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S4 Ep: 9 Blair Witch Kinda Sh*t

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

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

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The Death Of Halloween

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

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

History of Tricks and Treats

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

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

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

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

Cases of Poisoned Treats

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

Wait…really?

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

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

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

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

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

The Candyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Halloween PSA

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

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

Urban legend Halloween candy

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

Ronald Clark O’Bryan

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

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

S4 Ep. 8: Laughin’ ’til I’m Coffin

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

 

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Werewolves: Myths and Legends

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

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

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

werewolf-vector-18782641

Serial Killer or Werewolf?

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

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

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

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

 

Shapeshifting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEY RAN AWAY ON THEIR BACK LEGS

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

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

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

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

Cures

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

Summerwind Mansion

Located on the shores of West Bay Lake in the Northeast region of WI, Summerwind Mansion (also known as Lamont Mansion) sits as a shell of its former self. It was constructed in 1916 by Robert P. Lamont as a summer home for him and his family, but the experience of living within the walls of Summerwind would soon turn sour.

Many claim that the paranormal activity at Summerwind didn’t begin until after the Lamonts occupied the mansion, but there are accounts of paranormal activity on the property during this time. In one such account, Lamont shot at a spirit in the kitchen one evening. He believed it to be an intruder, but the bullet went right through the specter and lodged itself in the basement door. The bullet holes remained as a reminder of the occurrence.

The house was sold several times after the Lamonts occupied Summerwind and eventually fell into the hands of Arnold Hinshaw and his wife Ginger. The Hinshaw’s and their 6 children moved in in the 1970s and remained there for a rather eventful 6 months.

It seemed as if the house came alive immediately and the Hinshaw’s began to see and experience all the paranormal activity that Summerwind had to offer. They would see vague shapes and shadows in the hallways, hear mumbled voices in empty rooms, and would often see the ghost of a woman in the dining room before she turned and floated straight through the closed french doors. However, whenever the Hinshaw’s would walk into a room or occupy a space in which something paranormal had been observed, the activity would abruptly stop. The family thought that the paranormal activity was imagined, but the events continued. At times, when certain items in the house would break down (a water pump for example,) Arnold would go to fix it, but it would already be repaired. It was as if the items were repairing themselves. Windows and doors would reopen after they had been shut tight. One window had to be nailed shut because it would constantly open again, even after it had been locked. These odd occurrences were innocuous enough and the Hinshaw’s went on living with the ghosts because it seemed as if they meant anyone harm. One morning, as Arnold got into his car to go to work, the vehicle burst into flames. The fire was investigated, but no cause was found. Perhaps the ghosts were not so innocuous after all?

The Summerwind mansion, in Land O’ Lakes, fell into disrepair after a succession of owners, some who supposedly were driven away by ghosts.
http://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/ghost-fans-hope-to-rebuild-mansion–haunting-and-all-b99381544z1-281025652.html

The Hinshaw’s, having spent a fair bit of money on Summerwind, decided to invest in the property and take care of some maintenance that needed to be done. They hired workers to help with tasks that they could not do themselves, but those they hired would fake illness to get out of coming to the property or refused to work altogether. They had heard the stories about Summerwind and were afraid to even set foot on the grounds. The Hinshaw’s, having no reliable help, began renovating Summerwind on their own.

I’m assuming that having little experience with home reno, they decided to start with a smaller project: a bedroom closet. In the closet, as was the case with many Victorian houses built in the 19th century, was a dresser that was built into the wall. Each drawer could be removed leaving an opening in the wall. Arnold kind of wedged himself into one of the openings, perhaps to see how to go about removing the framing for the built-in, when he was startled by an object in the wall. He was sure he saw something, perhaps an animal corpse of some kind, and scurried back in fright. I guess Arnold wasn’t campaigning for father of the year because when his daughter came home from school, he asked her to climb in through the opening to see what was back there. Mary was small in stature and could fit easily.  Shortly after entering the space, she came upon a human skeleton, a skull with dirty black hair, and what remained of an arm and a leg, in the opening. I’m sure this was horrifying for the young girl. I wonder if therapy was equally as expensive in the 70s as it is now? Anyway… This event was never reported to the authorities so there’s no way to know whether this is fact or fiction. It is entirely possible that Mary made up the story to scare her father, but there’s no way to know.  It’s possible that these remains were the cause of the haunting at Summerwind, but the spirit was never allowed to move on as the remains were just left in the wall.

Yep. You read that right. The remains were left in the wall.

At this point, things take a turn for the worst. Arnold begins staying up all hours playing the organ. He enjoys playing, but the music has become more and more sinister and becomes louder as the evenings progress. Ginger and the children huddle together in an upstairs bedroom as Arnold plays nonsensical gibberish that just gets louder and louder. Not surprisingly, Arnold is eventually committed and Ginger, unable to handle the situation with Arnold or Summerwind, attempts suicide.

While Arnold is undergoing treatment, Ginger and Arnold divorce, unable to fix what has been broken. After Ginger remarries, her father announces that he will buy Summerwind. Ginger has never told him what happened at the property and does the best she can to dissuade her father, but he sees potential in the place and will not be deterred. Ginger’s father, Raymond Bober, is a popcorn vendor/businessman who is highly motivated to turn the property into something worthwhile. He also says he knows the identity of the ghost that is haunting the location: Johnathan Carver.

Carver was an 18th-century British explorer who is searching for a deed that was given to him by the Sioux Indians. The document gives him the rights to the northern third of Wisconsin and Carver wants the document back. Supposedly, the deed is sealed within the foundation at Summerwind and Bober claims that through dreams, trances, and the use of a Ouija board, that Carver has requested his help. These experiences cause Bober to write The Carver Effect, which Bober publishes under the pen name Wolfgang Von Bober.

Once Bober purchases Summerwind, he, his son Karl, Ginger, and her new husband George take a walk through the property. George sees the bedroom closet in which Mary discovered the skeletonized remains previously and goes straight for it, almost as if some strange force were pulling him. George pulls out all of the drawers as if he’s searching for something, but Ginger has never told him about the body. When they finish and are leaving the house, Ginger fills him in. Once George hears the story, he and Karl immediately head back inside to investigate the space more thoroughly, but they find nothing.

At the end of the summer, Karl travels to the property alone in order to get estimates on various construction projects that have to be done as well as to do some yard cleanup. It begins to rain, so Karl heads inside and begins closing windows. In an upstairs hallway, he thinks he hears a voice calling his name. He investigates, but there is nobody else on the property with him and the house is empty. Suddenly, he hears the sound of a gunshot coming from the kitchen. He races to see what’s happening but when he arrives nobody is there. The smell of gunpowder lingers in the air and, upon closer inspection, Karl finds two bullet holes in the basement door. They are worn smooth and have clearly been there a while. Karl left Summerwind that afternoon.

Bober had dreams of turning the property into a restaurant and an inn, but he was faced with the same issues as the Hinshaw’s. Workers refused to come to the site and finding help to renovate the site was almost impossible. Tools would disappear from work areas and the workers who did stay complained of feeling like they were being watched. Bober’s wife agreed with the workmen, claiming she constantly felt as if something unseen was following her around the house.

Likely one of the most interesting ghostly occurrences at Summerwind was the shrinking and enlargement of rooms within the mansion itself. Apparently, workers trying to measure for new plywood or siding would measure, go to purchase supplies and cut what was needed, return with the correctly measured piece, and find that the piece didn’t fit or was too large for the space they’d intended. It was as if Summerwind was expanding and contracting in order to avoid being remodeled. The original plans for the house didn’t match the actual size of the rooms, in one case a room that should have been able to accommodate 150 people could only accommodate 50, and photos taken of certain interior spaces caused those spaces to look far larger than they actually were. Ginger had taken photos of the living room after she had removed the curtains (following she and Arnolds move out of Summerwind) and the curtains appeared in photos she took of the property afterward. The project to restore the mansion was abandoned and never came to fruition.

However, the fact that the property would never be a bed and breakfast never deterred Bober from searching for Carver’s deed. He and those family members who visited Summerwind never actually stayed inside. Rather, they lived in an RV on the property. Bober claimed that Carver had become angry because his deed had not yet been found and living within the walls of the mansion would be dangerous. Bober spent countless hours in the basement, feverishly chipping away at the foundation and peering into the crevices, but he found nothing. The man who originally poured the foundation was asked years later if anything had been placed within it while it was hardening, but he said nothing had been hidden there.

Even if Bober had found the deed it would have been worthless. I can’t imagine that Carver’s ghost cared much about the validity of the document, but I suppose that point is moot. Also, the Sioux Indians are not a single tribe, they were an entire nation of people and many different tribes. Additionally, the British government ruled against the individual purchase of Indian land and the Sioux never claimed land west of the Mississippi. However, the land wasn’t sold to Carver it was supposedly gifted. Is it possible the Sioux abandoned the land and deeded it to Carver?

Bober spent less than 2 summers at Summerwind and, in a last-ditch effort to make the property into something more than a haunted hovel, he tried to procure a concessions license. It was denied.

Is Summerwind (what’s left of it) really haunted? The property was struck by lightning in 1988 after changing hands a couple of times and burned to the ground, so only the foundation, some stairs, and the chimney stack remain. Could spirits still be lingering here seeking release? What do you think?

Until next time, Stay Spooky.

Janine

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Sources:

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

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/columnists/jim-stingl/2017/10/26/stingl-northern-wisconsins-haunted-summerwind-mansion-torched-some-claim/799097001/

http://www.cultofweird.com/paranormal/summerwind-mansion-wisconsin/

 

 

S4 Ep. 6: Panty Mice

S4 Ep. 6: Panty Mice

Oddentitypod.podbean.com

Hello ODDballs! This week, Janine revives a classic tale from the archives, the haunting of Summerwind Mansion and Katie concludes her “Jim Bob” saga with an ending you won’t soon forget!

This episode contains panty mice (stay with us here,) horrifying organ music, more of the demonic energy you’ve come to know and love, and a terrifying car ride.

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Sources:

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

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/columnists/jim-stingl/2017/10/26/stingl-northern-wisconsins-haunted-summerwind-mansion-torched-some-claim/799097001/

http://www.cultofweird.com/paranormal/summerwind-mansion-wisconsin/

Ghostbuster Ruling: I ‘aint ‘fraid of no…lawsuit?

Helen Ackley moved into 1 La Veta Place, a large 18 room Victorian on a dead-end street in 1960, at which time she says the house was most definitely haunted. It had been built around 1900 and had been used as both a single residence and a boarding house. Ackley fell in love with the structure, even though it required a major renovation, and she and her family quickly made 1 La Veta Place home. Every old home should get the opportunity to once again host a family, to have its halls filled with the laughter of children and the everyday monotony that we call life, but the Ackley’s home was filled with even more. It wasn’t long before Helen began to report to the neighbors that the house was haunted. She described phantom footsteps, beds shaking, slamming doors, and voices clearly heard in unoccupied rooms. Supposedly, the spirits were that of Sir George and Lady Margaret (no last names, kinda like Prince I guess,) a Revolutionary War-era couple, though Helen’s son would also report coming face to face with another spirit in a military uniform within the walls of their home. A psychic stated, “that the spectral couple had died in England in the 1750s which makes their presence in Nyack, New York, somewhat confusing.” (Ranker) The other ghost seen by Helen’s son was not mentioned by the psychic. The psychic did say there was a Sir George from England who married a woman named Lady Margaret, but they died almost 200 years later (in 1750) than the psychic stated and also in England. Not sure why their spirits traveled all the way to NY to haunt a random Victorian house. All in all, the Ackley’s coexisted with their extended ghostly family and life went on as normal. The ghosts would even leave she and her family little gifts. Helen wrote to Reader’s Digest regarding her haunted abode. The piece was published in the May 1977 issue of the magazine. The Ackley’s, particularly Helen herself, wasn’t quiet about their house being haunted. They pretty much told anyone who would listen.

All of this information might seem a little blasé, but the ensuing court battle over the sale of the above location is very interesting.

 

Legally Haunted

Your house is a little haunted. Not terribly so. Perhaps you hear the occasional voice or see the odd personal artifact levitate out of the corner of your eye. Clearly, the spirit you’re living with is harmless as it hasn’t tried to harm you or your family. You’ve just been living with the odd occurrences, the bumps in the night and voices calling out from darkened rooms since you purchased the house a few years ago. It’s really no big deal for you and your family and you’ve come to find the activity of the mischievous ghostly residents to be endearing and sometimes even humorous. Now, you play along. So do your kids, asking the ghosts to move specific objects and even purchasing a Ouija Board in an effort to make that communication even easier. You’ve mentioned the activity to your neighbors and find out that there was a mass murder in your living room. Before you know it, your house is a stop on a murder tour and a ghost walk. The local paper does a story on your house that winds up on the front page.

One day, you receive your property assessment in the mail and are stunned to see that you could actually make a killing if you sold your home. You’d get a return of almost twice what you paid and the idea is too good to pass up. You call your real estate agent and they list the house, leaving the haunting out of your conversation. You find a buyer in a matter of weeks who puts down a hefty down payment and you move into a new house (sadly, without the ghostly friends you’ve made), moving blissfully along in the ebb and flow of everyday life. That is, until your phone rings and you find out your sale isn’t going through. The buyer is threatening to take you to court! Apparently, you failed to disclose the ghosts and the new occupants don’t appreciate having breakfast with the dead. The flickering lights, voices, and handprints in the steam on the shower door make them uneasy. They want out.

laveta
http://www.ghosttheory.com/2015/09/03/the-haunted-house-on-the-hudson

A similar situation happened to Jeffrey Stambovsky in 1990 when he attempted to purchase a home in Nyack, NY, close to Sleepy Hollow.

From Atlas Obscura, “Helen and George Ackley, who lived in the home for more than 20 years, reported that they had seen a ghost in the house on at least one occasion and that they would be awoken every morning by a shaking bed, but otherwise lived in peace with whatever spirits resided in their home. When they decided to move and sold the house in 1990, they didn’t bother to tell the new buyers about the ghost problem.”

If your house is haunted, are you legally obligated to disclose this information to potential buyers? In some states, AZ, for example, your real estate agent doesn’t need to disclose any violent death or suicide on the property, but they ARE obligated to tell you if the house you’re about to purchase is haunted.

“With $32,500 in escrow, Jeffrey and Patrice Stambovsky backed out of the contract when they learned that the house was haunted. When the Ackley’s refused to refund the deposit, the Stambovskys sued, leading to what would come to be known as the “Ghostbusters” ruling. The New York Appellate court ruled that, because a routine home inspection would never uncover it, sellers must disclose that a house is haunted to potential buyers.” Atlas Obscura

On Ellis Sotheby’s International Realty homepage, I did see mention that the seller (Ackley) did ask the real estate agent to disclose the haunted history of the property and the agent did give this information to the buyers. The buyers joked that they would just “call in the Ghostbusters.” The film had just hit theaters at the time. It was a little while later that the Stambovsky’s had a change of heart and backed out of the sale. The New York Supreme court ruled in 1991 that 1 LaVeta Place is officially a haunted house and, whenever the property is sold the seller must let the buyer know that the location is legally, without a shadow of a doubt, haunted.

Haunted Happenings

The Ackley’s claimed to have experienced/witnessed several paranormal phenomena while living in the home. There have been two confirmed deaths in the home. Helen’s husband passed away in the home (his name was George, not to be confused with Sir George) as did a young dinner guest who suddenly suffered a brain aneurysm. According to many sources I came across, Helen herself perpetrated the rumors of the house being haunted and the home was never actually haunted at all.

Cynthia (one of Helen and George’s children,) reported that her bed would shake each morning to wake her for school. One evening before the start of spring break, Cynthia told the spirit that she wanted to sleep in the next day as it was spring break and she didn’t have school. The bed did not shake the following morning.

Helen’s sons would often be given coins by the spirits and would find them throughout the house.

Cynthia received a pair of silver sugar tongs from the spirits.

 

To Buy or Not to Buy

What’s the market for a haunted house? I feel as if homes that are reported as haunted don’t stay on the market for too terribly long as long as they’re in decent shape, but with the rise of the sale of haunted literally everything on eBay and the conversion of many locations into haunted attractions, I can’t imagine it would be difficult to sell your haunted house. Who might buy a house with a dark past (or even a supposed dark past?) Again, those looking to make a quick buck might snap up a haunted house that’s in a decent location and open it for tours. Otherwise, Halloweenies, though people who decorate their cubicles at work for Halloween before August has even peeked its head out, would be ideal buyers.

Alejandro Rojas, a Writer, blogger, video and podcast host had this to say about haunted houses and their selling potential.

“If you are looking to sell your haunted house, you could turn this into a marketing opportunity. In a recent story in Realtor Magazine, a real estate agent in Omaha, Nebraska did just that. In his listing description, instead of focusing on the great backyard or the newly renovated kitchen, he focused on the house’s haunted reputation.

Unfortunately, the owners took the house off of the market before it sold. They claimed the haunting had turned violent, so they had to get out quick and decided to turn the house into a rental. However, the real estate agent says his marketing strategy created a lot of interest.” Huffpost.com

 

As someone who has lived with other creatures that go bump in the night (ghosts included,) I can honestly say that I’d absolutely buy a house with a haunted past. How about you?

 

https://nyacknewsandviews.com/2016/10/nyack-sketch-log-legally-haunted-house/

https://www.ranker.com/list/ghostbusters-ruling-new-york/april-a-taylor?page=3

http://www.ktransit.com/Kavanagh/Ghost/ghost-background.htm

https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com/search/label/Reader%27s%20Digest

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/do-you-need-to-tell-a-buyer-your-house-is-haunted_b_8435418