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The Strange Case of the Artistic Poltergeist

By Brent Swancer

SINCE as long as there have been ghostly phenomena reported poltergeists have featured heavily, and there are numerous accounts of this. The setting for this strange tale we will look at here is the quiet town of Hartford, Connecticut, were in 1850 a Presbyterian minister by the name of Eliakim Phelps lived with his second wife, a widow who had 4 kids of various ages, the youngest being 3 and the oldest 16. They lived a mostly peaceful life, and Phelps had a mostly good reputation in town, but things were about to shake up their serene home, and launch an obscure, but very strange case of poltergeist phenomena with some rather unique twists.

It allegedly started on March 10, 1850, with the Phelps family returning from church to find their house completely ransacked. Furniture was strewn about everywhere, dishes thrown to the floor, and the whole place in a state of disarray, yet as the family picked through the mess they found something quite creepy and odd among scattered furniture in one of the rooms. There, they found 11 little figures that seemed to have been made of clothing, paper, and miscellaneous objects, 10 of them female and one of them male. Although the state of the room itself was a chaotic mess, these dolls had been carefully arranged into a circle and placed in poses that suggested they were praying, complete with miniature little bibles in their hand, but the weirdest thing was what sat in the center of the arrangement. In the center there was another doll, but it was not human, but rather had the countenance of an ugly, evil looking dwarf with another figure in the air above it, just hanging there as if levitating.

The FamilyThe frightened family took to locking the rooms and keeping an eye on them, but the figures continued to sporadically appear, every time meticulously fashioned from cloth and paper, right down to the last detail, and they suggested an exquisite skill. On many occasions these dolls would appear in locked rooms that had been carefully watched, and no one could figure out who was making them or where they were coming from. A Dr. Webster came to the home to investigate, seeing the phenomenon for himself, and he was equally as baffled as anyone else. According to the book The World’s Strangest True Mysteries, by Fate Magazine’s Phyllis Galde, Dr. Webster wrote an article in the New Haven Journal and Courier at the time, which reads in part:

The figures appeared when no human being could have entered the room. They were constructed and arranged, I am convinced, by no visible power, with a tableau ensemble both beautiful and picturesque. The clothing of which the figures were constructed was somehow gathered from all parts of the house, despite the strict watch that was kept to see that nothing of the sort could possibly happen. In a short space of time, so many figures were constructed that it would not have been possible for half a dozen women working steadily for several hours, to have completed their design and picturesque tableau. Yet these things happened in a short space of time, with the whole house on watch. In all, about 30 figures were constructed during this period. Some were so life-like that a small child being shown the room thought his mother was leaning in prayer with the rest.

This was already quite strange and unsettling as it was, but the unexplainable phenomena in the house would soon graduate to the more frightening. Objects started to get thrown across the room by unseen hands to smash into walls, windows were broken, raps and bangs were heard at all hours, and the walls and furniture were vandalized by invisible forces. People were also pinched, slapped, or pushed by an unseen aggressor, objects were set on fire, and things would fly about through the air chasing people around the house. Even weirder phenomena would occur as well, such as a plant growing out of the carpet of the living room that had leaves adorned with what looked like hieroglyphics, writing appearing on walls and other surfaces as witnesses looked on, objects dropping out of thin air, utensils found bent into strange shapes, clothes found slashed and torn, and people being levitated into the air. Many times, these things would happen in full view of reporters and other witnesses. One report made by a witness named H.B. Taylor illustrates some of the intensity of these occurrences, saying:

In my presence the elder boy was carried across the room by invisible hands and deposited gently on the floor. A supper table was raised and tipped over when the room was completely empty to people. In one instance, the boy’s clothes were cut to ribbons. In the presence of several persons, articles moved through the air, and a brass candlestick fell from the mantelpiece and continued to dash itself against the floor until broken. A shovel and tong set moved out of the fireplace and proceeded to hop about and dance in the middle of the floor. A heavy dining room table was raised into the air and a lamp moved across the room and set fire to some papers. On a later occasion the boy was found hung to a tree and the elder girl, while sleeping, had a pillow pressed over her head and tape tied around her neck which nearly strangled her.

IndeeIndeed, much of these phenomena seemed to revolve around the oldest boy and girl, and was most pronounced in their presence. Because of this, it was thought at the time that the children were perhaps playing some kind of prank, but this did not seem possible to the degree that it was all happening, and the dolls, which continued to appear through all of this, were of too artistic a quality to have been crafted by children. There were some attempts to have seances and try to communicate with any possible spirits, but these were often plagued by cryptic answers and inscrutable messages that no one could really understand, making it even murkier. So was it ghosts or spirits? Mr. Phelps himself would say of it all:

I have never seen a spirit. I do not know what a spirit could do if it would, or what a spirit would do if it could! The facts of the phenomena, however, are such, and have transpired under such circumstances, as to render the idea of tricks or design and deception wholly inadmissible. The reports in the newspapers have promulgated the idea that these are merely the tricks of children; but on many occasions, the conditions have been such that there could have been no tricks by children or others. However, I place no value in any message, and if they are from spirits, they are from evil spirits. The communications themselves profess to be wicked spirits in a state of torment, seeking communications in order to redress wrongs done in life. I am satisfied that the communications are wholly worthless in that they are frequently false, contradictory, and nonsensical- the spirits often accusing each other of lying, and constantly inflicting injury on persons and property.

What was going on here? What is with the meticulously crafted dolls and all of the other strangeness that tormented this simple family? Was this evil spirits, hoaxes, pranks, or something else entirely? Although the case of the “artistic poltergeist” has largely been forgotten, it is one of the stranger and more intense reports out there, and still manages to elude any real answers.


The Strange Tale of the Sorcerer of Scotland

By Brent Swancer 

HISTORY is populated by strange and enigmatic individuals who have managed to become larger than life through centuries of legends orbiting them. We are often unable to fully untangle fact from fiction with such characters, often left to sift through what might have been real and what is pure fantasy. One such person is a supposedly powerful wizard who once lived in Scotland, and around who many tales have been spun.

When talking about the legendary historical figure Michael Scott it is rather hard at times to disentangle fact from fantasy. What is sort of known is that he was probably born in 1175 somewhere in Scotland, possibly at a place called Fife, also known as the Borders. It is also known that he was a consummate scholar and intellectual, studying theology, philosophy, mathematics, and medicine at Oxford, Paris and Toledo universities, and he could also speak several different languages, including Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew. Indeed, he became well-known as a skilled translator of texts, to the point that he was recruited by holy Roman Emperor Frederick II for the purposes of translating numerous manuscripts, including Aristotle’s texts on natural sciences, from Arabic to Latin. This was a major boost to Western knowledge of the matter, because many of Aristotle’s works had long been lost to the Latin speaking world, only known through Arabic versions of the texts. In addition to all of these studies and skills, Scott was also very much into studies of all manner of occult topics, including astrology, alchemy, divination, fortune telling, sorcery, and physiognomy, which is the practice of assessing a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance, in particular the face. It was quite likely that all of this, plus his knowledge of Middle Eastern practices, considered to be very exotic at the time, as well as his eccentric habit of dressing in the clothes of an Arabian sage, is where his reputation as a wizard began.

ScottMichael Scott

Scot was allegedly quite a skilled astrologer, and such were his abilities that Frederick II ended up making him a part of his court as his official astrologer. During his time at the court, Scott is said to have made many astounding predictions that came true, including the outcome of battles and various calamities and catastrophes. His power of prophecy was so potent that he is said to have even predicted his own death. He purportedly proclaimed that he was to die from a falling pebble, and was so sure of this that he would wear a helmet about wherever he went. It was seen as just another of his many eccentricities, and would only become clear how right he was until 1235, when he removed his helmet to attend mass only to be struck by a rock falling from the ceiling to hit him in the head and lead to sickness and his death.

Scot’s powers of astrology became so famous that he began to be credited with an array of other magical abilities as well. For instance, he was said to be able to induce visions in a subject, as well as to read minds, compel people to do what he wanted, and “fetch on occasion, by magic art, from the kitchen of great Princes whatever he needed for his table.” His skills with alchemy were also well-noted, as it was said that Scott could turn lead to gold or spin rope out of sand. He was even believed to be able to summon demons and spirits and compel them to do his bidding, and it all got even wilder and more fantastical from there. Scot would be later be mentioned as having a magic staff that could part rivers, turn people to stone, and on one occasion even split the Eildon Hills into the three peaks, and he also supposedly possessed a magic steed that could take him from Scotland to France in a single night. Such is his legend that he was even mentioned in Dante’s Inferno as a Scot banished to the 8th level of Hell, a place reserved for magicians and false prophets. That he should be portrayed as a sinner is probably not so surprising, considering his reputation as a sorcerer made him seem to be in league with the Devil, not helped by the fact that his patron Frederick II was excommunicated twice and even labelled the Antichrist by at least one Pope.

DuringDuring his career, Scot would write numerous manuscripts and treatises, covering such a vast array of subjects as the occult, esotericism, astrology, human anatomy, physiology and reproduction, and zoology, and he is undoubtedly an immensely important person in history, so it is interesting that so little is actually known about the real man behind the legends. It is not even known exactly how or when he died, although legend has it that he was buried near a cross at Melrose Abbey along with his magic books. Like most of his life, no one really knows. He remains a curious historical phantom, dwelling somewhere between reality and fantasy, his legend overshadowing any truth his tale may hold, and we may never know for sure the whole story behind the mysterious Michael Scot. MU

Woman’s Nightmare Leads to Discovery of Secret Door to a Haunted Hotel

By Jocelyne LeBlanc

A woman had a nightmare about a secret door hidden behind a mirror in her Waxahachie, Texas, salon and it actually came true. The woman’s daughter, named Miranda, posted videos on TikTok that showed the mirror being removed and tearing a hole in the wall, revealing the hidden door. They also discovered that a room in the salon was probably part of an “old elevator shaft” that was once used in the hotel.

As for the secret door, they were unable to open it because of a concrete wall blocking it from the other side. Miranda’s mother did dream that on the other side of it there were a bunch of dead bodies, so let’s hope that part of her nightmare doesn’t come true. (Several pictures of the door behind the mirror can be seen here.)

So, what’s on the other side of the door? As it turns out, a haunted hotel is located there. Is it just me or does this sound like the plot to a horror movie? The secret door leads to the Rogers Hotel which has a long history of paranormal activity.

HotelRogers Hotel

Constructed back in 1912 (the first hotel was built in 1856 but was destroyed by a fire), the Rogers Hotel was a well-known location where several celebrities stayed at such as Frank Sinatra as well as professional baseball players who were in town for spring training. Interestingly, Bonnie and Clyde were also said to have stayed there.

There are countless reports of hauntings at the hotel with one of the most well-known stories being that a previous owner of the hotel was looking for the maintenance man and when he finally found him, he was locked in his room and refused to leave. The man told the owner that someone had knocked on his door the previous night which was strange since nobody would have been at the hotel because it was being renovated. When he opened the door, he saw a man dressed in clothing from another time period (perhaps a cowboy) who told the maintenance worker that bad things had happened in the basement. He then disappeared which caused the worker to lock himself in his room and quit his job the following day.

Speaking of the basement, when the hotel was rebuilt in 1912, they put a pool down there where the owner’s daughter tragically drowned. Visitors to the hotel have seen unexplained puddles of water and have even witnessed the ghost of a little girl. The ghostly child has been known to turn the lights and the radio off and on, as well as riding the elevators. In fact, sometimes when people are on the elevator, they will end up in the basement even when they hit buttons to other floors.

OtherOther paranormal activity includes staff members and visitors hearing unexplained footsteps, disembodied voices, and seeing apparitions, specifically on the fourth floor. Others have heard the door handles shaking when nobody was on the other side.

Rogers Hotel | Haunted Places

That’s definitely one creepy location, so Miranda’s mother should probably be thankful that there’s a concrete wall between the hotel and the salon. MU