Mexican Gothic: Your Summer Read!

Tags

,

Cover

Mexican Gothic: Your Summer Read!

In June 2022, Silvia Moreno-Garcia published Mexican Gothic. It was met with much acclaim and sits on many reading lists including those of shortlisted titles for best book of the year. And it deserves it! Moreno-Garcia weaves Mexican folklore with modern gothic genre motifs.

Set in the 1950s, Noemí Taboada is dispatched to evaluate her recently married cousin, Catalina. The orphaned cousin quickly married with her husband, Virgil, sweeping her from the social circles of Mexico City to the isolated Mexican mountains. High Place is the decrepit family mansion of the Doyles, a proud British family relegated to live outside the small town El Triunfo without the wealth generated from the now-shuttered silver mine.

Noemí finds her cousin profoundly changed and tries to unravel the creepy family history of the mysterious and strange Doyle clan.

The story incorporates Mexican culture and the newly expanding paranormal research of the decade. If you skim, you may miss the references! The hybrid fantasy/horror tale evolves slowly with the writing more literary than genre fiction. In the end, it remains a modern retelling of a gothic fairytale.

An 8-10 episode limited series was commissioned by Hulu after Milojo Productions (Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos) secured the rights. (Note: There are reports that the show may be a continuing series instead of a limited series.) The author will serve as an executive producer.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Tags

,

Interior

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

One of the best museums in the New Orleans is located at 514 Chartres Street. It was purposefully selected to rehabilitate a vacant building that was historically confused as “Napoleon House.” (The building that supposedly was the “Napoleon House” was located on the corner.) In the mid-1900s when the city was transitioning from a morally decadent center to a more inclusive travel destination, the citizens of the Quarter sought to include the vacant house located situated between street numbers 514 and 516. Through extensive research and historical maneuvering, the Pharmacy Museum was born.

The Dufilho family arrived in the Crescent City from France in the early 1800s. The father and two brothers fashioned themselves druggists. Louis J. Dufilho, Sr. opened an apothecary in the French Quarter. During this time, Louisiana was enacting legislation to regulate the pharmaceutical industry. In 1804, the legislature enacted a law requiring all pharmacists to pass a 3-hour oral exam. According to historical documents, two men competed to become the first man to pass.

Louis J. Dufilho, Jr.

Either Francois Grandchamps or Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. are America’s first registered pharmacists. A third person, Jean Peyroux, was ruled out as his license was granted under Spanish rule and not a North American governing body. Peyroux’s contribution to the industry has been lost.

However, an argument for either Grandchamps or Dufilho holds. The organizers for the museum would have tourists believe that the argument is settled. It isn’t. But this issue is irrelevant to the wonderful museum.

According to the museum. Dufilho was the first person pass and to receive certification. He passed the exam in 1816. In 1823, Dufilho opened his own pharmacy at 514 Chartres. It was called La Pharmacie Françoise, alternatively Pharmacie Dufilho. Dufilho ran a pharmacy, soda fountain, hardware store, and post office out of the business.

The house was a Creole townhouse. The building housed a pharmacy on the first floor off the street. A courtyard led to slave quarters and horse stables. The family resided on the upper floors.

Dufilho sold the property to Dr. J. Dupas in 1855 for $18,000. Here is where the interesting stories begin. There is much speculation about what “medical” procedures Dupas conducted. Little is known about him; however, I am working on a follow-up blog that expands on his sinister activities.

The museum is interesting and unique for the city. It houses a vast collection of items and stretches beyond pharmaceutical items. It is more of a museum of medical practices. The first floor is a replica of the original pharmacy. The second floor is divided into 4 rooms, each highlighting an area of medicine.

Is the museum haunted? Honestly, I don’t know. While I did not conduct an investigation or activate any equipment, I did read of the various stories posted online. After you read of the nefarious acts conducted by Dupas, you may see how it could be haunted.

For more stories about New Orleans, watch the recorded session from Ghost Education 101, https://www.facebook.com/GhostEducation101/, recorded on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Ghosts, Vampires, and Urban Legends: NOLA!

Tags

,

New Orleans prides herself as being one of the most haunted cities in the United States. The city embraces her paranormal side. I’ve been visiting NOLA since I was a little girl. On every trip, I learned something new. And this year’s trip was no different. There’s so many places and stories. I’ve compiled some of the most interesting and look forward to sharing them with you! In the meantime, I leave you with 3 teasers: trunk, voodoo, and axman. Hint: Some of the storylines in American Horror Stories “Coven” were spot on.

Missing Sodder Children

Christmas Eve 1946, Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Giorgio “George” and Jennie Sodder emigrated separately from Italy but found love in Smithers, West Virginia. They had 10 children and built a better life by moving to Fayetteville, settling on Route 16. With their older son serving in the military, the family of 11 (9 kids plus George and Jennie) celebrated Christmas Eve by opening a few gifts and tucking in early. Five of the children slept upstairs in two rooms. The three older children fell asleep downstairs near the Christmas tree. George and Jennie retired to their bedroom with the 2-year-old toddler, Sylvia. Nothing seemed amiss until a fire broke out at 1 am.

Reflecting back, there might have been signs of trouble brewing. George was an outspoken Italian who provided lively commentary about the recent downfall of the Italian monarchy. He was not a fan of “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, killed the year prior. Witnesses retold a heated argument George had with a life insurance salesman, who left casting an ominous threat: You will regret not purchasing the policies as your house will burn and your children shall perish. And just that evening, Jennie answered a telephone call shortly after midnight where a female asked to speak with a man who did not reside at the home. Jennie hung up noticing the unlocked front door and the downstairs lights still on. She closed up and returned to bed.

And then there were a series of failures when the fire erupted. George, Jr. (16), Marion (17), and John (23) easily escaped, as did George and Jennie carrying Sylvia. Stories differ as to how many people attempted to contact the fire department. One of the children ran to the neighbor’s house to call. No one answered. Another neighbor may have also tried. Again, no response.

George was desperate to reach the second floor. He couldn’t find the ladder. He devised a plan to drive one of his trucks to the house and then jump into a second story window. Neither truck would start. Panicked, the family watched as the fire blazed for 45 minutes. Still, the fire department had not arrived.

The fire burned itself out by the time the fire department arrived on scene at 8 am—nearly 7 hours after the fire started. The family began to grieve as it seemed obvious that the 5 remaining children perished in the flames.

But had they?

No human remains were found. Theories, however, began to circulate. One neighbor claimed that s/he saw a car carry the children off. As press reports ran about the strange disappearance of Maurice (14), Martha (12), Louis (9), Jennie (8), and Betty (5), people outside of the area reported seeing them. A motel owner contacted police about a shy Italian family with 5 kids who matched their descriptions. Some pondered whether the mafia was involved. Wondered if the children had been taken back to Italy to live in an orphanage. Police investigated, but no evidence was uncovered. No children were found.

Once the police began a proper investigation, probably too late to be of value, they discovered that the telephone line was cut, as were the power lines. Fire Chief F.J. Morris explained the 7-hour delay in arriving. The firemen did not sleep at the station. Instead, a telephone tree was initiated when there were emergencies after hours. It took 6 ½ hours to round up a crew. The final police report listed the 5 children as dying in the fire. Their date of death was Christmas Day, December 25, 1946.

The surviving Sodder family grieved. They hired Private Investigator C.C. Tinsley. He uncovered that the salesman was a member of the coroner’s jury. Tinsley heard a rumor of a box with a human heart dug up during the investigation. He tracked down the source: Fire Chief Morris, who fessed up to burying the box hoping the family could move on in their grief. The organ was dissected; it was a beef liver. Not human.

George brought in fill dirt, and the family created a memorial. The dirt was processed, and a few human bones were discovered. However, it was not hardly enough for one child, let alone 5. Jennie was determined to challenge the police report. She researched the amount of heat required to burn a human body to ash. It became clear that the fire had not been hot enough, nor did it burn long enough. The children’s remains were not there.

In 1952, George and Jennie erected a large billboard offering a $5,000 reward. Over the years, the reward grew to $10,000. The family never had to pay out a reward. The children were never found.

Hope resurfaced in 1968. Jennie received an envelope addressed solely to her. It had a Kentucky postmark. Inside was a photograph of a young man. On the back was scrawled, “Louis Sodder, I love brother Frankie, Ilit boys, A90132 or 35.” The family hired another private investigator, located in Kentucky as not to draw media attention.

The PI took their money and disappeared. No man was found. George and Jennie updated the billboard and added the image. Still, the reward remained unclaimed.

Decades passed; people drove past the billboard retelling the tale of five missing children. George died in 1969; Jennie died in 1989. The surviving children grew up but never stopped searching. The youngest, Sylvia, was the last remaining child. Sadly, she died in 2021 at the age of 79.

Today, the billboard no longer exists. A private Facebook, Sodder Children. What Happened to Them?, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1517621841830429) was created.

Will this mystery ever be solved? I think it may. With the advancement of DNA processing and more people uploading their samples, the mystery may be resolved. Should a descendent upload his/her DNA, it would be linked to other family members. This premise relies on Sodder ancestors uploading DNA profiles.

This tragic mystery hits close to home. My father’s maternal line was part of the Fayetteville community. When West Virginia was annexed from Virginia, the family was granted land and settled in the area. I have friends and family still in the region. I’m sifting through my DNA matches to see if there are any links to the Sodder family. It is a massive undertaking.

I’m drawn to this tragedy. I pray that the descendants ultimately find out what happened all those years ago.

To hear more about this case and three similar unsolved murders, check out Ghost Education 101 on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/GhostEducation101. I gave a presentation on March 30.

The Grimes Sisters: An Unsolved Cold Case

Tags

, , , , , , ,

The Grimes sisters

Barbara and Patricia Grimes were huge Elvis Presley fans. They had already seen his new film Love Me Tender 11 times. On December 28, 1956, the sisters sat through two screenings before heading home. Somewhere along the way, they were abducted, never to be seen alive again. This is one of America’s unsolved murders: A gruesome double murder of two young females.

So much remains unknown about this case. Their nude and frozen remains were discovered on January 22, 1957. An unseasonably hot spell came over the Chicago, Illinois area causing the snow to melt, revealing the bodies. If not for the change in weather, their bodies may have lay for months or even years.

Photograph from crime scene

Coroners were unable to answer several questions regarding the cause of death. They remained at odds over several details. Ultimately, the deaths were listed as “murder, secondary shock.” They theorized that the sisters died shortly after their abduction. The stomach contents consisted of remnants eaten on December 28th. Although the cause was not ascertained, the medical experts eliminated other causes.

For instance, they sisters were not stabbed or physically injured. While Barbara had sexual intercourse prior to her death, she and Patricia were not sexually violated. They were killed at different location and dumped along German Church Road near Devil’s Creek. Date unknown.

Interviews reached into the thousands, with several individuals held for further questioning. Edward “Bennie” Bedwell, age 21, was a semi-literate drifter who possibly resembled Elvis. He confessed to killing the sisters with William Willingham, Jr. Bennie claimed that he and William fed the girls hot dogs and then beat them to death. Based on the evidence, his story did not hold up. He was released.

Max Fleig, age 17, also confessed. Like Bennie, his story did not match up to the facts of the case. He, too, was released.

Walter Kranz was a 53-year-old steamfitter who had psychic abilities. He contacted the police after having a dream showing him how the girls were killed. He quickly became a person of interest. However, there wasn’t any evidence to detain him.

Years later, another individual came to light. Charles LeRoy Melquist was a 23-year-old stone worker. Two years after the disappearance and murder of the Grimes sisters, Melquist was arrested for killing Bonnie Leigh Scott, age 15. Melquist was not a master criminal. No, he was another inept criminal.

Bonnie was a sophomore at York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. The school district includes Addison, where Bonnie lived. Bonnie’s parents were divorcing; therefore, she resided with her Aunt Jean and Uncle Robert Schwolow, along with their 15-year-old daughter Sue and grandmother Doris Hitchins. She was last at 6:30 pm on September 22, 1958. Melquist contacted police claiming to be a witness to Bonnie Leigh’s abduction.  

Bonnie’s nude and decapitated body was discovered on November 15, 1958. Police brought Melquist in for another voluntary interview. While he was with one group of detectives, police officers were executing a search warrant on his 1958 silver Chevrolet. They found enough evidence to charge him. Melquist wrote out a 7-page confession. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison but served only 11 years.

Bonnie’s body was dumped a few miles from where the Grimes sisters were found 2 years prior. Because of the location and broad similarities in the cases, people have theorized that Melquist may have gotten away with additional murders. Further, he did resemble Elvis—but that wasn’t difficult given Elvis’ popularity. To be clear, the basis for the connection is very thin and a stretch. A very long stretch.

Joseph and Lorretta Grimes died without knowing who committed these heinous murders. Sadly, the deaths of Barbara and Patricia were not the first instance of a child predeceasing Joseph and Lorretta. Older sister Leona Grimes Freck died at the age of 26 in 1954. Three children remained: Shirley, Theresa, and Joseph James.

Side note: There are a couple of pronounced errors online. The mother’s name is spelt Lorretta. There are 2 Rs. The other relates to Patricia’s age at the time of her murder. Patricia was born on December 31, 1943. She was 12 years old at the time she disappeared. Even though her remains were found in January the following year, her age is listed as 12. This is because coroners were unable to determined when she died but theorized based on her stomach contents that it was before her birthday. Further, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that the girls were held captive.

This case is a reminder that there are many unsolved murders in America. In a 2019 NPR story, it was reported that there were 250,000 unsolved murders per year in America, with 6,000 added annually. The FBI estimates that 40% of homicides go unsolved. These are terrifying numbers!

For more information on this case or 3 additional unsolved murders/disappearances, please see my presentation on Ghost Education 101, https://m.facebook.com/GhostEducation101/posts/293007789193183?locale=ne_NP. Scroll down to find the video.

Remember when Agatha Christie Disappeared?

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Best-selling mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie was distressed. On December 3, 1926, Christie kissed her only child, Rosalind, goodnight. She and her husband, Col. Archibald “Archie” Christie, had argued, and Christie left Styles, her Sunningdale house, in her Morris Cowley roadster needing to clear her head. The next day, the wrecked car was found abandoned and Christie missing. The mystery surrounding her disappearance has never been solved. However, there are several elements of the story that are worthy of discussion.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller (9.15.1890-1.12.1976) was born to an American father and a British mother and grew up in England. She is decidedly British. Her father died when Christie was 11 years old. Christie has stated that his death ended her childhood. Until then, Christie was homeschooled. This ended. She found the village school too confining. Her mother sent her to Paris; however, she soon returned to find her mother, Clara, ill. The pair spent 3 months living in Cairo. The visit had a profound and lasting effect on Christie.

In 1914, Christie married Col. Archibald “Archie” Christie. She soon found literary success. In 1919, they had their only child. The family of three eventually settled into Styles, a house named from her first published novel The Mysterious Affairs at Styles. Agatha uncovered Archie’s extramarital affair with Nancy Neale. Archie was heading for a weekend with “friends,” when Christie left the home.

Day 1. December 4, 1926: The Morris Cowley was found crashed into a hedge by the chalk pits, near the Silent Pool, a popular nature park. The Silent Pool is supposedly haunted.

The Silent Pool is a spring-fed lake located in Albury, Surrey, Southern England. The online pictures show a lake in a lovely shade of green. One wonders how a serene lake could be linked to a horrible folktale.

Long, long ago, the woodcutter’s daughter named Emma was bathing in the pool. She was a young lass of great beauty. She was bathing in the “all together” (an old phrase for nude). The equally young Prince John, the youngest surviving son of King Henry II and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was riding by on his steed (a really old word for horse). John saw Emma and advanced, still on his horse. The scared Emma backed further into the water. Unfortunately, Emma could not swim. Her calls for help were heard by her brother, who quickly attempted to save her. Both drowned. John rode away, leaving behind a feather, and possibly his cap, with the family crest attached.

The woodcutter found his two dead children and the feather. Although the feather and crest incriminated John, he was never held accountable. He went on to rule England as King John from 1199-1216. The spirit of Emma is said to haunt the pool, appearing nude at midnight.

Legends embellish the hauntings at the pool. Stories claim that the birds do not sing and the pool is bottomless. Both are false. People enjoy the wildlife in the park. The birds do, in fact, sing. The wildlife is active. Further, the lake is actually quite shallow in areas.

The story is pure fiction. Martin Tupper made up the story in his book Stephen Langton, a Romance of the Silent Pool (1858). Tupper wanted to create a fantastic story about the pool in order to attract tourists and make the nearby town of Albury famous for something—anything. He succeeded.

The Silent Pool isn’t the only aspect of Agatha Christie’s disappearance linked to paranormal activity. Mrs. Christie believed her home Styles to be haunted, calling the house “spooky.” The house is now divided into apartments. There aren’t any substantive stories regarding hauntings online.

For four days, police enlisted the assistance of volunteers to walk the areas around the chalk pit where the roadster was found. Theories began to circulate. One theory was that Christie was suffering a mental breakdown due to Archie’s affair and Agatha’s mother’s death. Agatha remained close to Clara and was devasted when she passed.

Day 5. December 8, 1926: Agatha’s brother-in-law confirmed that he had received a letter from Agatha, where she stated that she was heading to an unnamed spa.

Day 7. December 10, 1926: Police expand the search. Now over 1,000 officers are searching.

Day 8. December 11, 1926: One of Agatha’s favorite terriers is brought to the chalk pit. Authorities hoped that the dog would lead them to her corpse. The dog “whined pitifully.” No body was recovered.

Authorities now report that Christie wrote three letters: 1) to her personal secretary to cancel an event; 2) to her brother-in-law; and 3) to Archie. Only the letter to the secretary survived, as the other two were burned almost immediately.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enlisted the help from a clairvoyant, who held one of Agatha’s gloves. The medium proclaimed that the international best-selling author had met with foul play.

The working theory now was that Agatha dressed up as a man and made her way to London.

Day 9. December 12, 1926: Media were reporting that the clues of Agatha’s disappearance were contained in her unfinished manuscript The Blue Train.

Day 10. December 13, 1926: Somewhere between 10,000-15,000 people were now actively searching for Christie. Spiritualists held a séance at the chalk pit. They, too, were not so optimistic on Agatha’s return.

Day 11. December 14, 1926: The latest theory was that Agatha was hiding in London with no desire to return.

Day 12. December 15, 1926: Agatha found! Mrs. Christie was noticed by a banjo player who alerted the authorities. Agatha was, indeed, at the Harrogate Hydro or Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate. She registered under an assumed name: Tressa/Teresa/Theresa Neele, spelling dependent on the source. The name was similar to Archie’s mistress’s name of Nancy Neale.

Harrogate Hydro, now called the Old Swan Hotel.

Day 13. December 16, 1926: The police update the public. Christie checked into the hotel unable to remember how she arrived. She had cash on her, as she enjoyed dinners, activities, and visiting the library where she obtained a library card. She was suffering from amnesia, though.

When Archie arrived to pick up Agatha, she made him wait.

Fifteen months after the incident, Agatha sued Archie for divorce on March 17, 1928. Thirty months later, Agatha remarried. Her new husband was prominent British archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan CBE, 14 years her junior. They remained married until her death in 1976. Archie also remarried. To Nancy Neale.

Christie refused to discuss the incident. She eventually took her version of events to her grave. Her eternal resting place is St. Mary’s Churchyard, Cholsey, South Oxfordshire District, Oxfordshire, England. Max died two years later. He is buried alongside Agatha.

Norman Reedus Hunts Orville Peck in New Music Video

Tags

Screen shot from video.

Norman Reedus Hunts Orville Peck in New Music Video

Orville Peck dropped Chapter 2 of his upcoming album Bronco, due to be released on April 8. The music video of “The Curse of the Blackened Eye” stars Norman Reedus as Peck’s ex-lover who stalks him—zombie-like—throughout the video. It’s a nice nod to Reedus and The Walking Dead (2010-2022).

Orville Peck is the pseudonym for the versatile 34-year-old singer/songwriter. Known for his bejeweled country attire and staunch stand on LGBTQA+ issues, Peck has morphed into a country music icon—one who encompasses the refreshing attitude of inclusivity in today’s country music.

Bronco.

The casting of Reedus, filmed wearing zombie make-up and wearing the stereotypical black clothing of a country villain, is brilliant. On The Walking Dead, Reedus plays “Daryl Dixon,” primary zombie hunter in the popular series. Here, he continues to stalk his prey. The irony is obvious and appreciated. Don’t worry. He does appear without make-up and more humanoid in flashback scenes.

Screen shot.

The song is a great addition to Peck’s repertoire. Peck’s voice and swagger reminds me of Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Chris. Peck’s star is on the rise!

Jiggy Webb, Paranormal HooD, Dies

Tags

Twitter account

Jiggy Webb, Paranormal HooD, Dies

On February 10, 2022, Joey “Jiggy” Webb passed away at the age of 51. He was two weeks shy of his 52nd birthday. He leaves behind a granddaughter. Jiggy was a popular paranormal host, and many in the field were surprised by his untimely death.

Jiggy’s mother Donia has kept the community updated via her own YouTube channel. Ms. Donia stated “a mother knows” when she received the call from Jiggy’s girlfriend. Describing Jiggy as always happy and joking, Ms. Donia was candid in recalling her intuition about the cause of death. She “believes his body gave out.” Jiggy had been dealing with medical issues for the past two and a half years. His second surgery related to diverticulitis was unsuccessful. Jiggy’s roommate found him unresponsive and called 911. Paramedics worked to revive Jiggy for 2 hours. The cause of death is a suspected heart attack.

Jiggy is now at peace, and the family has started a GoFundMe page, https://www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-the-family-of-joey-jiggy-webb. While his parents paid for the funeral, they would like to create a small legacy for his granddaughter, nieces, and nephew.

The GoFundMe set up to establish a small legacy gift.

The fate of Paranormal HooD has not been publicly posted. However, viewers/listeners can still access the various videos and podcasts he starred in. Jiggy contributed so much to the field. He will be deeply missed.