Victorian England, an age of great industry, enlightenment, of learning and of advancement. Equally, it was the age of spiritualism, parapsychology, and restrictive social practices. In the chaotic streets of the suburbs of London, the first Victorian Urban Legend was waiting to be born, beating out Sweeney Todd by a full 9 years, Spring Heeled Jack brewed in the fears of an uncertain populace and burst onto the scene, metal claw and all, stirring a sensation that was far too ripe for anyone to ignore. His was a legend that was overshadowed by only one other when in 1888, Jack the Ripper scribbled his name in blood on the back of a postcard.
The Lodging houses of Victorian London held no shortage of scandal and intrigue for the more imaginative Londoners in the 19th Century. The Maids and their masters, the comings and goings of a transient household and the very concept of strangers living together under one roof in an age when such situations were not seen as natural. Still, even the most imaginative of passers by could not have expected the stories that would soon come flooding out from one particular household, when in 1879, the body of an elderly woman showed up in the coal cellar of 4 Euston Square, a previously well-to-do neighbourhood in Bloomsbury, London. Not merely unidentified, it was entirely unknown how on earth it had got there in the first place.
This week, we have a tale of Devilry and witchcraft, demonic possessions and a good dose of Persecution on all fronts! Pre-dating Salem by 3 years, Ann Glover was an Irish immigrant living in Boston in 1688, hung for witchcraft, an event which laid the groundwork for what would happen up the road a few years later.
Happy Halloween! As a special bonus episode to celebrate the good Hallows Eve, I decided to dig up and re-write five old folk horror tales from around the world. The stories span the last 500 years and show that no matter what time you lived in or which language you spoke, we all have a fascination with telling a good scary tale. Usual schedule will commence with a new episode this coming Sunday. Cheers and have a good one!
In 1941, a man named Phillip Peters was found murdered in his home in Denver, Colorado. The doors and windows to the house showed no signs of forced entry and were locked when neighbours discovered the body. Strange stories of odd sightings flew around the neighbourhood, with the attack becoming known in the papers as “The Denver ghost house slayings”. The truth however, was to be something far stranger and probably for most, far more terrifying.
In 1946, The American twin city of Texarkana was plunged into the depths of panic and fear. The population of the postwar suburb was subjected to a series of murders that shook the dual cities to their core, prompting curfews, rumours and unease to spread through the area like the rail tracks that crept from it’s central hub. Nights of midnight movies, drive-in cafes, the songs of Duke Ellington and big band orchestras were perforated with tales of a man with a white sheet over his head, holes cut out for eyes, performing brutal executions upon the vulnerable and unexpecting.
Half a century before the Fox Sisters showed up on the scene to propel mainstream spiritualism onto the populace of America, there was a much lesser known haunting taking place in the cellar of a small frontier settlement, named Sullivan in Maine. Though it was extensively documented at the time, the many eye-witness testimonies fell to the back pages of history. Despite its relatively unknown status, it remains as one of, if not the very first documented cases of a haunting in North America and is a story that culminates in an event that was utterly bizarre.
All aboard, we’re going back to the Victorian era to shed some light on the first ever murder on a train in Britain at a time when people were already terrified on this crazy new technology. It’s not all high speed steam trains though, we’ve even got a super slow-mo police chase across the Atlantic!
The mad butcher carved up his victims throughout the 1930’s, evading capture from an entire police department, headed up by none other than the infamous Eliot Ness. During the Great Depression times were hard and in Cleveland, they were all the more difficult as the dank, dark streets of the local shanty town were stalked by a crazed psychotic with a penchant for decapitation.
In 1845, Emilie Sagee took a job at the Neuwelcke boarding school. It was her 18th teaching position in 16 years. The girls of the school would soon find out why, when on numerous occasions, Emilie was seen wandering the halls or sitting at the front of class, even when she was known to be elsewhere,
We dig up the life and times of Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General. A man that, in just 2 years, was responsible for around 60% of all witch trials in England spanning 3 centuries. He hailed from a Puritan, East Anglian background, an area of England that would later see heavy emigration to America and a people that would carry their beliefs into the Salem Witch Trials.
The episode is a bit different this week. We hit our one year anniversary on the day of recording, so we switched it up and had the first annual Dark Histories awards, taking a little look back at some of the people we’ve covered in the last year and then, using listener questions, had a candid chat about behind the scenes things, taking a look back, a little look forward, talking about episodes coming up for the rest of the season as well as some of the decisions and obstacles involved with making a podcast mostly about grim subjects.
This weeks episode goes a bit more out there as we take a look at a historic exorcism that, despite being a well-documented case for the time, tends to fly under the radar. This is the story of Anna Ecklund, who found herself cursed and possessed by five demons and suffered months of exorcisms lasting for 23 days, in Earling, Iowa, way back in 1928.
This week is a tireless effort to unravel the most tightly wound bundle of gossip, hearsay and bizarre facts that make up the Circleville Letter Mystery. A series of thousands of letters, spanning almost three decades that lead to at least one strange death, a shifty court trial and incarceration and accusations of deep conspiracy. Oh and a booby trap.