17 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 17: Gloria Ramirez, the Toxic Lady

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday October 17, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

This photo has nothing to do with the story of Gloria RamirezTonight’s entry isn’t really paranormal or supernatural. It’s extremely fucking weird and a little on the terrifying side, but the fate of Gloria Ramirez, I’m sure, has a rational scientific explanation. What makes it so horrifying is that we still don’t know what that explanation was. It’s also about the most unusual emergency room story you’re likely to hear. This was such a weird tale, that it managed to find its way into an episode of the X-Files.

It’s 8:15pm on February 19th, 1994 and Gloria Ramirez is wheeled into the emergency room of Riverside Hospital of Riverside, California. She is suffering from the effects of advanced cervical cancer and is exhibiting signs of bradycardia (a heartrate of under 60 beats per minute, that’s less than a heartbeat a second) and cheyne-stokes respiration (characterized by deep, fast breaths that eventually slow to a stop like apnea). The ER staff administered sedatives and lidocaine to stimulate her heart but when she didn’t respond to any of this, they attempted to defibrilate her heart with the paddles and this is where shit gets hairy.

The staff noted that upon introducing electrical current, Ms. Ramirez’s skin took on a strange oily sheen and a scent described as garlic and fruit came from her mouth. One nurse tried to draw blood and noted the smell of ammonia coming from the tube. Once the blood was drawn, the vials were handed off to nurses who noted the presence of manilla colored particles floating in the captive blood. Promptly, hospital staff began to faint. Mind you, this is  not some kind of word of mouth anecdote full of nameless personalities like some of my others. I’m only leaving out the names because to the story and the word allotment, they’re just not necessary, but the case of Gloria Ramirez is, in fact, a widely documented case of an emergency room crisis gone horribly awry thanks to a menu of insane x-factors that science is at a loss to explain. The doctor in charge of the patient promptly complained of nausea and retreated from the staging area to the nurse’s station where she then passed out and then was followed into unconsciousness land by a respiratory therapist. After the staff began to drop like flies, the entire ER was evacuated to the parking lot whereupon a skeleton crew of nurses and doctors hung in, trying to stablize Ms. Ramirez. However, at 8:50pm, a mere 35 minutes past her admission to the ER, Gloria Ramirez was pronounced dead of kidney failure.

Spooky? Totally. Science is at a loss to explain what had happened and some of the theories presented involved medication mixups, but the most commonly accepted but still extremely vague conclusion was that Ms. Ramirez had been treating her pain with a substance called DMSO, which was a solvent that made it easy for substances to pass through the skin and into the bloodstream easily. Tricksters during the 60′s activist movement used to dose police car door handles with DMSO and LSD for high-larious results. Because it’s technically, though remotely, possible, it’s believed that the DMSO underwent a chemical reaction that turned it into dimethyl sulfate in her bloodstream. In the air, this is a poisonous gas and this excuse is used to suggest that puncturing her veins for blood samples released it into the air, causing the hospital staff to lose their collective shit. But medical professionals and forensic investigators don’t really buy it. There’s also the matter of the long lasting medical issues of Dr. Gorchynski, the second ER staffer to faint. She spent two weeks in the Riverside Intensive Care Unit with severe respiratory issues, a newly contracted case of hepatitis and and avascular necrosis (cell death in bones) in her knees. Gloria’s body, kept for two months for investigative purposes, when finally buried, had shown signs of extreme decomposition uncharacteristic of an 8 week old corpse. According to an independent forensic investigator, a proper post-mortem could not be conducted as many of Gloria’s organs had been removed and the interior of her torso had been contaminated with fecal matter. A lot of conclusions could be drawn about this woman’s fate and the people who didn’t want her actual cause of death discovered.

16 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 16: Spring Heeled Jack

Posted by Bryan White | Saturday October 16, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Spring Heeled Jack, The Terror of LondonSuperstition is a really cool thing to me. A lot of people regard superstition as a flaw of our species. I happen to think that it’s awesome. It tends to create, spread and perpetuate some of mankind’s greatest mythologies and that sort of thing is important. Though, I have an appreciation for the big mythologies of the world, I love the sort of shit that spawns in much smaller communities. It tends to be weirder. It begins as a single kernel of truth and then flowers into something really fucking bizarre. Case in point: Spring Heeled Jack.

It began in 1837, London. A businessman in town returns home late from work and is stunned when suddenly a man leaps over a high cemetery fence with ease. His description of the man is frightening. He’s huge with devilish features, pointed ears and nose and a pair of eyes that glowed like coals. Later, a servant girl walking to work is attacked by a fiendish man who immobilizes her with his arms, alone, and attempts to rape her. She described his touch as freezing, his hands clammy, as though the flesh were dead. Her screaming caused her attacker to break off and leap away, high in the air.

Later, a pair of teenage girls reported a similar attack. Jack arrives on Jane Alsop’s doorstep in February of 1838 claiming to be a police officer. He says that they have captured Spring Heeled Jack and need a light. When she returns with a candle, the officer  throws off his cloak to reveal the same fiendish appearance described by others. Only this time, Jack belches a plume of blue and white flame. He seems to be wearing some kind of helmet and his hands are descibed as claws; sharp fingertips made of some kind of metal. He used these to shred her clothing and after she manages to escape, he runs her down and tears her neck and arms. 8 days later, Lucy Scales reported walking with her sister behind a man in a cloak. When he stopped and they kept walking to pass, he suddenly turns on them and breathes the same sort of  blue fire into their faces.

Spring Heeled JackIt took no time for the legend of Spring Heeled Jack to spread. He became the subject of plays around the city at the time and was typically the villain in the popular penny dreadfuls sold around England. Sightings of Jack, a London phenomenon, spread to Liverpool, Aldershot and Lincolnshire, popping out of nowhere and either attempting to or successfully raping women and simply slapping dudes in the face. The disparity there is a little weird. Jack was said to have attacked British soldiers by walking up to their barracks and slapping the guards in the face. The guards naturally fired on Jack but the shots were said to have done nothing.

Mostly, Jack attacks were acts of terror with harm being a minor quality of the crime and shortly after the initial sightings, Jack disappeared from the public consciousness. It wasn’t until 1845 when he suddenly reappeared throughout the London slums when he was witnessed terrorizing a prostitute there. He was seen burning her face with his flame breath before effortlessly lifting her over his head and throwing her into the open sewer below where she drowned in London’s collective filth.

These strange attacks continued throughout the 19th century until the legend died a slow, unceremonious death in 1904 when the last sighting of Jack was reported. During this time in London, actual criminals took to the streets dressed as Jack, wearing outrageous tight fitting clothes to mimic his appearance while they ran wild committing burglaries and murders. Jack became the ultimate icon of mass hysteria throughout the world. London was petrified. Of course, no Jack was ever captured that matched the real descriptions and none of the imposters could jump like he could. Back then, rational authorities blamed Jack on young aristocracy playing tricks on the peasants and commoners while the not-so-rational claimed that if he wasn’t the devil, himself, he was at least some kind of demon, let loose on the Earth by occultists. Others believed him to be some sort of malicious fairy-being, here to simply raise hell because that’s usually what malicious fairy-beings do. These days, wacky theorists claim that Jack was some kind of alien whose biology supported glowing eyes and a high gravity environment made it so that he could leap around in our atmosphere like it was nothing.

No Spring Heeled Jack was ever caught and he falls into the Fortean category of ‘Phantom Attackers’ like The  Mad Gasser of Matoon or the Phantom Clown attacks of 1981.

15 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 15: The Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Posted by Bryan White | Friday October 15, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

MothmanI’m a lover of the paranormal and a conspiracy enthusiast (note the distinction from theorist) but cryptids don’t really do anything for me. I can suspend my disbelief for this sort of thing for only so long before rational thought comes barging in.  It’s so easy to dismiss cryptids, too. For a species to persist, it requires the presence of a breeding population. When an animal dies, it leaves behind remains. No remains of Bigfoot have ever been found or verified to be real and a breeding population in any area of the world would make it so that someone would eventually find one or the remains of one but it never happens. Maybe this sort of logic doesn’t apply to the ocean since there’s a shit ton of ocean that is unexplored so it’s entirely conceivable that Bloop could have been produced by some massive undersea creature. Or Cthulhu. Mothman is different, though. Technically, it’s the story of a cryptid, but the Mothman’s presence oftens means something. It’s a bad omen, usually.

John Keel, one of America’s most important figures in Forteana popularized the idea of a West Virginia legend that began in 1966. To this point, Keel was a leader in the field of UFOlogy but the Mothman marked a departure. The legend wove in elements of strange UFO culture but it mostly stuck to cryptid territory. The legend, immortalized on a plaque in Point Pleasant, West Virginia goes something like this:

On a chilly, fall night in November 1966, two young couples drove into the TNT area of North Point Pleasant, West Virginia when they realized they were not alone.

What they saw that night has evolved into one of the great mysteries of all time; hence the Mothman Legacy began. It has grown into a phenomenon known all over the world by millions of curious people asking questions. What really happened? What did those people see? Has it been seen since?

It still sparks the world’s curiosity – the mystery behind Point Pleasant, West Virginia’s MOTHMAN.

Mothman was first sighted by couples, The Scarberrys and the Mallettes while out late near an old World War 2 TNT factory. At first they only saw two red lights near a generator as they passed but after stopping the car to get a better look, the lights turned out to be the eyes of a huge humanoid creature, nearly 7 feet tall with wings folded against its back. They hit the gas and took off and the Mothman took off after them, keeping up as their car approached 100 miles per hour. According to Keel’s research on the topic, the victims of the Mothman’s attack turned up at the town courthouse raving about this animal that they had seen and Deputy Millard Halstead took them seriously having known these people for a long time and vouching for their otherwise rational behavior. They sounded terrified and in later research, The Scarberrys intimated that later that the Mothman had turned up at their home that night to terrorize them while poltergeist activity ran wild in the house. The following night, the creature was seen again out by the same TNT factory. This time it followed another couple home and watched them through their windows. Following that, the creature was seen again on the next night in the same place. Sightings were common troughout Point Pleasant up until 1967 when the Silver Bridge, connecting Point Pleasant to Ohio collapsed, taking 46 lives with it. Just prior to its collapse, the Mothman was seen hovering over the bridge and because of this, gained the reputation of a harbinger of death. Following this sighting, however, the Moth Man disappeared from the public consciousness and no further sightings were reported. To this day, the Moth Man remains an important part of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. They have an annual festival dedicate to the creature’s memory.

John Keel, whose book The Mothman Prophecies documents these events, goes seriously deep behind X-Files lines and expands the mythology as witnesses to the Mothman’s presence suddenly took on spectacular abilities, such as precognition, or found themselves visited in the night by Men In Black, warning them not to tell anyone of their encounter. Several witnesses to the Mothman describe surreal and sometimes terrifying encounters with a being known throughout Forteana as The Grinning Man, a being typically deployed to discourage people from disclosing their encounters with the bizarre to the police and media. In the case of The Mothman, The Grinning Man was never explicitly malicious or menacing. In most descriptions, he was goofy looking, dressed strangely, piloting an impossibly fast vehicle and communicating entirely with his mind.

Keel’s book, The Mothman Prophecies, is one hella strange piece of American non-fiction. The characters of Point Plesant are supremely weird and the aftermath of Mothman sightings are stranger than the actual sightings. I recommend it.

14 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 14: He fears change

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday October 14, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Poltergeist activity, this photo has nothing to do with the storyThis is an unusual entry into the series. I’ve been recounting ghost stories, folklore and urban legends that have been around for a while but tonight’s is a personal one. This is a story that few have heard. Apart from my family and a few friends, I don’t talk about this one much. It may sound silly from an outsider’s perspective but you have to put yourself in my shoes. It was fucking terrifying in the moment and I’ve never been able to shake that feeling of being watched when I’m alone in a room. Yes. Tonight’s entry into 31 Ghost Stories is my own personal tale of haunting.

In the early 90′s my family moved across town into a bigger house. We’d been living comfortably where we were previously, but the new place was actually a very old piece of property. A beautiful old farmhouse located next to some train tracks and it presented an opportunity for my parents to buy low, renovate and sell high when the chance came along. Previously, the home belonged to a widow and during her time there spent with and without her husband, the place fell into a slight state of disrepair. It had a lot of potential, though, and my parents went right to work on tearing it down and rebuilding it to their liking. The moment I set foot in it, however, the place gave me the creeps.

Wood floors were the common surface, everything creeked and seemed very old and rickety. I’d smoke out in the barn during the winter months and could never shake the feeling that I was being watched, so I made my smoke breaks quick before practically running back into the house with a power walk that moved my lower body faster than my upper body. The basement was a horrifying place that filled me with dread every time I went down there, which in the several years that I lived there amounted to no more than three times. It was separated into chambers and the floor was dirt. Each chamber featured a lower ceiling than the previous and the further back you went, the darker it seemed to get until the dark seemed to consume any kind of light you brought with you. In the furthest chamber back we found a small black book whose pages were mostly empty with the exception for the first few which seemed to be nothing more than a list of names. The worst, however, was back in the upper levels of the barn. Bare wood walls faced in and on them written in either chalk or charcoal were phrases such as “Rebecca was 8″ and “Johnathan was 6″. I seemed to find a new entry into the [name] was [number] series every time I went up there and it chilled me to the core. I can only speculate as to what it meant. Sometimes when smoking out there, I would hear what sounded like something moving around on the upper level above me and would wind up finishing my cigarette in the rain or snow in order to get away from it. It didn’t occur to me that something might be up until the night I was leaving the house to meet my girlfriend at the time saw a face staring out at me from the upper level window of the barn. It was there for a second before it faded from view. Vague features defined it but someone watched me from the window before pulling back into the darkness. I said nothing about this to anyone and convinced myself that I hadn’t seen it but as soon as the other phenomena kicked up, I was pretty sure that it actually happened.

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13 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 13: The horror of the skin-walker

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday October 13, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Navajo WitchThe human race has always been a tribal culture. From the humble beginnings of Early Man, gathering into groups to survive became vital to the perpetuation of the species. These days most people claim they want to be left alone but we tend to group ourselves based on our tastes and interests and we form the same kind of feudal rivalries of earlier iterations of human tribalism. As a result, those of us who walk on the outside, genuinely by ourselves, living according to our own plan, are often ostracised and treated with suspicion. If you don’t fall in line with the pack, there must be something wrong with you. I mean, who actually wants to be an outside, right? Most outsiders these days just get nasty looks and sideways comments about the way they dress but back in the day, choosing your own path and not living among the tribe often left you saddled with a public stigma, the sort of brand that made you most likely to be lynched by an angry mob. It was always the same old line, too. If you lived alone, were not married and had no children, then you must be in league with whatever malevolent being opposed your culture’s primary deity because who doesn’t want to be a part of the group? Here in the United States, since mankind first settled this place, the results of living according to your own plan were no different and because of this, Native Americans spawned their own nasty version of the witch mythology. The details vary from tribe to tribe but the fundamentals are the same. One undesirable member of the group has committed some sort of taboo act and has gained a terrible power in the process. The Skin-Walker terrorized the tribes in a million different disguises. In the South West and the plains states, the skin-walker was a witch who used animal pelts to take the form of that animal and depending on which tribe you ask, they either became that animal from top to bottom or they became some kind of horrible mutation of that animal. An animal with the shape of a deer, the antlers of a deer but the skin and eyes of a human may be spotted in the forest, doing its best to scare and kill the game there so that the tribe will have nothing to eat.

Maintaining tradition has become an important part of the tribal lifestyle of Native American cultures and with those traditions remains a deep superstition. Skin Walker legends and ghost stories remain to this day with people, both Indian and otherwise, reporting encounters and attacks throughout the South West, mostly in Navajo territory. Motorists on lonely reservation roads report spotting animals in human clothing racing across the roads and highways in the night, horrrifying hybrids of human and crow or wolf-men surrounding homes, trying to get in. These legends persist to this day.

WendigoIn the northern states and in Canada, however, the skin walker legend became something much more awful. States in the South Western United States never really had to deal with winter. They had their own challenges but the Northern climate presented its own set a challenges. A period of dead seasons where food stopped growing and game hibernated. If an individual or a group didn’t prepare for the winter properly, they’d find themselves shit out of luck with nothing to eat but each other and in some case, they did. The sickening notion of cannibalism is something that runs deep in our reptile brains and inspires a special kind of fear of those who have gone there. In Algonquian tribes, those who’ve broken that unbreakable taboo are stricken with a special kind of bad reputation and the corruption of another’s flesh seeps into their own being, perverting their form and turning them into something wild and uncontrollable. The Algonquians called it Wendigo, a creature that used to be a man. Eating the flesh of another person reduced you in status until you were just a wild animal with an unquenchable desire to kill and eat humans. The Wendigo’s description changes from tribe to tribe but it is most commonly described as a mixup of man and animal: walking on hind legs, covered with hair, massively strong and unbelievably fast.

The Wendigo legend is mostly a thing of the past as the urbanization of tribal culture and the ready access to food has eliminated the cause of what many Native Americans believe led to one becoming a Wendigo. The Navajo believe that evil is all around us and turning to evil can grant you terrible powers to change into ugly perversions of wildlife. With evil going nowehere in particular, the skin walker legend will persist.

12 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 12: Seth Speaks

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday October 12, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Jane RobertsWhen I was a little kid, my parents’ book shelves seemed to occupy my attention more than anything in the house apart from the television. We seemed to have a lot of books and it was a weird mish mash of titles reflecting both of their personal tastes. My dad read a lot of fantasy and science fiction. We had Heinlein, Terry Brooks and Lovecraft on the shelves alongside books about D.W. Griffith, Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields. My mom read westerns. She was really into the Lonesome Dove series and had a lot of  books on the topic of spirituality. What really stuck out to me was a grouping of books that seemed in line with that spiritual bent of the book shelves but they seemed to be the square pegs of the bunch. A lot of them seemed to fall into non-fiction titles having to do with the paranormal. Among them were the Seth books by Jane Roberts.

Until her death in 1984, Roberts was one of the last of a long-held tradition of spiritual mediumship. In the early part of the 20th century and in mid-19th century, mediums were all over the place. People held seances, allowed disembodied spirits to come into them while in a tance and speak through their bodies to the living. Of course, most of these people were frauds, but a good deal of them firmly believed what they were selling. Roberts, while doing research for a book about ESP, experimented with a Ouija board and was said to have come into contact with a being named Seth who communicated at first through the spirit board and later through Roberts, herself. What began as general note taking evolved into something much larger as Seth began to channel his being through Jane. She would speak for him while her husband, Robert Butts, would write it all down. Before long, Roberts would hit a trance state and begin what psychologists call Automatic Writing, a sort of stream of consciousness documentation of your inner monologue, something people are known to do without realizing it. In the end, Roberts had enough material for ten non-fiction books and three novels that would wind up ground zero for the American New Age movement which had been fermenting since the 60′s.

What Seth was remained a mystery throughout the 22 years that Robert channelled him. Who or what he was was never really the point but at times Seth referred to himself as an old ghost and in one of the more specific moments, he revealed himself to be an energy being, completely separate from physical reality, existing on a higher plane than the rest of us. The words he delivered were heavy spiritual concepts about the very nature of reality, the meaning of life, things like that. When Jane checked out for a while and Seth stepped in, the mousy woman in the cat glasses started preaching a message of individual reality, a place where each one of us is at the mercy of our selves. We are, in essence, gods and the world around us is an environment created by the consensus consciousness to keep us all in line. We exist outside of time and space and that this is just the place that we chose to experience an infinite range of challenges and emotions. What we don’t experience here in this lifetime, we’ll come back around and face next time. Through ten books, Seth told us that we exist in many dimensions at once, singular beings occupying different places at one time. Much of what Roberts brought to this world before her untimely death in 1984 were abstract ideas about the universe that would eventually find their way into particle theory and models of the universe such as Many Worlds Theory. These way out ideas, be they channelled to our world from another or just the stream of consciousness ravings of a woman in Elmira, New York, managed to find legs in a theoretical sense and without the aid of spirit boards or meditational trances.

Master occultist, Aleister Crowley, experienced something similar in the early 20th century while in Egypt. His seminal title, The Book Of Law, was said to be dictated to him by an ancient spirit bearing great truths named Aiwass. So far I’ve written about ghosts fucking with us for seemingly no other reason than their inherent ability to do so. I’ve written about angelic beings protecting the innocent from genuinely evil people and now I bring this example. Is someone out there trying to reach us in here? Seth moved an entire generation of spiritualists and individuals looking for something bigger than themselves that didn’t feel like the traditional religions of this world that had so far let them down. Seth, a so-called being from another world, brought a new kind of positivity based entirely on personal responsibility to the world and a crowd formed around his voice, Jane Roberts. Seth devotees exist to this day.

11 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 11: Carla Moran, abused by spirits

Posted by Bryan White | Monday October 11, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Spectral lights photographed above Carla MoranHere we are again. Back in the 70′s. A few posts back I explained that there was a time in American academia where study of the paranormal was still pretty much on the fringe but you could get away with it in the clinical environment of a University science curriculum. That time was the 1970′s. There was really nothing about the time that made this sort of thing so visible, either. The 70′s were just weird, man. The aftermath of Vietnam had this country on the ropes and people were looking for something. So many American soldiers died during that war and so many of the ones who came back alive brought back some real horror with them. The nation’s collective morale was way down and people were turning to strange places to find some kind of meaning in something. Remarkably similar things happened in the wake of 9/11. Trauma at the social level makes ordinarily rational people go a little insane. Thing is, it’s not like it made people report more cases of the paranormal, it just made people feel like they could investigate it with a little less ridicule. A paranormal investigatin’ friend of mine assures me that such cases are still investigated to this day and not like that shit you see on TV with scuzzy meatheads from Vegas shout at spirits or Roto-Rooter plumbers from Rhode Island go apeshit over apparitions that the camera never seems to capture. No, she tells me about some harrowing shit and says that academic types and scientists still investigate. They’re just forced to keep it on the down low since some of them could be laughed out of their field of expertise if word ever got out that they gave equal time to lunatics. Some of her stories made me think of this one, immortalized by the performance of Barbara Hershey in the movie, The Entity.

It’s 1974 in Culver City, California. A pair of investigators, Kerry Gaynor and Barry Taff were giving a talk at a local book store about paranormal investigation and were approached by Carla Moran, real name Doris Bither. Moran made an appointment with the two at her home, claiming that the place was haunted and in a subsequent interview with the two, she apprehensively admitted that the spirits in her home, at first described as your usual knocking on walls, disembodied voice types were actually extremely violent entities and that she had been beaten severely and savagely raped by these unseen monsters. Taff and Gaynor initially scoffed at this allegation. Physical contact with spirits is a rare thing and often a fleeting sensation. A force powerful enough to do what Moran was saying was unheard of even in the world of paranormal investigation. However, in a follow up call, Moran told them that the beings had shown themselves to her and there were other witnesses. This was enough to spring into action and look a little closer. Taff and Gaynor arrived with photography equipment and described the beings’ attempts to manifest but the best they could do at the time was cause pops of light here and there. No photographic evidence could be collected since these lights were so quick. This was just the start, however. Taff and Gaynor claimed that as they interviewed Moran’s teenage son in the kitchen, cabinets flew open and spit out pots and pans and Moran began freaking out, alerting everyone to the presence in the bedroom. Photos were taken but the Polaroid shots were useless and bleached. Photos from the same camera, taken with the same cartridge of film developed normally after Moran told everyone that it had gone and upon its return, the same effect was applied to further Polaroids taken, this time only obscuring Moran’s face.

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10 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 10: 2 dead in the Cokeville school bombing

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday October 10, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Cokeville Elementary bombingI’ve been spooking your shit and freaking myself out these last nine days. I figured on this, the 1/3 mark, I should ease up and lay something a little positive on you. It’s just as paranormal, just as weird and just as unexplained. Oh, and people still die in this one but at least it’s the right people who died.

On May 16th, 1986 in Cokeville, Wyoming, a husband and wife team-up of lunatics, David Young and his wife Doris strolled into the Cokeville elementary school armed to the teeth, carrying a manifesto called ZERO EQUALS INFINITY (unsurprisingly archived at the Church of the Subgenius website) and a homemade gas bomb that was powerful enough to destroy most of the school, burn the remaining structure to the ground and kill everyone inside. Attached to David Young’s hand was a string that when pulled would detonate the bomb immediately. The Youngs took the school office hostage first and announced that “This is a revolution.” The Youngs then went room to room and collected somewhere between 154 and 167 hostages depending on who you ask, basically everyone in the school. Once they had everyone gathered in a single room, the stand off began. David Young announced to police that if he did not receive $300m in ransom and a phone call to President Reagan, he would detonate the bomb.

Cokeville ClassroomWho were the Youngs, though? Unfortunately, the resolution of this standoff, as so many do, didn’t leave the Youngs with any opportunity to explain themselves since Doris was partially blasted to pieces, burned horribly and then shot by her husband and then David shot himself but what is known is that in 1979, David Young was a deputy in the Cokeville police department that was fired for misconduct. His Zero Equals Infinity manifesto is dated 1978 and judging by its rambling, incoherent nature, it can only be assumed that David Young was fired for problems related to mental illness. Since his wife then helped him take a school full of children hostage with the intention of killing everyone, the same assumptions can safely be made about her own mental health. Though the Youngs disguised this attack as a political action based on the words in a ca-razy terrorist manifesto, it’s pretty clear that this was an act of revenge against the community that had turned them out. After all, the Youngs had returned to Wyoming from Tucson, Arizona to exact their revenge.

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9 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 9: The Enfield Poltergeist

Posted by Bryan White | Saturday October 9, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Enfield PoltergeistHere in the United States, we have a few really high profile hauntings from the 70′s that I’ve talked about at length here. The United Kingdom wasn’t exempt, though. They had their own and among theirs, the top of the heap was one that took place between 1977 and 1978: The Enfield Poltergeist. Like our Amityville case, Enfield is pretty controversial stuff and over the years has been deemed to be a hoax through and through but there’s a lot of really strange evidence recorded and witness accounts from people outside of the household to support a solid theory of haunting if you’re open to that sort of thing. It existed in the British pop cultural consciousness to such a degree that a BBC Halloween prank based on the events went on to become the UK equivalent to the War of the Worlds Broadcast by Orson Wells.

Over there in the UK they call them Council Housing. Over here we call them The Projects. This isn’t to say that council housing is entirely shitty, but they’re not very nice places and these days they’re home to evolving tribes of lowlifes that everyone in England calls Chavs, a sort of British equivalent to the rodent-like American redneck. This is where our story takes place, in one of these Council Houses in the London suburb of Enfield. Peggy Hodgson is the single mother of four children, two girls and two boys. It’s bed time and the kids are raising hell in the bedroom. Peggy goes to their room to tell them to shut the hell up and go to sleep but instead arrives in time to share in the horror of witnessing poltergeist phenomena.

A poltergeist is a specific classification of haunting, in case you don’t know. You have all sort of spooks out there but a poltergeist is the one that ineracts with the surroundings, throwing shit around and making a lot of noise. The word is actually a German word that means noisy spirit. In the Enfield case, the haunting began when the family watched a dresser slide across the room, compelled by an impossibly strong force that Peggy was helpless to stop. In the months that followed, the spirit (later to be identified as Bill when it took possession of one of the girls in the house) made its presence known by hurling objects and people around the house, assaulting visitors and generally terrorizing anyone who came into the place including academic paranormal researchers and the police, who signed affadavits confirming that they had actually seen some of the phenomena that Peggy Hodgson described.

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8 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 8: Some of that Unsolved Mysteries shit

Posted by Bryan White | Friday October 8, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

Hag AttackI admit, you guys, that this constitutes a cop out on my part but I’m actually really busy today and won’t be around to spin a proper yarn about the paranormal so to rectify that, I offer you this segment from Unsolved Mysteries. When I was a kid I loved true crime and to this day, criminology fascinates me in a way that I’m sure still worries my mother. For those of us with a thirst for the morbid, you looked no further than Unsolved Mysteries. Robert Stack always looked a little drunk but he channeled that trench coated G-Man persona from his better days and he had that kick ass voice. The reenactments were where it was at, but also being a hound for the paranormal, when Unsolved Mysteries decided to lighten the mood and run some goofy ghost stories, they unwittingly scared the living shit out of me with a segment called The Tallman’s Ghost. I’ve tried to do some further research on this story to get the details because Unsolved Mysteries often packed a high-level overview of the case into an 11 minute spot and left out a lot of details in favor of stuff that let them tell the story they wanted to tell. Unfortunately, there’s just not much out there about this particular case. At least not by the name Tallman’s Ghost. Look for that and you wind up with a lot of forum discussion threads talking about this episode or people discussing Phantasm.

The killer piece about this segment, though, is that it traumatized the viewing audience of my collective generation. Bring this episode up at a party and I guarantee you a 1:10 ratio of people who have seen it and had nightmares for the rest of week based on this segment. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure why it had such an effect on me. Maybe it’s just that it’s been 20 years and I’m jaded but back then, something about this episode gave me chills. I’d watch the other segments during reruns but when this one came on, I’d change the channel. Some of the phenomena described by the Tallman’s, in particular the old woman, is a common encounter that a lot of people call hag attacks. In neurobiology, the scientific community describes the attack as ‘hypnagogia’, a state where the body is awake but the mind is still coming out of the dream state. You’re aware, you’re unable to move and breathing may either be very difficult or not happening at all. In this state, people experience a whole range of sensory hallucination but the common link seems to be visions of horrible old women either choking the victim or just terrorizing them in general. These ‘hag attacks’ are actually a bit of cultural legacy and seem to be present in European cultures as well as The United States and Canada and reports go back to ancient Europe. Your conclusion is up to you. Are supernatural hag attacks a particular kind of spirit terrorizing people in the night or is it some ancient legacy of mass hysteria that somehow manages to survive the ages?

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