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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The Idiot’s Guide to Psychic Self-Defense

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British occultist Dion Fortune, pictured with her husband.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you have moments where you inexplicably feel afraid and oppressed? Do you find yourself sniffing in rancid odors without a clear source? Has your body suffered mysterious bruises, sometimes in the shape of a goat’s hoof? Are you a white person? If the answer to all or any of these questions is a resounding yes, then according to British occultist Dion Fortune, you’re very likely the victim of a psychic attack. Before ascending to a plane higher than our own in January 1946, Fortune was benevolent enough to leave behind some two dozen books, one of which includes the indispensable 1930 manual Psychic Self-Defense.

In her day, Fortune was one of the best-known occultists in the United Kingdom. Born to a wealthy English family in Wales under the name Violet Mary Firth in 1890, Fortune became interested in the Theosophical Society while working at a psychological clinic. After quarreling with her friend Moina Mathers, Fortune quit Mathers’ Alpha et Omega group and established her own society of quacks, the Fraternity of the Inner Light. (An organization you can find on the internet and still join today.) Fortune claimed to have visions and psychic powers, so naturally, she was a perfect candidate for writing something like Psychic Self-Defense. She was even the target of an attack herself once.

When she was 20-years-old, Fortune worked for a nasty boss who terrorized her employees “by means of her knowledge of mind-power.” When this woman, Lillias Hamilton, suddenly fired an employee without paying him, the man took her to court. Hamilton tried to manipulate Fortune into supporting her case, hypnotizing the poor young woman and using her psychic powers to force Fortune to take her side. After one interrogation, Fortune felt so mentally and physically drained that she slept for fifteen hours.

When Fortune got tired of Hamilton’s abuse, she confronted her boss and told her that she was going to quit. In retaliation, Hamilton managed to keep Fortune in place for four hours, telling her several hundred times that she was incompetent and had no self-confidence. Having these words drilled into her head put Fortune into a daze, and she mindlessly laid in bed for over thirty hours before a housekeeper started to keep an eye on her. She lost her appetite, and had no desire but to stay in bed.

This aimlessness lasted for days, until finally, Fortune’s family came and took her away. In the preface of Psychic Self-Defense, Fortune wrote that, during the attack, she had “physical symptoms of intense fear. Dry mouth, sweating palms, thumping heart and shallow, hasty breathing. My heart was beating so hard that at each beat a loose brass knob on the bedstead rattled.” At the time, Fortune had no idea she was suffering from a psychic attack, and it wasn’t until she became involved with occultism years later that she fully recovered and became aware of what had happened to her.

Fortune didn’t believe that her boss was the only one who could use their psychic powers for evil. “I am of the opinion,” she confessed in the preface, “that psychic attacks are far commoner than is generally realised, even by occultists themselves. Certainly the general public has no conception at all of the sort of things that are done by people who have a knowledge of the powers of the human mind and set to work to exploit them.” Throughout the book, she gives examples of other supposedly real psychic attacks, tying the phenomenon in with vampires, witches, and hauntings. It’s absolute nonsense, but quite fun, and some of the cases she discusses are pretty bizarre.

In a chapter entitled “Vampirism,” for example, Fortune discussed an episode she heard from a student at the psychological clinic where she once worked. After a young man called Z. became roommates with the student, dogs in the area would bark and howl at the same time every evening. A specific window in their apartment would then fly open, and the apartment would become cold. On one occasion, an invisible being flew into the building. After getting rid of the thing, Z. admitted a peculiar relationship with his cousin D. This particular man was a World War I soldier who was discharged after practicing necrophilia on the battle-field. It was believed that D. was psychically attacking Z., and that the war veteran himself was also under the influence of a vampire.

But I digress: How do you actually defend yourself against a psychic attack? For starters, Fortune recommended that victims get as much sunlight as possible. They should avoid the countryside, large bodies of water, and walking alone, because solitude can increase the risk of suicide. Important “psychic centres” such as the head and solar plexus should be kept closed, since they’re easy entry points for psychic influence. But most importantly, ” the bowels should be kept freely open while facing a psychic attack, because there is nothing that puts one at so great a disadvantage as the accumulation of effete matter within the body.” Such measures won’t entirely protect a person from a psychic attack, but they’re great methods of resistance, and can help a victim endure until the attacker runs out of energy.

Another technique is to take a bath in consecrated water. Meditation can also be useful, along with creating magical circles, which can protect the victim’s sleep-place. Alternately, there’s a kind of “mystic superconsciousness” or “Higher Self” that Fortune thought could be activated as a kind of guardian angel in the crisis of a psychic attack. A person’s Higher Self can guide them to safety, away from the site of the psychic attack. In Fortune’s words, “…in times of spiritual crisis the man that has faith in the law of God can rise up and invoke its protection and a seeming miracle will be performed for his benefit.”

Follow these guidelines and you should be fine. To reiterate: when you’re out having fun this weekend, don’t walk alone along a lake in the countryside under any circumstances. Keep your bowels open. Be sure to meditate every once in a while. And last, but not least, keep your Higher Self on the ready in case any wizards, vampires, or New Age cat ladies attempt to telepathically beat you up.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting my blog by buying my book, “20 Unsolved Mysteries of Japan,” available here on Amazon. 

The Life and Crimes of Reinhold O. Schmidt

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Contactee Reinhold O. Schmidt (far left) on the set of a movie he made about his alleged experiences.

As a skeptic, I consider the contactees of the 1950s and ‘60s obvious hoaxers, but I’ll grant that they were at least sincere. Their antics normally consisted of selling books and spreading the peaceful messages of Space Brothers, nothing particularly illegal. The American salesman Reinhold O. Schmidt had a different act. While he preached the usual claptrap about harmony and love, Schmidt stole a bunch of money from elderly female fans. Using his contactee stories as part of his scheme, Schmidt purloined some $30,000 before he was caught and imprisoned.

According to his writings, Schmidt’s experiences began on November 5, 1957. On a misty day in Kearney, Nebraska, while traveling for his salesman job, Schmidt noticed a flash of light shining ahead of his car. When he drove farther, intending to find the source, Schmidt’s car suddenly stopped working. Right as he got out to check what the problem was, Schmidt noticed a silver, balloon-like UFO resting on landing gear nearby. In classic contactee fashion, Schmidt approached the ship and was quickly hit and paralyzed by a beam of light. Two men- one of whom Schmidt later nicknamed “Mr. X”- came out of the UFO and invited Schmidt to come inside.

Two other men and women sat in the ship, attending to its control panel and a bunch of tubes that were red, blue, green, and orange. Schmidt described this crew as very similar-looking to earthlings, all of them having dark hair and tanned skin. Oddly, the crew spoke in High German, which Schmidt very conveniently studied in high school. Whenever the men and women spoke English, it was also with a thick German accent. At the time, this led Schmidt to believe that they were probably German scientists.

Our noble salesman was allowed to stay in the UFO for a half-hour. Once he got back to his car, Schmidt shook and struggled to understand what he just experienced. He wasn’t quite sure whether to go public with his encounter, but decided it was his duty as an American citizen to report it. From Schmidt’s telling, the first thing he did was drive to a minister’s house. The minister wasn’t home, so he figured he’d head to the local police station instead. The deputy sheriff listened to Schmidt’s story and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt: he and Schmidt headed to the UFO’s landing spot, where they found the ship’s imprints and a dark green oil.

After this first check-up, Schmidt visited the spot again, this time with the chief of police, a reporter, and the city attorney. These three men, according to Schmidt, also agreed that his story must have been legitimate. Later that day, they dropped Schmidt off at his hotel, where he watched a news broadcast that called the UFO in Schmidt’s story a spaceship . The broadcast caused a sensation; the rest of the night, Schmidt talked to reporters and officials at the police station, and made a few more visits to the UFO’s landing spot.

In the middle of the barrage of media attention, according to Schmidt, the Kearney authorities told him that he had to change his story. They pressured him to admit that it was a lie, but Schmidt stuck to his guns. In his own account, Schmidt tries to portray himself as innocent, but the cops weren’t so easily fooled. A background check revealed that Schmidt had earlier served prison time for embezzlement, and a search of the trunk of his car revealed a can of the “mysterious” oil that was found at the alleged landing spot. Rather than letting Schmidt go, the cops detained him and held him in the local jail.

Based on his story, the authorities suspected that Schmidt was crazy. He failed a mental health evaluation, and was consequently put into a mental hospital for treatment. From Schmidt’s telling of the tale, the Kearney authorities tried very hard to smear him as a nutcase. They told Schmidt’s brothers over the phone that he was mentally ill, suicidal, and, most heinously, a marijuana smoker. For two weeks, Schmidt was stuck in this hospital, until his boss flew to Kearney and testified that he was a perfectly sane person.

Free at last, Schmidt continued to have contact with Mr. X, being treated to rides in his spaceship. He got to know Mr. X and the UFO crew much better during this time, learning that they were not sinister Nazi space colonists, but friendly Saturnians. On August 14, Mr. X picked Schmidt up and took him on a trip to the Arctic Circle. The crew also traveled to the Great Pyramid of Giza, which Mr. X claimed was built by levitating the stones into place.

Interestingly, a decade before Erich von Däniken emerged with his infamous shtick, Schmidt tied the pyramids to ancient aliens as well. Together with Mr. X, Schmidt entered a secret door in the Great Pyramid and stumbled on a room containing a spaceship. When Schmidt inspected the room, he found a huge wooden cross, a pair of sandals, a white robe, a crown of thorns- And yes, if you haven’t guessed it already, Jesus Christ was the original owner of this ship. After his resurrection, Jesus rode the ship to the planet Venus. Mr. X was the (space)man who drove it back, and he hid it in the pyramid for the time when mankind would finally be ready to learn this jaw-dropping secret.

Across these excursions, Schmidt reportedly flew over the sites of cancer-curing crystals that were begging to be excavated. As he built his following up in the contactee scene, Schmidt told elderly female fans that he could mine these magical crystals, but needed to finish raising funds first. Unfortunately, these women took the bait, and Schmidt collected over $30,000 before he was busted. Once he was caught in 1961, Schmidt was convicted of grand theft, and given a jail sentence of one to ten years. Sources are scanty on how long Schmidt spent in jail, but it appears that he survived his imprisonment and died in 1974.

As for the cancer-curing crystals- the Saturnians have told me their location, but I’m afraid I’ll need at least a million dollars before I can divulge this information.

 

 

Murdered by the Devil

Griffin

In 1662, one Englishman had the misfortune of being attacked by both griffins and the Devil.

For all the evil attributed to the Devil, his personal kill count is remarkably low. According to a count on the skeptical blog Dwindling In Unbelief, Old Nick is estimated to have killed only 60 or so people in the Bible. It’s a pretty embarrassing number for the Prince of Darkness, but based on a story from an old English pamphlet, we could bump this number to 61.

In 1662, a pamphlet was published in London entitled “A Strange and True Relation of One Mr. John Leech.” One morning, Leech- a farmer from the village of Raveley-set off to go drinking at a fair in the town of Whittlesey. Walking two miles away from his house, Leech bumped into one of his neighbors, and demanded the man take part in his merrymaking. Since you should never decline a morning drink with your neighbor, Leech and his friend stopped at a near-by house for some fermented refreshments.

After Leech began to get “very merry,” his neighbor asked the members of the household what time it was. They answered that it was almost 11, but Leech wasn’t apparently done yet. He replied, “Let the Devil take him who goeth out of this house today.” More drinking and sitting followed until Leech suddenly remembered the fair, and decided to stick to his original plan. Though his friend reminded Leech of his earlier words, Leech scoffed that he was too heavy for the Devil to carry. He then called for his horse and left.

On his way to the fair, Leech began to have second doubts. His mind was plagued with anxiety, and he rode back and forth in a daze until dark, never reaching his destination. At one or two morning, Leech encountered a pair of monsters that looked like griffins. The sight scared the bejesus out of him, and then he heard a voice repeat”Remember thy sins and the Oath thou hast broken this day” three times. At the sound of these words, Leech fell from his horse and was seized by the griffins, who carried him twelve miles into the air. The monsters tore off his clothes and dumped him, bloody and gory, in a farmyard.

In the morning, some servants starting their day found Leech laying incoherent on a set of harrows. They asked him a bunch of questions, but Leech could only sigh and groan. The servants’ master took pity on Leech, and ordered him to be moved to a bed in the house. When Leech recovered his strength, he explained what happened, and the master allowed him to rest there for another day or two.

Meanwhile, a few of the servants doing their chores found torn-up clothes two miles away from the farm. They showed the rags to Leech, who quickly “grew into a Frenzy so desperate, that they were afraid to stay in his Chamber.”  The master offered to call Leech a minister, but Leech refused, saying it was too late to save him. The master called for a minister anyway, and when the man went into Leech’s room, Leech jumped out of bed and threw the minister so violently that he nearly killed him.

The master and his servants heard the commotion and rushed to the bedroom. Inside, Leech was trying to beat the minister to death, so they grabbed and bounded Leech onto the bed. Leech immediately broke loose, and everybody was so terrified at this point that they opted to just lock Leech inside the room. (Because why waste money on an exorcism when you can just lock the door?) For the rest of the day, nobody dared to enter Leech’s room.

When morning came, the members of the household went to check on their demented guest by listening at his door. They didn’t hear a single screech or bit of glossolalia, and when they unlocked the room, discovered why. Leech was found dead on the bed, with “his neck broke, his tongue out of his mouth, and his body as black as a shoe, all swelled, and every bone in his body out of joint.” Most of the people of the town saw Leech’s body, and his corpse was eventually buried after the smell got too unbearable.

For anybody who thinks the poor farmer simply had too much to drink, the author of the pamphlet takes care to note that the account had been verified by six “Persons of unquestionable Credit.” At any rate, I hope you’ll all think twice the next time you invoke the Devil during a morning drink with your neighbor.

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