In 1897, testimony from a ghost helped to convict a murderer. Zona Heaster Shue’s death was presumed to be natural until her mother claimed that her ghost had visited her on four successive nights and described how she had been murdered by her husband, Edward. When Zona’s body was exhumed, her neck was found broken, and a jury convicted Edward of murder.
That may be the last U.S. case of “spectral evidence,” but it’s not the first. During the Salem witch trials, if a witness testified that “Goody Proctor bit, pinched, and almost choked me” in a vision or dream, this would be accepted as evidence even if Proctor was known to have been elsewhere at the time.
“Justice has nothing to do with what goes on in a courtroom,” wrote Clarence Darrow. “Justice is what comes out of a courtroom.”
A piece of sperm whale skin bearing scars from a giant squid’s suckers. Once thought to be legendary, the squid normally keep to the deep sea; almost everything we know about them has been learned from specimens found in whale stomachs.
On Jan. 9, 2003, Australian officials found the Taiwanese ship High Aim 6 adrift off the West Australian coast. It had plenty of fuel, and the crew’s personal belongings were still aboard (including seven toothbrushes), but it was mysteriously empty, drawing comparisons to the Mary Celeste of 1872.
Authorities spent two days inspecting the vessel and conducted an aerial search of 7,300 square nautical miles, but they found no trace of the crew, who had last contacted the owners on Dec. 13 from the Marshall Islands, halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.
That’s all. The unwanted ship was finally sunk to serve as a fish habitat, but no one knows what happened to the crew.
A “sea-monster” reported by the officers and crew of H.M.S. Osborne in calm waters off northern Sicily, June 2, 1877. These sketches were produced by Lt. Haynes, a witness, for the London Graphic.
A Lt. Osborne told the New York Independent that the row of fins pictured in the first sketch was 30 to 40 feet long. The second sketch, he said, shows the creature “end on,” depicting only the head, which was “bullet-shaped and quite six feet thick,” and flippers. Osborne estimated that the animal was 15 or 20 feet wide across the back, and “from the top of the head to the part of the back where it became immersed I should consider about fifty feet, and that seemed about a third of its whole length.”
“Thus it is certainly much longer than any fish hitherto known to the zooelogists,” concludes the Independent, “and is, at least, as remarkable a creature as most of the old wonder-makers ever alleged.”
In September 2002, astronomers noticed something odd: An object about 60 feet long was orbiting Earth. It must have arrived recently, but it didn’t resemble any recently launched spacecraft. It might have been an asteroid … but it appeared, spookily, to bear titanium dioxide paint. Was it an alien ship?
The object disappeared again in June 2003, so officially we’re still baffled. But the best guess is that it’s an old stage of Apollo 12 that somehow wandered away from Earth in 1971, circled the sun about 30 times, and came home to visit. If that’s true then it might come back again in 2032we can visit it on our rocket scooters.
French astronomer Camille Flammarion writes of a curious optical phenomenon in Wonders of Earth, Sea And Sky (1902):
Ulloa, being in company with six fellow-travellers upon the Pambamarca at daybreak one morning, observed that the summit of the mountain was entirely covered with thick clouds, and that the sun, when it rose, dissipated them, leaving only in their stead light vapors, which it was almost impossible to distinguish. Suddenly, in the opposite direction to where the sun was rising, “each of the travellers beheld, at about seventy feet from where he was standing, his own image reflected in the air as in a mirror. The image was in the centre of three rainbows of different colors, and surrounded at a certain distance by a fourth bow with only one color. … All these bows were perpendicular to the horizon; they moved in the direction of, and followed, the image of the person they enveloped as with a glory.”
“The most remarkable point was that, although the seven spectators were standing in a group, each person only saw the phenomenon in regard to his own person, and was disposed to disbelieve that it was repeated in respect to his companions,” Flammarion writes. “The same apparition was observed in the polar regions by Scoresby, and described by him. He states that the phenomenon appears whenever there is mist and at the same time shining sun.”
In 1864, the Inuit gave the skin and skull of an “enormous” yellow-furred bear to naturalist Robert MacFarlane. He packed them up and shipped them to the Smithsonian Institution, where they were placed in storage and forgotten.
Fifty-four years later, zoologist Clinton Hart Merriam unpacked the remains and realized they represented an entirely new species, and MacFarlane’s specimen was apparently the last of its kind. No one has ever seen a living “MacFarlane’s bear,” except for those Inuit — and now their story is lost.
Account of an encounter with a titanic shark, recorded by Australian naturalist David Stead in his 1963 book Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas:
In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the “outside” crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds — which lie in deep water — when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, “pots, mooring lines and all”. These crayfish pots, it should be mentioned, were about 3 feet 6 inches in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds. The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however, as an indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well. One of the crew said the shark was “three hundred feet long at least”! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood — about 115 feet! They affirmed that the water “boiled” over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales, which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was “at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson Bay.” Impossible, of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men, not given to “fish stories” nor even to talking about their catches. Further, they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish colour of the vast fish.
Stead draws no conclusions, but writes, “The local Fisheries Inspector of the time, Mr Paton, agreed with me that it must have been something really gigantic to put these experienced men into such a state of fear and panic.”
Born without arms, Frances O’Connor (1914-1982) was billed as a living Venus de Milo in popular sideshows, eating, drinking, and smoking a cigarette with her feet.
See also Carl Herman Unthan.
They laughed at William Beebe when the naturalist described a 6-foot glowing monster he’d encountered on a mile-deep dive in 1930. One colleague said he’d probably seen two fish swimming together.
Beebe got the last laugh four years later, when a fishing vessel pulled up one of these, a spiny, glowing creature that weighed more than 250 pounds. It’s known as “Beebe’s monster.”