Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Mandela Effect

Fiona Broome. Photo by John Hession
Have you ever had the feeling that you were just completely losing your mind? Have you ever been SO SURE about something happening exactly the way you remember it happening that you'd bet your life on it...only to find out later that what you held as the truth for so long never actually happened?

If so, you are not alone.  In fact, this happens so often that it actually has a name...and a rather interesting theory behind why it happens in the first place.  It's called The Mandela Effect.

The term, Mandela Effect, was coined by paranormal researcher Fiona Broome around 2005.  It was borne out of a conversation held that year at Dragon Con--it seemed that there were an overwhelming amount of people who truly remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison.  They remember seeing it on television, reading about it in the papers and honestly and truly believed that Nelson Mandela was deceased at the time.  Obviously he wasn't (Mandela died in December 2013 a free man).  So why did so many people have memories of his death?

The theory Broome puts out is that there are different realities---parallel universes with different timelines and sequences of events.  What may have happened in another reality, dimension, universe or timeline may have inadvertently slipped through to our own, letting a few people catch a glimpse.  Buzz Feed has done one of the better articles on this phenomena that I've seen, and has compiled a lengthy list of examples. Do you remember the Berenstain Bears ever being referred to as the Berenstein Bears? Nope; never happened--they've always spelled it with an A.  Do you remember Tank Man of Tiananmen Square being run over?  Holy crap....I do.  I remember being shocked beyond belief as his body was struck and disappeared under the tank. I can still see his face.  He was so proud and brave and then he was gone, disappearing beneath the tank. I remember seeing news footage of this and having to turn it off because I couldn't deal with what I was seeing.

Luckily, what I was seeing never happened!  When I read the Buzz Feed article, I had to do extensive research to prove to myself that Tank Man did survive and apparently is still alive to this day, living anonymously.  So where did this false memory come from?  Did Tank Man really die in an alternate reality and somehow I managed to see it?

The Mandela Effect has been on my mind a lot these past few days because just like with the Tiananmen Square incident, I've become victim to my own false memories.  While not on such a grand scale as totally mis-remembering an internationally recognized historic event, twice in as many days I have just been completely wrong!  Both times have been about research for this blog.  Back a few weeks ago when I was studying monsters and hauntings associated with the Ohio River, I clearly remember seeing an article stating that the Native American word for the Ohio River translated to River of Good Spirits!  I thought that was so cool!  The Kanawha River's Shawnee name translates into River of Evil Spirits, and I thought that juxtaposition was really cool!  I thought discussing how the two rivers, one of evil spirits and one of good, meet and join at Point Pleasant in a symbolic battle of good and evil would make an excellent blog post.  However, when I went back to link my sources, I could not find mention of the Ohio River being called the River of Good Spirits ANYWHERE!  The article that I'm positive quoted that only stated that its name meant 'Good River.'

Obviously I am a human being and my memory is not infallible.  I was disappointed that my awesome idea for a blog couldn't be used and realized that I had probably just made a mistake...but the feeling that I had read those extra words and made those connections really bugged me.  However, I was able to put it behind me---until it happened again the next day.

I had been on the Skeptic's Dictionary website awhile back and SWORE that I had seen an entry for some type of Effect named after some guy.  This effect was a fancy term for SLI-der phenomena---you know, that thing where people tend to affect street lights and other electronics just by being near them?  I had always hated the term 'Street Light Interference' since it really wasn't that encompassing of the phenomena...and really, was sort of a misnomer anyway since its long been proven that the ballasts in those street lights do have a tendency to go on and off, whether an electrically-charged person is near them or not.  I was thrilled to have found this term, and planned to come back to it.  However, I forgot the name and no amount of searching would even give me a clue that this entry in the dictionary ever existed.  I went through the entire list over and over and couldn't find it. But how could I have been so mistaken?  I clearly remember reading the entry on that particular website and making a note to file it away to discuss later.  Am I losing my mind?  Perhaps the entry IS there and I missed it?  Maybe it was taken down?  Or, just was never there to being with, at least...not in THIS REALITY!

So let me know if something like this has ever happened to you.  Hop on over to the Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page and share your story!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Braxton County Men in Black

John Keel
It is quite possible that the first recorded encounter with the Men in Black occurred right here in West Virginia!  However, the location and the date might be a little...unexpected.

Those who study the strange and the unusual are probably very familiar with the period of high strangeness the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia faced throughout 1966 and 1967.  Sightings of the legendary Mothman were also accompanied by tales of hauntings, sightings of other cryptid creatures, enhanced psychic abilities and ESP, and of course...encounters with UFOs and the Men in Black.  For those not familiar with the Men in Black (MIB) in short, they are usually described as rather strange gentlemen, wearing dark suits and driving dark cars that often claim to be representatives from the government.  They tend to harass UFO witnesses into thinking that what they saw was perfectly natural---and that there is no reason to question the matter further or report it.  Many times, these MIBs are described as being rather small in stature and having Asian features, such as olive complexions and slanted eyes.

Researcher John Keel covered the weirdness of Point Pleasant extensively and wrote several books about or containing stories and theories about just what was happening in this small town by the river.  He himself was harassed by the Men in Black, and his writings on them really were instrumental in bringing the phenomenon to the mainstream.  But...these sightings in the mid-1960s weren't the EARLIEST sightings of MIB in the Mountain State.

Those with an interest in UFO lore probably are also quite familiar with the 1952 Flatwoods Monster sighting, in which a group of kids, accompanied by the mother of two of the boys witnessed what many believe today to have been a downed UFO and/or its spooky inhabitant.  While I'm personally not familiar with any Men in Black sightings associated with this case (aside from a strongly worded letter to Ms. May allegedly from the Pentagon), the Braxton County UFO crash of 1952 is significant to this tale because...IT WASN'T THE FIRST TIME A UFO CRASHED IN BRAXTON COUNTY, WV!!

The following tale comes from John Keel's 1978 book, The Cosmic Question.  On pages 148-150, Keel relates the story told to him in 1967 from a retired newsman living in Weston, WV named John Cole.  In May of 1924, John Cole was called in to investigate the site of a possible airplane crash near Gem, Braxton County, WV and had a run-in with what were probably early Men in Black.  I've provided a link to the actual book, but here's a condensed version as posted on Reddit:

The late and groundbreaking Ufologist John Keel (John Alva Kiehl) reported a bizarre possible crash & retrieval case which involved strange characters, perhaps precursors of the modern day M.I.B. The incident is said to have occurred one afternoon in May of 1924 near the small town of Gem, West Virginia:
A farmer outside Gem in monster haunted Braxton County reported seeing an ‘airplane’ crash in a forest. Planes were a very rare sight in those days especially in West Virginia, and a crashing plane was big news. According to the farmer, the plane was very odd in that it didn’t seem to have any wings, didn’t make any noise and seemed unusually large. “As big as a battleship” is the way the farmer described it. A party of men, including the local sheriff and local newsman John Cole systematically searched the woods. Within hours they found the wreck in a small clearing.
According to Cole: “We weren’t the first ones there, though. There were already five or six men in the clearing. Some of them were dressed in black business suits, neckties and all, and that seemed damned silly in that neck of the woods”. Others were dressed in coveralls of a funny color---some kind of very shiny material. They were talking among themselves in a rapid-fire foreign language when they found them. They got real excited when they saw the search party. The men in coveralls ran into the wreck---like they were trying to hide. Some of the men in the search party were carrying guns and one of them said to Cole, “By God, they’re spies!” and he raised his gun. The strangers were all small, just a little over five feet tall, and they all looked like Orientals, with high cheekbones, slanted eyes, and dark skin. One of them spoke English. He told the men nobody was hurt, that everything was all right. He said he would call on the sheriff later and make out a complete report. There wasn’t much they could do. No crime had been committed. Nobody was hurt.
According to Cole while he was looking around he spotted a ‘little thingamajig” on the ground. He picked it up and decided to keep it. He doesn’t know why he just didn’t turn it over to one of “foreigners”. He put it in his pocket. They all finally went away, leaving the foreigners to fuss with their contraption. It didn’t look like much of a flying machine. It fact, Cole didn’t think it could fly at all. It was like a fuselage of a modern plane, with windows and all. But it didn’t have any wings, tail or propellers. And like the farmer said, it was mighty big. According to Cole at least seventy five feet long, it filled the whole clearing. He went back home in Weston and went right to bed. He was pretty tired from all the day’s hiking. About three a. m. somebody started pounding on his door. He got up and looked and there was an army officer standing there. He was dressed in one of those broad-brimmed hats they used to wear, with those leg wrappings and all. It was a U.S. Army uniform, but except for his clothes he looked just like those foreigners from the airplane. Slant eye, dark skin, but he was maybe a little taller. ‘You picked up something today,’ he said. ‘We need it back.’ Cole was half asleep and at first he couldn’t think what he meant. Then he remembered the metal ‘thingamajig” It was still in his coat pocket. Cole went and got it. “Is this what you mean?” He asked him. He didn’t answer; he just grabbed it and walked off without a word. He didn’t, seem to have a horse or a car. Cole shuffled back to bed. But the next day he started wondering about it. How had the supposed officer managed to track him down? A couple of days later he went back to those woods and found that clearing. It was empty. The grass and bushes were all crushed down where the airplane had been but there was no other sign of anything or anybody. After the Army ‘officer’ came by Cole figured that maybe it was a secret Army deal of some kind and he thought it was better to leave it alone.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Haunted Kentucky: Aunt Polly's Crafts

 Today, the quaint log cabin sits alongside Hummel Road in Rockcastle County, Kentucky.  It houses a specialty shop called Aunt Polly's Crafts, and features goodies such as hand-dipped ice cream, homemade fudge, jams, quilts, unique gifts and various souvenirs.  But the small cabin hasn't always been home to one of Rockcastle County's many tourist spots---in fact, it hasn't always been located in the same spot!

Built in 1802, the cabin is believed to easily be Rockcastle's oldest building, but unfortunately the name of the original family to build and live in the home has been lost to history.  Therefore, when the small specialty shop opened in the late 1990s, it was named after another prominent resident of the home.  And, rightfully so, she's the main suspect for its resident ghost!

Aunt Polly was born Mary French on October 16, 1813.  She married William Peaslie Hiatt sometime around 1833 after William's first wife, Sarah Bailey, passed away.  The story quoted Jeffrey Holland is that Mary was randomly chosen and proposed to on the street by William immediately following Sarah's death. Not exactly a romantic engagement, but Mary made the most of it, and probably since she had a step-daughter named Mary, began to go by her nickname, Polly.

The Hiatts lived in the log cabin, which was at the time, part of the larger Hiatt lands encompassing almost 1200 acres.  William was a slave owner before the Civil War, which may or may not have played a role in his own death.  Various sources indicate that William died in 1865 under mysterious circumstances.  An article from 'Rockcastle County, Kentucky and its People' goes a step further and points out that William's body was found hanged in his own barn...the day he was forced to give his slaves their freedom.

Aunt Polly continued to work the farms on the Hiatt land until her own death on March 21, 1898.  In a somewhat weird coincidence, I'm actually writing this blog on March 21!  Anyway, after Polly's death, various other family members owned and lived in the cabin, until it was eventually abandoned.  It wasn't until around 1968 when Lake Linville was created that attention was brought to the house.  The man-made lake would have flooded the original Hiatt homestead, destroying the cabin, so a citizen named John Lair had it moved to safety across the street, where it sits today.

Since becoming a little specialty shop in the 1990s, the cabin has gained a reputation for being haunted...and many believe the culprit is none other than Aunt Polly herself.  Staff and guests have witnessed objects moving by themselves, the sounds of someone moving about in the empty upstairs rooms, cold spots, and a general sense of creepiness. It is thought that Aunt Polly is displeased with the fact that instead of being buried closer to her cabin on her farmland, she was buried in the nearby Hiatt Cemetery, which is literally almost across the road from where the store is today.

Aunt Polly's House. Article posted by Scott Trent, Jr.Originally published in Log Homes Illustrated Nov. 2002

Find-a-Grave Bio by Jeffrey Scott Holland

The Ghost Hunter's Field Guide by Rich Newman

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Pufferbelly Restaurant in Kent, Ohio

Inspired by a topic posted on the Mysteries of the Ohio Valley Facebook page, I did a little research and discovered (much to my delight!) that there are a TON of interesting places in Kent, Ohio believed to be haunted.  Hopefully I'll get around to covering a few more of those locations soon, but let's start with the place that started it all---The Pufferbelly Restaurant.

The city of Kent hasn't always gone by the name of Kent.  Prior to 1867 it was known as Franklin Mills, and was largely dependent on the canal system for its livelihood.  However, in 1863, Marvin Kent brought the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad through town and the area quickly became known as a railroad town.  As the popularity of rail travel grew, replacing the dependence on the canals, the small wooden depot became inadequate.  A new, brick depot was finished in 1875.

But again, progress and time would change the face of Kent, Ohio.  Rail travel declined rapidly during the 1930s and by 1970, the last Atlantic and Great Western train stopped at the old depot.  That would not be the end to the old building, though!  The next year, the Kent Historical Society was formed with a goal to save depot building.  Today, it is home to several small shops, including the Pufferbelly Restaurant, which opened in 1981.

And, like many locations with a long history, the Pufferbelly Restaurant is believed to be haunted!  In an article from the Kent Daily Star about Kent's Haunted Pub Crawl, two ghosts are mentioned.  The first is simply that of a train conductor 'who loved the station so much he refused ever to leave,' even in death.  The second ghost is that of a young woman who died on the nearby train tracks.  She and her boyfriend had been out drinking one night, and stopped their car on the tracks.  The girl fell asleep, and unable to be woken up, was hit and killed by a passing train.  Somehow she made her way to the Pufferbelly restaurant.

In a recent interview with TV2, the owner and manager of the Pufferbelly claim that the most haunted hot spot of the building seems to be the dungeon-like basement, where the ghost or ghosts like to play harmless pranks on unsuspecting employees.  There's even mention of an apparition wearing a hat...

Because of all this spooky stuff going on, several investigation groups have visited the Pufferbelly in hopes of capturing evidence.  One group, S.I.G.H.T., has gotten several odd pictures with different anomalies they believe are spirits trying to manifest.  And, World Paranormal Investigations-Ohio recently released on the Facebook page that they will be filming an episode of True Ghost Stories at the Pufferbelly this May!  I'll be sure to update if I see any updates!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: Kentucky Book of the Dead

Title: Kentucky Book of the Dead
Author: Keven McQueen
Illustrator: Kyle McQueen
Published 2012 by History Press
Amazon Ordering Info

This is an awesome little book filled with interesting ghost stories, creepy burial customs, absurd tombstone epitaphs, and all manner of weird and unusual circumstances of death in Kentucky.  Thrown together in a fairly haphazard way (which the author fully takes credit for) this book is 141 pages of everything I love to read about!  Pulled straight from the pages of historic newspapers and other similar sources, many of the creepy tales and kooky tidbits aren't unnecessarily loaded down with a lot of boring detail---just enough information to whet your appetite and leave you guessing about the authenticity of the original publications.

It was a VERY quick read for me, and I loved the illustrations---they are that perfect combination of cute and creepy.  And, speaking of cute and creepy, this book does contain some rather tough subject matter such as embalming techniques and people dying in all sorts of strange and ironic ways.  However, I personally found nothing too gory or gross...just very, very interesting.

I'm slowly working on beefing up my paranormal library's Kentucky section and this little gem makes the perfect addition.  I've already planned several future blogs based on items mentioned in the book that I'll be researching a tad further!  If you're wanting a quick, spooky, and yes...even EDUCATIONAL read about the Bluegrass State, I suggest adding this one to YOUR library as well.