Aladino Félix: From Contactee to Terrorist

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Our lord and savior, Aladino Félix

I imagine few people have a  résumé as colorful as Aladino Félix’s. This Brazilian Renaissance man was an author, translator, World War II veteran, contactee, psychic, cult leader, messiah, and a terrorist. Félix’s journey to greatness began with the events in My Contact with Flying Saucers, a book he wrote under the name Dino Kraspedeon in 1959. Like Buck Nelson and other contactees in the United States, Félix claimed to be on good terms with extraterrestrial beings. His first book is presented mostly as a dialogue, featuring the usual contactee tropes of spirituality, warnings about the atomic age, and a poor understanding of science.

According to Félix, his first encounter with a UFO occurred in November 1952. It was a rainy day, and Félix had just reached the top of a mountain with a friend when the two pals noticed a squadron of five UFOs in the sky. After the sighting, Félix  spent three days waiting at the same spot, hoping to see a saucer again. On the third night, the earthling’s wish was granted. Not only did a UFO appear and land, but the captain of the ship invited Félix inside. The visit lasted over an hour, and it ended with the captain promising Félix that he’d be back soon.

Some four or five months passed. While sitting at home one Sunday afternoon, Félix’s wife heard the doorbell ring three times. After finding a traveling parson at the door, Mrs. Félix fetched her husband. At the time, Félix was an atheist. He dreaded listening to preachers, but let the parson in to be polite. The stranger was dressed up enough to put a Jehovah’s Witness to shame, wearing a nice cashmere suit, a white shirt and blue tie, and an impressively clean pair of shoes. As Félix came face-to-face with the man, he realized the handsome parson was no stranger. Just as he promised, the UFO captain had returned.

The captain stressed that he’d come in peace. He only wanted Félix’s friendship, and apologized for showing up in a disguise. (Mrs. Félix apparently couldn’t handle the thought of a spaceman sitting in her kitchen.) Over the course of five conversations, the captain revealed a myriad of things, including that he was from Jupiter. He was also a strong believer in the Christian God, convincing Félix to turn away from his atheism. By the time the captain said goodbye, leaving Félix at a São Paulo train station, the enlightened Brazilian was taught everything from the working of UFOs to the “fact” that gravity didn’t actually exist.

My Contact with Flying Saucers was a surprising success, and it was even translated into English. Félix published another alien-themed book in 1959, using the Dino Kraspedeon pseudonym one last time. That same year, he embarked on a translation of Centuries, a collection of vague prophecies by the infamous Nostradamus. While translating the text, Félix became convinced that the book contained references to his own life and relatives. Later, a disembodied voice told Félix that it was Jehovah, and it was his destiny to unite the Jews. Reinventing himself, Félix passed on his revelations in the 1960 Message to the Jews, published under the name Dunotas Menorá.

As the decade went on, Félix’s ideas grew more bizarre and grandiose. Insisting that he was a messiah, Félix adopted yet another new name, Sábado Dinotos. As he popped up on TV and made predictions about the future, Félix gathered up a base of fans and followers. In 1967, the self-proclaimed reincarnated King David elaborated his doctrine in The Antiquity of Flying SaucersIn Félix’s baffling history, Earth was the battleground of two opposing extraterrestrial forces. The good guys, the inhabitants of Jupiter, bequeathed us the Old Testament. The bad guys, a bunch of villains from Venus, gave us the New Testament.

Along these lines, Christianity was evil. As a matter of fact, Jesus was a freak spawned from artificial insemination, a Venusian agent to lead humanity astray. Fortunately, Félix revealed, this dark age was almost over. The Jews would take complete control of Jerusalem, sparking the Catholic Church to call for a crusade. Jupiter would then intervene and send a fleet of UFOs, leading Félix to victory as master of the world. There was nothing anybody could do to stop it. Félix predicted disaster after disaster, claiming great violence was about to shake up Brazil and the rest of the planet.

Between 1964 and 1985, Brazil was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. When Félix issued his prophecy, the Brazilian government was getting ready to clamp down on critics and dissidents harder than ever before, a period of repression and violence known as the Years of Lead. Beginning in December 1967, a wave of mysterious terrorist attacks swept São Paulo. The terrorists stole weapons and bombed a number of important places, including a stock exchange building and a police headquarters. The crime spree continued for months, only coming to a stop when police nabbed the culprits after a bank robbery in August 1968.

To the superstitious, the whole episode proved Félix’s prophecies were correct, but there was a tiny problem. As the authorities interrogated the terrorist group, which consisted of policemen, they realized the ringleader was a familiar face on Brazilian television. The mastermind behind the attacks, the man who had plotted to overthrow the government, was none other than Sábado Dinotos, otherwise known as Aladino Félix. The true messiah was duly imprisoned, before escaping from prison and getting thrown in jail again. Félix was ultimately let off lightly, and was released in 1972. His last days were spent away from the public, writing, pondering, and wondering why his Jovian allies never arrived.

The great prophet died in 1985, leaving behind several loose ends. Why, for example, did Félix receive such a light punishment? And why were his co-conspirators acquitted, some of whom were allowed to go back to work? In 2018, the saga of Aladino Félix took another wild turn when investigators discovered that he had links to elements in the old military dictatorship. Félix and his right-wing group were actually encouraged to carry out their spree of terror, in the hope that left-wing terrorists would strike back, and the government would be justified in tightening its control. Of course, the plan worked, but one has to wonder why Félix’s military buddies entrusted a lunatic to help them. Were they, perhaps, afraid that the communists would team up with Venus?

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 makes an excellent diversion for anybody who’s grown impatient waiting for the Jovian flying saucers. 

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A Mathematician’s Ghost Story: Or, the Thomases and the Phantom

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Scholar Richard Bentley, pictured here being very scholarly.

In December 1695, University of Oxford mathematician John Caswell wrote a letter to Richard Bentley, a renown classical scholar and clergyman at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College. Earlier, the pair of friends planned to meet in London, but Caswell had to return to Oxford when he got sick. In his letter, Caswell apologized for missing Bentley. As though an apology wasn’t enough, Caswell also attached a ghost story for his friend’s amusement. The mathematician originally heard the tale from two different people, before going to the curate who spread it, a Mr. Thomas Wilkins who will henceforth be known as Thomas I.

According to Thomas I, the story took place in a parsonage in Warblington, a suburb of Havant, England. The unfortunate protagonists of this relation consisted of Thomas Perce, his wife and child, a maid, and a servant also inconveniently named Thomas. On a Monday night in August 1695, at 9 or 10 PM, everyone in the house was asleep except the maid and child. After putting on a fire in the kitchen, the maid turned around and was startled to see a figure in a black gown walk across the room. With a candle in one hand, and the kid in the other, the maid ran upstairs and gave a shout.

The Perces hurried to the staircase, and the maid explained to them what happened. The poor woman was so spooked that she refused to stay, choosing to sleep and complain at a neighbor’s house. (That of Henry Salter, a farmer.) The next day, Perce’s wife went to Wilkins and asked him to look into the matter. Not a Thomas to believe in ghosts, Wilkins flat-out told Mrs. Perce that he thought the story was a lie to smear her landlord, a rector named Brereton. To prove that the house was positively not haunted, Wilkins arranged to stay the night with the other two Thomases.

Once he arrived at the parsonage, Wilkins looked around every room to be sure that nobody was hiding in the house. At one point, much to the horror of Perce, Wilkins called for the ghost to appear. The phantom didn’t materialize, and a brave Wilkins reassured Perce that he’d protect the man if it did. Over the next two nights, nothing out of the ordinary happened. On the third night of Wilkins’s stay, however, the servant Thomas slept in a room separate from the other men. As he was in bed alone, Thomas III saw the dark-gowned figure creep into his room. The ghost leaned against a window for a time, then wandered off to creep and haunt and do whatever else it is that spirits do.

During his encounter, Thomas III was so afraid that he couldn’t move or talk. When he duly reported the episode to the curate, Wilkins dismissed it as a trick. It wouldn’t be until the fifth night, when Wilkins slept in one room and the two Thomases in the other, that the curate would change his tune. That time, the servant yelled for Wilkins to come to their room. The spirit was back, and it whistled as it walked around the room and looked at Thomas II and III in bed. (While the sight of two men in bed might sound suggestive to the modern reader, sharing beds was a common practice of the time.)

When Wilkins reached the room, the servant had to unlock the door to let him in. As soon as he stepped inside, Wilkins was greeted by the figure in the black gown, who moved from the bed to the window. Shocked, but keeping his cool, Wilkins approached the spirit and asked what it was. Since the ghost made no reply, Wilkins reached to touch it, his hand passing through its body onto the wall. After demanding an answer a second time, the most courageous Thomas followed the ghost out into a hallway, where it vanished from a corner. Although he claimed not to be afraid, Wilkins slept with the other Thomases that night.  (While the sight of three men in bed might sound suggestive to the still unconvinced modern reader, sharing beds after a ghost sighting is a practice that has remained to this day.)

As Wilkins described it, “The Apparition seemed to have a morning gown of a darkish color, no hat nor cap, short black hair, a thin meagre visage, of a pale swarthy color, seemed to be of about 45 or 50 years old: the eyes half shut, the arms hanging down, the hands visible beneath the sleeve, of a middle stature.” As a matter of fact, the description matched Sebastian Pitfield, a rector who’d long been dead. Pitfield had a nasty reputation in life, and was rumored to have murdered his own illegitimate children. With a ghost like this under their roof, the Perces decided to abandon the parsonage altogether.

Two months later, on an early October night, a passerby noticed lights in many of the house’s rooms. After peeking at the light from the kitchen window, the man turned away and was immediately confronted by the figure in the gown. The curious passerby bolted off, pursued by the phantom over several acres of land. When the man came across a barn owned by Henry Salter, he rushed inside and reported the chase to some servants. The other men went outside and found the ghost still there. For its dramatic exit, the ghost made “a hideous noise” and stood a while before disappearing for good.

In spite of its haunted reputation, the parsonage’s landlord insisted that the place was just as livable for the living. As is the custom of every landlord who has a problem, Mr. Brereton lowered the rent and warned others not to talk about it.

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 for $4.99, and like Mr. Brereton’s house, comes with a free phantom in a black gown. 

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The Vrykolakas: a Greek Revenant that Knocks on Doors

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In American pop culture, vampires are frequently charming, sexy, and sophisticated. They’re rarely scary, and since the vampire romance boom, they’ve become lame and boring. If hideous, evil revenants ever become fashionable again, then I can only hope writers and filmmakers might explore the vrykolakas, a Greek cousin of sorts to the Slavic vampire. Like the vampire, the vrykolakas is a pale, undead corpse that terrorizes the living at night. While it doesn’t typically drink blood, the vrykolakas is capable of turning other people into its ilk.

Instead of biting people’s necks, however, the vrykolakas has a more sanitary method of infection. It appears at a victim’s house, knocking on the front door and calling the person’s name. If you’re polite enough to answer the door, you’re unfortunately fated to die and become a vrykolakas yourself. Even if a person dies naturally, they’re at risk of turning into a vrykolakas if they’ve been excommunicated or buried in unconsecrated ground. Interestingly, the word “vrykolakas” originally meant werewolf. This accounts for the blurring between the two in some folk beliefs, and the beautiful idea that a werewolf can become a vrykolakas after it dies.

It’s hard to say when exactly a party of drunken Greeks might have come up with the creature. It doesn’t appear in ancient or Byzantine texts, and only first pops up in the written word around the 15th century. Greek scholars like the Vatican librarian Leo Allatius wrote about the vrykolakas, while foreign travelers and observers also recorded stories. A detailed account of an alleged vrykolakas, along with the hysteria it provoked, comes from the French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708). While island-hopping through Greece in search of plants, Tournefort happened to stay in Mykonos during a vrykolakas attack.

According to the skeptical Tournefort, the vrykolakas was a quarrelsome peasant who’d been mysteriously murdered in a field. Two days after his burial, the peasant was seen taking nightly strolls. Over the course of his solitary entertainment, the new vrykolakas “came into houses and turned over furniture, extinguished lamps, embraced people from behind, and played a thousand little roguish tricks.” The townspeople thought this was hilarious, but the vrykolakas was treated more seriously when the town’s elites began to complain. On the tenth day after the vrykolakas’s burial, the town’s religious and secular authorities ordered for an exorcism to take place.

The exorcism was held in a chapel, attended by many of the townspeople. The vrykolakas’s unconscious body was carried there, and a mass was held to expel the demon thought to be possessing the corpse. To the disgust of Tournefort and his party, the town butcher was tasked with cutting out the monster’s heart on the spot. As the corpse was dissected, its body released a stench so horrible that it whipped the onlookers into panic. Incense that was burned to hide the smell only made things worse. Some townspeople shrieked “Vrykolakas!” over and over, while others insisted that the smoke from the incense was actually coming from the corpse’s body. Even the butcher was affected, claiming that the dead man was still warm.

Despite (or because of) this intervention, the vrykolakas only became more troublesome. The townspeople now accused him of “beating people at night, of breaking in doors, and even roofs; of breaking windows, tearing up clothes, and emptying pitchers and bottles.” People were so afraid of night-time that families slept in the town square, while others fled for the countryside. Everyone debated what to do, questioning if something went wrong with the exorcism. Meanwhile, the town’s holy men fasted and dispensed holy water, covering doors with their blessed H2O.

As a man with a scientific bent, Tournefort was not convinced that anything supernatural was going on. At the exorcism, the Frenchman and his companions informed their Greek hosts that the vrykolakas’s body was quite dead. None of Tournefort’s party, in fact, witnessed the vrykolakas in the middle of its shenanigans. The tall tale might nearly have been put to rest when a couple of vagabonds were rounded up and arrested for the mischief. For some reason, the vagabonds were let go after two days, and once again, terrified citizens complained about somebody drinking and emptying their wine jugs.

Finally, with the town in such an uproar, the authorities concluded that desperate times called for desperate measures. Since pouring holy water into the vrykolakas’s mouth didn’t work, and sticking swords in its grave wasn’t much help either, somebody came up with a wiser solution. On January 1, 1701, the vrykolakas was moved to St George Island, where it was thrown onto a pyre and set on fire. The monster’s body burned quickly, and that was the last anybody saw of the vrykolakas. It never bothered the people of Mykonos again, with the result that several songs were written in honor of the island’s victory.

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 was just released on Kindle today, so I would recommend getting a copy before a vrykolakas shows up at your front door. 

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5 Theories about the Death of Bruce Lee

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On May 20, 1973, legendary actor and martial artist Bruce Lee told his friend (and mistress) Betty Ting that he had a headache. Lee took some Equagesic, a kind of painkiller, and then decided to take a nap. When Ting later fetched Lee for dinner, she found the superstar unresponsive. After Lee’s producer and doctor arrived, nobody could manage to wake Lee up, and he was promptly rushed to the hospital.

Unfortunately, it was already too late. Bruce Lee, at the mere age of 32, was dead. While the doctors ruled his case “death by misadventure,” it was believed that Lee had an allergic reaction to the painkiller he took, causing cerebral edema. Naturally, fans were devastated. How could a guy as fit and extraordinary as Bruce Lee die so unexpectedly? No less from an allergic reaction? Surely something happened behind the scenes.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe the official diagnosis. Like the cases of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, some people just refuse to believe that such beautiful and amazing icons could die as plainly and tragically as the rest of us. Since Lee’s sudden death 46 years ago, a number of theories have popped up questioning the conventional narrative, many of them ridiculous. As a big Lee fan and skeptic, I’ve compiled a list of five of the bigger theories surrounding his death, clearing up and debunking the claims of the most outlandish and sensational.

1. Bad Feng Shui

According to the ancient Chinese idea of feng shui, a life force called qi flows all around us. To maximize that energy, and bring good fortune to yourself, you need to organize your house, furniture, and Bruce Lee DVDs in a way that won’t block qi. Depending on where you situate your stuff, the place of an object can affect everything from your health to financial status.

When Bruce Lee moved to a house in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Tong district, it was said that the building suffered from bad feng shui. According to Lee biographer Bruce Thomas, the house’s two previous owners had financial issues, and the building “faced the wrong way,” and had disturbed natural winds. To fix this problem, a feng shui adviser ordered a mirror to be put on the roof. This was supposed to deflect the bad energy, but the mirror was knocked off during a typhoon.

Ominously, Lee died just two days after the charm was blown away. While some of Lee’s neighbors apparently linked the two events at the time, the problem with this theory is that feng shui is nothing but a superstition. There’s no scientific evidence for any of its tenets, including qi. At most, feng shui could be regarded as a kind of art. Lee’s death after the loss of his mirror is a simple coincidence. Moreover, Lee died in Betty Ting’s apartment, not in his own house.

2. Murder

The abruptness of Bruce Lee’s death, combined with his extraordinary fitness, made some fans wonder whether something more sinister was at work. People who believe that Lee was murdered have put forward a line-up of suspects. One popular suggestion is that he was poisoned. James DeMile, an American martial artist who’d trained with Lee, argued that his old teacher was poisoned by enemies in the Hong Kong movie industry.

Proponents of this theory sometimes point to producer Raymond Chow as the mastermind behind Lee’s “murder.” Golden Harvest, a studio Chow helped to establish, made most of Lee’s kung-fu movies. (Enter the Dragon was a co-production between Warner Bros and Concord Production Inc., the latter a company founded by Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow). Since Lee had ambitions to become a Hollywood star, the story goes that Chow had him killed so he wouldn’t lose such a valuable cash cow.

In actuality, Chow had nothing to do with a murder plot, but his exploitative behavior probably went a long way toward promoting this theory. After Lee’s death, Chow tastelessly finished the actor’s last work Game of Death, using a body double and including real footage of Lee’s funeral in the movie.

3. The Gangster Connection

Another variation on the murder hypothesis involves Chinese gangs known as triads. In addition to drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and controlling prostitution rings, triads have also had an influence in the Hong Kong movie industry. In some cases, movie studios even hired gangsters to intimidate popular actors into accepting lower pay for their work.

There isn’t any strong evidence that Lee was connected with triads, but they’ve made their way into his lore anyway. It’s generally understood that when Lee moved as a teen to the United States, it was because his parents were afraid that their son was getting into too much trouble at home. This decision was instigated by Lee’s fight with a boy from a powerful family, but more colorful accounts claim that the other boy had a criminal background.

According to this gangster-related theory, the triads never forgave Lee. Another alternative suggests that they killed Lee for refusing to join them, or because he couldn’t be threatened into giving protection money or taking a pay-cut. Other alterations emphasize Lee’s mistress Betty Ting, accusing her of being linked to triads. The fact that Ting would later marry Charles Heung, an actor from a triad family, is seen as further proof. Heung, however, has long tried to distance himself from the criminal underworld, and it’s frankly silly to think that Ting would have a motive in hurting Lee.

4. Heat Stroke

As far as the entries on this list go, the heat stroke theory is the only grounded and probable one. In 2018, author Matthew Polly advanced the idea in his biography Bruce Lee: A Life. Lee was sensitive to heat, and an operation he had that removed his armpit sweat glands probably made his condition worse. The day that Lee died, in fact, was extremely hot.

While he was hanging out with Betty Ting in her roasting apartment, Lee reenacted the fight scenes from his latest project, Game of Death. After he was done, Lee complained that he was tired and had a headache, both of which are symptoms of a heat stroke. Ten weeks earlier, Lee had fainted while working out in a hot room, so it’s possible that he had a second, fatal attack the day of his death.

Another medical explanation for Lee’s demise comes from James Filkins, an American doctor. In 2006, Dr. Filkins proposed that Lee fell victim to an attack of SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy). The condition typically affects young men, and appears entirely unprovoked. If this really were the cause of Lee’s death, doctors at the time wouldn’t have recognized it, since SUDEP wasn’t defined until 1995.

5. The Lee Family Curse

It seemed certain that Brandon Lee, Bruce’s one and only son, was on track to follow in his father’s footsteps. He was not only a martial artist, but also an actor, most notably starring in the classic 1994 movie The Crow. Oddly, like his father, Brandon would die tragically and young. On March 31, 1993, while wrapping up filming on The Crow, Brandon was accidentally shot and killed by a prop gun.

Given the circumstances, it wasn’t long before more superstitious fans began to argue that the Lee family was cursed. Brandon’s death paralleled a scene in the completed version of Game of Death, in which Lee’s character Billy Lo fakes his death by getting shot on a movie set. As another piece of evidence, believers point out that Bruce’s oldest brother passed away at the age of three months. According to this reasoning, only the male side of the Lee family is affected, which is why Bruce’s daughter Shannon Lee is still alive and well.

What proponents of the curse miss (or choose to ignore) is that Bruce and Brandon weren’t the only men of the family. Bruce’s father Lee Hoi-chuen, also an actor, died from a heart attack at the age of 64. His oldest son Peter, who also suffered a heart attack, died at the age of 68. The youngest of the Lee sons, Robert, is still alive at 70-years-old. While it’s a strange coincidence that Brandon and Bruce would have such tragic ends, it’s an exaggeration to declare the Lee family “cursed.” Unfortunately, the real matter is that people as talented as Brandon and Bruce Lee are just as mortal and likely to die as the rest of us.

 

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by pre-ordering 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. If you’re up for something strange and morbid, be sure to check the book out when it hits Kindle on September 23.  

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On the Horrors of Having Your Children Snatched by Fairies

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Depiction of a mother and a “changeling,” a fairy-child swapped for a human one.

In today’s world, parents often worry about whether their kids are eating healthy and getting a good education, and in the case of long car trips, whether the children have their phones fully charged. It’s tough being a modern parent, but at the least, you don’t have to worry like Europeans did about your spawn being snatched by fairies. While the concept of the changeling has now been relegated to folklore, it was once a serious threat for many superstitious moms and dads. Well after the Enlightenment,  between 1850 and 1900, courts across Europe were still handling cases of people who abused or killed children accused of being changelings.

According to folktales and historical accounts, a fairy-swapped child could be identified by physical deformities, a sickly or underdeveloped body, and an excessive (or small) appetite. By the 19th century, scholars recognized that stories of changelings likely stemmed from children who were disabled or mentally challenged. The idea of the changeling is thought to have originated with peasants’ recognition that something was “wrong” with their children, and it could have been used to justify abusing and killing the poor kids.

An interesting historical example of a changeling comes from the English poet and topographer George Waldron. While working as an official on the Isle of Man, the London-born Waldron wrote a book about the island’s history and culture, 1726’s “A Description of the Isle of Man.” Criticizing the Manx for being superstitious, Waldron noted that the belief in fairies was still alive and well. “The old story of infants being changed in their cradles,” he observed, “is here in such credit, that mothers are in continual terror at the thoughts of it.”

When Waldron was presented with an alleged changeling, he described the child as having a beautiful face and delicate complexion. The boy was five or six years old, with long and thin limbs. He didn’t talk or cry, hardly ate anything, and was unable to walk and stand. When the kid was left alone, people watching from his window would see him laugh by himself. It was believed that he was in the company of fairies then, and that they would wash the boy and comb his hair.

In another example, Waldron heard a story from a mother who claimed to have been continually harassed by fairies. The trouble began four or five days after she gave birth to her first child. All of a sudden, her family heard somebody shout that there was a fire. They ran out of their house to see where it was, leaving the mother and her baby alone in their room. As she trembled in bed, the woman watched incredulously as her baby was picked up by an invisible hand and stolen away. When the rest of the family came back inside, finding no fire anywhere in their neighborhood, they discovered the baby lying at the entrance of the house. Naturally, fairies were blamed for moving the child.

A year after this incident, following the birth of the mother’s second child, the family heard a loud commotion from their cattle barn. As they rushed to see what the problem was, the mother and her new baby were once again left alone. Inside the barn, nothing was out of the ordinary, and no cows had gotten loose. Reassured, the neglectful family made their way back to the house, where they were greeted by the second baby lying in the entryway. As with the first child, this mysterious displacement was believed to be the work of the little people.

As the saying goes, the fairies figured that the third kidnapping’s the charm. Not long after this same mother delivered her third child, another commotion was heard in the barn. Like clockwork, everybody ran outside, leaving the mother and baby with a nurse who was fast asleep. As the nurse snoozed, the mother watched with horror as an invisible set of hands promptly snatched her baby and carried it away. The woman screamed for her nurse to get up, but it was too late: The fat and beautiful baby was spirited away.

When her family returned, the mother was found crying hysterically. Although the husband pointed out that the baby was still inside the bed, the mother couldn’t be fooled. This was a skinny and deformed impostor, a changeling. The creature, Waldron reported, lived with the family “near the space of nine years.” During its brief existence, the changeling ate “nothing except a few herbs, nor was ever seen to void any other excrement than water: it neither spoke, nor could stand or go,” resembling the child Waldron met on the island. While our English reporter doesn’t detail what ultimately happened to this particular changeling, I think we could sadly conclude that the child suffered from malnutrition and neglect, if not deliberate abuse.

 

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by pre-ordering 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. If you’re up for something strange and morbid, be sure to check the book out when it hits Kindle on September 23.  

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How the Devil Set a Troublesome Teenager Straight

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From buying guitarists’ souls to impregnating Mia Farrow, the Devil has always kept himself busy. Personally, I cannot speak much for his talents, but one might want to take a note from his parenting skills. Consider, for example, the case of unruly English teenager Joseph Boxford. According to a pamphlet published in London in 1645, Joseph was a fifteen-year-old boy who lived in Bow, a village in the county of Devon. Joseph’s father John sent him to the town of Crediton to become a weaver’s apprentice, but after a month of work, Joseph wanted to do something else.

Without telling his father, Joseph decided to trade the excitements of weaving for the life of a soldier. As this was a decision made during the First English Civil War, when the Parliamentarians were engaged in fighting King Charles I and his Royalist supporters, this was not the best idea. Joseph spent his summer in the king’s army, being such a general ne’er-do-well that he ended up dressed in rags.

When the broken boy went back home for support, his father gave him new clothes and recommended that he return to his apprenticeship. As teenagers are wont to do, Joseph refused to listen to common sense. John, furious, threatened that he’d apprentice the boy to the Devil.

In the morning, John announced to his son that they were going to Crediton. A rebellious Joseph insisted that he’d rather be apprenticed to the Devil. This was not what John actually wanted, so he beat the boy until Joseph agreed to leave the house. As father and son approached Crediton, with the former hitting the latter, and the latter swearing at the former, the Boxfords came across a man in a carriage pulled by four horses. The argument caught the driver’s attention, so he asked John why he felt the need to be so violent. John answered with a rant, complaining about Joseph and his refusal to do anything responsible.

Taking pity on the poor boy, the driver offered to take Joseph along and find him a good employer. John came to an agreement with the carrier; if Joseph didn’t like the work the carrier found him, then he’d be sent back to Bow within eight days. With both Boxfords satisfied, John turned back home and left his son with the stranger and four horses. I suppose, if this were a YA novel, this would be the part when the benevolent stranger would reveal that Joseph was actually a great wizard or hero or something, and that he’d come to start the misfit boy on his destiny. Unfortunately, that’s not how things turned out.

Instead, the stranger immediately morphed into a ugly, dark horse, snatching Joseph up and taking flight into the sky. Riding on the horse’s back, Joseph was so high up that big cities like London looked “no greater than small cottages.” The teenager rode past the moon and Neptune, dropping into a cave in the earth that brought him to Hell. Now in the safety of his home, the Devil rid himself of his disguise. Saying that Joseph could see some of his old Royalist war-buddies, the Devil summoned an army of ghosts who howled, suffered, and vocally regretted taking up the Royalist cause.

Scanning over this collection of ghosts, Joseph noticed a politician named Sir Peter Ball, whose eternal damnation was rather creative. The sinner’s legs and feet were engulfed in flames, while his buttocks were burned on a gridiron, his back and shoulders were cooked in a frying-pan, and his face was boiled in a kettle. Next to Ball were two spots reserved for “Greenvile” and “Goring,” references to the Royalist military-men Bevil Grenville and George Goring. These two gentlemen, once they were ready, would be punished by having hot aconites shoved down their “belching throats.” Goring’s sister “Lady Scot,” on the other hand, received the honor of being hanged by the tongue on scalding tenterhooks.

All this horrible torture was too much to bear for Joseph Boxford. He begged to leave, and since they were there long enough, the Devil whisked the teenager away to a place in Devon called Cannon Lee. A pair of servants later spotted Joseph under a hedge, where his “hands and legs (were) strangely distorted, his haire of his head singed,” and “his Clothes all be smeared with pitch and rosin and other sulfurous matter, which yeelded an odious stench.” Since Joseph was in bad shape, and couldn’t manage to speak, the men took him to their master’s house.

Once he recovered, Joseph bared his misadventure with the Devil, a tale the owner of the house found creditable. His father was called, and John picked the boy up and forgave him for their disagreement. According to Jonathan Gainwell, a minister who heard Joseph tell his story, the former juvenile delinquent became reformed. To make for an even happier ending, the Devil was also seen that day, back in his carrier-with-horses disguise. A group of Royalist soldiers passing by took a fancy in the horses, and as they were in the middle of stealing them, the Devil and his entourage disappeared in an inferno. Three of the Royalists caught fire and died, and the rest took off running for their lives.

Despite the pamphlet’s over-the-top claims, despite the fact that I can’t trace a place called Cannon Lee, and that Sir Peter Ball died many years after the end of the English Civil War, I believe there are some valuable lessons here. Children should obey their parents, parents should love their children, and nobody who pledges allegiance to the King of England should be allowed into heaven.

 

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my work by pre-ordering 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. If you’re up for something strange and morbid, be sure to check the book out when it hits Kindle on September 23.  

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