The Russian Sleep Experiment of the 1940s

Watch this video first. It’s just fascinating. For people with an imagination and who tend to be gullible, you might find this experiment to be feasible. Of course, it was not.  For one thing, a gas that fully occupied an enclosed chamber would have suffocated the prisoners by significantly decreasing oxygen levels. For another, since the prisoners were supposedly so psychotic after several days of incarceration, no one would have been able to utter the words “we no longer wish to be freed,” on the 15th day of the experiment.  In reality, by the 9th day of sleep deprivation, people can only speak maxresdefaultin fragments; they can begin but not end sentences. The experiment was a hoax and for some reason was released to the world as if it was real. It reminds me of the radio broadcast an adaptation of H.G. Welles’ epic novel War of the Worlds in the 1950s by Orson Welles (no relation). The radio station, CBS, deliberately aired the story as if a Martian invasion was truly taking place. It was rumoured that the reading caused mass panic, although this has been disputed, with critics arguing that relatively few people listened to the show.

The fake photograph of the prisoner in the Russian Sleep Experiment has obviously been altered. No one has a mandible and teeth the size of this ghoul. And it’s unlikely anyone could have become so emaciated from a lack of food within only 2 weeks. In reality, sleep deprivation experiments haven’t been conducted past 11 days due to extreme side effects. It is assumed that death occurs after the 11th day, suggesting that if the experiment had been legitimate, most of the prisoners wouldn’t have survived to day 15.

gardner-record-340x345The longest recorded self-imposed sleep deprivation was a science experiment by seventeen-year-old Randy Gardner in 1965. He managed to stay awake for 11 days (264 hours) without the use of stimulant drugs. By the 11th day, he had  hallucinated and experienced stupor, but somehow, he was able to suppress these symptoms while presiding over a press conference on the final day. He certainly didn’t rip out his own flesh or try to eat himself. He wasn’t violent towards the people who helped keep him awake. On the last day of the experiment when Gardner finally slept, he awoke after sleeping for about 14 hours, and said that he felt fine.

If you wish to make an argument in favour of the sleep experiment, you could state that the bizarre behaviours the prisoners exhibited were plausible because they were affected by the noxious gas in the chamber. However the experiment claimed the prisoners became raving lunatics due to a lack of sleep, not the effect of the mysterious gas. The Russian Sleep Experiment is an urban legend that has survived for so many decades because it seems to fall within the sphere of human possibility. Many people suffer from extreme, unrelenting insomnia; others from the sleep disorder narcolepsy. It is from these two disorders that we allow for the unlikely validity of the sleep experiment.

The Escape of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolavna of Russia


Rumours persist about the possible escape of the Gand Duchss Anastasia Nikolavna Romanov from execution by firing squad in an extrajudicial killing by members of th Bolshvik Sect Police. The lovely Anastasia, was the youngst daughter (although not the youngest child) of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, the last soverign of Imperial Russia, and his wife, Tsaina Alxanda Fyodoovna. One reason that rumors have persisted that the Grand Duchess had escaped the family’s fate is that the burial plot was unknown.  Here’s another creepy reason: the mass grave which held the remains of the Tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters was revealed in 1991, and the bodies of Alexei Nikolaevich and the remaining daughter, either Anastasia or her older sister Maria, were discovered in 2007. This suggests one daughter was missing from the grave.

Ironically when little Anastasia was born, her parents were disappointed that she was a girl. They hoped for a son who would be heir to the Romanov throne. Ironic, considering the family’s fate. After her birth, Nicholas II went for a long walk to compose himself before going to visit his wife and the newborn baby for the first time. Such a lovely welcome to the family. Just to rub it in

320px-Grand_Duchess_Anastasia_standing_on_chairone meaning of her name is “the breaker of chains” or “the prison opener.” It has been suggested that she was named Anastasia because, in honor of her birth, her father pardoned and reinstated students who had been imprisoned for participating in riots in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Square. Yeah sure, let’s go with that one. Another meaning of the name is “of the resurrection.” Naturally this added to the belief that Anastasia had survived th family’s execution. Anastasia’s title is best translated as “Grand Princess”. The title suggested that her rank was higher than other princesses in Europe who were merelyRoyal Highnesses“. So suck on that. That didn’t make Anastasia the most popular girl at the ball, I’m sure.

The Tsar’s children were raised as simply as possible. They slept on hard camp cots without pillows, except when they were ill, took cold baths in the morning, and were expected to tidy their rooms and do needlework to be sold at various charity events, when they were not otherwise occupied. Anastasia grew into a vivacious and energetic child, described as short and inclined to be chubby, with blue eyes  and strawberry-blonde hair. A distant cousin, Princess Nina Georgievna, recalled that “Anastasia was nasty to the point of being evil”, and would kick and scratch her playmates during games – my kind of kid.

The Mad Monk
The royal family didn’t win over many of their not-so-loyal subjects with their association with the notorious Gigoi Rasputin, a wandering peasant (homeless dude) and self-OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAproclaimed mystic. This added to the public’s false belief that he was endowed with the healing power of the Holy Spirit. In fact Rasputin himself disputed this rumour. By coincidence he happened to “heal” the tsavich Alxei, Nicholas’s son, who had sustained an injury. Doctors told the family that Alexei would die but Rasputin assured the parents and the boy that he would not. Alexei improved the following day. Thereafter Rasputin was welcome within the palace to counsel Alexandria. He was often left alone with Alexandria’s four daughters, causing great scandal within the palace.

Rasputin provided counsel to the Tsar and his government although the degree of influence he supposedly exerted over the Tsar is disputed. Most likely his influence has been somewhat exaggerated, based as it is on dubious memoirs and legend . Historians do agree that his involvement with the Romanovs played a significant part in the increasing unpopularity of the Tsar and the Russian Empire. The ruling class of St Petersburg became highly jealous of Rasputin and enlisted the press in a campaign to turn the public tide against him. Rasputin was accused of sexual affairs with girls and women, and it was alleged that he was Alexandria’s clandestine lover. For his part, th Tsar stated “I know Rasputin too well to believe all the tittle-tattle about him.”  Nicholas’ support of Rasputin wasn’t well-received and contributed to the ruling class’ dislike of the Romanov family. The Tsar’s trust was well placed. Documents discovered in the late 20th century proved that the rumours about Rasputin’s conduct as Alexandria’s lover was false

In spite of his public support of his friend, increasing rumors against Rasputin worried Nicholas with the threat of a scandal against his government, and he asked Rasputin to leave for Siberia. Nice there that time of year. Nicholas also accepted investigations on Rasputin being a Khlyst, a Christian group that had split from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Khlysts practiced abstinence from worldly pleasures, yet they worked themselves into a spiritual and sexual frenzy during ceremonial worship, engaging in group sex. Right. Rasputin became one of the most hated people in Russia. Eventually Rasputin was believed to b a major influence in Russia’s perilous position during WWI.

Let’s see now: sex orgies, the queen’s lover, a mystic who used controversial means to heal people’s bodies and spirits, and a man well-favoured by the King of Russia, in spite of the contempt of the ruling class. Quite a colorful character, this Rasputin. I rather like him.

Assassination of Rasputin
Rasputin counselled Nicholas not to participate in WWI. “If Russia goes to Prince_Felix_Yusupovwar, it will be the end of the monarchy, of the Romanovs and of Russian institutions.” Ignoring advice, th Tsar declared  war on Germany and by the following year more than 1.5 million Russian soldiers had die. Russia was forced to retreat and Tsar Nicholas II took supreme command of the Russian armies on 23 August 1915 (O.S.), hoping this would lift morale. He was undoubtedly led to this fateful decision by the insistence of the Tsarina and of Rasputin. Legend has it that Rasputin’s influence over the Tsarina became so great that he ordered the destinies of Imperial Russia, while Alexandria compelled Nicholas to fulfill them. Rasputin was considered “evil” and had anyone who dared to interfere with his theories executed. After several other controversial developments, Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov invited Rasputin to dinner at his palace, where he poisoned his wine. He assassinated Rasputin with a revolver on December 30, 1916.

Russian Revolution
In February 1917, Anastasia and her family were placed under house arrest at  in Tsarskoye Selo during theRussian Revolution. Nicholas II abdicated the throne on March 2/15, 1917. The stress and uncertainty of captivity took their toll on Anastasia as well as her family. “Goodbye,” she wrote to a friend in the winter of 1917. “Don’t forget us.” At Tobolsk, she wrote a melancholy theme for her English tutor, filled with spelling mistakes, about “Evelyn Hope“, a poem by Robert Browning about a young girl: “When she died she was only sixteen years old,” Anastasia wrote. “Ther(e) was a man who loved her without having seen her but (k)new her very well. And she he(a)rd of him also. He never could tell her that he loved her, and now she was dead.”

Anasastia and her sisters sewed jewels into their clothing in hopes of hiding them from their captors, since Alexandria had written to warn them that she, Nicholas and Maria had been searched upon arriving in 640px-Anastasia1904Yekaterinburg, and had several items confiscated. On the night of the deaths the family was awakened and told to dress. Once dressed, the family and the small circle of servants who had remained with them were herded into a small room in the house’s sub-basement and told to wait. After several minutes, the guards entered the room and shot and killed the Tsar. Thick smoke had filled the room from so many weapons being fired at close quarters, as well as from plaster dust released from the walls by bullets. To allow the haze to clear, the soldiers left the room for some minutes, leaving all the victims behind. This too contributed to the rumour that somehow Anastasia had a chance to escape. At first the soldiers were alarmed when their attempts to stab and shoot the children failed; it was as though supernatural forces protected them. Then, realizing the children had gems sewn into their clothes that had caused the bullets to ricochet, they shot each child in the head.

Anastasia’s Imposters
Anastasia’s supposed survival was one of the intriguing mysteries of the 20th century. Several women claimed to be her, with different AnnaAnderson1922stories as to how they survived the killings. Anna Anderson  was the most notorious of Anastasia’s imposters. Her story was a good one: she stated that she had feigned death and was able to escape with the help of a guard who rescued her among the corpses after noticing that she was still alive. In 1920, Anderson was institutionalized in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt, so that gives you an idea of her mental whereabouts. Her legal battle from 1938 to 1970 was the longest case ever heard by the German courts. After her death,  Anderson’s mitochondrial DNA was compared with both Nicholas and Alexandria’s and it was determined that she could not be related to any of the Romanovs. Good try, though. Idiot.

Eugenia Smith
Smith wrote an autobiography of her life as Anastasia Romanov up to the time she  supposedly escaped the massacre.  Smith provided a lengthy but unverifiable EugeniaSmithexplanation of how she survived the execution: she regained consciousness in the cellar of the Ipatiev House after the execution, and was rescued by an unidentified woman who moved her to a dugout below a nearby house, and then nursed her back to health. In later interviews, Smith claimed that she married Marijan Smetisko, a Croatian Catholic, in October 1918, and they subsequently had a daughter who died in infancy. She further claimed that her husband had given her permission to travel to the United States in 1922 and that the marriage was dissolved a few years later. In 1963, however, an American journalist tracked down Mr. Smetisko in Yugoslavia and reported: “The man was found living in a poor hut with his wife; he said he’d never known anybody named Eugenia, or anybody from Chicago, or had ever been married before. He wanted only to be left alone with his cows“. In her later years, Smith distanced herself from earlier claims of Imperial origins. In 1984, Associated Press reported that she had refused to discuss her claims with them. A decade later, when she was asked if she would like to provide a blood sample for DNA analysis, she also refused.

Two young women claiming to be Anastasia and her sister Maria were taken in by a priest in the Ural Mountains in 1919 where they lived as nuns until their deaths in 1964. They were buried under the names Anastasia and Maria Nikolaevna. In  the late 20th century, her possible survival was irrevocably and conclusively disproved. Forensic analysis and DNA testing confirmed that the remains are those of the entire the imperial family. All four grand duchesses were killed in 1918. A shame. Personally, I prefer the fairytale.

Mushrooms, Myths, Mandrake Yielded Madcap Medieval Medicines

Okay. We know perfectly well that people who lived eons ago weren’t too up on science and technology in the world around them. However, I have to give them the thumbs up for their use of natural herbs, fungi and other plant life in spiritual worship, medievalbeautification and other sorts of rituals. Some of these plants and flowers were used for decades and even a century or more before the Catholic Church found a reason to ban them (the Church is always ruining everyone’s fun). Mostly, the Church enacted bans against medicinal herbs in order to maintain control over everyone. It also believed in heretics and witches and was determined to purify the world of their ghastly influence. If the Popes throughout the ages only knew then what we know now, the Church might not have been so quick to judge.

I’ve always found the Middle Ages to be an interesting touchstone in human history. Ergo, I shall examine some natural dope used by thousands of people as early as the 1300s.

Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin mushrooms, or psychedelic mushrooms)
Shrooms are fungi that contain this fancy worded alkaloid known as psychoactive indole. About 180 species of this stuff is known to exist today. After the Spanish conquest, Catholic missionaries campaigned against the “pagan idolatry“, and the use of hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms was banned. Catholics and pagans always did see things differently, and mushrooms were almost as wicked as worshipping a false God so far as Christianity was concerned. That’s deep.

The Spanish believed the mushroom allowed the Aztecs and others to communicate with “devils”. Tis’ believed that while Eucharistmanconverting Jews and Muslims to Catholicism, (by torturing and occasionally executing them via the Spanish Inquisition), the Spanish insisted  on a switch from hallucinogenic fungi to the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. Certainly prohibiting the use of mushrooms as a demonic entity while simultaneously torturing people for their religious beliefs makes a lot of sense. The Eucharist, a type of thin bread and quite delicious, is a considerably tamer form of spiritual ingestion than shrooms. The Spanish Inquisition was a force to be reckoned with and understandably, most people chose to ditch the mushrooms and eat the bread. However, here and there stubborn, well-hidden groups of Catholics retained their hallucinogenic high while practicing spiritual worship.

Shrooms remind me of acid (no, I have never indulged, but reading about this stuff, they sound like 1st cousins). There are serious changes to the audio, visual, and tactile senses that takes about 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion. There is an enhancement and contrast of colors; strange light phenomena (such as auras or “halos” around light sources);  surfaces that seem to ripple, shimmer, or breathe; images, objects that warp, morph, or change colours; a sense of melting into the environment; and trails behind moving objects. Like acid, in a negative environment, shrooms can lead to a bad trip, whereas a familiar environment provides a pleasant experience. Many users find it preferable to ingest the mushrooms with friends, or people who are also ‘tripping.’ You may have wondered where the term magic originated. Wonder no more.

Expulsion of the Demons, an anonymous engraving from the 1600s, is an example of alchemical initiation hidden behind the facade of chruchly pursuits. In the foreground an alchemist (wearing a small Phygyric initiation cap) slides an associate head first into a large athanor (alchemical oven) where the “demcalc2ons” are baked out of his head into a billowing cloud containing the universal elements in an expanding consciousness.  The one who is baked holds his hand up as if to say to the other, “hold steady, right there brother.” Two mushrooms joined at the cap appear in the lower left of his expanding mind-cloud. In the left foreground incense is vaporizing from a bowl set on flaming coals in a squat pan on a tripod.  Directly above it a “bishop” is pouring an alchemical substance down the throat of a seated initiate who is steadying the bishop’s arm that is holding a funnel in the initiate’s mouth. Ouch. Sounds more like another Medieval torture device than a drug trip.

Medieval Peasants: Belladonna and Mandrake

Atropa Belladonna (bella donna means beautiful lady; atropa is also known as deadly nightshade), gets its name because it’s said that peasant women used to rub it in their eyes as a cosmetic. It’s a paralytic, and would take out the muscles used to constrict their pupils. When they put it on their cheeks it would cause their faces to flush with what looked like blush. They believed that this gave them a dreamy look that was sexy to men. Probably it just tipped the men off that these women knew how to get their hands on some belladonna. The plant causes a bizarre delirium and hallucinations. The pharmaceutical medicine atropine, controls nerve fibres responsible for atropathe involuntary movement of muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, urinal tract, and other systems. It is a derivative of atropa belladonna. It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery. Queen Victoria used  the inclusion of belladonna and opium in some form of medication that allowed her to have a painless, conscious birth.

Ancient History
Some say that this was the poison used on Claudius by his wife, Agrippina the Younger (but crueller), a Roman Empress, in Ancient Rome. Ancient Mesoamericans Others say that Macbeth used it during a truce to poison an entire invading army. Even a single leaf can prove fatal: people get nauseous, hallucinate, and develop a rapid pulse that trickles down to nothing. Well, there’s something to be said for nothingness if you want to get away from stress and childbirth.

Mandrake Poisoning
Mandrake poisonings
occurred everywhere, but were most common where the European mandrake grew, in Spain and mandrakeOldPortugal. This type of mandrake flowers and bears edible fruit. The roots, however, are not to be eaten. Nor do they need to be in order to be poisonous. Today extracts from the root are used to take off warts with the warning not to expose healthy skin to the compound. Early poisoners didn’t issue that warning. Mandrake will take out the liver and kidneys, so wasn’t necessarily as fast as others, but it was a great way to dispose of someone without needing to cook for them. Needless to say mandrake was a great way to dispatch of a person and easy to blame on the victim. The murderer could easily lie and state the victim was aware of the risks but refused to heed them, and mishandled the plant.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
was a firm believer in the mandrake in order to predict his future (a shame the poisonous roots didn’t knock him off). HitlerWhen the two first met, famed psychic, Erik Jan Hanussen, told Hitler to find a mandrake root from his own hometown, that looked like him (quite ghastly, probably), and return it for a reading. Upon their first meeting, Jan Hanussen made the prediction that Hitler would rise to power in 30 days. This was highly unlikely at the time, however Hitler sent Jan Hanussen to find the root, which, ironically, the psychic dug up from a butcher’s back yard. Jan Hanussen instructed Hitler that as long as the two remained in agreement with one another, the mandrake would bring him luck and power. Perhaps Jan Hanussen was onto something. Incredibly, 30 days later, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. 

Decline of Mandrake and Belladonna Use
Mandrake and belladonna were, again, commonly used by certain people during a certain time period because they had them close by. As the population moved to the city, it became less common to harvest mandrake or inconspicuously maintain a ten foot high belladonna bush. Besides, as industrialization came on, well, there were new opportunities (which brings us back to acid and other dope).

Street Slang
Terms for mushrooms include:
blue meanies
magic mushrooms
liberty caps

Medieval Medicine
plagueEnough about shrooms. Here is a list of extraordinary Medieval treatments for pretty ordinary medical problems:

Warts – of course, you know they’re going to blame the toad. Remedy: Hold a living toad next to the wart to soften it. Right then.

Fainting – burn feathers and breathe in smoke. Better to die of inhalation poisoning than to tolerate fainting.

Boils – cut a pigeon in half and rub it on the infected area.  I wonder what PETA would have to say about this one.

Black Death – prayer, flagellation, and breathing in smoke were some of the remedies for this one. Sadly, as with many afflictions in the Middle Ages, people believed the Plague was a result of God’s anger for people’s sins. I give them credit for one thing: they knew enough to get the bodies off the streets and into graves located far outside of townships.

Surgeries: (you know these won’t be fun) – aka Optimistic Butchery
Bloodletting – usually with a scalpel
engraveLeeches – to suck out poisonous humours (body fluids)
Maggots in cheesecloth – to cure gangrene. This one is still used today. Maggots eat dead meat. They eat the gangrenous flesh and tissue on a limb and avoid healthy tissue.
Trepanning – a hold was drilled into the patient’s head to release the spirit that resided inside.  I should imagine it released the patient’s soul too when drilling the life out of him or her. Perhaps this could function as a “new” cure for migraines.
Amputation this one was a little too common. If maggots weren’t successful at curing gangrene, the final solution (sorry-  Hitler was mentioned in this blog) was to chop off the limb in question…without anesthetic of course since there was none.  Ouch.

Medical Health Exams 
Lifestyle history – quite reasonable since we still use this one.
Urine – this one is a favorite among pregnant women today.
Pulse – perhaps a substitute for our blood pressure tests. Or just a determinant that the patient is actually alive.
astrologyAstrology – aligning moons and  planets was big then. Hey, a mandrake worked for Hitler. Why not astrology for Medievals?
Personal Hygiene – no one put that together with illness for hundreds of years.  I believe that’s what is known as a slow start.
Environment – tossing feces and urine out the windows and into the streets was the regular means of disposing of one’s waste. Alas, Middle Ages knowledge didn’t put together bacteria and illness. Gross.

You have to give Medieval physicians, healers and surgeons credit for their creativity, if not their rationality. Living in a time of great superstition and a flood of visionaries on the market. Little wonder that spirituality, crude medicines and surgeries were the answer to diseases even we still can’t cure or prevent today. Who’s criticizing whom now?


No Escape from Alcatraz

Escape from Alcatraz was a blockbuster film released in 1979 starring Clint Eastwood, and detailing the true escape 3 men planned and were possibly successful in carrying out. It dramatizes the only supposedly successful escape from the maximum security prison on Alcatraz Island. It was closed shortly after the true events on which the film was based. While it is not known whether the three escapees survived, sightings of them over the years provides circusleepinginmatemstantial evidence that they may have. The escapes were echoed in the 1994 fiction film The Shawshank Redemption, starring Morgan Freeman (Ellis Red Redding) and Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne). Andy spends 2 decades digging a hole through the wall at the back of his cell, climbs through it and crawls through the prison sewage pipe to make good his escape (gross). In reality, Andy wouldn’t have made it out, since methane gas would have replaced the oxygen in the atmosphere and Andy would have asphyxiated.  (I swear I am not making this up. Check the link.) This gives new meaning to lighting a match after dropping one in the toilet.

Yet another film, entifakeheadtled Murder in the First, was released in 1995 that starred Christian Slater and Kevin Bacon The film loosely portrayed an episode between two prisoners named Henri Young and Rufus McCain. In reality, both were sentenced to 22 months in solitary confinement. A year later, Young killed McCain by plunging a spoon into his neck; he never revealed his motive. Due to Young’s long-term confinement in the “hole”,  and an allegation that he  endured a “cruel and unusual punishment” prior to it in torment by the prison guards, Alcatraz was blamed for the murder. The film inaccurately portrayed Young being sent to Alcatraz as a youth for stealing an apple (yes, that happened all the time), then imprisoned in solitary confinement for over 3 years until he became psychotic. Talk about a bad apple.

Back to Alcatraz Island. The U.S. Army used the island until 1933, at which time the Federal Government decided to open a maximum-security, minimum-privilege penitentiary to deal with the most incorrigible inmates. AlcaHenri_Youngtraz was designed to break rebellious prisoners by putting them in a structured, monotonous routine until their release. Prisoners were given food, clothing, shelter and medical care. Receiving anything beyond that had to be earned. Prisoners refusing to follow prison rules risked being confined to the Strip Cell, located on the lower tier of D Block. It was a dark steel cell where inmates would be stripped naked and given water and bread once daily, an occasional meal and a mattress at night. The only ‘toilet’ was a hole in the cell floor and there was no sink. While there, convicts spent their time in pitch-dark solitude. Sounds like fun.

Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons, a “last resort prison” to hold the worst of the worst criminalRufe_Persfuls who had no hope of rehabilitation. Most of the prisoners were notorious bank robbers and counterfeiters, murderers, or sodomites. Alcatraz gained notoriety from its inception as the toughest prison in America and considered by many to be the world’s most fearsome prison of the time. Former prisoners would frequently report acts of brutality and inhumane conditions which severely tested their sanity. Ed Wutke was the first prisoner to commit suicide in Alcatraz. He fatally sliced through his jugular vein with the blade from a pencil sharpener and was found dead in a pool of blood. Quite a triumph. Rufe Persful chopped off his fingers after grabbing an axe from the fire truck, begging another inmate to do the same to his other hand, a scene that was featured in Escape from Alcatraz. In 1939 the new U.S. Attorney General Frank Murphy attacked the penitentiary, saying “The whole institution is conductive to psychology that builds up a sinister ambitious attitude among prisoners.”

One former employee of the jail likened his prison job to being a zoo keeper or his old faralc2m job, due to the fact that prisoners were not to be rehabilitated or educated and treated like animals, sending them out to “plough the fields” when some of them worked during the day, and then counting them up and feeding them and so on. He referred to those 4 years of his life working in the prison as a “total waste of his life“. Even the employees endured cruel and unusual punishment.  You can’t buy memories like that.

Since Alcatraz was built on an island and isolated from public view, tales of inmates being tortured and of their bitter spirits coming back to haunt the halls of Alcatraz have circulated for decades.

The Ghost Stories of Alcatraz

  • Native American Indians who lived in the region hundreds of years before the prison’s actuathe-walking-dead-girll construction considered it to be the dwelling place of evil spirits and avoided it entirely out of respect for its inherent “bad medicine.”
  • The Utility Corridor One of the areas which some claim is the most active with paranormal activity is a utility corridor where inmates Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard were shot to death after a failed prison escape. It is there that in 1976 a night security guard reported hearing unexplained eerie clanging sounds coming from inside.
  • Cell 14D
    Cell 14D, one of the ‘hole’ cells is believed by some to be very active with spirits. Visitors and employees have reported feeling a raw coldness and at times a sudden ‘intensity’ encompasses the cell. In the 1940s, a prisoner locked-in 14D screamed throughout the night that a creature with glowing eyes was killing him. The next day guards found the man strangled to death in the cell. No one ever claimed responsibility for the convict’s death, however the next day when doing head counts, the guards counted one too many prisoners. Some of the guards claimed seeing the deaprison-bars-imaged convict in line with the other inmates, but only for a second before he vanished.
  • Cell blocks A, B, and C
    Visitors to cellblocks A and B claim they have heard crying and moaning. A psychic visiting wrote that while in Block C he came upon a disruptive spirit name Butcher. Prison records show that another inmate in block C murdered Abie Maldowitz, a mob hitman known as Butcher.
  • The Ghost of Al Capone
    Al Capone, who spent his last years at Alcatraz with his health in decline from untreated syphilis, took up playing the banjo with a prison band. Fearing he would be killed if he spent his recreational time in the “yard,” Capone received permission to spend recreation time practicing his banjo in the shower room. In recent years, a park ranger claimed he heard banjo music coming from the shower room. Not familiar with the history of Alcatraz, the ranger could not find a reason for the sound and documented the strange event.
  • More Paranormal Reports Other odd events experienced over the years include guards smelling smoke, but finding no fire; sounds of unexplained crying and moaning; unexplained cold spots in areas of the prison and claims of seeing ghosts of prisoners or military personnel.

Because of the huge cost to refurbish the prison it was closed in 1963. Later the island and parts of the prison were reopened by the Parks Services for daily public tours. People peek into corners and glance over their shoulders, chasing shadows. They might have reason. In the movie Escape From Alcatraz, the warden coldly remarks, “some men are destined never to leave Alcatraz alive.” Perhaps some men are destined never to leave Alcatraz dead either.

Schizoid Sarah’s Strange Staircases

The Winchester Family
The Winchester Family of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company ,bears the honour of the peculiar Winchester Mystery House. Sarah_WinchesterInitially  William Wirt Winchester and Sarah Winchester (nee Pardee), and for a short time, their daughter Annie Paradee Winchester, who died only a few weeks after her birth, lived in an elegant manor in New Haven, Connecticut. Sarah spoke four languages and played piano beautifully. Sarah fell into a deep depression following the death of her daughter, and the couple had no more children. In March 1881, William died of tuberculosis, giving Sarah approximately 50 percent ownership in the Winchester company and an income of $1,000 a day. (This amount is roughly equivalent to $22,000 a day in 2008.)

The Curse of Death
According to the legend, she felt her family was cursed, and sought out spiritualists to determine what she should do. The deaths of her husband and daughter had a traumatic effect on her psyche from which she never fully recovered. A Boston medium told her that the Winchester family was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by the Winchester rifle, and she should move west to build a house for herself and the spirits. The medium is claimed to have told Sarah that if construction on the house ever stopped, she would join her husband and infant daughter. You know those psychics; it’s all silly guess-work and no actual results.  Sadly, vulnerable Sarah took this ridiculous advice and began her fevered construction on what would be known as the Winchester Mystery House.

The Farmhouse
In 1886, Sarah moved west to California and purchased an eight-room farmhowinchester_mystery_house_hammer_newsuse from John Hamm. Then, she began to build. One of the first tasks of the gardeners was to plant a tall cypress hedge surrounding the house to ensure seclusion. She kept her face covered with a dark veil at all times, and there are stories of her firing servants who caught a glimpse of her face by accident.  Sarah began spending her $20 million inheritance by renovating and adding more rooms to the house, with work continuing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next 38 years. She was fascinated with the number 13 and worked the number into the house in many places. As a result, there are thirteen bathrooms, windows have thirteen panes, thirteen chandeliers. In the 13th bathroom (the only one with a shower), there are 13 windows. One of the sinks has 13 drainage holes. There are 52 skylights, and the Grand Staircase has 13 steps. Thirteen palm trees line the driveway. As a final gesture, Sarah’s will was divided into 13 parts and signed 13 times.  If you’re counting that amount comes to…something I can’t add because I am terrible at math.

The 7-11 Staircase
Two other numbers Sarah favoured were 7 and 11, possibly because she liked a good game of craps. Haha.There is one stairway in the
house which has 7 steps down and then 11 steps up. Personally, I call it the 7-11 Staircase (not to be confused with the 7-11 convenience store where you buy a slushie and a newspaper).  The balcony in this picture on the left switchis toddler-sized and stands above the 7-11 Staircase. Due to constant construction and the lack of a master plan, the house became very large and quite complex; many of the serving staff needed a map to navigate the house. The house also featured doors that open into walls, staircases that led nowhere, a cupboard that has only 1/2 inch of storage space, and tiny doorways and hallways just big enough for Sarah (who was 4’10“) to fit  through.  Some other interesting features of the house included 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, and a beautiful garden. It also possessed chimneys that ended mere inches before a ceiling and had no functional use (such as the one pictured on the left). At midnight every night, the bell in the Bell Tower was rung to summon the spirits. At 2 AM, it was rung again as a signal for the spirits to depart (I had no idea they were on a schedule). The Tower was approachable from the outside by climbing onto the roof of the mansion using a ladder. The bell was hung at the top of the tower, with a long rope hanging down a sheer, unclimbable wall (those of you with vertigo and a fear of heights need not apply). The rope was reached through underground tunnels, the precise layout of which was known only to the bell ringer and his assistant.

The Switchback Staircase
Mrs. Winchester had other oddities constructed, including a staircase that descended seven steps and then rose eleven. Some critics suggest that the architectural oddities may have practical explanations. For example, Photo-taken-from-HowStuffWorks_com_the Switchback Staircase, (yes, they have names, too) which has seven flights with forty four steps, rises only about nine feet, since each step is just two inches high. Mrs. Winchester arthritis was quite severe in her later years, and the stairway may have been designed to accommodate her disability. Frankly I think the stairway was designed to accomodate her schizophrenia. The Switchback Staircase derived its name by the design that permitted a person to climb up one side of it, step around a bannister, and switch direction to climb back down again (that’s the staircase pictured above).

The Hall of Fires and the Seance Room
The miles of twisting hallways are made even more intriguing by secret passageways in the walls. Mrs. Winchester traveled through her house in a roundabout fashion, supposedly to confuse any mischievous ghosts that might be following her. She went faithfully every night to the Seance room (yes, the rooms have names, too) to visit spirits that told her what she should build. Because of the mansion’s immense size, it contained forty-seven fireplaces and seventeen chimneys. One rambling section in particular, the Hall of Fires, was designed to produce as much heat as possible – perhaps to ease Mrs. Winchester’s extreme arthritis. In addition to many windows that let the sunlight stream through, the three adjoining rooms have four fireplaces and three hot air registers from the coal furnace in the basement. Imagine the heating bill.

The Grand Ballroom

Mrs. Winchester’s elegant Grand Ballroom was built almost entirely without nails. It cost over $9,000 to complete at a time when an entire house could be built for less than $1,000! The most curious element of the Grand Ballroom are the two leaded stained glass windows, each inscribed with a quote from Shakespeare. Probably the more significant of the two are from Richard II (V:5:9): “These same thoughts people this little world.” The iWinchester_Mystery_House_San_Jose_California_Grand_Ballroom_Cost_over_$9,000mprisoned Richard means that his thoughts people the small world of his confinement. Nobody knows for certain what these lines meant to Mrs. Winchester, but I can make an educated guess:

  1. Sarah refers to the imprisonment of her own mind
  2. that of the spirits
  3. and/or that of the house.

Pitiful Pathways
Sarah had specific pathways she took to her many rooms. After traversing a labyrinth of rooms and hallways, she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out onto the top of a flight of steps that took her down one store,y only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again. This was supposed to be very confusing to evil spirits who are suspicious of traps, of course. God only knows who she talked to in the Seance room since none of the spirits could follow her there. Ugh.

The Earthquake
Contemporary scholars dispute the veracity of the claim that construction work continuesarahd, except for brief periods, after the 1906 earthquake. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Sarah was trapped in her bedroom for several hours. However, when she got out, she told the construction crews to stop working on the nearly completed front part of the house and had her carpenters board it up, leaving most of the extensive earthquake damage unrepaired. Again according to the legends, she thought the spirits were angry with her because she was spending too much time decorating and working on the front rooms (Really? Only 38 years?…How unreasonable of them). Construction resumed on new additions and remodeling the other parts of the structure. Sarah Winchester’s full-time address from the earthquake until her death was in Atherton, California. She visited the ranch and house in San Jose only periodically. Construction stopped on the Winchester Mystery House when, on September 5, 1922, Sarah died in her sleep of heart failure at the age of 83 from climbing too many weird staircases.  Just kidding. When Sarah died, the word spread throughout the house, and there are spots visible where the workers stopped hammering the nails halfway in. After her death, all the furniture in the house was auctioned off. It took 8 weeks (6 truckloads a day) to remove it all

There are two theories as to why Mrs. Winchester built such an unusual house. The first is by far the most popular and states that she built the house to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. The second, much less popular, is that while Mrs. Winchester was an exceedingly wealthy woman and could build her house any way she wanted, she had no architectural training at all, so some of the oddities could be simple design error. During the early years of construction, this resulted in some awkward and impractical concepts such as columns being installed upside down – though some suggest this was done deliberately to confuse the evil spirits. But this is how the Winchester Mystery House™ became known as “the house built by the spirits.”

The Curse of Mental Illness
Rather than the curse of death or the spirits, I believe poor Sarah suffered from a mental illness, dead_people_35probably paranoid schizophrenia, and responded to voices in her head telling her to continue her haphazard construction on the Winchester Mystery House. She was a highly superstitious woman where death, ghosts and spirits were concerned, as was usual for many Victorians. They even kept a “memorial photography” in their homes: they dressed and posed cadavers of family members to photograph and keep in what must have been a heartwarming family photo album.  Naaaasty. However, ongoing construction within a house for 38 years, where over 600 rooms were built and then torn down so that only 160 rooms remain, suggests to me a lot more than superstition. You know how middle and lower-income class people ask themselves the stupidest question about wealthy people ever, “yes those people have a lot of money, but do you think they’re happy?” Well, where Sarah Winchester is concerned, I’d have to say that question is valid. Since Mrs. Winchester’s death, hundreds of wild stories have appeared about this mysterious woman and the sprawling mansion. You’re kidding.  Who knew? None of her relatives or employees ever contradicted these stories, despite that fact that some of them lived more than forty years after Mrs. Winchester’s death. Perhaps they felt threatened by talking about her due to the supernatural myths surrounding the house, or, out of loyalty, they guarded her secrets even after death.

The House is open for tours daily.  Tour guides wisely advise visitors not to separate from the group or they could get lost for hours, map or no map.  Perhaps the maps are to confuse the spirits and the tourists simply get in the way.  Meantime, this picture is an incredible replica of the Winchester Mystery House made entirely of Gingerbread.  This hobbyist deserves an award.

The Aftermath of the Afterlife

Institutionalized or InstitutionalizationStories abound about the afterlife from people who supposedly have died, gone to heaven or hell, then returned to tell the tale.  Interesting.  No one can prove their experience of course, because it is experienced alone within the soul, not within the body.  Surgeons and nurses in the emergency room surround the person who is brain-dead, and the body is still as stone.  Yet, the owner of the body, after being revived, swears to a mystical journey that took place outside the physical self that rivals Stephen King novels and Kubrick films. Come to think of it, a movie about the soul’s journey to heavenor hell, lots of souls from lots of people for lots of reasons, could be quite entertaining.  Bit of a money-maker too, probably. I don’t mean silly flicks like Ghost, or Defending Your Life (man, that s-u-c-k-e-d). I’m not even referring to that heartwarming film Sixth Sense which focused on the living person’s experience with the afterlife, rather than the dead. I don’t even refer to Enter the Void, a cool, mess with your mind type of film that follows the death of a drug dealer.  I mean films that don’t focus on one person alone, rather like editing and splicing Youtube accounts of life after death.  Except a better budget. And better actors.

Tamara Laroux
A gorgeous woman attempted suicide by shotgun (held it to her heart since shooting herself in the face might upset her relatives…how considerate).  She went to hell for trying to kill herself, was redeemed when she begged forgiveness, admitted into heaven for a glimpse of what she had been missing…finally the Hand that held her dropped her back inside her mortal coil and she went on to write a best-selling book. Not your typical afterlife story.

Bill Wiese
This one is about an OBE (out-of-body experience) rather than dying and returning to life.  Regardless, Bill Wiese was pulled out of his body and imprisoned in a stinky, painful prison cell in hell. He claims he was as lucid as “nosouls-in-hellw”, a discussion on TBN.  Two enormous creatures, being demons, materialized, distinctly reptilian, appeared cursing the Lord and beating up on him, with “absolutely no mercy.” Ouch. However the worst of it was the hopelessness, believing this torture would never end. That’s creepy. There were countless people but they weren’t permitted to be with each other, utterly alone and in agony. They weren’t even allowed to sleep (a nightmare I can barely imagine). Bill’s opinion on why he had this experience?  God feels we don’t fear Him or hell enough anymore and that Christians have become too complacent.  There is some argument for that.

Angie Fenimore
Suicide sent Angie Fenimore to hell, although she argued when she managed to return that she already was in hell and simply took all of it with her. As a child, Angie was sexually and psychologically abused by her alcoholic fathesuicide-hangingr. She married at 19 and discovered having her own family didn’t free her from her “secret misery.” She attempted to kill herself and found herself in hell.  All of her misery was intensified as she was surrounded by shadows of other people, mumbling to themselves, completely self-absorbed as they re-lived the point of their suicides.  Angie was given a choice “is this what you really want?”  Wisely, she said no and woke up on the couch where she overdosed. The lesson she learned was how her actions affected the people around her. She hadn’t tried to kill herself because of what other people did to her, but because she hadn’t tried to overcome it. Angie also wrote a book, “Beyond the Darkness“.  It’s probably a best-seller.  Meh.  Perhaps a quick trip to Satan has its perks.

Matthew Deval
Matthew Deval was 12 when he first died of a drowning in a swimming pool. His quick life flashed in front of him and he felt peaceful.  Matthemade-up-black-woman-thumb9093309w claimed Jesus took him by the hand and forced him to return to earth.  This left Matthew confused and unhappy. Years later, he married and had a daughter but by then he was consumed by personal problems and depression. He desired to return to heaven and had the irrational belief that if he killed himself he would find Jesus.  This time he awoke in a grey place, hell. Somehow he split into 7 people.  Two of him were in his past, experiencing all the people he once knew whom he had hurt.  Another self saw the suffering his death would eventually cause. A hand picked him up by the scruff of his neck and warned him if he” continued to live life as he did he would end up back in this place.” When he returned, Matthew quit a thousand-dollar-a-week drug habit, sobered up and moved to Vegas to join a suicide prevention counselling group. Imagine going to Vegas of all places, to run a non-profit organization that saves people from suicide?  Whatever happened to what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?  Meh.  Divine inspiration meets casino-ville.

Kenneth Hagin
Kenneth Hagin lived his life with a heart defect, he was often ill. One day he died at home, watching his parents and siblings trying to revive him. He descended into a strange well where he was surrounded by giant orange flames.  He saw the gates of hell and was drawn to them. He believed a creature met him there but he barely noticed, still staring at the gates.  Kenneth suddenly felt a hand grab him out of this hellish place and he returned to his body.  Somehow he returned to the bottom of the well and he was surrounded by flames.  He cried out to God to forgive him, felt himself ascending from the well, and returned to life.  Whatever it was this sickly boy did during his brief years, it must have been pretty nasty.  He never did say, of course.

Life After Life – Raymond Moony
Raymond Moony’s documentary interviews 6 people’s accounts of life after death. Of course, Moony has a book about life after death and proof of God (what is it with these people and best-selling literature)? People are profoundly changed after returning from their afterlife experience. Their primchristianity1ary goal is to love people and interact with kind human beings.One example is:
Case One – Sandi Rogers – Nurse-  Suicide by gunshot wound.  Sandi claimed that after she shot herself she could feel herself being pushed down the hospital hallway by paramedics.  Sandi felt bliss while she was outside of her body and had a feeling of lightness. Someone ethereal took on Sandi’s pain and they became intertwined. Sandi felt she was given a choice to remain in this blissful place but she would have to experience all of the pain that had brought her to suicide. Somehow she would have to re-live her entire life in this place.  She chose to return, naturally, and learned to see the world from other people’s perspectives who had hurt her. Sandi was boring.

Life Beyond the Grave 2 – the 700 Club
Another collection of people’s experiences with the afterlife.
Case One – Mary Neil – Mary drowned in a kayaking accident and she too, saw the light. She prayed that God’s will be done. She was overcome by the sensation of being held and comforted. She left her body and was left by a group of “heavenly beings.”  They were overjoyed to greet her. She knew they had known and loved her since she existed. A sense of disappointment descended on everyone when they realized she had to return her to her body.abused-sad-child-1-286x300
Case Two – Carl Knighton  Carl wasn’t as fortunate as Mary.  His marriage and military career, when both ended around the same time. For 2 weeks he smoked crack then took valium. He overdosed and died and felt himself descending until he could smell the stench of hell.  He felt tugged and pulled, and voices said “we gotcha! we gotcha!” He saw lost souls in the lake of fire. He called on the Lord to help him and the hand of God grabbed him out of hell, returning him to his body. 3 days later, Carl surrendered his life to Jesus. He repented, remarried and began a mission to tell people about heaven and hell. Preachy type.

Dorothy Allison All-Seeing, All-Knowing All-Psychic Abilities

Many people have heard about Dorothy Allison. She was a self-proclaimed psychic. In May 1988, she was featured on Unsolved Mysteries. When Dorothy was 14, she predicted her father’s death and he died a few weeks later. Allison used her abilities to help police find missing children and their predators. In her voluntary detecting career,  Dorothy claimed she worked on more than 5,000 cases for law enforcement agencies around the globe and was credited by many with helping to solve more than a dozen murders and find at least 50 missing children. It is important to note that Dorothy Allison, like all psychics, has never solved a criminal case. Rather, she has identified clues for police that assisted in their investigations.

Case Number One – Little Boy Drowned
Dorothy first volunteered her services in 1967 when she told the Nutley police she dreamed of a blond, blue-eyed boy in a green snowsuit with his shoes on the wrong feet, (his parents didn’t know this), and a religious pin on his third undershirt, drowned in a pond, his body stuck in a drain pipe. Dorothy contacted police about his drowning a full two hours before the child drowned in the river. A month later a missing boy, whose description had not been publicized, was found in a drain pipe, and his shoes were on the wrong feet. The clues she gave police included:

  1.  In a pipe.
  2. Hands clasped together.
  3. Wearing a green snow suit, with a polo shirt with stripes underneath, and an undershirt beneath that with a metal pin on it, and his shoes are on the wrong feet.
  4. The number 120 is significant.
  5. The number 8 is significant.
  6. He will be found behind a school.
  7. A parking lot behind an ITT Factory being significant.
  8. Lumber being significant.
  9.  Gold lettering on a window being significant.
  10. He will be found on February 7th.


  1. He was found floating in the river (where there had been pipes running up and down it, one which released him as the snow thawed) on February 7th at approximately 1:20 in the afternoon.
  2. An elementary school PS 8 stands at the riverbank nearby.
  3. Across the street is a Lumber Yard.
  4. Next door was an office building with gold letters on the window.
  5. Directly across the river was the local ITT Factory and its parking lot.
  6. The boy when found had on all of the exact clothing she had seen him wearing in her vision.
  7. While his goloshes were on the right feet, his undershoes were indeed on the wrong feet.
  8. She felt he would eventually be found in one of the many pipes along the river.
  9. He may have indeed been in one at some point like what she had seen in her initial vision, but the police when they searched the pipes in the river could not find him in them.
  10. He was later found floating in the river.

This case has special meaning for me. It has a weird echo of an event that happened when I was a little girl. An 8-year-old boy named Eric walked too closely to a creek about 150 yards from our school.  It was the end of winter and spring thaw had begun. As a result, the creek was swollen very high and its current was strong. Little Eric, wearing a snowsuit, walked too closely to the creek, slipped and fell in, getting sucked under the ice by the freezing water. A man who saw Eric fall in tried to pull him out and grabbed him, but the current was too strong and it took Eric beneath the ice again, where he drowned. His body was found some time later about a half mile away. A stained glass window was installed in our church with Eric’s picture and name on it, as a memorial to the little boy.

Case Number Two – The Strangled 14-year-old Girl
In 1978, two boys found a girl’s body in an oil drum on New York City’s Staten Island near a rock with the word “MAR” scrawled on it.Dorothy was key in finding the missing body of a murdered 14-year-old girl in 1976. On May 15, 1976, a 14-year-old girl named Susan Jacobson disappeared shortly after leaving her home. Her parents went to the police, who simply wrote her off as a runaway, and told them that they had neither the time nor manpower to search for an obvious runaway. When she didn’t return for dinner, her parents contacted police. They claimed she had run with her boyfriend.The parents heard of psychic Dorothy Allison by reputation, and arranged her to meet them at their home, after the police refused to take their daughter’s disappearance seriously. Here are the highlights of this particular case…

  1. Dorothy stated the numbers 2562, were essential; these were being the daughter’s birthday, 405 was the time the daughter was born.
  2. Dorothy named the girl’s boyfriend, Dempsey Hawkins
  3. Stated the girl had been strangled by her boyfriend of about a year who was distraught about a pending breakup between the two.
  4. She envisioned the body in a marsh area, near a large rock with the word MAR written in Big Red Letters on it (her exact words) found within 100 yards of the body (in plain visual sight from where her body was dumped),
  5. Smell of oil (she was found in an oil drum)
  6. 222 connected with the smell of oil (being numbers on the oil drum that she was found in),
  7. The corpse was in water but the victim didn’t drown (she was in a water hole in the oil drum)
  8. Dorothy provided a number of other visual clues  found within 100 yards of the body in plain sight (two sets of church steeples, dual smoke stacks, a broken down car, in a marsh area).
  9. Dorothy and two detectives drove to the woods searching for Susan’s body.  They found the rock with the word MAR in red lettering.

Dempsey Hawkins was 16 when he murdered Susan and 18 when he was tried and convicted for her murder. Distraught over their pending breakup, Hawkins lured Ms. Jacobson to a bunker-like room in a secluded part of Staten Island and choked her to death. He dumped her body into an oil drum and buried it in a large hole beside a tree. In April 2010, Hawkins applied for parole with The State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, for the eighth time. Has was denied. Hawkins is now a 52-year-old inmate who killed Susan when he was a teenager on Staten Island 36 years ago. Hawkins has been incarcerated for 34 years.

Case Number Three – The Bow and Arrow Businessman
On December 20, 1974 a businessman got aboard a train to travel, but no one saw him get off at its stop. He simply disappeared. Rumors circulated that he embezzled and vanished, or ran off with a mistress. Police contacted her and wrote down everything she said, a full three months before his body was discovered which included:

  1. The man had fallen from the train into the water (he thought he was at his stop, walked out, and fell into the water below).
  2. She stated a bow and arrow had something to do with the death.
  3. She mentioned a row of tires.
  4. She saw the number 222.


  1. The bow and arrow significance was how his body was discovered (a son and father were shooting arrows with a bow over a river. A stray arrow missed its target and landed next to his corpse below on the riverbank.)
  2. There was a row of tires up on a sleded hill next to the area where the body was found where children played  (fully accurate)
  3. The 2-2-2 clue given by Dorothy as significant in this case was February 22, the exact date the body was found.

Case Number Four –  Cold Case of a Murdered Girl – Lorraine Zimmerman
This case was featured on the television program “Unsolved Mysteries” in 1988 to test Dorothy’s psychic ability. She was flown to another state, and took part in the investigation of an obscure murder case in an obscure town she had no way of knowing about. In April of 1984 a 15 year old school girl , Lorraine (Lori) Zimmerman, was murdered. Dorothy was told nothing about the case beforehand.  The highlights included:

  1. A janitor that worked at the victim’s school
  2. A kidnapping by a suspect with suicidal tendencies
  3. The numbers 71 or 17 were significant
  4. The suspect wore glasses and sometimes a wig, possibly a police officer in disguise.
  5. He drove an old yellow car.
  6. The name Chuck Goldstein or Bernstein and said he may have information. (This person does exist in this town, but it is unverified as to what became of this clue, and what this person knew.)
  7. She said the girl was walking along the same street that they were driving on, and that she got as far as the library.
  8. She met two brothers or two cousins or twin friends of hers from her own neighborhood, who took her away in a real old yellow car.
  9. She said the girl had been raped and then murdered.
  10. Eight days later, her partially naked body was discovered in the forest twelve miles away
  11. She had been hit in the head but it hadn’t killed her.
  12. She was killed through suffocation, when choking on a foreign object lodged in her throat.
  13.  The Number 17 (or 1 and 7) was significant. ( Number 17 was the cemetery plot number of the murdered girl’s grave.)
  14. Cleveland was significant (the last street sign before the crime scene was at a turnoff called Clevelandtown Road.)
  15. An old church is significant (half a mile from where the body was found there is an old church.)
  16. She gave graphic details of how and why the girl was killed, and even the name of the killer, but it was bleeped out.

Some clues were indirectly related to Dorothy’s visions. For instance, the janitor was not a suspect, but Lori’s stepfather.  Goldstein wasn’t a suspect but possibly knew information about the case. The case is still unsolved, so it is unverified.

Case Number Five – Heather Dawn Church
Allison was asked by El Paso police for her assistance in solving the murder case of HDC, a 13-year-old girl. Heather on September 17, 1991. She stated:

  1. The name Brown was significant, and she stated it would not be spelled in the usual way
  2. “I keep seeing the man who took her. I keep seeing he had a problem.  This much I can reveal to you. I know he had trouble with his hip and leg, and I’d like to kick the other one so he can’t walk at all.”
  3. Robert Charles Browne was later arrested and convicted for first degree murder in the killing of Heather.
  4. He admitted killing as many as 49 people across the United States.

Case Number Six – The Killer Clown
Dorothy assisted with the John Wayne Gacy case. Gacy’s home was the focus of a crime scene investigation  following eyewitness reports that a missing 15-year-old boy was last seen with him. Lieutenant Kozenczak discovered significant  clues relating to other missing persons cases. Despite driving over a thousand  miles with Dorothy in a fruitless search for the body, Kozenczak says  that the psychic detective’s information on the case led some officers to turn  from skeptic to believer in psychic phenomena. Allison predicted the  exact date on which the body of the young boy would be found. Despite the  Lieutenant’s glowing testimony, however, time and money in the form  of manpower and equipment were lost  following up on Allison’s impressions of the boy’s whereabouts. Kozenczak,  nevertheless, praises Dorothy’s  work on the case, stating “Had weather  conditions not been prohibitive…it is possible that Dorothy Allison might have  found [his] body.”

Dorothy had her very public failures.

Case Number One – The Atlanta Child Murders
When she was called to Atlanta in 1980 to assist police in investigating the murders of several black children, an Atlanta police detective branded her “that wacko broad . . . [who] rode around in a big limousine, ate real well for three days and then went home.” He said she gave police 42 possible names for the murderer, none of them of the man  arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced.   Williams was convicted of the murders of two men.  Later, police found him guilty of 23 of the 29 murdered children. One mother complained that the clairvoyant failed to return her only photo of her missing son.

Case Number Two – Little Boy Drowned
A  year earlier, a Paterson, N.J., detective called Allison “a fraud” and said she wrongly claimed credit for leading police to the body of a strangled 8-year-old boy. He said Allison led dozens of policemen and bloodhounds on a wild goose chase in the case.. He also claimed that a witness saw the suspect and the boy together and this led to the discovery of the body and the arrest and conviction of the killer.

Case Number Three – Tiny, tragic Beauty Queen – Jonbenet Ramsay

April 27, 1998 Dorothy described Jonbenet’s killer on the Leeza Gibbons Show.

  1. probably 5’7″ to 5’9″
  2. thin, brown hair that he wears over to the side, perhaps a little bit balding underneath
  3. very wide cranium on top and a real small chin, very thin lips and a pointed nose, very light eyes
  4. very slender build throughout the body, a little
    bit wide through the hips
  5. Germanic descent
  6. a former handyman in the Ramsay home
  7. high-pitched voice and soft-spoken
  8. the numbers 2-8-9
  9. the names “Martin” and “Irving” the latter, she said, being “the one I think that did this”

Dorothy didn’t identify Jonbenet’s killer.  Critics stated that Dorothy  followed the formula utilized by other psychic sleuths and make numerous pronouncements so that they can be interpreted accordingly. For example, if the psychic “sees” a body near “water,” that can later be identified with a nearby stream, lake, water tower, etc. This technique of after-the-fact matching is called retrofitting, and it has fooled seasoned detectives. Dorothy’s sketch of the killer revealed profound differences between her picture and that of John Mark Karr, a suspect arrested for the murder.:

  1. Hair was styled differently
  2. Shape of the head and face were at odds with each other
  3. Karr had a much fuller lower lip than Dorothy’s sketch

Joe Nickell, a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer, magazine of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal claimed he recently created a new forensic  field known as “forensic caricaturing.” This so-called unproven and untested”method” enhances differences  between sketches and photographs.

Famous Cases
Dorothy claimed she assisted law enforcement in thousands of cases, she led police to the place where Patty Hearst was held captive, she predicted Son of Sam would be caught by a parking ticket, she named the Atlanta child killer as Williams, and she cracked the John Wayne Gacy case. However none of these claims are true. Dorothy appeared to identify cities where Hearst had been taken, namely New York and L.A., but she only provided the names after the abductors had moved on with their victim (retrofitting?)Dorothy claimed she saw the deaths of Paul and Karla Bernardo’s victims before they occurred. Police in Niagara Falls, Ontario  consulted her concerning the March, 1991 disappearance of a teenage girl named Melanie Hall. If it occurred in March, this was before Leslie Mahaffey was abducted. Dorothy described Melanie’s body as being encased in cement. Melanie Hall’s body was not found, but in June Leslie’s body was discovered (encased in cement) in Lake Gibson. Dorothy predicted that a second girl’s body would be found soon. The girl would be strangled and left in some bushes. In April 1992, the body of Kristen French (the Bernardos’ second victim) was found in a culvert. She had been strangled.

Dorothy did not predict the death of either girl, did not identify the body of Leslie Mahaffey, and gave only partially correct details about the second body. She also didn’t locate the girl she was originally enlisted to find. Nonetheless, Leslie Mahaffey’s mother was impressed enough to recommend her to another Ontario woman one year later. Rose Lax wanted to know who killed her father, a Holocaust survivor named Morris Lax. Dorothy said his death was a revenge killing staged as a robbery, but her description of the killer was too vague to be of any use. His murder has never been solved.

James Randi is a Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic best known for his challenges to paranormal claims and pseudoscience. In 1980, Randi awarded Dorothy the Pigasus Award for psychic frauds. “The awards are announced via telepathy, the winners are allowed to predict their winning, and the Flying Pig trophies are sent via psychokinesis. We send; if they don’t receive, that’s probably due to their lack of paranormal talent.”

 Nickell said that psychic detectives use a trick called ”retrofitting,” which involves tossing out several clues, like a number or a mention of water, that are interpreted to fit the facts after they become known. Police departments waste valuable time digging in specific spots and draining ponds on the erroneous advice of a psychic. ”Certainly Dorothy Allison caused a great deal of — I’m sure unintended — mischief,” he said.

Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine, said that psychic detectives commonly make logical predictions; for example, they suggest that a corpse will be found in a remote area. ‘If you have a body, are you going to dump it in a crowded city?” he asked. As an unimpressed Georgia police chief summed up a case in which Allison had made pronouncements: “She said a whole lot of things, a whole lot of opinions, partial information and descriptions. She said a lot.  If you say enough, there’s got to be something that fits.”

Dorothy told her family she would not live to 75. She died in 1999 at 74. There have been no sightings of her since her passing. Dorothy wrote a book entitled A Psychic Story 

Dangerous Sexuality in Kids’ Fairy Tales

Seldom do we put together danger and sex in children’s stories but the history behind many folk and fairy tales often intertwines the two.  In fact, many old tales were used as a warning to young virginal girls and adults about guarding the innocence of girlhood. They were tales about morality and the implication that a deflowered girl wasn’t worth the same dowry, or social status, as a virgin. In ancient cultures where demons and witches were perceived as real, fairy tales merged into legends where the narrative was perceived both by teller and hearers as being grounded in historical truth. watch medieval mind

The first attempt to preserve not only the plot and characters of the tale, but also the style in which they were told, was by the Brothers Grimm, in their first edition (1812 & 1815).watch beauty and the beast alternate opening  Charles Perrault was a close second and he too altered fairy tales to make them more appetizing for prudish Victorian mothers and nannies. The Brothers Grimm concentrated mostly on eliminating sexual references.  Rapunzel, in the first edition, revealed the prince’s visits when the witch asked why her clothing had grown tight, thus letting the witch deduce that she was pregnant. In subsequent editions however, Rapunzel carelessly revealed that it was easier to pull the prince up the tower than the witch. watch tangled – mother gothel  In the original Rapunzel, she finds her desolate prince in the desert and it is discovered that she has two children by him. In cutting off Rapunzel’s hair as a punishment, the witch attempts to destroy Rapunzel’s sexual appeal. The witch, in fact, is envious of Rapunzel’s golden locks. watch animated Rapunzel

On the other hand, in many respects, violence – particularly when punishing villains – was increased. In the original Cinderella, a dove sits on the step sisters’ shoulders during Cinderella’s wedding, and pecks out each of their eyes as a punishment for their cruelty. An alternative to this is that both sisters are forced to dance in heated iron shoes until they fall down dead. watch haunt  The moralizing strain in the Victorian era altered the classical tales to teach other lessons, as when Cinderella was rewritten in 1854 to contain temperance themes. A temperance movement is a social movement urging reduced or prohibited use of alcoholic beverages. watch life in victorian britain Presumably, there wasn’t champagne at Cinderella’s wedding. watch. Feminine evil is found aplenty in fairy tales, much more so than masculine evil. Villains were almost always certainly female.  when children played at slaughter 3d

The Cinderella story itself is about a maiden’s virginity, represented by the glass slipper. In the story, Cinderella is the most sacred maiden in the land and it is clear she is a virgin. The shoe is too tight for any other girl except Cinderella to wear. When the stepmother breaks one of the slippers, it suggests the breaking of the hymen. The end of Cinderella’s virginity is in keeping with her marriage to the Prince, when she is no longer a maiden. The original Cinderella may have originated in China, where very small feet are considered socially and sexually appealing, hence the emphasis on Cinderella’s slipper. Similarly, in The Princess and the Pea, the Princess proves her maidenhood when she sleeps in a bed in the Prince’s palace and feels a tiny pea beneath several mattresses. Her lament is that, “heaven knows what was in the bed but I have been lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body.” watch the Princess and the Pea

Violence in folk and fairy tales can be understood in the context of the history of childhood. Until the Victorian Era, childhood didn’t exist and children were considered to be “little adults.” Even then, childhood was slow to develop and excluded children from the lower socioeconomic class.  Childhood began during the Industrial Revolution. watch the little girl who was forgotten. The Industrial Revolution was a period from 1750 to 1850 where changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. watch the industrial revolution in england. It began in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spread throughout Western Europe, North America, Japan, and eventually the rest of the world.  watch emily creepy animation of a creepy girl 

In terms of social structure, the Industrial Revolution witnessed the development of a middle class of industrialists and businessmen. There was still limited opportunity for education, and children were expected to work. watch kids of the coal mines Children worked alongside their parents in manufacturing plants and coal mines for less pay than adults, although they usually had the most dangerous jobs. It was only middle and upper class children who transitioned from little adults to children. Eventually middle class children would attend school, although education laws didn’t come into effect until 1880. Rich children were tutored, as had been the tradition in wealthy families for generations. Literacy and mathematics were the primary focus of education, and the market niche for children’s story books became lucrative.  watch the children who built victorian britain

In Little Red Riding Hood, the combination of sexuality and violence is unmistakable. Cannibalism is represented when the Wolf eats both the grandmother and Riding Hood. The cannibalism theme appears again in Hansel and Gretel. Riding Hood is warned by her mother not to talk to strangers (the Wolf), who is a metaphor for male sexuality. Of course, Riding Hood disobeys her mother and her punishment is being “eaten” by the Wolf, or devoured by male sexuality. watch wolf  In the original story when she mistakes him for her grandmother, she removes her clothes and climbs into bed with him. watch rick baker werewolf transformation scene The Grimm version removes the nudity and prevents Riding Hood from being devoured by the Wolf. Instead she is rescued by a woodsman, a character who is easily recognizable as a decent man, since he is without disguise and his intention is to save Riding Hood from the Wolf’s clutches. The woodsman, in fact, was added to the story later. The original version ends with Riding Hood and her granny inside the wolf’s stomach. Ouch. watch little red riding hood – the wolf scene

Female sexuality is also a theme in Red Riding Hood and many other fairy tales. It is presented during female puberty, and functions as warnings about female sexuality and its existence, as both a threat and as threatened. watch sex, blood and fairy tales Not surprisingly, it was during the ages of 12 and 14 that many girls married and had children, eons ago. It is no coincidence that childbirth mortality was very high during the era when these tales were invented. The implication that good wives and girls did not enjoy sex but saw it as their wifely duty is unmistakable. watch england, edwardian era In “Sleeping Beauty” a bitter  old fairy punishes the heroine with slumber when she pricks her finger, a symbol for menstruation, and the piercing of Beauty’s hymen (as is Red Riding Hood’s cloak). watch sleeping beauty 01 In this short clip, when Beauty asks if she may try using a spinning wheel, the old woman replies “oh I’m afraid you’re too young,” to which Beauty replies “but I’m old enough to be left alone with my father, the King.” watch the Victorian guide to women

So many fairy tales and folktales were warnings to young, virginal women, and by comparison, few centered around young men. Normally such tales reveal the initially naive and trusting male transitioning into the hero of his own misadventures, an advantage that most female heroines do not enjoy. In nearly all fairy tales that focused on male adventures, a helpless, beautiful female was the prize for his stalwart efforts in slaying dragons, ogres, nasty old women, and outsmarting any number of dangerous characters. No traditional fairy tales present a heroine rescuing a prince in distress. watch belle dressing the beast’s wound  The concept would have been socially unacceptable, in keeping with the social restrictions and expectations of women before the Edwardian era. It is only recently that a Princess or other female character has demonstrated wit and strength of character in order to come to the aid of a helpless male. watch paper bag princess

The times they are a-changing.  It’s about time, watch belle and gaston

quoth the Raven nevermore”

a living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing the bird above his chamber

Once upon a midnight dreary in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe wrote the Raven, knowing that the creepy superstition about blackbirds (also known as ravens, jackdaws, magpies and crows) were a suitable metaphor for his hero’s loss and despair. The poem tells of a talking raven’s visit to a distraught lover, ensuring the man’s slow descent into madness. The lover, often identified as being a student,  laments the loss of his love, Lenore. watch animation edgar allan poe’s Lenore.The raven instigates his distress with its constant repetition of the word “nevermore“.   Poe chose a raven as the central symbol in the story because he wanted a “non-reasoning” creature capable of speech. The use of the raven, the “devil bird“, is also a reference to the occult. watch edgar allan poe – the raven animation

Poe echoes the theme of love lost using the same name Lenore in a poem entitled Lenore. watch the little girl who was forgotten. Lenore is dead and her fiancé, Guy de Vere, finds it inappropriate to “mourn” the dead.   It is believed Poe may have penned Lenore as a means of coping with the death of his young wife, Virginia Clemm, 24, by tuberculosis. watch lenore the cute little dead girl. Already diagnosed as manic-depressive, the young Poe was surrounded by death and loss: within 3 years of his birth, his mother died due to TB. It is not known if Poe’s father, David Poe, died in 1910, or abandoned the family for another woman. watch edgar allan poe, biography, part 1. Poe’s brother succumbed to intemperance, a polite term for alcohol poisoning. His sister and his foster mother died of TB. His stepfather, John Allan, died when Poe was 25. Within two years of Virginia’s death, Poe died at the age of 40, of unknown causes. watch the death of edgar allan poe

Poe errs in the extreme in his choice of the raven as an irrational animal.  `Crows and their genus corvus, are the most intelligent animals on earth. They have the ability to memorize, reason and to spread communication about a particular danger or person to the flock. In fact, after a raven was shot by a pellet gun in a suburban town in the U.S., the flock advised one another how high above humans they should fly in order to avoid the same fate.  watch watch a murder of crows documentary

Recent research has found some crow species capable not only of tool use but of tool construction.  Crows and ravens score very highly on intelligence tests. Wild hooded crows have learned to use bread crumbs for bait-fishing.   watch problem solving by a clever crow Another skill involves dropping tough nuts into a trafficked street and waiting for a car to crush them open.  watch science in action – crow intelligence In contradiction with their supreme intelligence is that they love cigarettes, despite previous research.The Jackdaw and the European Magpie have been found to have a nidopallium approximately the same relative size as the functionally equivalent neocortex in chimpanzees andhumans. watch joshua klein: the amazing intelligence of crows

One concept that is beyond the raven’s grasp is that their two enemies, hawks andhumans, have joined together to fight them. This is a perspective jackdaws, pigeons, ravens, crows, and magpies cannot decipher. Crows can predict and avoid human danger, and do the same with hawks, but when they team up together, crows are lost. However, the communication lines among crows and ravens is staggering. When one crow is assaulted or killed by a hawk, hundreds of others witness this and sound the alarm to one another. The flocks take flight, removing themselves far from danger. watch crow and kitten are friends

Magpies are thought incorrectly to steal shiny, glittery objects in order to line their nests.  It is only young magpies that covet these objects, mistaking them for food until they reach an age where they recognize their mistake. watch the most extreme crazy collector  This odd habit was superstitiously explained in Greek legend, wherein a princess Arne was bribed with gold by King Minos of Crete, and was punished for her avarice by being transformed into an equally avaricious jackdaw, who seeks shiny things. watch cat playing with bird  In Cornish folklore crows and particularly magpies are associated with death and the ‘otherworld’, and must always be greeted with respect.   watch lovefield short film with a surprise ending  The origin of ‘counting crows’ as augury is British; however the British versions count magpies:

One for sorrow, two for mirth, three’s a wedding, four’s a birth, five is Heaven, six is Hell, seven is the Devil himself.

Medusa Rocks – pun – My World

If ever there was a gothic fantasy character that kicked butt it has to be Medusa.  That hair and her stony stare have made her infamous. In fact, of all evil ancient Greek characters, Medusa is the most notorious and most memorable. Traditionally Medusa was a terrifying, distinctly homely creature, half-snake, half-woman, all mean. In the remake of Clash of the Titans, Medusa was designed with the same odious serpent body, but her face was that of a supermodel.  The digital effects of the remake cannot compete with the clay puppetry of the original. watch making silicone puppet head

Consider that the original film involved a painstaking process of clay animation. Medusa was a toy made of plasticine clay and built around a wire skeleton called anarmature. watch building a stop motion monster –  making an aluminum wire armature As in other forms of object animation, Medusa was arranged on the set, a film frame was exposed, and she was moved slightly by hand. Another frame was taken, and Medusa was moved slightly again until the entire scene was complete. The Medusa scene must have taken weeks, if not months, to complete. watch clay animation tutorial  A similar concept using stop motion filming is found in stop motion – whiteboard animation

The Medusa model itself is gold: its creepy appearance coupled with the sharp, jolting stop-motion movements, made her an unforgettable character. Like whiteboard stop-motion, paper motion animation is a similar notion that has its own unique signature. watch paper motion animation The digital remake is a yawn. We all know it’s just computer animation.  How much effort and imagination went into that? Not to mention the new Medusa is an obvious knock-off of the original character, and a cheap-and-easy knock-off at that. However, in the following video, digital animation produces an interesting-looking Medusa character. watch the island of Medusa Still there’s something about the use of traditional puppeteering to create a vicious Medusa that cannot be matched. watch make a buildup puppet

Tim Burton is a man with style and a modern-day master of clay animation. You just know his characters when you see them; the black and white stripe design on his puppets echoes from film to film . The character of Jack Skellington is a classic.   Eventually Burton paints a white pinstripe on little Jack, and the colour combination is echoed in Beetlegeuce on a desert monster and on Beetlegeuce himself. watch Beetlegeuse clips Other puppet features are reproduced in subsequent films. Skellington’s long skinny legs resemble that of Johnny Depp’s in The Corpse Brideas does the inclusion of the skeleton characters. I would love to see what Burton could do with Medusa. Black and white striped snakes, perhaps? I’d love to see her hairdo with highlights. Disney creates, of course, an adorable Medusa meant to entertain rather than intimidate. watch gorgon 3

Oddly, in Greek mythology, Medusa was a guardian, or a protectress. She was a Gorgon, a terrifying female character. The term Gorgon is a derivative of the word gorgos, meaning dreadful. watch Medusa full story Initially Medusa was a virginal woman envied by many women for her incredible beauty and endless supply of suitors. In addition, her power and beauty rivalled the goddess Athena. watch god of war ii – killing athena This didn’t sit well with the Goddess of War. Medusa was raped by Poseidon, Athena’s father, and Athena punished Medusa for the act, changing her into the horrific Gorgon, and the Goddess of Death. watch halloween makeup tutorial – medusa  

Frankly, the rape provided Athena with an excuse to torture her enemy with a hideous visage, and in addition, Athena banished the poor creature to an uninhabited island where she lived alone for the rest of her wretched days. watch Medusa needs love too Medusa’s combination of womanhood and deathly gaze was also meant to illustrate the struggle of mortal men who become entranced by a beautiful, yet unattainable woman. watch clash of the gods: medusaShe was also a warning that things are not always as they appear. Watch reflection – Medusa 

Medusa shared her dreadful traits with her two sisters, Stheno and Euryale, who, unfairly enough, were immortal while Medusa was not. The Gorgon’s legendary gaze was considered a protective vice and as such their images were carved in (what else) stone and mounted on the front of objects and buildings. Perseus, a demi-god, was ordered to slay Medusa by King  Polydectes, in order to get Perseus out of the way while he pursued the latter’s mother. watch Perseus and the Gorgon Polydectes had no true expectation that Medusa would be slain, but Perseus was clever enough to use a mirror when he cut off the Gorgon’s head, preventing him from looking directly into her evil eyes. watch medusa animated bust

Speaking of reflections,  Narcissus the Hot, was another Greek character who had dreadful luck with reflections and beauty. Narcissus was a great hunter who possessed incredible beauty. Anyone who beheld Narcissus fell in love with him, a weakness Narcissus despised. He was too proud to love anyone in return. Spurned by her advances towards the haughty, hot Narcissus, a forest nymph named Echo forced Narcissus to gaze upon his own reflection in a pool of water, wherein Narcissus fell in love with himself and pined away. I know a few men like that, frankly. watch animatic Narcissus

Personally, I don’t think Medusa was so bad. She was blessed with an enviable slim body, wicked hair and deadly eyes. Which woman doesn’t want to boast those traits? watch the full documentary: clash of the gods: Medusa