Thursday, June 29, 2017

Painting in the Dark with Raphael

Abel Taylor, psychic artist, who painted under Raphael’s influence in the dark.
Via by Chris Woodyard

Initially I thought that this story of an “automatic painter” who believed that he was controlled by the spirit of Raphael would be merely a minor footnote in the history of spiritualism. Spirit painters were not uncommon; their techniques have been extensively studied and analyzed. And yet, the story of how an ex-soldier suddenly took up his brushes at the age of 60 proved to have an uncanny aura about it with a story of mysterious visitants and mystical healing. Step into the gallery of Abel Taylor, disciple of the painter Raphael.

All followers, either open and avowed or secret and diffident, of Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, and other distinguished believers in spiritualism, the projection of the psychic personality or any of the supposed kindred occult phenomena, are flocking to the Soldiers’ Home, out Brightwood way, these days, to see a remarkable picture, which, according to the nominal artist, Abel Taylor, an inmate of the home, was painted at night and with no artificial light in his room. This claim in itself would not be of interest to the seekers of knowledge concerning the supernatural, but Taylor asserts that he is not responsible for the conception of the picture, and that he was only a blind instrument in the hands of his controlling spirit, and that spirit, he declares, with the utmost candor, is none other than the great Italian genius of the brush, Raphael.

And Taylor is not a dreamer. He impresses the visitor as being a very matter-of-fact, level-headed sort of individual. He does not claim any position of preeminence among his fellow-comrades; he does not try to shirk any responsibilities; he does not affect any of the idiosyncrasies of genius nor any of the whims of the clairvoyant. He is janitor of the Anderson Cottage at the home, and by all accounts a capable, painstaking caretaker. His story is interesting to the skeptic and the scoffer as well as to the believer, on account of the confidence which he undoubtedly has in his own supposed experiences.

Nor is the one picture which Taylor claims to have painted in the dark the only unique feature of his story. He professes never to have had a lesson in art, and never to have attempted to paint a picture until he was 60 years old. That was ten years ago, and since then 1,400 canvases have come from his brush and palette.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

General Barter and the Ghost Who Dressed for Dinner


“They say that shadows of deceased ghosts do haunt the houses and the graves about, Of such whose life’s lamp went untimely out, Delighting still in their forsaken hosts” – Joshua Sylvester

The Indian Rebellion (sometimes called “The Sepoy Mutiny”) was a major uprising in British India from 1857-1858 against the rule of the British East India Company that essentially functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown, and is thought of by many to be India’s First War of Independence. Although unsuccessful, it had severe repercussions, including the formal end of the Mughal Empire and the dismantlement of the British East India Company. The 75th Stirlingshire Regiment of Foot would ultimately lead a bayonet charge at the Siege of Dehli in 1857, but in 1854, a portion of the regiment was assigned to hill station Murree in the Punjab. With the 75th was a young Lieutenant (or subaltern) by the name of Richard Barter of Carrytown, County Cork, a stalwart infantry officer who would one day become General Barter and pen a well-received memoir about his adventures in India called Mutiny Memories. On a moonlight night in 1854, Lieutenant Barter would encounter a strange set of spectral travelling companions.

The Hill Station of Murree was relatively new and the majority of the regiment were quartered in temporary huts perched on the crest of a hill 7000 feet above sea-level. A few lucky officers, Lt. Barter among them, managed to rent houses from their predecessors when they took up station. Barter procured a modest hovel from a Lieutenant B. (who we are assured died not long after, as researches at the War Office prove, at Peshawar on 2nd January, 1854). In an April 28, 1888 letter, Barter himself described what he could remember of his temporary home. “This house was built on a spur jutting out from the side of the mountain and about 200 or 300 yards under the Mall, as the only road then made, which ran round the bill, was called. A bridle-path led to my house from the Mall, and this was scooped out of the hillside, the earth, etc., being shoveled over the side next to my house. The bridle-path ended at a precipice, but a few yards from where a footpath led to my hut” (Tweedale, 1921, p126). Murree would one day be a popular tourist destination for prominent Englishmen, but the area had been set up as a medical center for British Troops in 1851, the purpose it was serving when Lt. Barter arrived in 1854. Barter settled in comfortably and began entertaining friends like a proper gentleman. One evening Mr. Barter had a visit from a Mr. and Mrs. Deane, who stayed until 11 PM. There was a full moon, and Mr. Barter walked to the bridle path with his friends, who climbed it to join the road. He loitered with two dogs, smoking a cigar, and just as he turned to go home, heard a horse’s hoofs coming down the path. At a bend of the path a tall hat came into view, then round the corner, the wearer of the hat, who rode a pony and was attended by two native grooms. Barter described how the scene just kept getting weirder.

Is Bigfoot on the loose in Round Rock?

Photo by Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department
Via by Katey Psencik

An unknown creature may be exploring parks in Round Rock, according to city officials.

Photos posted to the Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department’s Facebook page reveal some rather large, semi-human footprints — which means Bigfoot may be, well, afoot in Williamson County.

According to time and location stamps on the photos, the three images were captured at Freeman Park, Old Settlers Park and Brushy Creek Trail between June 8 and June 10. Two of the images look simply like footprints, but a third photo, which also features a person’s foot for scale, shows the muddy footprints are quite large.

Nanny sought for 'haunted' house in the Scottish Borders


A Borders couple are offering £50,000 a year for a nanny - but the successful candidate must be prepared to face potential "supernatural incidents".

Five nannies in the past year have blamed their departure on spooky happenings in the "haunted" house.

The alleged incidents have included strange noises and moving furniture.

The family have not experienced any "supernatural happenings" themselves but are happy to pay above the asking rate to find the right person.

The couple, who have two children aged five and seven, are advertising the position on, a social networking platform for parents, childcare providers and private tutors.

The successful candidate will have their own room with en-suite bathroom and private kitchen in the family home, a "lovely, spacious, historic property in a remote spot with spectacular views".

However, the live-in nanny will sometimes be alone in sole charge for up to four nights per week while the parents work away.

Satanic Ritual Rumors Surround Saint’s Stolen Brain

Via by Brett Tingley

Italian police are reporting a strange crime related to the remains of Saint John Bosco, a 19th century priest and author known for his charitable work with the street children of Turin. After Bosco’s death in 1888, a large movement grew to have him canonized as a saint. Pope Pious XI canonized John “Don” Bosco in 1934, and an entire movement now carries on his legacy in educating underprivileged children throughout the world.

A part of Bosco’s brain was kept as a relic by the Catholic church and displayed in the basilica of Castelnuovo near Turin. Totally normal. Now, that brain has been stolen by thieves, and the Italian police say that black magic or a ransom conspiracy might be afoot.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

High Strangeness, Weird Vanishings, and a Cursed Mountain

Via by Brent Swancer

Strange mysteries seem to gravitate to some places, and oddness and enigmas gather about them like flies to a rotting corpse. Here in these realms of the strange we can find a mish-mash of legends, myths, and real cases of the unexplained, perhaps all of it congealing together into some vague idea of what the truth may be. One place that has proved to be ground zero for some truly bizarre stories is a mountain that lies in one of the most beautiful spots in Europe, and which perhaps cloaks its real, sinister nature in a veneer of natural magnificence.

Located amongst the Berchtesgaden Alps, which straddle the border between Berchtesgaden, Germany and Salzburg, Austria and looming over the Salzburg Basin and Salzach Valley a table-top mountain, technically a massif, known as the Untersberg, which directly translates to “under-mountain.” Most famous for its lopsided shape and for being featured in the beloved musical film The Sound of Music, and rising around 1,973 meters (6,473 feet) over its surrounding vistas, the mountain has a commanding presence, and is a popular destination for tourists from nearby Salzburg, Austria, who come here to see the stunning natural splendor on display and enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities.

This majestic formation, with its vast natural beauty, also has a range of strange legends associated with it, such as that it is the resting place of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1122 – 1190), who is said to slumber there awaiting a resurrection that will herald the end of the world, and another well-known legend saying that the great king Charlemagne lives on or within the bowels of the mountain surrounded by dwarf-like creatures called Untersberger Mandln. Indeed the mountain has long been said to be inhabited by various demons, spirits, strange beasts, lost civilizations, and dwarf-like beings. It was legends such as these that allegedly drew the attention of Hitler, who by some accounts became absolutely obsessed with the mysterious mountain, building a house on the nearby Mt. Berghof, on the Austrian border, from which he purportedly fanatically watched the Untersberg with special high powered telescopes. It is said that he believed the mountain held supernatural energies and entities that he hoped to harness and tame for his own nefarious purposes.

UFO Hoaxes: When Things Get Complicated

Via by Nick Redfern

Well, my three recent articles on questionable documents (one on Marilyn Monroe, the second on the Rendlesham Forest affair, and the third on weird goings-on in 1940s-1950s Chicago) provoked a handful of emails in response. But, they weren’t quite the responses I was anticipating. With hindsight, though, maybe I should have expected them. Of the eleven people who contacted me, not a single one took the view that the documents were nothing but hoaxes perpetrated by people within the field of Ufology (which, in my view, is the most likely of all the explanations, even though I’m slightly open-minded on the Marilyn document, but as for the other two: pure garbage). Rather, all eleven only served to complicate things even further by suggesting that the hoaxes just had to be the work of – as one person worded it – “government agents.” Not sad figures with too much time on their hands and a lack of what is known as a social-life, after all?

Terms like “disinformation,” “counterintelligence” and “psychological warfare” were tossed around, as a means to explain to me and justify why these were not just time-wasting hoaxes. So, in a roundabout way, by highlighting the three questionable documents referred to above, I inadvertently added to – or, at the very lest, encouraged – the conspiracy theories, rather than laying them to rest.

Google Balloons May Be Behind String of Idaho UFO Sightings

Via by Brett Tingley

For various reasons, UFO sightings often occur in sprees or clusters. Whether that reason is an actual increase of anomalous aerial activity, the work of copycat hoaxers, or psychological suggestion is often up for debate. Over the last several weeks in Idaho, a string of similar-sounding UFO sightings were reported to NUFORC, the National UFO Reporting Center. All of the eyewitnesses in each case reported seeing odd lights in the sky, sometimes moving strangely. After receiving numerous calls about unexplained lights, southern Idaho news station KMVT now reports that these lights are likely the work of Google. Well, sort of Google.

According to a recent news statement, the lights are balloons being tested as part of Project Loon, the initiative which aspires to offer “balloon powered internet for everyone” by flying wi-fi-beaming balloons into rural or undeveloped areas. Loon is currently led by X, a branch of Google’s secretive R&D wing formerly known as Google X.

10 Creepily Inappropriate Day Jobs of Infamous Serial Killers

Image via Shutterstock
Via by S.L. Duncan

Day jobs can be particularly handy for a serial killer. Believe it or not, living on the dark side of the human condition doesn’t exactly pay well. Besides, it’s always helpful to have a virtuous occupation that throws the public off your scent before roaming around on your next night prowl. That being said, here’s a list of killers who took their masquerade to the very edge of absurdity with the most outrageously inappropriate (and in some cases borderline-ironic) day jobs.
10. Ted Bundy
Suicide Hotline Worker

Ted Bundy took lives, he also saved lives,” wrote novelist Ann Rule in one of the world’s most startling true crime books. Here, she described her encounters with infamous killer Ted Bundy, whose modus operandi (MO) involved luring victims (young, white, middle-class females) to his vehicle under the guise of some form of disability.

As if it weren’t shocking enough that the crime writer was later hired to write a book on the unsolved murders perpetrated by her longtime friend, it just so happens that she met Ted while volunteering at a suicide hotline center. At the time, he was a 24-year-old college student. It is unknown whether he had begun killing.

He later confessed to taking as many as 30 lives, after which he often committed acts of necrophilia. Creepy, right? Especially when you start wondering how many he actually saved.[1]

9. Fred West
Ice Cream Truck Driver

One-half of one of England’s most gruesome killer couples, family man Fred West committed at least 12 murders with the help of his wife, Rosemary, between 1967 and 1987. These murders were sexually motivated, and their victims were most often between the ages of 15 and 21.

In fact, one of the first sexual assaults committed by Fred and his wife was suffered by their daughter, Anne Marie, when she was only eight years old. The couple continued to molest and prostitute the girl to other men throughout her childhood.[2]

It seems, however, that Fred was somehow able to subvert these perverted and pedophilic urges during daylight hours when he operated an ice cream truck.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mysterious Vanishings With Bizarre Phone Calls

Via by Brent Swancer

Unsolved vanishings are quite frequently orbited by strange clues, enigmatic leads, and baffling evidence, and some of the most intriguing of these are mysterious phone calls made either by the vanished themselves or other unknown parties. These calls often give us fleeting glimpses into the circumstances of the vanishings, providing potential clues that more often than not remain frustratingly cryptic and further propel the cases into bizarreness. Whether the calls are made by the victim just before, or even as they are vanishing, or are placed by other unidentified individuals, these sinister calls are compelling stabs of light into the darkness cloaking these unsolved disappearances, and continue to incite deep speculation.

One of the earlier mysterious disappearances linked to a strange phone call was that of Andrew Carnegie Whitfield, the nephew of none other than the famous Scottish industrialist, steel magnate, and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, after whom New York’s famous Carnegie Hall is named. An amateur pilot, the Princeton educated Whitfield departed aboard his small monoplane from Roosevelt Field on Long Island bound for an airfield located in nearby Brentwood on April 17, 1938. Since Whitfield was said to be a fairly skilled pilot, the day was calm and clear, and Brentwood was only 22 miles away, it was considered to be a routine flight that would only take around 15 minutes, yet he would never arrive at his destination and considering his prominence a search was launched immediately. Considering that Whitfield had had enough fuel on his plane to carry him 150 miles, it was thought that he had probably just come down somewhere else and couldn’t be too far, but this would prove not to be the case, and no sign of either he or his plane could be found despite meticulous, intensive searches. Andrew Carnegie Whitfield and his plane had simply vanished without a trace.

This is all odd enough, but things would get stranger still when the information on the series of events leading to the disappearance were uncovered. It turned out that on the day he had vanished Whitfield had checked into a hotel in Garden City on Long Island and paid $4 in advance, but rather than use his own name he had inexplicably signed in with the alias “Albert C. White.” When the hotel room was searched it was found to contain all of his belongings, including his clothing, passport, valuables, and, oddly, two life insurance policies worth $6,000 dollars each with Whitfield’s wife, Elizabeth Halsey Whitfield, listed as the beneficiary, as well as some stocks and bonds. A check of the phone records also showed that a phone call had been placed from the room that day to Whitfield’s home, which would further the mystery.

Government’s psychic research may have resulted from a misunderstanding of Middle School math

Via by Emma Best

A common question, especially as MuckRock continues to explore CIA and DIA’s involvement in psychic research, is how so many resources wound up being wasted on frivolous efforts that produced laughable results, absurd guides and even more absurd worries. The FBI’s file on Extrasensory Perception (ESP), which predates the CIA’s declassified psychic research program by more than a decade, may hold the answer: a basic failure to understand how math works.

The FBI’s interest in ESP goes back to at least 1957 (although scattered references to the Duke University ESP studies hint that the interest may have gone back another five years before that) when the Bureau was contacted by a man called Foos who claimed that he could teach the blind to see. Significantly, CIA took note of the case and had not only reviewed the information as part of the Agency’s liaison with the FBI. While CIA was not impressed by the tricks of the charlatan Foos, it wouldn’t be the end of the Agency’s or the FBI’s interest in psychic and paranormal phenomena.

To the FBI’s credit, the Bureau attempted to look at the phenomena from a rational and logical viewpoint, using cold hard science and math much like CIA and DIA later would. In their attempt to construct a laboratory test to objectively measure psychic phenomena, however, the FBI’s description comes across more like the opening scene of Ghostbusters than an actual scientific analysis.

The Human Brain Can Create Structures in Up to 11 Dimensions

Via by Signe Dean

Neuroscientists have used a classic branch of maths in a totally new way to peer into the structure of our brains. What they've discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.

We're used to thinking of the world from a 3-D perspective, so this may sound a bit tricky, but the results of this new study could be the next major step in understanding the fabric of the human brain - the most complex structure we know of.

This latest brain model was produced by a team of researchers from the Blue Brain Project, a Swiss research initiative devoted to building a supercomputer-powered reconstruction of the human brain.

The team used algebraic topology, a branch of mathematics used to describe the properties of objects and spaces regardless of how they change shape. They found that groups of neurons connect into 'cliques', and that the number of neurons in a clique would lead to its size as a high-dimensional geometric object.

"We found a world that we had never imagined," says lead researcher, neuroscientist Henry Markram from the EPFL institute in Switzerland.

"There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to 11 dimensions."