Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Talking Tree of Paducah, Kentucky

I've really enjoyed sharing some strange and unusual vintage newspaper articles lately! Today's post features an article from the Paducah, Kentucky area. It seems that the farm of William Albert is home to a very special talking tree---one that keeps telling anyone who will listen that "there are treasures buried at my roots." The article states that a group of citizens tried to investigate the unknown voice, but there is no mention of anyone trying to dig up the tree and see if there really WAS treasure! 

This article was posted 6 February 1905 in the New York Times

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Weird Art Wednesday: Franz Sedlacek's Gespenster Auf Dem Baum

Austrian artist, Franz Sedlacek, led a seemingly normal life for the most part. He was born in 1891, went to college, served in WWI, finished school, got married, and had a couple of daughters. However, he belonged to an artistic movement known as New Objectivity, which, according to Wikipedia, was quite similar to Magical Realism. And, its easy to see from much of his artwork that something was a his creativity.

Sedlacek wasn't always a painter. In fact, he was trained as a chemist and started his art career drawing humorous cartoons, which led to a stint in graphic art and design. It wasn't until later that he would concentrate on oil painting, and would create some REALLY awesome and REALLY strange paintings.

Out of Sedlacek's spookier works, I felt an immediate draw to this painting, completed in 1933. The name of the painting is Gespenster Auf Dem Baum, which translates to The Ghosts on the Tree.

Sedlacek is said to have died in 1945 when he 'disappeared' in Poland while serving in WWII, although he wasn't legally declared dead until decades later. You can read more about Franz Sedlacek on his official website.

Detail of 'ghosts'

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The River of Evil Spirits

Kanawha River at Pt. Pleasant---Source

I have lived my whole life within sight of the mighty Kanawha River. Approximately 97 miles long, the Kanawha River stretches from Gauley Bridge in Fayette County to Point Pleasant, where it then meets the Ohio River. And, all my life, I've heard 'outsiders' absolutely BUTCHER the pronunciation, lol.

So just where does this strange name come from?

The Delaware Indians called the river Kan-a-wha, or the "place of white stone." However, the local Shawnee people had a slightly different word with a much different meaning. They called the river Ken-in-she-ka. Translated, it meant "the river of evil spirits!"

The Kanawha River we know today is much, much different than the river encountered by the first white settlers in the area. Until fairly recently in history, the Kanawha River was impossible to safely navigate by boat. It wasn't until the 1840s that work began to make it navigable. And, it would be decades after when the first locks and dams began appearing, finally opening up river to larger boats and barges.

Aside from the fluctuating water levels, large boulders, and other hazardous conditions, the Kanawha River was known for whirlpools. These whirlpools are represented in a fascinating piece of local archaeology--a petroglyph known as The Water Panther Stone.

The Water Panther Stone was entered into modern record in 1963. It was found near Leon (Mason County), on the property of the Burdette Family. Originally being cut from a nearby creek bed, the family had been using it as a stepping stone to mount horses. It was later donated to Pt. Pleasant's Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, where it is still on display. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to make out the image on the stone, but the photo above shows the carving enhanced with white powder.

According to legend, the petroglyph is believed to be part of a Shawnee altar stone, created by the Water Panther Clan. The tail of the creature represents the Kanawha River whirlpools. With that tail, the Shawnee believed the Water Panther would drag the evil spirits down to the bottom of the river.

One theory as to who or what these evil spirits may have been comes from another Shawnee legend: The Mysterious Azgen Tribe. You can read more about the Azgens at the link provided, but in summary, the Shawnee didn't permanently settle much of the land south and east of the Ohio River because they believed the land belonged to a ghostly race of 'Moon-Eyed People,' today known as the Azgens. Were these the evil spirits that inhabited the Kanawha River, or are these all just colorful legends to describe a once dangerous and non-navigable river?

Further Sources:
Kanawha River Wikipedia
History and Government of West Virginia, by Virgil Lewis

Friday, March 16, 2018


In general, I  prefer clever, subtle, and even dry humor. But, sometimes I want something just totally sophomoric and hilarious. I'm pretty sure I have the brain of a 12 year old boy...and if you do too, then  you'll  probably enjoy today's Fright Night Funny as much as I did!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rejetos Jichancas: The Weird Women of West Virginia University

It's Weird Wednesday time and to celebrate March being Women's History Month, I wanted to share with you a collection of photos from the WV History on View website. These photos were recently posted on the awesome Facebook page, West Virginia Heritage, and show a group of female students at West Virginia University.

According to the WV History on View site, this all-female student group formed in 1908 and called themselves the Rejetos Jichancas. Translated as The Gypsy Rejects, membership into the group was highly prized, yet shrouded in mystery. Origins of how/why the group formed are unclear, very little information is known about them, and no group photos appeared in the West Virginia University yearbook past 1928. And, apparently, the group also chose to keep their individual identities a secret! At the very least, they sure knew how to take a creepy group photo!

I hope you enjoy this photo collection of West Virginia's Weird Women! If you'd like MORE vintage photography from the Mountain State, be sure to check out the links to WV History on View and West Virginia Heritage above. Stay Weird, ya'll!











Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Matrixing the Man in the Rock

Matrixing. If you've done any reading/research into the paranormal in the past 10-15 years, you've almost certainly heard this term being thrown around, especially when it comes to analyzing potentially paranormal faces/apparitions appearing on still photos and video. But what exactly IS matrixing?                                                                                                                                                         Matrixing is a term popularized by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, known more commonly as the stars of SyFy's Ghost Hunters.  However, I prefer to call the phenomenon by its slightly more scientific name:  'pareidolia.'

Pareidolia comes from the Greek words para (meaning faulty, wrong, instead of) and eidolon (meaning image, form, or shape). Merriam-Webster defines pareidolia as "the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern."  In laymen's terms, it means the tendency to see faces, animals, and other familiar images in random patterns. Have you ever gazed up at the clouds and thought they looked like bunny rabbits? You've experienced pareidolia. Have you ever sworn your bathtub has 'seen things, man?' You've experienced pareidolia. Have you ever taken a Rorschach inkblot test? Well, you get the picture. 

Many photographs that claim to contain evidence of ghostly or supernatural figures can be explained by pareidolia. If you're unsure whether or not a spooky face could be attributed to pareidolia, try to change up your perception. Turn the photograph upside down. Examine each half of the figure by itself and compare; are there any signs of symmetry (or lack thereof)? Does the image still make sense as a figure when looked at a piece at a time? What happens if you enlarge (or shrink) the photo? Does the image distort to the point where it is no longer recognizable as something familiar?

By definition and popular usage, the term pareidolia is used most often to describe visual phenomenon. However, any of the human senses can be perceptible to pareidolia. We might interpret two unrelated scents as being another scent altogether. As we listen to potential EVPs, we might take missing sounds and even whole syllables not heard by our ears and have our brain fill in to make recognizable words. As a result, a good tip when analyzing EVPs is to NOT tell others what YOU hear, at least at first, and let them listen without bias.

Pareidolia falls under the larger umbrella of the phenomenon of apophenia. Apophenia is defined as "the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena." It was coined by German neurologist and psychiatrist Klaus Conrad, whose research focused on the finding of abnormal meaning or significance in random experiences by psychotic people.                                                                                                                                                                                                The human brain is hard-wired to make sense out of stimuli. We want to find patterns and correlations in an otherwise chaotic world, and there's not too many things more confusing and chaotic than trying to make sense out of the paranormal! It may also be an evolutionary issue. If we can spot facial features of hidden predators, we have a greater chance of survival. Similarly, could we be applying that same principle to our interactions with the unknown?

Whatever the reasons behind the phenomena may be, apophenia and pareidolia are two issues that every paranormal investigator and researcher needs to be familiar with. Luckily, there is no shortage of articles and examples available out there to illustrate just how fascinating these concepts can be.

A great local example of matrixing, or pareidolia, is Fayette County's "Old Rock Head." This unique cliff face (pardon the pun) can be found on Route 21 at Honey Creek, right near the Chimney Corners area, where the Route 60 intersection is located. It doesn't take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the outline of a man's face in profile, coming out of the rock.  Oddly enough, this isn't West Virginia's only rock face! While its much harder to access and, in my opinion, MUCH harder to see, there's a nearby cliff where, in 1901, railroad workers in the area claimed to see the image of President McKinley appear. Their superstitions of this death omen were realized when news that the President had been shot arrived shortly after. Please see President McKinley's Death Omen blog entry for more info! 

Photo from WV History on View

Photo by Robert W. McKinnon, courtesy of WV History on View

*Bonus Vocabulary Lesson!*

Simulacrum: "An image or representation of something." Simulacrum is sometimes confused with pareidolia, but unlike pareidolia, which happens naturally, simulacrum is when someone intentionally designs something to look like something else. While the rock formation above occurred accidentally, this example in Jackson County, WV, was carved to look that way by Otis Shinn. More information available in this Gazette article.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Madness and Mistaken Identity at the Weston State Hospital

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, also known as the Weston State Hospital, has been a fascination of mine for years. Obviously, I'm a sucker for the paranormal aspects of the old haunted hospital, but I enjoy the non-spooky history as well. I'm in the process of documenting as many former patients as I can find, and sharing their stories. Through this, I'm hoping to have a strong database of potential ghost suspects, but more importantly, I feel that these people deserve recognition. They deserve to have their lives remembered, and not just be a statistic. 

One such person with a pretty strange story to be told is a Croatian immigrant named George Marzic. His story appeared in numerous newspapers at the time, but this transcription comes from the 29 December 1936 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail



Woman Finds Relative Is In Institution, Recovering; Dead Man Is Unknown; Records Found in Error

Benwood, Dec. 29 (UP)---Mrs. Amanda Kurl learned today that the "brother" she buried six years ago is alive and well.  

The almost incredible story of the "death" and the "burial" of George Marzic, 52, ended with the realization that Marzic still lives and that the identity of the man buried under his name in 1931 may never be known.

Marzic, a Croat, was sent to the state hospital at Weston, W.Va., in 1929.  On May 9, 1931, hospital officials notified Mrs. Kurl her brother had died.

The body was brought to Benwood for burial.

Marzic's friends went to his bier and wept.  Some were amazed because George did not "look like himself" but they dismissed it with "well, he has been sick a long time."

Did Not Doubt Identity
"I was sure it was George," said Mrs. Kurl.  "His face was a little thinner, I thought, but I had no doubt." 

Mrs. Kurl paid $237 to a Benwood mortician. And on the day of the funeral she went to St. John's Catholic church and wept while a priest celebrated requiem mass. 

Several days ago, Mrs. Kurl was notified by officials of the state hospital that her brother had recovered. She was dumbfounded as she read a letter from Dr. J.E. Offner, hospital superintendent, which said in part:

"Only recently this patient's mind has cleared and he now claims to be George Marzic. We are now almost thoroughly convinced that the man Marzic is living."

Mrs. Kurl disbelieved until friends investigated and proved beyond doubt that her brother still lives.

Tests Are Made
Nick Rumora wrote to George Marzic at the Weston State Hospital, asked him a number of personal questions in the Croatian language. Marzic replied---in the Croatian language.

Mrs. Kurl remained unconvinced. 

Police Chief Pat J. Scully, Rumora, Antone Fabyanic, lifelong friends of Marzic, went to Weston.  They walked into the hospital unannounced.

Someone called their name. It was Marzic.

When Scully informed Mrs. Kurl of this, she was convinced. 

Scully said hospital officials could not explain the error and could learn nothing of the identity of the man who was buried. Marzic, it is said, will remain in the hospital until doctors make sure his sudden recovery is not temporary.

Still Legally Dead
George Marzic is legally dead, according to reports in the division of vital statistics of the state health department.

A report that Marzic died May 9, 1931, is on file in the division's offices, but the bureau has a rule that detailed information cannot be given out except upon payment of a 50 cent fee for making out a certified copy.  For that reason, other details in the bureau's possession could not be learned.

"Never heard of it," said M.D. Carrico, member of the state board of control, when informed that Marzic is actually alive now, despite the reports. Dr. C. Denham was superintendent of the institution in 1931. 

Theresa's Note: What is even more interesting about this case, is that when you go to the WV State Archives' website, George Marzic still has his 9 May 1931 death certificate on file! It makes me wonder what actually happened to George...and whether or not he did die in 1931.