1982 Battle Creek Murder Case

Between August 1982 and March 1983, residents of Battle Creek, Michigan, were shocked by the brutal murders of three young women. “Street talk” linked their death to a satanic cult, and while no charges have been filed, police once described their prime suspect as a self-styled Satanist who boasted of leading black masses at Kalamazoo, Michigan. The unsolved murder had haunted Battle Creek for years when a local Crime Stoppers TV program featured the killing, doubling its usual reward to $5,000. The first to die was 20-year-old Margaret Hume, an ex-cheerleader and National Honor Society member, found strangled in the closet of her own apartment on August 18, 1982. Hume had been living in the flat for just three months before she died, her corpse hidden by a pile of clothes and bedding.

The second victim, Patricia "Patty" Rosansky, age 17, was walking to school on the morning of February 3, 1983, when she disappeared within two blocks of campus. Hikers found her body outside town on April 6, concealed by leaves and branches in a shallow gully. Heavy blows had crushed Rosansky’s skull. On March 13, 1983, the third victim, 17-year-old Karry Evans disappeared from rural Bellevue, 13 miles east of Battle Creek. Last seen walking near her grandparents’ home, Evans was found by mushroom hunters on May 10. She had been strangled, her body concealed by brush in a swampy region south of town. Once again there were rumors of demonic involvement: Evans had described her own occult beliefs in letters to friends, and she allegedly sported a jacket with the satanic emblem “666.”

In 1985, Thomas Cress was convicted of raping and battering Battle Creek teenager Patty Rosansky, leaving her body in a trash-filled ravine. At his trial, Cress testified he was delivering newspapers when Rosansky disappeared. His partner and a supervisor backed his alibi.

However, there was little physical evidence in the case. No fingerprints were found. And, in those pre-DNA days, only limited scientific information could be drawn from hair found in Rosansky's hand, or a semen-stained sanitary napkin found nearby.

Experts said the hair was not Cress'. But it was never linked to anyone else. Convicted of first-degree murder, Cress went to prison for life without parole. But, in 2002, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Cress.

After over 20 years, the lines are still drawn. The ex-cops believe Cress is innocent.

In 1986, a call from Arkansas police thrust Mullen and his boss, Cmdr. Joe Newman, into the middle of the case.

Arkansas police were holding a former Battle Creek man, Michael Ronning, for murder. He'd lived in an apartment below Maggie Hume, who was raped and murdered in 1982.

Eventually, Mullen and Newman came to believe Ronning also killed Rosansky, as well as Hume and Karry Evans, from nearby Bellevue, Ark.

By 1992, Mullen had interviewed Ronning several times and had a proposed deal OK'd by Calhoun County Prosecutor Jon Sahli. Ronning would serve his time in Michigan if he confessed to murders here. The deal was approved by the then-governors John Engler in Michigan and Mike Huckabee in Arkansas. But in May 1992, while the deal was pending, Sahli got a letter from Michigan State Police who wanted to destroy the evidence from the Rosansky case and many other cases in which the appeals were exhausted.

Sahli signed off on the destruction, but he didn't tell the cops about the ongoing negotiations with Ronning. The evidence wasn't burned until October 1992, but the detectives weren't told for four years.

Sahli, now an assistant prosecutor in Saginaw County, said last month that it was just routine state police housecleaning.

"It was done in the normal course of business," he said, adding: "I don't think Mike Ronning was involved in the Rosansky murder, or any other of those things up here. He just happened to be in the area." The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that Ronning was unreliable and that his confession was riddled with errors.

More than two decades after the crimes, it seems unlikely that the case will now be solved, but homicide investigators still invite new leads, in the hope that someone, somewhere, may provide a crucial piece of evidence to solve this case.

Sources :
The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes by Michael Newton;

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05:02 | 2 komentar

The Beast of Gévaudan

One day in June 1764, in a forest in the Gévaudan, a mountainous region of south-central France, a young woman tending cows looked up to see a hideous beast bearing down on her. The creature resembled an enormous wolf. Her dogs fled, but the cattle drove the beast off with their horns. The woman would prove considerably more fortunate than most witnesses of what became known as the “Beast of Gévaudan.” The beasts were consistently described by eyewitnesses as having formidable teeth and immense tails. Their fur had a reddish tinge, and was said to have emitted an unbearable odour. An enormous amount of manpower and resources was used in the hunting of the beast, including the army, conscripted civilians, several nobles, and a number of royal huntsmen.

The Beast of Gévaudan (French: La Bête du Gévaudan) is a name given to man-eating wolf-like animals alleged to have terrorized the former province of Gévaudan (modern day département of Lozère and part of Haute-Loire), in the Margeride Mountains in south-central France from 1764 to 1767 over an area stretching 90 by 80 kilometres (56 by 50 mi).

On 30 June 1764, the first official victim of the beast was Jeanne Boulet, 14, killed near the village of Les Hubacs, not far from Langogne. The beast also seemed to target people over farm animals; many times it would attack someone while cattle were in the same field. The killings resumed in late August or early September, and soon the creature was fearlessly attacking groups of men. The terrified peasantry were certain that a loup-garou (a werewolf) was abroad in the land. These rumors gained credence when individuals who had shot or stabbed the creature reported that it seemed almost impervious to human weapons.

On October 8, after two hunters pumped several rifle balls into it from a distance of ten paces, the creature limped off.When word of the incident spread, it was believed, briefly, that the beast had gone off to die. But within a day or two it was killing again. The Paris Gazette summarized witnesses’ descriptions of the beast: It was “much higher than a wolf, low before, and his feet are armed with talons.His hair is reddish, his head large, and the muzzle of it is shaped like that of a greyhound; his ears are small and straight; his breast is wide and gray; his back streaked with black; his large mouth is provided with sharp teeth.”

On June 6, 1765, the St. James’s Chronicle, an English periodical, remarked, “it appears that he is neither a Wolf, Tiger, nor Hyena, but probably a Mongrel, generated between the two last, and forming, as it were, a new Species.” After a frightening public attack on two children, who were bitten and torn even as older youths slashed at the creature with pitchforks and knives, an appeal was sent to the Royal Court at Versailles.

King Louis XV dispatched a troop of light cavalry, under the direction of Capt. Duhamel, to the region. Duhamel ordered several of his men to dress as women, on the theory that the creature was especially attracted to females. The hunters spotted the beast a number of times and shot at it, but it always managed to escape. Finally,when the slaughter seemed to have ceased, Duhamel thought the beast had died of its wounds. After he and his dragoons departed, however, the killings resumed. A large reward for the slaying of the beast then brought professional hunters and soldiers to the area. More than 100 wolves were killed, but the creature’s rampage continued. Some hunters, including a professional wolf-tracker who had been sent personally by the king, reported that they had badly wounded the beast. But nothing seemed to stop it.

During the summer of 1765 the massacre of children was especially fierce. As the months dragged on, whole villages were abandoned after residents claimed they had seen the beast staring through their windows. Those who ventured out into the streets were attacked.Many peasants were too frightened to fire on the creature even when it presented an open target.

On 21 September 1765, Antoine killed a large grey wolf measuring 80 centimetres (31 in) high, 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) long, and weighing 60 kilograms (130 lb). It was agreed locally that this was quite large for a wolf. Antoine officially stated: "We declare by the present report signed from our hand, we never saw a big wolf that could be compared to this one. Which is why we estimate this could be the fearsome beast that caused so much damage." The animal was further identified as the culprit by attack survivors, who recognized the scars on the creature's body, inflicted by victims defending themselves. The beast was stuffed and sent to Versailles where Antoine was received as a hero, receiving a large sum of money as well as titles and awards. However, on 2 December 1765, another beast emerged in la Besseyre Saint Mary, severely injuring two children. Dozens more deaths are reported to have followed.

On June 1767, when the Marquis d’Apcher, who lived in the western part of Gévaudan, brought together several hundred hunters and trackers who fanned out in smaller bands over the countryside. On the evening of June 19, the beast charged members of one band. Jean Chastel, who had taken the precaution of loading his weapon with silver bullets on the assumption that the beast was a loup-garou, fired on it twice. The second shot hit it squarely in the heart and killed it. When the creature was gutted, the collar bone of a young girl was recovered from its stomach. By the time of its death, it had killed some sixty persons. The state had expended over 29,000 livres — a fortune for the period — in its effort to stop the beast.

After the monstrous carcass was paraded through the region for the next two weeks, it was packed up to be sent to Versailles. By that time the body had begun to putrefy, and when it got to the royal court, its stench was unbearable. The king ordered Chastel to dispose of the remains, and they were buried somewhere in the French countryside.

The Gévaudan attacks were not considered isolated events. A century earlier, similar killings occurred in 1693 at Benais, in which over 100 victims, almost all of them women and children, were claimed by a creature described as exactly resembling the Gévaudan Beasts. During the events in Gévaudan, another beast was sighted at Sarlat, a prehistoric cavernous region just outside Gevaudan, on 4 August 1767.

Four decades after the Gévaudan attacks, more attacks occurred between 1809 and 1813 in Vivarais, when at least 21 children and adolescents were killed by another beast. From 1875 to 1879, more attacks occurred in L'Indre. All these killings, including the Gévaudan attacks, seem to have occurred mostly in four year periods. Attacks by wolf-like creatures continued to be reported in France up until 1954.

Many wildlife authorities believe that reported attacks on human beings by wolves (if the beast was indeed a wolf — albeit larger and more aggressive than most — as modern chroniclers assume) are sufficiently suspect that, as Roger A. Caras observes, “most can probably be discounted out of hand.” Yet mythology and exaggeration notwithstanding, there are widespread and seemingly credible reports of rapacious wolves, especially in the days before firearms.

Certain cryptozoologists suggest that the Beast might be a surviving remnants of a Mesonychid seeing how some witnesses described it as a huge wolf having hooves rather than paws and it was bigger then any normal sized wolf.

Another explanation is that the beasts were some type of domestic dog or crosses between wild wolves and domestic dogs, on account of their large size and unusual coloration. This speculation has found support from naturalist Michel Louis, author of the book La bête du Gévaudan: L'innocence des loups (English: The Beast of Gévaudan: The innocence of wolves) and an episode of Animal X. Louis wrote that Jean Chastel was frequently seen with a large red coloured mastiff, which he believes sired the beast. He explains that the beast's resistance to bullets may have been due to it wearing the armoured hide of a young boar, thus also accounting for the unusual colour. He dismisses hyenas as culprits, as the beast itself had 42 teeth, while hyenas have 34.

In a study of the relationship of human-attacking wolf reports to werewolf legends, W. M. S. and Claire Russell write that “modern wolves have had many generations’ experience of fire-arms, and are likely to be more cautious than their ancestors.” Few peasants in mid-eighteenth-century France possessed guns. Much folklore and printed speculation aside — the beast has been “identified” variously as a werewolf, a hyena, a man in wolf skins, or a hybrid bred by a madman specifically to kill people — no real doubt about the animal’s identity remains.

Sources :
Unexplained! : “Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena” by Jerome Clark;

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Unexplained! : “Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena” by Jerome Clark page 219
05:01 | 5 komentar

Ica Stones

Ica stones are considered by some people to be proof that there was once a technologically advanced civilization on Earth. They were reportedly discovered in a cave of unknown location near the city of Ica in Peru and popularized by Peruvian physician Javier Cabrera. Scientific testing of the more than fifteen thousand stones dates them as being from prehistoric times, but the stones are carved with images of things that would have been unfamiliar to any known prehistoric people. Contradicting both existing knowledge of Peruvian prehistory and evolution, they are considered prime examples of out-of-place artifacts. The stones are composed of andesite and vary in size from pebbles to boulders. They are shallowly engraved through their surface patina with a variety of images, purportedly depicting a variety of phenomena: For example, some of the stones seem to depict surgical equipment, blood transfusions, cesarean sections, and life support systems, as well as men using a telescope, Incan or Aztec men riding and attacking dinosaurs, extinct animals, flying machines, bestiality, star and land maps.

However, the circumstances of the stones’ discovery are clouded. A farmer originally said that he had found them in a cave revealed when the Ica River changed its course, and indeed, the stones’ composition shows that they could have come from the cave, near which archaeologists have found fossilized bones from prehistoric times. But when the Peruvian government arrested the farmer for selling some of the stones (because, under Peruvian law, as antiquities the stones would have belonged to the Peruvian government), he changed his story, saying that he had made the carvings himself.

Skeptics accept this confession as the truth, while believers say that it was a lie told to keep the farmer from going to prison. Among those who believe that the stones were carved in prehistoric times, various theories have developed regarding the individuals who might have made them.

Peruvian researcher Javier Cabrera, who now owns many of the stones, believes that they were created by a prehistoric people, whom he calls Gliptolithic man, who were part of an advanced civilization with knowledge of space travel. He theorizes that these people left Earth at a time when the planet was undergoing changes that would have made it inhospitable, such as seismic cataclysms that split whole continents into pieces. Indeed, some Ica stones depict continents on Earth that do not exist. Others seem to show spacecraft hovering over the ground.

Interestingly, the cave where the farmer claimed to have found the stones is near an area of mysterious lines scratched into the ground, the Nazca lines, which some people claim was once a landing site for extraterrestrial spacecraft. Cabrera thinks that this is the site from which Gliptolithic man left Earth. He further believes, based on some of the celestial drawings on the stones, that the Gliptolithics headed for a planet in the Pleiades star cluster.

Sources :
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena by Patricia D. Netzley;

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Hopkinsville Incident

One of the most amazing close encounter cases of all times occurred on the evening of August 22, 1955. The Sutton family of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was minding their own business when a “spaceship” landed in their backyard. The witnesses signed statements as well as composite drawings of the creatures. No evidence of a hoax has ever surfaced. The Hopkinsville incidents were taken seriously enough as to be officially investigated by the United States Air Force. According to the Sutton family, when their teenage son, Billy Ray Taylor, left the farmhouse that Sunday evening to get a drink from the well he saw a bright object land about a city block away from the farmhouse. He came inside and excitedly reported to the other 10 occupants of the house that he had seen a flying saucer. He said it was at an altitude of about 40 feet when it dropped to the ground at the end of the fields. The others did not go outside to investigate, thinking he had merely seen a shooting star.

An hour later the dog started barking, and two of the men went out to investigate. The dog ran under the house, and the men saw a figure approaching from the field. The creature was three and a half feet tall with a large head, and its arms reached almost to the ground. The smallish aliens looked like monsters with their nickel-plated jumpsuits, their glowing, yellow eyes, and their otherworldly appearance. When it got within twenty feet of the two men, they opened up on it with a shotgun and a .22 rifle. Frank Sutton quickly fired at the creature. The bullet appeared to hit the creature, but it just fell down and got back up and ran away.

Other Sutton family members crept outside to investigate when suddenly the creature appeared on the roof of the house and grabbed at one of the family members. They shot at the creature again, but it just floated slowly down and scampered away. Meanwhile, more of the strange creatures appeared and began to creep around the house, appearing and disappearing. Another creature was seen in a maple tree. The men shot it, knocking it off the limb, and it floated to the ground. Another creature appeared from around the corner of the house, and the men shot it from extremely close range. The shotgun pellets made a sound as if they had hit a metal bucket. The creature flipped over and ran away.

After more attempts to drive the creatures away failed, the Suttons had enough. They piled into their car and raced to the police station. By this time it was after 11 P.M., and when they showed up at the station, the witnesses were in a state of such hysteria that police chief Russell Greenwell said it was evident something “beyond reason, not ordinary,” had frightened them. The witnesses had no idea how many of the creatures there were. They could be certain only that there were at least two because once they saw that number at the same time.

With Chief Greenwell in the lead, more than a dozen state, country, and city law enforcement officers arrived to investigate the farmers’ claims and, if necessary, do battle with the alien invaders. On the way to the farm scene, the officers noticed what appeared to be a peculiar shower of meteors coming from the direction of the Sutton farmhouse. One officer later said that the meteors had made a “swishing sound” as they passed overhead.

Although the small army of law enforcement officers found no traces of extraterrestrial aliens or their spaceship, they found several “peculiar signs and indications” that something mighty strange had taken place that evening on the Suttons’ farm. Sutton claimed that he had blasted one of the beings point-blank with his shotgun, only to have the creature simply do a somersault and roll off into the darkness. Taylor, one of the other men at the Sutton place that night, told investigators that he had used up four boxes of shells on the little men.

Everyone except the occupants left at 2 A.M. The creatures were again periodically seen at the windows for about two more hours, and on one occasion Lucky Sutton shot one through a window. The final sighting occurred at 4:45 a.m. There was no evidence that the witnesses had been drinking. They were genuinely scared, with elevated pulse rates.

Coral and Jim Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization (APRO) later researched the case. They found the witnesses credible and concluded that the family had seen something not from this world.

Sources :
Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena : ”UFO and Aliens” by Preston Dennett;
The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained Vol.3 by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger;
UFOs and Popular Culture : “An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Myth” by James R. Lewis;
Unexplained! : “Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena” by Jerome Clark;

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06:17 | 2 komentar

Dyatlov Pass Mystery

In 1959 a group of Russian cross-country skiers went on a trek through the Ural Mountains, but they never return. Eventually, their bodies are discovered. The lack of eyewitnesses and subsequent investigations into the hikers' deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. According to sources, four of the victims' clothing contained high levels of radiation. It happened on the east shoulder of the mountain Kholat Syakhl (a Mansi name, meaning Mountain of the Dead). The mountain pass where the incident occurred has since been named Dyatlov Pass after the group's leader, Igor Dyatlov.

The group, consisted of eight men and two women. Most were students or graduates of Ural Polytechnical Institute, now Ural State Technical University: Igor Dyatlov (the group's leader) (23); Zinaida Kolmogorova (22); Lyudmila Dubinina (21); Alexander Kolevatov (25); Rustem Slobodin (23); Georgy Krivonischenko (24); Yuri Doroshenko (24); Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle (24); Alexander Zolotarev (37); Yuri Yudin (sole survivor).

On Jan. 28, 1959 they set off on a skiing expedition to Otorten Mountain in the northern Urals. Their route to Otorten, which would see them reaching heights of 1,100m (3,600ft) above sea level, was classed as ‘Category III’ – the most dangerous for the time of year – but the combined experience of the students meant that there was nothing unusual in their undertaking such an expedition. Yury Yudin (the only surviving member), fell ill at the last stop before their destination and left the group. Little did he know it would be the last time he saw his friends alive.

On 31 January, they reached the river Auspia, where they set up a base at the edge of the highland area, leaving equipment and food there for the return journey. From here, they began climbing the pass toward Otorten on 1 February. For whatever reason – most likely bad weather conditions causing them to become lost – they found themselves on the slopes of the mountain Kholat Syakhl at a height of just below 1,100m (3,600ft). Here, at around 5pm, they pitched their tent for the night, although by going just 1.5km (almost a mile) down the mountain they could have found shelter from the harsh elements in a forest.

Their last diary entries show that the students were in good spirits; they even produced their own newspaper – the Evening Otorten – a typically Soviet way of group bonding. The next day, they planned to continue on to the mountain, just 10km (six miles) to the north, before returning to their base camp. Dyatlov was supposed to send a telegram back to the Ural Polytechnic Institute, where the skiers set off from, on February the 12th. This was the time the group had expected to be back from their expedition, and sent from Ural town, Vizhai.

According to Yudin, Dyatlov told him (as he was left behind), to expect the group to be a day or two late, just in case. No telegram ever came, and on February the 20th, the relatives of the skiers raised the alarm to the army and the police, who in turn launched a search and rescue team.

On February 26, the searchers found the abandoned camp on Kholat Syakhl. The tent was badly damaged. A chain of footprints could be followed, leading down towards the edge of nearby woods (on the opposite side of the pass, 1.5km north-east), but after 500 meters they were covered with snow. At the forest edge, under a large old pine, the searchers found the remains of a fire, along with the first two dead bodies, those of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in their underwear. Between the pine and the camp the searchers found three more corpses—Dyatlov, Kolmogorova and Slobodin—who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the camp. They were found separately at distances of 300, 480 and 630 meters from the pine tree.

Searching for the remaining four travelers took more than two months. They were finally found on May 4, under four meters of snow, in a ravine in a stream valley further into the wood from the pine tree. All, it seems, had fled in sudden terror from their camp in the middle of the night. Casting aside skis, food and warm coats, they dashed headlong down a snowy slope toward a thick forest, where they stood no chance of surviving bitter temperatures of around –30º C (–22º F). At the time, seemingly baffled investigators offered the non-explanation that the group had died as a result of “a compelling unknown force” – and then simply closed the case and filed it as ‘Top Secret’.

After half a century, the mystery remains. What was the nature of the deadly “unknown force”? Were the Soviet authorities hiding something? And, if so, exactly what were they were attempting to cover up? In the intervening years, a number of solutions have been put forward, involving everything from hostile tribes and abominable snowmen to aliens and secret military technology.

Doctors said all five had died of hypothermia. Only Slobodin bore any injuries other than burnt hands: his skull was fract­ured, although this was not considered to be the cause of his death. An examination of the the other four bodies which were found in May changed the picture. Three of them had fatal injuries: the body of Thibeaux-Brignolle had major skull damage, and both Dubunina and Zolotarev had major chest fractures. The force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high, with one expert comparing it to the force of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. One woman was found to be missing her tongue.

There had initially been some speculation that the indigenous Mansi people might have attacked and murdered the group for encroaching upon their lands, but investigation indicated that the nature of their deaths did not support this thesis; the hikers' footprints alone were visible, and they showed no sign of hand-to-hand struggle.

Tests of the few scraps of clothing revealed very high levels of radiation. The original chief investigator, Lev Ivanov, described how he took a Geiger counter with him to the campsite on the mountain slope; as he approached, the device started to click rapidly and loudly. Ivanov also revealed that he had been ordered by senior regional officials to close the case and classify the findings as secret.

Evidence found at the campsite indicates the trekkers might've been blinded. Eyewitnesses around the area report seeing "bright orange spheres" in the sky during the same months. And, relatives at the funeral swear the skin of their dead loved ones was tanned, tinted dark orange or brown. And their hair had all turned completely gray.

Some reports suggested that much scrap metal was located in the area, leading to speculation that the military had utilized the area secretly and might be engaged in a cover-up. Yuri Yudin’s theory is that the military might have found the tent before the volunteer rescuers. He said he had been asked to identify the owner of every object found at the scene and had failed to find a match for a piece of cloth that looked like it had come from a soldier’s coat, a pair of glasses, a pair of skis and a piece of a ski.

Yudin had also seen documents that led him to believe that the criminal investigation had been opened on 6 February – 14 days before the search team found the tent. Other proponents of the ‘military cover-up’ version of events go further, and believe the hikers could have been deliberately killed after stumbling upon some kind of military secret. Whatever the military had been testing – and perhaps it had gone disastrously wrong – they hadn’t expected anyone to be in such a remote area in the middle of winter. When they discovered the group of sports tourists, their priority was to ensure secrecy by elimin­ating any surviving witnesses.

Sources :

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04:57 | 2 komentar

SS Portland

On November 26, 1898, the steamship SS Portland left India Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts, for Portland, Maine, on a regularly scheduled run. She never made it to port. The vessel sank, carrying 192 individuals to their deaths. They were among the 500 or so victims of the “Portland Gale,” an epic blizzard that packed winds of hurricane force, a storm of greater ferocity than the famed blow of 1841. Why the ship’s captain did not return to port in face of the fierce blizzard and how the ship succumbed to the elements remain a mystery. So did the wreck’s location, until underwater photography more than a century later confirmed its resting place. In a region that has recorded hundreds of ship disasters, notes renowned maritime historian Edward Rowe Snow, the loss of the SS Portland was “the worst marine tragedy of the 19th Century in New England waters.”

Commissioned in 1890, the SS Portland was a sleek wooden side-wheel steamship, 281 feet in length and 62 feet wide, displacing 2,282 tons. The ship had 168 staterooms and could carry 800 passengers. Drawing only 11 feet of water, the SS Portland’s design facilitated navigation in shallow harbors and rivers but made the craft less stable on the open sea. Its 1500-horsepower engine powered the vessel at 12– 13 knots, allowing the ship to make its regular run between Boston and Portland, Maine, in nine hours. One newspaper described the craft as “the finest vessel that will travel eastern waters.”

At 7 P.M. Saturday evening on November 26, the SS Portland left India Wharf in Boston destined for Portland, carrying 127 passengers and 65 crew members. The ship was under the command of Captain Hollis Blanchard, who had worked for the Portland Steamship Company, the vessel’s owner, for nine years as a first pilot but only recently had become the SS Portland’s master.

Captain Blanchard had seen the noon weather report that predicted snow during Saturday night but warned of no unusually dangerous conditions. The steamship company’s manager indicated that the line received its normal 3 P.M. weather report from New York by wire, which was compared with conditions in Boston and Portland. Snow was reported to the south, but the reports failed to foresee the convergence of two powerful weather systems. One low-pressure system formed over the Great Lakes and brought cold air as it swept into New England. A second and larger front originated in the Gulf of Mexico and gained energy and moisture as it moved into the Gulf of Maine.

While the midday weather was pleasant, the dual fronts combined into a raging “nor’easter” blizzard by evening, with wind gusts reaching hurricane force. Observers on the U.S. Weather Station on Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island) recorded wind speeds of 90 miles per hour before their instrument blew away and estimated that gusts topped 110 miles per hour. Snow began to fall as the SS Portland pushed out into Boston harbor.

The steamship Kennebec, which had headed out earlier, sounded four warning blasts on its horn as it passed the Portland on its return to port. Blanchard acknowledged the signal but kept his ship’s bow pointed seaward. Once caught in the storm’s fury, with waves as high as 40 feet, the Portland was severely handicapped. Reversing direction put the ship in peril because if it turned broadside into the mountainous waves, it could capsize. The SS Portland was observed close to Thasher’s Island off Cape Ann at 9:30 P.M. but was later sighted a dozen miles southeast of this location. Blanchard apparently adopted this new heading in hope of riding out the gale in the open sea rather than attempt to put in at Gloucester harbor, as other vessels had.

A later sighting, believed to be the Portland, put the vessel off the coast of North Truro on Cape Cod on Sunday morning. It's clear the ship sank on Sunday, Nov. 27, either at around 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., because watches recovered with the bodies stopped between 9 and 10 o'clock. It's unknown, however, whether the ship capsized, broke apart, collided with one of the other lost ships, or exploded.

The “Portland Gale” inflicted terrible damage on New England, sinking upward of 400 vessels and taking perhaps 500 or more lives. Some ships simply disappeared without a trace. Coastal communities from New York to Maine were ravaged. Snow drifts higher than 15 feet were reported. Downed telegraph wires kept Cape Codders isolated from the mainland for days, hindering the effort to determine the fate of the Portland. Even the cable between the United States and Britain had broken. As no passenger manifest had been left at port, weeks elapsed before the identity of all passengers and crew were established. The tragedy spurred shipping companies to leave a list of passengers on shore and to substitute screw propeller vessels for older paddle wheelers. Screw propulsion not only was more efficient, but it also eliminated enclosures for the paddle wheels, which increased the stability of vessels in heavy seas.

The final resting place of the Portland remained a mystery for nearly a century, despite numerous attempts to locate the wreck. In 1989, John Fish, a marine historian, located the ship 20 miles north of Provincetown on Cape Cod. For years, controversy reigned as to the location of the ill-fated ship. In the summer of 2002, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, joined by the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut (UConn), solved the mystery surrounding the Portland's location. Using data from American Underwater Search and Survey, they brought back images from the sea floor that conclusively identified the remains of the steamship Portland.

Along with the loss of life, survivors agonized over questions that remain mysteries today. It will never be known why Blanchard left India Wharf that Saturday and didn't turn around when the mistake was clear. Officials of the Portland-based steamship company insisted later that they had telephoned a message for Blanchard to wait in port. Blanchard would not likely have ignored such an order, however. He may never have received the message. Some insisted, despite the company's statements, that he was ordered to sail. Blanchard did check weather forecasts, but may have been confident he would be well ahead of the storm.

Sources :
Disasters, Accidents, and Crises In American History : “A reference Guide to the Nation’s Most Catastrophic Events” by Ballard C. Campbell;

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Manrow House

When J.P. Manrow built his home on Russian Hill in San Francisco in 1851, he had no idea that it would house more than his family. Unfriendly spirits moved right in with him. Manrow, a civil engineer who made a fortune in California real estate, expected to live the high life. Instead, he found himself at the mercy of invisible pranksters. Troubling things happened from the family’s first day in the house. Something kept stealing objects and hiding them or moving them around. And there were unexplained rapping sounds coming from within the walls. The sounds disturbed and frightened the family at all hours of the day and night. Mrs. Manrow seemed to be the favorite target. She would come home from shopping, set her purchases down, turn away for a moment—and they would be gone. Later, she would find them in a strange place in the house. Once the family was rudely surprised by salt in the sugar bowl instead of sugar. The family soon tired of the tricks and weird noises, but the intrusions would not stop. They went on for years.

By 1856 Manrow was at his wit’s end. He told a few friends about his ghostly problems. The men thought it would be a good idea to investigate. They decided to hold an amateur séance at Manrow’s home with their wives present. No one knew how to organize or control a séance, and the group got far more than they bargained for. The table levitated. Objects were tossed about the room. Everyone was pinched and had their hair pulled. The doorbell rang by itself. Most frightening of all was the appearance of a demonic-looking apparition outside the house. The horrible figure stared at them through a window.

A local newspaper dubbed Manrow’s home the “House of Demons,” giving a colorful description of it : "If all the fiends in hell had combined their features into one master-piece of ugliness and revolting hideousness of countenance, they could not have produced a face so full of horrors. It was blacker than the blackest midnight that ever frowned in starless gloom over the storm-swept ocean."

If this wasn’t terrifying enough, the group decided to hold two more séances. Once they attempted to ask “good” spirits to come and push out the bad spirits. All they did was stir up more violent poltergeist activity. After three séances they gave up. The Manrow family just put up with all the ghostly activity for the rest of their time in the house.

The Manrow House no longer exists, having been replaced by an apartment tower. No explanation for the haunting was ever found, so the question remains: why would a brand new house be occupied by any ghosts or spirits, let alone unfriendly ones? Strangely, this sort of negative haunting happens over and over again, in both old and brand new houses today. Sometimes the ghosts or spirits seem attached to the place, and sometimes they seem attached to specific people.

Source :
Mysteries, Legends and Unexplained Phenomena : “Ghosts and Haunted Places” by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

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