, if not as a curious anatomist to inspect, that wonderful phenomenon.”

By this point, Mary was quite the local celebrity and she was monitored closely by Howard in his residence. St Andre took the time spent with Mary to document what occurred, aiding Howard in conducting examinations on the lungs and internal workings of the rabbits. It was through these examinations that the doctors realized the rabbits probably didn’t develop inside Mary’s womb and some of the specimens were sent back to the Kind and Prince of Wales. Each time Mary gave birth, Howard would pickle the rabbit and place it on a shelf in his study.

From the Curious Case of Mary Toft, “Ahlers examined Mary and witnessed several of her rabbit births; however, he was not convinced. On examination of the rabbit parts he had taken back to London, Ahlers found that the dung pellets in the rectum of one of the rabbits contained corn, hay and straw, which proved that it could not have developed inside Mary. Ahlers reported back to the King on November 21st that he suspected a hoax with Mary Toft and John Howard in collusion and showed these rabbit specimens as evidence. Sir Richard Manningham (1690-1759) – an eminent doctor and midwife among upper class society in London – was contacted by St André to attend upon Mary Toft. After observing her and seeing her give birth to what he believed was a hog’s bladder, he also seemed unconvinced. But he was persuaded to keep his doubts to himself by Howard and St. André until there was proof of any fraud. Howard and St. André were trying to save their reputations in the light of what Ahlers had concluded.”

Once Mary’s rabbits came to the attention of the press, it caused a sensation. In the mid-18th century, interest in monstrosities was high and people were willing to pay to see them. A poor family like the Toft’s likely saw this as a way to make money. Monsterous or deformed individuals were already being showcased all across Europe and had been for hundreds of years at this point. Poor and wealthy people alike were fascinated by such things and would happily open their pocket books for the chance to see a monstrosity like Mary’s.

It is also likely at this point that Mary, having spent all this time fabricating rabbit pregnancies and now having the interest of the King himself, became petrified by what might become of her if she came clean. Howard had taken her into his home and, being of the poorer class, she was likely enjoying all of the attention and care. Toft wove detailed narratives, at least as detailed as she could manage, stating she’d been startled by a rabbit while working in the field and found herself constantly craving rabbit, though she was too poor to afford them.

At the time, maternal impression was a popular theory used to explain deformities in birth. Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, explained his condition in a similar manner, stating his mother was startled by an elephant while she was pregnant. There were also different defects associated with the different signs and phases of the moon.

McCormick writes, “The uncertain status of reason and science was no more evident than in the validity, for some observers, of astrological proofs for such monstrous occurrences. William Whiston, who had served as Professor of Anatomy at Cambridge, for instance, attributed the Toft case to a prophecy in the apocryphal book of Esdras. It was, of course, considered dangerous to conceive under the sign of Cancer: Author of monstrous shapes! uneven set, Of tumors, wens and members incomplete! Hence. apIsh forms, and ugly births began, And gIbbous dwarfs, beneath the strain of man. Capricorn, meanwhile, Deforms the face, and blisters all the skin.”

St. Andre needed no further convincing that Mary Toft was the real deal, but the other doctors had their doubts. It is at this point that Mary is moved to a bath house in London so that other doctors, as many as 10 at a time (all men), could examine her. Their opinions were divided. Mary continued to appear to go into labor, but didn’t produce any more rabbits. She had developed a terrible infection and seizures that would sometimes cause her to lose consciousness.

Karen Harvey writes, “She gave birth to no more rabbits, and also seems to have taken quite ill. But it was during this time that a porter was caught sneaking a rabbit into Toft’s room. He explained […] that Toft’s sister-in-law, Margaret Toft, had asked him to obtain the smallest rabbit he could find. Toft refused to confess until Manningham threatened to perform surgery to determine if she had strange reproductive organs. On December 7, she came clean. The confession surprised very few, but was unfortunately timed for St. André, who had just published his thrilling, “true-to-life” exposé, “A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets,” just four days prior.”

Toft admitted that she had manually inserted dead rabbits inside herself and allowed them to be removed as if she was giving birth. Honestly, it’s amazing that the infection didn’t kill her. She penned several confessions, blaming a mysterious stranger, the wife of an organ grinder, her mother in law, and John Howard for the deception. She even claimed a travelling woman had told her how to insert the rabbits into her body and how the scheme would ensure she would never want for anything else as long as she lived.

On the 9th of December, she was charged with being a “Notorious and Vile Cheat” and sent to Bridewell Prison. Allegedly, she was placed on exhibit to large and curious crowds by the wardens.

St Andre tried to vindicate his own behavior, but to no avail. Satirical prints began to surface poking fun at the medical profession and the incompetence of the doctors involved in the Toft saga. They’re shown as ignorant fools. Pamphlets and drawings appeared ridiculing St Andre as well as the other physicians who had examined Toft depicting them as completely gullible and as charlatans.

From the Curious Case of Mary Toft, “Public interest in the case died out by around January of the following year, but the repercussions continued for those involved. For Sir Richard Manningham and James Douglas there had been temporary embarrassment regarding their close connection with the affair but their careers and reputations were secure.

St André, however, lost favour with the court and, as his reputation plummeted, his patients deserted him. He retired from London and eventually died in poverty in an almshouse in Southampton. John Howard had to answer charges of being concerned in the ‘Cheat and Conspiracy of Mary Toft’ but the case against him was dropped and he remained a respected figure in Guildford.”

It came to light after Mary’s incarceration that rabbits had been sold to Mary’s husband. Several individuals came forward to affirm that they did sell them to Toft and Toft did not purchase the rabbits to eat. I think this adds further weight to the claim that Mary fabricated her pregnancies in hopes of obtaining money and social standing within her community.

As for Mary herself, the case against her was dismissed, not for lack of proof of guilt, but probably because of the further embarrassment to the establishment that would ensue if the case were pursued any further. She spent a few months in jail then returned to relative obscurity. In the years that followed the scandal, the Duke of Richmond (who had a residence near Godalming) sometimes showed her at dinner parties for the curiosity of his guests. In April 1740 Mary was charged with receiving stolen goods and committed to the House of Correction in Guildford but was later acquitted by the jury. She died on 13th January 1763. The London papers’ obituary columns announced her death alongside those of peers and statesmen.”

There have been extensive studies in recent years regarding the theory of maternal impressions, most of which basically use the Toft rabbit ruse as an example of how flimsy the science behind this phenomenon actually is. If you’d like to learn more about maternal impressions, I’d recommend Maternal Impressions by Christina Mazzoni. Mazzoni doesn’t analyze the Toft incident at all, but it’s still an enlightening read.

Alexander Pope and William Pulteney’s anonymous satirical ballad The Discovery; or, The Squire Turn’d Ferret. Published in 1726 opens with the following verse:

Most true it is, I dare to say,
E’er since the Days of Eve,
The weakest Woman sometimes may
The wisest Man deceive.

Pope would go on to pen several satirical pieces about Toft. In one, he writes, “At Godliman, hard by the Bull, A Woman, long thought barren, Bears Rabbits, – Gad! so plentiful, You’d take her for a Warren.”

That’s it for this week dear listeners.

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.

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Book: Delivery of Rabbets https://www.gutenberg.org/files/62720/62720-h/62720-h.htm










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.

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Visit https://bit.ly/2BTUUSL and be entered every week to win a FREE Lume product! Orders over $20 get FREE first-class shipping.


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



S5 Ep. 9: Big Bad Bodie

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

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

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

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

Hello ODD Pod listeners and welcome back to another episode.

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

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

Anyway, on with the show!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Stay Spooky!


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

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

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


S5 Ep. 5: Through A Glass, Darkly

Through A Glass Darkly

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

Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary.

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

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

And now…on with the show.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Stay Spooky!


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

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

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

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











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

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

S5 Ep. 4: World’s Fair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now…on with the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Stay Spooky!


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

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

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

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







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

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

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.


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. 😉


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.




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.

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S4 Ep. 12: Haunted Holiday

S4 Ep. 12: Haunted Holiday

This week, I wanted to draw attention to the reason for the season: ghost stories. An old tradition from the Victorian era was to tell ghost stories over the holidays in front of a roaring fire and I think it’s a tradition that should be rekindled.

This episode contains a little communication history, cave drawings, a little Dickens (among others), and a special holiday treat.

This is the last episode of S4. S5 begins in January. Stay tuned!

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Happy Medium

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eva C. and Cutout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and, as always, Stay Spooky!







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

S4 Ep. 11: Happy Medium

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

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

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

Haunted Monterey

S4 Ep. 10: Haunted Monterey


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

About Patrick Whitehurst

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

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

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





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

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