Boy Swallows Pen Point

This quick summary of a “pen point” incident was found in a 1910 Los Angeles Herald. Wonder if he got out of taking the exam?

Boy swallows pen pointBoy swallows pen point Thu, Jun 2, 1910 – Page 2 · Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

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The Bell Witch

In the early 1800s, the family of one John Bell was much disturbed by an entity that would later be called the “Bell Witch.”

Bell Witch of TennesseeBell Witch of Tennessee Sat, Jul 14, 1894 – Page 13 · The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States of America) · Newspapers.com Betsy Bell sees the Witch in the WoodsBetsy Bell sees the Witch in the Woods Sun, Jul 15, 1894 – Page 10 · Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Origins

The story of the Bell Witch doesn’t appear in papers until 1894, decades after the original incident. A man named Martin Van Buren Ingram published An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch. His (not especially authenticated) account of the spooky tale created the foundation for the legend that survives today.

Antics of the Bell WitchAntics of the Bell Witch Sun, Mar 21, 1948 – Page 89 · The Tennessean (Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Identity

Who was this ghost? Why did they call her a witch? And why did she bother the Bells? The favorite answer to all these questions would have to be Kate Batts:

Witch connected to Kate BattsWitch connected to Kate Batts Sun, Oct 26, 1986 – Page 75 · Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

A Famous Visitor

Whatever her origins, the Bell Witch was the hit of the county. People came from miles away to see signs of her existence and be pranked and pinched by the famous entity. The Bells were said to have even had a visit from none other than Andrew Jackson, future president of the United States.

Andrew Jackson and the Bell WitchAndrew Jackson and the Bell Witch Fri, Jun 18, 1943 – 4 · The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Montgomery, Alabama, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Interactions with the Bells

The witch seemed to be fond of Lucy Bell, and never bothered her. John Bell, however, found himself the target of her most upsetting behavior. Their daughter Elizabeth, nicknamed “Betsy,” was also frequently pestered by the witch, though mostly in the role of an aggressive matchmaker.

Betsy BellBetsy Bell Sun, Dec 19, 1937 – Page 42 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Betsy’s beau Joshua was, for reasons which the witch never explained, disapproved of. She repeatedly told Betsy to break off their marriage plans, which Betsy eventually did. She went on to marry her old schoolteacher, Richard Powell.

But all the witch’s true hatred was reserved for John. When he was found dead, apparently poisoned, the disembodied voice of the witch proudly took credit.

Kate Kate “Bell Witch” hated John Bell Tue, Jan 24, 1989 – 10 · The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville, Montgomery, Tennessee, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

With John’s death and Betsy’s broken engagement, the Bell Witch was satisfied. She left the family alone (more or less) after that. But even today she’s said to still be making trouble in her old Tennessean haunts.

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Mardi Gras a Century Ago

It’s a bit of a read, but this article on Mardi Gras from 1894 gives a wonderful sense of the way traditions connect us through centuries. How much has changed, and how much stays the same?

Mardi Gras history and traditions, 1894Mardi Gras history and traditions, 1894 Sun, Feb 25, 1894 – Page 5 · The Times (Shreveport, Caddo, Louisiana, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

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The Flannan Isles Disappearance

In December 1900, something very unusual happened on one of the desolate Scottish islands that make up the Flannan Isles. All three men manning the lighthouse on the largest of the seven islands disappeared without a trace.

The Three Missing Men Behind the Locked DoorThe Three Missing Men Behind the Locked Door Sun, Feb 9, 1975 – 76 · Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

An Empty Lighthouse

Three men manned the lighthouse at one time. In the early days of the newly built lighthouse, those three men were Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald McArthur. A fourth man, Joseph Moore, was due to relieve one of the men in late December following his two-week break.

The first signs of something amiss came on December 15th, when a passing ship reported that no guiding light came from the lighthouse. For reasons of bad weather or convenience, no one went to investigate. It wasn’t until the 26th that a ship finally arrived at the island bearing supplies and Joseph Moore, and the sad reality was discovered.

Mystery of the Atlantic - Lighthouse DisasterMystery of the Atlantic – Lighthouse Disaster Fri, Dec 28, 1900 – 5 · The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Tayside, Scotland) · Newspapers.com

Possible Explanations

The generally accepted explanation goes something like this: the men were trying to secure a crane or aid someone in distress when they were swept away by an unexpected, massive wave. But the unusual nature of the story, and the mysterious clues left behind (often embellished in the papers, of course), led to other increasingly dramatic theories:

Flannan Isles Disappearance theoriesFlannan Isles Disappearance theories Sun, Jul 24, 1994 – 158 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Still a Mystery

Unfortunately, the bodies of the three men were never found. The details of what exactly happened to the lighthouse keepers on that remote and stormy isle remain a mystery.

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Love at First Sight

Here’s a little love joke to wrap up the month of all things lovey-dovey:

Love at first sight jokeLove at first sight joke Wed, Mar 7, 1923 – 3 · The Alexander City Outlook (Alexander City, Alabama, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

There’s plenty more like this to be found on Newspapers.com. Try a search for something specific or browse through the pages for gems like the one above.

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The Real-Life Shipwreck that Inspired Moby Dick

A Whale Sinks the EssexA Whale Sinks the Essex Sun, Feb 27, 1916 – Page 65 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Some already know this story; those who saw 2015’s In the Heart of the Sea will have even watched it play out on the big screen. But for many, the true and horrific tale of the Essex shipwreck has only been seen in fictional fragments through the novel it inspired, Moby Dick.

Moby Dick ends with a whale-induced shipwreck; the true story begins with one.

The Wreck

Whale sinks a big vesselWhale sinks a big vessel Sun, Jul 4, 1915 – Page 4 · The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com

Though “Uncle Jack” may be a fictional embellishment in the article above, the shipwreck caused by the whale’s attack was very much real. It took place on November 20, 1820, and was only the beginning of the horrors faced by the crew of the foundered Essex. Twenty men divided themselves between three boats and deliberated on what should be done next. One boat was commanded by Captain Pollard, one by first mate Owen Chase, and the third by second mate Matthew Joy.

Lost at Sea

In a decision that will read as decidedly ironic to those who know the history, the crew decided against the shorter and easier route west to the Marquesas islands for fear of encountering cannibals. Instead they opted to travel east with hopes of reaching South America, though the journey would be twice as long, with currents and winds working against them.

After surviving nearly a month on the provisions they had hastily taken from the sinking Essex, all three boats landed on what they thought was Ducie Island. It didn’t take long to realize the island’s scant resources would not support them for long. They set sail again one week later, though three men opted to stay behind and take their chances on the island. Captain Pollard also left behind a letter with hopes that it would be sent on to his family if the men were recovered.

Three men remained on Ducie's Island (Essex disaster)Three men remained on Ducie’s Island (Essex disaster) Sun, Feb 27, 1916 – Page 65 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Dire Straits

This is where the details become especially grim.

The boat captained by Owen Chase was separated from the other two in a squall on January 11th. Two of the men on board perished in the days following; the first was slipped into the sea to rest, but the second was eaten by the starving men who remained. On February 18th Chase’s boat, containing three survivors, spotted a British vessel, the Indian.

Second boat picked up with three survivors (Essex disaster)Second boat picked up with three survivors (Essex disaster) Sat, Aug 4, 1821 – 2 · The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Western Countries and South Wales Advertiser (Bristol, Bristol, England) · Newspapers.com

The other two boats were separated from each other not long after. One, with three men still living, was never seen again. The second held Captain Pollard, his young cousin Owen Coffin, and two other crew members. With starvation a very real and looming threat, a difficult choice was made:

Owen Coffin killed to save the others (Essex disaster)Owen Coffin killed to save the others (Essex disaster) Sat, Sep 10, 1921 – 6 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

With the sustenance provided by Coffin and a second man who died a few days later, Pollard and the remaining crewman Charles Ramsdell survived long enough to be recovered by an American whaling ship, the Dauphin, on February 23, 1821.

On April 9th the three men who stayed on Ducie Island (which turned out to be Henderson Island) were recovered, still miraculously alive. Of the twenty men who had sailed away from the wreckage of the Essex, only eight survived. Owen Chase’s account of the experience would be the inspiration for Herman Melville’s famous American novel, along with many other stories and films.

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Cato, King of Cats

From saving his owner’s life to waving goodbye on his deathbed, this “King of All the Cats” had quite the reputation. Cato must have been special to have earned this unofficial obituary:

Cato, King of CatsCato, King of Cats Wed, Jul 12, 1876 – 1 · The Crescent (Beaufort, South Carolina, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

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Bay Leaves on Your Pillow, and Other Love Spells

Happy Valentines Day! This day has its share of nay-sayers, and not without reason. Though some have more commercial concerns in mind, most find that lacking a significant other can really put a damper on a holiday centered around love. Such concerns are sprinkled throughout the papers, and with them come some rather unusual solutions. Some might call them superstitions, others call them spells. But all are said to be effective in leading you to love.

1. Scatter Something

The first method to snatching up a sweetheart involves hemp seed and, ideally, a church.

Valentine's Eve Hemp ScatteringValentine’s Eve Hemp Scattering Sun, Nov 25, 1900 – Page 21 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, United States of America) · Newspapers.com Sowing and Harrowing Hemp SeedSowing and Harrowing Hemp Seed Sat, Oct 29, 1892 – 20 · The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Lacking in hemp and/or churches? No problem. Just substitute hemp for barley and the church for an apple tree. You could even go for it on a different holiday, if you like:

Scatter Barley for your future husbandScatter Barley for your future husband Tue, Oct 20, 1896 – 3 · St. Albans Daily Messenger (Saint Albans, Vermont, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

2. Flower Power

It comes as no surprise that flowers can play a big role in matters of the heart. They have long been associated with Valentine’s Day, often gifted as a token of love. This is about love too…but it comes at it in a slightly different way.

Rose Leaves will name your loveRose Leaves will name your love Wed, Apr 23, 1884 – 7 · Gibson City Courier (Gibson City, Illinois, United States of America) · Newspapers.com Simple flower love spellSimple flower love spell Tue, Oct 20, 1896 – 3 · St. Albans Daily Messenger (Saint Albans, Vermont, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

3. Spookier Spells

The following method works in much the same way that many mirror tricks do—mostly with a lot of staring. But while often such things are associated with visions of spooky ghosts, this one shows you the face of your future love.

The looking glass, comb, and apple love spellThe looking glass, comb, and apple love spell Sat, Oct 29, 1892 – 20 · The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

If you’re really not into the sweeter stuff, there’s always Miss Hill’s somewhat morbid choice of spell. How she got hold of the man’s socks we may never know.

Socks in a new-made graveSocks in a new-made grave Fri, Jun 13, 1884 – Page 2 · The Shippensburg Chronicle (Shippensburg, Cumberland, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

4. Pillow Leaves

Finally, we end with the well-established and once-loved practice of pinning bay leaves to your pillow. A night’s rest with this set up would guarantee dreams of your sweetheart.

Valentine's Bay Leaves traditionValentine’s Bay Leaves tradition Sun, Feb 10, 1957 – 11 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Richland, Ohio, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Some pin the leaves at each corner of the pillow, with one directly in the middle, but Jody Berkey, below, has a more decorative approach.

Five bay leaves on your pillowFive bay leaves on your pillow Sun, Feb 10, 1957 – 11 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Richland, Ohio, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

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How Not to Fool the Police

Have you ever waited for a street car with thirteen moving boxes and a suitcase? Neither did this guy, but he certainly tried to make police think otherwise.

Robber's story: he was Robber’s story: he was “waiting for a street car” Fri, Feb 4, 1949 – Page 2 · Portland Press Herald (Portland, Cumberland, Maine) · Newspapers.com

Could his name be any more perfect? Imagine police opening Mr. Jewel Case’s boxes only to find…jewels!

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The Dreams That Uncovered a Murder

In May 1827, Maria Marten left home to elope to Ipswich with a man named William Corder. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, the elopement was not quite the scene of love and companionship that Maria expected. Her sorry fate was so famous it has since earned its own name: The Red Barn Murder. Perhaps oddest of all was that the whole thing was uncovered because of a dream.

William and Maria

Maria and William’s decision to marry seems to have come of necessity. They had an illegitimate child together, and though the child died William still seemed committed to the marriage. Their town of Polstead, England, had a building landmark known as the Red Barn where William and Maria planned to meet for their elopement. At William’s suggestion she left her house dressed in men’s clothes to evade prosecution for her illegitimate child, and was last seen on the way to the Red Barn to meet her love.

Dreams of the Barn

Her family didn’t see or hear from her for months. William offered a slew of excuses when asked about her lack of letters or visits home. Over the nearly year-long absence of Maria, concerns became suspicions, and suspicions became dreams:

Discovered Maria's death after a dreamDiscovered Maria’s death after a dream Sat, Jan 25, 1862 – 6 · The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Western Countries and South Wales Advertiser (Bristol, Bristol, England) · Newspapers.com

Against all odds, the dreams were not just the nighttime illusions of a worried mind. They’d led straight to Maria’s body and had brought a murder to light.

William’s Trial and Conviction

All signs pointed to William as the primary suspect, of course. He’d met her at the Red Barn, and there she’d stayed.

William Corder's arrest, claimed he did not know Maria MartenWilliam Corder’s arrest, claimed he did not know Maria Marten Sat, Aug 16, 1828 – 4 · Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

Despite his insistence that he was not the murderer, and that Maria had in fact died by her own hand, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Many papers printed the detailed description of his execution and the confession of guilt that came with it. As a gruesome footnote to the whole terrible situation, William’s body was afterward cut open and put on public display before being transferred to a hospital for dissection.

As strange as it may seem, the dreams of Maria’s step-mother brought justice to her murderer, and resolution to her loved ones. Were they the result of logical conclusions coming together in the woman’s sleep? Or were they proof of something a bit more mystical?

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