Posts tagged “holes in the world

Midwestern Weird: Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery

Can strange activity in abandoned places truly be ghosts, or is our universe proving to be just that much stranger?

First you see it, then you don’t, as we head north to Chicago for a visit Bachelors Grove Cemetery.

Haunted graveyards are the grizzled old veterans of the ghost story and urban legend world. Many a tale of ghostly women and phantom lights persist, stemming from cemeteries often abandoned save for those visitors drawn by the historical significance of such places. (I wrote once before on one cemetery in particular, to pass along an experience from a reader, in this post. In addition, I’ve expressed my beliefs and hesitations on “haunted” places here and here. I believe providing this information to you, the readers, gets things out in the open and lets you know that this site isn’t only dedicated to ghost stories.

So why write about a haunted cemetery?

Cemeteries are places that are, by nature, quiet. And they should be. Cemeteries are meant to be places where people might feel comfortable laying loved ones to rest. Places where one can return to visit for peaceful reflection, maybe to remember the times when a family member or friend was still among the living. But often, as family lines fade away, or generations forget the wearing names carved into granite, the greenery encroaches, and drooping headstones become little more than scenery.

In a place so quiet, stories can spawn from anything less than silent, anything that seems out of the ordinary. The shadow from a branch waving in the sun might evolve into a woman who wanders in mourning, a hundred years past the point at which she should have stopped. Another brave soul, just hidden from view by a thicket of trees and the shadow of night and the fact that both parties are trespassing might be mistaken as some ghostly visitor.

Wikipedia’s page for Bachelor’s Grove (for the sake of quickness) has the following to say:

Besides orbs and phantom vehicles, there have been additional reports of supernatural events at the cemetery, including:

The white lady (or “white madonna”); she walks the grounds during a full moon while carrying an infant.
Phantom farmhouse; a ghostly farmhouse which is purported to shimmer, float, and then vanish, mostly reported during the 1950s. There are also reports by witnesses of the house shrinking as they approach it, then disappearing altogether.
A Farmer and his plow-horse; both victims of a plowing accident—having been dragged to their deaths into the nearby slough.
A two-headed ghost; near the same slough.
Religious monks; as late as 1984 witnesses reported seeing multiple figures dressed in monk’s robes emerging throughout the cemetery.
A black dog; witnesses in the 1990s reported seeing this manifestation at the cemetery’s entrance. It would disappear when they approached it.
The “Woman sitting on the Grave;” a notable photograph which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly showing a transparent woman sitting on a tombstone; the apparition was not apparent at the time the photograph was shot.

Women in white, unfinished business, and mysterious photographs. While intriguing, tales of this sort aren’t unique to Bachelor’s Grove.

The house, however, seems to be, somewhat. In fact, though I was able to find other tales of disappearing buildings (here, for example) it’s truly not something I’d heard of before, other than in the story of Seven Bridges Road. Read the comments on that one, though. It seems to have a rational explanation.

Not featured among what I’ve copied above is another feature of this odd dwelling. The house, in fact, may be a trap for anyone who is able to reach it, open the door, and enter. Beware, for you may end up trapped forever.

Don’t worry, though. No one’s actually ever reached the house. It always vanishes, unfindable and unreachable for anyone who’s trying.

Funny thing is, my personal beliefs lead me to the conclusion that the phantom house of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery has a logical explanation, because our universe is not a logical place as we see it. Something is obviously going on here, but what? And what about the dog, which no longer appears, or the monks, treading on ground that has never featured a church or monestery? Are they truly phantoms, or just the rules of the universe being broken? What’s going on that we can’t see?

I find myself quite unsatisfied, once again, because Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and the ground it inhabits doesn’t appear to be abiding by the normal rules of how a universe should operate.

Find out more on Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery by starting at this link.

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China, Mud, and the Great Dismal Swamp

Deep shadows, sticky water, and the sense you’re never alone will haunt you in the Great Dismal Swamp.

Growing up in the typical American elementary school brought with both study and celebration of the origins of the United States as a nation. When I was a kid, back in the 90s, that meant memorizing the names of Christopher Columbus’ ships and wearing a paper grocery store bag at school on the day before Thanksgiving (or a black construction paper hat if you were supposed to be a Pilgrim.) Columbus didn’t even land on what we now know as the United States, and he certainly didn’t set out to discover a whole other continent. Yet on Monday, October 14, we’ll observe Columbus Day. It’s a wonder more children don’t grow up more interested in this continent and who might have gotten here first. It’s them that all the little kid history books tend to ignore, and you could just grow up tending to assume that the first people on the North American continent just sort of appeared here one day. Of course, it’s much much more interesting than that. What I find funny is the tendency to assume that people living in Europe, Africa, and Asia basically never went anywhere and ignored the rest of the planet, while North America remained serene and mostly unpopulated. We now know that at least the Norse were here, at some point, in Canada.

That brings us back to the Great Dismal Swamp, and its role in a weird story about the possibility that Chinese explorers also set foot here, based on an old sighting of a junk, under the command of Zheng He, that might as well have been a ghost ship, buried in the mud off the coasts of North Carolina, and seen only a tiny handful of times. It’s elusive and the last time anyone recorded seeing it was some time in the 1920s. The Great Dismal Swamp isn’t the easiest waterway to navigate. You could imagine that someone could get lost.

Or leave their boat behind.

And head inland.

Possibly meet early Americans and establish a settlement in Appalachia.

Maybe they met up with the Moon-eyed People?

This isn’t to say that Gavin Menzies is a great historian or even right for that matter. A simple Google search doesn’t turn up much about this story. After all, there are much weirder and more accessible theories and legends about pre-Columbian American history that tend to overshadow the simple curiosity of other people we weren’t expecting to have been here.

And knowing what we do about the history of this continent, like how much of the past has been lost, buried under other old things in our race to build a nation, makes us all to aware of how much we aren’t able to know.

We can only see the shadows left behind, footsteps on the surface. We make up tales and imagine aliens and underground people to fill the quiet void of an empty continent. And without even a nod to all our stories, indifferent to the questions we ask, North America resolutely keeps its secrets  buried in rock, clay, and mud.


Aside

Weird Words: The Voynich Manuscript

Possible codes, mysterious languages, and answers that elude us…we can’t get enough of the Voynich manuscript.

It’s a pretty well-known artifact that’s been a frustration ever since Wilfred Voynich acquired it. That was back in 1912. It was probably written in the 1400s, and the pages are made of a pretty standard material, vellum, not paper. It’s handwritten, which is also not odd, considering its origin in time.

What’s weird are the words we can’t read, labeling even stranger illustrations of patched-together plants, odd multi-armed swirls, and a map here and there. It would probably all make much more sense if we could just understand the words.

voynich plants

voynich stars

But we can’t.

People love a good code challenge, whether to set one or break it. The Enigma code machine played a role in World War II, the Zodiac killer’s last code is still undeciphered, and the Taman Shud case continues to frustrate. Codes are why the Voynich manuscript fascinates people. It’s an unanswered question, spread out over pages and pages, given illustrations that no one knows what to do with.

The best part of the mystery is knowing that someone, at some point, might have known. Two friends, with one secret. A professional code between associates. Fun and games. An unknown dialect of a known language? A hoax, maybe. Fanfic, or a tie-in work to some other piece of fiction? All of these are possible, some definitely proposed. Especially the hoax. If it can’t be figured out, then it’s a hoax, right?

Except for one key detail.

Recently, as in 2013, two scientists, Marcelo Montemurro and Damien Zanette, found that the words appear in a pattern that would only occur in an actual language and would be absent in something completely made up.

Suddenly, it’s entirely likely that the Voynich manuscript, strange illustrations and all, does mean something and has some context in which it can be understood.

Trouble is, we don’t know what that might be. But isn’t it fun to imagine?

Voynich on Skeptoid

Voynich Wikipedia entry


Bombs A-Weird!

Hanging out down east as we touch on a very real might-have-been from the Cold War.

The year was 1961. Sixteen years before, the United States had ended World War II and helped start what we call the Atomic Age. While this part of history was full of enthusiastic folks looking to the future, it can also be characterized by a nice dose of paranoia.

So while we dreamed of the possibilities of a nuclear future, we also prepared for war.

The incident I’ll relate in this post didn’t take place during a battle or anything so epic. In fact, what the plane (B-52 Stratofortress) was doing was pretty routine: it was time to refuel on a cold January night.

But there was a leak, big enough to dump a substantial amount of fuel in a very short time. A landing at Seymore Johnson Airforce Base, near Goldsboro, was supposed to occur. The aircraft, and the two nuclear bombs it was carrying, never made it. The plane crashed, and three of the eight crew members were killed. The bombs were thrown from the plane. One was armed, and it’s parachute activated. They were able to recover that one.

Image

If you’ve ever been to Eastern North Carolina, you probably know that it’s a part of the country that’s very wet. Even though Goldsboro is further inland and is far from being a beach resort area, our winters are still damp and the ground can get pretty muddy.

Thus was the fate of the second bomb, buried in pieces, deep in the mud. Now part of it they did get, so it’s still there today. And no, you can’t get to it.

It’s uranium. Why would you want to?

North Carolina came very close to dealing with a serious nuclear incident on that night. I find myself wondering sometimes, what if it had detonated? What would have happened, and what worlds would have changed at that very moment in history?

I’m always ready to look through answers and solve mysteries, but I have to constantly remind myself that I have to be prepared for what I might find on the other sides of all the doors I open.

And maybe, weirdly, you should too.


Seneca Guns

We’re under attack!

Or are we?

This week, we go all around the weird world and back home to North Carolina to explore the ever strange phenomenon of the Seneca Guns

If you’re not familiar with the term, as I wasn’t until I did some research on our state, Seneca guns refer to a specific sound. According to those who have heard it, it’s a lot like a sonic boom and will shake a house. You’re probably thinking “earthquake!” right now. The biggest difference is that a Seneca gun sound, or mistpouffer, does not shake the ground.

And it happens all over the world. Credited to the Wikipedia page, here are the names for this happening.

    Bangladesh: Barisal Guns
    Italy: “brontidi” or “marinas”
    Japan: “uminari”
    Netherlands and Belgium: “mistpoeffers”
    Philippines: “retumbos”
    United States: “Guns of the Seneca” around Seneca Lake & Cayuga Lake, Seneca guns in the Southeast US, and “Moodus noises” in lower Connecticut valley.
    elsewhere: “fog guns”

I picked this particular topic because it’s not just a spooky local legend; it apparently is known to occur all over the world. James Fennimore Cooper even wrote about it. Sources do differ as to the true source of the American name for it; they’re either named for Cooper’s story The Lake Gun or Seneca, South Carolina. Connecticut seems to have latched onto “Moodus noises,” since the place they occur is near the town of Moodus.

Attibute them to aircraft if you’d like.

But the sounds are old, perhaps ancient. According to the News & Observer, Raleigh NC’s local paper, North Carolinians have been hearing them since at least halfway through the 1800s.

I have no real explanation for the Seneca guns. I personally do not believe that the sounds are earthquakes. I have experienced what might have been a sonic boom, when I was about 14. It sounded like something hit a window in my house.

I’m not so sure it was just a sonic boom anymore.


Westerly Weird: The Music of Roan Mountain

I’m finally back, and keeping it western again this week. I present, for your consideration, the strange tale of Roan Mountain.

Right on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee lies Roan Mountain, a part of the Appalachian chain that doesn’t seem to get near as much mention as some of the more notable mountains in the general area. It’s covered with rhododendron and is the home to my personal favorite type of Christmas tree, the fraser fir. The Catawba and the Cherokee were also said to have a fierce battle there, sometime in the past. The only remnant of that battle, for which there is little proof, is the red color of the rhododendron flowers. Roan Mountain is a truly beautiful place, alluring in itself without any mysterious happenings.

But an old and often overlooked legend tells of an odd occurrence for visitors who stand atop Roan Mountain.

Once someone is at the top, after a few minutes, the show begins. From seemingly nowhere comes a music that is either terrifying or beautiful, depending on who you ask. I first heard of Roan Mountain in the book Ghosts and Legends of North Carolina. The story I read said that the music started out quiet and swelled to a crescendo before going quiet again, and changed the life of the one-man audience.

There are three version of an explanation for the music. One is that the devil himself has a choir of lost souls or even demons singing away, making the most awful, unholy noise that no man can bear to hear. Another is that God has sent his angels to practice their song for the Day of Judgement. In this version, the music is unsettling, but gifted with a beauty not of this earth, rather than horror. The third version is told in another part of the world, Ireland, whenever similar phenomena appear. Western North Carolina is not without its Old World influences, especially of the Celtic variety. The Irish explanation is that the Unseelie Court, that evil group of the fae peoples, fly about at night, to generally disturb and bother mankind. As far as I can tell, the music has only been heard during the day, but even that may owe to the lack of hiking at night, due to the dangers of that activity.

So what might this music be? Is it devils, or angels, or fairies?

Or is it something else?

Back up just a bit. Remember, this music, as it appears to be, is also heard in Ireland, supposedly. More collective memory?

Maybe.

Remember the potential of the dread-inducing frequencies at the Beaufort cemetery? Or the Moon-eyed People? What about the weird connection between the Devil’s Tramping Ground and Roanoke Island?

In more than one post on this site, I’ve shared the possibility and belief in one of the stranger theories about our universe. The thought, though rare and unfounded by science, that there are places, holes in the walls of the world, maybe forgotten, but still there. Maybe the music is just the wind, moving across these spots, and making such a clamor that even the most rational among us are struck with fear.

Where would these doors lead? And more importantly, what would we do with that knowledge?

Maybe the music of Roan Mountain is more otherwordly than we might think.