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Mysteries

Unexplained Mystery of Burke & Hare Murderdolls

Set in Scotland’s magnificent capital, Edinburgh, Murder dolls is a tale of serial killers, Bodysnatchers and grisly science. The story begins on a misty morning in 1836 with the discovery of 17 miniature wooden coffins. Inside each one, is an eerie, dressed doll. The discovery of the dolls has led to some interesting theories – everything from the work of a madman to tales of witchcraft. But some believe that Edinburgh’s miniature coffins may be connected to Scotland’s most notorious serial killers –Burke and Hare – two Irish laborers who murdered seventeen victims in the 1800’s. But how are the dolls connected to the 17 murder victims – and who made them?
Burke and Hare are notorious even today, but in the time of Ghosts of Albion their crimes are a matter of relatively recent memory. Their murder spree, known as the West Port murders, began in Edinburgh from late 1827 and continued for most of 1828. Their victims were drugged and suffocated to keep them intact; the bodies were sold to a Dr Robert Knox for dissection. In the end, a neighbour discovered the body of their last victim and alerted the police. However, the evidence of murder wasn’t actually that good, and Hare was offered immunity if he confessed and testified against Burke. Burke made his own confession – in which he claimed that Dr Knox knew nothing of the origin of the bodies they sold him – but was sentenced to death and hanged in January 1829.
Less well known is that Burke’s lover (Helen M’Dougal) and Hare’s wife (Margaret, née Laird) were also implicated, though they were released for lack of proof – both narrowly escaped death from an outraged public – M’Dougal is thought to have left the country, while Margaret Hare’s dropped off the map. William Hare also dropped off the map, though popular folklore invented a variety of painful ends for him. Despite Burke’s claim that Dr Knox was not involved, the scandal destroyed his reputation in Edinburgh, and he went to London, and died in 1862.

Hare_and_Burke

At first theories on the dolls significance ranged from witchcraft to child’s toys, but eventually it began to seem that the 17 tiny figures could be effigies for the 17 murder victims a decade earlier.
Between 1827-1828 William Burke and William Hare lured in and murdered their lodgers in a scheme to provide fresh bodies to the local anatomy school. Dr. Robert Knox, a brilliant and well known local anatomy lecturer purchased the bodies, and most likely knew that something was a bit suspicious about his supply chain.

The crimes were exposed when another lodger discovered the body of a previous tenant, and reported it to the police. Burke and Hare were apprehended along with Burke’s mistress, Helen McDougal, and Hare’s wife, Margaret Laird. Despite finding the body of this last lodger in Knox’s classroom, ready for dissection, the evidence was not truly damning until Hare turned on Burke, and gave a full confession. William Burke was hanged in Jan, 1829. His body was handed over for dissection, and his skeleton and a book bound from his skin remain in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.
The four inch long dolls were in the hands of a private collector until 1901, when eight of them were handed over to the the National Museum Scotland, where they can be visited today. Although it is generally agreed that the mysterious little dolls are associated with the crimes of Burke & Hare, no one is certain who among the killers created them. DNA studies conducted in 2005 using DNA extracted from Burke’s skeleton attempted to prove that they had been created to assuage the guilty conscience of William Burke, but the test proved inconclusive, so the truth of their creation may never be known.

The story of the Burke and Hare Murderdolls starts with a series of murders committed in Edinburgh, Scotland that occurred in the late 1820s. The mystery of the murder dolls begins around the same time and continues until this day. It is a strange mystery that may have some connection to the guilt or sadistic obsessions of one of the killers.
Not long after a series of murders took place in Edinburgh, Scotland, a boy found an interesting group of dolls in tiny coffins. They found the dolls in a cave on Arthur’s Seat at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. Initially, the dolls appeared odd, but did not seem to have any significance beyond their oddness and the location in which they were found. Over time, it became obvious that they were very similar in number and appearance to the victims of the recent killing spree.
William Burke and William Hare were two Irishmen who met in Scotland and became friends sometime in the 1820s. Hare ran a boarding house with his wife. There, in 1828, one of the tenants died of natural causes. Burke and Hare sold the body of the man to a doctor at Edinburgh University to be used as a medical school cadaver.

At the time, the medical schools had a shortage of bodies to use for dissection. They were only allowed to use executed criminals and criminals were being executed less frequently. Doctors were sometimes resorting to purchasing bodies from so-called body snatchers or, more accurately, grave robbers. It appears that one Dr. Knox of the University of Edinburgh was not averse to purchasing the bodies of murder victims, either, though it is not absolutely certain that he was aware of the fact when he started doing it.
Before 1832, there were insufficient cadavers legitimately available for the study and teaching of anatomy in Britain’s medical schools. As medical science began to flourish in the early nineteenth century, the demand for cadavers rose sharply, but at the same time the legal supply failed to keep pace. One of the main sources—the bodies of executed criminals—had begun to dry up owing to a reduction in the number of executions being carried out in the early nineteenth century. The situation of too few corpses available to doctors for demonstrating anatomical dissection to growing numbers of students attracted criminal elements willing to obtain specimens by any means. As at similar institutions, doctors teaching at the Edinburgh Medical School, which was universally renowned for medical sciences, relied increasingly on body-snatchers for a steady supply of “anatomical subjects”. The activities of these “resurrectionists” gave rise to particular public fear and revulsion, but, such were the financial inducements, the illegal trade continued to grow. It was a short step from grave-robbing to anatomy murder.
After selling the body of the deceased tenant, Burke and Hare realized that they could make a living off selling the bodies of the dead. They were making less than the equivalent of 1,500 USD in modern currency per body, but that was enough to compel them to kill 16 individuals. Many were killed by smothering, though one was given a medication overdose and a little boy had his back broken. Eventually, a tenant found a body underneath a bed at the boarding house and turned the pair into the police. The body was gone by the time the police got there. However, Hare made a deal and told all in exchange for his freedom. Burke was executed and dissected publicly and several of his body parts, included a death mask of his face, were saved. Hare walked. No one knows what happened to him.
The dolls discovered in the cave numbered 17. They also appeared to represent each of the bodies sold to Dr. Knox — who was not charged with any crime. The dolls are roughly 4 inches long each and have their own individual coffins. Dating puts them around the same time as the murders and many assume that one of the killers is responsible for carving the dolls. Modern DNA testing conducted on the body of Burke and on the dolls found no connection, but that is because there was nothing to find on the dolls after all this time.

Burke-Hare-Murder-Dolls

If indeed the dolls were made during the killings, only a handful of people could have done the carving. There was Dr. Knox, who likely knew the cadavers he was purchasing were murder victims. There were Burke and Hare, Hare’s mistress and Burke’s wife. Dr. Knox’s brother possibly knew as well, but there were almost certainly no more people who could have made the dolls. One of these people could have made the dolls out of guilt. Of course, one of the killers could have made the dolls as souvenirs and stashed them in the cave when the murders were discovered. Hare could have made them after Burke’s murder trial and stashed them as well. If they were made after the murders were discovered, it could have been anybody.
There are currently only 8 of the original 17 murder dolls left. They are kept at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The dissected remains of one of the men who killed the people the dolls reportedly represent — Burke — are kept at the University of Edinburgh.
Burke and Hare’s first murder victim was a sick tenant named Joseph, a miller by trade, whom they plied with whisky and then suffocated. When there were no other sickly tenants, they decided to lure a victim from the street. In February 1828, they invited pensioner Abigail Simpson to spend the night before her return home to the village of Gilmerton. The following morning they employed the same modus operandi, serving her with alcohol to intoxicate her, and then smothering her. This time they placed the body in a tea-chest and handed it over to a porter sent to meet them “at the back of the Castle”. They were paid £10. Mary Paterson
Two further undated murders took place that Spring. One victim was invited into the house by Mrs Hare and plied with drink until Hare’s arrival; the other was despatched in similar circumstances by Burke acting on his own. Next, Burke encountered two women, Mary Paterson and Janet Brown, in the section of Edinburgh known as the Canongate. He invited them to breakfast at his brother’s house in Gibb’s Close, but Brown left when an argument broke out between McDougal and Burke. When she returned, she was told that Paterson had left with Burke; in fact, she, too, had been taken to Dr. Knox’s rooms in a tea-chest. The two women were described as prostitutes in contemporary accounts. The story later arose that one of Knox’s students had recognized the dead Paterson, whose acquaintance he had made a few days earlier. Daft Jamie
One victim was an acquaintance of Burke, a woman called Effie who scavenged for a living and was in the habit of selling him scraps of leather she found which he could use for his cobbling. They were paid £10 for her body. Then Burke “saved” an inebriated woman from being held by a policeman and his assisting neighbour by claiming that he knew her and could take her back to her lodging. He delivered her body to the medical school just hours later. The next two victims were an old woman and her mute son or grandson, aged about 12. While the woman died from an overdose on painkillers, Hare took the young boy and stretched him over his knee, then proceeded to break his back. He later said that this was the murder that disturbed him the most, as he was haunted by his recollection of the boy’s expression. The customary tea-chest being found inadequate, both bodies were forced into a herring barrel and conveyed to Surgeons’ Square, where they fetched £8 each. According to Burke, the barrel was loaded onto a cart which Hare’s horse refused to pull uphill from the Cowgate, so that Hare had to call a porter to help him drag it the rest of the way on a sled. Once back in Tanner’s Close, Hare took his anger out on the horse by shooting it dead in the yard. Mrs Docherty
Two more victims were Burke’s acquaintance, Mrs. Hostler, and one of McDougal’s relatives, Ann Dougal, a cousin from Falkirk. Burke later claimed that about this time Mrs Hare suggested converting Helen McDougal into merchandise on the grounds that “they could not trust her, as she was a Scotch woman”; but he refused.
Another victim was Mary Haldane, a former lodger who, down on her luck, asked to sleep in Hare’s stable. Burke and Hare also murdered her daughter Peggy Haldane when she called a few days later to inquire after her mother’s whereabouts.
Burke and Hare’s next victim was a familiar figure in the streets of Edinburgh, a mentally retarded young man with a limp, named James Wilson. “Daft Jamie”, as he was known locally, was 18 at the time of his murder. The boy resisted, and the pair had to kill him together, though later each blamed the other for taking the main part in the crime. His mother began searching and asking for him. When Dr. Knox uncovered the body the next morning, several students recognized Jamie. Knox denied that it was the missing boy, and was reported to have dissected the body ahead of others to render the remains unrecognisable. While Hare was in the habit of disposing of victims’ clothing in the Union Canal, Burke passed Jamie’s clothes to his nephews, leaving behind material evidence which was recovered before the trial.
Burke stated later that he and Hare were “generally in a state of intoxication” when the murders were carried out, and that he “could not sleep at night without a bottle of whisky by his bedside, and a twopenny candle to burn all night beside him; when he awoke he would take a draught of the bottle—sometimes half a bottle at a draught—and that would make him sleep”.
The last victim was Mrs Mary Docherty. Burke lured her into the lodging house by claiming that his mother was also a Docherty, but he had to wait to complete his murderous task because of the presence of lodgers James and Ann Gray. The Grays left for the night and neighbours later reported having heard the sounds of a struggle and even a woman’s voice crying “murder!”

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Mysteries

The Unexplained Phenomenon of Mekong Lights

The Phenomenon of Mekong Lights or widely known as the Naga Fireballs is an Asian mystery, which baffled and stunned many people around the world. These lights occur along an approximate 100km stretch of Mekong River adjoining Thailand and Laos. This strange event happens yearly in late October to early November under a full moon sky. The lights are usually glowing red-orange balls rising out of the Mekong River. Hence, the name Mekong Lights originated from the Mekong river name.

Different Explanation behind the Mysterious Phenomenon of Mekong Lights

According to many locals, the Phenomenon of Mekong Lights or popularly known as Naga Fireballs are actually the fire breath of a giant sea serpent called Naga or Phaya Naga. This serpent lives in the riverbed and awakes every year during the late autumn night of the full moon at the end of the Buddhist Lent. The serpent is believed to be honoring the end of the Vassa or the three-month long period of Rain Retreat or Buddhist Lent.

Naga or sea serpent are described as shape-shifters, they can appear in human form or half human and half serpent creature. In Thailand, the Phaya Nagas are considered as guardians and they are believed to be benevolent powerful servants of Buddha.

Every year, on the 15th day of the 11th lunar Month, locals in Thailand rejoices Phayanak (king of Nagas) Festival, which coincides with the Wan Awk Pansa, the end of Vassa or Buddhist Lent. Since the fireballs are often seen during this period, many locals accept the belief on the serpent Naga.

Evidence of the origin of the fireballs, which is from a large sea serpent, is widely distributed along the Nong Khai Province of Thailand. A photograph showing about 30 American soldiers holding a large and long sea creature was believed to be one of the Nagas. According to some reports, the giant creature is the queen of the Nagas, which was held by American Army at Mekong River on June 27, 1973, in Laos Military Base. However, some reports claimed that the photo is taken from the coast of San Diego, California. According to some research, the sea-creature was not a Naga but a giant oarfish.

This photo is a comparison of an oarfish and the Phaya Naga (sea-serpent). Do you think they are the same creature?

More pieces of evidence are available in a Buddhist Temple in Nong Khai City. Some objects there are believed to be fossilized bones from a Naga, such as an egg and a tooth.

The Naga Fireballs are not just ghostly apparition seen once throughout the history of Thailand and Laos, but many saw the fireballs almost yearly. The Mekong lights were captured and used in movies and documentaries worldwide. Even scientists came to investigate how these fireballs happen.

One scientific explanation of the cause of the Naga Fireballs is the swamp gas theory. Based on this theory, an organic matter at the bottom of the river decomposes and gives off methane gas. This methane gas fizzes up to the surface of the water and it spontaneously ignites when it fuses with oxygen. This process under precise conditions produces a brief burst of flaming gaseous bubbles that form the Mekong Lights.

Earth & Moon from one million miles – NASA

According to a pediatrician, Dr. Manos Kanoksilp, the main advocate of this explanation explained that the precise conditions that allow methane gas to form fireballs are the exact alignment of the sun, moon, and earth.

Another scientific explanation that is almost similar to the Methane gas theory involves a different gas, which is the Phosphine. The Thai Science Ministry’s Deputy Secretary Saksit Tridech and a team of scientists used special apparatus to measure conditions around the Mekong River. They claimed that the fireballs were the result of built-up Phosphine gas. This gas in the presence of diphosphine is capable of spontaneous flammability under certain chemical conditions in the river sediments of Mekong.

These two theories seem plausible but are actually full of flaws. First, the methane gas burns in an oxygen-rich environment within a specific range. It can only ignite in a very narrow range and requires phosphine and phosphorous tetrahydride. These gases are not commonly present in nature. In an experiment to replicate the fireballs through methane gas, the ignited gas produced bluish green sudden burst with black smoke. This is contradictory to the reddish-orange Naga lights that burn slowly and rises up into the air as a fireball.

On the other hand, the Phosphine gas is heavier than air. It will never rise up midair very quickly like the Naga Fireballs. When phosphine ignites, it yields white and dense cloud, which is unlikely of Mekong Lights. In addition, according to some research, the bottom of the Mekong River does not have organic sediments but has a sandy bed with occasional rocks.

Furthermore, if the alignment of the sun, earth, and moon affects the Mekong Lights, why do the fireballs only happen in the Mekong River and is not observed in other lakes or water parts of the world?  If there are other gases involve in the Naga Fireballs, the tedious chemical process of different organic matter should be found in the Mekong River, but explorations did not show anything similar to organic sediments needed by flammable gases. With all these contradictions, the scientific explanations of the Naga Fireballs are not widely accepted.

Controversies?

In 2002, a Thai television network called iTV sent a group of journalists to observe the Mekong River and find out where the fireballs originate. The program “Code Cracking” feature their team who went to the Laotian side of the river during the Naga Festival. What they filmed were Laotian soldiers shooting tracer rounds into the air. Every time they did this, the crowd on the Thailand side were heard shouting, indicating that they’ve seen the Mekong lights. The program received a massive backlash because the locals felt offended about their sacred festival. They felt that the TV program was implying that the fireballs were all just a hoax. Due to this, further scientific explorations were made to figure out where the Mekong lights came from and until now, professionals provided no concrete evidence.

If what the iTV broadcasted were true, why would the Laotian side do this for the Thai festival? Another baffling contradiction is that after this incident with the Laotian soldier, no reports were made that they were actually seen firing again during the Naga festival. Moreover, the fireballs are often seen in very secluded places where organizers of the festivals won’t have any chances to impress visitors. In addition, numerous people closely watch the river yearly, days before the festival and no one was caught in the act doing fake Mekong lights.

Conclusion

For now, we don’t know what causes the Naga Fireballs. This unexplained phenomenon of the Mekong lights will remain a mystery to many but will continue to impress visitors from all over theof the world with a spectacular light show every year.

Interesting links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naga_fireball

https://www.hostelbookers.com/blog/destinations/southeast-asia/naga-fireballs-in-thailand/

http://www.cubebreaker.com/naga-fireballs-what-exactly-are-those-lights-rising-from-the-river/

http://www.messagetoeagle.com/mystery-of-the-naga-fireballs-at-mekong-river/

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Mysteries

The Curious Case of Orion Williamson

July 1854 Selma, Alabama. It was a hot sunny afternoon when Orion Williamson, his wife and son relaxed on the porch of their farmhouse. The family watched horses graze under the sunshine in the distance.

It was then Orion stood up and ventured towards the grassy field to tell his farm worker to move the horses into a shaded area.  Williamson picked up what is described as a stick lying nearby and began to play with it and he walked forward.

Armour Wren and his son James were the neighbors of the Williamson family. They were passing by in a buggy when they too saw Williamson walk into the field. The Wren’s stopped to wave hello, and as Williamson waved back to his neighbors, he suddenly disappeared, vanishing without a trace in thin air!

Wren rushed to the spot where Orion Williamson last stood, soon joined by Mrs. Williamson and her child. They scoured the area hoping to find the lost farmer. But it was simply grass and land as if Williamson had never been there. What just occurred was impossible to explain. How could a grown man completely vanish in front of his family and neighbors?

With the sudden realization and shock from what happened to her husband, Mrs. Williamson fainted and was taken to the local hospital.

When word of the mysterious occurrence spread throughout town, three hundred people gathered and went to the field to look for Williamson. The crowd carefully searched the entire area. Bloodhounds tracked every turn. Hours passed, and darkness came, torches lit, and still no sign of the poor farmer.

The next day, more citizens from communities outside of Selma came to participate in the search. Volunteers went as far as digging into ground where Williamson disappeared only to find bedrock. Eventually, the search parties gave up. Orion Williamson was never found, dead or alive.

The next spring, investigators returned to the site and oddly saw a barren and dry patch of grass nearby where Orion last stood. When Mrs. Williamson learned of this, she related to them that she and her son kept hearing her husband’s voice calling out for help for weeks after he disappeared. But every time they ran to that spot, they could not find him. She said she kept hearing his voice until it slowed down and gradually faded away.

Whatever happened to Orion Williamson?

Some investigators developed theories to explain the mystery. One hypothesized that an unstable “universal ether” was responsible that could disintegrated matter. Another claim proposed a magnetic field transported the missing man to another dimension.

Juanita Rose Violini included the incident in her book, Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible, and the Ignored. Violini narrated two other similar events in 1880 and 1885. The 1880 disappearence occurred in Tennessee, the farmer who vanished was David Lang. Like Williamson, Lang sat on the front porch with his wife and children, walked to a field, and was never seen again. In this case, David Lang’s daughter, Sarah, wrote about the incident in great detail.

Isaac Martin’s disappearance in 1885 tells the tale of a man vanishing in a farm field in Virginia. The New York Sun posted an article about the oddity. But it was not known if there were any eyewitnesses.

In the book, Disappearance and the Theory Thereof, the author, Dr. Maximilian Hern purports the missing men entered a “void spot of universal ether”. Unfortunately, not much useful information is provided to further explain this.

Another popular publication, Among the Missing: An Anecdotal of Missing Persons from 1800 to the Present, by Jay Robert Nash, cities again the conclusions of Hern and another person, Ambrose Bierce, who investigated the Williamson case.

The universal ether, was theorized and proposed by Aristotle during ancient Greek times. In those days it was believed energy traveled through a mysterious substance that exists everywhere. This substance was known as an ether. It was used to explain the principals of natural phenomena such as light and gravity. Sound and light are forms of waves that could travel by ether. In the case of Orion, this ether must have been the medium through which his wife and child heard his voice in the absence of a physical form as presented by Hern and the others. But the theory of the universal ether has weakened through modern time as science gradually developed and understood matter and energy better than before.

The concept of a magnetic field sucking Orion into another dimension is interesting but is certainly something that can’t be expained by modern science. Perhaps String theory which talks of multi-universes might provide insight to how strange cases of physical disappearance may occur. Can a rift in the delicate balance of space and time fabric be responsible?

Ironically, Ambrose Pierce, who wrote a satire to the event, also mysteriously disappeared more than 50 years later under different circumstances.

But the question remains: Whatever happened to Orion Williamson?

Interesting links:

http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/04/alabamas_strangest_unsolved_my.html

http://www.qsl.net/w5www/disappearances.html

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Mysteries

Evidence Of An Alien Or Lost Civilization In Antarctica?

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