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A Stop at Willoughby” is an episode from the first season of  the television series The Twilight Zone.  I watched that show with my parents as a kid, and I usually watched while hiding behind a pillow on our couch. Many episodes scared me. I remember “A Stop at Willoughby” and I’m sure I watched it a few more times in reruns.

In the episode, a businessman who is having a lousy time at work and at home, falls asleep on his train ride home. He wakes to find the train empty and stopped at a town called Willoughby – but it’s July 1888. It looks like a wonderfully peaceful place, but he is jerked awake and back into the present. He asks the conductor if he has ever heard of Willoughby, but the conductor says there is no such town on their route.

After another lousy work day, he falls asleep again on the train and finds himself in Willoughby again. This time, he gets off the train and is welcomed warmly by the people there.

The scene suddenly shifts back to the present and a train engineer is standing over the businessman’s body. The conductor tells him that the businessman shouted something about Willoughby and jumped off the train and was killed instantly.

The ending shocked me. His escape was suicide. To add a further shock to the ending, as his  body is loaded into a hearse, we see that the name of the funeral home is Willoughby & Son.

That episode was the first thing I thought of when I saw a story online about “haunted Willoughby, Ohio.” This town has a number of stories that would work as scripts for The Twilight Zone. For example, Willoughby Coal is supposed to have menacing apparitions that appear in its darkened windows. But the best known story is the one I came across online that centers on Willoughby Cemetery, where the Girl in Blue’s spirit supposedly stays unsatisfied near her grave.

Her story begins December 23, 1933. A young woman with auburn-hair and hazel-eyes gets off the Greyhound bus by herself in Willoughby. No one knew who she was or why she was there. She took a room at a local  boarding house, and the next morning she asked the owner about local church services and then went out into the town.

She was dressed entirely in blue. She walked through town, unknown, but saying hello to those she met and being welcomed by those she passed.

At the train station, according to witnesses, as a train rushed through the station she sprinted to the tracks and the train sent her body hurtling onto the gravel siding. Although she had no blood or visible wounds, she was dead of a fractured skull.

There was no identification in her purse, but she had a train ticket to Corry, Pennsylvania. “The Girl in Blue” became a local mystery. Had she committed suicide or was she trying to catch that train? Why had she made a stop in Willoughby?

People in town made donations for a headstone and flowers and this unknown person from somewhere else had 3,000 local residents attend her funeral service.

Her headstone reads “In Memory of the Girl in Blue, Killed by Train, December 24, 1933, Unknown but not Forgotten.”

For 60 years, she was a mystery. Then, the week before Christmas Eve in 1993, an article in the News Herald about the 60th anniversary of her death was seen by a real estate broker near Corry, Pennsylvania. He remembered the sale of a family farm and that one of the documents that finalized the sale of the farm was a signed affidavit filed by a son in 1985 that stated that his sister Josephine had died in Willoughby, Ohio on December 24, 1933.

The real estate brokers investigating had given The Girl in Blue a name. She was the daughter of Jacob and Catherine Klimczak, Polish immigrants who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1901. Her name was Josephine, but to her five sisters and three brothers, she was known as Sophie. In Willoughby, a second gravestone was added with both of her names.

Her gravesite is said to have strange orbs hovering nearby, and recordings of a disembodied female voice have been made at her grave; and the figure of a woman has been seen standing next to the headstone, dressed in blue.

Why did she make her own stop in Willoughby?  Did she commit suicide to escape her life? Is there some connection between The Girl in Blue and The Twilight Zone?

The Twilight Zone‘s creator, frequent writer and host narrated each episode and always told us that:

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”

 

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Portion of map including Roanoke Island, drawn by John White during his initial visit in 1585

There are lots of stories in history of people disappearing with a trace. There are even tales of groups of people, ships, and airplanes vanishing and never being found. I am fascinated by things like “ghost ships.”  A ghost or phantom ship has no living crew aboard. I have read about the fictional Flying Dutchman and a real ghost ship found adrift with its crew missing or dead, like the Mary Celeste.

But there are few cases of entire lost cities,. I have read about lost cities in South American jungles suddenly and inexplicably being abandoned with no sign of where the inhabitants went. But what about one closer to Paradelle? That is the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke  .

The story begins in 1584 when Queen Elizabeth I granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the colonization of the area of North America. For the purposes of history’s timeline, let’s look back at that time. The year before, The Queen’s Company of actors was formed in London. In 1584, playwright Christopher Marlowe received his a bachelor’s degree. The year after the Virginia colony of Roanoke Island was established by Sir Walter Raleigh, the twins, Hamnet and Judith, were born  to Anne and William Shakespeare.

That royal charter specified that Raleigh needed to establish a colony in North America, or lose his right to colonization. They were hoping to “discover, search, find out, and view such remote heathen and barbarous Lands, Countries, and territories … to have, hold, occupy, and enjoy” and establish a base from which to send privateers on raids against the treasure fleets of Spain

Raleigh dispatched an exploratory expedition that arrived on Roanoke Island on July 4. They established relations with the local natives, the Secotans and Croatoans. Two Croatoans returned with the crew and based on the information given, Raleigh organized a second expedition, to be led by Sir Richard Grenville.

After a rather questionable start on the island, Grenville still decided to leave 108 men to establish a colony at the north end of Roanoke Island and promised to return in April 1586 with more men and fresh supplies.

April 1586 passed and there was no sign of Grenville’s relief fleet. In June, after the colonists stupidly avenged a minor theft by the natives by destroying their village, there was an attack on the fort by the local Native Americans. The colonists were able to repel the natives, and soon after the attack, Sir Francis Drake on his way home from a successful raid in the Caribbean, stopped at the colony and offered to take the colonists back to England.

Several colonists took the offer and returned along with a cargo of new world new things: tobacco, maize, and potatoes. Grenville arrived shortly after Drake’s departure. He found the colony abandoned with no explanation.

Grenville returned to England, leaving behind a small detachment of fifteen men both to maintain an English presence and to protect Raleigh’s claim to Roanoke Island.

In 1587, Raleigh sent a new group of 115 colonists to establish a colony on Chesapeake Bay led by John White who was appointed governor of the colony. They were ordered to stop at Roanoke to pick up the small contingent left there by Grenville the previous year. But when they arrived on July 22, 1587, they found nothing except a skeleton that may have been the remains of one of the English garrison.

The master pilot of the fleet refused to let the colonists return to the ships, insisting that they establish the new colony on Roanoke rather than the Chesapeake Bay destination. The new colonists re-established relations with the Croatoan and other local tribes – except for those with whom the earlier colonists had with.

The colonists persuaded their Governor White to return to England to ask for help. Left behind were about 115 colonists. This had been the first group of colonists that consisted of men and women. White left behind his newly born granddaughter Virginia Dare, who is the first English child born in the Americas.

 

White was unable to find a ship to return to the colony because England was at war with Spain, and every seaworthy ship was claimed to fight the Spanish Armada.

White didn’t return to Roanoke Island for nearly three years. When he returned in 1590, he found the settlement deserted, and all the buildings taken down.

Where did they go? The only clues were the letters CRO carved into a tree, and the word CROATOAN carved into a stockade post.

There were no signs of sickness or violence. White had instructed them that if anything happened to them, they should carve a Maltese cross on a tree nearby, indicating that their disappearance had been forced. There was no cross.

The crew interpreted the message left to mean they had moved to Croatoan Island (now known as Hatteras Island). That made sense because they had already lived there and had a strong relationship with the natives.

Hatteras or  Croatoan Island is a barrier island located off the North Carolina coast. It is part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

White was unable to conduct a thorough search due to a massive storm that caused his crew to refuse to go any further. The next day, they left without looking further for the colonists.

There are several theories about why the Roanoke Colony became the Lost Colony. One theory is the colonists were slaughtered by Chief Powhatan. But no bodies were found and no archaeological evidence has been found to support this claim, though the massacre described by Powhatan might have been of the 15 people left behind by the first Roanoke expedition.

Another theory is that the colonists migrated with the Indians toward the interior of North Carolina.

One that seems to have good evidence is that the colony’s remaining survivors sought shelter with the Chowanoke tribe to survive. That tribe was attacked by another tribe that has been identified as the “Mandoag” (an Algonquian word that was generically used to identify an enemy nations) or the Tuscarora (Iroquois-speaking) or the Eno, also known as the Wainoke. Evidence for this theory points to the “Zuniga Map” drawn about 1607 by the Jamestown settler Francis Nelson. The map says “four men clothed that came from roonock” were living in an Iroquois site. A history written by another Jamestown colonist reported that the Indian settlements of Peccarecanick and Ochanahoen had two-story houses with stone walls that were designed by Roanoke settlers.

The Hatteras Indians spent a good amount of time living on “Ronoak-Island” and told stories that their ancestors were white people. The Hatteras were found to have gray eyes which does not occur with other Native Americans.

Another possibility is that the colonists tried to return to England on their own using  a pinnace and several small ships they were left for coastal exploration. They were ill-prepared for an ocean crossing and perished.

Less likely theories include that the Spanish destroyed the colony. Earlier the Spanish had destroyed French colonies at Fort Charles (South Carolina) and Fort Caroline (Florida) but the Spanish recorded that they were looking for the location of England’s failed colony as late as 1600, ten years after the colony was reported to be missing.

In the late 1930s, a series of stones were “discovered” that claimed to have been written by Eleanor Dare, mother of Virginia Dare, telling about where the colonists traveled and their end. But most historians believe that they are a fraud.

Unfortunately, there is not much archaeological evidence due to shoreline erosion on the island.  A fort was found on the north shore and the settlement was assumed to be nearby. The northern shore, between 1851 and 1970, lost 928 feet because of erosion. Assuming erosion to have been similar in the time leading up to and following the brief life of the settlement,  the site of any dwellings is under water.

But we don’t know for sure.

Earlier I read  A Brave Vessel which inspired me to write one of my daily poems about the anniversary of the landing of the settlers who would found the Jamestown settlement. The age of exploration is one of my favorite periods of history.

Today, Hatteras Island is known for sport fishing, surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding, and is known as “the blue marlin capital of the world.”

Have we given up on the Roanoke mystery? No, the Lost Colony of Roanoke DNA Project was founded in 2007 to try to solve the mystery of the Lost Colony using historical records, migration patterns, oral histories and DNA testing. As of 2016, they have not yet been able to positively identify any descendants of the colony.



The finding of Raleigh’s lost colony (1907)

Finding the Lost Colony of Roanoke

3301

At the beginning of 2012, an image appeared on an Internet forum called 4chan that caught the attention of code-breakers and puzzle solvers. It was posted by an organization known only as Cicada 3301.

That image (shown above) was just white text on a black background that read: “Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”

3301c

Cicada 3301 caught on worldwide and people have found clues on all the inhabited continents.

And yet, no one knows why Cicada 3301 was created and who’s behind it.

Some people think it is just a puzzle game. Others feel it is more than that.

3301bThe “game” has sucked in encryption and IT security experts around the world.

In most case, their efforts to crack the code have been a failure.

Conspiracy often follows mystery. Some have suggested that Cicada 3301 is really the NSA, the CIA or MI6 in disguise. Is it a way to recruit “highly intelligent individuals” into those organizations?

The first part of the puzzle was an example of digital steganography – a message was concealed the JPEG image itself.

People were able to alter the image with code and it produced a picture of a plastic duck and a message: ‘Woops, just decoys this way. Looks like you can’t guess how to get the message out.’

Cicada 3301 is an elaborate puzzle or plot. But why?

Is it an Alternate Reality Game (ARG)? If so, why doesn’t someone take credit for it?  Wouldn’t a commercial enterprise have monetized the puzzles by now?

The Cicada 3301 clues have spanned many different communication mediums including Internet, telephone, original music, bootable Linux CDs, digital images, and physical paper signs.

It uses a variety of techniques to encrypt, encode, or hide data. The clues have alluded to books, poetry, artwork, and music.

Each clue has been “signed” using the same GnuPG private key in order to confirm that it is authentic.

On the podcast Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know, they cover everything from ancient history to UFOs, government secrets, lots of conspiracies, the future of civilization and they did a show about Cicada 3301.

If you want to go down this rabbit hole yourself, there is an Uncovering Cicada wiki site. Let us know what you uncover.

On this day, December 4, back in 1872, the ship Mary Celeste was found floating, unmanned and abandoned, in the Atlantic near Spain and Morocco. It was a ghost ship.

The ship was an American merchant ship that had been at sea for about a month. The sea was calm. She had no issues that would have made her unable to sail. When found, it had a 6 month store of food and supplies. There were no signs of violence or mutiny. No distress flag. No notes or log entries of any problems.

All passengers and crew had vanished.

Yes, the ship’s lifeboat was gone, so you would guess that they had abandoned ship. But if they did, why did they leave all their personal possessions and valuables? They must have been in a big hurry. Or they were taken (by pirates, spirits or UFOs?)

Who took the ship’s papers but left the logbook? It makes sense that the navigation equipment and two pumps if they were headed out in that lifeboat. But why did they leave in the first place?

The Mary Celeste has been fictionalized since then. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame, is one author who was intrigued by the possibly paranormal parameters the tale offered.

The ship was still under sail and heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar when found – as if ghosts were sailing her.

It is still one of the best maritime mysteries. So, what happened? There is no shortage of theories: alcoholic fumes, underwater “seaquakes”, waterspouts, and paranormal explanations involving extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects and sea monsters.

Piracy is one explanation. The crew was crew murdered and thrown overboard by Ottoman pirates known to operate in the area. But why no  signs of a struggle? Why take navigation equipment, pumps and a lifeboat and leave the cargo and personal possessions?

Here’s a complicated explanation. A seaquake erupted below the ship and jarred open nine barrels of alcohol (~450 gallons) which leaked into the bilge and some dislodged fuel for the stove on deck caused embers from the fire to drift into the rigging. Modern experts believe that the alcohol fumes that would have been easily ignited, and because alcohol burns at such a low temperature, even a large explosion could have left the ship and even the surrounding barrels undamaged. The crew abandoned ship, perhaps planning to return if all looked safe. But they were unable to catch the ship in their lifeboat (a sailing dinghy). They floundered at sea and all died.

The paranormal explanations are a lot more interesting.

There is no lack of books about the mysterious ship to read, and they cover the gamut of explanations. I checked out Ghost Ship by Brian Hicks which is an easy read and covers many theories, but also gives a nice background on the ship’s crew so that the story has a human feel. It reminds me a bit of the film Titanic‘s approach to that ship’s tale.

There are also plenty of websites, like maryceleste.net, that will keep you busy if you want to follow the theories. That site pretty much sides with Charles Edey Fay’s book which settles on the alcohol theory.

You won’t find any sound evidence for the theory that aliens abducted the crew in a flash from the ship.  (Did the aliens need a lifeboat and pumps?) And when you think of “ghost ships”, you are more likely to be referring to is a supposedly haunted or ghostly vessels like the Flying Dutchman, but the term is also used for derelict ships found adrift with their entire crew either missing or dead, such as the Mary Celeste or the Baychimo.

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Hands off Hello Not all labyrinths are traps Happy to be inside but already missing summer outdoors.  The plant feels the same way. There’s something in the first cold nights when autumn teases winter that seem to require a fire. Still drinking morning tea in the afternoon.  #teaetiquette

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