Lorraine Warren

Yesterday marked the passing of one of the most well-known paranormal icons, Lorraine Warren. She was 92. Her husband Ed Warren, also her partner in investigations, passed in 2006.

Although the Warrens began the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952, they shot to fame with their investigation of the infamous home in Amityville, New York. Their other two major investigations in the years just prior to the Amityville case were of the Ragedy Ann doll Annabelle, haunting two roommates in 1968 and the Perron family whose Rhode Island home was haunted by a witch.

The Warrens were a part of other famous paranormal investigations, including the Enfield Poltergeist in North London as well as many cases of alleged demonic possession.

In the last decade, many movies have been made based on the lives of Ed and Lorraine and their more famous investigations. They wrote many books in the course of their lifetimes, in addition to the investigations, and ran an Occult Museum.


Liverpool Cotton Merchant was Jack?


I feel like we’ve talked so much about the man over the decades that we can call him by his first name and everyone knows who you mean. For those who aren’t quick to catch on, though, I’m speaking of Jack the Ripper.

Although he’s not a paranormal figure (never been any hauntings associated with him anywhere in England), he’s been most recently linked to an American serial killer so I decided to write up the latest about who Jack really was. Frankly, this new evidence is far more plausible than thinking that an American killing in the States would suddenly decide to hop across the pond and decide to kill just a few prostitutes before returning home.

There have been many theories as to who Jack the Ripper really was, so I’m going to list all previous suspects for those who don’t know.

First the men whom the Metropolitan Police strongly suspected to be Jack:

  1. Montague John Druitt – he was suspected simply due to the timing of his suicide after being dismissed from a teaching position. His body was found immediately following the death of Mary Jane Kelly.
  2. Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski – he was suspected to be Jack because he lived under two separate aliases in Whitechapel where the murders took place. He also poisoned his three wives and hung for it later.
  3. Aaron Kosminski – a Polish Jew who was suspected simply because he lived in Whitechapel at the time of the murders and was living in an asylum.
  4. Michael Ostrog – a Russian-born con man and thief who claimed to be a surgeon as well. It was later discovered he was in prison in France during the time of the “canonical five” Ripper murders.
  5. John Pizer – another Polish Jew who was suspected because he lived in Whitechapel and had one prior conviction for a stabbing offense.
  6. James Thomas Sadler – he was a suspect for at least the final murder associated with Jack the Ripper simply because he knew the victim, Frances Coles.
  7. Francis Tumblety – he was a suspect due to his collection of “matrices” (wombs) purportedly from every class of woman at the time. He was also a wanted man in the United States.

Next we have the suspects that the press and other “armchair detectives” believed to be Jack. Most were never taken seriously.

  1. William Henry Bury – he moved to the East End from Dundee, Scotland where he soon strangled his wife, a former prostitute. He inflicted extensive wounds to her abdomen and packed her into a trunk. He was later convicted for her murder.
  2. Dr. Thomas Neill Cream – a doctor who specialized in abortions who was convicted in Illinois of poisoning his mistress’ husband. He moved to London after several years in prison and resumed killing. He was still imprisoned at the time of the Ripper murders.
  3. Thomas Hayne Cutbush – a medical student suffering from delusions thought to be caused by syphilis. He stabbed one woman in the backside and attempted to stab a second, then was pronounced insane and sent to Broadmoor Hospital.
  4. Frederick Bailey Deeming – he murdered his first wife and four children, then emigrated to Australia where he murdered his second wife. He boasted at the time that he was Jack the Ripper.
  5. Carl Ferdinand Feigenbaum – a merchant seaman arrested in New York City for cutting the throat of Mrs Juliana Hoffman. His lawyer stated that he had a hatred of women and a strong desire to kill and mutilate them.
  6. Robert Donston Stephenson – a journalist interested in the occult and black magic believed black magic to be responsible for the murders. It turned on him.

Finally, the more contemporary authors who have studied the murders and believe they have found the real murderer:

  1. Joseph Barnett – Mary Kelly’s former lover who was examined by the police after her murder and not found guilty. Author Bruce Paley believed that Barnett was guilty of Kelly’s murder and that he committed the other murders to scare her off the streets and away from prostitution.
  2. Lewis Carroll – suspected merely due to anagrams concocted by Richard Wallace for his book Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend.
  3. David Cohen – a Polish Jew who had violent, anti-social behaviours and whose incarceration ended at roughly the same time the murders began. Both Ripperologist Martin Fido and former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas pointed to Cohen as Ripper due to his violent tendencies and speculation on police confusion with Kosminski and suspecting David Cohen to be a “John Doe” equivalent.
  4. Sir William Withey Gull – became a suspect as part of the Masonic/royal conspiracy theory, but was never taken seriously as a suspect by historians.
  5. George Hutchinson – an unemployed laborer who followed Mary Jane Kelly and an unidentified man to a room and watched for 45 minutes. He gave a detailed description to the police. He was later suspected by various authors as Jack who was trying to confuse the police by giving testimony.
  6. James Kelly – identified as a suspect by two authors: Terence Sharkey and Jim Tully, Kelly murdered his wife by stabbing her in the neck. He was committed to Broadmoor Asylum, but escaped using a key of his own devising. He disappeared without a trace, only to turn up 40 years later and turn himself back in at the Asylum. Retired NYPD cold-case detective Ed Norris not only believed Kelly to be the Ripper, he believed Kelly was also responsible for other murders in the United States. One of Norris’ reasons for suspecting Kelly is that Kelly left behind a journal in which he strongly disapproved of prostitution.
  7. Charles Allen Lechmere – he was a witness who came upon the body of Polly Nichols and later became a suspect in the mind of three individuals: Swedish journalist Christer Holmgren, criminologist Gareth Norris and former detective Andy Griffiths. These three men believed Lechmere lied to the police about how long he was with Nichols’ body and that Lechmere’s daily routine took him near the places of all the other murders.
  8. Jacob Levy – a butcher who had contracted syphilis from a prostitute. He lived in the area at the time of the murders.
  9. James Maybrick – a Liverpool cotton merchant who was poisoned with arsenic by his wife. He became a suspect in the eyes of author Shirley Harrison who believed he was also the Servant Girl Annihilator of Austin, TX. A diary associated with Maybrick is said to have contained a confession that he was Jack the Ripper. It was later said to be faked by the man who found the diary, but the story changed over the years.
  10. Alexander Pedachenko – William Le Queux named Pedachenko as a suspect after reading a manuscript allegedly written by Rasputin stating that Jack the Ripper was an agent of the State Police of Imperial Russia sent to England to discredit Scotland Yard.
  11. Walter Richard Sickert – despite proof that Sickert was in France at the time of the murders, Sickert is one of the more well known suspects. Three authors have linked Sickert to the case: Donald McCormick, Joseph Gorman and Patricia Cornwell. He’s believed to be part of a Masonic/royal conspiracy that led to the murders.
  12. Joseph Silver – suspected by South African historian Charles van Onselen purely on speculation. No proof was ever offered of Mr. Silver ever being in London at the time of the murders.
  13. James Kenneth Stephen – put forth as a suspect by Michael Harrison while he was writing a biography of another Ripper suspect, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Stephen was the prince’s tutor and was suspected by Harrison due to his handwriting being similar to that of the Ripper in the “From Hell” letter. Harrison also speculated that Stephen had sexual feelings toward Prince Albert and because his feelings weren’t reciprocated, Stephen was willing to take his anger out on women.
  14. Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale – nothing more than a victim of a rumor that got passed around over and over by various men. The rumor came to the fore when Dr Thomas E. A. Stowell claimed he thought the prince committed the murders after being driven mad by syphilis.
  15. Sir John Williams – accused of being the Ripper by two of his own descendants who claimed he murdered the women as part of research into infertility.

So there we have it. Twenty-eight suspects in all. I think the two who were suspects without proof – i.e. they weren’t even in London at the time of the murders – should be dismissed as any sort of suspect. The rest have varying degrees of credibility, but there’s one who now stands out from the rest: James Maybrick.

I found a brief blurb about this suspect in the October issue of BBC History magazine which prompted this blog entry. Briefly, because this blog entry is already insanely long, the diary of Mr James Maybrick of Liverpool was discovered and shared with the world. At first the diary was suspected as a fake because one of the men involved in its discovery passed away before he could offer insight. Now, however, potentially new and compelling evidence has been discovered by writer/director Bruce Robinson. The evidence? The diary was found in Maybrick’s Liverpool home. It was apparently discovered during renovations of the home, called Battlecrease House, in 1993.

Another interesting thing that I discovered after skimming through one of the current articles about this evidence is that Mr Maybrick was addicted to arsenic. Now in today’s world, arsenic is used as a means of poisoning someone to death, but according to this source, arsenic was apparently used in the 18th century as a means of increasing a man’s sexual potency. Think of it as an early form of Viagra. If it was used as such in the 18th century, it follows that it was still probably used as such in the 19th. It would’ve likely driven him mad, but I dare say there would’ve been an element of anger and frustration if he couldn’t “get it up” and that anger and frustration is typically taken out on the woman. So that could be part of the reasoning why he did what he did.

Does this mean there will be no more questions about the identity of Jack the Ripper? Probably not. No one who has written about Jack the Ripper wants someone else to be the one who answers the question once and for all. I think it’s a mystery all of us love to speculate on.

Two stories from August and September of this year about Mr Maybrick being Jack the Ripper:

Has the true identity of Jack the Ripper been revealed? Victorian diary proven genuine contains huge clue

Evidence growing that Liverpool cotton merchant and arsenic addict James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper

Fire at Famous Myrtles Plantation

It’s notable for being Louisiana’s most haunted house and most recently it’s become notable for one building that is no longer there.


The Myrtles Plantation to the right and the concrete foundation of the restaurant to the left.

Easter weekend of this year, my friend and I took a weekend trip just to get away from the stress of life. Our travel timing was such that we arrived in St Francesville, Louisiana around lunch time and since she doesn’t like eating at chain restaurants when we travel I suggested that we stop at the Myrtles Plantation because I recalled they have a restaurant on the premises. When we arrived, however, the place that the restaurant was located was just a flat slab of concrete. There were other new buildings I didn’t recall seeing before so I figured that the restaurant had been moved to one of the new buildings. Not so! My friend went to the gift shop and enquired about the missing building and was told that it was the responsibility of those Damn Yankees and would take about a year and a half to return.

We chuckled at the response, but never thought anything of it. In the end, we enjoyed a filling lunch at a new restaurant and smokehouse called The Frances.

Fast forward to last Friday, April 28th, and I’m with my cousins when I mention the trip and mention the restaurant at the plantation being missing. My cousin informed me that there had been a fire in the restaurant that completely destroyed it. The Carriage House Restaurant was taken down to the foundation and will be rebuilt. Although my cousin didn’t give me a specific date for the fire, a quick search revealed that it happened at the beginning of March of this year.

Fire leaves Carriage House restaurant at Myrtles Plantation partly burned and charred

Britain’s First Female Serial Killer

Though on the whole, serial killers tend to be male, there have been a fair number of female mass murderers. There’s currently a two-part docu-drama on ITV in the UK about Britain’s first female serial killer: Mary Ann Cotton.

mary-ann-cottonCotton was born on Halloween 1832 in the small village of Low Moorsley in County Durham England. Her parents were Michael and Margaret Robson. When Mary Ann was 11, her father died in a mining accident, plummeting 150 feet down a mine shaft. Three years later, her mother remarried. George Stott wasn’t a man Mary Ann got along with. This familial conflict caused Mary Ann to flee the family home at age 16.

By 20 she was working as a nurse and married for the first time. She gave birth to five children, four of who died in infancy of gastric fever. The couple moved to the northeast of England where they had and lost three more children. It is said that later, Mary Ann would struggle to recall just how many children she had at this point in her life. In January 1865, Mary Ann’s husband, William Mowbray, died suddenly, of an intestinal disorder similar to that of his children. His life insurance paid out £35 which was the equivalent of half a year’s wages.

With her one remaining child and the insurance payout, Mary Ann moved to Seaham Harbour, County Durham. There, she became employed at the Sunderland Infirmary, House of Recovery for the Cure of Contagious Fever, Dispensary and Humane Society. She sent her daughter Isabella. While working at the infirmary, Mary Ann became friendly with George Ward, a patient there and was married for a second time a mere 10 months after the death of William. Thirteen months after their nuptials, George was also dead, also of intestinal problems. Once again, Mary Ann collected the life insurance money George had.

In 1866, Mary Ann was hired as a housekeeper by widower James Robinson. Shortly after beginning work, Robinson’s infant son John, from his deceased wife Hannah, died of gastric fever. A second of his four children would also die, leaving him with two. Never suspecting his housekeeper, James turned to Mary Ann for comfort and soon the pair were a couple.

A short while later, Mary Ann’s mother became ill, so Mary Ann, being the loving daughter she was, returned to home to care for her. Nine days after her daughter’s arrival, Margaret Robinson was dead. This, despite word from her doctor that she was on the mend. It should not surprise you, by now, to learn that Margaret also succumbed to an “undetermined stomach ailment”.  Do you see a pattern yet?

When Mary Ann returned to her beloved James, she brought her daughter Isabella with her. Within a short span of time, not only was Isabella dead, but James’ other two children by Hannah, Elizabeth and James. All three children were buried in April of 1857. Still, James married Mary Ann on August 11, 1857. Their first child, Margaret Isabella was born in November of that year, but died by the following March. Mary Ann became pregnant again, this time giving birth to a son, George, in June 1869. By now, James was growing suspicious of his new wife, especially when she consistently pestered him to take out a life insurance policy on himself. But the straw(s) that broke that old camel’s back were two-fold. First, Mary Ann had run up debts of £60 behind James’ back, not to mention stealing a further £50 that should have been deposited into the bank. Second, he learned that she’d been forcing her step-children to pawn items from the household prior to their deaths. He kicked Mary Ann out and retained custody of George. They would be the only two survivors of Mary Ann. She was kicked out of the house.

You’d think by now that someone would’ve noticed something and brought all these deaths to the attention of the authorities. Perhaps James Robinson, since he’d lost so much under Mary Ann’s attentions, but he said nothing. And so, the murders continued…

Mary Ann met her fourth and final husband, Frederick Cotton, after being introduced to him by Mr Cotton’s sister, Margaret. Mr Cotton was a recent widower, living in Northumberland. Mr Cotton had lost not only his wife, but also two of his children, with Margaret serving as a surrogate to the two remaining children, Frederick Jr and Charles. Frederick was in need of a housekeeper and Mary Ann was able to fulfill that role. Surprise surprise, Margaret died soon after Mary Ann was hired, in March 1870 of, you guessed it, an undetermined stomach ailment.  Margaret was a wealthy woman and all of her money went to her brother Frederick. And Frederick turned to Mary Ann for comfort. Mary Ann was soon pregnant and Frederick married her, despite the fact that she was technically still married to James Robinson. He’d merely kicked her out, remember? A few weeks after this illegal marriage, Mary Ann took out life insurance policies on her two stepsons.

After Mary Ann gave birth to Robert Robson, the family of five moved to West Auckland. Incidentally, they happened to find a house on the same street as a former flame, who was now unmarried. It is here that our murderess became reckless, no longer willing to wait years or even a few months before snuffing out the family. Frederick Sr. quickly and quietly died and just as quickly and quietly, one Joseph Nattrass moved into the home as a “lodger.”

Vintage arsenic poison bottle on antique shelfNo sooner had Nattrass moved in, though, than our Black Widow had her sights set on someone new. Mary Ann became nurse to an excise officer recovering from small pox by the name of John Quick-Manning (or perhaps Richard Quick-Mann as there’s no record of a John Quick-Manning existing). With a new man in her sights, Mary Ann quickly dispatched those in her way: Frederick Cotton, Jr. died of gastric fever; infant Robert Robson died from teething and convulsions; while Joseph Nattrass died of typhoid fever. Incidentally, typhoid fever closely mirrors that of poisoning by arsenic which was Mary Ann’s method.

Free and clear yet again, she became pregnant for the 12th time by Quick-Manning. But there was still one dependent left: her stepson Charles Edward Cotton. She perhaps resented his living status most of all because he wasn’t even her child, of her own flesh and blood. And he had to go. Yet it was this small boy who would prove to be her ultimate downfall.

In the midst of trying to get rid of him a semi-legitimate way – sending him to a workhouse – she inadvertently revealed her ultimate intentions to a local man by the name of Thomas Riley. When little Charles did, in fact die, Riley went to the authorities and reported Mary Ann. There was an inquest and associated post-mortem, but it was ruled a natural death, sending Mary Ann on her merry way. However, popular gossip soon pressured the doctors to reexamine the child’s body and it was soon discovered that arsenic was in his stomach.

Mary Ann was quickly arrested and put on trial for the murder of Charles Edward Cotton. While his death was initially the only one she was accused of, soon things blossomed into a trial for multiple murders. The trial began on March 5, 1873 and by March 20th she’d been convicted. Four days later, she was hanged for all the murders she’d committed. She died not from her neck breaking, as is common, but by strangulation, the rope being rigged too short. Apparently the executioner chosen for the job was known to botch several executions and preferred using a short rigged rope. It was meant to bring a quicker end, but sometimes that didn’t work and so he was obliged to push down on the criminal’s shoulders to end the suffering.

So, how could a woman such as Mary Ann continually murder those she allegedly loved? Surely she wasn’t born with murder in mind. Her biographer, Tony Whitehead, writing in 2000, had this to say:

…she may have “snapped” in 1864, when William was out to sea and she was stuck with the children. Somewhere around this time, she discovered what arsenic could do to the human body. She also figured out how easy it was to mix it into a cup of hot tea.

Other thoughts…

Was Mary Ann a sociopath, hooked on the power of killing the innocent? Was she a capitalist, climbing the social ladder of husbands in a desperate attempt to gain some autonomy? She was clearly striving for something, but it’s unclear what she wanted most. Money? Freedom? Other people’s pain? She never stopped moving and plotting, but despite all her frantic action, she only ever spun in circles. She must have seen marriage and motherhood as a form of imprisonment, but every time she broke free, she immediately locked herself up again. She killed one husband only to marry the next; she poisoned one child and soon became pregnant with another. Mary Ann Cotton wanted a different life for herself, but she could never break free from her hall of mirrors, reliving her history time after time.


Mary Ann Cotton: England’s First Serial Killer
The Big Book of Female Killers: Mary Ann Cotton, the Arsenic Queen
Mary Ann Cotton


The Stiff Express

It’s funny when you watch a 3-part documentary on YouTube that discusses the history of the British railway system and they mention a special train line, then you read about it in an article. The line a non-stop journey from London. It began in a special station near Waterloo Station and made a single journey once a day. That final destination, both literally and figuratively was a cemetery. As I said, it was mentioned in the documentary, but the thing that stood out the most to me was that they had a different car for each denomination. Jews had a separate car from Christians because their burial rituals are different. Here is the article from the BBC about the Necropolis Train…

The Story