“Ever accidentally come across a collection of stories that hits the spot dead on? You don’t know the author and you’ve never glanced at any reviews. You have no expectations. Because sometimes the blues shivers our spines, we’d picked up J Malcolm Stewart’s The Last Words of Robert Johnson. Anything about that haunted bluesman seemed a good start. Very neat title story, yep, with a setting that interests us, the States in 1920s and 1930s. Eerie, historical and laced with potential and actual horror. High marks so far…
So, quick glance at the second story – totally different, but easily as well written. African fables, the wives of Death, clicking their knitting needles… We were sold. We read the whole collection, and thought, hmm, wonder if we can find this guy? Well, we did.
J Malcolm Stewart turned out to be a friendly, talented author from the US of A, with other fiction and writings on offer. He was more than happy to talk to Grey Dog Tales Press, so we went for it. We talk quite a bit about his background, his work, and key themes as we go, so you don’t need us to ramble on any more. We ‘re most pleased to present today’s exclusive…”
An Interview with J Malcolm Stewart …
Click here to read the interview over at greydogtales …
Visit the author’s Amazon Author page here…
At the end of this post is a paragraph from a very very good ghost story that is 135 years old. But, first, I had to work out my thoughts about why I wanted to share it. And, it ties in with the premise for my ghost story anthology.
This is why I do what I do: I have been reading ghost stories and “mystery and suspense” stories and “uncanny” stories and “stories of the supernatural”—since the beginning of 2017, when I first began to narrow a list of hundreds of stories—maybe more—down to a growing longlist and then a shortlist for a 2-volume ghost story anthology—because, I thought, there is something about the stories written before 1920-ish, that were just better. They are better fiction, hands down, and I needed to explore this so I understood it better. After reading umpteen stories from 1780s-1915, give or take, I have come to the conclusion that, it is not about flowery language or “purple prose” or antiquated anachronistic plot structures, etc. etc. It is about being better-educated writers during a time when more was expected of our mind, our manners, our mores, our work ethic (even in writing), our reputation before “the world” (these periodicals made their way around and were widely read).
I had heard that a lot—the “overwrought prose of yesteryear” angle—and I was open to it being correct…and as I went along I compared some ghost stories from that time with some from the 1950s forward and all I could think was: ‘why does it seem that we have dumbed down fiction writing in the ghost story genre to a level of a Sport’s writeup in the Times?’ Nothing wrong with Sports writeups in the Times.
But, I don’t want to read fiction like that. I want depth, thoughtfulness, a sense from reading that the author is well-read, the characters, too; I want them drawn in 3D and not over-described.I want atmosphere. And, I want to feel like the entire story took time to build, like a cathedral, not a hut made out of hay bales.
I know some amazing writers today who are writing cathedrals. And I am so thrilled as a reader about it.
I remember reading a quote in college by Henry James, or maybe it was Joyce Carol Oates…about writing the “telling detail”…but I think we still struggle today, especially in genre or “pop” fiction, which can also be very high quality, (sometimes), with telling the “wrong” detail(s). Wrong is a subjective term. Maybe the better descriptor is the “unthoughtful” detail, the “rushed string of details” the ones that sound OK, but that when strung together fall short of showing something cohesive about the character (e.g., the red-head waltzed into the room wearing a black dress cut down to there and orange lipstick, emerald earrings that dangled like stars from her earlobes, a matching bracelet on her right wrist, bright-red patent-leather 10-inch pumps, black nylons like the ones you wore in the 1940s with a line up the back, and a purse made out of the skin of some animal, but oddly, with all of that bling, she wore not a single ring on any of her long graceful fingers, the nails of which were painted “hotlips red”).
I would argue that the only telling detail here, is that she wore no rings. Why? That detail interests me. The others don’t. They are part of a “formulaic” writing style, noir, Roger Rabbit meets Raymond Chandler, but isn’t written as well as Chandler, etc.
I don’t mean to be negative, just reflective about why some stories seem to inspire more awe in me; whereas others feel utilitarian, not unnecessary, just thin.
The writers of the 1800s weren’t writing “horror” or “weird” fiction. Because those weren’t genres yet. They were states of mind or emotion, or behavior. And they made their way into this high quality fiction. What I especially love in these stories, is the way the entire story is treated with such respect—from the pacing to the tension and from the atmosphere to the characters—these writers were grand writers, and they had been brought up not on “the milk of fiction” but on its “meat”. I fear today, we are if not back to the milk, then at least to some protein-shake-gluten-free, non-dairy, lactose-free milk substitute, with vegetable-product thickeners.
I am still on my longlist, because I thought I would find more stories and novellas, sooner. Last night I found two, that may skip the longlist and jump right to the shortlist. I’m so impressed. One is by Sir Walter Besant. I’d never heard of him until today. And, here is a paragraph from the second one, a longer story by “Mrs. Oliphant” (Margaret O. Wilson Oliphant)—and published in a two-part serialized format in a new periodical of the time, that went on actually to become very successful.
This story is 135 years old. You tell me if it doesn’t read like the best literature published today. Purple prose? Outdated style? I don’t think so. And this is just one paragraph. Imagine the whole story, about the solemn, wandering ghost of a woman, long-dead—Stay tuned for The Greatest Ghost Stories Ever Told, ed. Sanguine Woods, December 2017.
“They asked me to come at Ellermore when we parted, and, as I have nothing in the way of home warmer or more genial than chambers in the Temple, I accepted, as may be supposed, with enthusiasm. It was in the first week of June that we parted, and I was invited for the end of August. They had ‘plenty of grouse,’ Charley said, with a liberality of expression which was pleasant to hear.
Charlotte added, ‘But you must be prepared for homely life, Mr. Temple, and a very quiet one.’ I replied, of course, that if I had chosen what I liked best in the world it would have been this combination: at which she smiled with an amused little shake of her head. It did not seem to occur to her that she herself told for much in the matter. What they all insisted upon was the ‘plenty of grouse;’ and I do not pretend to say that I was indifferent to that.
Colin, the eldest son, was the one with whom I had been least familiar. He was what people call reserved. He did not talk of everything as the others did. I did not indeed find out till much later that he was constantly in London, coming and going, so that he and I might have seen much of each other. Yet he liked me well enough. He joined warmly in his brother’s invitation. When Charley said there was plenty of grouse, he added with the utmost friendliness, ‘And ye may get blaze at a stag.’ There was a flavour of the North in the speech—of all not disclosed by mere words, but also by an occasional diversity of idiom and change of pronunciation. They were conscious of this and rather proud of it. They did not say Scotch, but Scots; and their accent could not be represented by any of the travesties of the theatre, or what we conventionally accept as the national utterance. When I attempted to pronounce after them, my own ear informed me what a travesty it was.”
– Mrs. Oliphant, “The Lady’s Walk,” Part I, Longman’s Magazine, 1882
One man stood trial for her presumed death…and revealed her horrifying secrets…
On April 28, 1908, Belle Gunness’ farmhouse was burned to the ground. The bodies of an adult female and Gunness’ three children were found inside. However, the adult female body has never been conclusively identified as Gunness—as the corpse was found decapitated. Gunness’ jealous former lover, Ray Lamphere, was tried for her murder, but was only found guilty of arson.
Lamphere died of tuberculosis in 1909, after serving only one year in prison. But on January 14, 1910, Reverend E.A. Schell—who had comforted the dying Lamphere—came forward with a startling confession. Lamphere told the reverend of Gunness’ crimes and that she was still alive—having killed her children and a woman that she then dressed as herself, hoping that those who found the bodies would think Gunness also perished, before setting fire to her own home. But that wasn’t the end of it: According to the Lamphere, Gunness had murdered over 40 men—baiting potential suitors with newspaper ads, and then killing them and burying their bodies in her hog pen.
Lillian de la Torre’s stunning Edgar Award finalist tells the true story of the woman who led a secret life as a serial killer in the early 20th-century Midwest.
There was a widespread burning interest in “the Gunness system” of matrimonial bait. The federal government turned a severe eye on courtship by mail, and the press published everything it could dig up on the subject. From the editor of Skandinaven, a Norwegian-language paper, newsmen extracted the text of Belle’s last ad. The indefatigable woman had opened a new campaign in March, 1908, announcing to the world:
WANTED—A WOMAN WHO owns a beautifully located and valuable farm in first class condition, wants a good and reliable man as partner in the same. Some little cash is required for which will be furnished first-class security.
This no-nonsense appeal was designed to fetch good solid farmers, and it fetched them. A Mr. Carl Peterson had been attracted. When the Gunness system became front-page news, he came forward with the come-on letter that Belle had written to him. It was dated April 14, 1908, just two weeks before the fire, and it told him crisply:
There have been other answers to the same advertisement. As many as fifty have been received. I have picked out the most respectable, and I have decided that yours is such.
My idea is to take a partner to whom I can trust everything and as we have no acquaintance ourselves I have decided that every applicant I have considered favorably must make a satisfactory deposit of cash or security. I think that is the best way for parties to keep away grafters who are always looking for such opportunities, as I have had experience with them, as I can prove.
Now if you think that you are able some way to put up $1,000 cash, we can talk matters over personally. If you cannot, is it worth while to consider? I would not care for you as a hired man, as I am tired of that and need a little rest in my home and near my children. I will close for this time.
With friendly regards,
MRS. P. S. GUNNESS
Mr. Peterson was lucky. He did not have $1,000.
Still luckier, in his own opinion, was Mr. George Anderson of Tarkio, Missouri. He had answered an earlier ad, he told the press, liked the lady’s replies, and decided to go to La Porte and look things over.
On the second day of his visit, Mrs. Gunness asked him point-blank how much money he had. He had only $300, but he had a big farm in Missouri. Belle told him to go home and sell it and come back with the cash.
That night, in the small hours, Mr. Anderson woke with a start. Mrs. Gunness was bending over his bed. When he spoke, she ran out.
Mr. Anderson took fright. On the instant he dressed and ran away. Perhaps because he felt he had made a fool of himself, he told nobody of his alarming adventure.
Some people wondered if he should have been so very much alarmed. Ole Budsberg, they pointed out, had been perfectly safe at Belle’s—until he went home and sold out.
Then what was Belle after? Did she bring her suitors love before she brought them death? Was that the charm she used to make grown men willingly give up to her every cent they had?
Thinking of the hog lot, Mr. Anderson was still shuddering over his narrow escape. He recalled how Myrtle had looked at him as on a doomed man. “She would eye me with a pitiful look,” he recalled, “and when I glanced at her during a meal she would turn white as a sheet.”
Frank Riedinger of Delafield, Wisconsin, also went to visit Mrs. Gunness. A letter came back, not in his handwriting, to say he had decided to “go West.” When the hog lot gave up its secrets, those he left behind too quickly lost hope and sold him out. Riedinger, who had in fact left La Porte in one piece, had to sue before he could convince them that he was alive and could claim his possessions.
People all over the country were convinced that missing relatives had ended up in the hog lot. Sheriff Smutzer was pestered to death about it. When a wayward girl eloped, when a henpecked husband deserted his wife, the first thing the bereaved thought of was the Gunness farm. Inquiries poured in. Some were foolish. Others made sense. At least ten other Norwegian men, the inquiries showed, had taken their savings and gone off to La Porte, never to return. Were their bones still buried somewhere on the farm? If Smutzer kept notes on disappearing fellows that he really ought to dig for, they must have read something like this:
George Berry left home in July, 1905, saying he was going “to work for Mrs. Gunness.” He had $1,500. Provisionally identified as the second body in Gurholt’s grave in the hog lot.
Herman Konitzer took $5,000 and left home “to marry a wealthy widow in La Porte” in January, 1906. Posted one letter from La Porte.
Christian Hinkley, Chetek, Wisconsin, in the spring of 1906 sold his farm for $2,000 and left. Changed his Decorah Posten subscription to La Porte. La Porte post office testified that Mrs. Gunness received mail as Mrs. Hinkley.
Olaf Jensen, 23, Norwegian, in May, 1906, wrote to his mother in Norway that he had reflected on a matrimonial ad in Skandinaven and decided to marry the lady, a widow from Norway who lived in La Porte. Went down for a visit, returned home to turn his belongings into cash, and went back to La Porte. Never seen since.
Charles Neiburg, 28, left Philadelphia in June, 1906, saying that he was going to marry Mrs. Gunness. Took $500 in cash with him. Had a hobby of answering matrimonial ads.
Abraham Phillips, Belington, West Virginia, told relatives he was leaving to marry a rich widow in Indiana. Had a big roll of bills, a diamond ring, a Railway Trainmen badge. Disappeared in February, 1907. A railroad watch turned up in the ashes of the Gunness house.
Tonnes Peter Lien saw an ad, sold his farm, and left Rushford, Minnesota, for La Porte to marry Mrs. Gunness. His brother reported that he helped to sew $1,000 in bills in the sleeve of Tonnes Peter’s coat, and asked if a heavy silver watch initialed “P. L.” had been found. It had. Since Lien left home April 2, 1907, and all burials about that time were accounted for, his body had not been found.
E. J. Thiefland of Minneapolis sought by a private detective. Described as a tall man with a sandy mustache. Saw an ad in a Minneapolis paper on August 8, 1906. Corresponded with Mrs. Gunness. On April 27, 1907, wrote to his sister saying he was going down to La Porte “to see if this lady is on the square.” Never heard of since.
Emil Tell took $5,000 in May, 1907, and left Osage City, Kansas, to marry a rich widow in La Porte. Q. Was he the man with the pointed beard seen at the Gunness place in June, 1907?
John E. Bunter of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, fifty-two, light gray hair, left saying he planned to marry a widow in Indiana. Went away on November 25, 1907. Q. Did he accompany Mrs. Gunness into Oberreich’s in December to buy a wedding ring?
S. B. Smith missing. Ring initialed S. B. found in ruins.
Paul Ames disappeared. Initials P. A. on ring found in ashes …
Sheriff Smutzer soon admitted that there needed to be more digging. By fits and starts more digging went on…
In a disused privy vault they found a detached head of a woman with long blonde hair. They never found the woman’s body that went with it, and they never found out who the woman might be.
They never found the man’s head that was missing from Gurholt’s grave.
(Source: The Lineup)
Nightmare at Murder Farm: The Story of One of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killers
Children in La Porte, Indiana grow up listening to graphic horror stories about the gruesome murder’s committed by Belle Gunness on her farm at the end of McClung Road. The most disturbing part about these grisly stories is that the gory parts are not fiction. Belle Gunness (also known as Lady Bluebeard, The LaPorte Black Widow, The Mistress of Murder Farm, and Hell’s Belle) was probably one of America’s most prolific serial killers who likely killed between 25 and 30 people, including women and children, at the turn of the 20th century.
Belle’s crimes were discovered on April 28th, 1908 when authorities were called out to the Gunness farm to investigate a fire that razed the farmhouse. When officials combed through the ashes they found the remains of a headless woman and three children. The remains were thought to belong to Lucy and Myrtle Sorenson, ages 9 and 11 respectively, and Phillip Gunness, 5.
During the investigation, Asle Helgelien showed up and insisted that his brother, Andrew, had been murdered by Belle earlier that year. When investigators searched the property, they unearthed the butchered remains of at least 11 people buried near the hog pen on the farm. Crime scene photograph below, shows the remains identified to be those of Andrew Helgelien.
Rumors circulated for the next 100 years that Hell’s Belle didn’t actually die in the fire and she probably faked her death. So in 2007, forensic anthropologist Stephen Nawrocki, and a group of graduate students from the University of Indianapolis exhumed Belle Gunness’ grave at the Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois to see if they could positively identify her body.
When the research team exhumed Gunness’ coffin and sifted through the bones and dirt they found the bones of children comingled with Belle’s remains. This is odd because the remains of the three children recovered from the farmhouse in 1908 were buried separately. In 2008 Nawrocki and his team returned to the Chicago-area cemetery and exhumed the graves of Lucy, Myrtle, and Phillip.
The forensic team had to answer some lingering questions. Did Belle Gunness really die in the fire in 1908? Did the children’s bones, found in Belle’s coffin, belong to her children or did they belong to additional victims?
“Come prepared to stay forever.”
Belle Sorenson Gunness (November 11, 1859 – April 28, 1908) left her native Norway in 1881, at the age of 21, to travel to Chicago. She married her first husband, Mads Sorenson, three years later in 1884. The couple opened an unsuccessful confectionery store that burned down under strange circumstances almost a year later. Belle and Mads collected the insurance on the business to pay for a new home. They had two biological children that survived infancy, Myrtle (b. 1897) and Lucy (b. 1899), and one foster child, Jennie Olsen.
Mads died on July 30, 1900, coincidentally, on the only day his two life insurance policies overlapped. The first doctor to examine Mads’ body believed he suffered from strychnine poisoning. But the Sorensons’ family doctor, who had been treating him for an enlarged heart, overruled the first doctor and determined that Mads died of heart failure. Shortly after Mad’s death, Belle moved to LaPorte, IN where she purchased the 42-acre farm at the end of McClung road.
She soon met a local butcher, Peter Gunness, and they married in April 1902. One week after the marriage, Peter’s infant daughter died while Belle was watching her.Peter died less than a year when a sausage grinder and jar of hot water allegedly fell on him. In this case the coroner believed Peter had been murdered, he showed symptoms of strychnine poisoning, and ordered an inquest.
Because the Belle played a convincing widow in mourning, and there was no hard evidence to convict her, she walked away a free woman and collected on another husband’s life insurance policies. But she was pregnant at the time of Peter’s death, and in 1903 the widow gave birth to a son, Philip Gunness.
The La Porte Black Widow was quick to recover and put ads in the “matrimonial columns” of Midwestern Norwegian-language newspapers.
(See an actual newspaper “want add” placed by Gunness herself quoted above.)
Many men answered these ads and traveled to La Porte to meet Belle. In December of 1907, Andrew Helgelien, a bachelor farmer from Aberdeen, SD was one of these men and exchanged letters with Gunness. In January of 1908 he received a passionate letter from Belle that closed with the ominous line, “Come prepared to stay forever.” Andrew promptly emptied his bank accounts and left North Dakota to meet Belle. That was the last his family ever saw or heard from him.
Early in the morning on April 28th, 1908, a fire destroyed the Gunness farmhouse. When the embers cooled, town authorities found the headless body of a woman, believed to be Belle Gunness, and three of her children of Lucy and Myrtle Sorenson, and Phillip Gunness.
Initially, investigators believed Gunness was the innocent victim of foul play, until Asle Helgelien arrived in La Porte to look for his brother, Andrew. Asle insisted his brother had met with foul play at the hands of Belle, and he insisted they needed to search the farm for his remains. Investigators soon found the dismembered bodies of at least 11 people, which included three adolescents, an infant, and a woman. One of the belonged to Belle’s foster daughter Jennie Olsen, who was last seen in 1906. The butchered body parts were found in gunny sacks buried near the hog pen.
Belle’s dentist said that if Belle’s head or dentures were found, he could positively identify her by examining her teeth. After searching the burnt out remains of the house, investigators found a piece of bridgework consisting of two human teeth, porcelain teeth, and gold crown work in between. The dentist identified them as the bridge he designed for Belle. The coroner’s inquest ruled that the headless female body found in the house belonged to Belle based on this evidence,
When authorities determined the fire was caused by arson Gunness’ farm hand, Ray Lamphere, became the prime suspect. In November 1908, Lamphere was convicted of setting the house on fire, but not of any of the murders. In January of 1910 Lamphere made a deathbed confession to a clergyman. He claimed that he didn’t kill anyone but he did help Belle dispose of the bodies. A list of Belle’s suspected victims can be found here.
Lamphere said that when a man answered an ad and came to the farm to meet Belle, she would invite her prey to dinner. During dinner she would either drug her date and hit him over the head with a meat cleaver, or poison the food with strychnine. Belle would butcher and dismember the corpse, then either feed the remains to the hogs or bury the body parts near the hog pen.
Lamphere also claimed that they traveled to Chicago a few days before the fire to find a body double for belle. They brought back a “housekeeper,” who Gunness killed and decapitated.
Since the men reported missing who visited Gunness outnumbered the bodies recovered, and since the authorities never searched the property thoroughly in 1908, many believe that that remains of many more victims were left on the property, and likely between 25 and 30 people.
Resurrection of a Killer
Many people believed that investigators mishandled and misinterpreted evidence in the early twentieth century, letting The Mistress of Murder Farm escape unscathed. Like Leatherface or Hannibal Lecter who survive to kill another day, Gunness sightings were reported for years after the fire.
The last sighting was in 1931, when a woman named Esther Carlson, who had an uncanny physical resemblance to Belle, died in Los Angeles while awaiting trial on charges she poisoned a man for his money. Not only did Carlson resemble Gunness, but she was also about the same age Belle would have been in 1931, Esther killed with Belle’s M.O., and there was no record of Carlson before 1908.
To find out if Belle and Esther were the same woman a team University of Indianapolis forensic anthropologists exhumed Belle’s coffin in November of 2007. When the coffin was opened, they were surprised to find the skeletal remains of two children comingled with the remains of a woman. The forensic team believed the mysterious remains could belong to other victims whose bones had been buried in the basement, and were carelessly scooped out of the ashes during the original investigation in 190
To forensic anthropologist Stephen Nawrocki this confirmed that the initial 1908 investigations of the fire and murders were bungled. In 2008 the University of Indianapolis forensic team returned to the cemetery to exhume the graves of the three children found with Gunness’ body. They wanted to see if the three children buried in Chicago-area graves were missing the same bones found in the Gunness’ coffin. If not, it’s likely Belle killed more children than originally believed.
The family of one of Belle’s victims gave Nawrocki and his team an envelope sent from the LaPorte Black Widow to one of her suitors. Since the envelope was opened with a letter opener, it was believed that the saliva under the still-sealed envelope flap could contain DNA that the team could compare to the remains in the Gunness coffin. Nawrocki’s team also wanted to do test the DNA of the children’s bones found in the coffin to see if they were her biological offspring.
When the forensic anthropologists measured the bones they found in Gunness’ grave they found the adult remains belonged to a woman who would have stood between 5’6” and 5’9”. Since Gunness was 5’8” or 5’9”, depending on reports, she is well within this range of the bones in the coffin.
Was there a sequel? Did Hell’s Belle die in that fire on April 28th, 1908? The answer to those questions and many others seem unclear even today.
Nawrocki and the University of Indianapolis team were hoping to have DNA test results by the 100th anniversary of the fire on April 28th, 2008. But definitive answers still remained elusive.
The DNA samples on the envelope and stamp were too old to get a viable sample. At the time this article was written the results of the osteological exam of the children found in “Belle’s” coffin in 2008 were not released.
In 2008, one of Nawrocki’s students, Andrea Simmons, announced that she hoped to exhume the graves of Belle’s older sister and Esther Carlson to see if she could get a DNA match.
A version of this story was published on Atlas Obscura for their Morbid Monday series. And there are a number of affordable ebooks, some free, in Amazon.com that cover the story in varying degrees of detail.
Belle’s Story: The Short Version (2012). Retrieved on May 18, 2014 from:
Bien, K. (2011 November 14). HOMETOWN SECRETS: Mystery still surrounds 100-year-old LaPorte serial killer story. Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/topic/wsbt-mystery-still-surrounds-100-year-old-laporte-serial-killer-story-20111114,0,7428674.story
Hartzell, T. (2007 November 18). Did Belle Gunness really die in LaPorte? Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from: http://articles.southbendtribune.com/2007-11-18/news/26809754_1_exhumed-three-children-dna
Kridel, K. (2008 February 17). Unlocking secrets of Indiana “murder farm.” Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from: http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2004186653_farmmurders17.html
Kridel, K. (2008 May 14). Children’s remains exhumed in 100-year-old murder mystery. Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-05-14/news/0805130697_1_exhumed-murder-mystery-three-children
McFeely, D. (2008 January 6). DNA to help solve century-old case. Retrieved on May 18, 2014 from: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-01-06-GNS-murder-me_N.htm
The following links may contain images of the remains of victims of the Gunnes Farm murders that are graphic and may be offensive to some readers. Please proceed with caution…
The infamous Amityville Horror house (left), located on Ocean Avenue in Long Island, New York; and Raynham Hall (right), in Norfolk, England are two of the most haunted places on Earth.
The house at Ocean Avenue in the Amityville area of Long Island was the setting of one of the most frightening demonic/ghostly infestations in history involving a family of five—the Lutz family—who stayed in the house, which they had just purchased, for a mere 28 days, before fleeing, taking nothing with them from the home except the clothes they were wearing at the time.
A nonfiction book by Jay Anson (September 1977) was a blockbuster best seller and has never been out of print; and the film, starring Margot Kidder and James Brolin, made in 1979, was also a big hit, and is still watched by new generations. There were a series of post-1979 sequels to the original film, and a scary remake in 2005 with Ryan Reynolds playing the part of Goerge Lutz).
Further Reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amityville_Horror
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
Raynham Hall, a country house in located Norfolk, has been the seat of the Townshend family for 300 years. It is famous for being the location of a rare ghost sighting, that of the “Brown Lady”, who was captured descending the central staircase in one of the most famous ghost photographs of all time (above, left).
According to legend, the “Brown Lady of Raynham Hall” (left) is the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole (right) (1686–1726), the sister of Robert Walpole who was the first Prime Minister of Britain. Dorothy was the second wife of Charles Townshend, who was notorious for his violent temper. The story goes that when Townshend discovered that his wife had committed adultery with Lord Wharton, he punished her by locking her in her rooms at Raynham Hall. (There is another story, according to Mary Wortley Montagu, which states that Lady Dorothy was, in fact, entrapped by the Countess of Wharton at Wharton’s house—where she had invited Dorothy to stay for a few days. knowing that her husband, Lord Wharton, with whom Dorothy had been intimately involved, would never want Dorothy to leave, not even to see her own children.) Lady Dorothy Walpole is said to have remained at Raynham Hall until her death in 1726 from smallpox.
Further Reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Lady_of_Raynham_Hall
Read more about haunted houses here: Ghostly Houses.
Richard Roberts, discoverer of the Ebu Gogo, says local tales suggest the species could still exist…
“When I was back in Flores earlier this month we heard the most amazing tales of little, hairy people, whom the villagers called Ebu Gogo (Ebu = ‘grandmother’; Gogo = ‘he who eats anything’). The tales contained the most fabulous details; so detailed you start to imagine there may be a grain of truth in them.
One of the village elders told us that the Ebu Gogo ate everything raw, including vegetables, fruits, meat and, if they got the chance, even human meat.
When food was served to them they also ate the plates, made of pumpkin – the original guests from hell (or heaven, if you don’t like washing up and don’t mind replacing your dinner set every week).
The villagers say that the Ebu Gogo raided their crops, which they tolerated, but decided to chase them away when the Ebu Gogo stole – and ate – one of their babies.
They ran away with the baby to their cave which was at the foot of the local volcano, some tens of metres up a cliff face. The villagers offered them bales of dry grass as fodder, which they gratefully accepted.
A few days later, the villagers went back with a burning bale of grass which they tossed into the cave. Out ran the Ebu Gogo, singed but not fried, and were last seen heading west, in the direction of Liang Bua, where we found the Hobbit, as it happens.
When my colleague Gert van den Bergh first heard these stories a decade ago, which several of the villages around the volcano recount with only very minor changes in detail, he thought them no better than leprechaun tales until we unearthed the Hobbit. (I much prefer Ebu as the name of our find but my colleague Mike Morwood was insistent on Hobbit.)
The anatomical details in the legends are equally fascinating. They are described as about a metre tall, with long hair, pot bellies, ears that slightly stick out, a slightly awkward gait, and longish arms and fingers – both confirmed by our further finds this year.
[The Ebu Gogo] murmured at each other and could repeat words [spoken by villagers] verbatim. For example, to ‘here’s some food’, they would reply ‘here’s some food’. They could climb slender-girthed trees but, here’s the rub, were never seen holding stone tools or anything similar, whereas we have lots of sophisticated artefacts in the H. floresiensis levels at Liang Bua. That’s the only inconsistency with the Liang Bua evidence.
The women Ebu Gogo had extremely pendulous breasts, so long that they would throw them over their shoulders, which must have been quite a sight in full flight.
We did ask the villagers if they ever interbred with the Ebu Gogo. They vigorously denied this, but said that the women of Labuan Baju (a village at the far western end of Flores, better known as LBJ) had rather long breasts, so they must have done.
A local eruption at Liang Bua (in western Flores) may have wiped out local hobbits around 12,000 years ago, but they could well have persisted much later in other parts of the island. The villagers said that the last hobbit was seen just before the village moved location, farther from the volcano, not long before the Dutch colonists settled in that part of central Flores, in the 19th century.
Do the Ebu Gogo still exist? It would be a hoot to search the last pockets of rainforest on the island. Not many such pockets exist, but who knows. At the very least, searching again for that lava cave, or others like it, should be done, because remains of hair only a few hundred years old, would surely survive, snagged on the cave walls or incorporated in deposits, and would be ideal for ancient DNA analyses.
Interestingly, we did find lumps of dirt with black hair in them this year in the Hobbit levels, but don’t know yet if they’re human or something else. We’re getting DNA testing done, which we hope will be instructive.
Richard “Bert” Roberts is a University of Wollongong professor and one of the team investigating the Hobbits.
(The Telegraph, 2004)
Black Masses occur at night because fewer people are praying during those hours, and prayers disrupt these rituals. Therefore, we ought to pray at night more in order to prevent these atrocious rites wherein the Eucharist is profaned on a nude woman who serves as the “altar” and is raped at the end of the Black Mass. It is even more imperative to pray on the nights of Satanic feasts (the nights comprising October 31/November 1, February 1/2, April 30/May 1). (generationexorcistblog)
I must admit to a creepy obsession with and an uncanny skill at reading the tarot, since I was 12 years old. My father found me one evening in the basement of our 1800s house (I remember it was a tall rectangle of brick that listed a little to its right. In a previous life, it had been a hospital for the mentally insane); the basement light was out and I was at a little wooden table reading tarot cards by the light of 100 candles; well, all the candles I could find in the house, anyway…red wax dripping everywhere, like a crime scene.
He was always a bit leery of me, my father.
He was not into the weird gypsy stuff my mom believed in. “Our family comes from a line of New Orleans gypsies, Wood. Your dad doesn’t like that. I think it creeps him out.” A sly wink, her hazel eye glittering like a charm. “That’s where your name comes from. Your great-great grandmother, my father’s mother, was called Woodie.” Weird.
I would invite neighbor kids and interested relatives into my “reading room” and tell them their fortunes. I took it way too seriously, I suppose, at 12. I was popular in school, though. People want to know their future. They can’t resist it; anymore than a moth can resist a flame.
I remember sensing someone in the back half of the basement, when I was down there. The back half was actually at the “front” of the house. It was unused, unwired for electricity, and empty, moist, and akways colder than the front half (at the “back” of the house). The back half of the basement was where the big coal furnace sat, like a huge toad whose mouth was filled with glowing embers.
There was a small coal closet back there, too, with a coal chute half-open to the outside due to its cracked wooden door located at the top of the back wall (on cloudless nights, when the moon was full white, the chunks of coal piled on the old floor would shine blue-black the way light does on a raven’s wing).
Photo right: The “back half” of the basement. The old furnace has been removed. The square of bright light is the open coal shute.
Mrs. Rice, our neighbor, and the previous owner of the house (until she was too old to live in it alone), confided in me, once, on her porch where we were eating pecans from a glass bowl, that a young nurse had hung herself in that corner of the basement during a bad winter in, she thought, 1888. She didn’t believe me when I told her there was a bit of rope knotted on a wooden beam in my basement. But, when I took her down there, she squinted up at the beam and acted funny and said she couldn’t see a goddamned thing since she lost her old glasses. Then she hurried us out of there into afternoon sunlight.
I don’t know if the ghost of the nurse that died in my basement in 1888 prompted my tarot obsession, or if my tarot obsession prompted her presence (I also played Ouija down there). But I always knew when she was back there, maybe watching me. And even though I never did actually see her, I see her in dreams sometimes.
I bought a new deck, Wildwood Tarot, a few years ago. I opened it today. I began to do some practice readings, and was immediately aware of a presence in the corner of the room.
It was familiar to me.
I know that Mrs. Bedelia E. Rice has long-since passed away. I had known her during a very impressionable time in my life…and maybe, too, in hers. I last saw her face, the waist-long snow-white hair twisted into a swirl on top of her head, in the late afternoon on a chill fall day…I remember her waving her small wrinkled hand, and us driving off; the sunlight, amber and soothing.
It is my belief Mrs Rice skipped heaven, passed on hell, and moved right back in to the old, leaning brick house nn which my family had lived.
It was, after all, HER house.
She had always harbored a resentment that her family “sold that house right out from under me. You think you know people. They stole my house and tried to put me in a home. But that is my house, Woody. Mine.”
Well, to the dead nurse — my own special ghost — and the eternal Mrs. Rice, I say a hearty Cheers!
I know they are enjoying a glass of sherry in the two crystal goblets I left in the basement for them that October day we moved away…♢