Shanti Devi

When I was a kid, I saw an episode of Sightings, that old Fox show from the 90s, about past lives. They interviewed a dude who claimed that he had been killed in the Civil War. He was shot with a cannon or something insane like that, but the part that I found most compelling was that he claimed that this seemed to explain his fear of fireworks and loud noises in his current lifetime.

I won’t lie, I was a nervous sort of kid. I didn’t like fireworks, I didn’t like swimming, and so on. Point is, I was scared of several things, so I started thinking. Maybe all these things I was afraid of were things I had experienced in a negative way in some previous light. As I got older, I realized that I didn’t like fireworks because my brothers would play with bottle rockets and I got hit by one by accident. Whoops. I didn’t like swimming because I jumped in the wrong end of a pool and had to have a lifeguard drag my ass out. I wasn’t scared because of past life experiences, but because of bad experiences in my current life. I pushed those things out of my head, though, until I was old enough to acknowledge that I was just being stupid and eventually quit bothering with the past life nonsense.


Except when I pretend I’m a French Duchess… but everyone does that, right?

But the idea has stuck with me, and I suppose that’s why the story of Shanti Devi interested me. It’s a compelling tale, and some researchers have even called it the best existing evidence for past lives and reincarnation.


Keanu Reeves is the second best evidence.

Shanti Devi was born in 1926 in Dehli, India. Shanti was a normal little girl, and her parents reported nothing strange about her upbringing. She learned to talk fairly quickly and seemed quite intelligent. When she turned four years old, though, things started to get a little weird. One day, out of the blue according to her parents, Shanti told them that she was not from Dehli, but a place called Mathura, about 90 miles away. Not only that, but she also claimed to be married, which is definitely not something you want to hear from your young kid.


“I need a carton of Virginia Slims if you’re headed out to the store, too.”

Shockingly, her parents weren’t receptive to her claims and just assumed she was being fanciful. When she ran away from home at the age of six, trying to hitch a ride to Mathura, they got a little more concerned. Shanti even made the claims to her school teacher, adding that she had a child, as well, but that she had died ten days after its birth. Her teacher, unimpressed, took her to the school’s headmaster, presumably for disciplinary action.

headmaster
“School is for learning how to perform better on standardized tests, nothing else!”

The headmaster, however, became interested in Shanti’s story after she began using words in the Mathura dialect (which he felt she could not have possibly known) and told him the name of her husband, a merchant named Kedar Nath.

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That’s a Jedi name if I ever heard one.

The headmaster, who must have been a pretty gullible dude to buy into a school girl’s weird stories, looked into Shanti’s story and found that there really was a Kedar Nath in the Mathura area. He contacted Nath, who confirmed that he had indeed had a wife, Lugdi Devi, who had given birth to a son nine years ago, but died ten days after childbirth. The headmaster told Nath the story Shanti had told him, and Nath was dumbstruck by the news.

A few weeks later, he travelled to Dehli and visited Shanti, claiming to be Kedar Nath’s brother. However, Shanti immediately knew who he was and began recounting stories and incidents from Lugdi Devi’s life that Nath claimed Shanti could not possibly have known, and he quickly came to believe that Shanti was the reincarnation of his dead wife.

The tale eventually came to the attention of none other than Ghandi himself, who commissioned an investigation into the story.

ghandi9
“Go to Delhi, and bring me back a sandwich. HAHAHAHAH! It’s funny on so many levels.”

The investigative crew brought Shanti to visit Lugdi Devi’s family in Mathura, and were astonished when she knew several members of Lugdi’s family without having to be introduced to them, and apparently also knew stories about their individual lives, some of which could presumably only be known by Lugdi Devi herself. The investigative team eventually felt it was conclusive that Shanti Devi was the reincarnated soul of Lugdi Devi.

Shanti has repeated her story on many occasions, and has remained consistent on all fronts. It’s possible that some of the details of her story have been fudged, as the only records are written, and not always from extremely reliable sources. (Ghandi’s investigation, for example, was intended to prove that reincarnation is possible, since it’s a key belief in the Hindu religion. This, obviously, introduces a large potential for bias.) It’s also possible that she was simply an imaginative little girl whose fantasy happened to share many lucky coincidences with another woman’s life. Perhaps, even, it’s some combination of both.

But the story is intriguing because of the detail, and the lack of repressed memories (which are extremely easy to plant, even unintentionally) and all that stuff that’s common in more modern past life stories. It’s a simple story, but with appealing implications for the woman’s family, and for the families of anyone who’s lost a loved one. After all, who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s some little kid out there who remembers everything about your dead relative’s life?


Except, you know, if it’s your creepy uncle.

Sources:
Wikipedia

Fulcanelli

To most of us, chemistry is a class in high school we got a B in and being able to measure just the right amount of sugar into our Kool-Aid without fumbling around for the measuring cup.


“Seriously, man, it’s a fucking art.”

But it’s an invaluable science, and without centuries of hard-working, proud chemists, we’d almost certainly have missed out on many, many huge innovations. (We also, sadly, would not have Breaking Bad. Fuck, that’s a great show.) And if we’re going to thank all those chemists for the things we enjoy today, we have to thank their forerunners, the alchemists. Alchemists, arguably, were just chemists who hadn’t yet discovered the scientific method, but their tireless effort advanced humankind in incalculable ways.


My own alchemical experiments have involved transmuting $2 at McDonald’s into death.

Alchemists, if you didn’t know, are commonly regarded as having been after two goals, referred to as the Magnum Opus: Turning lead into gold, and eternal life. Just think about that. You could go to the dollar store, buy a pack of pencils, turn them into gold, sell the gold to those scam artists on TV, buy more pencils, and keep going until you’re sick of it, because your ass is going to live forever. Fuck, who wouldn’t want that? An alchemist who accomplished either of those things would have it made.

Unfortunately, science kinda came up and popped alchemy in the mouth like Sean Connery to a woman giving him lip. No alchemist ever discovered eternal life or transmuting gold. That is, of course, unless you believe the legends told of Fulcanelli, The Master Alchemist. (Yes, seriously, he’s referred to as the master alchemist.)

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If nothing else, it would be an amazing DJ name.

Who was Fulcanelli? Well, Frank Zappa, I’ll let you in on a little secret: No one has a fucking clue. Fulcanelli was a pseudonym, much like the one used by my Jedi stripper friend, Obi-Wan Disrobi. Fulcanelli was believed to be a Frenchman, exceptionally educated, and very, very secretive. He was presumably born sometime in the 1800s, but even this fact is debated. What is known is that he was the author of two alchemy manuals, both published after 1926, and both in extremely limited quantities. What little is known about the man himself comes from his apprentice’s apprentice, a man named Patrick Riviere and the two books Fulcanelli published, both made up primarily of riddles, obscure symbols, jumbled code that has still not been solved, and odd Greek and Latin puns and jokes. (What did the Roman mother tell her son? “Semper ubi sub ubi!” Seriously, it’s hilarious if you know Latin.)

The information we have today, a mere 100 years later, is but fragments of tales. He was, according to his apprentices, able to truly convert lead (and other base elements) into gold and could create life in dead objects, including reanimating a toad, a dog, and possibly even a human being.


Like this, but presumably without that weird decapitated head cunnilingus scene.

His skills in alchemy were so great that the Nazi’s military intelligence branch spent several years and the modern equivalent of millions of dollars seeking him out. One legend says that he was captured and questioned by none other than Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Reportedly, a document describing the incident was in the hands of the KGB in Moscow until the collapse of the USSR, when it disappeared. According to this document, Goebbels entered the cell and pulled up a chair across from Fulcanelli. He then asked if Fulcanelli would answer a few questions, to which Fulcanelli briskly replied, “No, I will not.” He then rose and exited the room by walking directly through the west wall. As in, through 16 feet of thick concrete.


“I’ll show myself out, thanks.”

Even before that time, it’s known that Fulcanelli visited several luminary scientists and great military leaders throughout the 30s, allegedly warning them about the dangers of nuclear weaponry before it had even been invented. The U.S. Army, too, spent time looking for Fulcanelli after World War II, but had no luck finding him. He disappeared after that, and much of his notes, work, and a third, unpublished manuscript were lost in a fire at the residence of Eugene Canseliet, his apprentice, several years later. Legends assert that some of the burned pages were examined and it was found that Fulcanelli apparently had a knowledge of nuclear physics that exceeded that of some of the greatest scientists in the field.

Canseliet, too, claimed to have encountered Fulcanelli twice after his disappearance. Once, in the early 50s, he claimed that Fulcanelli came to his home. Oh, and Fulcanelli had also managed to transmute his dick, because he was now a woman. Fulcanelli called it “an experiment”, and assured Canseliet that it would be reversed after he was finished testing. (In other words, probably feeling up his new boobies.)


Science.

Later, in 1956, Canseliet claimed to see Fulcanelli for the last time. He was once again a man, but when Canseliet had last seem him with a penis, he had been in his 80s, but Fulcanelli now appeared to be in his 50s. Canseliet offered no further details, and claimed the meeting was short.

But perhaps the most compelling tale of Fulcanelli comes from a journalist named Jacques Bergier. According to Bergier, who had been writing a book on occult influences in European history, Fulcanelli summoned him to a home in Paris, where Fulcanelli revealed the truth of the Magnum Opus to him. Fulcanelli claimed that the Magnum Opus was actually a secret method for observing the universe, and if performed correctly, one literally could see the inner workings of all things from a strange, godlike viewpoint. He also intimated that the Philosopher’s Stone, an object believed by alchemists to be required for transmutations and pursued endlessly, was not meant to change elements, but the alchemist himself, and this change was what allowed the Magnum Opus to be known.


Artist’s rendition of the Philosopher’s Stone.

Could all this possibly true? It is a bit much to take in. It kind of sounds like Harry Potter mixed with The Stig. Most of the information is secondhand at best, except for Fulcanelli’s books. Some scholars believe that Fulcanelli could have just been Canseliet himself, and that he had made up stories of the great Fulcanelli to tell his apprentice, Patrick Riviere, from whom the majority of Fulcanelli’s life is known. The rest is legend and hearsay, although the U.S. Army and Nazi intelligence apparently did believe him to be a real person. There is fleeting evidence that a man known as Fulcanelli may have existed, and several French scientists and journalists do acknowledge that they met with a man who introduced himself as Fulcanelli at various points.

But the fact that, even in recent history, legend and truth can be so closely intertwined to the point of being nearly inseparable is part of the appeal of Fulcanelli. This deeply mysterious figure, who apparently has intricate knowledge of things unseeable by most and, possibly being immortal and therefore still alive, is an attractive idea. As for the reality of it, well, perhaps one day Fulcanelli will reappear and let us all know.

Sources:
Wikipedia has an article, but it’s awful.
Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic and the Occult

Numbers Stations, part 2

On Wednesday we took a look at three of the more popular numbers stations. Since most of them are out on YouTube anyway and there are so many interesting ones, I figured it would be more fun to post more of them instead of doing a YouTube video this week. So, without further adieu, here are some lesser-known stations.

Cherry Ripe Station

This is another British station, apparently closely related to the Lincolnshire Poacher Station that I mentioned in part one. Instead of playing “Lincolnshire Poacher” between numbers, however, this one plays a tune called, obviously, “Cherry Ripe”. It appears to be based out of Australia or Guam.


Why do I imagine a grove full of satyrs dancing around with radio equipment?

Gong and Chimes Station
This German station plays an oddly ethereal tune that sounds like it would be more in place on a church broadcast than a shortwave spying station.


It could be sexy if you imagine her wearing a nurse’s outfit. Could be.

The Swedish Rhapsody Station
And the award for god-awful creepy goes to the Germans for this blight on mankind’s ears. The video only makes it worse, unfortunately. You’ll never look at ice cream trucks the same way.


It’s okay. You weren’t going to sleep anyway, right?

The Yosemite Sam Station
Here’s a short clip from a very odd American station that’s recently popped up. Just listen. Yes, this is actually a real transmission.


It’s been triangulated as being somewhere near Albuquerque. I’m not even joking.

And there are plenty more out there, from Cuba, China, and all sorts of other corners of the world. Check out the Conet Project if you’re really interested, because there are quite a lot. Hell, you could even build or buy a shortwave radio of your own and try looking for some.

Numbers Stations, part 1

When you need to get a message to someone these days, you’re not hurting for options. Between ten billion social networks, e-mail, instant message, text message, or getting real old-fashioned and just calling them, we’ve got it pretty easy. But how secure are those communications? Ostensibly, they’re secure enough for day-to-day use. Realistically, they’re not that secure at all, considering any and all of those things can be hacked and, if you read any sort of tech news, you’ll find that such a thing happens quite frequently.

So what can you do? Well, you can encrypt the message. But what if the recipient is a spy, deep undercover, and the very act of transmitting a message to that person could blow their cover, regardless of its content?


“Bond- Your last physical showed evidence of a sexually transmitted disease. Please contact all previous partners from the past 48 years.”

Well, that’s where governments have to get a bit clever. Did you ever try to talk in code when you were a kid? You could say whatever you wanted in front of everyone, and only you and your friends knew what you were talking about. That, essentially, is the idea behind numbers stations. They’re shortwave radio transmissions that transmit encrypted codes to spies. All you need to listen is a shortwave radio and the knowledge of the station’s frequency.

Of course, the problem is that anyone else can listen to them, too, including ham radio nerds. So, all throughout World War 2 and the Cold War (and from some that still operate today), people listened and recorded the odd broadcasts from these stations, and have since conveniently put them on the internet for everyone to enjoy.

Since there are a lot of these, and they’re all just YouTube videos of the recordings, I’ve decided to post several of them and split it up over two days. So it’s kind of like mashing up a Wednesday article with a Friday video post. Hooray!

Lincolnshire Poacher

This station seems to be a British station, and according to some amateur radio enthusiasts, appears to originate from a Royal Air Force base on the island of Cyprus. It’s named after the snippet of the folk song, “Lincolnshire Poacher”, that plays between numerically coded messages. This particular station is no longer on the air.


It could also be a crazy lady who gets a kick out of reading off financial reports and messing with a Casio keyboard.

UVB-76

This Russian station, known as “The Buzzer” because of its regular buzzing tone, going off approximately once a second, is famous among numbers station enthusiasts. Not because of what it normally plays, of course, which is kind of like someone blowing a kazoo in your ear in short bursts for fucking eternity. Its notoriety comes from the fact that it has played almost the exact same broadcast for nearly 30 years. Notice how I said “almost”. The Buzzer has actually had voice messages relayed on it a mere three times in 28 years, in 1997, 2002, and in 2006. The long gap between the voice transmissions has caused a lot of interest, in addition to the fact that conversations and background noise can occasionally be heard over the signal. The actual purposes of the station and its messages are still unknown. Recently, European hijackers have begun broadcasting over the station, causing some confusion over what is and isn’t a legitimate signal from UVB-76, meaning that several possible transmissions heard in 2010 are now questionable.


This video was oddly hilarious when YouTube had the vuvuzela button.

The Backwards Music Station

Very little is known about this mysterious station that broadcasts over several varying frequencies and has appeared to come from both England and the U.S. at different times. It doesn’t actually play backwards music, but some sort of odd, screeching, grinding, and banging sounds. No voice transmissions have ever been recorded, but it has been theorized that the station is actually some sort of very complex coded message.


I kinda feel like this is the sound will bring my machines to life and turn them against mankind.

Come back on Friday for part two!

The Winchester Mystery House

When I was a kid, there was this house around the corner from me. It was a two-story house, and fairly small. I didn’t know the people who lived there at all. I didn’t know one damn thing about them. One thing that stuck with me, though, was that, for some reason that I couldn’t grasp as a child, there was a door on the second story that just opened up into nothing. It was smack in the middle of the house. The closest thing I could imagine for an explanation? Obviously, it was to trick burglars, who’d see the door, attempt to run out, and severely injure themselves on the way down.

When I got older, though, I drove by one day and saw they’d put up a balcony. I guess it had always been meant to be there.


Or a clever burglar built it and left it behind like some really expensive calling card.

Because, really, who’d build a house with stuff like doors that lead into nothing to trick people? Who even has that kind of time and money? Apparently, Sarah Winchester had both, but lacked a little in the sense and sanity departments. She spent 38 years (and the modern equivalent of $71 million) building just such a house. And it wasn’t necessarily people she was intending to trick.

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That’s 38 times longer than the Chocolate Rain dude’s entire music career.

There are plenty of rumors about why she began this massive project, but the most common story goes like this: After her husband, William Wirt Winchester, son of the creator of the Winchester Repeating Rifle, died in 1881, he left her a massive inheritance. (About $20.5 million and another $1,000 per day. That’s not adjusted for inflation.)

She fell into a deep depression, however, and reportedly consulted a psychic in Boston for guidance (though some variations on the tale say there was no psychic at all, but Sarah was instead guided by a prophetic dream.) Supposedly, Sarah Winchester was told that her father-in-law’s invention had taken many lives, and it would take many more. Eventually, the psychic warned her, the spirits of those people would seek vengeance against her. And so, Sarah Winchester decided that she would need to take drastic measures to deal with these spirits.


Building a time machine to go 100 years in the future and hire fictional characters might actually be a less elaborate scheme.

She decided she needed to build a house. And not just any house, but a house made of pure crazy. She would keep the vengeful spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles at bay by building stairs that lead nowhere, rooms that were mirror images of each other, windows opening onto blank walls, and, as previously noted, doors that opened into nothing. Winchester also had a particular obsession with the number thirteen. Many rooms had thirteen windows, some staircases had thirteen steps, and there were thirteen total bathrooms in the house.

A construction team worked on the house 24/7 for the entire 38 year construction period, which only ended upon Sarah Winchester’s death. She would reportedly hold a séance each night and ask the spirits what she should do next. Then, in a move that was either really clever or really fucking insane, she’d draw up new additions for the house that were the opposite of the spirits’ recommendations.


“Hold this up to a mirror, throw in a couple of fake doors, don’t wall the cat in, and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Winchester’s desire to keep building even led to neglect for the already existing parts of the house. When the top three stories of a seven story section of the house collapsed in an earthquake, she opted not to rebuild that section, instead leaving it at four stories and continuing to expand outward. It’s claimed that, when the house needed to be re-painted or have new carpeting put in, it would take the workers so long that by the time they were finished, the paint or carpet would need to be replaced again at the spot where they had originally begun working.

When Sarah Winchester died, the house took up six acres and had 160 rooms with 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 sets of stairs, and 6 kitchens. Legend has it that carpenters left nails half-hammered when they heard Winchester was dead.


“From that day forward, I swore I would only take up a hammer out of anger.”

Shortly after Winchester’s death, the house was sold to a local investor, who opened it to the public as a tourist attraction. The noble practice of making money off of confused outsiders continues today, and the house has even gained a reputation for being haunted by the ghost of Sarah Winchester herself. Ironically, her ghost is supposedly unable to leave the house because it’s too complicated to navigate.


“Up ceased to be a direction and became more of a vague concept about 50 years ago.”

Sources:
Wikipedia
The Winchester Mystery House

Oannes

At various points throughout the 20th century, and even on into our sexy (but still modest, in that hot era-next-door kinda way) 21st century, various crackpots, and sometimes even the mass media have managed to blame aliens for just about any god damn thing. The pyramids, Stonehenge, and I’m gonna go on record right now and say that I think they’re responsible for about 90% of contemporary pop music.


“While that may be, we had nothing to do with the Earthling called Glenn Beck.”

These kinds of theories, that aliens contacted us at earlier points in human civilization, are called ancient astronaut theories. The idea is that aliens visited Earth in times past, often to check up on us (This goes hand-in-hand with theories stating that alien races seeded Earth for life and are our creators and so on) or bestow knowledge upon early humankind. After that was all done, they fucked right off to go do something else.


“We were invited to an intergalactic dance party, unlike you loser humans.”

Many of the ancient astronaut theories focus on period art pieces throughout time, specifically in the Renaissance and earlier. For example, Christian painters during the Renaissance would occasionally include flaming wheels in the sky in their work, such as the one I used for the article on The Antikythera Mechanism. These wheels are usually regarded by art historians as representative of the Judeo-Christian God. Folks looking for Da Vinci Code-type shit have decided that they’re actually UFOs, and that the great masters were all in on an ancient astronaut cover-up, but still felt compelled to hide references to it in their art. Apparently, painters are really bad at keeping secrets.


“I read your diary and painted all your insecurities into one giant mural. Enjoy, dick.”

Even the oldest known human civilization, which was founded in about 5,000 BC, had aliens and artwork depicting them, though. In ancient Sumeria, the region that would later host the massive city of Babylon, the people had a myth about a creature from the sea called Oannes. (It’s worth noting that Sumerians considered the sea and the night sky to be the same.) Oannes, according to legend, came forth from the sea one day and appeared to the ancient Sumerian people, who were savage and completely uncultured. They allowed him to meet with their leaders, and he spent the day with them, eating no food and drinking no water.  Oh, and he totally looked like a dude in a fish suit.


Good thing he didn’t pop up in New England, or this would be a restaurant menu.

He taught them how to farm, build temples and cities, create laws, read and write, perform mathematics, and even how to gather fruit. At the end of the day, at sunset, Oannes returned to the water and he was never seen again.

Except Sumerian legends say they were visited continuously by other creatures just like Oannes. Each time, the fish-people would teach them new and more advanced forms of their previous teachings. For example, one of the last visits on record claims that the visitor taught the people how to construct arches into their buildings.


And look where that got us.

What’s especially odd about the Oannes legend is that the stories are so consistent. Descriptions of the creatures, their mannerisms, and even artwork of them doesn’t vary at all for thousands of years. In fact, it’s so odd that Carl Sagan himself commented, “stories like the Oannes legend, and representations especially of the earliest civilizations on Earth, deserve much more critical studies than have been performed heretofore, with the possibility of direct contact with an extraterrestrial civilization as one of many possible alternative explanations.” When Carl Sagan, of all people, raised an eyebrow at something, it was worth looking into.


Because it takes a man with eyebrows that huge a lot of work to raise them.

Also of interest is that we know, thanks to generations of historians and archaeologists, that the Sumerian culture grew exponentially as they invented new technologies and innovated at a rate that had previously been unknown to humankind. Unfortunately, 7,000 years is a long fucking time to look back on, so we really have no guaranteed way to tell if aliens were involved or if Oannes is just a clever allusion to human ingenuity. But those ancient Sumerians deserve a hat tip regardless for being the first people on Earth to construct a functioning, advanced civilization. Kudos to you fine, long-dead folks.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Fragments of Chaldæn History by Berossus
Magic, Supernaturalism, and Religion by Kurt Seligman

Murder Monday: Johnny Gosch and The Franklin Cover-up

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or strange murder, death, or crime. I call it Murder Monday. This is a long one, and the last in the series for now. So grab something to drink and get ready, because this is a pretty strange one.

You know those pictures on the sides of milk cartons? They started that because of a kid named Etan Patz. Amber Alerts? They were because of a girl named Amber Hagerman. Code Adam is named for Adam Walsh (whose dad went on to host America’s Most Wanted.) Johnny Gosch is why police departments are required to immediately respond to kidnapping reports. Yep, before 1982, most police departments waited for at least 72 hours before launching an investigation into a missing persons report for a child.

 
“Eh, lady, kids just get up and walk away sometimes. He’ll be fine.”

But that’s not the only thing Johnny Gosch is known for today. He’s also known for his mother, Noreen Gosch, and her long, bizarre search in trying to find her son, and for the huge conspiracy that he may have been a part of. (And, if you believe his mother, he may be one of the few who could bring it down.)

Johnny Gosch was a 12 year old paperboy from West Des Moines, Iowa. One September morning in 1982, Johnny never came home from delivering papers. Several witnesses saw him at various points that morning, but by 6 a.m., he had vanished. When his customers began calling, complaining of undelivered newspapers, his mother and father began searching for him. After they found his wagon full of newspapers, but not him, they contacted police, who concluded that Johnny had been kidnapped, but had no suspects and no motive. Eventually, the case ran cold. The Gosch family very vocally proclaimed that police had bungled the case on several fronts.


Photograph of the West Des Moines chief inspector on the case, shortly before being attacked by a screaming Asian man.

The Gosch family then hired several of their own private investigators, including a retired FBI chief and a former NYPD detective. None came up with any solid leads, though they did discover a woman who claimed to have seen a man photographing a boy matching Johnny’s description outside of the local grade school two weeks before Johnny’s disappearance. According to Noreen Gosch, police did not take the report seriously and threw away the license plate number of the man’s vehicle. Investigators also turned up witnesses who claimed to have seen a man attempting to talk to Johnny from the window of a car just minutes before the time he was believed to have been kidnapped.


Police sketch of the vehicle based on eyewitness accounts.

Nothing further was unearthed until two years later, in 1984. Eugene Wade Martin, another paperboy from West Des Moines, was kidnapped during his morning paper route. Initially, police claimed that it was not related to Johnny Gosch’s kidnapping. Noreen Gosch, however, had heard differently. And what was, until that point, a fairly normal, (albeit still extremely tragic) story of a kidnapped boy, suddenly started to get way crazy.

You see, according to Noreen Gosch, one of her investigators, a man named Sam Soda, contacted her two weeks before Martin’s disappearance and told her that he had received information that indicated that Johnny was not kidnapped randomly, but had been chosen to be part of a child prostitution ring. The group had sought him out, and they intended to strike again in West Des Moines. Noreen Gosch claims that she brought this information to police, but they ignored her.

And again, things went cold. Police still had no suspects, had made no arrests, and had no leads. Even the Gosch family’s investigative team began to exhaust all their information. Then, in 1989, the case blew open.


As did Keanu Reeves’ career. Coincidence? You decide.

In Nebraska, a man named Paul Bonacci had been picked up for male prostitution. At first, it just seemed to be another ordinary hooker arrest. But upon being interviewed by police, Bonacci started making wild accusations. He claimed that he had been part of a sex ring since he was a boy, and that that sex ring was connected to other prostitution groups throughout the U.S., including, and this is the scary part, one in Washington, D.C. that even furnished child and male prostitutes to the White House. The more police spoke with him, the more interesting his story became. According to Bonacci, as he got older, he lost his usefulness as a child prostitute, and so had been forced by his handlers into kidnapping replacements. Paul Bonacci says that this included a young Johnny Gosch.

FranklinCoverup(1)
Holy shit. Newspapers used to be a quarter!

This child prostitution ring was not run by weirdo criminals out of the back of sleazy bars, though, but by powerful bankers at the Franklin Credit Union. a large local financial institution, and specifically, by an official at the bank named Lawrence E. King. Coincidentally, the state of Nebraska had already been looking into Franklin for doing shit they weren’t supposed to be doing with people’s money and had found some evidence that a few higher ups in the company had procured the services of male prostitutes on a few occasions, seeming to confirm some of Bonacci’s claims. As a result, they began looking more into Bonacci’s story and, within a few weeks, had decided to launch a full criminal investigation into the Franklin Credit Union sex scandal and, less than a month later, initiated grand jury proceedings against the company.

Mysteriously, two weeks before the grand jury was to convene on the matter, the lead investigator, Gary Caradori, was killed when his plane broke up over Illinois. To boot, rumor has it that the mechanic responsible for checking out his plane beforehand was later found dead in his apartment after receiving a large cash sum that he deposited in his account, which was held at the Franklin Credit Union. It appeared to be suicide, but some claim that it was a murder, meant to keep the mechanic quiet.

Within a few months, however, the Nebraska grand jury threw out the case, claiming it to be a “carefully crafted hoax.” This left some investigators scratching their heads. Why did all of this evidence seem to lead up to something? Who supposedly crafted this hoax, and why? But, regardless, they did manage to uncover enough evidence to put Lawrence E. King in jail for embezzling $38 million.


For those of you who have trouble visualizing that much money, it’s enough to feed one college student 38 million times.

Bonacci and Nebraska state senator John DeCamp later brought a civil suit against Lawrence King for an unspecified amount. Oddly, King made no attempt to defend himself, although he would have had no issue doing so, despite being in prison. The judge in the suit awarded Bonacci a default judgment of $1 million. Just before King’s release in 2001, he briefly filed an appeal against the judgment, but later dropped it. Popular speculation says that King perhaps felt guilty for what he supposedly did to Bonacci, but the courts of Nebraska didn’t rule one way or the other.

So was Johnny Gosch really kidnapped by a sex ring with ties to the White House and powerful bankers? Noreen Gosch sure thinks so. In fact, she claims that in 1997, she received a late-night visit from Johnny himself, now an adult, who told her that he was on the run and could implicate several people in the sex ring, powerful people that wanted him dead. Johnny had since taken on a new identity and gone into hiding, where he remains to this day.

And in yet another bizarre twist to an already bizarre case, in 2006, Noreen Gosch found Polaroid photographs on her doorstep that appear to show a teenaged Johnny Gosch, bound and gagged on a bed with two other missing children, David Leonard Johnson and another whose name remains unreleased, who had been kidnapped in the same timeframe.

And that’s where things stand today. No further activity has come out since 2006. Noreen Gosch still makes statements from time to time, and updates her website that has the latest news on Johnny’s disappearance.

But hold on a second, before we call this all done. There’s a few more things you need to know. Since the resurgence in popularity in the case from the 2006 Polaroids, some internet sleuths have done some looking back at the age old cold case, reviewing the evidence, and a few things have come to light. You see, what I just gave you above is Noreen Gosch’s version of events. Why? Well, you’ve gotta admit, it’s pretty exciting. Several other sources, however, claim things went down a little differently.

Let’s start with Eugene Wade Martin. According to Gosch’s story, she alerted the police two weeks before his kidnapping. West Des Moines police, however, claim that Gosch only came to them after Martin had disappeared. In addition, they could never find “Sam Soda” to get in touch with him about his supposed information. Police now believe he probably doesn’t exist and Gosch made him, and the story, up. They also claim that her story of a woman getting the license plate number of a vehicle believed to be Johnny’s kidnapper never happened, either.

And what about Paul Bonacci? Nebraska investigators actually ended up not even using his statements in their evidence against the Franklin Credit Union, saying that he was unreliable and frequently changed facts in his story. They also later found that he was possibly not even in Iowa when Johnny Gosch was kidnapped and that he may have only claimed to have kidnapped him after he heard that Noreen Gosch had said Johnny had been kidnapped by a pedophile group. Noreen Gosch believes him, after having spoken to him, but she also claims to have spoken to a Michael LaVey who says that his father, Satanist Church founder Anton LaVey, was involved. Michael LaVey, however, is not a real person. Anton LaVey had one son whom Noreen Gosch has never spoken to.

The mechanic who supposedly committed suicide out of guilt or was killed to hush him up apparently does not exist, as no police reports or newspaper articles from that time include any such information.

Noreen Gosch was divorced from Johnny’s father in 1993. He has publicly stated that he’s unsure if Noreen Gosch’s account of the events, specifically Johnny’s late night visit in 1997, is legitimate.

And finally, an anonymous tipster has come forward and claims that someone has pulled a cruel prank, and the boys in Noreen Gosch’s Polaroids are not missing children at all, but boys who had been involved in an “escape contest” that had previously been investigated by a Det. Nelson Zalva in Florida. Zalva turned out to be real, and confirmed this, but found that his files on the case had disappeared. Gosch claims that Zalva is involved in the cover-up and trying to discredit her. In addition, David Leonard Johnson, one of the other boys Gosch claims is in the photos with Johnny, apparently does not exist. She has also been caught doctoring the photos uploaded to her website, including photoshopping a human brand onto the arm of the boy she claims is Johnny.

So which is right? Is Johnny Gosch a man on the run and his desperate mother is the only one who’s actively trying to help him, or is Noreen Gosch just a delusional woman making up stories where her son may have been kidnapped, but now he’s out there trying to fight back?

For now, we have no way to know.

Sources:
Wikipedia 1 2
JohnnyGosch.com

End of the Month, End of the World: The Jupiter Effect

On the last Friday of every month, I look at an apocalyptic prophecy that failed miserably when the apocalypse didn’t happen in a feature called “End of the Month, End of the World.”

When people try to use the Bible to predict the end of the world, it seems funny to most seasoned internet-goers, who consider themselves more educated than those foolish religious plebes. (Go ahead, you can sneer if you want.) After all, doesn’t the Bible itself say that man will not know the date of the end times? Unless you think God pulled some Dan Brown shit and hid it deep within the text (and if you do, keep in mind that the Bible has been through several translations to make it what it is today) then, it could be argued, there’s no real way to figure it out from that direction anyway.


“Well, this is useless now. Guess I’ll hollow it out and keep porn inside.”

But what about when someone tries using science to predict the end of the world? Science has things like falsifiability and peer reviews. Science is generally pretty reliable, right? In a perfect world, of course, science would be absolutely reliable, assuming you had all the relevant facts. In reality, though, science can be used to reach a conclusion from valid data, or it can be used like a big stick to bludgeon facts into fitting with your already-chosen conclusion.


Science.

Let’s assume your conclusion is “Bad shit is gonna happen.” Now you take a fact. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your fact is “On March 10, 1982, all the planets (except Neptune and Uranus, but fuck them) are going to be perfectly aligned.” Now, you take that fact and you beat the ever-loving shit out of it with your conclusion-stick. You beat it until it stops moving. Then, you write a book about it and sell a fuckzillion copies. Congratulations, you’re Drs. John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann.


“One Fuckzillion Copies Sold!”

“Wait a goddamn second, these guys were doctors?” Indeed they were. And not fake doctors with phony diploma mill credentials. They were trained astrophysicists from Cambridge University. Gribbin was also the editor of Nature magazine at the time of the book’s release in 1974, eight years before the purported disaster. (Kindly note that that gave them eight years to collect the royalty checks from their publisher before the end of the world was supposed to happen.) So what the hell? How did these guys come to this conclusion?

Quite simply, they worked backwards with their conclusion-stick, then beat the hell out of everything that could potentially be beaten by that stick and… okay, this metaphor’s getting stupid. Anyway, they took their conclusion and their initial fact and strung together the most improbable chain of events to make the two seem at least somewhat remotely related.


In reality, they’re about as related as this is to… anything at all.

What kind of chain of events are we talking about? The book claims that the combined gravitational effect of seven of nine planets (remember that Pluto actually counted back then) would cause increased tidal pull on the surface of the sun, causing eruptions and sunspots. This, in turn, increases solar winds, which, in large gusts, could affect the Earth’s axis. This, Gribbin and Plagemann said, would result in catastrophe that would most likely eliminate all life on the planet, since even a minor variation in the Earth’s rotation could cause earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and possibly even polar magnetic shift.

So what really happened on March 10, 1982? Did those huge planetary masses all in a line really affect the Earth? Actually, they did, and measurably so. The effect of that mighty gravitational force? The tides were 0.04mm higher than usual.


Fuck. I’m terrified.

Gribbin and Plagemann’s book had already caused a stir, though. In the weeks and months leading up to the alignment, people began to panic, especially those in coastal areas. Observatories were inundated with calls from terrified residents and newspapers did their best to try to help contain the madness by publishing refutations from scientists who had known The Jupiter Effect was bad science for years.


“Bad Science. That’s very bad.”

But after the disaster didn’t happen, Gribbin and Plagemann weren’t done. Oh no. One year later, they released The Jupiter Effect Revisited. In it, they claimed that the event had actually happened in 1980, despite the lack of planetary alignment at that time, and had caused Mt. Saint Helens to erupt. That’s right, they threw away their entire premise, then pointed at some other shit and said, “Look, see! We were right all along, we were just wrong first!”

The Jupiter Effect Revisited also sold one fuckzillion copies.


“All’s well that ends well, wouldn’t you say, doctor?”
“Indeed, doctor! Let us stroke our villanous moustaches.”

Sources:
Wikipedia
Smithsonian.com (It’s on page 2)

Murder Monday: The Persian Princess

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or bizarre murder, death, disappearance, or crime. I call it Murder Monday.

Have you ever been looking for something and ended up finding something else you weren’t even looking for? You know, you’re digging around in the couch for a remote and you find a $5 bill. Awesome, right? In a way, that’s kind of how archaeology works. A lot of major discoveries have been complete and total accidents. It’s like a bunch of archaeologists were looking for evidence of some random city in southern Italy, and boom, they find an ancient text or something that changes how we look at history. It happens all the time. So that’s why the Persian Princess caught so much international attention when she was found, and not even by archaeologists, but by some lucky amateurs. It seemed like the find of the century, but when the scientific world got a closer look at it, things began to unravel. (DOHOHO!)


“Aw hell, is he gonna make an ‘I want my mummy’ joke, too?”

In 2000, Pakistani officials received a bizarre tip. It seemed that a videotape had been circulating around in the black market that purportedly featured a man showing off, of all things, a mummy, sarcophagus and all, for sale. The asking price? $11 million. Since this was not only fucked up, but actually illegal under Pakistani antiquity laws, the authorities became very interested. Police finally tracked down the creator of the tape, a man named Ali Aqbar, who lead them to a tribal leader, Wali Mohammed Reeki, who was the actual seller. Reeki said that he had received the mummy from an Iranian man named Sharif Shah Bakhi, who claimed to have discovered the sarcophagus sticking out of the ground after an earthquake.

opra-sarcophagus
Unfortunately, it was not this Oprah-phagus. (Someone actually made this. I am serious.)

Police claimed the mummy and sent it to the National Museum in Karachi, Pakistan. After a preliminary investigation, the museum announced that the mummy appeared to be a princess, and, according to the inscription on the breastplate of the sarcophagus, she wasn’t even Egyptian. Apparently, she was a Persian named Rhodugune, she had possibly married an Egyptian prince (and later requested an Egyptian burial, hence the mummification), and was a previously unknown daughter of Xerxes I.


You know, the androgynous dude from 300.

Immediately after hearing this announcement, Iran got pissed. You see, Iran is the modern-day name for Persia. Since this mummy was apparently Persian royalty, she, by all rights, belonged to Iran. Pakistan disagreed, seeing as it had been found inside their borders. The Taliban, who were still in power in Afghanistan at this time, came forward with claims that the mummy had actually been smuggled out of their country. (Later, though, this turned out to be nothing more than a cash grab.) Pakistan quickly changed their story and now claimed that the mummy had been Egyptian all along. Iran returned fire by claiming that an Italian archaeologist had translated the breastplate from photographs and confirmed the Persian ancestry of the mummy. (The Italian archaeologist, Lorenzo Constantini, later said he had only said that the inscription had the word “Xerxes” in it, and that the Iranian historian he’d spoken to didn’t even know who that was.)  UNESCO, a branch of the UN concerned with education, science, and culture, was attempting to work out an agreement between the three countries, but Pakistan went ahead and put the mummy up for display anyway.


“Can we put a sign up that says ‘Fuck Iran’ too?”

The exhibit caught the attention of an American archaeologist named Oscar White Muscarella. When he heard about it, he thought something sounded awful familiar about this mummy. It seems that, a few months previous to Pakistani police finding out about the mummy, another of Reeki’s representatives had contacted Muscarella and asked if he’d like to take a look at the mummy. Muscarella agreed.

Remember that $5 bill that you found in your couch? No, not a real one, the one we talked about earlier. Yeah, now imagine a dude comes up and tells you it’s fake.


“Man, I was gonna use that to buy hookers.”

The representative sent Muscarella detailed photos of the breastplate from the sarcophagus, something the sellers hadn’t done for anyone else. That’s probably because the breastplate made no goddamned sense. Muscarella quickly noticed that the inscriptions contained two massive errors- The style of inscription wouldn’t be used for a few hundred years after Xerxes I, and the entire second part of it seemed to consist of text plagiarized from other material. When the representative sent a piece of the sarcophagus to be carbon-dated, Muscarella found it to be only 250 years old, at most. This apparently didn’t deter the representative, who still insisted that Muscarella buy it, since 250 years “could not be called modern.”

After Muscarella made his story public, Pakistan and Iran continued to bicker briefly, but Iranian scientists who had been invited to Karachi to examine the mummy also declared it a fake. Soon after, Pakistan, too admitted that they had been fooled, and, unsurprisingly, no one seemed to give a fuck about the mummy anymore.

mummy_ver1
Not unlike this Mummy.

But, hold on, because that’s not all. Did you forget what this blog is called? What’s weird about a hoax mummy? Well, that body had to come from somewhere, right? The Iranian scientists determined her age to be about 20-25 years old. Her organs had been removed (except for the brain, another clue that this mummy was not truly Egyptian), replaced with powder and, for all other intents and purposes, mummified in the traditional way. But, here’s the kicker:

She had only been mummified for two to five years. The cause of death was blunt force trauma, which had damaged her skull and broken her spine, and was most likely caused by a hammer or similar object. She wasn’t royalty or even some lady that died of natural causes and just wanted to be mummified.

She was a murder victim.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Archaeology.org

Kuchisake-Onna

Urban legends are great. I would do more posts on them, but Snopes kinda has me beat no matter what I do in that regard. I’m gonna go ahead with this one today, though, partly to see how it goes and partly because it’s one of my favorite urban legends. The best are the ones that are told as if they could really happen to you. Those are the ones that make it all around the playground at school, get whispered about in church, and, these days, are e-mailed to you by your Great Aunt Cecilia.


“Obama admitted to being a Satanist on last week’s Glenn Beck? I have to tell everyone.

But even better are those that say something about our cultural norms, and more specifically, what our culture fears. For example, the legend about muggers hiding under cars in mall parking lots, slashing women’s (and, apparently, only women’s) ankles. That one used to crop up every Christmas season back in the 80s and 90s, and occasionally you still see it today. But look a little closer at that creepy legend and you see just how much has changed between the time the myth was at its peak and now.

Notice that the story is typically very specific in its mention of shopping mall parking lots. Now, this may not be true where you’re at yet, but in most of the United States, malls are on the decline, with many shuttering their doors one after another. But in the 80s and 90s, malls were booming. Everyone shopped at malls, if they could. People went out of their way to go to the newest and nearest mega-shopping centers, sometimes driving dozens or even hundreds of miles. Now you can’t drive longer than an hour without tossing a $20 bill at a gas pump and, thanks to discount stores and internet shopping, malls seem like near-empty hulls full of overpriced shops and shady looking kiosks. And that’s not even touching the deeper fears you can take from the tale, like “greed/spending is bad for you”, “poor, frail women should always be aware of their surroundings” and “moral corruption runs rampant during what’s supposed to be a joyous holiday season.”


“Wassail this, motherfuckers.”

This is just a very small example taken from a 30 year period. Now think about what legends from centuries ago would be like. More than likely, we wouldn’t even be able to relate to those stories anymore. Our world has changed too much. They would seem strange, maybe quaint, and possibly kinda stupid.


“There’s the one about the demon of the old swamp, the demon of the woods… pretty much it’s all demons.”

That’s what’s interesting about the story of Kuchisake-Onna, the slit-mouthed woman, a legend only found in Japan and parts of South Korea. Kuchisake-Onna is actually two stories, in a way. First, there’s the original story, told several generations ago, which goes something like this: Back in the days of feudal Japan, a jealous samurai had a beautiful wife. (Or concubine, depending on the telling.) When he caught her with another man, he flew into a fit of rage and used a knife to cut her mouth from ear to ear. “No one will find you beautiful, now,” he told her. But the story doesn’t end there.

You see, this woman decided (for some reason that only makes sense in legends) to begin wandering at night with a mask covering her lower face, asking men if they thought she was pretty. If they answered “Yes,” (as they most certainly did), she would lower the mask, revealing her disfigurement, and ask them, “Am I beautiful now?” If they said “No,” she would kill them. (“Butterface!” probably counts, too.) However, if they said yes once again, she would call them a liar and kill them anyway. That’s right, you’re fucked no matter how you answer in that situation.


Sometimes, there is no optimal solution.

But then, there’s also a modern rendition of the tale: Instead of the jealous samurai husband (or john), Kuchisake-Onna had a different origin.. That story goes like this: Not long ago, there was a beautiful woman, but she was very vain. Her face was perfect in every way, but, according to her, it still wasn’t good enough. She refused to concede her own beauty, considering herself flawed no matter how perfect she looked to everyone else. One day, an acquaintance who had grown tired of her vanity told her she should see a plastic surgeon she had met, whom the acquaintance claimed was the best in the whole country. The beautiful woman jumped at the chance and went to the surgeon’s office. But the acquaintance had played a trick on her.

There was no surgeon. She had actually paid a criminal, a former butcher, who had recently escaped from a nearby jail to play the part. The man drugged her and disfigured her horribly. The story is mostly the same from there out, but with a slight difference. The more modern legend says that if you tell Kuchisake-Onna that she’s average or so-so, she’ll become confused long enough for you to run away. (Please note that this does not work on the majority of women.) Not only that, but if you tell her you’re late for an appointment, she’ll actually apologize for her rudeness and leave you alone.


One day, this could save your life.

Notice how it evolved from a warning story about a man who went too far in his anger (though spousal abuse still wasn’t exactly a big concern in feudal Japan) to a modern morality tale about vanity. Since beating your wife wasn’t common practice anymore by the time the modern re-telling came about, that version of the story was alien enough to not really speak to Japanese cultural norms. As women became more liberated though, as they did in the Western world, excessive female vanity became more of a fear to the culture, and the legend changed its tone appropriately, while the fear of being alone at night and getting attacked by a stranger was still there.

In fact, if anything, that fear became stronger in the intervening years, as back in olden times, you didn’t go out at night unless you absolutely had to. At several points in recent history, stories claiming real-life copycat attackers on the loose have cropped up every few years, leading to wild sensationalism and mass panicking. So far, though, all have turned out to be hoaxes. (You know, just like that story about the kid who found a razor in his apple.)


Kids who eat razor apples grow up to be Kuchisake-Onna. It makes perfect sense.

Sources:
Er… none. Original research, I guess.