John Ringo Grave

John Ringo Historic Site Monument

The Historic Site Monument at the Ringo Gravesite.

If you’ve read about the untamed American frontier and have never heard of Tombstone, Arizona, for shame! This little town is a great place to learn about frontier life in a mining boom town. Tombstone is rife with legends and stories that would keep anyone interested for weeks on end. It was a silver mining town known for its rough-around-the-edges citizens. Names like Wyatt Earp, Curly Bill Brocius, Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday– are a dime a dozen in the annals of Tombstone history. Tombstone is noted for the longest poker game in history (8 years, 5 months, and 3 days) and the infamous gunfight at the O.K. corral which was primarily between the Earps and the Clantons and McLowerys.

Part of the culture of the “Wild West” was to bury a body along the trail where the person passed away. There was no transporting the body anywhere unless the deceased was close to the rail lines at their time of death. Decomposition was rapid because food didn’t have preservatives and embalming was still in its infancy. Bodies still relatively intact that were found on the trail were buried deep enough to keep the coyotes, vultures or other desert scavengers at bay. Most makeshift graves were covered with rocks and marked with a simple wooden cross near the place the body was found and buried. The practice of leaving a cross or headstone is still observed in parts of the American southwest– though, the bodies are typically transported and interred in an actual cemetery instead of beside the road.

One such body that was found and buried on the trail is the source of much historical intrigue as there is some disagreement over the death of this man whose personal legend is linked to the infamous “Town Too Tough to Die”– Tombstone, Arizona. The body of John Peters Ringo is interred near the oak tree where he was found. A coroner’s inquest was held to determine his cause of death, but not everyone agrees with the verdict. Continue reading

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10 Stories of Witches in IL

I wish I had seen this list before my trip last month, but it was only shared today on the forum where I found it.

10. St Omer Witch Grave
9. The Chesterville Witch
8. The Persecution of Toby Allen
7. Strange Case of Elizabeth Friend
6. Beulah, the Meridian Witch
5. The Hanging of Moreau
4. Eva Locker
3. “Black Annie”
2. The Williams Sisters
1. Mary Worth

A few observations about this list:

  • none of the stories come from the height of the witchcraft craze begun in Salem
  • not all are women, as is traditionally believed
  • one of our members here on the blog lives near Chesterville and is familiar with the witch grave story and believes that she was more than likely a feminist who ran afoul of the Amish people
  • the authors of this list don’t necessarily buy into the stories, but simply share them and all knowledge of the rumours surrounding each tale

List with details

Six Down, One to Go: the Tragic Curse of Oak Island

The mystery of Oak Island is so divinely intriguing that any soul with the tiniest sense of curiosity will be captivated by it. It’s been one of my favorite mysteries since I first read about it in junior high school. It all started one dark night back in 1795 when a teenage boy named Daniel McGinniss witnessed ethereal lights winding their way amongst the trees on a little island across the water from his family’s home in Nova Scotia, Canada. His interest aroused, he rowed out to the island the next day to try to figure out the source of the lights. He may not have not found that, but what he did find was a circular depression in the ground, about a dozen feet across. And above the depression were indications that a pulley system had been used in the trees. Daniel was excited by his find for good reason….a hundred years earlier in that very location, it was well known that pirates had used the scantily populated shores of eastern Canada to hide their illicit treasures. Continue reading

Wasted Lives and Wasted Dreams–The Truth of “Forever 27”

Talk about a club where people are dying to get in….(yeah, that WAS pretty lame).

The 27 club or “Forever 27 curse” is a rather morbid curiosity in rock and roll folklore.  While it technically was many years in the making, it is actually more a product of the entertainment TV/Internet age.  According to rock and roll biographer Charles Cross in an article published at Seattle PI  (February 22, 2007), a comment made by Kurt Cobain’s mother shortly after his death sparked much of the concept.  In her grief, she spoke of telling him not to “join that f***king club” which in turn sparked several websites, stories, and further fascination to this fabled group.  The only requirement to join was to be a somewhat influential musician and dead at 27.

It makes for a fascinating story.  The lives of popular musicians are often romanticized up to and including their deaths.  The members of this “club” are in and of themselves interesting albeit self-destructive characters in their fans idealized tragedies.  From that, it is not hard to see how an apparent bump in rock star deaths at 27 would lead to speculations of a curse.  After all, what more fitting way to glamorize self-defeating behavior–give it a pre-destined ending.

The club is often referenced as though it is common factual rock and roll knowledge.  However, the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal (December 20, 2011) by statistician Adrian Barnett illustrate popular music artists may have a propensity for a shorter life span, but it isn’t exclusive to age 27.

The study, conducted by Barnett and several colleagues from Queensland University of Technology, collected data for U.K. popular musicians that died between the years 1956-2007.  A slight spike for age 27 was noted as well as comparable spikes for ages 25 and 32.  What was observed from the data collected; popular musicians were 2-3 times more likely to die in their late twenties to early thirties.  Those spikes correlated with self-destructive behavior and reckless lifestyles, not a “curse” or a club.  “Death by misadventure” appears often.

The air of mystery that surrounds the passing of several “Forever 27” musicians compounds the plot of this tale.  Certainly there were prominent ones whose deaths are short on definitive answers and long on speculation.  The Doors front man, Jim Morrison’s death certificate is extremely vague, his manner of death still a question for many.  Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones seemingly drowned in his swimming pool, but so many questions remained due to persistence of certain witnesses that the Sussex police did consider reopening the case in 2009. Members of Jimi Hendrix’s band, especially Noel Redding, had questions about Jimi’s official cause of death (overdose).  Conspiracy theories still run rampant with Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

Sadly, the only real connection lies with what people want to see.  Morrison’s and Jones’s deaths are mysterious because the witnesses were in altered states of mind.  Hendrix was a known heroin addict and addicts run the risk of pushing it too far no matter how experienced they may be.  Kobain surrounded himself with people who enabled his habits and were not equipped to help him with his pain.  In absence of real evidence to the contrary, the mysteries are in what people want to create.

There can be no doubt that the death of anyone with their whole life ahead of them is a tragedy, especially when there is so much promise.  We as a culture love our celebrities, and many people identify with their favorite stars as though there is a personal connection.  This, along with our brain’s tendency to see patterns (and a wider definition of an ‘influential’ musician) has gotten quite a list together of artists that will remain ‘forever 27’.

The deaths of people in the prime of their lives should not be fodder for an imagined curse or some  pre-destined club.  We should instead remember the magic they brought us with their talent.

For list of those who have been placed in the “27 Club”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club#People_identified_as_being_in_the_27_Club

For further reading:

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/6250/the_forever_27_club.html  (Fortean Times article)

http://www.history.com/news/curse-of-27-or-is-it-only-rock-n-roll (History.com article)

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/P-I-s-Writer-in-Residence-Charles-R-Cross-1229072.php  (Charles Cross article)

http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d7799  (link to Barnett study)

*Cascading Curses* James Dean: Destined to Die Young

When one unfortunate event begins a series of tragic coincidences it has the tendency to evolve into a curse. The more coincidences that are involved, the more likely people are to believe otherworldly factors have come into play– the circumstances are just too unwieldy to be anything but the result of a curse!

A series of tragic events that link back to the death of a young up-and-coming actor have managed to achieve a level of curse that only a series of coincidence of this magnitude can afford.

James Byron Dean lived life in the fast lane, so it comes as no surprise that this “Rebel Without a Cause” spent his last moments of life behind the wheel of a car.
Continue reading

Winter Ghost Stories

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On a long car ride, I had the radio blaring Christmas songs. It’s the one time of year where you can really justify listening to Christmas music and not get funny looks. (Though, I admittedly enjoy Christmas songs in July and August when it’s over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit outside because it makes me think cool thoughts.) As the radio blared, I sang loudly. My cheeks were rosy with the effort of singing, and I was having a jolly old time even if I may have been off-key at times because I knew– despite the rare glimpse of other drivers– they couldn’t hear me, and therefore could not hear me make up words to songs I didn’t know!

On the radio came “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, a 1963 song celebrating Christmas which was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle. It was performed by pop singer Andy Williams that same year. As I stopped singing to listen to the song’s lyrics, one of the lines from the song really struck me:

There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

The line made me stop and think about why we might not carry out this tradition– sung about a mere half-century ago. What caused it to fall out of favor?
Continue reading

La Llorna

la-llorona-31La Llorna is a Hispanic legend which came to popular television in an episode of the NBC drama Grimm in 2012. It’s one I’ve wanted to write about for some time, but only recently put fingers to keyboard to bring the story to life here on the blog. As with most legends, there are multiple versions. I have attempted to combine them all into one fluid story. The legend itself is most commonly known in Mexico, Puerto Rico, southwestern United States and parts of Central and South America.

She is said to appear as the ghost of a beautiful woman with long flowing black hair and wearing a white gown. She roams rivers and creeks, searching for children to drag to their watery grave.

Referred to as “Maria”, in life La Llorna was a beautiful young peasant girl who turned every male eye, young and old, rich and poor alike. While she spent most of her day at home, in the evenings she would dress up in her best dress and entertain the men in the local fandangos.

Because of her beauty, Maria believed herself better than everyone else around her and refused all advances from men in the villages. She finally found a worthy match in a young ranchero: he was handsome, he was a good horseman, he was wealthy and he could play the guitar and sing beautifully. The young ranchero wooed Maria and managed to win her hand in marriage.

The marriage began wonderfully, the pair producing two fine sons. Everything seemed idyllic. A happy family. But after a few years, the ranchero returned to the wild prairie, leaving his wife and children behind. He’d leave for months at a time, returning only to visit his sons and effectively ignoring his wife. He even spoke of leaving Maria to marry someone of his own class.

Some versions of the story state that she drowned her sons in a fit of jealousy; while others indicate they drowned from Maria’s neglect in supervising them. However it happened, Maria quickly realized the error of her ways and attempted to save them to no avail. Again, the versions of the tale diverge a bit here. One version says that she was found dead on the banks of the river the next morning by a traveler while another version states she ran through the village streets screaming and wailing inconsolably. Day after day she would roam the banks of the river, searching for her sons in the hopes that they would return. She refused to eat and soon wasted away.

Not long after Maria’s death, her spirit appeared walking along the river crying out for her sons. Many a dark night she can be seen wearing the same white robe she’d been buried in, searching for her sons. Today children are warned against going in search of La Llorna at night, lest she snatch them and drown them as she did her own.

Sources:

La Llorona – Weeping Woman of the Southwest

La Llorona – A Hispanic Legend

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Llorona