What Are Puk-Wudjies?

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As you know, I listen to Midnight.FM Mondays-Fridays, 10 PM – 1 AM. During the broadcasts, I chat with others in the Discord server, paint, and take notes. Frantic notes. I am learning so much and enjoying all the guests. I make it a point to learn one new tidbit of knowledge, and tonight it was the Puk-Wudjies.

Through my online research, I’ve tracked down two variations of this magical creature. The first is deeply rooted in Native American and Northeastern folklore. The second is an offshoot of the popular Harry Potter universe. I am limiting my research to the former.

Puk-Wudjies go by different names. A lot of different names, in fact. The most common spellings are Puk-Wudjie, Puck-Wudj-Ininee, and Pukwudgie. The name translates to “person of the wilderness.” They are woodland creatures standing 4-5 feet tall. They possess human heads; however, their noses, ears, and fingers are much larger. Their skin is a smooth grey.

Native Americans believe that the Puk-Wudjies were once humans who turned against man to live in solitude in the forests. In the Algonquian folklore, they are tricksters who are dangerous. Their mischievous behavior may turn mean. The Ojibwe tribe views them as good-natured. Yes, they are tricksters, but the tricks rarely turn malicious.

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow mentioned them in his 1855 epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. They are akin to fairies and gnomes, supposedly.

I’ve never encountered a Puk-Wudjie. However, one place where I might see them is in the Freetown Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts. In 2017, the Freetown Police Department posted warning signs fearing that these magical creatures may be the cause of increased car crashes. The sign warns drivers of their presence as they appear and disappear at will. Hikers will notice the woodland creatures as they usually carry poisoned arrows in their rucksack. The signs were posted during the Puk-Wudjie mating season: April Fools’ Day.

Although some may see the sign as a prank, the police department sought a way to slow drivers down as the number of crashes had indeed increased.

Residents of Delaware seem to spot the Puk-Wudjie, as do the Wampanoag tribespeople. Maybe once we can move around the country, I may plan a road trip up and see if I can spot one. Until then, I’ll keep reading up on these fascinating woodland creatures.

Midnight.FM’s The Midnight Society Weeknight Show

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As I enter Week 11 of self-imposed shelter-in-place protocol, I’ve found that my attention span has decreased and that I’m having difficulty focusing. I try to multi-task while watching television; however, I really need to cut that back. Fortunately, my friend Tim Weisberg and his group of radio producers started a new paranormal themed Internet radio station titled: Midnight.fm. The first show is The Midnight Society, a 3-hour weeknight talk show were Tim brings on various guests. The show runs Monday-Friday, 10 PM-1 AM. His team selects the most interesting guests that now I’ve stopped reading up on the guests and have faith that I will learn something from each episode. And I learn a lot!

And boy this week did not disappoint! Remember: the topics run the gamut of paranormal intrigue. Tuesday introduced me to Tobias Wayland, who is the lead writer for the Singular Fortean Society. I was skeptical of him because he started off talking about Mothman. (I have exhaustively researched Mothman. Sorry, he doesn’t exist.) However, Wayland used it as a springboard to more credible sightings. He was candid in describing sightings that had possible explanations. I respect that in a speaker. His one story was freaky weird, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Wednesday brought famed organized crime investigative journalist Dan E. Moldea. He talked Hoffa, Bobbie Kennedy, and OJ. He has one explosive scoop coming our way once COVID-19 plateaus and life begins in some new fashion. Wait for it. It is going to be HUGE!

Thursday addressed the legendary family feud with the surviving ancestors of Jesse James. While I enjoyed listening to the theories of siblings Dan and Teresa Duke, I wasn’t persuaded that Jesse James faked his death. However, you may decide differently. The show was still very interesting.

Tonight, Maja D’Aoust spoke about witchcraft and familiars. She included a great deal of history, especially Ecclesiastical misunderstandings, to discuss modern-day witches. In addition, she dispelled inaccuracies and falsehoods. Her approach was global and inclusive. Another great show.

Tim and his production staff have outdone themselves. The station is less than 2 months old, and listeners are already exposed to leading authors, artists, and speakers in these fascinating fields. The shows are taped live; however, they are also archived. There are several subscription options to enhance your audio experiences; however, you do not need to pay if you merely want to check it out. I highly suggest you do!

Listen:             Midnight.fm
Twitter:          @MNiteSociety
                        @MidnightDotFM

La Popular’s Corpse Bride La Pascualita

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With travel on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve become an armchair traveler. I browse the Internet looking for strange destinations to place on my bucket list. I came across the Mexican folktale of La Pascualita, the bride who stands in the showcase, in downtown Chihuahua, Mexico. Her story is too good to be true.

Although some blogs suggest that La Pascualita is an embalmed corpse, she’s not. There are several explanations for why she looks so lifelike, and none of them are due to embalming fluids. She is, nonetheless, a stunning waxwork.

Local legend claims that she appeared in the bridal store’s window on March 25, 1930. She wore a gorgeous spring wedding dress, just in time to celebrate Easter weddings. (Easter fell on April 20 in 1930) It should be noted that the name “Pascuales” means “Easter” in English. “Esparza” translates into “sprinkle” or “scatter.”

According to the legend, the shop owner, Pascuala Esparza, had a daughter who was to be married. Neither the name of the daughter nor the bridegroom are reported. (Hmm.) On her wedding day, the bride-to-be was bitten by a Black Widow spider and died. Shortly thereafter the mannequin appeared in the window.

Local residents compared the mannequin to the shop owner’s deceased daughter. They do favor each other; however, this proof that the mannequin is the actual corpse bride.

Since then, people claim the mannequin changes positions during the night. People also report that her eyes follow them down the street. An even more fantastical story is that a magician from France visits, placing a spell on her or awakening her from her slumber so they may dance the night away.

There are huge plot holes in the story.

First, there are questions whether there was a shop owner named Pascuala Esparza. I can tell you that FindAGrave.com does not show any burials for a person with that name or any variations.

Next, we have the images of La Pascualita, which translates into “her daughter” or “little daughter.” Would the name translate to “little daughter of Easter”?

Certain staff members change the clothing twice a week. This is done behind heavy curtains. One employee says she dislikes touching the waxwork. This explains why some people think the mannequin moves. She does. Only she moves with the assistance of employees.

Waxworks are known to have roving eyes. This is on purpose. The eyes of wax figures are glossy. They are meant to appear real, and our minds convince us that the eyes are following us.

Also worth noting is the date March 25. In the Roman Catholic Church, March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation, where the archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she will deliver a child who shall be the son of God. The religious day is oftern called “Lady Day.”

I’m wondering if someone was trying to infuse a lot of symbolism into the mannequin. Hopefully, one day I will be able to visit and to see for myself.

#CreepiestObject Challenge

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The Yorkshire Museum, Yorkshire, UK, started a weekly #CuratorBattle on Twitter. Every Friday, the museum staff select a theme and start the Twitter feed. On April 17, they created the #CreepiestObject Challenge. And the entries did not disappoint!

Kicking off the challenge was a bun of hair from a buried Roman woman. Museums and individuals began posting some of the most disturbing images housed in collections all over the world.

A few of my favorites include:

A Victorian vignette of miners, which are crabs, playing cards.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, submitted images of the mummified head of German serial killer Peter Kurten (5.26.1883-7.2.1931). He was found guilty of savagely killing 9 people and attempting to murder 7. Because he liked to drink his victims’ blood, he garnered the nickname “Vampire of Dusseldorf.”

The Norwich Castle, part of the Yorkshire Museum group, posted an image of a pin cushion with the heads of children tucked in a pea pod.

The rural Museum of Fear and Wonder (Alberta, Canada https://www.fearandwonder.ca/) proffered a melted waxwork. The head of a child was stored in a hot attic, and the face melted to make the nose look like a pig’s snout. Once we’re able to travel again, I’m heading to Canada to visit this museum. Their mission is “to highlight the psychological and narrative qualities of objects.”

My favorite offering is a Plague Mask dating from 1650-1750. It belongs to the Deutsches Historisches Museum, https://www.dhm.de/. Kept in the permanent collection, the mask is made of cotton velvet and designed with a long beak that held herbs or material soaked in vinegar. Glass filled the eye holes to protect the wearer in case the disease spread through the eyes. The mask was coated in wax, another layer of protection. Truly terrifying!

Check @YorkshireMuseum every Friday to see the latest challenge.

The Infamous Feejee Mermaid

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P.T. Barnum was the master showman. One of his stuffed creatures was the Feejee Mermaid. In a letter dated September 4, 1843, Barnum dubbed the “Fejee Mermaid the greatest curiosity in the world.” Although Barnum helped make the creature famous in America, he was not responsible for its celebrity status. Its rise began in London. Still today, the Feejee Mermaid’s ultimate fate remains a mystery.

The Feejee Mermaid was a fake. It was probably assembled around 1810 by Japanese fishermen, who sold these curiosities as new species. Quite a few men fell for it. One such man was Captain Samuel Barrett Eades. He was convinced that his oddity was authentic. He purchased the item for $5,000 Spanish dollars, or 1,200 pounds. He helmed the ship Pickering, in which he owned one eighth. Without notifying the true owner, Capt. Eades sold the ship and her contents for $6,000 in January of 1822 and proudly transported his new species home to England.

Captain Eades fancied himself an adventurer and decided London was the place to exhibit his mermaid. Upon arrival, the animal was confiscated for a short period of time. During this time, William Clift, assistant to renowned anatomist Sir Everard Home, was sent to the East India Baggage warehouse on September 21 to inspect the mermaid. Clift provided a detailed description of the Feejee Mermaid. He noted the specimen as fake and provided a detailed sketch with supporting details. The head was from a female orangutan; jaws and teeth were from a baboon, as was the hair. The eyes were fake. The nails were possibly from quills or horns. The torso was attached to a salmon and measured 2 feet 10 inches. One hand was held close the face while the other was farther away. It was agreed that the description and truth would be withheld from the public.

Captain Eades was able to retrieve “the remarkable stuffed mermaid” and placed it on display. Dr. Rees Price, zoologist, declared the specimen authentic. By the end of September 1822, the mermaid was on display at the Turf Coffeehouse on St. James Street, where the proprietor Mr. Watson rented out space to Eades. At its peak, the exhibit brought in 300-400 per day, each paying one shilling. However, things took a financial turn for Eades.

Stephen Ellery, owner of the Pickering, wanted his money back. Fearing that Eades would abscond to America, he went to the Chancery Court for relief. Court commenced on November 20, 1822. The Chancery declared the mermaid a ward of the Court, thus stopping Eades from leaving with it. However, Eades advertised that Sir Everard Homes declared the mermaid real which went against Clift’s analysis. Clift retaliated by publishing long articles declaring the mermaid a fake and Eades a shyster. The Turf Coffeehouse exhibit shuttered on January 9, 1823. Captain Eades took to the high seas to pay off his debt to Stephen Ellery, and he took the mermaid with him.

The Feejee Mermaid disappeared from the news from 1825-1842.

In 1841, Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum (1810-1891) purchased Scudder’s Museum in New York City. He renamed the business Barnum’s American Museum. At the same time, Moses Kimball operated the Boston Museum. Captain Eades was dead by 1842. His son, Samuel Barrett Eades, Jr. inherited the mermaid and sold it for quick cash to Moses Kimball. Kimball came up with a plan.

The Feejee Mermaid would rotate between the Boston Museum and Barnum’s American Museum. P.T. Barnum leased the mermaid for $12.50 per week and paid his lawyer friend Levi Lyman to be its manager. Exhibits at both museums were lucrative. In 1843, the mermaid toured the Southern states. And in 1859, the Feejee mermaid returned to London for more exhibits. In June of that year, Barnum returned the mermaid to Kimball. That was the last time anyone can produce clear evidence that the Feejee Mermaid still existed.

One theory is the mermaid is tucked within the collection at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. However, author Jan Bondeson’s essay “The Feejee Mermaid” (1999) clearly states that this mermaid is another fake.

Another theory claims that the mermaid may have been saved when Barnum’s American Museum burned in 1865. However, Barnum wasn’t in possession of the mermaid then. Interestingly, Kimball’s Boston Museum burned sometime in the 1880s. Unfortunately, the Feejee Mermaid has never been seen since.

What does remain are some drawings from George Cruikshank. They’re owned by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In addition to the Feejee Mermaid, other such creations exist and are exhibited throughout the world.

British Heritage Crime

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The Withybrook shrunken medieval settlement dates back to the 12th century. One of the earliest structures, the All Saints’ Church, was restored in 1995. The area is deserted; however, it contains significant ancient monuments and is protected under the British Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. It is also privately owned. The owners were recently fined £160,000 pounds for unauthorized destruction.

Withybrook is located in Warwickshire, England. Government documents show that people inhabited the area as far back as 1188. The area is now deserted and co-owned by mother and daughter, Heather and Elizabeth Mac. Along with Heather’s husband, John, they began excavating an area by ripping out plants, grading the land, and installing plumbing. The intent was to set up a yard for horses to graze. All of the work was unauthorized. The family were issued several warnings. They refused to stop.

Community residents appealed to the government. The Warwick Crown Court issued £160,000 pounds in fines and court fees. The Court cited the family’s lack of remorse for the high fines. They have until September to pay or face up to 14 months in jail.

Historically designated sites are important. The designations ensure preservation of culturally significant properties. Owners are well educated in the laws and know what can and cannot be done. Any changes must be approved by governing bodies. Although the Mac family are probably not the only people to commit heritage crimes, they received some of the highest fines known.

Midnight in the Desert Gets A(nother) New Host

Art Bell’s Midnight in the Desert faces uncertainty as the new owner makes another change in hosting duties.

Arthur “Art” William Bell, III (1945-2018) gained fame for his paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM, which began broadcasting in 1988. At its peak, the overnight radio show was carried on over 500 radio stations, with an average 15 million people tuning in. Art found his niche but retired in 2007. However, Art was not content. He started several other radio programs. The most notable is Midnight in the Desert, founded in 2015. Art would host the show for five months, ending his reign on December 11, 2015.

The show has gone through several hosts. Heather Wade initially hosted when Art left. Dave Schrader had a stronger run, May 2018-January 2020. He left to pursue new paranormal opportunities. Frequent fill-in host Tim Weisberg lasted less than 4 months. He and his producer, Michelle Freed, were released from their contracts last week. (Note: Tim has fast-tracked his new Internet radio show, The Midnight Society, which debuted Monday, April 6th. Listen nightly at www.midnight.fm) Heather returned for a couple of days but was released from her duties on April 8th when the show announced Tim Ozman, a noted conspiracy theorist who believes the earth is flat, as the new host.

Reviews are mixed as to the viability of the new programming direction.

Internet Radio Show The Midnight Society Debuts

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A new Internet radio show debuted tonight, Monday, April 6th. The Midnight Society with Tim Weisberg, https://midnight.fm/, kicked off a new paranormal format show at 9 PM CST. The show runs weeknights, 9 PM-midnight. The Midnight Society with Tim Weisberg will be one show in a robust line-up on the brand-new station. More shows are forthcoming. The first episode was a huge success.

Tim Weisberg has carved out a niche in radio broadcasting. Beginning in 2006, Tim, along with co-host Matt Costa, started Spooky Southcoast, http://spookysouthcoast.com/. SSC can be heard on WBSM every Saturday night, 10 PM-midnight. They broadcast from New Bedford, Massachusetts. They also upload programs to YouTube.

Recently, Tim took over the helm for another radio program Midnight in the Desert. His relationship, along with his producer Michelle Freed, ended last week. The pair quickly formed a new network and began booking guests over the weekend.

Tonight’s show was a soft broadcast. The administrators anticipated technological issues; however, there were barely any. Tim was apologetic by reinforcing that the station would be tweaked. I didn’t notice anything that hindered my listening. In fact, the show sounded more professional than shows that have been online for years.

Moving forward, the station will be adding features to enhance the listening experience. Subscriptions will be available. In the meantime, all of the shows will be archived and available for free. Skype, chat rooms, merchandise are all planned.

Tune in tomorrow for Twin Peaks’ actor James Marshall, who played “James Hurley” in the iconic series, as he discusses some of his paranormal experiences.

The show’s tagline sums it up: Where it’s always midnight. Instead of staying up all night, catch this radio show in the evening hours. Hit up the various social media sites like Facebook midhnight.fm and Twitter @MidnightDotFM and @MNiteSociety. Check back for my updates.