Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Hex Hollow Murder

In Webster’s dictionary, witchcraft is defined as the act or instance of employing sorcery, especially with malevolent intent: a magical rite or technique. The religious will say if you believe in God, and believe in what the Bible says, then you must believe in the powers of evil as well. You cannot take one side and then completely discount the other side...basically, evil power is real and witchcraft is the use of it. In reality, though, there is a very fine line between good and evil.

When it came to folk magic or witchcraft in my neck of the woods, Pow-wow was the preferred mystic art. Pow-wow is a unique combination of Christian theology and shamanistic belief. Shamanism is the oldest form of religion and the belief is that there is one Supreme Being...that all is derived from this and is interrelated. In Europe, Shamanic practitioners were persecuted as witches in the name of orthodox religion. It is still practiced in some rural areas of Pennsylvania, though it has been outlawed for several generations. In spite of the name, it is not of Native American derivation. The name comes from the book Pow-wows, or, The Long Lost Friend, written by John George Hohman and first published in German as Der Lange Verborgene Freund in 1820. The subtitle of the booklet hints at the breadth of its contents...a collection of mysterious and invaluable arts and remedies for man as well as animals with many proofs of their virtue and efficacy in healing diseases, etc. It was recognized mainly by Pennsylvania Dutch hex-meisters but after the translation to English in 1846, it had a tremendous influence on the commoner folk magicians of the Appalachians. This little book includes healing spells, binding spells, protective spells, wards and benedictions. Though I’m not a religious person, I am spiritual (and a bit superstitious...I’ll cover that later) and always have my copy of 'The Long Lost Friend' near’s my personal talisman.

All religions have an upside and a downside. The downside of the Judeo-Christian tradition is Satanism. The downside of Pow-wow was corruption by practitioners, the hex-meisters, who would cast spells or hexes on anyone for a price. Hex-meisters were deeply feared by most people from all walks of life. These German immigrants came to Pennsylvania during the late 1800s and unlike the regular practitioners of Pow-wow, who were mainly of lower class and came here for religious freedom, these newcomers were of the middle and upper classes. There was, at the time, a revival of occultism in Europe, some of which was Satanic. This first wave of immigrant Germans brought this influence with them and became better known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

In 1895, John Blymire was born in York County, Pa...into the world of witchcraft, magick and superstition. His father and grandfather were Pow-wows and he inherited their healing abilities, but not the strength of their skills. When Blymire was five, he suffered from opnema, a wasting away of the body that was believed to be caused by hexes, but was usually caused by poor diet and malnutrition. Neither his grandfather nor father could cure him, so they took him to a powerful Pow-wow healer named Nelson Rehmeyer who eventually cured him. (Note: Nelson D. Rehmeyer was a distant relative through marriage on my father’s maternal side. Several generations of the Rehmeyer family and my grandmother’s family attended the same church)

John Blymire

At age seven, Blymire attempted his first cure and was successful. He was of limited intelligence, homely and only modestly successful as a Pow-wow. People avoided him, except when they needed his Pow-wow skills. Because of this, Blymire was very lonely.

When he was thirteen, he quit school and worked in a cigar factory in York, Pa. He kept to himself, but word got out that he could heal. He supplemented his cigar factory earnings by accepting voluntary offerings for his work as a Pow-wow.

One day, there was an incident that should have made his reputation as a powerful Pow-wow. When work was done, Blymire and the other workers were leaving the factory when someone screamed that a "mad" dog was approaching. A collie, foaming at the mouth, was coming toward them. People tried to go inside the factory, but those leaving blocked their way. Blymire stood between them and the rabid dog, uttered an incantation and made the sign of the cross over the dog's head. The dog's mouth stopped foaming and it seemed to be cured of rabies. Blymire patted it on the head and the dog, tail wagging, followed him as he walked down the street.

Shortly after this incident, Blymire suffered from the opnema again. He was convinced someone had put a hex on him, possibly a jealous Pow-wow who did not want him to be successful. He quit his job in order to discover who had hexed him. He worked in odd jobs and practiced Pow-wow for financial survival and lived in rooming houses. It was at a rooming house where he met Lily, the woman who would become his wife. His health gradually improved and he found a regular job. His Pow-wow clientele steadily increased and it appeared the hex was removed or no longer worked.

Then disaster struck...Blymire's first child died within a few weeks after birth. Then a second child passed away three days after birth. In the meantime, his health declined and he lost his job.

Again, Blymire consulted with other witches to find out who had hexed him. One was Andrew C. Lenhart, a powerful witch who was feared by many police and city officials. Lenhart stated that he was hexed by someone close to him and Blymire was convinced it was Lily. She began to fear him and her father hired a lawyer who had Blymire evaluated by a psychiatrist. The diagnosis was borderline psychoneurosis. Blymire was committed to a state mental hospital from which he escaped by walking out of the door. There was no effort to recommit him.

In 1928, Blymire returned to work at the cigar factory where he met 14-year-old John Curry who had a cruel childhood due to abuse and believed he was hexed. Shortly after this, they met a farmer, Milton J. Hess who believed he was hexed. He and his wife were of Pennsylvania Dutch stock. They obeyed all of the regulations and rules hex-meisters gave them. Milton had been a successful farmer...crops flourished, chickens laid the right amount of eggs and the cows' milk was plentiful. His wife, Alice had a stand at the farmer's market, where she sold vegetables, flowers and fruit.

Hess explained that in 1926, for no apparent reason, things took a downward spiral. Crops began to fail, chickens were stolen and those that weren't did not lay eggs, cows would not eat and no longer produced milk. Milton's health was also severely affected. Wilbert, his 17-year-old son was also affected, psychologically, by hearing his father complain about the failures and lack of money and his mother changing from an energetic cheerful woman into a sad and silent one who withdrew from communicating with family. The family was convinced they were hexed. Hess got a job as a truck driver and Alice still had her stand, now, out of financial necessity.

In June, 1928, Hess met Blymire who lived in the Widow Detwiler's boarding house in an alley. They would talk daily and the conversation, eventually, turned to hexes. About this time, Blymire consulted Nellie Noll, who was known as the ‘Witch of Marietta’, also as the ‘River Witch’ in the attempt to discover who had hexed him. She told him that it was the ‘Witch of Rehmeyer Hollow’…after much coaxing from Blymire, she named Nelson D. Rehmeyer.

Hess invited Blymire, as a ‘Pow-wower’ or ‘Braucher’, to his farm where the witch could see its condition for himself. He asked Blymire who had hexed the family, but he could not remember the name, so he visited Nellie Noll again. Again, she named Nelson D. Rehmeyer and added that Rehmeyer had also hexed Curry. She told him that all they had to do was to get Rehmeyer's copy of John George Hohman's 'Pow-wows or Long Lost Friend' and burn it. If they could not do that, they must get a lock of his hair and bury it 6 to 8 feet underground.

Once Blymire, Curry and the Hesses knew who had hexed them and what had to be done, there was a conference. Attending this meeting were Blymire, Curry and Milton, older brother Clayton and Wilbert Hess. Soon, plans were made for Blymire, Curry and Wilbert Hess to visit Rehmeyer and get a lock of hair or the book, do as they were directed and the hex would be removed. Clayton, the only family member who had a car, would drive them to the hollow. As events happened, Wilbert said he did not feel well and did not want to go. Blymire said it was OK if he did not. He and Curry would get the book or the lock of hair and would do what they had to.

The following information was taken from trial transcripts and records:

Nelson D. Rehmeyer, the 'Witch of Rehmeyer Hollow'

When they got to Rehmeyer's house, they discovered he was not home. They walked to the witch's ex-wife's house and saw a light through the window, so they knocked on the door. The duo was told that Rehmeyer was probably at his lady friend’s house. They walked back to the witch's house and noticed a light on the second floor.

Blymire knocked on the door. Rehmeyer opened the door...he was much larger than Blymire remembered and was mean looking. Blymire asked if they could come in and Rehmeyer led them to the parlor where they sat and started to talk.

Blymire asked Rehmeyer if he had seen the book. The response was yes. The next question was if he had one. Again, the answer was affirmative. Blymire was satisfied with the answers. The conversation, then, turned to more mundane topics. Finally, Rehmeyer asked them why they had stopped by. Blymire told him that he had cured him of the opnema when he was a child and he had worked by picking potatoes for him.

Blymire, while they talked, try to mentally will Rehmeyer to hand over the book, but this was not effective. After a while, Rehmeyer said he was going to bed and they could sleep downstairs if they wanted to.

Curry quickly fell asleep while Blymire stayed awake trying to will the old witch to give them the book. Finally, he woke Curry and told him that he could not control Rehmeyer's mind. Should they try to use force and make him give them the book or a lock of hair? Blymire decided against this because the old witch was a big man and could easily overpower them. He decided they needed help.

That morning, Rehmeyer got up early and made the duo breakfast before they left. At some point, they bought a 25 foot length of strong rope and cut it into lengths of about 14 inches.

On Wednesday, November 27th, 1928, the night of the full moon and eve before Thanksgiving, Clayton drove the trio to Rehmeyer's Hollow. The three walked to Rehmeyer's house.

They demanded that he give them the book. He threw his wallet at them. Then, the three attacked Rehmeyer. Blymire wrapped a length of rope around Rehmeyer's neck. The trio fought savagely with the old man…Curry got a block of wood and hit Rehmeyer in the head. The old man was kicked in the head and the stomach and his face was battered. Blymire said he groaned, took a few breaths, then died.

They ransacked the house and found a small amount of money. The trio decided they had to get rid of the evidence that would tie them into the murder. Curry thought setting fire to the house would achieve this. They lit matches and dropped them in the house to set the fire. The house was smoldering when they left.

The house did not burn as they thought it would. A neighbor, Oscar Glatfelter, was passing by Rehmeyer's house on November 30th and heard his mule braying. When the man checked on the animal, he saw it had not been fed. Glatfelter knocked on the door and there was no answer, but the door was unlocked. After the neighbor entered the house, he saw Rehmeyer's corpse lying on the floor.

The Rehmeyer House during the murder investigation

It did not take the police long to arrest Blymire, Curry and Wilbert for the murder of Rehmeyer. All three confessed and Blymire said he was at peace now that he had killed the witch. The newswire services informed the public that a practicing witch had been killed in York County, Pa.

The trials began on January 9th, 1929. Judge Sherwood presided. District Attorney Amos W. Herrmann represented the commonwealth. Public defenders Walter W. VanBaman represented Curry and Herbert B. Cohen, Blymire. The Hess family could afford to hire Harvey A. Gross, the best criminal defense attorney in the area.

Judge Sherwood decreed that all mention of hexes and witchcraft in the confessions be edited out before they were admitted to records. The attempts of the defense attorneys to make hexes and witchcraft a matter of record via testimony were quashed.

Herrmann made his opening statements, avoiding all mention of witchcraft and hexes and forgot to mention the motive for the murder that the judge wanted. He was sharply reminded of this. The decreed motive was robbery and, then, was stated.

When Cohen tried to bring out testimony about witchcraft, the judge thwarted his efforts.

The trials were the some of the speediest in Pennsylvania history. By obstruction of justice, the judge got what he wanted, guilty verdicts, Blymire and Curry, murder in the first degree and Hess, murder in the second degree.

The sentences were handed down on January 14th. Blymire and Curry were given life in prison and Wilbert was given 10 to 20 years. In 1934, Hess and Curry were paroled and lived quiet lives in the York area. Curry became an artist and died in 1962. Blymire was finally paroled in 1953, returned to York and worked as a janitor.


The Hex House in Rehmeyer Hollow, East Hopewell Township, York County, Pa.

This case has always intrigued me...especially after I read Arthur Lewis’ account of the incident in his book ‘Hex’. I also remember the tales of paranormal activity in Rehmeyer Hollow and the reports of strange apparitions, said to be Nelson Rehmeyer’s spirit, roaming the property nightly.

During my senior year in high school, I decided to make a short trip to Rehmeyer Hollow to see what all the fuss was. I had found a copy of ‘The Long Lost Friend’ and decided to carry it with me. Like I said earlier, I’m a bit superstitious and thought the book may protect me in some way.

I made the journey alone in mid October was late afternoon when I arrived at a locked gate that was suspended over the access road that had a ‘No Trespassing’ sign attached to it. At that time, the sparse open areas were overgrown with briers and high weeds. The woods were very thick and dark and as I started walking on the road I could make out the roof of the small house jutting over the trees. As I approached, I noticed what looked like an older man in dark pants and a jacket standing on the road near the bend that led to the house….I estimated he was about 150 feet in front of me. It looked like he was searching for something because he was looking face down in a peculiar manner.

I stopped walking and stood for a few seconds watching this person go back and forth across the road, never raising their head. So I decided it was time to find out if this was a caretaker or if it was OK for me proceed any further even though I knew was trespassing.

I shouted “hello...sir”. No response. So I was about to shout again thinking this person was hard of hearing or possibly ignoring me. Just as I began to open my mouth to shout, this person quickly looked up and....

Now, I realize that I was a fair distance away but this ‘person’ that, I swear to this day, had no facial features. No eyes, no mouth, no nose...just a head. I spun around and hauled my butt back to the car. The ghost hunt was over. I wheeled my Mustang out of that hollow onto the main road in record time. Honestly, I don’t remember the drive home. I was absolutely stunned by the experience.

A few days later, my girlfriend and I were in my room and she found ‘The Long Lost Friend’ on my desk. I was lying on the bed with headphones on when I looked over and saw that she was looking in the book. As I watched her, I noticed that there was writing on the book cover. I had purchased the book as new, had never written in it or had it anywhere other than when I was at Rehmeyer Hollow. As I looked closer, there was an “NR” written in pencil.

The next day, I lit the grill in the backyard and promptly burned the book and buried the ashes. I wasn’t leaving anything to ‘chance’. A few weeks later, I purchase a new copy of ‘The Long Lost Friend’ and it’s been with me since.



The following is a description of how the Pow-wower applied their skills in 20th-century York County, as noted by Arthur H. Lewis in his 1969 book "Hex":

Except for two days a month, the Rohrbaugh Convalescent Home in rural Spring Grove, York County, Pennsylvania, is about as quiet a spot as you're likely to find anywhere in the Keystone State. But on the first and sixteenth, it becomes a mecca for scores of ailing men, women and children who flock to this tiny village, there to be powwowed back to health by Mrs. Leah Frank.

Mistakenly, I assumed there was some significance in the choice of the two days on which Mrs. Frank practices her profession.

"When I reached ninety, and that was four years ago," Mrs. Frank explained, "I thought maybe I'd better quit altogether; it's so hard on a body. But my people wouldn't let me, tole me they needed me. So, instead of workin' every day, I tole 'em I'd 'try for' two days a month and I picked the first and the sixteenth. Then people will know when to come and not be disappointed in between. That's all there is to it."

Through the windows of the second-floor bedroom she seldom leaves, Mrs. Frank can view the soft hills of York County where she has lived all her years. As a matter of fact, the aged powwower spends most of her daylight hours in an old-fashioned Morris chair facing the east. "I'd rather see the sun come up than go down," she says gently.

Except for a slight diminution in hearing and arthritis, only lately beginning to cripple the long, tapered fingers she needs for "laying on" ill or otherwise troubled patients, Mrs. Frank remains in excellent health. Her cheeks, though wrinkled, have a healthy glow; her teeth are her own, and her sharp blue eyes still regard with abiding interest that small portion of the world she sees.

"Prettiest part of the world, though I wouldn't know much about the rest of it," Mr. Frank said in a clear voice with a strong Pennsylvania Dutch inflection. "Born and raised ten miles from here and never been no further away than forty. But you don't have to travel to learn things and how to take care of 'em that needs you, do you?"

She smiled and went on.

"I've been tryin' for people for a long, long time. I always know'd I had the power but I learned how to use it from a veterinarian who practiced powwowin' too. That was back in 1904; I've been doin' it ever since.

"Course that's not all I ever done. I just used to try for people on the side like most of us faith healers do. From the time I was a little girl 'till I was seventy-seven years I worked in a mill and I worked hard, too. Anymore I don't work so hard. Now I'm so old I only powwow."

What troubles Mrs. Frank is the current shortage of apprentices willing to undergo the rigors of training in order to become worthy practitioners.

"I don't mean those that don't have the power inside 'em 'cause they'll never learn no matter how much they want to. Some of 'em try but I always say to 'em, 'If you can't stop blood, you'll never be a powwower, so don't waste your time.'"

"What I'm referrin' to is those that got the power but don't want to use it. It ain't easy; you have to work hard and it makes you mighty tired to try for people.

Mrs. Frank did not elaborate upon the curriculum required before the neophyte can become a full-fledged practitioner. She did say, however, that after "blood stopping," which, incidentally, she claims can never be taught and must be known congenitally, the next training step is wart removal. After that come the many other branches of the discipline concluding with cures for the opnema, St. Anthony's fire and finally tumors.

Mrs. Frank also holds to the orthodox belief, one shared by the majority of her colleagues, that an instructor in powwowism or witchcraft may impart his knowledge only to members of the opposite sex.

"A man shouldn't teach another man or boy and a woman can't teach another woman or girl," claims this nonagenarian necromancer. "I'm helpin' train a young man who lives 'round here and he's doin' all right. But I sure wish I could teach my granddaughter. She was born with the power but she don't know how to use it. She could do wonderful good."

I asked Mrs. Frank what would happen if she attempted to teach the profession to her granddaughter. She shuddered.

"Oh, my goodness! That would be terrible. I'd suffer for it the rest of my days and maybe lose my own power if I tried."

Like the Willow Street powwower, to whom she is not related, Mrs. Frank is aware of the present of evil area witches. However, she does not subscribe to Clair Frank's depressing theory that practitioners of the black art are getting smarter as well as increasingly numerous.

"Not many of 'em 'round as there used to be," Mrs. Frank said cheerfully. "And they're getting dumber and dumber all the time. But when I was a girl!"

NOTE: In 1988, the film Apprentice to Murder was released and starred Donald Sutherland, Chad Lowe and Mia Sara. The story was based on the Rehmeyer Hollow Murder...Lon

Lewis, Arthur H., 'Hex' (1969) - Trident Press
Yronwode, Catherine, 'Hoodoo in Theory and Practice'
Georg Hohman, Johann, 'Pow-Wows or The Long Lost Friend' (1820)
Rehmeyer Family Archives

The Hex Hollow Murder

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/21/2010

The Incredible Shrinking Moon

AP - The moon may be shrinking.

Not to worry though, lovers and crooners, it won't be disappearing any time soon.

New research indicates cracks in the moon's crust that have formed as the interior has cooled and shrunk over the last billion years or so. That means the surface has shrunk, too, though not so you'd notice just from gazing at it.

Scientists have identified 14 landforms called lobate scarps scattered over the surface of the moon, explained Thomas R. Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Watters and colleagues describe their find in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

The scarps had previously been noted at the moon's equator, but this is the first evidence in other areas, indicating they result from a global process.

The study calls the scarps "evidence of recent thrust faulting on the moon." But this is planetary science, where "recent" can mean a billion years ago.

The scarps, or cliffs, extend across some small craters, and small craters tend to be obliterated over time, Watters explained in a telephone interview. In addition, there are no large craters imposed on top of the scarps, another indication they are relatively recent, in planetary terms, he said.

"One of the really cool parts of this ... the faults are so young-looking that you can't escape the possibility that this contraction occurred recently, and could indicate that the moon is still active," Watters said.

The size of the scarps indicates a shrinkage in the size of the moon of about 100 meters (328 feet), which wouldn't be nearly enough to be noticed with the naked eye. The moon is about one-fourth the size of the Earth in diameter.

The scarps range up to 10 meters (a little over 30 feet) high and a few kilometers long, he said. By comparison, the planet Mercury has much larger scarps indicating considerably more shrinkage over time.

The moon's not going to disappear and its shrinkage won't affect the Earth in any way, Watters stressed.


Kissing Bugs...Nasty Little Insects That Bite Your Lips

fishinsects - Triatoma infestans is one of the Kissing Bugs. Like the ticks, these bugs can carry human diseases. T.infestans is the most important carrier of Chaga’s disease in South America.

What happens is that the bug gets infected with the parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi) when he sucks blood from an infected person, and then passes it on when he bites a new victim. The parasite is actually passed out with the bug’s faeces, and then it creeps into the wound which is usually on the lips. Soon after infection there is a chronic reaction, typically with swelling around the lips, and then the disease lays dormant for several years. The later, chronic, stage of the disease is very serious. There is often severe heart damage, and while the disease can be treated just after infection, the chronic disease remains incurable. Even heart transplants don’t seem to work because the parasite just takes advantage of the lowered immune system, reproduces like mad, and then starts doing damage all over again!

Charles Darwin ( famous for his views on evolution ) probably caught Chaga’s Disease when he was bitten by “a great black bug of the pampas” while on his famous voyage round the world in the ‘Beagle’. It is possible to get a vaccination before going to places where the disease is endemic (parts of South America), and you can also use mosquito nets. The worrying thing is that for every one adult flying down to ‘get’ you there will be five young ones crawling up! And that’s not all one has young that camouflage themselves, so that you can end up carrying them into the house with the firewood.

Kissing Bugs are members of the Assassin Bug and Wheel Bug family of insects (Reduviidae). They have been found preserved in Amber - (Assassin Bug in Colombian Amber). Most Assassin Bugs kill insects so they can be very helpful to man, often killing agricultural and garden pests, and sometimes more directly (such as the ‘Masked Hunter’ who kills bedbugs!). Wheel Bugs are among the many bugs kept as pets by some people who feed them mealworms. They look very unusual but they can give a very nasty bite, so I don’t think I’ll go any further than keeping Silverfish myself!


India Couple Sacrifices 4-Year-Old Daughter To 'Attain Wealth'

indiatimes - A poverty-stricken couple in an Uttar Pradesh village allegedly killed their four-year-old daughter after a self-proclaimed godman assured them that the act would attain them affluence, police said Wednesday.

Shri Krishna and his wife Rama Devi are absconding. The body of their daughter Kanni was recovered late Tuesday evening from their house in Sitapur district's Dahelikushepa village, some 80 km from Lucknow.

"Investigations reveal it is a case of human sacrifice. Flowers, packets of sindoor (vermillion), incense sticks and other 'puja' items were recovered from near the girl's body," police inspector Rajveer Singh told reporters in Sitapur.

"The body, which was found buried in the courtyard, had multiple burn injuries. It appeared that the girl was attacked with a sharp-edged weapon. The body has been sent for post-mortem examination," he added.

The couple killed their daughter under the influence of a 'tantrik', Shiv Kumar, who too is absconding.

Villagers, who noticed Shiv Kumar entering the couple's house Tuesday morning, informed the police after they heard Kanni's screams.

"They managed to escape. The same 'tantrik' had also suggested other families to go for a child sacrifice in order to get rid of their poverty," the police inspector said.

"Locals said Shri Krishna and his wife believed they would attain affluence overnight with the ways suggested by Shiv Kumar," he added.


Raelians' 'Go Topless' Day

myfoxspokane - Sunday is "Go Topless" Day, with women (and men) gathering in U.S. cities to advance a woman's right to go shirtless, just like men.

"As long as men can be topless, constitutionally women should have the same right, or men should also be forced to wear something hiding their chest," Maitreya, Rael, "spiritual leader" and founder of Go Topless , the group behind Sunday's annual event, says on the group's website.

In case you are wondering:

• No, there is no PG version of Sunday's event.

• Women do wear nipple covers that look like actual nipples.

• They also wear little more than strategically placed stickers.

• And guys? Male supporters wear bras and bikinis.

The annual event is held on the Sunday nearest to Aug. 26, the date in 1920 when the U.S. Constitution was amended to grant women the right to vote. Also, Congress in 1970 declared Aug. 26 "Women's Equality Day."

Major cities taking part include: San Francisco; New York; Austin, Texas ; Los Angeles; Denver; Seattle; Miami, and Chicago .

Go Topless was founded by the Raelian Movement, which believes that life on Earth was created by advanced extraterrestrial scientists, states the group's website.

For supporters of the topless cause, a woman's breasts should not be treated any different than her legs, belly button or other body parts than can be exposed without hassle.

"It's a matter of fairness," Go Topless director Nadine Gary told AOL News . "We want equal topless rights for all or none."

Gary, a native of France, which tolerates topless women in public, wants the issue to become law, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

She said the goal is also to establish clarity in what's allowed. Gary noted that a woman arrested in New York for going topless in public was later awarded $29,000 for wrongful arrest.


Japanese Man Kept Dead Mother in a Backpack

BBC - The remains of a Japanese woman have been found in a backpack, in the latest gruesome discovery by investigators searching for missing old people.

The woman's son told police his mother died in 2001 but he had not been able to pay for a burial.

A similar discovery weeks ago sparked a search for people who are registered as being more than 100 years old.

According to Japanese media, the audit has so far identified 281 centenarians who are missing or have already died.

The inquiry followed the discovery last month of the mummified remains of a man registered as being 111 years old. He had died 30 years earlier.

Those unaccounted for include a 125-year-old woman whose registered address was turned into a park in 1981, according to media reports.

In the latest find, a 64-year-old man told officials that his mother had died at home in Tokyo in "about June 2001".

"Because I didn't have money for a funeral, I didn't report her death," the Sankei Shimbun newspaper quoted him as saying.

The AFP news agency reported that he told police: "I laid out her body for a while, washed it in the bath, then broke up the bones and put them into a backpack."

But the woman's pension continued to be paid and police are now investigating the son on suspicion of fraud.

There are more than 40,000 registered centenarians in Japan, according to government data, but the number of missing has raised concerns that the welfare system is being exploited by dishonest relatives.

Analysts say there is dismay in Japan that a rich, efficient society could have lost track of its senior citizens to such a degree.

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/21/2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seeking the Ghosts of Duffy's Cut

philadelphiaweekly - This past spring, the Chester County Paranormal Research Society asked for permission to investigate the valley at Duffy’s Cut. The Duffy’s Cut Project research team is deeply divided about the scientific validity of paranormal investigations—Frank Watson (along with John Ahtes, before his death) believes they are in conflict with his religious beliefs and status as a clergyman; Bill Watson remains agnostic about their validity; and Earl Schandelmeier prefers to keep an open mind about the known unknowns that lie beyond the purview of scientific fact—but after some debate they gave the go-ahead.

The CCPRS team brought with them an array of sophisticated ghost-busting equipment, including cameras equipped with motion sensors and night-vision capabilities, and several electromagnetic field meters. But the device that yielded the most startling results was something called a Frank’s Box, a device that scans the AM radio band and acts like a ouija board, purportedly enabling a two-way conversation between the living and the dead.

Duffy’s Cut Project team members Earl Schandelmeier and Robert Frank accompanied the investigators from CCPRS and both men agreed to ask questions out loud that only the 57 Irishmen could answer during sessions with the Frank’s Box. These attempts to communicate with the dead took place in three half-hour segments over the course of several hours. At first, there was not much response, but as the night wore on, things got interesting:

Question: Do you know Duffy?

Answer: Yeah, the devil.

Question: What about those homes up there?

Answer: Cursed.

Question: Are you with God?

Answer: No ... no ... abyss.

To listen to a short audio response, go to Duffy's Cut Project audio

Click for video

Statement from the 'Duffy's Cut Project':

In June, 1832, a group of 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry arrived in Philadelphia. They were brought to Chester County by a fellow Irishman named Philip Duffy as laborers for the construction of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, Pennsylvania’s pioneering railroad. Within six weeks, all were dead of cholera and possibly violence, and were buried anonymously in a ditch outside of Malvern.

The Duffy’s Cut Project is an ongoing archival and archaeological search into their lives and deaths and seeks to provide insight into early 19th Century attitudes about industry, immigration, and disease in Pennsylvania. With the help of the Chester County Emerald Society, we obtained an official State Historical Marker for the site in March, 2004, thereby putting Duffy’s Cut on the map of history. The marker was dedicated on June 18, 2004, and was placed by us at the intersection of King Rd. and Sugartown Rd. in Malvern.

Mass Murder Now Suspected of Irishmen at Duffy’s Cut

From August 2010 - irishcentral - The mystery of Duffy’s Cut, how 57 Irish immigrants died and were anonymously buried in the summer of 1832, could be coming to a close. Two new skulls unearthed show evidence of violence and possibly a bullet hole.

In the summer of 1832 a group of 57 Irish immigrants came to the area west of Philadelphia to work on the construction of the railway line. Within six weeks the men, mainly from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry, were all dead and anonymously buried in a mass grave outside the town of Malvern.

For some time it was thought that the mass grave was due to an outbreak of a dangerous disease such as cholera and this was simply a way of dealing with infection. However, the new evidence paints a different picture. While the two skulls found more recently show signs of violence and a bullet hole the previous skulls unearthed also showed trauma.

These grizzly finds confirm what the two leading historians on the archaeological dig feared. “This was much more than a cholera epidemic”, said William Watson.

Chairman of the history department at Immaculata University, William Watson and his twin brother, Frank, have been working on this archaeological mystery for almost a decade.

Since 2009 the Watson brothers have uncovered seven sets of remains. One of the victims has been identified, pending DNA tests.

For seven years before the brothers found nothing at the site and the hypothesized had been that the group of men had died of cholera. The disease was rampant at the time and the mortality rate was between 40 and 60 percent.

They theorized that some might have been killed by vigilantes due to the anti-Irish sentiment in the 19th century America, because of tensions between the poor transient workers and the affluent residents or an intense fear of cholera. It could have been a combination of all three.

Now that the Watson brothers have four skulls all with evidence of trauma they show that the men were struck in the head. Janet Monge, an anthropologist working on the site, says that at least one of the men was shot.

Monge said “I don't think we need to be so hesitant in coming to the conclusion now that violence was the cause of death and not cholera, although these men might have had cholera in addition."

“They do have indications on their skeletons that life was not a bowl of cherries,” said Monge who is the keeper of collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The bones show that the laborers were muscular despite having poor diets and their teeth show that they were not wealth enough to have afforded sugary sweets.

They also found coffin nails among the corpse’s bones which show that some of the bodies had received some kind of formal burial.

The Watsons discovered the mass grave through the personal papers of their late grandfather who had worked on the rails long after the 57 men were killed. The projects name comes from the name of the man who hired the group of Irish men, Philip Duffy, and the part of the railroad that the men were hired to build, the cut.

When the immigrants died, or were killed, in 1832, Duffy ordered the shantytown, where they had lived, to be burnt and their bodies buried in the railroad fill. The Watsons say the men’s families were never told of their deaths.

Four months before their deaths a passenger ship, the John Stamp, arrived from Ireland. The passenger list offers the possible identity of 15 workers from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry.

The Watsons believe that they have been able to identify 18-year-old John Ruddy as one of the bodies found. They compared his bone size to the ship’s manifest and also found a section of teeth with a rare genetic anomaly which they believe matched with an anomaly shared by some Ruddy family members in Ireland. The DNA results should be returned in six months.

The 47-year-old twins both have doctorates in history but have nothing more that introductory biology.

“It has been indeed a crash course…and it's been fascinating," said Frank.

Monge said "They're as professional a team as anyone I've seen out there on a site."

As well as being a way of documenting the early 19th century attitudes to industry, immigration and disease in Pennsylvania the brother’s ultimate goal is to find all of the men’s remains and property and inter them properly, either in the U.S. or Ireland.

We see this more as a recovery mission," William said. "Get them out of this ignominious burial place."

Click for video

Seeking the Ghosts of Duffy's Cut

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/20/2010

Giant Rats Invade West Yorkshire Housing Estate

Click for video

sky - Wildlife experts have said reports of a colony of giant rats need to be investigated after a huge rodent was shot dead on a West Yorkshire housing estate.

The culled super rat measured 30in (2.5ft) - making it as big as a bulldog - and twice the size of a normal rat.

Experts believe it could be a descendent of the coypu species, a large South American rodent not seen in Britain for two decades.

Brandon Goddard, 31, who shot the rat, said voluminous vermin have been invading homes on the Ravenscliffe estate in Bradford.

He saw four others of the same size as he fired on the group with an air rifle.

Mr Goddard told The Sun: "They were more like Ratzillas than rats.

"I got out of there as fast as I could. Who knows how many there will be if they've been breeding?"

Brandon, a manager at a cleaning firm, said: "The first went right past, but we got the second one. Then three more got away.

"I've seen thousands of rats during the course of my work and go shooting a couple of times a week. But I've never seen any as big as this.

"The one I shot was absolutely terrifying. I was shaking. Goodness knows where the others went. I'm glad I don't live there."

People living on the Ravenscliffe estate said large rats often invade their homes and council officials have been called out to eradicate the problem.

Thanks to Anthony for the heads up!


UFO-Believing Group in Cairngorms Pilgrimage

stv - A UFO-based religious sect are preparing for a pilgrimage to a Cairngorms peak in a bid to meet some higher beings.

Members of the Aetherius Society will trek to Creag-an-Leth-Chain this month to visit one of their "shrines". They believe the mountain is charged with spiritual energy by a "Lord of Karma".

The disciples of the sect, founded in 1955 by former London cabbie Dr George King, will then take their new found energy on the next stage of their pilgrimage - to Ben Macdhui.

At the peak they believe they will come face to face with members of "The Spiritual Hierarchy of Earth - once human beings who have cheated death by reaching a higher state of being.

Dr King founded the group in 1955 after he claimed to have been visited by aliens from Venus and Mars. He then relayed this energy to 19 mountains of religious significance around the world, including Creag-an-Leth-Chain.

David Trimble, 71, will be leading the exhibition on August 28 and has welcomed any followers from the local community to join them when they pray for the end of global warming and world peace.

He said: ""When we get up to the top we will be using a service called the 12 blessings.
It is an extension of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount which the cosmic beings delivered through Dr King's voicebox as he was in a higher yogic trance.

"We use this process and when we are on top of Creag-an-Leth-Chain we are able to tap into an incredible amount of energy."

Mr Trimble then hopes the ascend to the next peak will be repaid with a meeting with the higher beings.

He said: "They are people who have gone through a process of ascension and they have decided to stay on Earth to help out the human race."

Mr Trimble also revealed his interest in UFOs and extra terrestrials came from his childhood when his parents revealed their own experiences.

He added: "My father was on a shoot and saw some UFOs flying over the front line of the shooting party. My wife's mother had a similar experience when she was in the Bahamas and a craft came down to her eye level and she saw a smiling face in a window of the UFO."


Missing Vulture Could Pose Threat In Scottish Skies

BBC - Warnings have been issued to Scottish aircraft after a bird of prey, which can soar at up to 37,000 feet, went missing.

The Rueppell's Griffon Vulture was flying in a display in Cumbernauld when it was caught in a gust of wind.

Its handlers at the World of Wings centre could only watch as their star attraction soared high in to the sky.

It is feared the seven-year-old female, named Gandalf, could pose a threat to aircraft.

David Ritchie, director of the centre, said: "These birds can soar higher than any other in the world, and have recorded heights of over 36,000 feet.

"Gandalf is an absolute monster bird with a 10-and-a-half foot wingspan. She poses a genuine threat to airplanes."

The bird has been the star at the centre since 2006, when she was brought from Africa as part of a breeding programme.

World of Wings specialises in promoting the plight of vultures, which are becoming increasingly endangered.

Rueppell's Griffon Vultures are native throughout the Sahel region of central Africa but the current population of 30,000 is in decline due to ongoing loss of habitat and other pressures.

Along with other birds, Gandalf is let loose to fly every day for members of the public, to show the birds "in their full glory".
Airport alert

Mr Ritchie also said: "She was taking part in her daily display and started to soar. She got caught in the wind and just went higher and higher until she disappeared.

"We would warn people not to approach her but to call the police. She has no fear of humans and she could give someone a very severe bite. Her beak is designed to tear flesh apart."

Scottish airports, the police, the Scottish SPCA, Edinburgh Zoo and Blair Drummond safari park have all been informed.

National Air Traffic Services confirmed that pilots taking off and landing at Scottish airports have been warned about the vulture.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority said: "It can be quite serious. All the operators in the area have been notified."

A spokesman at Cumbernauld Airport said: "With a wingspan of 10ft, it could do a lot of damage to a large aircraft. But it's also half the size of some of our small training aircraft and it could take one of them, or even a helicopter, right out."


Saudi Arabian Judge Asks Hospitals To Paralyze Man

guardian - A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals whether they would punitively damage a man's spinal cord after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver and paralysing him, local newspapers reported today.

Saudi Arabia enforces strict sharia law and occasionally metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an eye for an eye.

Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was left paralysed after a fight more than two years ago, and asked a judge to impose an equivalent punishment on his attacker under sharia law, reports said.

The newspaper Okaz said the judge in northwestern Tabuk province, identified as Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef, asked at least two hospitals for a medical opinion on whether surgeons could render the attacker's spinal cord nonfunctional.

The attacker, who was not identified, has spent seven months in jail. The reports cited the letter of response from one of the hospitals and the victim.

Two of the hospitals involved and the court were closed for the Saudi weekend beginning today and could not be reached for comment.

Okaz reported that a leading hospital in Riyadh – King Faisal specialist hospital – said that it would not do the operation. The article quoted a letter from the hospital saying "inflicting such harm is not possible", apparently refusing on ethical grounds.

The story was also reported by Saudi English-language paper Arab News, though neither paper carried any response from a second hospital that reportedly received the request, King Khaled hospital in Tabuk province.

Sharia law in Saudi Arabia allows defendants to ask for a similar punishment to harms inflicted on them. Cutting off the hands of thieves, for example, is common.

Under the law, the victim can receive blood money to settle the case.

Human rights group say trials in Saudi Arabia fall far below international standards. They usually take place behind closed doors and without adequate legal representation.

Those who are sentenced to death are often not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them, or of the date of execution until the morning on which they are taken out and beheaded.

The headless body can then be crucified in a public place as a way to set an example, according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology, including unauthorised clerics issuing odd religious decrees.

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/20/2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Mexico 'Furry Ones', 'Skin-Walkers' and 'Shadow Man'

J.C. Johnson at Crypto Four Corners has been busy documenting hominids, legendary Skin-Walkers and a 'Shadow Man' at a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Below are a few of his videos:

Click for video
Our witness describes a Shadow Figure that has been around since she was five years old. Captured in night time video, is what we believe to be a "Shadow Man"

Click for video Our investigation at a farm where a family has had many encounters with the "Furry Ones" Click for video We interview a woman who witnessed a small hairy homonid on a country road. Nick Redfern posted an interesting write-up in reference to the Navajo Skin-Walkers in February 2009 and Johnson's research into the phenomenon. New Mexico 'Furry Ones', 'Skin-Walkers' and 'Shadow Man'

Legendary Humanoids: Ebu Gogo, The Flores Island Hobbit

Some mythical creatures have their origin in tradition and tales from the distant past. However, each culture is associated with a multitude of interesting and odd creatures, many of these beings are humanoids. One of these legendary humanoids is the Ebu Gogo.

Ebu Gogo are a group of human-like creatures that appear in the mythology of the people of the island of Flores, Indonesia. In the Nage language of central Flores, ebu means 'grandmother' and gogo means 'he who eats anything'.

The Ebu Gogo are described as small, nasty people with a voracious appetite that sometimes included the devouring of the occasional human baby. Ebu Gogo have hair covered bodies, longish arms, big bellies and protruding ears. They were said to walk awkwardly and could be heard murmuring in their own language and were said to be capable of mimicking human speech. When they could tolerate the Ebu Gogo no more the Flores islanders drove the small people in the direction of the caves, perhaps near Liang Bau or perhaps they burned the survivors alive. In any case, these stories were probably told to keep truculent Flores children in line in much the same fashion as some western fairy tales are told.

Indonesian culture just like any other has folklore about ghosts, little people and mysterious beings. Word of mouth folktales are handed down from generation to generation. Indonesian village people would talk of an ape-like creature that walks like a man.

Some scientists believe that the Ebu Gogo folklore maybe a shared cultural memory of Homo floresiensis but there is no solid evidence to support that theory. However, legends have the Ebu Gogo disappearing about 400 years ago at the time of the arrival of the Dutch and Portuguese explorers. Scientists working on the Homo floresiensis find have also referred to the Ebu Gogo as 'Hobbits'.

From October 2004 - telegraph - Richard Roberts, discoverer of the 'Hobbit', 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 they called Ebu Gogo - Ebu meaning grandmother and Gogo meaning 'he who eats anything'. The tales contained the most fabulous details - so detailed that you'd imagine there had to 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.

They [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.

Poor LBJ must be the butt of jokes in Flores, rather like the Irish and Tasmanians.

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.

Click for video

From December 2004 - smh - Chief Epiradus Dhoi Lewa has a strange tale to tell. Sitting in his bamboo and wooden home at the foot of an active volcano on the remote Indonesian island of Flores, he recalls how people from his village were able to capture a tiny woman with long, pendulous breasts three weeks ago.

"They said she was very little and very pretty," he says, holding his hand at waist height. "Some people saw her very close up."

The villagers of Boawae believe the strange woman came down from a cave on the steaming mountain where short, hairy people they call Ebu Gogo lived long ago.

"Maybe some Ebu Gogo are still there," the 70-year-old chief told the Herald through an interpreter in Boawae last week.

The locals' descriptions of Ebu Gogo as about a metre tall, with pot bellies and long arms match the features of a new species of human "hobbits" whose bones were recently unearthed by Australian and Indonesian researchers in a different part of Flores in a cave known as Liang Bua.

The unexpected discovery of this tiny Homo floresiensis, who existed until at least 12,000 years ago at Liang Bua, before being apparently wiped out by a volcanic eruption, was hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds in decades when it was announced in October.

The chief adds that the mysterious little woman in Boawae somehow "escaped" her captors, and the local police said they knew nothing of her existence when he quizzed them.

The prospect that some hobbits still exist in pockets of thick, fertile jungle on Flores is extremely unlikely, says Douglas Hobbs, a member of the team that discovered Homo floresiensis. But it is possible they survived near Boawae until 300 or so years ago, when the chief's ancestors moved into the area, he says.

The detailed stories that the villagers tell about the legendary Ebu Gogo on the volcano have convinced the Australian and Indonesian team to search for bones of hobbits in this cave when they return to the rugged island next year, says Hobbs, an emeritus archaeologist with the University of New England, who discussed excavation plans with the chief last week.

Getting to the cave on the 2100-metre-high Ebulobo volcano, however, will be no simple matter for the team led by Professor Mike Morwood of UNE. The blood of a pig must first be spilt in this society where Catholic faith is melded with animist beliefs and ancestor worship.

The sacrifice and the feast will please the ancestors and bring many villagers together to talk about the cave, says the chief, whose picture of his grandfather, the king, in traditional head-dress, sits framed on the wall next to images of Jesus.

If the right rituals are followed, "then we will be able to find the road to the hole again", he says.

A Dutch palaeontologist, Dr Gert van den Bergh, a member of the team, was first shown the cave at a distance more than a decade ago, after hearing folk tales of the Ebu Gogo, which means "grandmother who eats everything".

People living around the volcano told him a consistent story of the hairy creatures that devoured whatever they could grasp in their long fingers. The villagers tolerated the stealing of food until the Ebu Gogo began to snatch babies and eat them too. They then set upon the little people, forcing them out of the cave with bales of burning grass.

Van den Bergh dismissed the tales as akin to those of leprechauns and elves, until the hobbit bones were found.

While the search for more bones is being planned, a political furore has broken out after a leading Indonesian palaeoanthropologist - with no connection to the find - last week "borrowed" all the delicate remains from six hobbits found at Liang Bua against the wishes of local and Australian team members. Professor Teuku Jacob, of Gadjah Mada University, who has challenged the view that Homo floresiensis is a new species, had previously taken the skull and bones of the most complete specimen, a 30-year-old female hobbit, from the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta, where they had been kept.

Professor Morwood said it was wrong that the team who found the remains were unable to analyse them first. "It is not good for the Indonesian researchers nor their institution."

However, he said Professor Jacob had signed an agreement to return all the bones by January 1.

Legendary Humanoids: Ebu Gogo, The Flores Island Hobbit

Seal 'Corkscrew' Deaths Mystery Continues (Graphic)

thesun - Researchers are trying to discover why dozens of mutilated seals are washing up on British beaches with their skin horrifically ripped off.

All the seals suffer the same wound — a single deep cut from head to stomach — but the top scientists can't work out what's behind the damage.

Science sleuths have been hunting for the 'murder weapon' since the first seals started dying last year, but they are still clueless. Now they are appealing to Sun readers to see if you can solve the mystery.

Horrified scientists have found around 60 carcasses so far. Most of the seals were spotted off the Norfolk coast, but ten more have been discovered at St Andrew's on the east coast of Scotland.

The cut goes all the way around the seals' bodies from head to stomach like a CORKSCREW.

Professors have so far eliminated sharks, tidal power generators and ordinary boat propellers from the list of suspects — but they have no idea what else could have caused the injuries.

The search is now on for a mystery vessel that could have inflicted the mechanical wounds.

Top mammal scientist Callan Duck told The Sun: "It's a very clean cut - it looks like one single cut. If you're cutting a loaf of bread, there's a sawing action and you leave jagged edges, but there are none of those, so it looks like one continuous movement.

"The skin has been ripped clean off the seals' jaws. It would take hours to do that with a scalpel yourself."

The clever animals have learnt to avoid swimming too close to ships, leaving Mr Duck's team puzzled that they seem to have swum into the blade HEAD FIRST.

He added: "Seals are pretty savvy creatures and they won't approach an obvious threat, but very suddenly they're being dragged head first into a rotating blade."

The Scottish killings have already hit ten per cent of the breeding population of seals — and scientists are worried that the species could soon be wiped out entirely.

The seal team at St Andrew's University has already asked the RSPCA, the National Trust and even the Scottish Government to solve the mystery — with no luck.

The baffled experts are now hoping Sun readers can piece together the puzzle for them.

Mr Duck said: "It's a good mystery. We do believe it's solvable. Once we find out where, we can move on to why and what.

"We'd like to encourage members of the public to call in and make suggestions."

Experts are also keen for any snaps of the dead seals. Mr Duck added: "They can be smelly but please take a picture."


Sharks Ruled Out In Mystery 'Corkscrew' Deaths Of Seals

stv - Sharks were ruled out as the killer of dozens of seals found in and around Scotland with unexplained "corkscrew" injuries.

Around 50 carcasses of both common and grey seals have been washed up in the past three years with a single, smooth-edged cut starting at the head and spiralling around the body.

The injuries were not consistent with any known to be potentially caused by fishing nets of boat propellers leaving marine experts still baffled by their mystery deaths.

In the past three years, 38 seals on the Norfolk and North Lincolnshire coast and a further 12 around the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth have been found with the deep, deadly wound.

The issue was publicised at the weekend and since then Callan Duck, of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University, has been following up possible leads raised by members of the public.

One theory was that a species of shark not usually seen around Britain could be the culprit.

But Mr Duck said he had now heard from experts at the International Union for Conservation of Nature who have ruled out sharks.

He believed the cause was mechanical, but remained baffled by the nature of the machine which killed the mammals.

"We have had a lot of suggestions from a lot of different people for which we are really grateful and we would like them to keep coming," he said.

"We are biologists, we are not forensic scientists. It's all under water, out of sight, so how do we find out what's happening? We are pretty flummoxed."

Mr Duck, a senior research scientist, said that once the cause has been determined, tests would be carried out in labs on dummies to see if the problem could be avoided.

As it is, the corkscrew cuts are having a serious effect on the tiny Firth of Tay colony, with around 10% of breeding females being killed by the mystery.

Seals, though inquisitive when they are young, have a canny sense of danger, Mr Duck said, so the way they were dying was even more puzzling.

"Almost all the injuries we have seen have started on or close to the head. The seals must be attracted to whatever it is that proves fatal to them.

"Seals are very canny and know what's bad for them. They don't go near things that are questionable or could be dangerous and they are very aware of propellers.

"Why are seals going to something that could kill them, perhaps sucking them in and leaving them unable to get away?"

NOTE: I read the following today: The cuts on the seal are spiral in nature as if it has passed through the center of cutting blades? There is a system under design that is called a "Rim Driven Propulsor" and the word "propulsor" is correct not a "propeller" before pedantic souls start trying to correct me. If you can imagine a rim like a wheel with the blades pointing inwards and a hollow space in the center no hub, this design is possibly more efficient with less cavitation effect on the blades e.g. less noise. I would think it feasible for certain navy's to be testing this system on submarines or surface vessels hence no one owning up to the mysterious seal deaths please see the following link for an article about "Rim Driven Propulsors".

I made a few inquiries and was told that these systems are used on some newer yachts. As well, the U.S. and Russian Navies have been testing this design for a few years...Lon

Seal 'Corkscrew' Deaths Mystery Continues (Graphic)

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/19/2010

Fungus Turns Ants Into Zombies

guardian - The oldest evidence of a fungus that turns ants into zombies and makes them stagger to their death has been uncovered by scientists.

The gruesome hallmark of the fungus's handiwork was found on the leaves of plants that grew in Messel, near Darmstadt in Germany, 48m years ago.

The finding shows that parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control the creatures they infect in the distant past, even before the rise of the Himalayas.

The fungus, which is alive and well in forests today, latches on to carpenter ants as they cross the forest floor before returning to their nests high in the canopy.

The fungus grows inside the ants and releases chemicals that affect their behaviour. Some ants leave the colony and wander off to find fresh leaves on their own, while others fall from their tree-top havens on to leaves nearer the ground.

The final stage of the parasitic death sentence is the most macabre. In their last hours, infected ants move towards the underside of the leaf they are on and lock their mandibles in a "death grip" around the central vein, immobilising themselves and locking the fungus in position.

"This can happen en masse. You can find whole graveyards with 20 or 30 ants in a square metre. Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein before dying," said David Hughes at Harvard University.

The fungus cannot grow high up in the canopy or on the forest floor, but infected ants often die on leaves midway between the two, where the humidity and temperature suit the fungus. Once an ant has died, the fungus sprouts from its head and produces a pod of spores, which are fired at night on to the forest floor, where they can infect other ants.

Scientists led by Hughes noticed that ants infected with the fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, bit into leaves with so much force they left a lasting mark. The holes created by their mandibles either side of the leaf vein are bordered by scar tissue, producing an unmistakable dumb-bell shape.

Writing in the journal, Biology Letters, the team describes how they trawled a database of images that document leaf damage by insects, fungi and other organisms. They found one image of a 48m-year-old leaf from the Messel pit that showed the distinctive "death grip" markings of an infected ant. At the time, the Messel area was thick with subtropical forests.

"We now present it as the first example of behavioural manipulation and probably the only one which can be found. In most cases, this kind of control is spectacular but ephemeral and doesn't leave any permanent trace," Hughes said.

"The question now is, what are the triggers that push a parasite not just to kill its host, but to take over its brain and muscles and then kill it."

He added: "Of all the parasitic organisms, only a few have evolved this trick of manipulating their host's behaviour.

Why go to the bother? Why are there not more of them?"

Scientists are not clear how the fungus controls the ants it infects, but know that the parasite releases alkaloid chemicals into the insect as it consumes it from the inside.

Click for video


Manipogo Provincial Park Named After Local Lake Monster

winnipegfreepress - Lake Manitoba teems with fish. Anglers can pull out large numbers of Walleye, Northern Pike, and Yellow Perch. One species of marine life that no one has managed to catch is the elusive Lake Manitoba monster – Manipogo.

Like the Loch Ness Monster, in Scotland, and Ogopogo, in Lake Okanagan, B.C., Manipogo is a large, serpent-like creature that some have claimed to have seen swimming in Lake Manitoba. Sightings have occurred throughout the last century, mainly in the Toutes Aides area, north of Ste. Rose du Lac.

Eyewitnesses have claimed the monster to be anywhere between 12 and 45 feet in length. Some have said it looked like it had the head of a horse, some say the head of a sheep.

With the majority of sightings happening around Toutes Aides, the Manitoba government decided to name the area’s provincial park after the mythical beast.

Manipogo Provincial Park is roughly 330 kilometres north-west of Winnipeg and 55 kilometres north of Ste. Rose du Lac, on Provincial Road 276. The park sits on the far north-western shore of Lake Manitoba, close to where the lake almost meets Lake Winnipegosis.

The park has a full service campground, a small convenience store, and a long strip of beach. Unfortunately, with rain coming down in sheets when we were there, we didn’t get to enjoy any of the amenities of the park. The weather seemed to have scared everyone else off as well, as the park was largely deserted.

I can’t blame them: The wind was howling off the lake at gale-force strength.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t spot Manipogo while staring out from the beach, but there have been roughly a dozen documented sightings of the lake monster since the late 1950s. Of course, like the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, and Sasquatch, no one has been able to conclusively capture Manipogo on film.

The two most intriguing sightings occurred in 1962 and 1997. The first sighting was during a fishing trip. Dick Vincent of KCND Television (later CKND, now Global) and his television colleague, John Konefell, spotted a serpent-like creature and chased after it in their boat.

They were unable track down the mysterious animal, but were able to take a blurred photograph. The photograph showed a large, dark object rising two feet out of the water. In subsequent years, Vincent denied that it was Manipogo, claiming he wasn’t sure what it was.

The 1997 sighting attracted national media attention. The Globe and Mail reported, on June 12 of that year, "People in communities around Lake Manitoba are buzzing about a 15-metre snake-like creature, with a head like a horse, that was supposedly shot and spirited away under cover of darkness recently."

The story goes something like this: A man from the Sandy Bay First Nation, north of Portage La Prairie, had claimed to come across Manipogo, while harvesting hay from his lakeshore property. He said that he grabbed a rifle, shot and killed the creature, and then dragged it to a nearby barn. The RCMP was called and they loaded Manipogo on to a flatbed truck, covered it with a tarp, and drove off towards Winnipeg.

The story quickly unravelled though, when the RCMP denied any knowledge of the incident. Stories told by alledged witnesses contradicted each other and some denied the killing occurred. In the end, the story was deemed a hoax, the result of stories told at a party that were spread around the community. This event was the last supposed sighting of Manipogo.

We left Manipogo, travelling next to Margaret Bruce Provincial Park, located on the west shore of Lake Manitoba, 140 kilometres south of Manipogo Provincial Park. Interestingly, the mysterious lake creature has never been spotted in this area. The park includes a privately operated campground and beach. Again, the driving rain prevented us from fully checking out the area.

The final provincial park we visited on this trip was Rainbow Beach Provincial Park, located on the south shore of Dauphin Lake. This campground and beach is adjacent to Highway 20, roughly 18 kilometres east of Dauphin. The beach looked like it would be a nice place to relax on a sunny afternoon, but with the wind driving the rain off the lake, it was a desolate place when we visited.

This was the first weekend journey that was completely rained out. With the weather looking a lot better for next weekend (if one can trust the forecast), we’re going to make our way west to Duck Mountain and that area’s provincial parks.

Click for video


BC Pot Farm Guarded By Black Bears

calgarysun - Smokey the bear is guarding more than old-growth forests.

Mounties in B.C. were stunned to discover a platoon of bruins standing sentinel on a huge garden of illicit smoke in sight of southeastern B.C.’s Christina Lake.

After acting on a tip reporting an outdoor marijuana grow-op, RCMP officers descended on the remote site, about 700 km southwest of Calgary, only to be greeted by up to 14 black bears that Sgt. Fred Mansveld is convinced were there to ward off pot bandits.

“They wanted to intimidate people — we do experience rip-offs around there,” said an astonished Mansveld of the Nelson RCMP.

“In 30 years working in these mountains, I’ve seen a lot of bears but I’ve never seen that ... there were big bears, little bears, groups of bears.

“It just goes to show you what length people will go in this business to secure their operation.”

The bruins, he said, were extremely friendly and accustomed to surroundings made more comfortable by a steady diet of dog food.

“The bears weren’t aggressive to the police officers who worked very close to them,” he said.

One of the animals even climbed atop an RCMP cruiser to get a better view of the bust, said Mansveld.

The Mountie didn’t rule out marijuana being fed to the hairy sentinels found around a field of 1,000-1,200 pot plants.

“Maybe they mixed some pot into the food — it’s possible it’s why they were so laid-back...they were just lolligagging around,” he said, adding the bears had made friends with a racoon and pot bellied pig also found on the property.

But Mansveld said the plight of the bears is no laughing matter, given their habituation to being fed by humans.

They’ve now been trapped by B.C. conservation officials who’ll decide what to do with them.

“The ultimate fate of these bears is that they might have to be destroyed,” he said.

“If you’re really an animal-lover, you don’t kill the animal with kindness.”

Police say it appears the bears have been a fixture at the wooded farm for some time.

It’s an extreme example, said Mansveld, of an underground industry with deep, widespread roots in the area.

“It doesn’t do the area any good — we want to be on the map for the lake, hiking, golfing and fishing,” he said.

A man and woman present when police arrived are facing charges related marijuana cultivation.

There’s no word if they’ll also be facing animal abuse charges.


Cryptid Cat Roaming Harrison County, Kentucky

kentucky - A Harrison County restaurant owner said she's heard people describe the mysterious creature as everything from "a lion to a cougar."

Others think it might be a bobcat.

A Kentucky Tech teacher who lives in Harrison County said her students refer to the movie Napoleon Dynamite, in which the title character sketches his favorite animal: a "liger," which might have magical powers.

Harrison County residents think this creature, spotted on a surveillance camera, killed a large dog last month.

The teacher, Tina Swinford, said she doesn't know what's prowling around Tim Humphries' home about five miles west of Cynthiana. Like many others in the area, she's seen the pictures in the local newspaper and on television. Her conclusion: "I don't think it's a kitty cat."

Humphries, who lives on Ky. 32 West, said something attacked his dog twice, July 13 and July 26. The dog, a full-blooded, 85-pound collie named Apollo, died nine days after the second attack.

Humphries said Apollo never left his yard and an area behind his barn. Humphries said he saw a large animal on July 31, about a week after the second attack, as he waited with a rifle. But the animal was spooked after a dog howled.

Humphries said the large cat's body resembles a lion, although its head does not. He said he thinks the animal might be some type of "hybrid."

"I know it's still out there," Humphries said. "Some child is going to get attacked and killed."

But law enforcement officials have declared that the animal, caught on video and in still pictures, is a domestic cat.

"We've been confident of that for about a week," Harrison County Sheriff's Detective Paul Olin said.

Olin said a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources expert looked at the photos and agreed that the animal in question was a domestic cat. The fish and wildlife official could not be reached for comment.

Humphries' story has found its way into restaurants and cafes across Harrison County and traveled across county lines. For about a week, Olin said, the sheriff's office received two or three calls an hour about the animal, and people were invited into the office to view the pictures themselves.

Olin said 95 percent of the people who saw the pictures "had the same conclusion we did."

If that's the case, Mary Todd, owner of Biancke's restaurant, might count herself in the minority.

"I just don't think a regular cat can do something like that to a dog," Todd said.

Todd said a lot of diners have laughed about the mysterious animal. But others, especially those who live near Humphries, are concerned.

Swinford said she wasn't worried about the cat, but she would be anxious about her children's safety if she lived in the area.

"I would not want them out," Swinford said.

The sheriff's office does not plan to pursue the cat anymore, but Humphries said he will search every day until he finds and kills the animal that attacked Apollo.

"They don't want to alarm the public," Humphries said of police and fish and wildlife officials. "But I want to alert the public."



Most young Americans entering university this year can't write in cursive, think email is too slow, that Beethoven's a dog and Michelangelo a computer virus, according to an annual list compiled by two academics at a US college.

To students who will get their bachelor's degrees in 2014, Czechoslovakia has never existed, Fergie is a pop singer, not a duchess; Clint Eastwood is a sensitive movie director, not Dirty Harry; and John McEnroe stars in TV ads, not on the tennis court, Beloit College's "Mindset" list says.

The Mindset list was first compiled in 1998, for the class of 2002, by Beloit humanities professor Tom McBride and former public affairs director Ron Nief.

It was intended as a reminder to faculty at the university that references quickly become dated, but quickly evolved to become a hugely popular annual list that gives a snapshot of how things have changed, and chronicles key cultural and political events that have shaped a generation.

In the first Mindset list, McBride and Nief found that youngsters born in 1980 had ever known only one pope - Polish-born John Paul II, who was elected to the papacy in 1978 and died in 2008.

For the class of 2003 -- born in 1981 and featured on the 1999 Mindset list -- Yugoslavia never existed and they were puzzled why Solidarity was sometimes spelled with a capital S.

Solidarity with a capital S was the first and only independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. It was created in 1980 and went on to negotiate in 1989 a peaceful end to communism in Poland, making the country the first to escape Moscow's grip.

Nief and McBride take a year to put the list together, gathering outside contributions and poring over journals, literary works, and the popular media from the year of the incoming university students' birth.

"Then we present the ideas to every 18-year-old whose attention we can get and we wait for the 'mindset moment' -- the blank stare that comes back at you that makes you realize they have no idea what you're talking about," Nief told AFP.

Those moments make it onto the list, alongside interesting historical snippets like the fact that since the class of 2004 was born in 1982, all but one national election in the United States has had a candidate in it named George Bush.

The list also chronicles geopolitical changes, and sometimes depressingly highlights how little progress has been made on key issues, such as the fight against AIDS.

The class of 2004, for instance, "never referred to Russia and China as 'the Reds'", and in the year they were born, 1982, "AIDS was found to have killed 164 people and finding a cure for the new disease was designated a 'top priority' for government-sponsored research."

The class of 2005 -- born in 1983 -- thought of Sarajevo as a war zone, not an Olympic host, and had no idea what carbon paper was.

Apartheid never existed in South Africa for the class of 2006, and for the class of 2007, "Banana Republic has always been a store, not a puppet government in Latin America."

The list is a mirror of how rapidly perceptions can change: to the class of 2013, boxer Mike Tyson was "always a felon" but to students who graduated five years earlier, Tyson was "always a contender."

The list makes some people feel old, like those who remember what Michael Jackson looked like when he was singing in the Jackson Five or recall the days when there were only a handful of channels on television.

But they're not the only ones who get the blues over the list.

"There are 25- and 26-year-olds that tell us they feel old when they read the list," Nief said.

"Just two years ago, there were some students who learned to type on a typewriter," but others in the graduating class of 2012 didn't know that IBM had ever made typewriters, said Nief.

Few students in the class of 2009 knew how to tie a tie and most thought Iran and Iraq had never been at war with each other.

And for US students who got their bachelor's degrees this year, Germany was never divided, professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics, there have always been reality shows on television and smoking has never been allowed on US airlines.

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/19/2010
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