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Summerwind Mansion has the unenviable title of being Wisconsin’s Most Notorious Haunted House.  For over a 100 years now strange, disturbing stories have circulated about this eerie, derelict property.  And yet there may still be a happy ending to this often sad tale, as it seems the current owners are keen to take care of it and give it some much-needed love.

Situated on the shores of West Bay Lake, Vilas County, Wisconsin, Summerwind was, in the early 20th century, originally a fishing-lodge.  Then in 1916 Robert Patterson Lamont, President of American Steel Foundries, acquired the property with the intention of turning into a summer vacation refuge for himself and his family.  The Lamont family would stay at the house until the 1930s.  Robert would eventually become US Secretary of Commerce during Herbert Hoover’s administration in 1929.  The house became simply known in the area as the Lamont Mansion.

Robert Lamont employed Chicago architects to completely remodel the house, and renovations took two years to complete.  One of the most famous ghost stories about the house comes from this era.  Apparently the Lamont’s maids had told them for years that the house was haunted, only for it to fall on deaf ears.  The story goes that Robert and Mrs Lamont were having supper in the kitchen one evening in the mid-1930s, when the door to the basement was flung open, and a man materialised out of thin air.  Robert fired a pistol at the strange intruder, who (presumably) evaporated, and the bullet hole could still be seen in the basement door for many years afterwards.   The Lamonts abandoned the property soon after this.

The Keefer family owned the property from the 1940s until the 1960s.  Sometimes it is put out that nothing untoward was reported about the house during this period, and yet some visitors have claimed that the Keefers never lived in it on a permanent basis.  In the 1960s Mrs Keefer tried repeatedly to sell the house, but financial difficulties with the new owners meant that the house always reverted back to her.  It is said that visitors to the mansion at this time would be handed the keys by Mrs Keefer, who would leave them to look round it on their own.  All of which helped fuel its odd reputation I’m sure.

It is in the 1970s that the stories about the house became ramped up to another level entirely.  In the early 70s Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw moved into the property, along with their 6 children.  They were to only spend 6 months at Summerwind, and yet it would be an eventful time to say the least.  During that time they reported seeing vague shapes and shadowy figures in the hallways,  and heard mumbled voices in empty rooms.  Windows and doors opened and closed by themselves.  A ghostly woman was seen floating past the French windows in the dining-room.  The boiler and hot water heater constantly broke down, and yet by the time repairmen came to fix them they had somehow mysteriously righted themselves.   On one especially dramatic occasion, Arnold was going off to work one morning.  When he stepped outside, his car burst into flames.

Whilst painting a closet Arnold uncovered a small crawl space.  He sent his youngest daughter, Mary, in to investigate it.  She found the remains of human skull and a handful of black hair.  This grim finding was never reported to the police, and the skull disappeared completely at a later date.

Whatever was really going on at the house at this time had a marked effect on the family.  Arnold suffered a nervous breakdown, and subsequently lost his job.  He took to acting strangely, such as staying up late playing the organ, in the belief that it would drive the demons away.   His wife Ginger – who believed the house was responsible for Arnold’s breakdown – herself suffered from severe depression at this time, and tried to take her own life.

After they left the property, curiously, Ginger’s father, Raymond von Bober, acquired it, with the intention of turning it into a restaurant.  This was to prove unsuccessful, reportedly down to the fact that he could never get workmen to stay on site long enough to do the necessary renovations.  According to neighbours, Bober never actually stayed the night in the property, but lived in a trailer on site.  Nevertheless Bober made some pretty bizarre claims about the house, including that the rooms could change shape due to supernatural powers.

Using the pen-name, Wolfgang von Bober, he wrote a book about the property, called The Carver Effect: A Paranormal Experience, in which he claimed the house was haunted by an 18th-century Great Lakes explorer and militia-man called Jonathan Carver, who died in 1780.  The book is now extremely rare and hard-to-find.    Von Bober abandoned the house, and – inevitably – it became a haunt for local teenagers to hang out and be … well teenagers I suppose.

In 1986 Harold Tracy bought the house as an anniversary gift for his wife, Babs.  They never actually stayed in the house, although they did once camp in the grounds.  Babs said that she saw the mansion breathing, getting larger as if it was inhaling.  The Tracys never got to live in the house, because Fate took a hand.

The house came to a suitably dramatic end on 19 June 1988, when it was struck by lightning.  The fire devastated the empty property, and all that remained were the concrete foundations and the fireplaces.   The house continued to be a magnet for thrill-seeking youngsters, but in 2014  it was reported  that the Summerwind Restoration Society were looking for funds to restore it and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast establishment.

The last report I could find was from a news site in August 2015, which reiterated the plans to turn it into a B&B, and that Paranormal Research Teams occasionally camp out at the site, and find it “really just nice and peaceful”.  One ghost-hunter said “I absolutely love it up here”.  Perhaps whatever troublesome spirits once frequented the site have now departed, and Summerwind now enjoys the serenity, and the refuge from the rat-race feeling for which it was originally intended by Mr Lamont all those years ago.

Situated in the Liguria area of north-west Italy, in the hamlet of Voltri, is a rather forbidding-looking roadside house, which comes with a dark history which wouldn’t be out of place in an Edgar Allan Poe story.   In the Middle Ages the mountain road was used by pilgrims, soldiers and merchants, and Casa Delle Anime was a convenient stopping-point, being one of the few houses in the area offering refuge for the tired and hungry traveller.  Hospitality came at quite a price though.

The story goes that wealthy travellers would be encouraged to leave their belongings in a secluded room, reached only by a secret passageway.  During the night the movable ceiling of their room would come down, and suffocate the poor hapless traveller to death.  Their body would then be interred in a mass grave at the back of the property.  The story is similar to that of the Ostrich Inn*, in Colnbrook, Berkshire, here in England.   In the 17th century a murderous landlord called Jarman would tip wealthy customers from a hinged bed through a trapdoor into a vat of boiling liquid below, Sweeney Todd-style.

Anyway, the murderous family at Casa Delle Anime were eventually caught and executed.  From then on the house was shunned, being thought to be cursed and haunted.   It only became inhabited again at the end of World War 2.  The area was heavily bombed by the Germans in 1944, and a family, made homeless by the bombing and desperate for accommodation, took up refuge in the sinister dwelling-place.   They spoke of doors opening and closing by themselves, of dishes moving of their own accord, and terrible noises coming from the garden.

Things came to a head when they were visited one evening by a young girl in a white dress.  She seemed to be looking for her missing boyfriend.  She slowly vanished, leaving behind only an aroma of roses.  This was the last straw for the family, and they moved out.

Since then there have been plans to renovate the building.  In the 1950s a body was apparently found buried in the garden, enclosed in a jute sack.  The house has also become a favourite haunt (sorry about that) of ghost-hunters, and one visitor in recent years spoke of seeing a strange white shape crossing the road in front of him nearby.

*The Ostrich Inn is very much still going.  When I last visited it a few years ago, they had a miniature model of Jarman’s lethal bed in the bar.

I know hardened sceptics may be rolling their eyes at this point.  “Oh pah-lease! Another book about Princess Diana’s death?  She died because she wasn’t wearing a seat-belt, get over it!”   Ah, but it’s a mystery which still endures.

I’ve read several books about Diana’s untimely death over the years, and to be honest, I didn’t think I’d be tempted to try another one unless someone actually came up with some hard compelling evidence as to what happened that fateful August night in 1997, instead of just wild speculating, and bending facts to fit whichever is their pet theory.  This one enticed me because the author argues that Diana didn’t die at all, that she was in fact abducted.

Hardened sceptics will be rolling their eyes again.  “Don’t we always get this when a famous person dies in their prime?  You’ll be seeing Elvis down Tesco’s next”.  Indeed.  And yes, it’s true that people do have a problem accepting that tragedies can happen to  famous people in the prime of life, as much as they can happen to anybody else.  God knows how many times Elvis has been spotted.   I once saw a book by a man who claimed he had given a lift to a 60-something Marilyn Monroe back in the 1980s.  And on the Your True Tales website I read a short piece by someone who swore they had once  seen a 70-year-old John F Kennedy walking past the shop where he worked.

When I first visited the Pont Alma in Paris in 1999, someone had put up a poster there claiming that Diana had faked her own death to live a life of anonymity.  I don’t believe that for one minute.  You can argue abduction is equally far-fetched, but yet, I’ve read sincere comments over the years – both in books and Online – from people who believe that may have been what happened.

This book was better than I expected, in that it wasn’t a swivel-eyed, hysterical rant, as some conspiracy books can often be.  The author has done some solid research, and the medical details are gone into in tremendous detail, to the extent that I personally found parts of it heavy-going.  That’s mainly because there’s a limit to how much I can read about embalming and autopsies without mentally zoning out.

I must add that the author also mentions, in relation to royal mysteries,  the weird case of the 10 missing Canadian aboriginal children from October 1964.  I’ve been intrigued by that one for quite some time now, and yet can find very little information on it, so I’m always fascinated when anybody else mentions it.

Frustratingly, the book offers no ideas as to what may have happened to Diana if she did indeed survive that night.  Is she still alive?  Where did they take her?   I hope the author pursues this subject, as there’s certainly scope for a follow-up volume.

As an Amazon reviewer put it, this book is “flawed, but perhaps important”.  It is certainly thought-provoking.  I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with her.  I agree that Dodi was just a summer diversion for Diana, and not the great love affair some believe it was (I think she was still on the rebound from Dr Khan).  The author paints Al Fayed as a complete villain.  I’m honestly not sure about that.  I found him to be genuinely moving in the controversial film Unlawful Killing (although it must be pointed out that he bankrolled it).   Don’t message me.  I don’t know the man, I have no idea what he’s like.

If hardened sceptics are still rolling their eyes, well I can’t offer you much reassurance.  There are still too many mysteries, conundrums, and unanswered questions about the Princess’s death for conspiracists to shut up about it any time soon.  This one will continue to run and run.

 

 

The unsolved murders of 3 teenagers at a Finnish beauty spot in 1960 remains one of Finland’s biggest unsolved mysteries, even though there seems to be no shortage of credible suspects, deathbed confessions, suicides, and the trial, many years later, of the one survivor.   It is a crime which still haunts the area to this day.

On 4 June 1960 a small gang of youngsters arrived at Lake Bodom, near Espoo, about 22 kilometres from Helsinki, and set up camp.  They were two 18-year-old boys, Seppo Antero Boisman and Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson, and two 15-year-old girls, Maila Irmali Bjorklund and Anja Tuulkki Maki.  They were all savagely attacked between the hours of 4 AM and 6 AM on the following day, the 5th June.  It was established afterwards that whoever the attacker was, he didn’t actually enter the tent, but instead slashed at the victims through the tent from the outside.   Three of the young people, Maila, Seppo and Anja were killed by stabbing and bludgeoning.  Maila sustained the worst injuries.  She was found lying on top of the collapsed tent, naked from the waist down, and had sustained several knife wounds even after her death.

Nils Gustafsson was the only one of the 4 to survive the horrifying incident.  He sustained fractures to his jaw and facial bones, and bruising to his face.  He was also found lying on top of the tent.   He later claimed that he had no memory of the night’s events, but he had seen a vision of a black shape and red eyes coming for them, which led some in the area to surmise that the teenagers had been the victim of the Grim Reaper.

At about 6 AM a party of small boys were out bird-watching in the area, when they saw the tent collapse, and a blonde man walking away from the scene.   A few hours later, at 11 AM, the bodies were discovered by a carpenter called Risto Siren, who was out jogging in the area.  The police arrived at the scene an hour later at noon.  Several personal items were missing from the scene, including watches, wallets, two knives, a towel, a duffel-bag, and Seppo’s leather jacket.   As far as I know, these items have never been found.  Some of the victims clothes were later found partially-hidden 500 metres from the tent, these included Nils Gustafsson’s bloodstained shoes.  It is thought that the killer had been wearing them, due to the trail of blood and footprints.

THE SUSPECTS

One was Pentti Soininen, who was 15 at the time of the murders.  Soininen was a psychopathic thug,  convicted of theft, assault and robbery.   Whilst in prison he confessed to the murders.  Although interrogated by the police, they clearly didn’t give much weight to his confession, and said he was known to come out with strange, random stuff when he was drunk or on drugs.  Soininen hanged himself at a prison transport station in 1969, on the same date as the Lake Bodom murders had been committed.

Valdemar Gullstrom is thought to have been the inspiration behind the cult horror film Friday The  13th.  He was a campsite kiosk-keeper, from Oittaa, who had a pathological hatred of campers.  He was regarded as eccentric, and had been known to chuck stones at the bicycles of passing teenagers.   On one occasion he was sharing a sauna with a neighbour when he confessed to the murders, “I killed them”.  Gullstrom though seemed to have an iron-clad alibi for the night in question.  His wife verified that he had been home with her all night.  Later she made a deathbed confession that Gullstrom had coerced her into providing this alibi for him,  that he had threatened to kill her if she told the truth.   A lot has been made of the fact that Gullstrom filled in a well in his courtyard a few days after the murders, but nothing incriminating was found.   Shortly after his sauna confession, Gullstrom drowned himself in Lake Bodom.

If those two suspects weren’t weird enough, we now have Hans Assmann, a KGB spy who lived about 5 miles from the lake.  On 6th June he walked into Helsinki Surgical Hospital, looking dishevelled, with blackened fingernails, and clothes covered in red stains.  He seemed aggressive and nervous.  The police only questioned Assmann for a short while, and refused to take his clothes away for examination, even though the doctors said they were certain the stains were blood.  Assmann cut off his long-ish blond hair when he heard about the sighting of the mysterious blonde man was reported on the news.   Assmann committed suicide in 1972, apparently leaving a suicide note confessing to the crimes.

The mystery of the Lake Bodom Murders went cold for many years, until March 2004, when Nils Gustaffson, now a 62-year-old bus-driver, was arrested for the crime.  It was suspected that Nils had carried out the killings in a jealous rage, after Seppo had come on strong to Nils’ girlfriend, Maila.  It was certainly a fact that Maila had sustained the most savage injuries, and the fact that she had been viciously stabbed after she had died adds weight to the jealous boyfriend scenario.

The trial began on 4 August 2005.  Gustaffson’s defence argued that Nils would have been incapable of carrying out the attacks on the other three, given the extent of his own injuries, and that the attacks had been the work of one or more outsiders.  Gustaffson was acquitted of all charges on 7 October 2005, and was awarded over 44,000 Euros in damages for mental suffering, due to the long remand time.   Although I’ve seen some argue that Gustaffson was the most likely culprit, the general feeling in the area seems to have been that he was innocent.  A local shopkeeper in Espoo told the Guardian that “three generations of children have grown up being told not to stay out late for fear of the Bodom Murderer.  We feel that if it really was Gustaffson, the police would have charged him long ago”.

Short of any further evidence coming to light, or more deathbed confessions, the fate of the Children of Lake Bodom will remain a macabre mystery.

The untimely death of Max Spiers, a 39-year-old father-of-two, in a Warsaw apartment last June, has recently been hitting the British media, amid claims from his loved ones that he died at the hands of dark forces.  It is certainly a fascinating case.

I think it’s fair to say that Max, from Canterbury in Kent, was a pretty hard-core conspiracy theorist.  Anyone who has studied conspiracy theories will know that they cover a very broad range, from the more plausible – the assassination of JFK, the death of Dr David Kelly, to name but two – to the utterly fantastical, such as Her Majesty the Queen being a shape-shifting lizard, and Nazi’s operating from an Antarctic base.

Max was a passionate advocate of conspiracy theories, and according to his mother, Vanessa Bates, was making a name for himself in that field.  Last Summer (2016) he was invited to speak at a UFO conference in Poland.  Max believed in many things.   He believed in the New World Order (that the world is being run by Satanic beings who feed off negative energy), the Fourth Reich, and that he had been a victim of MKUltra, the CIA’s  highly controversial mind control programme.  Although MKUltra was officially closed in 1973, Max claimed he was one of a generation of children born in the 1970s who was a victim of it.  He said he was a child of Project IBIS, begun in 1972 and run until 1980, which was instigated to create a race of super-children.  He said he had “woken up” at the age of 31.

He also believed in Dulce Base, an alleged underground facility in New Mexico, run jointly by humans and aliens, to clone hybrids.  Like David Icke, he believed that many of the ruling elite are reptiles, and that these reptilian creatures are located under the sea between Dover and Calais.  He said that the assassination of John F Kennedy, and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales were rituals for brainwashing the masses, and that 9/11 was a false flag event.   Max also said there are massive underground cities beneath London and Los Angeles.   As I said earlier, this is all pretty hard-core conspiracy stuff.

Four days before his death, Max gave an interview on a Polish YouTube channel, in which he spoke of his investigations into paedophilia in the US military.   He also said he believed Nazi’s and Zionists were involved in a long-running war going back 50,000 years, “they just weren’t called Nazi and Zion, that’s just a modern-day nom”. He also complained of feeling tired, and his voice was slurred.

Although, by all accounts, Max was a healthy, fit young man, he  died suddenly in a Warsaw apartment, where he had been staying with a friend, Monika Duval, whom he hadn’t known for very long.  Friends say Max vomited black liquid just before he passed away.  A few days before his death he had sent his mother a message saying: “your boy’s in trouble.  If anything happens to me, investigate”.

His mother, Mrs Bates, told the MailOnline she had heard “Satanic rituals” being chanted over her son’s body as she spoke to his flatmate on the telephone.  “Put milk by this side, and get garlic and put flowers and put vinegar and very weird things going on.  I could hear it being said.  It sounded like rituals going on.  Some sort of Satanic rituals”.   She said Monika Duval had sent her  a “threatening” book on devil worship, which included a chapter on Illuminati Blood Sacrifices.   She had also been sent pictures of Max with a head wound, and two of him lying in a coffin wearing “a strange silk suit”.  Mrs Bates said “I think Max had been digging in some dark places and I fear that somebody wanted him dead”.

Mrs Bates said she had a death certificate from the Polish authorities saying that Max had died of natural causes, but no post-mortem had been done, and “they are also refusing to release any paperwork about it to me because, absurdly, I don’t have his written permission”.

Soon after Mrs Bates had gone public with her concerns, Scott C Waring of UFO Sightings Daily told Metro that he believed UFO researchers are now being targeted, “probably to slow the rate of information being leaked to the public”.   This led to prominent Ufologist and ex-Ministry of Defence worker, Nick Pope, to make a tongue-in-cheek remark on Twitter that “I promise we don’t go around killing UFO researchers”.

Max’s fiance, Sarah Adams, told the Evening Standard that they had received death threats in the weeks running up to Max’s death, but this wasn’t anything unusual in the work they were doing.  “He was going to expose Black Magic”, she said “He was going to expose some of the stuff he was working on involving political leaders and celebrities”.   In another interview she said Max “was terrified, he wanted to leave”.  Sarah Adams also claimed that They had given him something to put him in a coma, and that he was in a house “in a remote forest with an electric fence around it”.

Another UFO researcher, Miles Johnson, said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s current affairs PM programme that Max had been working to “expose enemies within other realities”.   Unfortunately it all then got a bit confusing.  When asked if Miles believed Max was dead or alive, Miles replied “not quite either … they have control of us, alive or in our death state”.

Max has been buried in Canterbury, and North East Kent Coroner’s Office say their investigations into his death are still in the “very early stages”.  So far it is said to be ” inconclusive”.

At the end of October, Mrs Bates reported that her son’s computer had been returned to her ” wiped” of activity in his final days.

In November 2016 a British tabloid newspaper reported that David Icke had donated £1000 to Mrs Bates’ investigation. 

[I’m currently updating this one in real time, so bear with me if it can seem a bit scrappy.  I shall tidy it up better when this hysteria dies down, hopefully once Halloween is over!].

I think it’s fair to say that 2016 has produced more than its share of craziness and oddities, and it would be impossible to pull out any one particular thing to sum up just how bizarre this year has been at times.  The Clown Sightings of the United States, and now Britain as well, must be somewhere on the list though.

IT ALL BEGAN IN AMERICA

During the months of August and September reports were coming out of the United States of sinister clowns seen lurking by roadsides,  clowns appearing in vans, clowns yelling at children in school playgrounds, and clowns attempting to lure children into the woods.  Clowns were either appearing alone, or roaming in packs.  Schools went into lockdown, and police warned that anyone appearing in clown costume in the street would be immediately arrested.  Newspaper headlines entitled it “Clownpocalypse”.  Police warned the public not to form vigilante mobs and go hunting the clowns down, maps appeared Online showing where the clowns had been sighted, Stephen King said it was all terrifying … and poor old professional clowns bemoaned the tarnishing their job was getting, and the possible knock-on effect on business.

It all began on 29 August, when residents of Greenville, South Carolina, were spooked by tales of a sinister clown appearing, loitering in a menacing fashion, by roadsides, simply staring at people, but also unsettling rumours that he had been offering children money or sweets to follow him into the woods.  One woman said she had seen a clown hanging around outside a laundromat.  She told police he had stared at her, but didn’t speak or make any attempt to follow her.  For a while it became known as the Greenville Clown Sightings.  Naturally some wondered if it was a promo event for a film, or an Internet game, like a flash mob event.  I even saw someone speculating that it may have been a Derren Brown stunt!

But then things began to get out of control.  Residents of an apartment block received a letter from property management asking them to abide by a 10 PM curfew, and to not let children walk out alone at night.   In Winson-Salem, North Carolina, on 4 September, children told of a man dressed as a clown who had tried to lure them into woods.  An adult told the police they had heard the person, but hadn’t seen him.

The clown sightings took on a momentum all of their own, and spread like a contagious disease across several more counties.  Soon the states of Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania all reported clown sightings of their own.  To me, it all began to look like mass hysteria, a bit like the Monkey Man Scare in India a few years ago.  In that case one resident said that the legend took hold because no one wanted to be the only person in their street who hadn’t seen it, and certainly the Clown Sightings had that feel to it.  Police were soon able to confirm that some of the sightings had been outright fabrications.  Someone reported seeing a bunch of clowns standing next to a white van, which seemed to have run out of gas.  Police searching the van though found no evidence at all of clown paraphernalia.

On 12 September police investigated after receiving threats on Facebook that violent clowns would be targeting three schools in Lagrange, Troup County, Georgia.  They would be driving a white van, the clowns helpfully posted.  The cops received numerous calls concerning sightings of the clowns around the City, but no one was found.   Three days later police responded to worrying threats made on a Facebook page from someone calling themselves Flomo Klown or Shoota Cllown, concerning Flomoton High School.   The school was put under lockdown as a safety measure.  A 22-year-old woman, Makayla Smith, was subsequently arrested for making a terrorist threat.  Smith had posted pictures of herself on Facebook wearing a female clown’s costume, with the words “HI DO YOU LIKE CLOWNS?” written in fake blood on the front.

And still the clown sightings continued to spread.  Florida – a state well-known for its crazy news stories – was soon to get in on the act.  A Facebook video went viral after someone posted footage of a clown standing by a dirt road.  The clown begins to move towards the car in a menacing fashion, and someone in the vehicle utters the immortal words “let’s get the hell out of …”  A resident of Palm Bay told Florida Today that she had seen two clowns standing staring at her, whilst she was out walking her dog.  She returned home as quickly as she could.

An 11-year-old girl was arrested on 21 September for taking a knife to school in Georgia.  She said she had armed herself because she had been spooked by tales of clowns jumping out of the woods and attacking people.  In Vermont a 15-year-old was arrested for wearing a clown mask and banging on classroom windows.  Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, a 55-year-old man was arrested for wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves, and shadow-boxing outside the windows of Floyd Light Middle School.

On 24 September a man was arrested in Middlesboro, Kentucky, after he was found crouching in woods near an apartment block, wearing a clown mask and costume.  Jonathan Martin, aged 20, was charged with disorderly conduct, and wearing a mask in a public place.

Towards the end of September the clown mania seems to be showing no signs of abating.  York College, Pennsylvania, issued a security alert, after several clown sightings were reported near the campus.   In Phillipsburg, PA, residents claimed they were under siege by clowns.  In only two days it was reported that (1) three clowns had come out of the woods and chased a child, (2) a man dressed as a clown sighted walking down a main road, (3) a clown armed with a toy sword chased a child, (3) a truck sighted with clowns hanging out of the windows, and (4) children reported seeing clowns hanging round a nearby school.  Police were unable to locate any of the aforementioned clowns.

On 27 September, a woman in Lancaster, Ohio, called police at 2 AM to say she had seen a clown holding a large kitchen knife.  The cops talked to other witnesses at the scene, who said they had seen two clowns, one dressed in a gold costume, carrying a balloon, and the other dressed all in black.  The following day police in Fort Collins, Colorado, investigated after someone, using a clown profile pic, posted a threatening message directed at Poudre High School on Facebook.  The page has since been deleted.

Schools in New Haven, Connecticut began investigations on 3 October after threatening messages began appearing on social-media.  The account displayed photographs and the words “wait and see” and “watch out”.

The subject of the Killer Clowns was even said to have been raised at a White House briefing session.

It would be very easy to dismiss the clown sightings as a bit of hysterical nonsense or pre-Halloween “fun” (whatever happened to apple-bobbing?) that has got woefully out of hand, but there has been a very dark side to all this, including a fatality.  A 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Pennsylvania after a confrontation with someone in a clown mask.  It is a very real fear that there could be others.  Plus there is no denying that many people are genuinely scared by all this, and not just ones who suffer from coulrophobia (a fear of clowns).  Tales of strange people trying to lure children away are not something to be dismissed lightly, and if someone is doing this as a prank, then it is downright irresponsible and sick – and I mean “sick” in the standard sense of the word, not modern slang.

On 18 October the Independent reported a disturbing story of a woman being dragged out of her minivan in Pryor, Oklahoma, and assaulted by two men dressed as clowns.  They burned her with a lit cigarette, and wrote “clown posse” on her face.

This whole thing is still very much ongoing as I write this.  I can only hope it all fizzles out eventually before anyone else gets hurt.  I read a piece by an American political blogger recently who said, for him, the whole clown sightings mania summed up how he felt about America at this stage in its history, of it being led into the dark woods … by a big clown with red hair.

UPDATE: early October 2016 – THE CLOWN SIGHTINGS SPREAD TO THE UK

It was reported in various parts of the British media that the Clown Sightings have spread to Britain.  Metro reported that two schoolgirls had been approached in Clacton, Essex, by two clowns in a black van.  They asked if the girls wanted to go to a birthday party.  There was no attempt to abduct the girls.

Police arrested a 13-year-old boy in Newcastle, after it was reported that a clown had been scaring pedestrians.  He was found carrying a knife.  A number of random clown sightings have also been reported from Glasgow to Hampshire.

On 6 October BBC News website reported that the clown sightings have also spread to Canada.  Folklorist Benjamin Radford was interviewed as part of the article.  He divided the clown sightings into two categories, the Stalker Clowns and the Phantom Clowns.  The Stalker Clowns are real sightings of people in clown costume.  He said they were doing this as “a combination of prank and performance art”.  The other type, Phantom Clowns, he dismissed as an Urban Myth, they are either hoaxes, or “schoolyard rumour” (I’m reminded of the Gorbals Vampire Case from the 1950s).   He thinks the Clown Sightings may be a symbol of the stress of the times we currently live in, which is quite likely.  Radford predicted that the craze may peter out around Halloween.

By the 10 October the clown sightings have been spreading like a rash all over Britain.  Originally I intended this piece to be just about the clown sightings of America, but it’s now becoming a real concern here in Blighty now as well.  Metro published a map showing that clown sightings have been reported now in Dundee, Newcastle (said to be, at time of writing, to be the Clown Sightings capital of the UK), Leeds, Durham, Manchester, Sheffield, Caernarfon, Liverpool, Gloucester, Bracknell (where a creepy clown was snapped staring through the window of a restaurant), London, Plymouth and Crawley.   In Durham schoolchildren were said to have been followed by a clown carrying a knife.  Metro  reported that so far there had been no sightings in the Midlands.  Unfortunately they spoke too soon.  The Birmingham Mail has reported that a creepy clown had been sighted in some bushes in the suburb of Shard End late one Sunday evening.  There had been similar sightings in Evesham, Droitwich and Worcester.

There have been some very eerie encounters.  A student at Leeds Beckett University had the misfortune to meet one in an underpass at 4:30 in the morning, which must have been very unnerving.  Not everyone is intimidated by them though.  A woman in Chorley, Lancashire, told a clown in no uncertain terms to “piss off”.   I hope I have her presence of mind if I encounter one.

BBC News reported that there have now been dozens of sightings across Wales.  I’ve also heard of one in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, and a Twitter follower sent me a news link to  a sighting in Guildford, Surrey.  Even now, just doing another quick Google search, I’ve unearthed further ones from Kent, Leicestershire, Brighton, and one spotted outside a McDonald’s in Kidderminster.

UPDATE: 15 October 2016 THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY ISSUES CLOWN WARNING

Over the past few days it has all been getting out-of-hand on the clown front.  There have been reports of a man being stabbed in the shoulder by a clown in Sweden, and here in Britain the children’s charity ChildLine has reported a huge spike in calls from terrified children upset by the whole craze.  It is very easy to see why.  On 14 October the Telegraph listed a dozen of the creepiest sightings so far, which included a woman in Walsall, in the West Midlands who said a clown had attempted to get in her car.  The Evening Standard reported that a woman had been threatened by a clown brandishing a knife in the early hours of the morning, as she walked home near a hospital.  Although the police subsequently scoured the area, no trace of him was found.  Northumbria police published a list on Facebook of schools, colleges and hospitals which clowns had threatened to target in the run-up to Halloween, and said they would be posting extra officers in those areas.

Even the Russian Embassy in London has been getting in on the act, by publishing a warning to Russian citizens to be on their guard when visiting Britain as Killer Clowns are running amok here.  I suspect the Russians are being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it’s all adding to the rather fevered atmosphere.  It has got to the stage whereby a gang of doctors in a Newcastle hospital, who often entertain children there by donning red noses and calling themselves the Clown Doctors, have had to cancel an event after being sent threats by the masked saddos.  And it has been put out that the McDonalds mascot, Ronald McDonald, has been urged to lie low (frankly, I’d be glad if he would lie low forever more, but that’s just my opinion).  Horror film director John Carpenter has branded the Killer Clowns “idiots”.  He’s right.

UPDATE: 17 October 2016 – A CLOWN WITH A MACHETE & A CLOWN ON A ROUNDABOUT

The Telegraph’s latest clown sightings round-up had a nightmarish tale of two teenage girls being chased by a machete-carrying clown in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, at 6:25 PM on Saturday 15 October.  The girls ran off when the man moved towards them, saying he was going to harm them.  Police – including firearms and dog units – scoured the area, including nearby woods and industrial estate, but found no trace of the miscreant.  A clown carrying a hammer jumped out of some bushes, terrifying a 10-year-old boy in Plymouth, and in Workington, Cumbria, a clown carrying an axe chased an 11-year-old girl.

Police officers arrested a 19-year-old man wearing a clown mask and carrying a fake gun in Hillingdon, Middlesex, about 5 miles from Heathrow Airport, a few days earlier.

The tale of a 28-year-old man, Simon Chinnery, being attacked by knife-wielding clown with “piercing black eyes” at a cashpoint in Blackburn, Lancashire, turned out to be a hoax though when Chinnery was exposed as having made the whole thing up.  He had in fact cut his hand on broken glass.  Likewise, suspicions have been aired over a video which shows a clown jumping out at a disgruntled shopper, who then clouts him with a wine bottle.  It’s largely felt it’s a stunt by tedious YouTube pranksters Trollstation.  In an interview on Good Morning Britain Piers Morgan ripped into them for causing alarm and distress at a time of extreme terror threats, when people’s nerves are already in shreds.

Another YouTube prankster, Italian self-styled “killer clown” Marreo Moroni (who, incredibly, is 29-years-old) said he had been doing this kind of thing for 3 years, and denied it was cruel.  He opined: “I think that a good jog (even if you’re running away from a clown) never killed anybody”.  Um … someone with a heart condition?  He did concede that the current clown craze is out of control, and may be being used by people to hide criminal behaviour.

In Anstey, Leicestershire, an idiot wearing a mask caused chaos at a traffic roundabout, at one stage chasing a small white car.  An eyewitness, Melissa Hadfield, caught the strange incident on camera.  She said she was coming out of a meeting when she heard shouting, and saw a man dressed as a clown jumping in front of cars.  He went into a nearby pub, removing his mask, and then re-emerged, putting the mask back on.  He got in his car and drove off.  The video simply shows some sad character in a long wig – which obscures his face – prowling round a traffic island, making growling noises at passing cars, and attempting to chase one of them.  At one stage, during  a lull in traffic, he simply stands there.  Clearly there isn’t much to do in Anstey.  Melissa said she reported the incident to the police, who didn’t pursue it any further.

The craze has also spread to Australia, where a clown sighting was picked up on CCTV at Campbelltown Station, Sydney.  Although to be honest, it just looks like a young man in a black hat to me.  The Australian police though have called for an end to a “dangerous and stupid” trend which is frightening people and draining vital resources.  Queensland Police Minister Bill Byrne said “I’d be frightened of anyone who jumps out with a knife or a weapon of any description”.

Meanwhile, New Line Cinema has denied that the Clown Sightings are connected to a remake of Stephen King’s It, which features an evil clown called Pennywise. One non-MSM news site claimed an insider had said the clown craze was begun by Warner Brothers as a viral marketing stunt. The aim was to make clowns appear evil, and was targeted at children as young as 5-years-old. IF this is true, then shame on them.  He said they have now distanced themselves from it because it has got out of hand.

UPDATE: 20 October 2016 – AN EERIE TALE FROM WESTERN SWEDEN

Early on Saturday evening, 15 October, eight-year-old Oliver was left alone briefly in the family apartment, whilst his mother and sister popped out to get some groceries.  Hearing loud banging on the front door, Oliver ran to answer it, thinking it was his mum.  He was confronted instead by a tall, adult male wearing a clown suit.  Oliver fled from this person in terror, and jumped off the balcony, landing 3 metres down in the communal courtyard below.   Neighbours said they had seen him jump, and had seen a clown standing in the living-room window.   Thankfully, Oliver only suffered sore feet from his fall.  His mother called the police, and although both she and they scoured the apartment for intruders, no sign of the clown was found.  Oliver told the police that he was most scared in the evenings “because that’s when the clowns come”.

UPDATE: 21 October 2016 – A CLOWN GETS BLOWN UP IN CAMBODIA

A man had reputedly been terrorising residents of Samraong in northwestern Cambodia, by dressing up as a clown and acting in an aggressive manner.  The Times of Cambodia reported that male residents chased the clown into the jungle – they apparently just wanted to make him apologise for scaring people – where he stepped on a landmine … and presumably went to the great circus in the sky.  He is thought to have been a 25-year-old local male, who had recently returned to Cambodia after spending some time studying in the United States.

In other clown-related news, women are to be given self-defence classes in Beverley, East Yorkshire, to protect themselves against killer clowns.  The World Clown Association has reported that professional clowns are advised to take bodyguards when going to gigs at children’s parties.  In Cumbria a man is dressing up as Batman in order to protect children and scare off killer clowns.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, a clown-hunting competition is planned for Halloween, when 50 clowns wearing face masks, will be released into a restricted part of the city, and competitors are to chase and catch them for a cash prize.  It is – unnervingly – promised to be a “high adrenaline” evening.

UPDATE: 25/10/2016 – IT’S ALL GOING A BIT FLAT

And as we head into the final week before Halloween, it’s all going a bit “meh” on the clowns front. “Shocking” footage of a violent confrontation between a clown and a member of the public in Australia has largely been met with indifference (apart from The Sun that is), probably because most suspect it’s another tedious YouTube prank.

Meanwhile a Facebook page claiming to warn people to stay indoors on 30 October, because of a Killer Clown Purge, has been deleted.

What a time to be alive.

UPDATE: 2/11/2016 – FINAL UPDATE

Well Halloween has been and gone, and I said I’d bring this piece to a close afterwards.  The much-vaunted Clown Apocalypse didn’t materialise, and I think it’s fair to say that the peak of the clown frenzy was between the beginning of September and the middle of October, in spite of certain sections of the tabloid media trying their level best to keep the “frenzy” going.

In the last few days we’ve had the story of the young man in Singapore trying to spook passers-by by dressing up as a clown and … well I expect you get the drift by now.  “Stoic Singaporeans unimpressed by killer clown prankster” was one headline.  The young man in question issued a public apology and has promised never to do it again.  I would like to believe that was true.   Here in Britain, a “killer clown” barged in on a prestigious dinner at a Cambridge college, waving a plastic machete.  The MailOnline screamed that everybody reacted in “terror”, although the accompanying pictures seem to suggest more that he was greeted with bored indifference.  In fact, many of the diners don’t seem to be taking any notice of him at all, as if clowns barging in waving plastic machetes was a regular occurrence (at Cambridge that may well be true!).

The impression I get is that the general public have become bored and exasperated with the whole thing in the past 10 days.  When it first appeared it seemed genuinely odd, and then, for a short while, quite disturbing, but as more saddo’s trotted out with their puerile Facebook/Twitter threats and their YouTube pranks, the whole thing felt more and more like tedious student jokes which only they find funny.   As Halloween limped nearer, some more weird US news sites tried to claim that A Clown Purge would take place on 30 October.  If it did it didn’t generate many headlines!  In Britain we had bikers making menaces of themselves with “Halloween rideouts” in Leeds and London, but seem to have been more a drag and a nuisance than anything else.

It was interesting to witness a form of mass hysteria as it happened, though not something I can honestly say was enjoyable.   The clown frenzy may well reappear again at any moment, and I don’t suspect, sadly, that we’ve seen the last of the YouTube pranksters, or the social-media buffoons (one gormless self-styled Killer Clown on Twitter had “your next” in his bio, which made me want to bash him over the head with his own keyboard),  and in the US presidential election may keep it going for a while, but I’m hoping that the main bubble has burst.  In times to come, the Clown Sightings/Killer Clown Craze will be regarded as just yet another weirdness of that mad year 2016.

 

I love a good lighthouse mystery, and this one has the added bonus of being one of the more intriguing cases in the UFO field.  The Isla de Lobos is a small island a few miles off the coast of Uruguay.  There has been a lighthouse there since the middle of the 19th century, and it’s the only substantial feature on the island, which is largely populated by seals (the name of the island means “land of the fur seals”).   The island is now a nature reserve.  The lighthouse, at 66 meters in height, has the distinction of being one of the tallest in the world.  It went fully automated in 2001, but it was back in 1972 that something very strange occurred there.

The care of the lighthouse came under the jurisdiction of the Uruguayan Navy, and a party of men would serve 15 days on the island, and 15 days off.  During their time on the island the men would live at a garrison house close by.  On 28 October 1972 Navy Captain Juan Fuentes Figuerora was amongst a party of 5 men who travelled to the island to carry out routine maintenance.

At about 10:10 PM Captain Fuentes went out to check on the generators, which were housed in a building at the base of the lighthouse, along with the telegraph office.  It was a clear night with no Moon (New Moon had been a couple of days before).  Fuentes was shocked to see mysterious lights on the flat terrace roof of the generator building.  At first the Captain thought it might be car headlights, even though he knew that was completely impossible, as the terrace was 6 meters off the ground.  He returned to his bedroom in the garrison house to fetch his pistol.   To do so he didn’t have to pass through the living area where the rest of his colleagues were seated, oblivious to all the excitement going on outside.  When he returned outside the lights were still there, and he described them as a mix of white, yellow and violet-coloured, flashing on and off.

The lights were sufficient to show him that there was a small figure standing by the object, which was described as metallic, copper-coloured, and standing on legs.   A second figure was descending from the object, followed by a third.  The figures were human-sized.  The first two were about 5ft tall, and the third was a 6-footer.  Their outlines were very dark, as if they were wearing black rubber suits, like diving outfits.  The witness said their heads seemed to be an elongated shape, but whether this was natural, or down to some kind of hood or helmet is not known.

When the mysterious visitors clocked the Captain, they seemed to hurriedly converse amongst themselves.  The Captain was thoroughly unnerved by the situation, and raised his gun up to shoot.  Except he found himself paralysed and unable to do so.  When relating his bizarre experience afterwards the Captain said he had felt a vibration and his hair standing on end, and a feeling of “Don’t shoot because it’s useless”.  The strange figures took advantage of this to re-enter their craft and make a quick getaway.  They pulled themselves up into the craft – although the witness said he hadn’t seen steps or a handrail – and the strange object flew off at high speed, emitting a blinding fireball as it did so.   Fuentes said the object flew off towards the beach.  It was going so fast that he was convinced it was “going to smash itself”.  The entire incident lasted barely just over a minute in duration.

Captain Fuentes rejoined his colleagues, who said he was as white as paper, and speaking with a trembling voice.  His strange story was not believed, and the Captain became rather upset by the disbelief and the ridicule which he encountered.   Once back in Montevideo he threatened to go to the newspapers, but before he could do so he was summoned to see a superior officer.  This man listened to Fuentes’ story, and then disappeared into another room to consult with two members of staff from the American Embassy.  After a while someone reappeared with some drawings, and asked Fuentes to show which one most closely resembled his experience on the island.  Fuentes did so, and was then dismissed.  The Captain said he hadn’t spoken with the Americans directly, but from listening through the door he was able to gauge that they were shocked and surprised by his close encounter.

In August the following year the Uruguayan Air Force passed the case onto the CIOVI, the Centro de Investigacion de Objetos Voledores Identificados (Unidentified Flying Objects Research Center) for investigation.  They put Captain Fuentes under extensive psychological testing.  They concluded that he was a simple man, straightforward and trusting, of limited education, and not the sort to be prone to imaginative flights of fancy.  Although the Captain’s lack of imagination and general honesty gave the case some respectability, the CIOVI only gave the case a credit rating of 50%, due to the fact that it had only one witness.

I have seen one review of this case – on the Phantoms & Monsters website – which suggests that the Captain simply saw a helicopter, and that the occupants of said helicopter panicked when he came out at them with his pistol raised.   Although that doesn’t answer who the helicopter belonged to, or what it was doing landing at a remote lighthouse late one Autumn night.  Sadly Captain Fuentes passed away in 2002.  By all accounts he was a good man (I got quite fond of him whilst writing this), and he’s left us with an intriguing mystery.

 


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