Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Montana's Carroll College Bathroom Ghost

Historic photo of St. Charles Hall
Like most colleges and universities, Carroll College in Helena, Montana has its fair share of ghost stories, including the apparition of a nun!  However, the most prolific haunting on campus is undoubtedly found in St. Charles Hall.

St. Charles Hall was built in 1909 as the first building on the Carroll campus and in its early years, basically WAS the college---it housed not only dormitories, but classrooms, a library, a dining hall, and faculty offices.  In fact, when the school was first established, it was called Mount St. Charles College.  Today, the imposing gothic structure serves as a freshman/sophomore dormitory in its south wing, and performing arts facilities in its north.  It's also home to the most haunted bathroom in Montana!

In February of 1962, a young man returned to the dormitory rather late, presumably after a night of partying.  As he stood in front of the bathroom sink brushing his teeth, the boy blacked out and hit his head.  He was taken to the hospital and underwent two different surgeries to repair the damage from his head wounds. He would survive those injuries, but unfortunately would pass away a couple of weeks after the incident in the hospital from pneumonia.

4th floor men's bathroom, St. Charles Hall

Almost immediately after, the sightings began.  Students standing at the sinks, washing up or brushing their teeth started reporting seeing the image of a young man in the mirror, approaching them from behind with a bloodied head wound.  From there, the reports spun out of control, with reports of heavy breathing being heard, blood pouring from the faucets, and a blood stain on the floor that just wouldn't wash away.

To quell fears, this fourth floor bathroom was boarded up.  However, tales of its haunted past are still well known, and it has become a popular stop on a campus-wide ghost tour, held at Halloween!

The bathroom photo and more information on this location can be found at the KRTV website!

(Theresa's Note: I can't help but wonder if the boy who passes away was really drunk or not, as many websites featuring this story claim.  Could it be that he actually passed out due to some type of neurological disorder, which featured in the two different surgeries he underwent? As a private Catholic school, it would be much more difficult for a student to actually sneak out and get drunk, then sneak back in without getting into trouble.  If you have any information on this story, please let me know in the comments below!)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Broken Heart Syndrome

In today's Medical Monday blog, I'll be discussing the Takotsubo Syndrome.  Also known as the Broken Heart Syndrome, this disease shows that dying from a broken heart (or a "curse" or severe fright) isn't just a folkloric motif to enhance a good ghost story...its real!

It's been ten days, but I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day just the same!  While many paranormal blogs written on that day brought you touching tales of love from beyond the grave or some of the crazy cool and often morbid origins of the holiday, I wanted to do something a TAD different to celebrate.  One of my interests in the paranormal field is researching strange and bizarre medical conditions that can be mistaken for having supernatural origins.  So, to combine the holiday with that theme, I give you...

Takotsubo Syndrome

Takotsubo Syndrome goes by many names, but is often referred to as the Broken Heart Syndrome.  Paranormal folklore is filled with tales of (mostly) young women dying of a broken heart, either from a love interest who failed to come back to her because of death or another woman, or one whom she was forbidden to be with, thanks to an unreasonable father who felt the young man in question was not good enough for his daughter.  The daughter then comes back to haunt the homestead or place of death, waiting for her loved one to claim her.

When historical records are accessed, however, most of the time the cause of death for the young woman is listed as something completely different, leading many to believe that the idea of dying of a broken heart is just a romanticized notion...a perfect ingredient for a ghost tale.

But, in a rare instance, science has lent a helping hand to folklore, and it can be shown that dying from a broken heart is a very real possibility. Since the onset of the syndrome isn't limited to a broken heart, the label of stress-induced cardiomy is often used as well.

Whatever you choose to call it, this is a REAL phenomenon that covers a variety of scenarios.  The grief from losing a loved one, a severe fright, or even the prolonged anxiety associated with believing one has had a "curse" placed upon them can lead to Takotsubo Syndrome, which leaves some pretty recognizable biological earmarks.  This handy infographic from the New Englad Journal of Medicine does a nice job summing up what happens to you.

Luckily, the affects from the Broken Heart Syndrome don't always have to be fatal, and in fact, with modern medicine, only about 20% of cases result in death, with the majority clearing up completely in less than 2 months.  According to Harvard Medical School, the syndrome causes a weakening of the left ventricle, brought about my a shock of stress hormones (ie, adrenaline) "stunning" the heart and preventing it from contracting correctly.  Symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pains, just like a heart attack, but show up on EKGs as a ballooning in the lower part of the left ventricle.  In fact, its that ballooning affect that gives the disorder its Takotsubo name--- the ballooning ventricle looks just like a tako-tsubo, a pot used by Japanese fisherman to trap octopuses.  It is believed that 90% of all cases of this disorder affect women.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book Review for Real Wolfmen

Title: Real Wolfmen--True Encounters in Modern America
Author: Linda S. Godfrey
Published in August 2012 by Tarcher
Amazon Info

I don't read nearly enough in the field of cryptozoology, so when I got a $5 off promo code for The Book Outlet, I took the plunge and picked this title up for free!  Written by the prolific author and prominent Coast to Coast guest, Linda S. Godfrey, Real Wolfmen was an awesome book that I'd recommend to anyone with an interest in the field of the bizarre.

If you're hoping this is a book about werewolves, you might be disappointed.  Rather, its a collection of stories recounting various sightings of dogmen....strange canid creatures that have a tendency to walk on two legs, communicate telepathically, and appear and disappear at will in some cases.  Individual reports are scrutinized, and Godfrey takes all steps required to fully interview witnesses to the best of her ability and offer up plausible natural causes for the sightings.  When applicable, she even recounts her own field work, as she visits the sites for herself and interviews the original witness in person.

Sprinkled throughout the chapters are interesting bits of folklore, including a healthy dose on what we tend to normally think of as werewolves, but also information on other cultural, historic, and scientific factors that play a role in the larger wolfman mythos.  For those interested, there's definitely a good primer on the Skin Walker legends.  It's a wonderfully entertaining, yet educational read and despite the somewhat controversial, fringe subject matter, Godfrey does an excellent job of reporting the incidents told to her and the facts involved in an extremely objective and open-minded manner.  Basically, the conclusion is that we have no idea what these wolfmen are or where they came from, although theories do abound, from interdimensional or extraterrestrial beings to simply regular timber wolves adapting certain traits to survive.

The majority of the stories came out of Wisconsin, Michigan, and surrounding areas, and although there's a few from Ohio and Kentucky added in, West Virginia residents might be disappointed to hear that no Mountain State stories made the cut into the book.  This is somewhat perplexing to me.  It's true that I've only heard of ONE wolfman story from West Virginia, but technically, we should have plenty!  According to the author, nearly all of the areas where these creatures were sighted shared very similar traits:  they were near water, they were near the wilderness, offering plenty places for food and to hide, and they were near sacred Native American sites, especially burial mounds.  Given that alone, West Virginia should be crawling with wolfman stories!  But, I guess since we claim Mothman, Sheepsquatch, and the Braxton County Monster (just to name a few!) it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the crypto-community if we were known for our wolfmen as well.

But, this is definitely a topic that interests me greatly, and I'd love to hear from YOU!  Do you have a wolfman story to tell?  Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, February 3, 2014

England's Mysterious Road

Portsmouth Rd.
I just finished the book, This Baffling World No. 2, by John Godwin.  First published in 1969 and covering topics from ESP studies to the Moving Coffins of Barbados, this book was actually a little dry for seemed like I was already familiar with most of the information contained therein...and it was dated to boot.  But, I was able to find a few little gems in there, one being a very mysterious incident that happened on an English road.

Between 1951 and 1955 a 2 mile stretch of road between Cobham and Esher in Surrey was dubbed the "Mystery Mile" when motorist after motorist reported being shot at by an invisible sniper while traveling that section of the highway.  It was apparent that SOMETHING was attacking these cars---each one contained holes in the windshield ranging in size from a normal bullet hole to about the size of a fist.  However, there were some problems with the alleged sniper theory.

For one, when police investigated the incidents, they found no where in the large, open expanses of field where a sniper could have hidden.  And while there was definitely an entrance hole in the cars' windshields (the only part of the cars ever affected) no exit holes and no bullets were ever found.

Reports continued to pour in, both day and night and unmarked police vehicles began patrolling the area, two of which became victims themselves of this unknown sniper.  In 1952 a London insurance agent named William Decker put into words what he and so many others were experiencing.  Decker saw a bright flash of light, then heard the windshield breaking, shattering glass all over his lap.

Again, no projectiles were ever found and local radio personalities and journalists filled the public's perception with stories of tiny meteorites, mad scientists with ray guns, and Russians with invisible bullets.  However, the reports eventually tapered off, ceasing altogether by 1955.  No explanation was ever given aside from claims that an overeager journalist turned a normal rate of windshield damage for any given road into something mysterious...and the matter was dropped. In fact, a recent Google search has provided no information on this event, despite claims that it was in all the papers at the time.  I did find something interesting about the road, though.

According to the map, there really are only two significant roads stretching directly between Cobham and Esher.  The most direct route is by Portsmouth Rd (A307).  However, A307 juts directly off A3, where in recent history, another mystery has cropped up!

One Sunday night in December of 2002, the Surrey police received a call about a car crash occurring near the town of Guildford.  The witness reported seeing the car leaving the road.  When police investigated, they did find the wreckage of a maroon Astra in a ditch, covered in foliage.  However, it was discovered the crash had actually happened 5 months earlier, and the skeletal remains of the young driver were still interred. Despite widespread public opinion that the witness saw a ghostly replay of the accident, police officials maintained the official stance that the wreck simply wasn't reported because the car was obscured by leaves and debris, and that it was spotted due to the winter season lessening the amount of foliage.