Besides unexplained rocks falling from the sky, traveling to Chico, California netted two more interesting blog stories.
While on a tour of the cemetery, my guide shared the history of the type of tombstone shown in the photo. Though it appears to be made of stone like its neighbors, when I tapped on the side, it resounded of metal. Apparently, there was a marketing strategy to encourage the use of metal instead of stone, but it never went over. Most people just didn’t believe it would last, but 140 years later, there it was.
The fun of all this, however, is something entirely different.
See that plate with the names and dates on it? It was made to unbolt to add new names. Behind these plates are empty compartments, some of which became useful in the 1920s.
During prohibition, many hid their alcohol in this secret recess.
Wives must have been perplexed at their husbands' rising interest in visiting cemeteries during that time. To keep them from tagging along, or perhaps to explain their altered state, husbands could rightly say they encountered spirits
in the cemetery.
***For more photographs of the beautiful sculptures located in the Chico cemetery, click here.
Photo by Funky Plum
Well, maybe this photo is a bit of an exaggeration.
This interesting story was covered by the San Francisco Chronicle
, and on March 12, 1922, the New York Times
reported that smooth, warm rocks had been falling out of a cloudless sky over Chico, California since July 1921.
The first complaint was made on November 1921 to City Marshall, J.A. Peck, by J.W. Charge, who said someone was throwing stones at his warehouse every day. The stones fell with enough force to damage windows, wooden boards, and roof shingles. Investigators, Fire Chief C.E. Tovee and Traffic Officer J.J. Corbett, narrowly escaped personal injury when a large boulder struck a wall where they had been standing only moments earlier.
Police could not come up with an explanation for the long duration of the phenomenon or the limited geographic scope of the rock fall (only on or around the warehouse).
In addition to rocks falling from Chico's skies, on Sept 2, 1878, the New York Times
said the Chico Record
had reported that a great number of small fishes fell from a cloudless sky, covering a store and several acres.
Falling fish or frogs or reptiles seem easier to explain than rocks, as they can be picked up by waterspouts from pools of water. The curious thing here is how the waterspouts manage to only pick up one species at a time out of the body of water. A Moses-type plague? Heavenly provision for the hungry? Hmmm.
Speaking of hungry (ugh), there have been several documented accounts of flesh and blood falling from the sky. These have been examined, but with no reasonable explanation. Well, reasonable to most of us. Some assert that Aliens are dumping their refuse to lighten their load before exiting our atmosphere. Hmmm, again.
##Dig Deeper:Though I am focusing on Chico's mysteries, Troy Taylor recounts the fascinating history of falling objects here.
Be sure to watch the One Step Beyond video
where this story is featured along with another fun mystery.
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
There is a little-known (outside of Texas) legend about Jim Bowie's additional purpose for being at the Alamo at the time of the famous 1836 battle.
This tale assures us he was defending the fabulous gold and silver treasure he found at the Lost San Saba Mines. It was intended to finance Texas independence from Mexico.
Are there any facts to support this story? Possibly.
In 1753, an expedition seeking a site for an Apache mission led to the discovery of Los Almagres Mine (later called San Saba) in what is now Llano County. It was famed to be rich in silver and gold. The mission, however, was destroyed a year later, and constant Comanche and Apache attacks made further hunts for the treasure a deadly risk.
We know that around 1832, Bowie lead two separate expeditions into the hill country north of San Antonio. Did he find the mines? Rumors abounded that he led a pack train of seventeen burros laden with treasure. Some assumed that when all seemed lost at the Alamo, he ordered his men to hide the treasure.
Too much to believe? More recently, after a radar scan over the Alamo revealed something odd buried underground, the Archaeology Department at St. Mary’s University agreed to oversee an excavation project. Permits were granted for a dig 15 X 15 feet. Historically valuable artifacts were found, but no treasure.
So, was the treasure real? Two first-hand accounts add more weight.
In 1838, a story appeared in the New York Mirror
, about Ms. Webster, a white woman who escaped from the Apaches. She told of gold and silver mines and brilliant stones like diamonds (certainly quartz crystals).
Later in the century, using the original chart from his great-grandfather that mapped the mines, Franciso Yorba led a band of Mexicans to the mine. It was at Bowie's old fort, Loma Grande. They camped for ten days and dug a great hole under the wall of the fort.
One witness, Pedro Sanchez, asserted that a frenzy broke out after discovering a mound of gold and silver bars and coins.
Sanchez was shot, but escaped with a gold bar and several gold coins in his shirt. When the cowboys that treated him found the gold, it set off a new round of searches.
The hunt continues. One journalist reports he has heard these stories for more than three decades. On occasion, a secretive miner will show up with "bars of silver the size of the largest Hershey bars and five times as thick." Dig deeper:Panning for Texas Gold by Ira Kennedy Alamo treasure?San Saba Lost Silver Mine
For centuries, an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon has mystified humans. Great balls of fire descend from the skies to the earth, or bounce across horizons the world over.
Sometimes referred to as angels, ghosts, or UFO’s, science still struggles to explain what causes these brilliant objects.
Laboratory experiments can produce effects that are visually similar to what science calls “ball lightning,” but it is still unknown if they are creating the same phenomenon.
In 2002, the Missile Defense Agency financed Dr. Paul Koloc’s research, hoping to harness the power associated with the light into an EMP bullet that could take out enemy missile systems. As far as we know, he was unsuccessful.
Though the true nature remains unknown, public sightings and photographs document these usually harmless spheres.
They have been known, however, to explode, sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur.
View dramatic photographs capturing this phenomenon: Angels/ghosts?Night SightingsDramatic SightingUFO?
Mysterious Staircase in Loretto Chapel
This glorious spiral staircase seems to hang without support - a work of sheer genius, if not a certifiable mystery. It has no nails, no pegs and no central post.
Its maker? That is the fun part.
The chapel's original architect died before revealing how the nuns were to climb to the choir loft of the lovely new chapel in a dignified
manner. The ladies prayed fervently for nine days, after which a rough-looking man walked in and took the job.
Using only primitive tools, warm water, and wood foreign to the area, (that no one saw delivered), he asked to be left alone for three months. At the end of that time, the man disappeared completely, leaving the nuns to believe that Saint Joseph had materialized to help them.
Eager to solve the mystery, author Mary Jean Straw Cook, cited that a death notice in The New Mexican
newspaper in 1895 proved the builder to be a French immigrant. However, after studying her findings, the dead man was deemed by many to be too young.
The impossibility of the design spurred speculation from the beginning, and the wood, though thought to be spruce, has not been adequately tested to ascertain its origin.
So, we have a genius of a builder with no name, who never stuck around to get paid, a complex design from 1872 that today's architects still study, and the mysterious appearance of the wood. The nuns believed it to be a miracle. What do you think?
I like the miracle story. Read the arguments against the mystery Read the arguments against the arguments
This European community celebrates their love of flower growing with an annual parade comprised of flower floats. Where in the world is it?
Be the first to comment with the correct answer and win a $5 Starbucks card.
Stalin's "Road of Bones"
Note: I planned to write about travel to Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on earth, when I discovered the cruel history of the road one must take to reach the village. That horrific story is dramatized below, but feel free to move to my first idea of showing the beautiful slideshow of the determined people who eek out a living in Siberia.The Story:
I bend my fingers. At least I think it. They do not curl, or even feel. The truck hits another chunk of hard ice, throwing me and the rest of my comrades to the floor. An old man does not get up when the rest of us resettle ourselves.
“He is dead,” says a young doctor, after examining him. The physician earned his imprisonment for helping those who Stalin left to die. He turns to me. "Do you know where they are taking us?"
Poor man. Poor us. Should I tell him we will most likely die building this road linking the eighty or so gulags--the prisons for peasants and political dissenters like myself? That we have been rounded up to work the gold and platinum-rich mountains of Siberia for Stalin's economic plans?
I keep quiet. Already this frozen Kolyma Highway is called the Road of Bones
for the dead bodies bulldozed into the road's surface. I close my eyes and pray for my people.
The character riding in the truck represents those who became a statistic from the 1930's until 1946. One will die for every meter of the 1900 kilometer road. Hundreds of thousands of victims will be frozen to death, worked to death, or murdered. The prison camps closed in 1954, and in 1956 many of the prisoners received a general amnesty by Nikita Khruschev. Read the history here.
Today there is a brighter note, but no less frozen. This beautiful slide show
portrays the enduring power of the human spirit and exemplifies the lives of this determined people who make their home in Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on earth.
House in Henniker, New Hampshire, supposedly haunted by Mary
“The men are restless to spend their spoils, El Capitan. We should go ashore soon.”
The Spanish captain stood on deck, scanning the horizon. His first mate spoke truly. They had been at sea too long. Stilling his spyglass, he focused. And smiled. A ship lay in easy reach. They could come upon her before she made Boston harbor. He gave the order and his men swung into furious activity.
Bearing down on the passenger ship, the captain’s heart pounded. He could see the men scurrying around the ship, helpless. The women disappeared below deck. “Leave no one alive,” he ordered. He wanted no witnesses at his hanging, if he were ever caught for pirating.
Shouting, screaming, crying—all chaos broke loose when they boarded. Overrun, and facing certain death, the captives fell quiet. The captain raised his sword above the vanquished ship’s leader, but stopped his downward thrust when a baby’s loud wail broke the silence.
“Bring me the child,” he ordered the hostage captain, who returned from down below with a newborn baby girl. Distracted from his destructive intent, the captain ordered. “Who is the mother?”
The woman, still trembling from childbirth had climbed her way above board to save her child. “Don’t harm her, she’s mine,” she pleaded.
The captain’s hard eyes softened when the child quieted in his arms. “Si, she is. And I will not harm her--if you obey my orders.”
Fearful, the woman nodded. “What sir?”
“Name the child Mary
, after my mother who died this year, and I will let her, and everyone else live.”
The mother fell to her knees and reached for the child. “Yes, sir. As you say.”
Whispering to his first mate, the captain handed the child back to her mother. “There is one more thing.” The hostages waited, holding their breath. Soon, the first mate returned with a large parcel and handed it to the captain, who removed the wrapping and exposed a roll of glorious sea green silk brocade. “When she marries, she will wear a dress made from this fabric.” The mother nodded, vigorously this time.
Tense looks of disbelief stared at him from both crews. “Back to the ship,” he ordered his men. Once they pushed off, he watched a crowd surround the woman. Now he would have to deal with his own men, lest they think he had grown a soft heart. **
The baby was named Mary, wore the silk on her wedding day, and bore five children. Though this much of the story is true, the legend expanded, and now includes the pirate returning to wed the widow Mary, and Mary haunting their house. Read more about Ocean Born Mary. **
*Clues to the next story: The road to the coldest town on the planet is paved with the bones of a million men. Where in the world did this occur? Be the first to comment with the correct answer and win a $5 Starbucks gift card.
The Orford Castle. Photo by Keith Roper.
Violent waves pounded the feeble boat in the blustery sea off the English coast. Ol' Mick struggled to grab the fishing net with his gnarled hands and helped hoist the heavy catch onto the deck. “Look at this, mates,” he shouted.
"Mother of…” one of the others exclaimed, “it be a merman!”
Sure enough, when Ol' Mick opened the net and pushed away the fish, there be a man, naked as the day he come into the world, ‘cept for hair coverin’ his entire body, and wi’ a beard down to his chest.
The wild man fought the net. He scowled and squirmed whilst they tried to speak to him.
“He must be a foreigner,” Ol' Mick guessed.
“Maybe he’s a spy,” said the captain. “Tie ‘im up.”
Once on shore, Ol' Mick could see the wild man’s prospects were not good. Bartholomew de Gladville, the rough-handed castle custodian, demanded who he was, but only got savage grunts. He drug the man away and imprisoned him in the Orford castle jail.
“They got the wild man hangin’ upside down in the cell,” Ol' Mick’s son said as the old seaman trudged home from the port months later. Ol' Mick shook his head at the jailer’s “hospitality.”
Next week, Bartholomew de Gladville come down to the port. He ordered nets be strung across the mouth of the inlet, then threw the merman into the water to see what he would do. Ol' Mick watched the merman bob up and down with the waves, then dive under the water.
“He’s makin’ for the nets,” Mick pointed. The merman escaped under the nets into the open sea, then threw his body through the air like a marlin. As mysteriously as he had come to Orford, the merman disappeared and was never seen again. **
One might think this a purely fictional story, however the event was documented in the "Chronicon Anglicanum," a history of England written by the meticulous medieval chronicler, Ralph of Coggeshall.
Travel around Orford, England, and you are bound to run into references to the Merman of Orford, especially in the Orford Castle, where inside you will find a statue of this Man of the Sea,
covered in hair with his long shaggy beard. Read more about Orford, the castle, and the merman.
Win a $5 Starbucks gift card if you guess where the next mystery happened.
For clues, visit http://www.facebook.com/cherylcolwellauthor
“NO,” she screamed, as the car skidded and plowed into a snow bank.
She moved each limb. They all worked, but her car was another story. She turned the key, but only a sick groan sounded from under the crumpled hood. “Now what?” she said into the frozen night air.
The heater had not kept up with the cold.
The last radio update indicated it was 25 degrees below
zero in her hometown of Lengby, Minnesota.
She checked the empty road. “This isn’t good.” Getting home was impossible, but perhaps she could make it to her neighbor’s house.
Cracking open the door, the chill hit her cheeks like a million razors. She stepped out and pulled her wool scarf up. Wanting to cry, but afraid the tears would freeze her eyes, she heaved a shuddering sign and climbed up to the road.
It was so dark. She shut her eyes and opened them again. The minor contrast between the road and fields kept her on course, but how far to his house? Incredible pain bit at her laboring body. Looking ahead at nothing, panic swelled in her tightening chest. I won’t make it
. She wanted to run, but with each step, her legs seemed to solidify.
Her arms, wrapped around her body in a protective hold, were nearly frozen in place.
Every step brought sheer agony, but she kept pushing. At last, she could make out a farm light in the distance, but fear screamed it was too far. Even her heart seemed locked in the process of succumbing to the extreme temperature gripping her body.
Her neighbor’s mailbox. Moving only inches with each step, she shuffled down his driveway. Her mind strained against the numbing cold, and only the tiniest bit of recognition pierced through her frosted eyelids. Where’s the house
? Fear caught her throat. She squinted harder. A dark shape loomed close. The door should be here
. She groped for it, feeling like her arm cracked at the movement. The doorknob. But she could not reach it.
Vertigo tumbled through her confused mind and she crashed sideways. She could not move to get up. No
, her mind whispered, too numb to scream.
On the morning of December 20, 1980, Jean Hilliard was found just outside her neighbor’s door. Frozen solid.
Though this is not the actual experience that Jean encountered, the story is true. She was rushed to the hospital, where Dorothy Killian commented, “She was so cold, it was like reaching into a freezer, like picking out a frozen stick of wood. Her face was absolutely white. Just this ashen, death look. We did hook her up to the monitor, and we got this agonal rhythm—like one beat. It was just like one and nothing. Then two. We knew that we had something, but that's a death rhythm.”
The medical team worked with her, but a staff worker, Rosie Erickson, knew a miracle was needed. She says, “I called the pastor of our church and I stated simply that Jean Hilliard from the Lengby area was brought into the hospital in a frozen condition, very critical, and that she needed prayer.”
A prayer chain started at 9:00 a.m., reaching over 30 people who began to pray. By noon, the impossible happened: Jean awoke with full mental capacity, but her legs were black with frostbite. Yet, as her family watched, the black disappeared inch by inch, turning to white. After 49 days in the hospital, Jean left, completely recovered.
Jean credits the doctors and nurses, and also the friends and neighbors who prayed for her. “There are other people across the nation that same night that were found in the same condition I was in. And they died. I just think without all those people that I might not have survived.” Read more of this miraculous story.For clues to the next mystery, visit http://www.facebook.com/cherylcolwellauthor