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The Art Bell Coast To Coast show is a Californian-based late night radio talk show, devoted to weird and wonderful subjects such as UFOs and other paranormal phenomena.  It has been running since 1984.  Being a Brit I’ve heard very little of it, apart from a recording of one interview, where a traumatised caller claimed to have escaped from Area 51, which was being run by evil inter-dimensional beings.  A week later the caller  returned, sounding much calmer, and claiming the whole thing had been a practical joke.   On 4 October 2002 Art Bell interviewed the kind of kooky character which the show seems to specialise in.

Dallas Thompson was a 31-year-old personal trainer.  He had spent much of his younger life in Hawaii, and now lived in Bakersfield, California, where he was registered “legally blind”.  His disability had been incurred after a terrifying car accident 5 years previously, in which he had barely escaped alive.  He said his blindness had been caused by seeing “a light so bright that it burnt my eyes”.

Also during the accident Dallas said he had had an NDE, a Near-Death Experience.  During it he had a vision of the future in which a forthcoming pole shift would result in the deaths of at least 2 billion people [I’m not sure how].  He believed that a safe haven existed inside the Hollow Earth, and he wanted to lead people there.  He said the Hollow Earth was a huge cavern, populated by many different tribes, both ancient and modern, both human and reptilian.  Some are natives for the lost civilisations of Atlantis and Lemuria.  Fantastic stuff.

He was obsessed with the Hollow Earth theory, and said he believed monks regularly travelled through holes to visit a Tibetan village called Sham-bala, which was the inspiration for the village of Shangri-La, an idyllic place in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton.  In Shangri-La no one ages.    Dallas said that time is different inside Hollow Earth, that people can live there for thousands of years.  (I can’t help being reminded of C S Lewis’s Narnia stories, where years can pass in Narnia, which only take a few minutes on Earth).

Dallas said that on his following birthday , on 24 May 2003, a film crew would accompany him to the North Pole, where he would locate a portal, which had first been reported by Admiral Richard E Byrd when he flew over the area at the beginning of 1947.

Inevitably Dallas was dismissed as a “loon” by many listeners, but others were more concerned for his safety.  One caller warned him about the so-called Well To Hell, a crater in Siberia from which people claim to have heard the anguished voices of tortured souls in Purgatory.  Dallas said he knew there were “negative spaces”, but that he would avoid them.

Dallas’s plans soon accumulated a lot of media interest, and donations begin to pour in to finance his extraordinary expedition.  This was an immensely difficult time.  It was the months immediately running up to the Iraq War, and I wonder if people wanted distracting from the awful state of the world.

On 29 December 2002 – although I’ve also seen it listed as January 2003 –  Dallas posted a final message on his Yahoo site, saying he had received over 5,600 emails every few days.   He also said that although his book Cosmic Manuscript had been a great success, and had topped the bestseller lists in Canada, he was pulling it from sale.   The reviews had also largely been positive, with one reviewer on saying that “the author is on a mission to spread love and light throughout the world”.   But there was also a troubling one-star review in which the critic charmingly called the other readers “babbling Moon bats”, and said that Dallas had in fact plagiarised whole segments from his own book, word-for-word, and that he (Dallas) had gone into hiding as a result.  I found that someone had closed the Comments section on their own blog piece about Dallas because of this, because it had resulted in the kind of tedious slanging match the Internet all-too-often specialises in.   No one needs that sort of rubbish in their lives.

Well certainly that was the last that was heard of Dallas.  The much-anticipated expedition to the North Pole didn’t take place, and Cosmic Manuscript certainly appears to still be long out-of-print.  BUT I also found a science-fiction novel called Eyes Wide Shut: An Enigma by a certain Dallas W Thompson.   Using the Look Inside feature I found some biographical details of the author, in which he said he had been born in Bakersfield in 1944, and attended the University of Hawaii.   He went on to join the United States Air Force, and is clearly well-travelled.  He writes about the need to publish the book in fiction format because of classified information.  The book was published in Kindle format in November 2011, so it would seem Dallas was still very much around … except the ages don’t add up.  The Dallas interviewed by Art Bell is said to have been 31 in 2002, meaning he was born in 1971, not 1944.  Quite some difference in age there.  The author of Eyes Wide Shut would now be in his early seventies, not his mid-forties.

So, the same Dallas Thompson, or a different one, who also just happens to have links with Bakersfield and Hawaii?   (They could well be two entirely different people).  Why did he disappear after 2002?  Some argue he was nothing more than a scam artist, who had raised enough money out of people, and probably thought it was wise to beat a tactical retreat at that time.   If he had plagiarised someone else’s work then he might have thought it sensible to simply to pull the book, and leave the scene.   Some believe he did take off on his mission and disappeared.   Could it be that all the attention he was getting simply got too much for him, and he decided to retreat from public view?   He writes of the thousands of emails he was getting.  It’s very easy to think that all alleged fantasists are complete narcissists, revelling in all the attention, but some might be genuinely taken aback by the interest they generate, and don’t welcome it. Thousands of emails in only a few days would be pretty tiresome for most of us.

Anyway, it would seem that, even in this day and age, the whole concept of Hollow Earth – which would be ludicrous to many – still has plenty of interest in it yet.

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The English county of Essex has more than its fair share of strange and weird stories.  It is rife with tales of ghosts, haunted houses, witchcraft, sightings of odd animals, and UFOs.   Borley Rectory – described as The Most Haunted House In The World – was once situated on the Essex/Suffolk border.  During the English Civil War Matthew Hopkins, the notorious Witchfinder General, spread terror in the area, interrogating, torturing and executing anyone he suspected of being a witch.

During World War 2 the village of Great Leighs was home to a poltergeist outbreak, which was thought to have been caused when a boulder was moved to widen a road leading to a military base.  Local legend had it that the boulder covered the grave of The Witch Of Scrapfaggot Green, and she wasn’t happy about being disturbed!  The phenomena ceased when the stone was moved back to its original spot in October 1944.  The village of Canewdon has a long history of witchcraft, dating back to Tudor times, if not even further.

The last recognised witch was one George Pickingill, who died in 1909.   He was known locally as “a cunning man”, whom people went to when they needed magical help.   It seems that most of his antics were fairly benign, although it is said he wasn’t averse to placing the odd curse on people.  In his book Secret Societies though, Nick Redfern writes that Pickingill was far from being just a harmless, eccentric old cove.   He writes that Pickingill – who could trace his family back to the 11th century – had spent time studying witchcraft in France, and had become a Freemason.  Back here in Blighty he had formed the Nine Covens of Canewdon.  It is thought that even Aleister Crowley (who seems to get everywhere) may have been a member of one of them in 1899.  So not quite the quirky old yokel I had originally envisaged.  A distant relative of Pickingill’s claimed that his covens were active up until the 1970s.

Within the parish of Canewdon lies Wallasea Island, described on Wikipedia as “one of the most tranquil places in Essex”.  But Wallasea had a dark secret for centuries.  Situated on the marshes was a strange building known alternatively as Tyle Barn, Tyle House … or The Devil’s House.  It was a ramshackle farmhouse, and its dark history seems to go back hundreds of years.   Local folklore has it that the Devil took up a beam, threw it into the air, and then told labourers to build a house where it fell.  It became known as the dwelling-place of a demon.

Back in the time of King Charles II, during the second half of the 17th century, the house was known as the Demon’s Tenement, and was the home of a witch called Mother Redcap.  Apparently Mother Redcap was a fairly common name for witches.  There are accounts of Mother Redcaps in other counties too, such as Sussex, Lancashire and Cambridgeshire.   Another inhabitant was a man by the name of Davill or Daville, which of course is very close to Devil.

By the 20th century the house had acquired quite a reputation in the area.  Witnesses spoke of sudden drops in temperature there, hearing the flapping of wings, and experiencing a sense of dread.   Locals believed the house was permeated with an atmosphere of evil, during to devil worship and Black Magic practised there many years before.

During World War 1 an army sergeant pooh-poohed the dark stories, and said that he would spend a night alone in the house, and basically show everybody what a load of a old hooey it was.   The following morning he was found pale and shaking, and flatly refused to speak of what had happened.

During the early years of World War 2 came one of the most disturbing stories of all.  A farm labourer was working on the site, when he heard his name being called, and then the words “do it, do it”.  He went to a nearby barn, collected a length of rope, and went into the house, where he threw the rope over a beam, preparing to hang himself.  Suddenly he found a terrifying creature staring down at him.  He described it as a black shape with large, glowing yellow eyes.  Fortunately the sighting of this strange being shook him out of his morbid reverie.

The house was bombed during the War, but would finally meet its end during the devastating storms of 1953, when on the night of 31 January the North Sea Flood killed hundreds of people along the East Coast of England and Scotland, as well as Holland and Belgium.  The Devil’s House was swept out to sea in the carnage.   It is said that the marshes in the area have now inherited the dark reputation of the Devil’s House.

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Read any list of the most despotic rulers the world has ever seen, and there’s a very good chance that Ivan The Terrible will crop up.   And his sobriquet seems to be well deserved.  Russia has thrown up more than her fair share of formidable rulers over the centuries, and Ivan’s  life seems to have been particularly gothic throughout.  His psychotic rages, his fanatical religious devotions, his insane blood-lust, certainly all speak of a man who wasn’t exactly the most well-balanced person on Earth.  Recently I came across a mention of him in Albert Rosales’s book Humanoid Encounters 1-AD to 1899, which posted an intriguing theory for Ivan’s extreme behaviour.  How true is it though?  Well make of it what you will.

Ivan was born on 25 August 1530, and became Grand Prince of Moscow at the tender age of 3, after his father died from blood poisoning.  His mother Elena ruled as Regent in his place.  Ivan’s childhood was pretty dreadful to say the least.  He spent a lot of it imprisoned in the dungeons of the castle, where he passed his time reading voraciously … and torturing small animals.  His mother died when Ivan was 8, thought to have been poisoned by another member of Ivan’s crazy family.  Ivan seemed to have no kind influences on him at all.  Even his nurse got packed off to a nunnery.   Ivan was later to complain that he had received “no human care from any quarter”.  In fact, he was neglected by the boyars – the elite aristocracy – to the extent that he had to roam the palace, begging for food.

Ivan would have his revenge.

He ordered his first assassination at the age of 13, a Shuisky prince.  Afterwards he threw the prince’s body to his dogs.  By the time he had finished with them, Ivan would manage to wipe out the entire Shuisky family.

At the age of 16 Ivan was crowned Tsar Of All The Russias in January 1547.  He now had absolute power, and as the old saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  And yet Ivan’s reputation wasn’t completely negative.  He was credited with putting Russia on the map, of making her a force to be reckoned with in the world.  He opened up trade links with England in 1558, which was now under a new ruler, Queen Elizabeth I.   He reformed the Church and the army.  He was also respected by the ordinary people, who were thankful to him  for curtailing the power of the boyars.  But there is also no denying that Ivan was a frightening old wotsit.

Ivan was a hard-drinking religious fanatic, who took to banging his head against the floor when afflicted with rages.  He was known to throw animals from the walls of the Kremlin. In one rage-filled state he even manged to kill his own son, also called Ivan.  The Tsar had complained about Ivan’s pregnant wife dressing immodestly, and beat her, causing her to miscarry.  When his son confronted him about it, the Tsar was so enraged that he clouted Ivan Jnr round the head with an iron bar, killing him in the process.

His first wife, Anastasia, was married to him for 13 years, and was probably the only stabilising influence Ivan ever knew.   Ivan had picked the 15-year-old girl out of a parade of great Russian beauties, selected for his delectation.  When she died in 1560, Ivan predictably went berserk, smashing up the furniture.  He became paranoid, and was convinced that Anastasia had been poisoned, which, considering what had happened to his mother, is perhaps not surprising.   He took himself off for monastic seclusion, and only returned when the populace panicked, fearing a power vacuum.  Ivan graciously agreed, on condition that he was to be allowed absolute power, with no interference.

Ivan was to be married a further 6 times, although it is reputed that possibly two of these wives were fictional.  Apart from his last wife, Maria Nagaya, who managed to out-live him, most of his wives either died prematurely or were packed off to convents.

Ivan had his own gang of thugs, the Oprichnik, sometimes nicknamed “the Tsar’s dogs”, who roamed the streets of Moscow terrorising the populace, constantly on the alert for any criticism of the emperor.  They dressed in black, rode black horses, and carried a severed dog’s head as their emblem.   They didn’t just terrify the ordinary people, they were also there to exact revenge on any aristocrats whom Ivan still had a grudge against.  It is said that more than 4000 of the nobility were killed at their hands.

After a time it was reputed that they held blasphemous Black Masses, with Ivan as their depraved Abbot.   Ivan was never short of imagination when it came to torturing and killing living things.  He used red-hot pincers on victims.  He also used naked women for target practice, and would set packs of starving dogs on his enemies.  He once had hundreds of beggars drowned in a lake.

In 1570 he attacked the city of Novgorod, because he thought the noblemen were planning to defect to Lithuania, resulting in the massacre of about 3000 of its people (historians argue about the true total, some say it might be as high as 60,000).  Ivan’s rage knew no bounds.  The fatalities became so bad that dead bodies clogged the river (shades of Idi Amin’s murderous regime in Uganda in the 1970s).   Families were forced to watch their own loved ones being tortured.  Women were roasted over open fires.   By now Ivan’s reputation was so terrible indeed that it is said that when he invaded the neighbouring state of Livonia, a garrison blew themselves up rather than fall into his hands.

His anger did seem to exhaust itself in the end.  He eventually disbanded the Oprichniki, and from then on banned any mention of them.   Perhaps his anger and paranoia had finally worked its way out of his system.   By his final years he was very ill.  One British trader, Sir Jerome Horsey, spoke that “the emperor began grievously to swell in his cods”.  Sir Jerome also remarked that the Tsar liked to brag about the “thousand virgins he had deflowered”, and the thousands of his own children he had destroyed.  Ivan’s end when it came was surprisingly peaceful, considering the life he had lived anyway.  He suffered a stroke, and keeled over backwards one evening in March 1584, when he was preparing to play chess.  He was removed to his bed-chamber, where he dressed like a monk, and took to his bed.

His death led to the much-dreaded power vacuum in Russia.  His son Feodor wasn’t fit to govern, and when he died, childless, in 1598, Russia was plunged into what became known as The Time Of Troubles, when the country was racked by revolt and war, and a famine which wiped out 2 million people.   In 1613 the Romanov dynasty came to power, and would reside over Russia for the next 300 years, until they met their own ignominious end, at the hands of Bolshevik assassins, in a cellar at Yekateringburg in 1918.


There are many theories as to why Ivan was quite so terrible as he was.  Some blame his awful childhood, which certainly left him with a vengeful spirit.  Others blame ill-health.  When Ivan’s body was exhumed by Soviet scientists in 1963, it was found to contain excessive levels of mercury.  It is thought this may have been from a healing ointment, which was applied to the pains in Ivan’s joints.   But there is an even more fantastical  theory.

In the early 1990s Dr Rudolph Vanzhaev was trying to reconstruct Ivan’s facial features when he discovered a small metallic plate in the Tsar’s skull, 1 cm in diameter, said to resemble “a complicated electronic mechanism”, similar to an electronic chip used in computers.   It is thought, because of the layer of bone tissue which had grown around it, that this may have been implanted in him as a small child.   Dr  Vanzhaev said that this strange object may have increased the Tsar’s intellectual capabilities, but at the same time may also have caused his uncontrollable rages.  On closer examination it was deduced that the object may have transmitted electric impulses to Ivan’s brain and heart.

It is said that Ivan had a habit of often putting his hand on his head, although he never complained of any pain there.   Another researcher, Vladimir Alexeevich Smemshuk, went even further, and said that he believed the Tsar had been under “alien control”, and that Ivan had been visited by strange humanoid figures when alone in his room.

Well, as I said, make of that what you will, but IF Ivan had been under alien control … then their motives weren’t exactly beneficial to the human race!


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.

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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.

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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.


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.


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