Posts tagged “weirdness

A New Feature: Cryptids

Just a short announcement here. Every so often, I’m going to have a post featuring a different cryptid.

Bigfoot, Nessie, Mokele-Mbembe…I’m gonna do my best to feature these legends and profile some others. Trust me. There are plenty.

Look for the new feature in my next post!


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.

The Brown Mountain Lights

Is there a good explanation for the way they rise into the sky, or do the years of sightings point to a deeper reason?

Westward bound, yet again, for Brown Mountain, and the lights named for them.

To be honest, I debated whether I should bother covering this topic, since it’s been done probably countless times before, in its status as a staple NC happening. It is, however, a part of the weird folklore in North Carolina and the world. I felt it deserved a place in the admittedly random and disjointed narrative that I’ve tried to make here.

If you haven’t heard of what exactly the Brown Mountain Lights are, I’ll cover that, because knowing what exactly goes on is necessary to really examining them.

On very dark nights, with all headlights and flashlights and lanterns covered or cut off, the lights will appear. First they slide into view, and begin to move upward, into the sky, where they hover.

Then they fade.

And that’s it.

As captivating as the Brown Mountain lights are to people, how they work is very simple. They come from no visible origin, rise up slowly, and then they’re gone. It’s a nice, spooky story.

Legends of their origins abound. The one I heard from my dad was that the lights were lanterns in a desperate search by the wives of dead warriors, still without closure so many years later. And of course, there are legends of fierce battles and people long before us and long gone now. Perhaps, some believe, they are UFOs, the nature of which may be completely alien (since, of course, “UFO” does not necessarily mean extraterrestrial, despite having that connotation). There is a movie, Alien Abduction, that follows that story exactly.

Skeptical explanations are sure to follow. Cars, trains, some perfectly regular, normal cause, all of which are logical, and may be true.

Whether the lights are mourning ghosts, the oddest aliens in the universe, or just evidence of humanity, the reality is that they’re there, and no one has definitively explained them yet, to my knowledge.

Figuring it out is a fun mystery, and they could probably be called a “must see” if you’re in the area. A cool story, maybe nothing more.

But I’m not really satisfied with that. The Brown Mountain lights are almost teasing us. Taunting us to come closer and really figure them out.

Maybe, one day, someone will.

Door to the Stars: Launch Complex 34

Screams echo, distant memories etched in time, voices left behind by speakers long-dead…or are they something else?

Man first stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969. We would only go a handful more times before keeping ourselves fully grounded on Earth.

As with most great accomplishments, we tend to see the results as a much bigger thing than the work put in before. The guts, blood, sweat, and sacrifice.

January 27, Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral. The crew of Apollo 1 were engaged in a test for the mission, not due to launch until February 21. In a tragic moment, something (and they really don’t know what) ignited inside the cabin. The craft was quickly and violently consumed in flame. Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White were unable to escape, and died inside. Launch Complex 34 was used until 1968 and then decommissioned.

The plaque at the site.

Today, you can visit LC-34 on one of the tours and see the part of the structure that’s still there. It serves as a memorial to the men who were lost as the human race pushed to stand on other worlds.

Of course, because of the deaths, it’s not without its ghost stories.

The stories are much the same as any other. Screams of the dying. Weird happenings, and the rumor that NASA closed it because of strange things going on, horrors too great for the general public. The last bit seems to be unfounded, and I couldn’t find any reason for it to have been closed other than the recent government shutdown.

But suppose there are screams at Launch Complex 34, just not from the dying. Not echoes, but a real true sound with a mysterious source. A source as real as you and me, as physical as we are, but not something we can see so obviously. Like the Seneca Guns, there aren’t many answers.

If we could find where the noises are coming from, look through a gap, imagine what we’d find there. Who we’d find there, staring back at us.

What might be hiding at Launch Complex 34?

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.


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

Piedmont Strangeness: The Devil’s Tramping Ground

From the Piedmont area comes a strange little tale of the downright unusual.

I remember this old tale from when my dad told me it when I was a kid. Down near Siler City North Carolina, out in the county, there lies an odd circle of ground in the woods, where nothing ever grows. Anything left there at night disappears. And the devil himself circles it at night, plotting ways to pick mankind to destruction.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration, I present The Devil’s Tramping Ground.

This rather unremarkable looking spot made an appearance in the book Weird Carolinas, as one of two places where people see connections with the supernatural. According to the entry on, the details of the old telling are that the place bothers dogs and men alike, leaving the animal fearful and the humans insane (usually after staying a night there.) The soil is a killer of plants. If you stay there at night, do expect to wind up in a state of wild mental instability, because you’ll probably be meeting up with the fallen one himself.

Of course it’s a mystery that no one can figure out.

Well, really, scientists today pretty much know that there’s simply a lot of salt in the ground there, and the high concentration did keep things from growing there for a long while. But, apparently, over the years, all the deer (I guess) and various other factors mean that there’s less salt now than there was 100 years ago, so the famous barren spot is a little smaller. There are also frequent visitors. Thrill-seekers, looking for the paranormal, and kids, looking for a good time (like a party, again according to I’m good with this explanation, as far as the barrenness is concerned. But some other explanations caught my eye.

Naturally, UFO’s have been blamed, since the site is a nice circle. Then there are the “Indian burial ground” legends, and the stories of Druids, and the one about Chief Croatan, who might be buried. Or the battle that left the Croatan the losers and fleeing quickly to the coast.

Now there’s an interesting connection.

My first official post here was about Roanoke Island, and the mysterious inscription “Croatan” that appeared on the tree. When I began research for this week, I never expected this link between the two to appear. It is literally something I’d never heard of before, and it really grabs my attention.

Why does the area make dogs so afraid? This isn’t unheard of; I even featured an e-mail from a reader who experience the same thing at the old Beaufort cemetery. What if Croatan was a name that acted as a code?

What if there’s something there in Siler City that isn’t clear? I’m not talking about the devil literally walking around it at night. The inaudible frequencies that can cause dread in human beings have the potential to drive one insane with the stress of several hours. Perhaps paranoia and bad nerves became, over the years, insanity, at least in the story.

What could Croatan have meant to the people who carved it? Did they mean the island? The tribe that was said to have run east after losing a battle in a very mysterious place, where dogs cry and men scream in the night, what did they mean?

Maybe the Devil’s Tramping Ground is simply another hole in the world, and as the wind blows over it, the music begins, and not everyone can hear it.

So what might be on the other side?