The Taman Shud Case: 14 Highlights from Somerton Man Expert Professor Derek Abbott’s Reddit AMA

Somerton Man codeOne of the world’s foremost experts on the Somerton Man/Taman Shud case, Professor Derek Abbott of Australia’s University of Adelaide, took to Reddit last night to do an AMA on r/UnresolvedMysteries. Primarily a physicist and engineer — he holds a BSc in Physics and a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering — he’s well known for his work on the applications of both to complex systems. He also finds uses for them regarding multi-displinary problems, including forensics (hence, his interest in the Somerton Man). If you’re at all interested in the case, I highly suggest heading over to r/Unresolved Mysteries to read the whole thing; for those who want the Cliff Notes version, though, here are a few highlights (click the images to make ’em bigger):

1. What Are Your Favorite Theories?

By which we mean not necessarily the most likely, but the most hilarious/entertaining/bizarre/etc.:

Abbott AMA theories2. Was the Somerton Man a Spy?

Abbott remarked that it seemed unlikely; other scenarios the evidence some people believe points to the Somerton Man being a spy include the following:

Abbott AMA spy3. Concerning the Destruction and Loss of Evidence

The Somerton Man’s suitcase was destroyed sometime in the ‘80s; witness statements have also disappeared from the police files. Here’s why (and how the police’s organizational systems have improved since then):

Abbott AMA thrown out

4. Was Thomas Torrance Keane the Somerton Man?

If you’ve ever seen this posted anywhere:

“Thomas Torrance Keane, born in Charters Towers in 1896 to Isabella Beaumont and her husband[d] Francis C Keane. Himself a part of the extended Beaumont clan and known to the Harkness family through Thomas’s marriage to Clarice Isabella Victoria Beaumont. Although he is noted as being deceased in 1949 this is probably a red herring. He was the Somerton Man.”

It’s probably not true. Sorry.

Abbott AMA T Keane

Read more "The Taman Shud Case: 14 Highlights from Somerton Man Expert Professor Derek Abbott’s Reddit AMA"

The Search Terms from the Black Lagoon: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Haunted Dolls, South American Larvae, and Other Queries Answered

abandoned computerPreviously: Ghost Babies and Jungle Splash.

It’s time for another addition of The Search Terms from the Black Lagoon, in which I attempt to figure out what you were trying to find when Google sent you to my weird little corner of the Internet. This time, we’re taking a look at memes, hoaxes, and the consequences of screwing up the Midnight Game. Here we go:

1. “Why you shouldn’t buy haunted dolls”

Uh… because they’re haunted? See: Robert the Doll.

2. “Blood vessel in hand urban legend”

This one has a lot of possibilities, but I think the most likely one is the old “is our blood actually blue until it hits the air?” question. Answer: Nope. According to Mental Floss, blood is always red, even when it’s in our veins. So why do our veins look blue when we’re just, y’know, looking at them through our hands? Because of how we perceive light and color — not because of what the color of the thing actually is. Check out more over at Mental Floss.

Read more "The Search Terms from the Black Lagoon: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Haunted Dolls, South American Larvae, and Other Queries Answered"

Haunted Road Trip: The Colonial Inn of Concord, Massachusetts  

Colonial Inn

Previously: The Stanley Hotel.

Sometimes I think that maybe the reason I’m so interested in weird stuff is because I grew up in a place with a boatload of history. I was born and raised in Concord, MA, a town known as much for its connection to the Revolutionary War as for its rich literary tradition — and on top of that, my mother was a historian. As a result, I spent a great deal of my childhood hanging around the Old Manse, the Orchard House, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the Old North Bridge, Walden Pond, and all the rest. When you grow up with all that history surrounding you, you can’t help but get drawn in by it — and although I haven’t called Concord my home for more than ten years, it’s still huge part of who I am. My one regret? Never having spent a night in room 24 at the Colonial Inn.

I’d been hearing the story for as long as I could remember: Once upon a time, a newlywed couple checked into the inn for what was supposed to be a romantic honeymoon in a picturesque town. They headed up to room 24… only to come back down looking just a little bit pale the next morning. Several weeks after the couple left, the inn’s manager received a letter from the couple informing him that although the property was very beautiful, their room had been visited by an uninvited guest in the middle of the night. The guest, of course, lacked feet, instead preferring to float.

I didn’t find out the details until later, but the incident occurred in 1996, the couple in question were M.P. and Judith Fellenz of Highland Falls, New York, and the caretaker’s name was Loring Grimes. The letter read as follows:

Read more "Haunted Road Trip: The Colonial Inn of Concord, Massachusetts  "

Tamun Shud/Somerton Man Expert Professor Derek Abbott Is Doing a Reddit AMA on Saturday, August 30

Hey gang,

Quick announcement for those of you who are interested in the Taman Shud/Somerton Man mystery: Professor Derek Abbott of Australia’s Adelaide University will be doing a Reddit AMA on Saturday, August 30 at 9pm EST/6pm PST. Professor Abbott is one of the world’s leading experts on the case, so anything you might be curious about concerning it? Ask him. He’ll probably know. It’s happening on r/UnresolvedMysteries, so head on over there for more info. I’ll probably be covering it here in the days following it, as well.

Mark your calenders!

UPDATE 8/31/14: The AMA happened last night; here are some highlights. Enjoy!

Read more "Tamun Shud/Somerton Man Expert Professor Derek Abbott Is Doing a Reddit AMA on Saturday, August 30"

Creepypasta of the Week: “Come Follow Me,” The Original Lavender Town Syndrome Tale

Game boyPreviously: “Psychosis.”

Creeypasta loves video games. Seriously — there’s an absurd amount of stories in this particular genre, ranging from the very successful to the… shall we say, less successful. I think they speak to us for the same reason a lot of the Disney ones do; their effectiveness lies in the way they take the familiar and make it strange.

Within the larger genre of video game pastas, Pokemon-specific stories make up a huge subgenre. “Lavender Town Syndrome” is one of the best known ones; I think it’s also one of the earliest ones to hit the Internet. According to Know Your Meme, the first version of the tale, known as “Come Follow Me,” was uploaded to Pastebin on February 1, 2010. It spread rapidly from there, making its way to 4chan’s /x/ paranormal board by the beginning of March before the Internet took it and ran with it.

During the first few days of the release of Pokemon Red and Green in Japan, back in February 27, 1996, a peak of deaths appeared in the age group of 10-15.

The children were usually found dead through suicide, usually by hanging or jumping from heights. However, some were more odd. A few cases recorded children who had began sawing off their limbs, others sticking their faces inside the oven, and choking themselves on their own fist, shoving their own arms down their throat.

The few children who were saved before killing themselves showed sporadic behavior. When asked why they were going to hurt themselves they only answered in chaotic screams and scratched at their own eyes. When showed what seemed to be the connection to this attitude, the Game Boy, they had no response, but when combined with either Pokemon Red or Green, the screams would continue, and they would do their best to leave the room it was located in.

This confirmed the authorities suspicion that the games, somehow, had a connection to these children and the deaths. It was a strange case, because many children who had the same games did not show this behavior, but only a few. The police had no choice but to pursue this, since they had no other leads.

Collecting all the cartridges these children had purchased, they kept them sealed away as strong evidence to look over later. They decided the first thing to do was to talk to the programmers themselves. The first person they met was the director of the original games, Satoshi Tajiri. When told about the deaths surrounding his games, he seemed slightly uneasy, but admitted nothing. He lead them to the main programmers of the game, the people responsible for the actual content.

The detectives met Takenori Oota, one of the main programmers of the game. Unlike Satoshi, he did not seem uneasy, but very kept. Explaining that it was impossible to use something like a game to cause such deaths, and also bringing up the point that not all the children were affected, he brushed it off as some kind of odd coincidence or mass hysteria. It seemed like he was hiding something, but he wasn’t giving way. Finally, he did say something interesting.

Takenori had heard a rumor going around that the music for Lavender Town, one of the locations in the game, had caused some children to go ill. It was only a rumor, and had no real definite back up, but it was still something to look into.

Read more "Creepypasta of the Week: “Come Follow Me,” The Original Lavender Town Syndrome Tale"

Abandoned: The Last Remnants of the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center (Photos)

Previously: North Brother Island.

In upstate New York, there’s a town called Dover. Within Dover is a hamlet known as Wingdale, and in Wingdale lies the ruins of the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center. Originally meant to be a correctional facility, the Wingdale Prison, complaints from the local population caused the under-construction buildings to be repurposed as a state hospital. It opened its doors in 1924; at its height in the mid-1950s, its 800 acres held 80 buildings, 5,000 employees, and more than 5,000 patients.

With its scenic surroundings and brick buildings, the facility was strangely picturesque; it had its own baseball field and grandstand, a bakery, a bowling alley, a golf course, one of New York State’s largest dairy farms, and even an ice cream shop. But there’s also a darker side to the story, reflective of the state of mental health care at the time: In the 1930s, Harlem Valley became the first asylum in the United States to use insulin shock therapy; it also played a large role in the introduction of electroshock therapy in the ‘40s, as well as of the pre-frontal lobotomy thought to have originated at Danvers State Hospital.

Like so many of the U.S.’s state hospitals, Harlem Valley’s population was waning by the ‘60s. Overcrowding and underfunding led to the mistreatment of patients; furthermore, laws passed in the 1970s eliminated the need for large institutions, preferring instead to treat patients in smaller and less expensive facilities. The Harlem Valley State Psychiatric Center ceased operations in 1994, and ever since, its deserted buildings have dotted the landscape, a reminder of a time otherwise forgotten.

But even these ghostly remains will soon be gone. Although plans to turn the grounds into a retirement village in 2004 fell through, the property has been purchased again, this time by an evangelical university. Olivet University intends to turn the hospital into a college campus, potentially using the old buildings themselves — an idea which may or may not be a good one. Said David Allee, a former urban planner who has frequently photographed the site, “It’s become a hazardous waste. The buildings were so full of asbestos and mold that I’m shocked anybody thinks they could rehab them.” Still, though, the town is excited about the arrival of the school; it will open up countless jobs for the population, and in spite of the controversy surrounding Olivet University founder David Jang, the university might rejuvenate the town.

Only time will tell.

Read more "Abandoned: The Last Remnants of the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center (Photos)"

Unresolved: The Untimely Death of Gareth Williams (Or, The Body in the Duffle Bag)

Luggage Back HomePreviously: The Strange Disappearance of the Beaumont Children.

Gareth Williams was, by all accounts, a brilliant man. Born September 26, 1978 in Anglesey, Wales, he began studying mathematics at the university level while still in primary school; his former teachers called him an “exceptional” student, and one of the best logicians they’d ever seen. He earned a first in maths from Bangor University at the age of 17, went onto gain a PhD at the University of Manchester, and by the age of 21, had been recruited by the British intelligence and security agency GCHQ. He began a post-graduate course at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge around the same time he began at GCHQ, but dropped out to focus instead on his budding career; work became his life, and for nearly a decade, it remained so. In 2009, he went on a one-year secondment to MI6, with his return date to GCHQ being at the beginning of September, 2010. But he would never work for GCHQ again — or for anywhere else, for that matter. On August 23, 2010, he was found dead in his flat in London’s Pimlico area. He was just a month shy of his 32nd birthday.

Although this would be a tragedy in any case, Williams’ death was made even more troubling by the manner in which he was found. Police made the visit to his home that Monday August a welfare check after his colleagues expressed concern due to not hearing from him for a number of days. When they gained entry into the flat, they found a large red North Face athletic bag in the bath of the master bedroom’s bathroom. The bag was padlocked from the outside — and inside were the naked, decomposing remains of Gareth Williams.

Questions flew fast and furious about the case, fed by its puzzling circumstances and the top secret nature of Williams’ work. Coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox found in her examination of the body that there were no apparent injuries, nor traces of alcohol or common recreational drugs in his system; furthermore, there were no signs of a struggle and a distinct “lack of evidence that he made any frantic attempt to get himself out of the bag.” A cause of death was not able to be determined. The Metropolitan Police considered Williams’ death “suspicious and unexplained” as they set forth to investigate — but the conclusion of the three-year-long investigation would not tie up neatly with a bow, leaving nearly all the questions surrounding the death unanswered.

The facts are these:

Read more "Unresolved: The Untimely Death of Gareth Williams (Or, The Body in the Duffle Bag)"