The Most Dangerous Games: The Midnight Game

Shadow manPreviously: The Three Kings.

It is believed that the Midnight Game was once an old pagan ritual used as a punishment for those who dared to disobey the gods. While this claim is unsubstantiated, the game has still become a popular activity for thrill seekers. As with all of Most Dangerous Games, proceed at your own risk – if you must proceed at all. It is recommended that you do not, under any circumstances, play this game.

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Unresolved: The Taman Shud Case and the Somerton Man

Previously: Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

We know very little about him.

He was in his early 40s when he was found, five feet and 11 inches tall, clean shaven, with hazel eyes and greying strawberry blond hair. His smooth hands and well-kept nails showed that he was a stranger to manual labor. He dressed well, his outfit – a white shirt, a red and blue tie, brown trousers, a brown jumper, a brown and grey double-breasted coat, socks, and shoes – being of good quality, although missing all the labels. He wore no hat, and he carried no wallet.

And he was dead.

This mysterious body was discovered at 6:30am on December 1, 1948 under a streetlamp at Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia – and more than half a century later, we still don’t know who he is, what he was doing there, or how he died.

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Creepypasta of the Week: “The Strangest Security Tape I’ve Ever Seen”

Security cameraPreviously: “Kagome Kagome.”

I debated filing this one under “Creepypasta of the Week,” as technically I’m not sure that it actually qualifies as creepypasta. It is, however, a cracking good story, and wonderfully written to boot; as such, I think it’s worth sharing. And anyway, since its inception roughly a year ago on the nosleep subreddit (it’s written by a fellow who goes by the moniker powerhawkmash), it’s made its way into the archives of Creepypasta.wikia – so there you go. Justification for including it here.

I’m lucky enough never to have had to work a job like this one, but if I ever find myself behind the register at a gas station, you can be damn sure I’ll be keeping an eye on those security tapes.

I work at a gas station in rural Pennsylvania. It’s a boring job, but it’s pretty easy and it pays all right. A few weeks ago, this new guy started; I’ll call him Jeremy.

Jeremy is weird. He’s about 25 or 26, and he hardly speaks, but he’s got the creepiest laugh I’ve ever heard. My boss and I have both noticed this, but it’s never been a problem, so there’s not much we can do about it. Customers have never complained about him, and he’s always done his job fairly well. Up until a few weeks ago, anyway—that’s when things started going missing. Employee theft can be a problem at any business that sells consumer goods, and there’s only one person working at a time at this gas station (it’s a pretty small place). About two weeks ago, my boss started noticing that we were short on motor oil. At first, it was a few containers at a time, then entire shelves and boxes from the back room. Pretty soon entire shipments would be gone the day after we got them, and it would always be right after Jeremy’s shifts. My boss has checked the security camera tapes from every single night he worked, but he could never catch him in the act. Jeremy would lock up at closing, then the motor oil would be gone the next day.

My boss usually takes the tapes home with him to try and catch Jeremy stealing, but his daughter had a softball game last night, so he asked me to watch the tape for him. He offered to pay me overtime, under-the-table, so obviously I took that offer. There are three cameras, so he gave me three different tapes to check. I figured it would be a long night, but I’m trying to save up for vacation, so I really needed the money. I took the tapes home, popped them in an old VCR and sat back.

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Abandoned: Echoes from the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo (Photos)

Previously: Six Flags New Orleans.

When Sarajevo won the bid to host to the 1984 Winter Olympics, it marked the first time the Winter Games had been held in a Communist state. Then part of Yugoslavia, Sarajevo saw a great deal of firsts that year: Skier Jure Franko won Yugoslavia’s first Winter Olympic medal; ice dancers Torvill and Dean won perfectscores across the board for artistic impression (and remain the only team to have done so in history); disabled skiing was included as a demonstration sport for the first time; and Lamine Gueye of Senegal became the first Black African skier to compete in the Winter Games.

Less than a decade later, the Bosnian War tore Yugoslavia apart, literally and figuratively. Lasting for four years between 1992 and 1996, the Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. By the time it was over, most of the city’s infrastructure and its buildings had been destroyed. More than 11,000 people had lost their lives, of which over 1,5000 were children; the wounded numbered 56,000.

Since the end of the war, the city has worked hard to rebuild. Today, Sarajevo is one of the fastest developing cities in the region; still, though, it suffers from economic hardship, and riots are ongoing in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the high rates of unemployment and political inertia.

And sadly, the sites at which the 1984 Winter Olympics occurred, once symbols of international sportsmanship and friendship, have fallen into disrepair. Collapsing in some places and overgrown in others, the ski jumps, bobsled tracks, and hotels bear only a passing resemblance to their former selves. The Olympic tower still stands, though, and the five interlocking rings remain – not quite as forgotten as they might at first appear.

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Haunted Road Trip: The Portland Underground and the Shanghai Tunnels

Old Town Portland

Previously: Clinton Road.

I’ve yet to visit Portland, Oregon, but something tells me I’d really like it there. It sounds like it’s full of things I love: Music… breweries… book stores… parks, gardens, and green spaces…

…And the Portland Underground, also known as the Shanghai Tunnels.

Originally running from Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown all the way to Downtown, this underground network connecting the basements of a vast array of hotels and bars to the waterfront of the Willamette River has seen a lot of history – and a lot of misery. The practice of “shanghaiing” involved incapacitating able-bodied men, either through booze, drugs, or a simple knock on the head, kidnapping them, and selling them to ship captains as sailors. And neither were men the only ones at risk; when women were shanghaied, as happened frequently during the Prohibition era, they were either sold to brothels, or else to ships to be kept as sex slaves and chattels during the long voyages at sea.

San Francisco was known as the world’s capital of shanghaiing at the turn of the 20th century – but if the stories are to be believed, Portland between 1850 and 1941 could have given it a run for its money. No other city used an underground tunnel system to get the deed done.  Once an agent’s, or “crimp’s,” unsuspecting victim had been rendered woozy or unconscious, the crimp would drop the body into the tunnels via a trapdoor known as a deadfall. The victim would then be held in one of the underground cells that lined the tunnels before being sold into sea-bound slavery. Rumor had it than when warm bodies were scarce, crimps would even go so far as to wrap wooden cigar store Indians or – worse – corpses in burlap, drag them to the waterfront through the tunnels, and sell them as real, live men. At its height between 1870 and 1917, as many as 3,000 men and women a year found themselves unwittingly shipped to sea through Portland’s Shanghai Tunnels.

With a history like that, it’s no wonder the Shanghai Tunnels hold the reputation of being the most haunted location in Portland – for not all of the humans trafficked through the tunnels made it out alive. Shanghaiers took their victims’ shoes and scattered glass on the floor to thwart any escape attempts; as a result, many hundreds a year perished in the underground holding cells before their abductors could sell them at the waterfront. Their souls are believed to wander the tunnels still, lost and confused, uncertain of where they are, how they got there, or why they are even there to begin with. It’s almost as though the tunnels themselves have trapped them for all eternity.

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Scare Yourself Silly: The Uncanny Valley, or Revisiting Robert the Doll

Robert the DollPreviously on Scare Yourself Silly: The Curious Case of the Himuro Mansion.

I covered Robert the Doll here on The Ghost in My Machine in a slightly different form about a month ago. What I didn’t address in his Encyclopaedia entry, however, is why I think he’s so damn freaky. This edition of Scare Yourself Silly, written (as always) for the wonderful website The Toast, is an attempt to explain Robert’s particular brand of weirdness.

I’m not sure how I first stumbled upon the story of Robert the Doll; it likely occurred during a night of Wikipedia-hopping, a pastime to which I have lost more hours than I care to admit (although it has enabled me to shore up a store of weird and wacky trivia, so at least there’s that). Although Robert’s Wikipedia entry is relatively short, it was bizarre enough to inspire me to do a little more digging; I stupidly did said digging at night alone in my apartment – and no, I don’t know why I keep doing that to myself – but here are the facts:

Robert made his first appearance in Key West, Florida in 1904, when he was given to future painter Robert Eugene Otto by his family’s Bahamian maid. The four-year-old boy went by the name “Gene”; it’s believed he named his newfound friend “Robert” after himself. Some sources claim that the maid not only practiced black magic and voodoo, but also had it in for the family, implying that she cursed the doll before giving it to the child. However, I strongly suspect this little embellishment to be the result of racial prejudices of the time and therefore not quite true (something with which I’m sure Bahamians and actual practitioners of the religion of Vodun would agree).

Gene and Robert became inseparable. The child carried the doll with him everywhere; at the same time, reports of odd occurrences began filtering out of the big Victorian house in which the Ottos lived. All of the stories related earlier are true: Gene’s parents did hear their son carrying out full conversations with Robert; the child did at one point awake screaming in the middle ofthe night with the doll beside him and the furniture overturned; Gene did frequently blame broken things and temper tantrums on Robert; and passersby did claim to see Robert moving from window to window from the street – even after he was relegated to the attic. Gene’s wife, Annie, loathed the doll and attempted to shut him away a second time; rumor has it that she lost her mind and passed away as a result, although these claims are unsubstantiated.

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Unresolved: Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Bella in the Wych ElmUnsolved mysteries fascinate us, largely because the more time that passes, the less likely it is we’ll ever learn the truth about what happened. In “Unresolved,” I’ll be taking a look at unsolved cases from around the world. Let’s start by asking a question: Who put Bella in the Wych elm?

The morning of April 18, 1943 dawned like any other for four boys from Stourbridge, a village in Worcestershire in the UK. The boys – Robert Hart, Thomas Willets, Bob Farmer, and Fred Payne – intended to have themselves a little poaching adventure in Hagley Woods; owned by Lord Cobham, the woods make up part of the 350 acres included in the Hagley Hall estate. Upon finding a large Wych elm, Farmer began climbing the tree in search of a possible bird’s nest from which the boys might filch some eggs. As he climbed, however, he happened to glance down into the tree’s hollow trunk. At first, he thought what he saw in the hollow was an animal skull – but after a closer inspection, he realized it was no animal.

It had hair and teeth.

It was human.

But what could they do about it? Going to the authorities would reveal that they’d been on Lord Cobham’s lands illegally, which all them agreed wasn’t really option. So Farmer quietly put the skull back, and the four boys returned home. They did not bring up their discovery to either their friends or family.

The secret didn’t stay secret for long, though. Tommy Willets was the youngest of the boys; perhaps due to his age, he felt increasingly unnerved by the skull in the tree and eventually told his parents about it. Police were summoned to check the tree, in which they found not only a skull, but also an entire human skeleton, a shoe, a gold wedding ring, and some scraps of fabric. Buried in the ground near the tree was a severed hand.

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