Raisin the Dead: The haunting story of Jan Bryant Bartell and the spooky happenings in her Manhattan home.

Shadowy figures in the corner, strange noises in the night, and a little dog that senses an unseen and unearthly presence. This, dear reader, is only a glimpse into the life that was the haunted reality of Jannis “Jan” Bryant Bartel. Bartel was a poet, lecturer and off-Broadway actress. She appeared in such plays as “Bell, Book, and Candle,” and “Night Must Fall.” Her poetry was published in several magazines. Bartel’s experiences prompted her to write a detailed account of her time at 14 West 10th Street in New York titled Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea. I’ve found a copy of the book at a reasonable price (copies range anywhere from $40-150) and look forward to reading it, though it hasn’t gotten terribly good reviews. I’m wondering if Bartel’s accounts are so far-fetched that they simply can’t be believed or if the language is a turn-off. Apparently, it’s wordy and wandering. I thought adding her story to the ever-growing Haunt Heads collection of creepy fare would be entirely appropriate given that the Halloween season is upon us and so, without further delay, it’s time to cuddle into a corner of the sofa, snuggle down into a blanket, and chew off all of your fingernails.

It’s 1957 and Jan Bryant Bartell has just moved into the top floor apartment of 14 West 10th Street in Manhattan. Her husband, Fred G. Bartell, was a restaurateur who was seldom home, his work often causing him to work late and spend weekends away. Most notably, Fred ran the Riverboat restaurant once located in the Empire State Building. Jan found Fred to be a difficult companion at times. He was a WWII veteran who suffered from PTSD and was prone to outbursts, but by all accounts, Jan herself was rather difficult. She was spoiled and neurotic and suffered from clinical depression. I suppose they were well suited in their brokenness. There was little to be done for depression in the 1950’s-60’s and the condition absolutely colored Jan’s writing. It’s believed that she attempted suicide on more than one occasion, though this is pure speculation.

Contact with the other side…

Interestingly enough, Jan possessed psychic abilities, but the presence of these abilities only amplified her anxiety once the activity in her home began to escalate. Her attempts to understand what exactly was happening were fruitless and she even called in self-appointed psychic expert and ghost hunter Hans Holzer to find some sort of peace or resolution. If Holzer’s name rings a bell, it absolutely should. Holzer investigated the Amityville Horror House with Ethel Johnson-Meyers in 1977 and has written over 140 books on the paranormal and unexplained. Holzer wrote a nonfiction book about the house, “Murder in Amityville” (1979), which formed the basis for the 1982 film “Amityville II: The Possession”; he also wrote two novels, “The Amityville Curse” (1981) and “The Secret of Amityville” (1985). In the end, Holzer was unable to silence or dispel the spirits in the house and all of Jan’s attempts to find peace ended in failure and only added to her distress.

From the nypost.com:

“The strange occurrences started out small: a sound of footsteps following her up the stairs, a brush against the back of her neck even when her hair was tied up, a strange rotting smell that would seemingly come and go like wispy smoke.

Things got darker. Shadows that no light would touch, a mysterious chair their dog would snarl and growl at as if it contained some invisible enemy. Then a phantom, shriveled grape that appeared in the dead center of a clean dinner plate, even though the couple hadn’t bought grapes in months. She found furniture inexplicably moved from its usual place. The sound of crashing glass chased her around the building.

Most unsettling was the odors that appeared out of nowhere: one fragrant, like ancient perfume, the other a “rotting miasma” that was offensive. Then one day, a vision of a man appeared. Bartell reached out to touch it.

“What was it I touched?” she wrote. “A substance without substance. Chilly, damp. Diaphanous as marsh mist or a cloud of ether. I could feel my fingers freeze at the tips. They were numb, and yet they tingled. In the split second between contact and recoil, the scent came. Fragile and languorous. And sweet; unbearably, cloyingly sweet.”

I find myself flashing back to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart and wonder if there isn’t a festering organ hidden somewhere beneath the floorboards.

In 1973, social and economic changes began to affect their neighborhood and Jan and Fred finally settled into a home in New Rochelle, NY. Some reports say that Jan committed suicide in the bathroom on June 18, 1973, prior to the publication of her book. Others say that Jan died of a heart attack. She was 51. Fred went on to manage other restaurants in New York and passed away on September 8, 1980, in New Rochelle, NY. (Through additional research, I did find a Frank Bartel that passed away on April 1, 1978.)

Other Residents

As we well know, one haunting does not a haunted hot-spot make! For your consideration, some other haunted and unnerving occurrences at 14 W 10th St.

A man known only as Dennis said he lived in the house for several years and also experienced paranormal activity such as lights going on and off and “little clips and visions of women in long gowns going from room to room.” Dennis was a photographer and musician and would often invite women to his apartment to photograph them. He said on more than one occasion that women would run out upon seeing a woman in a long flowing black dress followed by a cat. Is anyone else having a hard time believing that women were running from a ghost and not from Dennis himself? He’s a “photographer?” Anyway… Activity has been reported at the location as recently as a few years ago.

Joel Steinberg, a disbarred New York criminal defense attorney, attracted international media attention when he was convicted of manslaughter after he beat his adopted daughter to death at 14 West 10th Street in November of 1987. Hedda Nussbaum, an author of children’s books who was employed by Random House, watched as Steinberg beat 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg to the ground while under the influence of crack cocaine. Nussbaum was not charged in the killing. The couple had illegally adopted Lisa after Steinberg had been asked to find a suitable home for the child. He instead took her home and raised her with Nussbaum. As of 2006, Steinberg maintained his innocence.

From the NYT article on the case from March 1989:

Joel B. Steinberg was sentenced to 8Y to 25 years in state prison yesterday in the death of 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg, the girl he helped raise. The penalty was the maximum he could have received, and the judge said he would recommend strongly against parole.

Mr. Steinberg received the sentence without any sign of emotion, except for slumping slightly in resignation at what he knew was coming.

Before the sentence was imposed, Mr. Steinberg – sounding like the lawyer he was until his disbarment – addressed the bench, at first dispassionately, almost clinically, going over bits of evidence presented in the trial, and then moving into a rambling monologue about Lisa’s death and his role in her life. By the end, his voice was breaking, although he said that he felt no remorse because he had not caused her death.

”I feel that pain every day,” he told the judge. ”It’s my loss. I’m a victim, as was everyone else who knew Lisa.”

When police first entered the home, they found Lisa beaten into unconsciousness. She died of a brain hemorrhage in the hospital 4 days later. Police also found another of Steinberg and Nussbaum’s children “tethered to a playpen by a length of rope.” The clothing of the child and the mattress on which he was sitting were covered in urine.

Leanna Renee Hieber, author of Eterna and Omega, writes, “Tucked within a famed high-end real-estate area where most of the gorgeous townhouses have stately stoops climbing to glorious first floors, 14 descends down below the sidewalk before you—as does the energy of the building, dropping off sharply. Just walking by it gave me a sinking, troubled, pressed, and fraught sense; the sense that the building is, in and of itself, a distinctly negative presence and that something is deeply wrong there.” She goes on to call it “A Manhattan version of Amityville.”

Truly, there is a darkness cast over the location. As many as 44 murders are said to have occurred there and it seems as if the paranormal tales won’t let up anytime soon. The house has been cut up into 10 separate apartments, but apparently, a spooky vibe still lingers.

Would you spend the night?

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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NOTE: Haunt Heads will return the middle of January 2019 with new blog posts and podcasts to binge. Stay tuned and, most importantly, STAY SPOOKY!

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S2 Ep. 18: Raisin the Dead

 

NEW EPISODE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD!

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This week, Katie has some Halloween history and spooky lore about Stingy Jack and Janine presents a snippet of the life of Jan “Jannis” Bryant Bartel, her haunted house, and the novel she wrote prior to her untimely death. Many spooks abound! The happiest of Halloweens to all of our listeners and we will see you in the New Year! (Likely sometime in mid-January)

This episode contains divinations, shadowy corners, witchy workings, and All Hallows lore, and a mysteriously appearing raisin (of all things.)

TRIGGER WARNING: 1hr:3mins, discussion of Joel Steinberg/murder of Lisa Steinberg. Those who do not want to hear about violence toward children, please be aware.

Intro/Outro: Fox & Branch

foxandbranch.com

Sources:

nytimes.com

circlesanctuary.org

newgrange.com

nypost.com

https://www.leannareneehieber.com/

Jan Bryant Bartell’s novel Spindrift: Spray from A Psychic Sea

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

S2 Ep. 13: Signal Ghosts and Glamis

In this episode, Mimi takes us to Angus, Scotland, to Glamis Castle and Janine goes back to her roots and tells of the ghostly past of Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
This episode contains Disney acid trips, human windchimes, creepy castles, and wailing ghosts.
Thanks to Fox and Branch for our intro/outro music! Foxandbranch.com
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Email us your creepy paranormal stories and favorite folklore tales at hauntheadscast@gmail.com
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S2 Ep. 12: Tanked: The Stange Case of Elisa Lam

Mimi’s shrinky dink hubby joins the Haunt Heads team for an in-depth discussion regarding the unexplained death of Elisa Lam, the Canadian college student whose body was discovered floating in a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. Bill Stephen is, a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor, weighs in on Lam’s mental state, the drugs she was prescribed, and gives his two cents on some of the conspiracy theories surrounding her death.
 
This episode contains The Elevator Game, an unidentified murderer, much alcoholic beverage, and an assortment of Crudités.
Thanks to Fox and Branch for our intro/outro! Foxandbranch.com
Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and to share your love of Haunt Heads with your friends! =)
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Real Life Dark Water

Hello creepy friends,

This week, Mimi and I are working on a special podcast episode so there won’t be a blog post. Stay tuned! I think you’ll really enjoy next week’s episode. ☺️

-Janine

S2 Ep 10: Cagey Horror

NEW EPISODE! S2 Ep. 10: Cagey Horror hauntheads.podbean.com or wherever you binge your podcasts!

Mimi’s got a few more ghostly goings-on to report regarding cemetery #1 in New Orleans, La. and Janine takes us inside the Amityville Horror House in Amityville, NY.

This episode contains a dangling shepherd, Nick Cage and his pyramid digs, a flying demonic cat/pig, a supposed haunted house, and some stolen paperwork.

Leave us a review on iTunes and don’t forget to hit SUBSCRIBE!! =)

High Hopes and Horror

“You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!”

From Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_DeFeo_Jr.)

Around 6:30 PM on Wednesday, November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo entered Henry’s Bar in Amityville, Long Island, New York and [delivered the above statement to its patrons]. DeFeo and a small group of people went to 112 Ocean Avenue, which was located near the bar, and found that DeFeo’s parents were indeed dead.

Upon realizing the situation, DeFeo’s friend, Joe Yeswit, contacted Suffolk County police and had the following exchange with a dispatcher. (http://truelegends.info/amityville/call.htm)

Operator: This is Suffolk County Police. May I help you?”
Man: “We have a shooting here. Uh, DeFeo.”
Operator: “Sir, what is your name?”
Man: “Joey Yeswit.”
Operator: “Can you spell that?”
Man: “Yeah. Y-E-S W I T.”
Operator: “Y-E-S . .
Man: “Y-E-S-W-I-T.”
Operator: “. . . W-I-T. Your phone number?”
Man: “I don’t even know if it’s here. There’s, uh, I don’t have a phone number here.”
Operator: “Okay, where you calling from?”
Man: “It’s in Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police, and it’s right off, uh . . .Ocean Avenue in Amityville.”
Operator: “Austin?”
Man: “Ocean Avenue. What the … ?”
Operator: “Ocean … Avenue? Offa where?”
Man: “It’s right off Merrick Road. Ocean Avenue.”
Operator: “Merrick Road. What’s … what’s the problem, Sir?”
Man: “It’s a shooting!”
Operator: “There’s a shooting. Anybody hurt?”
Man: “Hah?”
Operator: “Anybody hurt?”
Man: “Yeah, it’s uh, uh — everybody’s dead.”
Operator: “Whattaya mean, everybody’s dead?”
Man: “I don’t know what happened. Kid come running in the bar. He says everybody in the family was killed, and we came down here.”
Operator: “Hold on a second, Sir.” 
(Police Officer now takes over call)
Police Officer: “Hello.”
Man: “Hello.”
Police Officer: “What’s your name?”
Man: “My name is Joe Yeswit.”
Police Officer: “George Edwards?”
Man: “Joe Yeswit.”
Police Officer: “How do you spell it?”
Man: “What? I just … How many times do I have to tell you? Y-E-S-W-I-T.”
Police Officer: “Where’re you at?”
Man: “I’m on Ocean Avenue.
Police Officer: “What number?”
Man: “I don’t have a number here. There’s no number on the phone. “
Police Officer: “What number on the house?”
Man: “I don’t even know that.”
Police Officer: “Where’re you at? Ocean Avenue and what?”
Man: “In Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police and have someone come down here. They know the family.”
Police Officer: “Amityville.”
Man: “Yeah, Amityville.”
Police Officer: “Okay. Now, tell me what’s wrong.”
Man: “I don’t know. Guy come running in the bar. Guy come running in the bar and said there — his mother and father are shot. We ran down to his house and everybody in the house is shot. I don’t know how long, you know. So, uh . . .”
Police Officer: “Uh, what’s the add … what’s the address of the house?”
Man: “Uh, hold on. Let me go look up the number. All right. Hold on. One-twelve Ocean Avenue, Amityville.”
Police Officer: “Is that Amityville or North Amityville?”
Man: “Amityville. Right on … south of Merrick Road.”
Police Officer: “Is it right in the village limits?”
Man: “It’s in the village limits, yeah.”
Police Officer: “Eh, okay, what’s your phone number?”
Man: “I don’t even have one. There’s no number on the phone. “
Police Officer: “All right, where’re you calling from? Public phone?”
Man: “No, I’m calling right from the house, because I don’t see a number on the phone.”
Police Officer: “You’re at the house itself?”
Man: “Yeah.”
Police Officer: “How many bodies are there?”
Man: “I think, uh, I don’t know — uh, I think they said four.”
Police Officer: “There’s four?”
Man: “Yeah.”
Police Officer: “All right, you stay right there at the house, and I’ll call the Amityville Village P.D., and they’ll come down.”

High Hopes

The sign that hung outside 112 Ocean Avenue (now 108 Ocean Avenue) read “High Hopes.” Undoubtedly, those who entered the residence were dreaming of making this house a home. For the DeFeo family, this was not to be. Ronald DeFeo Jr., then only 23, methodically murdered his entire family within the walls of what would become known as the Amityville Horror House. DeFeo systematically moved from bedroom to bedroom, shooting his parents, Ronald DeFeo Sr., 43, and Louise, 42; his sisters, Dawn, 18, and Allison, 13; and his brothers Mark, 11, and John, 9, with a shotgun blast from a .35 caliber Marlin rifle to the head. DeFeo first told police that he had arrived home to find his family murdered, then ran to a local bar for help. Later, he would amend his original statement, claiming that voices in the home told him to commit the murders.

“DeFeo’s trial began on October 14, 1975. He and his defense lawyer, William Weber, mounted an affirmative defense of insanity, with DeFeo claiming that he killed his family in self-defense because he heard their voices plotting against him. The insanity plea was supported by the psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Daniel Schwartz. The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Dr. Harold Zolan, maintained that although DeFeo was an abuser of heroin and LSD, he had antisocial personality disorder and was aware of his actions at the time of the crime.

On November 21, 1975, DeFeo was found guilty on six counts of second-degree murder. On December 4, 1975, Judge Thomas Stark sentenced DeFeo to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life.

Ronald_defeo

By Suffolk County Police Department – Suffolk County Police Department photographic records., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46207341

DeFeo is currently held at a correctional facility in the town of Fallsburg, New York, and all of his appeals and requests to the parole board to date have been denied.”

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

DeFeo still resides at Sullivan and is 66 years of age. Since his conviction, he has changed his story many times, even claiming that he committed the murders with two friends. Joe Nickell, a writer for Skeptical Inquirer (https://www.csicop.org/si/show/amityville_the_horror_of_it_all) has stated that the story has changed so much from interview to interview that DeFeo’s explanations should be taken “with caution.”

There has been speculation that Dawn DeFeo had a hand in the killings because gunpowder was found on her nightgown. Dawn, too, was murdered by Ronald DeFeo in the same way as her parents and siblings, but there has been speculation that Ronald and Dawn were intimately involved. Neither theory has been positively verified.

28 Days Later

De. 18, 1975

Enter the Lutz family. George Lutz, his wife Kathleen (Kathy), and their five children move into 112 Ocean Avenue. The Lutz’s bought the house (the realtor threw in some of the DeFeo family’s furniture for $400) for a meager $80,000, a ridiculously low price given that the home has sold in recent years for upwards of $1.5 million, and was able to put a substantial amount down on their mortgage due to their recent marriage. George and Kathy each had houses to sell, this marriage not being their first rodeo, and George intended on moving a home office for his land surveying business into the basement.

Upon moving in, George and Kathy claimed that paranormal activity began almost immediately. Their German shepherd tried to hang itself by jumping over the back fence while it was chained in the yard. A priest who visited to bless the home was told to “get out” by a disembodied voice and was slapped across the face. In an interview, the priest stated, “I was blessing the sewing room. It was cold. It was really cold in there. I’m like, ‘Well, gee, this is peculiar,’ because it was a lovely day out, and it was winter, yes, but it didn’t account for that kind of coldness. I was also sprinkling holy water, and I heard a rather deep voice behind me saying, ‘Get out!’ It seemed so directed toward me that I was really quite startled. I felt a slap at one point on the face. I felt somebody slap me, and there was nobody there.”

According to George, these incidents happened within hours of their first occupation. The paranormal activity in the home continued to escalate. George and Kathy claimed to have heard a marching band parading through their living room. When the marching band wasn’t performing, they claimed there was a sound like a clock radio between stations emanating from the living room. When someone went into the living room, the noises would stop. The porcelain in all the toilets turned black, slime ran down the walls and out through the keyholes, a flying, George would awake every morning at 3:15AM (the time of the murders,) Kathy would have nightmares about DeFeo wandering the house and slaughtering his entire family, a demonic pig with glowing red eyes named Jodie (supposedly a “friend” of George’s youngest daughter, Missy,) was seen hovering outside a second story window… All of this and more were reported by the family, but how much of what George Lutz has claimed happened can be believed?

In the book, released in 1977, The Amityville Horror: A True Story, author Jay Anson crafted several scenarios that may or may not have happened while the Lutz family lived at 112 Ocean Ave. The experiences are as follows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amityville_Horror):

  • George would wake up around 3:15 every morning and would go out to check the boathouse. Later he would learn that this was the estimated time of the DeFeo killings.
  • The house was plagued by swarms of flies despite the winter weather.
  • Kathy had vivid nightmares about the murders and discovered the order in which they occurred and the rooms where they took place. The Lutz children also began sleeping on their stomachs, in the same way that the dead bodies in the DeFeo murders had been found.
  • Kathy would feel a sensation as if “being embraced” in a loving manner, by an unseen force.
  • George discovered a small hidden room (around four feet by five feet) behind shelving in the basement. The walls were painted red and the room did not appear in the blueprints of the house. The room came to be known as “The Red Room.” This room had a profound effect on their dog Harry, who refused to go near it and cowered as if sensing something ominous.
  • There were cold spots and odors of perfume and excrement in areas of the house where no wind drafts or piping would explain the source.
  • While tending to the fire, George and Kathy saw the image of a demon with half his head blown out. It was burned into the soot in the back of the fireplace.
  • The Lutzes’ 5-year-old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named “Jodie,” a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.
  • In the early morning hours of Christmas Day 1975, George looked up at the house after checking on the boathouse and saw Jodie standing behind Missy at her bedroom window. When he ran up to her room he found her fast asleep with her small rocking chair slowly rocking back and forth.
  • George would wake up to the sound of the front door slamming. He would race downstairs to find the dog sleeping soundly at the front door. Nobody else heard the sound although it was loud enough to wake the house.
  • George would hear what was described as a “marching band tuning up” or what sounded like a clock radio playing not quite on frequency. When he went downstairs the noise would cease.
  • George realized that he bore a strong resemblance to Ronald DeFeo, Jr. and began drinking at The Witches’ Brew, the bar where DeFeo was once a regular customer.
  • When closing Missy’s window, which Missy said Jodie climbed out of, Kathy saw red eyes glowing at her.
  • While in bed, Kathy received red welts on her chest caused by an unseen force and was levitated two feet in the air.
  • Locks, doors and windows in the house were damaged by an unseen force.
  • Cloven hoof prints attributed to an enormous pig appeared in the snow outside the house January 1, 1976.
  • Green gelatin-like slime oozed from walls in the hall and also from the keyhole of the playroom door in the attic.
  • A 12-inch (30 cm) crucifix, hung in the living room by Kathy, revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.
  • George tripped over a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) China lion ornament in the living room and found bite marks on one of his ankles. Later this lion would reappear in the living room after George had moved it back upstairs into the sewing room.
  • George saw Kathy transform into an old woman of 90: “the hair wild a shocking white, the face a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth.”
  • Missy would sing constantly while in her room. Whenever she left the room she would stop singing and upon returning she would resume singing where she left off.
  • On one occasion Kathy heard what sounded like a window being opened and closed through the sewing room door even though she was sure no one was in there.

 

However, it seems as if Amityville’s Horror House is not all hogwash. According to historyvshollywood.com, there was one piece of controversial evidence captured during a paranormal investigation that could verify an otherworldly presence within the house.

“The debate over the alleged Amityville ghost image […] has been going on ever since George Lutz first revealed it during an interview on the Merv Griffin show in 1979. It had been taken three years earlier in 1976 by Ed and Lorraine Warren’s team of paranormal investigators, namely a professional photographer by the name of Gene Campbell.

Campbell had set up a camera equipped with black and white infrared film to shoot automatically during the night. Numerous rolls of film were used, with only one suspicious image being captured. The Amityville ghost image shows a figure with white eyes peering out of a doorway. Some believe that it is a demon or possibly the ghost of the murdered DeFeo boy, John. Others have concluded that it is likely one of the investigators, in particular, a man named Paul Bartz. They cite that his white eyes were possibly due to the infrared camera film.”

As of 2013, no other owners of the home have experienced any paranormal phenomena.

In 2006, George Lutz passed away suddenly. One of the last interviews he ever gave can be found at http://www.ghostvillage.com/legends/2005/legends36_04122005.shtml. In many ways, the Lutz’s purchase of the home was very straightforward. They saw the house, heard about the history, discussed numbers and commute times…basically the kind of shit you talk about with your significant other when considering a big purchase. I suppose we’ll never know what actually did or did not take place inside the Amityville Horror House, but we can be sure that the legend of the DeFeo murders and the Lutz family ordeal will survive for generations to come.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

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Knife-Wielding Killer: The Maniac in the Back Seat (and the one tucked into our psyches.)

It’s been a lovely evening. A young woman walks out of a popular restaurant and heads to her car, popping the door open and sliding in. Without another thought, she jams the key into the ignition and heads home. It isn’t long after she’s left the lot that she notices a car behind her. It’s approaching fast and the driver is flashing his high beams. The woman is at first annoyed. The lights are distracting and making it hard for her to see the road. She adjusts her rear view mirror so that the light isn’t shining directly into her eyes and continues driving. That’s when the honking starts.

The car behind her is accelerating, the driver is laying on his horn, flashing his lights, and driving recklessly. Now, the woman can feel fear clawing its way up the back of her throat. The fine hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. This guy is crazy and he’s following her. She realizes that she’s close to home and it seems as if this individual isn’t going to leave her alone. In desperation, she allows the car to follow her back home, throwing the driver’s side door open before she’s barely put the car in park. The woman scrambles up the drive, yelling for her husband to call the police. As she enters the house, she looks back into the driveway and sees the driver of the other car pulling a figure from her back seat and subduing him.

An ax-wielding maniac had recently escaped from a nearby lunatic asylum and slipped into the back of her car while she was in the restaurant. Each time the maniac would rise up in the back seat to murder the young woman, the car behind her would flash its lights and honk its horn. The potential killer would then duck down out of view. The young woman was lucky to be alive.

The moral of the story? ALWAYS check your back seat!

Good Advice

I’m guilty, too. Whenever I leave a mall, a coffee shop, a gas station, or a fast food restaurant, I always glance over my shoulder. I’ve done it for so long it just makes too much sense not to do it. But where did this fear originate? Where did I first hear about random strangers hiding in the back seats of cars? Did I imagine it one day as I walked to my car in the dark, allowing my mind to wander off where it shouldn’t have gone? Is my paranoia blame? Turns out, the answer is no.

According to Wikipedia, “The Killer in the Backseat (also known as High Beams) is a common, car-crime urban legend well known mostly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It was first noted by folklorist Carlos Drake in 1968 in texts collected by Indiana University students.”  It’s always the same, a lone woman in a risky situation. She’s leaving the gas station or a mall and suddenly she’s in grave danger. It takes a random stranger (always male) to save her. I’m not a fan of what I like to call the princess complex by urban legends, but for some reason or another, that’s just how they’re told. Here’s how this one plays out.

“The legend involves a woman who is driving and being followed by a strange car or truck. The mysterious pursuer flashes his high beams, tailgates her, and sometimes even rams her vehicle. When she finally makes it home, she realizes that the driver was trying to warn her that there was a man (a murderer, rapist, or escaped mental patient) hiding in her back seat. Each time the man sat up to attack her, the driver behind had used his high beams to scare the killer, in which he ducks down.

In some versions, the woman stops for gas, and the attendant asks her to come inside to sort out a problem with her credit card. Inside the station, he asks if she knows there’s a man in her back seat. (An example of this rendition can be seen in the 1998 episode of Millennium, “The Pest House”.) In another, she sees a doll on the road in the moors, stops, and then the man gets in the back.”

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

Let’s not forget the KITBS tale that played out in the opening of the 1998 film Urban Legend (one of my personal favorites.)

Jan Harold Brunvand, the author of the Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Volume 1, has this to say about this famous urban legend.

Untitled1Untitled2

According to Brunvand, the tale was given a boost of popularity in the 1980’s when it was featured in Ann Landers’ advice column. An individual from California wrote Landers in 1982, opening the letter with, “I tell this story to everyone I meet but I hope that by telling you, others will get the message.” The story ran concurrently in several newspapers but received little response from Landers. The writer ended with the moral, “always check the back seat” and encouraged Landers to spread the word. Landers simply replied, “Consider it spread–and thanks for the tip.” The story also found its way into crime prevention brochures. In 1983, a widely reprinted New York Times article spoke of a woman who was a karate expert and gives courses on anti-abduction techniques. The story the “expert” used as an example was the urban legend of The Killer in the Back Seat, choosing the gas station version to drive her point home.

Chained

It seems that there are two classic versions of this particular urban legend. In the first telling, the woman is on her way home from a night with the girls, she’s leaving a restaurant or a bar. In the second version, the woman stops at a gas station to refuel. The woman is told over the intercom by a gas station attendant that there is an issue with her credit card (or that she has to come in and sign the slip) and she will have to come into the service station to resolve it. The setting of a gas station at night is a familiar one. You might remember, a few years ago, a tale about a predator that would hide under cars while they were refueling and slice women’s ankles with a razor or piano wire. This version had something to do with a gang initiation and was circulated as a chain letter through email.

A friend stopped at a pay-at-the-pump gas station to get gas. Once she filled her gas tank and after paying at the pump and starting to leave, the voice of the attendant inside came over the speaker. He told her that something happened with her card and that she needed to come inside to pay. The lady was confused because the transaction showed complete and approved. She relayed that to him and was getting ready to leave but the attendant, once again, urged her to come in to pay or there’d be trouble. She proceeded to go inside and started arguing with the attendant about his threat. He told her to calm down and listen carefully:

He said that while she was pumping gas, a guy slipped into the back seat of her car on the other side and the attendant had already called the police.She became frightened and looked out in time to see her car door open and the guy slips out. The report is that the new gang initiation thing is to bring back a woman and/or her car. One way they are doing this is crawling under women’s cars while they’re pumping gas or at grocery stores in the nighttime. The other way is slipping into unattended cars and kidnapping the women.Please pass this on to other women, young and old alike. Be extra careful going to and from your car at night.

If at all possible, don’t go alone! This is real!!

The message:

1. ALWAYS lock your car doors, even if you’re gone for just a second!

2. Check underneath your car when approaching it for reentry, and check in the back before getting in.

3. Always be aware of your surroundings and of other individuals in your general vicinity, particularly at night!

Send this to everyone so your friends can take precaution.

AND GUYS…YOU TELL ANY WOMEN YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS Thanks,

Barbara Baker, Secretary Directorate of Training U.S. Army Military Police School

https://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/backseat.asp

So what do we make of all this KITBS mumbo jumbo? It’s certainly never happened in real life, right? Actually, that’s not entirely true. It did actually happen, to a male police officer in 1964. Apparently, the cop found an escaped murderer in the back seat of his cruiser. The killer was subdued and subsequently arrested, but is this instance still fueling the paranoia of female motorists?

Across the Pond

It’s entirely possible that at some point in the past, a woman was in danger of being murdered by an assailant hiding in her back seat, but this Urban Legend isn’t as popular in Europe as it is in the United States. Although the KITBS story also ran in some European newspapers, it just never caught on. What does that say about American culture? Are Americans more apt to believe that random strangers are out to kill them? Perhaps. In all honesty, checking the back seat prior to getting into your car isn’t a terrible idea. You never know who might be lurking…

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

Find podcast episodes of Haunt Heads at hauntheads.podbean.com or wherever you listen to podcasts!

S2 Ep. 4: Burrito Ghosts

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-f6c93-7d93b8

A new intro, but the same old dance from us!

S2 Ep. 4: Burrito Ghosts

Janine explores the practice of Spiritualism and tells the tale of the Stratford Knockings and the Fox Sisters. Mimi again takes us across the pond to the Thirsk Museum in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, UK, for a sit and a cuppa. Whatever you do, don’t sit in Busby’s Chair!

This episode contains turkey talk and traditions, a (potentially) dropped burrito, an entity named “Mr. Splitfoot,” and a little healthy raggin’ on Bagans.

Music/Intro
St. James Infirmary, is generously provided by Fox and Branch and is used with their permission. For more info about them and additional samples of their music, visit their website HERE. You can also purchase digital and physical copies of their CD’s, which is something we’re sure they’d love. =)

S1 Ep. 20 Labor Day Special: Season 1 Finale

NOW AVAILABLE!

S1 Ep. 20 Labor Day Special: Season 1 Finale
We decided to round off Season 1, and our Labor Day episode, with a feature length special! In this episode, Mimi discusses Annabelle, the Ryman Theater (Auditorium) in Nashville, TN, and The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, IA. Janine, in an effort to return to her roots, tells the haunting tale of the Wabana Iron Ore Mines on Bell Island, Newfoundland, Canada, and regails us with the very creepy urban legend of The Body Under the Bed. Spoiler: It’s more true than you think.
This episode contains discussions of Mimi’s narcolepsy, listener shout outs, eclipse observations, and getting older.
Disclaimer: Janine’s piece, The Body Under the Bed, might be a tad too creepy for some listeners. The piece runs from 1hr 35 mins-1hr 51 mins. Feel free to skip it if you’re easily creeped out. Though it doesn’t contain graphic depictions of violence, it is a little “icky”.
Haunt Heads will return in about 4 weeks with new episodes and blog content. Stay tuned and thanks for listening!

hauntheads.podbean.com

Find us on iTunes HERE.