Friday, 20 May 2016

Harry Price and the ghost club:

I was thinking about those ghost hunting TV shows recently and wondered what the oldest ghost hunting group on record was and it it turned into this post.
I started reading about Harry Price and thought I'd combine the two topics into one article since they are connected and I've been meaning to talk about Price here for a while.
I remember reading his book on Borely Rectory when I was a kid. I had discovered the paranormal/world mysteries section and checked it out of the library. It had an emerald green cover with just a typeface on the front and just intrigued me for some reason.
I read it before I went to sleep every night for about a week and it creeped the hell out me. (It probably wouldn't now, but I would like to pick up a copy and read it again.)

A while after that I when I was in England I actually managed to visit the site of the rectory.The rectory itself was sadly no longer there, which I knew, but it was cool to just check it off the list. 

So here's today's post:

Nasci; Laborare; Mori; Nasci 

The ghost club was officially established in England in 1862, born from the fervent discussions about the unexplained nature of mediums and alleged paranormal experiences between students at the Trinity College in Cambridge. 
It’s not surprising that many writers and poets were members of the ghost club over the years, including Charles Dickens, W.B. Yeats and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (to name a few). 
Although it was a gentleman’s club at the beginning, it would later change to include women under the suggestion of supernatural researcher, Harry Price. 

It is thought of as the oldest paranormal group in history. The secretive and unusual club conducted investigations into so-called paranormal events, often explaining away and debunking many hoaxes in the search of truth. They exposed many charlatans including fake psychics and mediums, not even allowing magicians to escape their skeptical eye. 

With the popularity of the spiritualist movement at the time, there were a lot of pretenders, and the ghost club was ready to expose them. Harry Price, well known for his investigations into the famously haunted (although arguably debunked) Borely Rectory, was also a member of the club in the late 1920’s (as well as a member of the Society for Psychical Research). His interest in and practice of magic was a useful tool in calling out fraudsters of the spiritualist scene and explaining away the phenomenon of séances, ectoplasm, spirit photography and spirit voices. 

Price, however, was himself accused of inventing paranormal phenomena while writing his book at Borely Rectory. There existed, and still does, an argument over his credibility; however, he did conduct many an interesting investigation- A popular example of which was his investigation into William hope, the famous medium and specter photographer. Hope was in another English paranormal group called the Crewe Circle- a team that focused on spirit photography. Hope took and developed photographs of his subjects accompanied by veiled or misty ghostly apparitions floating above or nearby them; often they were supposedly the ghosts of deceased loved ones. 
The deaths of soldiers in the aftermath of world war 1 in early 1900’s left many families missing loved ones, feeding the demand for services such as those offered by the Crewe circle. 

 (pic source: publicdomain. This is a great article check it out)

Although these days it’s quite easy to see that the spooky snapshots are nothing more than double exposure techniques and trickery, but back in the 1900’s this was not so clear, especially to those who wanted nothing more than to believe. Some people’s belief in the supernatural and their lack of experience with the technical side of photography left many bewildered. 
Hope wasn’t completely believed of course, but nobody was able to expose his tricks until Price came along and revealed that Hope had been switching the slides in the darkness of the dimly lit room that he photographed his subjects in. 

This was one of Prices first investigations for the Society for Psychical Research, and his experience with magic and sleight of hand aided him well. You can view Harry Price’s own report of his experience here [X

You may just recognize some of the old black and white Victorian ghost photographs you’re familiar with as those taken by Hope and the Crewe circle, although they weren’t the only ones to take spirit pictures.

 Harry Price, ever the skeptic in his approach, despite claiming to experience poltergeist activity in his younger years, would travel far and wide in the name of a good debunking.


One such event he attended lead him out to the highest peak of the Harz Mountains in North Germany known as “the Brocken” or “Blocksberg”. The whole thing was very publicized and probably orchestrated by Price, of course. The Brocken was often the backdrop to tales of the supernatural and folktales. 
Annually on the 30th of April it is said that witches gather to meet there in an event called “walpurisnacht” (Walpurgis Night). The Brocken is responsible for the term “Brocken spectre” (Brockengespenst) which is a type of optical phenomena or illusion created on misty mountain tops that trick the seer into believing they are witnessing a paranormal being or cryptid. 

Usually, they are simply seeing their own silhouette projected in front of and enlarged before them, often times with a rainbow aura around it. We’ve talked here about an example of this before in the short post about “the big grey man of Ben Macdhui” or “Am Fear Liath Mòr” as the yeti like creature is known. [X

This could explain why the Harz peaks have been considered a supernatural landmark for the longest time. Harry Price found himself there investigating the claim that there existed a black magic ritual wherein a goat could be transformed into a boy.
 Of course there was nothing to it. Price claimed to take down many infamous charlatans of the time throughout the span of his career, often paying those under his scrutinous eye to be tested under controlled conditions. (A controversially competative move at the time) 

He exposed Helen Duncan and her egg white and cheese cloth ectoplasm, Prophet Joanna Southcott’s prophecy box (although many argue Price was not in possession of the actual box), Medium Rudi Schneider and his lack of supernatural skills, even Gef the talking mongoose didn’t escape a debunking. Price continued investigating and publishing books up until his death in 1948. 

You can read much more about him at this website [X

The ghost club is still active [X]

Public domain [X]
Prairie ghosts[X] [X]
Price Wikipedia [X]
Senatehouse library [X]
crew circle wikipedia [X]
IBtimes [X]

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Rosabelle believe:

I've been having a bit of a paranormal / ghost themed week over at the Real life is horror tumblr [X
and while writing a brief post on Harry Price (the famous supernatural investigator. I'll post it here a little later) I started to read about Harry Houdini and found out this short but interesting story. 

Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess, came up with a secret phrase that they would use to contact one another from the grave if one of them was to die before the other. 
The phrase was “Rosabelle believe”
Following the death of Houdini (Halloween night in 1926) , Bess performed annual seances on the anniversary for a decade. 
The code was never relayed to her and she eventually gave up, stating that ten years was enough time to wait for any man.

(pic source left. Pic source right)
Houdini Wikipedia [X]
NPR article [X]
The great Harry Houdini [X]
Magic [X]

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Cesare Lombroso: The father of modern criminology

I don’t recall how I got to reading about Cesare Lombroso, but last night I found out about him for the first time.
 If you regularly read this blog (Although I’m pretty sure people just stumble here by accident looking for a specific case and never return) you might have seen my posts on the moulage work of Joseph Towne and Gaetano Zumbo. I’m obsessed with moulage art, which is strange; because I usually dislike anything disease related.
I think Towne’swork had a sort of beauty to it, though, and then on the opposite end of the scale Zumbo's work sometimes looks like 3D Cannibal Corpse album covers.

Anyway! It’s a possibility that I found Lombroso through the photographs of the museum in Italy that houses all of his work. He was basically the pioneer of criminology. His theories and ideas might seem a little off the wall to us now with the hindsight of modern criminology, but it shows a definite shift and progress in the scientific study of the human mind.

Honestly, I have missed out so much in this post, there is so much more to these studies but I thought I'd add some links at the end if you're interested in further reading.

Italian born Cesare Lombroso, often referred to as “The father of modern criminology” believed that criminals could be identified by certain physical traits and characteristics.
Rejecting the commonly taught puritanical idea of the time, that the desire to commit criminal offenses was intrinsically human and all humans simply “sin”, Lombroso believed that it could be a physiological, that criminals could be “born that way” and that it was detectable by science and anthropometric (measurement of the human body) examination.

Crooked or hooked noses, small skulls, left handedness, protruding jaws, dark hair, shortness, lack of facial symmetry and disproportionate limbs were all features that could lead Lombroso to conclude someone a candidate for criminality. He analyzed the appearance of certain offenders with a classic literary villain descriptions such as shifty eyed robbers and emotionless dead eyed killers and so on. He believed that they were not completely evolved from early man, and thus held on to their primitive savageness. This was his theory of atavism.

Lombroso stood by his theory that certain features were an indication of one’s desire or capacity to commit criminal acts. He studied this both through looking at photographs of criminals, and through phrenology- the measurement the distance between features on the face, such as the space between eyebrows, the size and length of the nose, the closeness or distance between the eyes, the length of the jaw and so on. He also conducted postmortem examinations of skulls, from a large pool of individuals considered both “normal” as well as what was referred to as mentally ill or criminal at the time.

(image: wikipedia)

From these studies, he concluded that a common physical anomaly found in all criminals was what he called the median occipital fossa – a malformed or depressed area found back and central on the occipital bone of the skull. 

However he neglected to keep thorough statistical records of his examinations and it is thought that he did not have enough evidence to back up his theory and had not explored all avenues of reason. 

Although phrenology is considered unsubstantiated and is now days known as a pseudoscience, Lombroso continued his research for many years, accumulating around 400 skulls in the process.

(Pic source: Youtube)

As outdated and outlandish as his theories seem in modern times, it was a far cry from the general belief that crime was simply a corruption of the devil.
 Lombroso’s studies open the doors to modern criminology and the scientific study of the causes of criminal behavior. 
Later, Sociological and Environmental Factors, which Lombroso neglected to add into the equation, would be explored and modern day criminology would be born.  

The Cesare Lombroso Handbook [X]
Ceaser Lombroso wikipedia [X]
Lombroso museum [X]
A short youtube video [X] [X]


British born Joseph Towne was a moulageur, stereoscopist and sculptor. He made models exclusively for Guy’s hospital in central London, and remained loyal to the hospital for as long as it remained open, with the exception of sculpting for some international clients in the USA and India. Towne was born in Hertfordshire, and spent two years an artist’s apprentice. His first major project was constructing a to-scale human skeleton using anatomy books as his reference. Having never seen an authentic human skeleton in his life, he traveled to London where there was a Society of Arts competition in progress. There, a doctor looked over Townes work and wrote him a note of approval. He came second in the competition, and was only 17 years of age at the time. The following year he took the number one spot with his anatomical wax model of a dissected head.(Click here<< to continue reading) 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Broward county Doe:

Australian born serial killer Christopher “Beauty queen killer” Wilder was responsible for the rape and murder of 8-9 (likely more) victims across the U.S, including an ex-girlfriend, during a killing spree in early April of 1984.
He was apprehended, and died by his own hand during a struggle with police on the 13th of April of the same year. He shot himself twice, with one of the bullets exiting his body and wounding (non-fatal) a police officer who was attempting to restrain him.

(image: Wikipedia)

Wilder was thought to have many more victims than officially recorded, including victims back in his home land of Australia. He had an extensive history or rapes, assaults and sexual violence on his record;  So it is no surprise that he is also the a suspect in the case of an unidentified Caucasian female in her early twenties to mid-thirties, found in February of 1984 in a canal in Florida. She had been strangled to death and floated face down in the water, wearing only a pair of shorts, for 2 days before being discovered.

The unidentified woman is, for now, known as “The Broward County Doe”.
Any supporting act that points to Wilder as the perpetrator is that he lived on Boynton Beach in close enough proximity to the crime and was known to frequent the area. He had also dumped the body of a previous victim in a canal before (Terry Walden) and raped two young girls in the same state only a year earlier.

As always, if you have any information on this case, do not hesitate to contact case manager Wendy Crane at the Davie Police Department on 954-357-5242.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Three Does:

I have some spare time today, so I thought I'd do a quick write up of a few Doe cases that I was reading about recently. 
I was browsing the Doe Network for the first time in a while and thought I'd share a couple of them here with you.
Keep in mind, these ones might bum you out a bit, one involves a toddler so if you don't want to read about that feel free to select another topic from the navigation strip above.

Here we go!

1. On the 11th of August 1994, a fisherman in Australia caught more than he bargained for while trawling for squid on his boat “Lady Marion” in the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales.
Tugging at a snagged line caused various colored pieces of plastic and metal to bob up and break the water’s surface. Out of curiosity he reeled the line in and upon further inspection noticed human bones protruding from the plastic.

(image: Wikipedia)

Police responded to his report by dragging the river, and turned up the remains of a dark haired Caucasian man estimated between his mid-twenties to mid-forties. Unusually, he was bound to a metal frame (that seemed to be constructed to fit his dimensions) by lengths of red rope and wire. It was described in one report [X] as a “Steel crucifix” having “arm and leg crossbar supports. Provided a photograph of both the rack and the boat on their website.


The report also revealed that the same red (sometimes said to be orange in some articles) rope was also used to tie one of the plastic bags around the victims head.
Rack man was dressed in a dark outfit consisting of track pants and a t shirt with a polo collar, his lighter and cigarettes were still in his pocket.  
His skull had suffered trauma- identified after analysis as several heavy blows to the head. However it is unclear if he died before being thrown into the river, or after.

(Reconstruction: News Corp Australia)

The weight of both the victim and the rack and the effort that went into this unusual disposal indicates more than one perpetrator. Investigators working the case offer a gang hit as a theory, but they can only speculate, as no one has been able to identify the Doe- and not from lack of trying.

The unknown homicide victim, sometimes referred to as “rack man” in the media, had clearly been killed and dumped with the purpose of never being discovered.  The fisherman who recovered him did so only by accident after a decade of trawling the same area week after week.
Rack man had potentially been there for 2-5 years, and almost never saw the light of day.

Despite a $100,000 reward, the case remains unsolved.
If you have any information on this case call: 02-94110940 or 02-94110948

[X] [X] [X] [X] [X]

2. Nine days before Valentines in 2005, the headless body of a male child washed up on the shore of Rockaway beach in Queens, New york. 
His remains were discovered by a dog walker named Cecilia Davis, who, along with 200 others, would later attend his funeral funded by the Children of hope foundation

According to the New York times, she first thought it was a seal, until she noticed the boys foot. “February 5th, it was time to walk my dog, Monty. And we walked up the street where I live to the beach. And I let the dog go. And he likes to run. He was having a good time. And I was picking up seashells. I happened to look up, and there was some large pieces of driftwood that had been washed up on shore. And I ran over there to investigate. And I looked down, and I saw a bed sheet. I was very stunned when I saw, and I realized it was a child’s body. I called 911. Yeah, I’m in Rockaway Park. I just found a body of a child. Well, it turned out to be a boy between 3 and 5 years old.” She said when appearing on the Montel Williams talk show 

“Valentine Hope”, as he came to be known, was determined to be white or Hispanic and around 4 years old. 
He was wrapped in blanket printed with Disney characters and had been forced into a bag with various injuries such as damage to his ribs and spine, before presumably being tossed into the sea. 

Although discovered headless, it was concluded that he had not been executed by way of beheading or decapitation, and that he had just decomposed while floating in the ocean. His death was officially ruled as a homicide, although it could not be determined by which method. His identity and killer(s) remain unknown. 

Please report to the NYCPD on 718-318-4224 if you have any information on this case. 

[X] [X] [X] [X

3. The Normal Hill Cemetery John Doe It was the 21st of September, 1989, when workers at the Normal Hill Cemetery in Lewiston, Nez Perce County, Idaho, discovered the skeletal remains of a John Doe already occupying the fresh plot that they were attempting to dig. 
Shocked by their discovery, they referred to cemetery records but could find no entry for the coffin-less man. The remains were not buried uniform to the other existing graves; rather they had been thrown in a shallow grave 10 years previously, according to analysis.

 It was determined he was white and that he was in his mid-twenties when he met his end. A model reconstruction was released to the public but nobody came forward to identify him.

His dental records remain on file, and those who think they have any information on the case are encouraged to contact (anonymously if desired) the Lewiston Police Department on 208-746-0171. 

[X] [X] [X] [X]