Flying on an Alien’s Back Across the Middle Kingdom


Huang Yanqiu (left), China’s first alien abductee

Discounting ancient stories that modern enthusiasts have reclassified as alien encounters, China was relatively late to the UFO craze. There was no Chinese equivalent of Kenneth Arnold, and I’ve never heard of Beijingers riding around with benevolent Space Brothers in the ’50s, or being pursued by shady men in black during the ’60s. The birth of Chinese interest in UFOs might well be dated to the late 1970s, as China ditched Maoism and opened itself up to American influences. Paranormal researcher Paul Dong identified the years 1977 between 1980 as the beginning of China’s “UFO fever,” as the country set up research groups, studied sightings, and followed UFO cases in major newspapers.

The case of Huang Yanqiu, a farmer in a village in Hebei Province, is possibly the first abduction story to come out of contemporary China. On the night of July 27, 1977, Huang- a 21-year-old man about to be married- vanished from his village. In the morning, another village next door got a telegram that Huang was being held by the authorities in Shanghai. For a man with no car or private jet, this was an astonishing distance. Huang had somehow gotten 700 miles away, even though the nearest express train was in Handan, a city that was over 27 miles away from his village.

Baffled, the folks over in Huang’s village had to wait three days before they got confirmation from Shanghai that it was, indeed, their missing man being held in custody. After his cousin and neighbor came to retrieve him, Huang’s explanation for his bizarre disappearance and trek was a bit of a head-scratcher. On the night he vanished, Huang claimed that he fell asleep in his room. When a loud noise woke him up, Huang found himself lying in a big, flashy city. Passersby told the bewildered farmer that he was in Nanjing, more than 500 miles away from home. 

How would he get back to Hebei? Huang was so confused and worried that he started to cry. In his hour of need, two traffic cops approached Huang and gave him a train ticket for Shanghai. They made him board the train immediately, and after arriving in Shanghai a few hours later, Huang was shocked to see the two traffic cops at the train station’s police station. The pair then escorted Huang through the city, dropping him off at a deportation center. He had no idea who these Good Samaritans were, and was equally mystified on how he ended up in Nanjing. 

Huang’s tale was the talk of the village. A month later, just as things began to settle down, the young husband-to-be disappeared again. On the night of September 8th, Huang drifted off to sleep at home, but woke up at a train station in Shanghai. As a violent storm pounded rain over his head, Huang’s first thought was to find a soldier he met in the city last time. Never mind that Huang didn’t know the man’s address. Another pair of Good Samaritans, calling themselves soldiers, took Huang to the necessary barracks. When they finished their duty, the men stepped out, unseen by any troops at the camp.

Disappearing under mysterious circumstances just once is all fine and dandy, but Huang’s village was more concerned the second time around. When Huang returned on September 11th, some suggested that he was being haunted by ghosts. His fiancée, admirably patient up until this point, begged local officials for a divorce. Yet his earlier adventures would prove to be tame when, on September 20th, Huang fainted and materialized in a hotel. Once again, there were two men inside the room, who informed Huang that he was now hundreds of miles away, in the city of Lanzhou.

The men revealed to Huang that they were responsible for his disappearances, and had disguised themselves as the traffic cops and soldiers Huang encountered earlier. They wanted to take their sleepy abductee on a nine-day trip around the country, starting with Beijing. Their method of travel was unorthodox, but highly efficient. Huang hopped on one of the stranger’s backs, and the man flew him into the air, crossing hundreds of miles in only an hour. There was no wind involved in their flight, and Huang described their pace as being like running.

His magical hosts took Huang to Tiananmen Square, hotels, restaurants, and even a movie theater, where they were allowed to enter without tickets. They ate three meals a day, could speak a number of Chinese dialects, and always had a letter of introduction for whatever and whoever they wanted to see. Unfortunately, the trip of a lifetime came to an end on September 28th, when Huang woke up under a jujube tree at home. Local reception to his third and final adventure was cold. His fiancée’s family cancelled the wedding, and the authorities at one point launched an investigation into Huang, accusing him of hurting village production and spreading superstition.

The flight of Huang Yanqiu has since entered the holy annals of Chinese ufology. His flying companions have been deemed aliens, and the far distances he traveled have been attributed to UFO rides. Non-believers argue that Huang was lying or delusional, while one CCTV program offered the imaginative solution that Huang was sleepwalking. A poster on the question-and-answer site Zhihu has suggested that Huang’s trips were perfectly doable by train at the time. Even if it took 22 hours to get from Handan to Shanghai in 1977, Huang was always gone long enough to take the ride, and nobody ever confirmed seeing his gifted friends.

On the cynical side of things, should we also really ignore the fact that Huang was a young groom who just happened to get involved in this when he was about to be married? I’d venture that disappearing and hanging out with extraordinary flying men is a fool-proof way to cancel a wedding that you don’t want.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and other classic dark writers, my first short story collection includes characters who believe they’re in contact with extraterrestrial seahorses, a queen who chokes to death on honey, and a Victorian detective so incompetent that he makes the Warren Report look credible.  If your tastes lean toward the absurd, do give the book a read and leave a review on its Amazon and Goodreads pages. 

The Evil Satanic Cult (Supposedly) Behind Cattle Mutilations


Artist’s rendition of a flying saucer’s abduction of a young cow.

When five cattle were found mysteriously dead on a Oregon ranch last summer, the authorities found themselves baffled. The animals, prowling around in a remote part of country, had been mutilated and drained of blood. Body parts like tongues and genitals were completely removed. A sheriff’s deputy, Dan Jenkins, dismissed the usual suspects of wolves and other natural predators. None of the cattle were shot, ruling out human intervention.

In an interview with NPR, Jenkins noted that a lot of locals blamed the butchery on aliens: “One caller had told us to look for basically a depression under the carcass. ‘Cause he said that the alien ships will kinda beam the cow up and do whatever they are going to do with it. Then they just drop them from a great height.” Whether the extraterrestrials drop cows from great heights out of a sense of sadism, scientific curiosity, or just altruism, is uncertain. The strange episode is certainly reminiscent of a wave of cattle mutilations in the Midwestern and Western United States during the 1970s.

During this time, there was a flood of reports about cattle and other livestock being killed and mutilated on small farms. An October 1975 article on the subject in The New York Times opened with the question, “Who has been killing cattle in Colorado and at least 10 other states the last few months?” Scientists and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation attributed most of the deaths to natural causes. There were essentially three, however, more colorful theories that overlooked blowflies, bears, and coyotes.

Some pinned the blame on aliens, an idea that has remained popular to this day. Others suggested secret government experiments, because clearly leaving horrifically maimed cow carcasses in the wild wouldn’t draw anyone’s suspicions. A third school of thought, begging for a “grounded” solution, pointed to a Satanic cult. The humble theoretician behind this postulation was Albert Kenneth Bankston, an authority on bank robbing who was serving time for his field in a Kansas federal penitentiary. In 1974, Bankston began writing letters to Ross Doyen, a state senator interested in the mutilations.

According to Bankston, the culprits leaving behind thousands of dead, mutilated livestock were the members of a dark cult called the Sons of Satan. The cultists drained the cattle’s blood via hypodermic needles, and cut off their genitals to use in fertility rituals. In addition to their cattle mutilating, the cult kept themselves busy with drug-dealing, murder, and other unsavory hobbies. Doyen, bewildered and enlightened, passed the information off to paranormal researcher Jerome Clark, who also started up a correspondence with Bankston.

The bits and pieces from Bankston painted the image of a wealthy, ambitious cult that wasn’t content with just terrorizing farm animals. Bankston claimed that the Satanists were made up of bikers, criminals, and millionaire stockbrokers, and their plans included stealing a nuclear missile and assassinating journalists and politicians. In an age when a crazed folk singer and his followers attempted to set off a race war only five or six years earlier, Bankston’s story was treated seriously by the authorities. Donald Flickinger, an investigator from the U.S. Treasury Department, was tasked with checking into the former bank robber’s allegations.

Aided in testimony by his pal Dan Dugan, a gentleman reposing in a Texan prison, Bankston happily squealed in exchange for being moved to a small town jail. Together, Bankston and Dugan regaled Flickinger with detail after detail about the Satanists. The members of the cult were not only involved in animal abuse, but human sacrifice as well. They drugged and pacified their victims with PCP, walking around with cardboard on their feet so they wouldn’t leave footprints. When they were finished, the cultists escaped on helicopters, ensuring that they wouldn’t leave a trace at the scene. (And that the mutilations could be blamed on UFOs).

Their revelations were elaborate, but neither Bankston nor his friend had any evidence to prove they were based in reality. Dugan reported that he was once part of the cult, and had been controlled with drugs. He said that he watched the group kill four teenagers in 1969, dumping their bodies at Lake Cozad in Nebraska. After digging up the spot, however, the authorities couldn’t even find a piece of cardboard. It was obvious that nobody had been killed at the spot, and increasingly evident that Bankston and Dugan were just making things up and passing around rumors.

Albert Kenneth Bankston also kept on insisting to be transferred to smaller prisons. He insisted that the cult wanted to silence him for knowing too much, but Bankston’s real motivation was to get into a less secure location. After being transferred several times, Bankston decided to ditch the slammer and escape. He was caught only a few hours later, while Dugan’s own attempt in Texas wasn’t much successful either. Much to the government’s annoyance, the Bankston connection was a complete hoax.

Based on a study of cattle mutilations in New Mexico, FBI agent Kenneth Rommel argued in a 1980 report that the hysteria was overblown, and that the attackers were natural predators. This ended government interest in the phenomenon, although some farmers and local law officers continued to insist that something strange was afoot. The public belief in the Satanic cult theory died down as well, with pop culture associating the mutilations with little green men instead. It seems, going into the 1980s, the Satanists shifted gears, spending their time hanging out at daycares, kidnapping children, and killing giraffes.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. The book has been found mutilated in no less than forty states, and the morbid and bizarre stories therein star such characters as a playwright who stages real deaths for his work, a corpse that leads a revolution in a banana republic, and a sleazy photographer who claims to take pictures of ghosts. If your tastes lean toward the absurd, do give the book a read and leave a review, death-threat, or prophetic message on its Amazon page. 


The Hibagon: A Japanese Bigfoot That Might Also Be A Marketing Ploy


Uncensored photo of a real-life Hibagon

It’s a general fact of the world that every culture must have at least one story of a hairy ape-like creature. We’re all familiar with Bigfoot and his snowy cousin the Yeti, and we can find more far-fetched tales of their relatives from across the globe. The Chinese have encountered and killed various Yerens, for example, while people in India have been terrorized by a monkey on a skateboard. In the United States, we have the Skunk Ape, the Fouke Monster, and so many other Bigfoot clones that one might presume the entire country was inhabited by ape-men.

Japan is no exception to this universal law. Its fantastical hominid, the Hibagon, is a big-nosed, dark-furred monster that stands on two legs at the height of five or so feet. It’s said to live around Mount Hiba, a mountain in Hiroshima Prefecture that can also boast of being the burial site of the goddess Izanami. The first sighting of the Hibagon, according to the Japanese site Occult Chronicle, dates back to July 20, 1970.

On that morning, a man with the last name of Marusaki spotted a strange creature while he was passing through the town of Saijo in a truck. The critter stared at Marusaki, made its way across the road, and then vanished into a forest. Initially, Marusaki thought the jaywalker was an ape. Three days later, a farmer cutting his grass saw a similar creature watching him from some brush. The farmer said that the monster had a human-like face. Speculations linked the peeping tom to Marusaki’s ape, and soon enough, the legend of the Hibagon was born.

In December 1970, there were a dozen sightings of the Hibagon. The ape was strolling so freely, in fact, that some people discovered its footprints in the snow. By April 1971, the Hibagon’s fame inspired the enterprising Saijo authorities to set up the Ruijin’en Kakari, a name my clunky Japanese would render as the “Ape Staff” or “Ape Officials.” This committee investigated sightings, interviewed witnesses, and assisted with the publicity the monster was bringing to the small town. Interviewees were apparently paid 5,000 yen (about $46) for their testimony.

As the stories of the Hibagon were printed across Japan, curious travelers came to Saijo for a chance to see the creature. One group, dispatched by Kobe University, failed to uncover any proof that the Hibagon existed. For a few more years, the mythical ape continued to grace the townspeople, however, with sightings most frequently occurring in the summer.


A dubious 1974 picture of the Hibagon

The year 1974 marked the peak of the Hibagon. In August, a man driving with his mother in a town near Saijo saw the Hibagon flee into some trees. Realizing his find, the man grabbed his camera, got out of the car, and snapped a picture some twenty feet away. The resulting image was a shadowy figure standing in foliage. Unfortunately, as you can observe above, we can’t even see the Hibagon’s lovely smiling face. Still, while some believers were titillated by this picture, other witnesses disputed that it was the Hibagon at all.

By the end of the year, the Ape Staff had received tips about 100 sightings since the committee’s establishment. 22 of these reports were testimonies, from the mouths of 33 different people. From this body of evidence, the Hibagon was judged to be slow, harmless, and intelligent. Its face was like an inverted triangle, and its fur was either brown or black in color. Although not everyone agreed that it was like a monkey, a lot of witnesses, including a woman who spotted it near her house in July 1974, identified it as being similar to an ape.

After creating such an uproar, the Hibagon completely disappeared after October 1974. The Saijo authorities disbanded their committee in March 1975, believing the issue was still inconclusive. Mysterious Universe notes that the Hibagon was detected in other parts of Hiroshima in the early 1980s, but these sightings were just as short-lived as the original wave around Saijo. Today, the Hibagon is a familiar sight around the town (now a part of the city Shobara), but exclusively in the form of pictures, costumes, and merchandise. The curious gourmet can even sample Hibagon eggs, a treat made of cocoa, bean paste, and sweet potato flavors.

Fifty years later, can we really say that there was a benign, jaywalking ape hiding in the forests of Japan? Doubters have suggested that the Hibagon was a misidentified animal, like a Japanese macaque or an Asian black bear. Perhaps one of these animals ventured away from the forest or mountain, and was separated from the rest of its fellows. Some witnesses claimed that the Hibagon had white on its hands or hip, a feature that I wonder might have been confused with the Asian black bear’s signature white chest.

At the time of Hibagonmania, the area around Hiba Mountain was also being developed, an act that must have interfered with local wildlife. Cynics have additionally taken note of the Saijo government’s unusual involvement with the Hibagon sightings in the ’70s, which included paying witnesses for their help. The mayor of the time, according to Japanese blogs I read, was eventually arrested for taking bribes from a construction company. Might the whole episode have been a ruse by officials to spark interest in a newly-developing tourist spot? It’s a question to ponder, preferably while eating Hibagon eggs.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. My first collection of short stories includes such sweet tales as “The Society for the Preservation of Vice,” in which a group of decadent artists attempt to pull off a human sacrifice, and the heart-warming “A Gourmet’s Confession,” in which a glutton resorts to cannibalism after he can’t eat conventional food anymore. Due to my state’s COVID-19 shutdown, I am currently out of work, so I would greatly appreciate the support. A review, witty condemnation, or political manifesto posted on its Amazon page would also be wonderful. 


5 Strange Tales from Pandaemonium,a 17th Century Book on Demonology


An incomprehensible image from Richard Bovet’s “Pandaemonium.” 

Even by the standards of this blog, the English demonologist Richard Bovet is a neglected soul. His 1684 book Pandaemonium, or the Devil’s Cloister passionately argued for the existence of demons and witches at a time when the rest of Europe was beginning to come to its senses. Not much is known about Bovet; there were two people in 17th century England with the name, a father and son, and either men might have been the author we’re discussing today. At any rate, both Bovets were fiercely anti-Catholic, and one of them sought to combine his anti-Catholicism with supernatural quackery.

The result, Pandaemonium, sold poorly in its day and is about well-remembered now as the sonnets I posted on Tumblr as a teenager. To my knowledge, Bovet’s book hasn’t been reprinted since 1951, when an edition was posthumously published by the great Montague Summers. Summers declared that it was “without question one of the most extraordinary works in the immense library of occult research.” I’d say that it IS pretty extraordinary, but probably not in the way that the author intended.

The first half of the book is a credulous discourse on the existence of the supernatural, including sections about how Catholics and the Pope are in league with the Devil. The second part, which is much more amusing, is a collection of accounts about ghosts, witches, and other ghastly things. In traveling around England and gathering stories, Bovet picked up some of the most delightfully strange tales I’d ever heard. (I first encountered the Demon of Spreyton, in fact, in his book.) To honor Bovet, I’d like to retell five of my favorite relations from Pandaemonium, in no definitive order. The original text, for those interested, can also be perused here.

1. The Possession of the Merideth Children 

I’ve long believed that children are a nuisance. They’re dirty, annoying, and as an entire genre of horror movies has shown us, have a habit of becoming supernaturally possessed. In the incident of the Merideth family from Bristol, their son and three daughters were showcases for that third issue. At the start of their “possession,” the kids complained about headaches, then their limbs, mouths, and eyes were distorted into “unimaginable alterations.”

The children soon became unbelievably strong. They would fall into fits of laughing and crying for an hour at a time, and would crawl around the floor like cats. One neighbor even told Bovet that the kids “would hang about the walls and ceiling of the room, like flies or spiders.” Other antics included foaming at the mouth, pretending to drop dead, and in the case of one child, throwing up pins. These strange fits would last all day; it was only when the Merideths fell asleep that they would stop.

After months of this behavior, the Merideth children all of a sudden recovered. Some doctors attributed the cause to a “natural distemper,” but Bovet, ever the careful observer, recognized witchcraft when he saw it.

2. How a Falconer Summoned a Demon 

From Bovet’s friend “Dr. B.” comes a warning of the dangers of unsavory books. In the county of present-day Dorset, Dr. B kept a house with a huntsman and falconer. The huntsman was a fellow who liked to drink, while the falconer was a more temperate person. The two men shared a bed at night, but the falconer preferred to read over talking with his drunken bedfellow.

One night, while the huntsman was asleep, the falconer was busy reading a book he’d borrowed from a chaplain. The book “happened to be of the wrong sort”- perhaps a euphemism for a grimoire or demonological text- and the mere act of reading it summoned a monster to the falconer’s bedside. When the terrified falconer tried to nudge his bedfellow awake, the drowsy hunter only mumbled, “Good Devil, do not mistake, for that is the falconer,” before going back to sleep.

The drunkard having failed him, the falconer shouted for help from the house’s other lodgers. Fortunately, a deus ex machina arrived in the form of the chaplain, who came to the rescue and banished the demon away. Illuminating the tale’s lesson, Bovet remarks that “Some people, by perusing unlawful studies, have put themselves in the power of evil spirits. And though some may look on this relation but as a jest, upon inquiry it will be found a real truth.”

3. The Fair of the Fairies 

Near the town of Taunton, Bovet had heard that there was a fair held by fairies in the summertime. Many locals had reportedly seen it, but kept their distance, because the fair always harmed any human brave enough to approach it. During one such fairy fair, around the 1630s, a man whose curiosity got the better of him would pay for it dearly.

While riding home in the area, to the parish of Combe St Nicholas, the man saw on the side of a hill what appeared to be a fair. There were drinking booths, people in country dress, and all sorts of peddlers, just like a normal fair. Since he knew of no fairs in the area, the man wondered if these people were fairies. He started to ride toward the crowd, but as he got closer, the fairgoers disappeared. The man could feel their presence, yet couldn’t see them at all.

After riding past where the crowd was, the man looked back and saw that the fair had reappeared. Before he could try again, the man’s body was seized with pain. He quickly headed home, and when he got back, became lame all on one side. The poor fellow never recovered from his paralysis; he lived another twenty years, serving as a warning to anyone else who dared to attend the fair of the fairies.

4. The Rat Hole Prophecies 

Toads, black cats, and bats are often associated with witches and other magical ne’er-do-wells. To this trinity of evil, Bovet added the rat, an animal he claimed was cherished by witches. In the following tale about the long-tailed vermin, Bovet discovered what might be the only record of mûsomancy, my neologism for a prophecy delivered by rats.

At a house in the county of Devon (now Devonshire), Bovet was treated to a meal by a Mrs. Wood. In the top of the parlor, Mrs. Wood pointed out to her guest a giant hole, which she supposed was the result of hungry rats. Mrs. Wood’s husband had died a few weeks earlier, just as the hole was created, and it was her belief that the hole predicted her husband’s death. When another hole appeared in the room, Mrs. Wood concluded that she, too, would die.

The rat-constructed holes were right; Mrs. Wood, in perfect health, dropped dead a short time later. A year later, the rats were still enjoying the Woods’ house, and decided to leave another prophecy in their hosts’ parlor. On this occasion, the hole was for Roger Wood, the family’s oldest heir. One morning, back home from hunting, Roger promptly died after complaining about a headache.

5. An Encounter with an Invisible Ghost 

As a collector of supernatural stories, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bovet allegedly had a spooky encounter himself. In 1667, somewhere in the West Country of England, Bovet had stayed at a nobleman’s house. The house was once a nunnery, and according to the servants and  some other visitors, the place was brimming with ghosts and unexplained noises.

On one night during his stay, Bovet testified that a group of five spectral women, each with a white veil covering her face, marched into his room. One of the ladies struck Bovet on the hand, and when he brought it to the attention of his bedfellow, the man freaked out and told Bovet that a monster, “assuming a shape betwixt that of a lion and a bear,” had tried to get onto their bed. The next night, Bovet’s companion refused to sleep in the room, leaving Bovet the place (and bed) to himself.

At around 1 AM, Bovet was ready to sleep. As he tucked himself in, doubtlessly thinking about bear-lions, Bovet heard something come into his room. The being was invisible, but so obnoxiously loud that it gave away its movements. After passing Bovet’s bed, it opened some curtains and entered a locked closet. Behind the door, the intruder grabbed a chair, repeatedly groaned, and seemed to be flipping through a book. “…so it continued in that posture,” Bovet wrote, “sometimes groaning, sometimes dragging the chair, and clattering the book, till it was near day.” As it happened, the author miraculously survived this ordeal; Bovet slept several more times in the room, but never experienced anything strange again, allowing him to write his great masterpiece.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. The book has a habit of conjuring demons upon being read, and the morbid and bizarre stories therein star such characters as a playwright who stages real deaths for his work, a corpse that leads a revolution in a banana republic, and a sleazy photographer who claims to take pictures of ghosts. If your tastes lean toward the absurd, do give the book a read and leave a review, death-threat, or prophetic message on its Amazon page. 




Wilbert Smith and Project Magnet, Canada’s Unintentional UFO Research Study


Canadian engineer & UFO researcher Wilbert Smith

In the beginning of the Flying Saucer Saga, academics and military officials who studied the subject made a point of creating a division between themselves and their more colorful layman cohorts. While contactees like Gloria Lee and Buck Nelson frolicked around in public, babbling about traveling in UFOs and hanging out with groovy Space Brothers, professionals like Major Donald Keyhoe represented a more sober, respectful camp of believers. During one 1958 TV interview, Keyhoe stated that “We do not accept any reports of these so-called contactees without more evidence.” In fact, he dismissed the group entirely, offering pilots and military officials as more reliable witnesses of the UFO phenomenon.

As a radio engineer for Transport Canada, the Great White North’s department of transportation, Wilbert Smith was an oddity who hovered between the two factions. On a trip to Washington D.C. in 1950, Smith encountered Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucers Are Real, one of the earliest books to suggest that UFOs were extraterrestrial in origin. At the same time, he read Frank Scully’s equally influential Behind the Flying Saucers, which proposed that the giant metallic frisbees sweeping the United States were being propelled by a mastery of the planet’s magnetism. Smith, a man greatly interested in the manipulation of magnetism, soon found himself hooked.

Sometime in September of that year, Smith had the Canadian embassy set up a meeting with Dr. Robert Sarbacher, a physicist and government consultant. Sarbacher affirmed that UFOs did, indeed, exist, and that Scully’s book was “substantially correct.” (Never mind that, a few years later, Scully’s main sources for Behind the Flying Saucers were revealed to be substantially fraudulent.) When Smith returned to Canada, he reported to other maple syrup-slurping officials that the matter of flying saucers was “considered by the United States authorities to be of tremendous significance.” Anxious to join the fun, and enticed by the thought of using magnetism as an energy fuel, Smith appealed for his own UFO research project.

In December 1950, Canada Transport established Project Magnet, an enterprise headed by Smith that initially (and officially) studied geomagnetic energy. In the course of his research, however, Smith also indulged in UFO sightings, a personal excursion that would soon overshadow the project’s original purpose. In addition to directing Project Magnet, Smith participated in Project Second Storey, a government committee which briefly analyzed and collected reports of UFOs in 1952. While that committee was inconclusive, Smith came to believe that UFOs were very likely alien vehicles. The next step, he advocated, was to get a hold of this geomagnetic technology.

To detect magnetic disturbances and anomalies in the earth’s atmosphere, Smith was allowed to use an observatory in Shirleys Bay, near the city of Ottawa. On August 8, 1954, the observatory’s gravimeter went crazy, apparently catching something unusual. Although Smith interpreted the measurement as the sign of a UFO, the foggy weather on that day prevented him from seeing anything. Alas, Smith’s detection of a flying saucer, or dragon, or squadron of fairies, or whatever it was, was the final straw for Canada Transport. The department was growing tired of Smith and his antics, to the point that some officials argued that Project Magnet was a waste of time and resources.

When Smith’s observatory episode caught the attention of the press, Canada Transport couldn’t stomach the embarrassment anymore. Project Magnet was ordered to close, and the department made it loud and clear that it had nothing to do with the ufological aspect of Smith’s work. Still, while he no longer had that sweet government funding, Smith continued to work for Canada Transport and research UFOs in his spare time. He gave lectures on the subject, granted interviews, and founded a UFO-related club in Ottawa. In 1960, Smith and his club claimed that a piece of metal they uncovered in the St. Lawrence River was a piece of an alien spacecraft. On another occasion, Smith told American interviewers that he examined a UFO fragment that was lent to him by the American Air Force.

As he accepted the existence of UFOs, it seems that Smith became increasingly credulous. His approach shifted, concentrating more on the meaning of flying saucers over gathering reliable evidence. He exchanged letters with George Hunt Williamson and other contactees, and not only believed that these New Age hucksters were genuine, but joined their ranks. In due time, he began to talk about communicating with extraterrestrials himself. Smith nicknamed his space friends “The Boys from Topside.” They were advanced beings, of course, and they used telepathy to guide Smith in crafting such handy inventions as the binding meter, a tool that measured the energy which holds things together.

In May 1962, Wilbert Smith was diagnosed with cancer, and later died that December at the age of 52. His tragic, unexpected death led to the usual wild speculations that tend to follow paranormal/UFO researchers who die prematurely; his son James, however, has confirmed with researcher Palmiro Campagna that his father passed away from bowel cancer. Seven years after Smith’s death, some of his writings were collected in The Boys From Topside, a collection of articles from the Flying Saucer Review and Smith’s own Topside newsletters.

The eleven pieces feature Smith’s musings on aliens and UFOs, and in the fourth, Smith predicts that “In time, when certain events have transpired, and we are so oriented that we can accept these people from elsewhere, they will meet us freely on common ground of mutual understanding and trust. We will be able to learn from them and bring about the Golden Age all men everywhere desire deep within their hearts.” Is it wrong that, deep within my heart, I desire for The Boys from Topside to grant me a patent for some nifty space gadget?

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. The entire book was dictated by The Boys from Topside via automatic writing, and the morbid and bizarre stories therein star such characters as a playwright who stages real deaths for his work, a corpse that leads a revolution in a banana republic, and a sleazy photographer who claims to take pictures of ghosts. If your tastes lean toward the absurd, do give the book a read and leave a review, death-threat, or prophetic message on its Amazon page. 



The Disappearance of J.C. Brown, a Man Who Allegedly Found Lemurian Ruins


An artist’s representation of Lemuria, minus any UFOs or giant, blonde-haired Lemurians.

In 1864, the English zoologist Philip Sclater noted that lemur fossils had been found in both India and the far-away island of Madagascar. To explain this geographical discrepancy, Sclater proposed that lemurs and similar primates must have originated in Madagascar, which at one point must have been connected to India. Sclater dubbed this ancient land bridge “Lemuria,” writing about his hypothesis in The Quarterly Journal of Science. Other scientists of the time also speculated about missing land bridges and submerged continents, but the idea of Lemuria and its ilk was eventually swept away with the modern concept of continental drift.

While scientists might have given up on Lemuria, a motley crew of occultists, mystics, New Agers, and Tamil nationalists have kept its memory alive and well. During Sclater’s own lifetime, Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophists declared that Lemuria was populated by a prehistoric race of giant egg-laying hermaphrodites called the Lemurians. These spiritual beings lived 34 million years ago, and while they were able to live with dinosaurs, their downfall came with the advent of mammals. For some reason, the Lemurians couldn’t resist having sex with these new animals, a form of bestiality not particularly appreciated by the gods. Needless to say, Lemuria was rightly sunk into the ocean, and the gods began anew with Atlantis.

Even though their homeland was destroyed, the Theosophists insisted that some of the Lemurians lived on as Australian aboriginals, their modern descendants. After Blavatsky’s ridiculous tome The Secret Doctrine elaborated all this, however, the American writer Frederick Spencer Oliver challenged conventional tomfoolery with his book A Dweller on Two Planets. Backed by a spirit named Phylos the Thibetan as his source, Oliver revealed that there were Lemurians living in the United States, tucked away in a hidden city in California’s Mount Shasta. Other authors added onto Oliver’s new themes, and by the 1930s, stories of an enlightened, white-robed people living in the mountain became widespread in more gullible circles.

Nowadays, Mount Shasta has been associated with everything from Bigfoot to UFOs, but the mountain’s tacky Lemurian connection was the subject of a very real mystery in 1934. That year, a 79-year-old man named J.C. Brown appeared in Stockton, California with an incredible proposition. Brown told a journalist from the Stockton Record that he was a retired mining engineer for the Lord Cowdray Mining Company of England. Some three decades earlier, Brown was assigned to work in the Cascade mountain range, the location of Mount Shasta. During his assignment, Brown discovered a blocked-off cave. After clearing away rubble, he went down a tunnel and reached a cavern he described as a “village.”

In one area, Brown discovered a pair of rooms that were filled with golden tablets. Another room held a collection of spears, while a longer one housed the remains of 27 giant skeletons, ranging in height from 6 to 10 feet. Separated from these skeletons were an embalmed man and woman in robes, a couple that Brown believed were king and queen. Ultimately, Brown concluded that this mysterious race of radium-using giants was the fabled Lemurians. To keep his employer’s grubby paws off his discovery, however, Brown kept his lips sealed for the time being.

Over the years, Brown tried to enlist his wife, father-in-law, daughters, and friend in excavating the Lemurian ruins, yet all inconveniently died one after the other. (A cynic might crack about a Lemurian mummy curse at work here.) This marathon of funerals disheartened Brown, but he regained his courage and decided to put together a party of strangers. After spreading his plan around Stockton, and networking with a museum curator, Brown gathered over 80 people for his expedition. As with so many other big-talkers, Brown didn’t provide any proof for his claims. He supposedly had pictures of the site, but they were stored in a Texas bank. In spite of this red flag, Brown’s followers were so confident that some of them gave up their jobs and sold their belongings.

Over meetings held twice a week, Brown claimed to have a net worth of $40,000,000, and told his followers that he’d take them to the ruins on one of his boats. After six weeks of plotting, Brown organized the party to meet at the house of follower John C. Root, where they would leave in the afternoon. On June 18, the appointed day, the excited treasure hunters gathered at Root’s house. The afternoon came and went, and by the time the sun was shining again, the people of Stockton were still waiting. J.C. Brown had failed to materialize at all.

With the disappearance of their leader, some of Brown’s entourage thought they’d been played for fools. Others were afraid that he’d been kidnapped, taken by a person who wanted the treasure for themselves. Townspeople of a more cautious nature smelled a con-artist, yet Brown declined to take money and donations from his followers, a detail that’s led subsequent enthusiasts to believe that the man was genuine. Although the police searched for him, and one follower “confirmed” via psychic information that Brown was okay, the old Englishman was never seen again.

So just who was J. C. Brown? Where did he go, and what was his motive for stringing along a bunch of credulous townsfolk without even making a penny? The Stockton Record stated that Brown once lived in a federal shelter, where he was committed as suffering from amnesia in 1932. Brown appeared to have all his marbles, but on three occasions, complained about being stalked. While we don’t have that much of a strong reason to doubt his sanity, I’ve noticed modern accounts of Brown tend to omit an interesting detail of the story. The day he disappeared, Brown was supposed to give the museum curator the pictures he took of the Lemurian ruins. Perhaps Brown knew he’d taken the hoax as far as it could go, and skipped town over facing the consequences?

In recent years, paranormal researcher Stephen Sindoni has claimed to locate the site of Brown’s cave. Sindoni takes the legends of Mount Shasta seriously, but to his credit, has advanced a candidate for J.C. Brown’s identity. The suspect, John Benjamin Body, was a retired engineer who had relatives right across the street from John C. Root’s house. It’s a remarkable match, yet even if it’s true, we’re still left to ponder over J.C. Brown’s motivation. Was the whole affair a long-winded prank, or something more malicious? Whatever the fate of this mysterious fraudster, we can only hope that the magical, egg-laying Lemurians weren’t too upset about their village being trifled with.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. While it doesn’t have anything to do with Lemurian giants, the book treads all sorts of other ridiculous and marvelous characters, such as a playwright who stages real deaths for his work, a corpse that leads a revolution in a banana republic, and a sleazy photographer who claims to take pictures of ghosts. If your tastes lean toward the absurd, do give the book a read and leave a review, death-threat, or channeled psychic message on its Amazon page. 




Ape Canyon’s Bizarre 1924 Bigfoot Attack


Fred Beck, veteran of America’s most horrific Bigfoot battle

As far as I can tell, Washington’s Ape Canyon is a gorge on Mount St. Helens that is neither shaped like an ape nor inhabited by one. The odd name comes from an incident reported in July 1924, when five miners claimed that they were attacked by a group of apemen. The story goes that a member of the mining party, a man named Fred Beck, took a shot at one of the creatures after being spooked. Later that night, the monsters appeared at the miners’ cabin, tossing boulders and rushing the door to break it down.

According to The Oregonian, the first paper to break the story, the apemen were covered in long black hair. They stood at 7 feet, weighed over 400 pounds, and possessed great strength. At one point, they made a hole in the cabin’s roof and dropped a rock inside, knocking Beck in the head. Despite the apemen’s mastery of rock-throwing, the gun-toting miners were able to hold their ground. By the morning, the creatures had retreated, allowing Beck and the other humans to run out the log-fort and return to civilization.

Yes, the miners’ tale was likely just a campfire yarn, but how could newspapers resist a showdown between giant apes and gold prospectors? At a time when the word “Bigfoot” hadn’t been coined yet, people referred to the miners’ violent apemen as “mountain devils” and “gorillas.” As word of the ambush spread, the story also became increasingly outlandish. A skeptical mention in the Engineering and Mining Journal put the number of combatants involved at “more than twenty animals,” while one Native American editor tied the apemen to the Seeahtik, a mythical tribe who used hypnotism to hunt for their game.

Although the Washington media’s interest in the Bigfoot assault eventually faded, the gorge where it happened was christened “Ape Canyon,” ensuring that the battle remained a part of local folklore. After the modern conception of Sasquatch took off in the late 1950s, researchers like journalist Betty Allen rediscovered the Ape Canyon incident and incorporated it into Bigfoot mythology. Probably encouraged by this new Bigfoot mania, Fred Beck sat down with his son Roland to create a memoir of the failed 1924 siege, titling his 1967 booklet “I Fought the Ape Men of Mt. St. Helens.

Despite the long passage of time, Beck remembered the greatest Bigfoot brawl of the century rather well. Before that fateful day in July, Beck and the other miners had already come across large, unfamiliar tracks. The week of the incident, they heard whistling outside every evening, as though two creatures were trying to communicate with one another. During his description of the attack in the booklet’s first chapter, Beck clarifies a couple details that were misreported in the press. It was actually his friend “Hank” (a pseudonym) who shot the first apeman, for example, and it wasn’t true that Beck was hit in the head by a rock.

At most, Beck and his mining party saw only three apemen at a time, although there might have been more. When things quieted down in the morning, the miners came out of their cabin, and Beck spotted one of the creatures standing near a cliff. He shot it three times, sending the damn dirty ape over the edge, down to a fall that was four hundred feet below. After fleeing to a park ranger station at Spirit Lake, Beck wanted to keep the whole ordeal a secret, but “Hank” couldn’t keep his mouth shut. The story spread, journalists requested interviews, and curiosity-seekers and law officers scoured the area for signs of the attackers.

In the second chapter of the booklet, Beck reprints a 1964 news article about the Mt. St. Helen apemen, mentioning his own incident and the 1950 disappearance of a skier on the mountain. Further on, he admits to having been clairvoyant since childhood, noting a history of “visions” and “spiritual meetings.” Because a psychic element just wasn’t enough, Beck completely twists his story and speculates that the apemen were beings from a lower plane of existence. As a lost link between humans and their ancestors, the apemen sometimes manifested into our own dimension, anxious to ascend their petty state. They are curious, largely harmless critters, and are only searching for a higher consciousness.

This spiritual gobbledygook, although not entirely unwelcome for entertainment purposes, is entirely absent from the original ’20s reportage. There’s been debate over how much influence Roland had on his father’s written account, and even whether Fred Beck could remember the story as accurately as he thought he did. In terms of more practical solutions, a logger named Rant Mullins admitted in 1982 that he rolled rocks onto a cabin in the Mt. St. Helen area in 1924. Mullins had also faked giant footprints for decades, suggesting he was responsible for another important part of Beck’s “ambush.”

Another theory argues that the miners mistook a rock slide that hit their cabin for the monsters, and yet a third maintains that the assailants were teenagers from a local YMCA, who couldn’t be seen clearly due to the time of night. As for the Bigfoot that Beck shot and sent down into oblivion, this was either the case of an overactive imagination, or the brutal assassination of an innocent apeman attempting to reach a higher consciousness. Personally, I don’t believe in Sasquatch or its cousins, so I’m going to opt for the former explanation.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. My first collection of short stories includes such sugary sweet tales as “The Society for the Preservation of Vice,” in which a group of decadent artists attempt to pull off a human sacrifice, and the heart-warming “A Gourmet’s Confession,” in which a glutton resorts to cannibalism after he can’t eat conventional food anymore. Although not appropriate for everyone, the book is a favorite among apemen, and has been a popular item to toss at miner cabins. 



How a Nobleman (Partially) Solved the Disappearance of a Purloined Plate


A generic ghost that has absolutely nothing to do with today’s story.

While life imprisonment and execution do a relatively decent job of discouraging people from killing one another, the threat of posthumous vengeance might well be a greater deterrence. Looking at ghost stories across time and space, one can find a countless number of tales that involve the victim of a crime coming back from the grave to point a finger at their unidentified murderer.  Other times, as in the case of Juan Vázquez de Ayola, the spirit shows up to reveal their own corpse, a piece of evidence often hidden in the least creative places.

A classic take on this subgenre, with both tropes present, can be found in the life of the English nobleman George Harris. In 1730, Harris was serving in a court position in London when he received an urgent letter from his servant Richard Morris. Morris, the head butler of Harris’s country estate, reported that the house had been burglarized. To make matters worse, the culprits got away undetected, and a newly-hired servant boy had also gone missing. In the week or so that it took Harris to rush back to his home in Devon, the local constables struggled to move forward with the case.

One of the obstacles in the investigation was the timing. Despite that the burglary took place at night, it wasn’t until the morning that it was discovered. Morris, to his presumed displeasure, was “found in the plate-room half dressed, tied to a table, and with a gag in his mouth.” When questioned, the butler reported that he’d stumbled onto the burglars in the middle of their heist. Before the criminals took off with a valuable plate, they grabbed Morris and tied him up. He described the thieves as a group of five or six men, one of whom Morris identified as the missing servant.

Although Harris took a look around his estate, he couldn’t find anything unusual. With no clues to go on, and his responsibilities calling in London, there really wasn’t much that Harris could do. Six months passed before he could return home. Back in the countryside, Harris learned from Morris that the burglars still hadn’t been caught, yet there were no other incidents during his absence. Exhausted from his trip, Morris headed off to his room, more concerned with his bed than his plate.

That night, Harris woke up early, noticing a strange figure in his room. Thanks to a small lamp, Harris could see that the midnight creeper was, in fact, his missing servant. The boy, doubtlessly hungry to purloin another plate, was asked what he wanted, but refused to reply. Instead, he pointed to Harris’s bedroom door, motioning for his master to follow. Harris, curious about what the boy was doing, put on some clothes, grabbed a sword, and followed him out the room. With his arm stretched forward, the servant led Harris down a staircase and through a door outside, coming to a stop at a large oak tree.

The boy pointed to the bottom of the tree, which was covered with bushes and shrubs. After a moment, he walked past the tree, and disappeared from Harris’s sight. Being a master of charades, Harris had a good feeling what his oddly silent servant meant to imply. In the morning, he had Richard Morris seized and ordered workers to dig around the oak tree. After digging up less than a foot of ground, the men uncovered something more damning than the purloined plate: the body of Harris’s missing servant. The boy, with the cord still wrapped around his neck, had been strangled to death.

After some pressing, Morris confessed that his account of the burglary was a lie. The butler had an active role in the theft, inviting two ne’er-do-wells inside so that the trio could make off with something expensive and fancy. As the criminals helped themselves to Harris’s tableware, however, the servant boy accidentally ran into them during the operation. Playing it safe, they figured the best course of action was to kill the boy, burying him under a blatant landmark. To further cast off any suspicion, Morris was tied up and left in the house.

While this accounted for the missing servant, there was still the matter of the butler’s co-conspirators and their theft. Neither the plate nor the burglars were located, leaving Richard Morris as the only punished culprit. For his part in the crime, Morris was sentenced to death and executed. To be fair, it’s unclear whether Morris was the one who laid his hands on the servant.  Still, for failing to bury the boy’s body in a more creative place- say, like the plate-room- I’d say that Morris deserved his fate for such an appalling lack of imagination.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. My first collection of short stories includes such sugary sweet tales as “The Society for the Preservation of Vice,” in which a group of decadent artists attempt to pull off a human sacrifice, and the heart-warming “A Gourmet’s Confession,” in which a glutton resorts to cannibalism after he can’t eat conventional food anymore. The book is available on Kindle, and since it’s only $4.99, doesn’t require stealing a plate in order to afford it. 








The Witch Trial of Thomas Looten, a Man Accused of Cursing Plums


Depiction of a Witches’ Sabbath

Although a lot of people complain that nobody knows their neighbors anymore, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. All too often, neighbors play their music too loud, steal garbage cans, and if they’re old and bored, spend all their time watching you from their windows. Historically, at the least, neighbors appear to be improving. Very few of us, for example, are accused of being witches by the people who live next door. For centuries, some neighbors dispensed this charge rather freely, as in the tragic trial of a 17th century merchant named Thomas Looten.

Local intelligence had it that Looten, a 60-year-old man who lived in the parish of Meteren in French Flanders, was a sorcerer. When Looten gave a boy some plums, and the boy died a month later, his neighbors put two and two together and realized that Looten must have cursed the fruit. Disturbed at the accusation, Looten trusted that the authorities of his community had enough sense to clear him of any wrongdoing. In September 1659, the concerned cattle merchant turned himself in to bailiff (and prosecutor) Jacques Vanderwalle, asking for a trial. Vanderwalle agreed and put Looten under arrest.

After two days of inquiries, Vanderwalle had made up his mind. Looten was obviously guilty of the charge,and twelve witnesses who could confirm it were willing to testify against him. Following a raid on Looten’s house for ointment and potions, the trial dragged on for another three weeks before Vanderwalle was thoroughly convinced that all evidence pointed toward the sorcery theory. While Looten was visited by two judges later that week, he declined to get a lawyer or provide any counterevidence. His fellow citizens, he was still convinced, would make the right call. 

Indeed, a call was made, but it was answered by Jan Noorman, an executioner from Dunkirk who was passing in the area. Noorman examined Looten in jail, poking him with a pin in search of the Devil’s mark, a personal marking by Old Nick that was said to be left on witches and other diabolical lackeys. As a veteran who executed some five or six-hundred witches in his day, Noorman had no problem finding the necessary spot on the prisoner’s back. Now that a pin prick had confirmed Looten’s Satanic connections, the judges believed it was high time that he was tortured for a confession.

During the first session, Looten was bound to a wooden chair. His neck was strangled with a garrote, and Looten told his torturers that he’d first heard the rumor that he killed the plum-eating boy while hanging out at a tavern. When Looten was tormented during a second interrogation, he was forced to take off his shirt. Looten was dabbed with holy water by a friar, and to ensure more holiness, sat on a blessed chair and wore a new blessed shirt. As the torturers attacked him with a garrote again, Looten was made to finally give the admission the community wanted.

In his confession, Looten confirmed his neighbors’ suspicions that he was a sorcerer. His relationship with the Devil, whom he dubbed “Harlakyn,” stretched back eight long years. At night, Looten participated in the usual rowdy sabbaths, drinking booze, feasting on veal, and having sex with beautiful women. His financial success, his cattle and houses, were also owed to the Devil. Harlakyn gifted his friend plenty of money, along with some magical ointment that granted Looten the ability to fly. For handing that neighbor boy some cursed plums, Looten earned a total of five coins.

From here, like in so many other witch trials in early modern Europe, Looten’s punishment would proceed to an execution. The morning after his confession, however, Looten was discovered dead in his cell. While it would be reasonable to deduce that the poor merchant had his neck broken from the garrote, the authorities attributed his death to the Devil. Seeing to it that justice would still be served, the judges dutifully ordered Looten’s body burned and placed on a gibbet for public display.

Outrageously, in the aftermath of the trial, Looten’s cattle were sold to cover the legal costs. Records indicate that Looten was charged for everything from the raid on his own house to the paper used to record information during the trial. Given Looten’s economic standing in the community, one has to wonder whether some of his neighbors had a financial interest in getting the old merchant killed.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. My first collection of short stories includes such sweet tales as “The Society for the Preservation of Vice,” in which a group of decadent artists attempt to pull off a human sacrifice, and the heart-warming “A Gourmet’s Confession,” in which a glutton resorts to cannibalism after he can’t eat conventional food anymore. The book is available on Kindle, and can be purchased for the price of five bewitched plums (or $4.99).  


On a Banshee’s Prediction of a Rector’s Death


Along with Bono and the leprechaun, the wailing banshee is probably one of the best-known creatures to come out of Ireland. While some people consider it a spirit, others classify it as a kind of fairy. Its exact appearance also has a variety of interpretations, from depicting the banshee as being unusually tall or amazingly small, to rendering it as an ugly hag or a beautiful young woman. Despite the diversity of images, it’s generally agreed that hearing a banshee’s cry means that somebody in an Irish family is about to die.

Banshees are especially thought to shriek if the victim has a surname with the Gaelic prefixes Ó or Mac, or has a gift for singing and playing music. (The one indicates native Irish ancestry, and the other reflects the belief that music was a gift from fairies.) An account of a banshee, reported by antiquarian Thomas Crofton Croker in 1825, concerns a man who possessed the latter feature. In life, the 18th century reverend Charles Bunworth was a harpist as renown for his kindness as his talent for plucking. He earned his MA from Trinity College, Dublin in 1730,  and served as the rector of Buttevant, a town in Ireland’s County Cork.

Bunworth was popular with both the rich and poor, but neither group seemed to love the rector as much as the country’s traveling harpists. In return for his support and patronage, Bunworth’s fellow musicians blessed him and praised his daughters in their songs. At the time of his death in 1770, Bunworth had fifteen harps in his collection,  all of them presents from harpists who he’d helped over the years. Although one biographer in 1815 noted that Bunworth’s own harp was still being kept by his descendants, the rest of the collection was accidentally used as firewood by a caretaker in the family’s house.

More extraordinary than the fate of these unfortunate instruments might be the allegation that Bunworth’s death was preceded by a banshee’s cry. In his book Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, the earlier mentioned Croker states that “The circumstances attending the death of Mr. Bunworth may be doubted by some; but there are still living credible witnesses who declare their authenticity, and who can be produced to attest most, if not all of the following particulars.” According to Croker, the first sign that something was wrong happened a week before Bunworth passed away.

That evening, the members of the Bunworth household heard a noise that sounded like a sheep, but nobody paid it any mind. A few hours later, a herdsman named Kavanagh visited the Bunworths’ home with some medicine for the family patriarch, who’d fallen sick. When Kavanagh handed the bottle to one of Bunworth’s daughters, the lady noticed that the herdsman seemed upset. As he was questioned, Kavanagh mumbled something about his master and immediately broke into tears. Ms. Bunworth suspected that her overly emotional servant was drunk, but Kavanagh swore that his tears were sober ones.

Crying “We will lose him! We will lose him!,” Kavanagh revealed that he’d seen and heard a banshee on his way back home. Ms. Bunworth dismissed the monster as a superstition, but the herdsman was persistent. He claimed that as he passed through a glen, a long, white haired-banshee appeared and walked alongside him. The banshee clapped and screeched, chanting Bunworth’s name and keening (a poetical sort of lamenting done at traditional Irish funerals). Once Kavanagh reached an abbey, the banshee sat under a tree and “began keening so bitterly, that it went through one’s heart to hear it.”

It was not a keen, however, that went through Ms. Bunworth’s heart. She told Kavanagh that her father was improving, and asked that he not frighten the other servants with his silly banshee story. Nearly the whole week passed without further incident, but then something strange occurred the night before Bunworth died. That night, the old rector was sleeping in the parlor, under the watch of an elderly female friend. A group of men sat in the room next to them, and even more friends had gathered in the kitchen.

While watching Bunworth, the elderly friend suddenly heard a woman moaning and clapping her hands at a window near the rector’s bed. The aged lady alerted the men in the other room about the noise. They’d heard the commotion too, so a pair of skeptics volunteered to search the house. When they couldn’t find anything, the men went outside and investigated the road, still finding no trace of another human being.

After coming back into the house, the men were told that the moaning and clapping had intensified and stopped again during their absence. Right as the men closed the room’s door, the mysterious mourning broke out a third and final time. Bunworth’s health, already in bad shape, rapidly deteriorated. When the morning came, Charles Bunworth promptly went the way of all flesh, just as the banshee predicted.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by buying my book “Forgotten Lives” on Amazon here. My first collection of short stories includes the company of such wonderful people as a vengeful circus dwarf, a gourmet cannibal, and a mother who convinces her daughter that aliens are coming to abduct them. The book is available on Kindle, and it goes without saying that every purchase is preceded by a loud disembodied scream outside the buyer’s window.