This week, Janine takes us back to 1986 and one of the most terrible nuclear disasters in history, the Chernobyl meltdown of Reactor 4, and (along with a little history) tells of the ghosts who supposedly still reside in the exclusion zone. Katie takes to the attic in the house of Mrs. Walberga Oesterreich and reveals what secrets are hidden there. From Wisconsin to California and a murder most foul.
This episode contains some glowing sandwiches, stellar bathtub gin, a very Bert-like baby, and a hidden attic.
Warning: This episode contains mature content. Listener discretion is advised. From 24 minutes–24:32, Janine discusses the effects of radiation exposure. If you’re not keen to hear about it, fast forward 30 secs or so. We understand. =)
Links: The Oestterreich fiasco and hidden attic plans.
The year is 1772, a year of firsts and new ideas. On the first of the year, the first traveler’s checks go on sale in London and can be used in 90 European cities. On May 11th, the Amsterdam Theater is destroyed by fire killing 18 people. On June 22nd, the court case of Somerset v. Stewart finds slavery unsupported by English common law, encouraging the abolitionist movement. In August, an explosive eruption kills 3,000 people in Indonesia. On September 26, New Jersey passes a bill requiring a license to practice medicine. On October 30th, Captain James Cook arrives on the ship Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa.
And while all of these firsts and new ideas were occurring, Benjamin Franklin was entertaining at dinner parties, playing wine glasses filled with water to the glee of his guests. Yes, THAT Benjamin Franklin. I mean, he did other shit besides playing the wine glasses, he was Ben Franklin for Christ sakes… The end result of this impromptu performance was the creation of a very unique, and certainly very odd, musical instrument called the armonica. No, I didn’t just drop the H as is sometimes custom in my culture. No. The harmonica is played with the mouth by forcing air through it. The armonica is played with the fingertips (dampened in a bowl of water kept handy) as they slide along the edges of glass bowls rotating on a spindle set lengthwise. It was also called the glass spindle, the glass harp, and the angelic organ. Seriously. The instrument allowed the musician to play up to ten notes simultaneously, making for very interesting sound quality, practically ghostly. Wikipedia describes the armonica as “an instrument consisting of variously sized and tuned glass bowls that rotate on a common shaft, played by touching the spinning glass with wet fingers” I think whoever wrote that Wiki really needs to get laid. Franklin’s armonica, which he didn’t patent by the way because he believed the instrument should be available to as many people as possible and he didn’t care about the revenue, was played by famous people. Beethoven wrote music for the armonica and even French Queen Marie Antoinette lost her head over her armonica lessons. Before, you know, she actually lost her head. Thousands of the instruments were built and sold by various dealers and the popularity skyrocketed. However, the armonica’s melodies led to some confusing side effects and it wasn’t long before it began to serve an altogether different purpose.
Think back to the past episode of Haunt Heads where I talked about Mesmerism. Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer, a German doctor with an interest in astronomy, theorized that there was an energy transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects. He called this animal magnetism, later referred to as mesmerism. Mesmer himself would use the armonica to channel the energies he referred to as animal magnetism. I believe it was Season 2, Episode 3. If you haven’t had a listen, Mesmer essentially created all manner of wonky devices to channel this natural energy and marketed it as a kind of cure-all to his patients. The armonica also became a cure-all, but not because Franklin marketed the instrument as such. Rather, those listening decided that they felt better after the show was over.
Mel Spencer of the Royal Opera House writes, “Princess Izabella Czartoryska of Poland, who met Franklin and his armonica in 1772, wrote an account: ‘I was ill, in a state of melancholia, and writing my testament and farewell letters… [Franklin] opened an armonica, sat down and played long. The music made a strong impression on me and tears began flowing from my eyes. Then Franklin sat by my side and looking with compassion said, “Madam, you are cured.” Indeed at that moment, I was cured of my melancholia.’” https://www.roh.org.uk
In 1762, Franklin premiered a new version of his angelic organ (insert eye roll here.) The new model featured a color-coding system to tell the musician which note they were actually playing (insanely useful) and eliminated the trough of water that the glasses would rotate through. This version of the AO was played by Marianne Davies to tremendous applause.
On January 12th of that year, the Bristol Journal advertised the event as:
“The celebrated glassy-chord, invented by Mr. Franklin of Philadelphia: who has greatly improved the musical glasses, and formed them into a compleat instrument to accompany the voice; capable of a thorough bass, and never out of tune. Miss Davies from London, was to perform in the month of January, several favourite airs, English, Scotch and Italian, on the Glassychord (being the only one of the Kind that has yet been produced) accompanied occasionally with the voice and the German Flute.”
Of course, as is the case with many a strange and unusual elixir, regular players began reporting that their tinnitus was cured (likely because the armonica sounds like the Hunchback of Notre Dame is having a stroke while swinging from the bell ropes in the tower.) Other musicians said they felt disoriented and more still said that they were struck by bouts of madness with regularity upon playing the instrument. Once the public heard about these afflictions, ignoring the one dude who was cured of tinnitus, the armonica was credited with being a menace. Health warnings read “If you are suffering from any kind of nervous disorder, you should not play it; if you are not yet ill you should not play it; if you are feeling melancholy you should not play it.” Thank you, German musicologist, Friedrich Rochlitz.
It was likely Davis’ poor health that earned the armonica its reputation. In 1783, she wrote to Benjamin Franklin regarding her illness stating that she’d had a “violent return of nervous complaints which brought me so low that there were little hopes of my recovery. I was near a twelvemonth confin’d to my Room, and most part of the time to my Bed.” Davis never attributed her illness to playing the armonica, she and her sister had made a business of touring with the instrument and playing to large crowds, but there were some who linked her playing to her eventual death in a mental institution.
Even though the reports of insanity and hysteria were widespread and those who experienced the armonica’s beguiling tune were indecisive as to whether or not the thing might cause you to throw yourself from a bell tower, the instrument found a home at the Opera. You see, Opera was mad in itself and, although it was difficult to find someone who could actually play the instrument (on occasion, a flute might be substituted,) the multiple “mad scenes” and general fanciful quality of operatic performance made it a perfect fit.
Still, people were going wiggy over the armonica and not in a good way. They feared it would induce madness and hysteria in anyone who listened to a performance and rumors of people dying during concerts eventually led to certain German cities banning the instrument altogether. It scared animals and caused babies to be born prematurely…it was clearly a menace that had to be stopped. Many also worried about the armonica’s ability to raise the spirits of the dead because, even though the 18th century was one of scientific enlightenment, there were many people who relied on superstition and rumor to get through their day. Never use the armonica after midnight and, for the love of Christ, stay away from graveyards!
This is not to say that the armonica didn’t have its fans. Mozart, Jefferson, Paganini…all used the armonica and swore by its tonality and the ethereal quality it added to their work. Of course, there were also “legitimate critics.” J.M. Rogers stated in his “Treatise on the Effects of Music on the Human Body” wrote in 1803, “Its melancholy tone plunges you into dejection…to a point, the strongest man could not hear it for an hour without fainting.” Even Thomas Bloch, a musician who played the armonica regularly said that the sounds created, “…are of a nearly celestial softness…but can cause spasms.” As someone who has listened to several musical interludes, I can say that hearing the strange sound of the armonica does cause me to feel a little light headed and it did scare the shit out of the cat. I think it’s also important to note that (as Bloch later points out) there was on average a 40% lead content in some glass of the time period (though absorption of lead through the skin is limited, less than 1%.) Since Franklin updated his design, perhaps a bowl of water just wasn’t handy and the musician licked his/her fingers between each note? Apparently, you can’t generate enough saliva to lubricate that many glasses spinning at once and the glasses were painted on the inside to avoid the paint wearing off (yes, the paint likely contained lead), but absorption or ingestion isn’t an outlandish thought. For example, women in the 17th and 18th centuries were poisoning themselves with lead-based makeup. Maria Gunning who died at the age of 27 was regularly exposed to lead-based cosmetics.
According to glassarmonica.com “She continued to utilize heavy makeup, simply because it was stylish. Had she paid heed to her husband’s actions against her wearing lead-based makeup in Paris for the rest of her days, her death eight years later (at the age of 27) may not have been so untimely. However, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, it was fashionable for ladies to have pale white skins and red rouged cheeks and use lead as a basis for their makeup. It was the noxious effects of the lead which caused skin eruptions (which also encouraged ladies to powder their skins more vigorously to mask their blemishes) and eventually blood-poisoning which killed Maria on September 30, 1760. Originally known simply as a beautiful but vain woman, she eventually became known in society circles as a “victim of cosmetics.”
It also wasn’t customary to bathe on the regular and many wealthy people only bathed once a month. Washing your hands also wasn’t in fashion. “Keep lead on your skin for 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, year after year, along with the lead powder that would constantly be falling off of your face to be inhaled and ingested, and you have a sure-fire recipe for lead poisoning.”
The website goes on to list a number of ways people in the 17th century might have poisoned themselves.
Despite all of the above information, it’s doubtful that armonica players died from playing the armonica. It’s more likely that they died from the same illnesses as everyone else. Or, you know, from the dust shed by their arsenic-laced wallpaper or bread dough made whitey mcwhite white by plaster of Paris. Who can say!
Of course, for everything, there is a season and the armonica quickly fell out of favor. It was popular in America and England for about a hundred or so years, but I guess it just wasn’t fashionable to talk to the dead any longer. Plus, superstition. “Dammit, Jimmy! I thought I told you to keep that bloody armonica out of the graveyard! Just wait ‘till your father gets home!” The bottom line is, armonicas were a pain in the arse to ship. They were basically entirely made of glass and incredibly fragile and even water quality would negatively affect the quality of the notes it produced. It was also quite difficult to play. The instrument didn’t do well in a symphony orchestra because there was no amplification at the time so it just got lost amongst all the other instruments. Interestingly enough, there are still a handful of people today who still play due to a gentleman from Massachusetts by the name of Finkenbeiner, a glass blower, who began making them again.
Is anyone else looking to purchase one of these things?? Not gonna lie, I’ve been Googling, but it looks like Finkenbeiner isn’t as Franklin-like in ensuring the continuation of the playing and enjoyment of armonicas. His start at right around $7800.00 and each bowl is made of pulverized quartz. Apparently, the smaller models are about 35 pounds while the larger models can top 50. He also creates anatomical models of various parts of the human body in glass…if you’re in need of that sort of thing.
Have you ever witnessed a live performance of glass armonica tomfoolery and gone wacky in your head box? We wanna hear about it!
This week, Janine presents a most unusual musical instrument known as the armonica (or glass organ) and Katie tells the tale of the Ridgeway Ghost of route 151 that runs from Dodgeville to Blue Mounds, WI.
This episode contains a shapeshifting ghost, an old WI legend (from the 1900’s,) a spinning glass organ, and a haunted bath mat.
Haunt Heads returns for another creepy episode! This week, Janine takes us on a tour of the Paris Morgue of the 1800s and makes a connection to the modern day that might make your head spin when she talks about the “most kissed face in the world.” Katie tackles an unsolved murder in Elk Lake, WI, and introduces us to the spirit of 25-year-old Mary Schlais whose body was discovered in a snowy ditch near the shores of the Lake.
This episode contains a dollop of true crime and a murder most foul, shadow people, and a death mask from the 1800s put to use in the modern day.
Thanks to Fox and Branch for the use of their song St. James Infirmary for our intro/outro. Find more of their hot jams at foxandbranch.com.
Likely one of the strangest figures in history was a man known only as Tarrare. A glutton, his ravenous appetite could not be satiated and he never gained weight although his abdomen became distended with each large “meal,” he toured the French countryside performing for anyone who would stop and watch as he gorged himself. Tarrare would eat large amounts of food and literally anything else that anyone asked him to ingest. Items ranged from pocket watches to cutlery and everything in between.
Although we are aware that the competitive eaters of today go through strenuous exercises to expand/stretch their stomachs in order to take in more food, the story of Tarrare is still unnerving and, ultimately, very strange indeed. Tarrare was certainly a medical anomaly and performed as a freak to support himself.
Born in France near Lyon around 1772, (his DOB is unrecorded and there is debate as to whether Tarrare was his real name or a nickname) Tarrare lived with his parents until his early teens. At this point, he could eat his weight in meat and his family just couldn’t manage to feed him. They forced him to leave. After this, he toured the country with a group of sex workers and thieves with whom he begged for and stole food. He eventually came upon a traveling charlatan who welcomed him into his show as an attraction. Tarrare would eat everything he could including refuse and stones. He would even eat live animals including live eels that he would consume whole and swallow basketfuls of apples one after another.
Around 1778, his work as a street performer brought him to Paris. In general, he had a successful career and drew fairly large crowds who would gawk and cheer until one of his acts went awry and he had to be carried to the Hotel-Dieu hospital by members of the crowd in order to have an intestinal obstruction removed. Powerful laxatives worked their magic and Tarrare was back in business, but not before he offered to swallow a surgeon’s watch and chain. The surgeon, M. Giraud, said that if Tarrare swallowed his belongings he would cut him open and recover the items himself.
Terrare’s eating habits didn’t affect his outward appearance at all. In fact, he was rather gaunt and at the age of 17 weighed in at a mere 100 lbs. His mouth is described as abnormally large and his teeth were heavily stained, no doubt from consuming pure refuse and other inedible items for show, and if he didn’t eat his skin would droop. His cheeks would sag and the skin of his stomach would deflate like a burst balloon. He could then wrap the skin completely around his waist like a flabby belt. Tarrare was essentially a combination of The Human Skeleton and The Elastic Man sideshow acts from early circus sideshows. In addition to these anomalies, Tarrare is also described as having a terrible odor that could be experienced from a distance of 40 paces, was always sweating heavily, and he was prone to terrible bouts of diarrhea. He would belch loudly, he would constantly swallow, and his eyes would become bloodshot if he didn’t eat. According to Wikipedia, “Hyperthyroidism can induce an extreme appetite, rapid weight loss, profuse sweating, and heat intolerance. […] Bondeson (2006) speculates that Tarrare had a damaged amygdala; it is known that injuries to the amygdala in animals can induce polyphagia.”
When war broke out in 1792, Tarrare enlisted in the French Revolutionary Army. The FRA was known for its revolutionary fervor, poor equipment, and large numbers and Tarrare threw himself into a life of military service. Unfortunately, food rations would not satisfy Tarrare’s seemingly endless hunger and, although other soldiers would offer Tarrare part of their ration in exchange for services, it just didn’t fill him up. He took to eating refuse and scavenged through dung heaps for scraps. Eventually, Tarrare was admitted to a military hospital because he was suffering extreme exhaustion. He was granted quadruple rations by hospital staff but still remained hungry and foraged in garbage cans and gutters, even leaving his bed at night to steal away into the apothecary cabinet and eat the poultices. Tarrare was ordered to stay in the military hospital and undergo psychological and physical evaluations devised by Dr. Courville (surgeon to the 9th Hussar Regiment) and George Didier, Baron Percy, surgeon-in-chief of the hospital. Courville and Percy would watch as Tarrare consumed every item placed in front of him. In one instance, a meal was prepared to consist of two large meat pies, plates of grease and salt, and four gallons of milk, though the impressiveness of this particular consumed item depends on the definition of a gallon for the time period. From savoringthepast.net (https://savoringthepast.net/2012/07/02/interpreting-measures/), “In other recipes, the word “gallon” was used as a measurement. Now, this is a good example of how nomenclature has changed through the years. If you live in the United States, you expect a gallon to hold 128 ounces of liquid. It’s a measure that was officially adopted in the early 19th century from the old “wine” or “Queen Anne” gallon. It’s volume capacity precisely holds 231 cubic inches. But the term “gallon” in the 18th century was likely the “ale gallon,” which had a capacity of approximately 277-1/4 cubic inches — approximately 20% larger than the wine gallon. The ale gallon held precisely 10-pounds of water at 62 degrees (F). This measure later morphed into the “Imperial Gallon” that is still used in Great Britain and Canada. In addition to the wine and ale gallon, there is the corn gallon. This measure is still occasionally used today to measure grain. In the 18th century, it was also used to measure flour and bread. Its capacity is 268.8 cubic inches, or 16% greater than the wine gallon.”
Regardless of how large the gallon might have been, that’s still a fuck of a lot of dairy. Just sayin’.
Tarrare was also given a variety of other items to consume including snakes, lizards, and puppies. It is said that Tarrare also ate a cat alive, stripping the flesh from its bones and eating it whole. He later vomited up the fur and skin. When given an eel, he ate it whole after crushing the creature’s head between his teeth. Percy wrote of this scene, “ The dogs and cats fled in terror at his aspect as if they had anticipated the kind of fate he was preparing for them.”
It wasn’t long before the military began asking for Tarrare to be released and put back on active duty. Percy had no choice but to allow his patient to leave as he could see no medical reason for the man to stay under his care. Dr. Courville, however, approached General Alexandre de Beauharnais and suggested that Tarrare might be an asset to the war effort. Courville placed a note inside a wooden box and instructed Tarrare to eat it. Two days later, the box emerged in Tarrare’s excrement and the document was still legible. Courville told de Beauharnais that Tarrare would make an excellent courier of sensitive documents as enemy forces would find nothing if they searched him and he could pass undetected through their checkpoints. And so, Tarrare became a spy. A spy that could only speak French, but a spy nonetheless. Let’s just say he was no James Bond. I think I would have had reservations about swallowing a box containing sensitive military information, but I’m not a professional glutton. Also, Tarrare was paid handsomely with a wheelbarrow full of 30 lbs of bull lungs, liver, and testicles as a reward so it’s not like he didn’t get anything out of the deal. Something tells me he did get diarrhea, but that’s neither here nor there.
So Tarrare was employed officially as a spy for the Army of the Rhine and was immediately sent on a covert operation. “Tarrare was ordered as his first assignment to carry a message to a French colonel imprisoned by the Prussians near Neustadt; he was told that the documents were of great military significance, but in reality de Beauharnais had merely written a note asking the colonel to confirm that the message had been received successfully and if so to return a reply of any potentially useful information about Prussian troop movements.” (Wikipedia) Tarrare made his way through Prussian lines in order to deliver the return message and dressed as a German peasant in order to blend into his surroundings. Remember how I said he wasn’t James Bond? Well, Tarrare couldn’t speak a lick of German so of course, he began to arouse suspicion with the locals who alerted Prussian authorities. He was almost immediately arrested, but even after hours of whipping, he refused to disclose his mission. It wasn’t until a full 24 hours later that he finally relented. “He was chained to a latrine, and eventually, 30 hours after being swallowed, the wooden box emerged. Zoegli was furious when the documents, which Tarrare had said contained vital intelligence, transpired only to be de Beauharnais’s dummy message, and Tarrare was taken to a gallows and the noose placed around his neck.” Some believe that Tarrare actually passed the box with the message, but retrieved it from his stool and ate it again. Yep.
“At the last minute, Zoegli relented, and Tarrare was taken down from the scaffold, given a severe beating, and released near the French lines.” (Wikipedia)
At this point, Tarrare was desperate to be free of military service and returned to Percy at the hospital. He begged Percy to find a cure for his relentless eating and Percy conceded. The doctor would feed Tarrare large amounts of soft boiled eggs, but this failed to suppress his appetite. If Tarrare smelled bad before, it was all downhill from here. Tarrare would leave the hospital and rummage through the garbage outside butcher shops and fight stray dogs for scraps in the gutters and rubbish heaps. Percy would catch Tarrare drinking the blood of patients who were undergoing bloodletting. Tarrare would also creep into the mortuary at night and consume body parts of deceased patients. Percy’s colleagues insisted that Tarrare was mentally ill and should be immediately committed to an asylum, but he refused to believe that he could not somehow help the man. It wasn’t until a 14-month-old boy went missing that Percy had had enough and demanded Tarrare leave the hospital and never return.
Four years later, in 1798, Percy would receive a call from M. Tessier of Versailles Hospital claiming that he had a patient in his care that was very ill. The patient had asked that Percy be called. The patient was Tarrare. Percy visited with Tarrare who was sure he was suffering what he believed was an intestinal blockage. He’d eaten a gold fork during one of his performances and, to the best of his knowledge, had not passed the item. One look at Tarrare was all Percy needed. Clearly, the man was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis and was not long for the world.
Tarrare passed away a month later. His corpse rotted so quickly and gave off such a stench that the doctors at the hospital refused to be anywhere near it. Tessler, however, dissected the remains because he still had a fork to find. Upon close examination, he found that he could open Tarrare’s mouth and see all the way down into his stomach. Additionally, his body was filled with pus and his liver and gallbladder were enlarged. His stomach was enormous and covered in ulcers, but Tessler could not find the fork inside Tarrare.
The story of Tarrare the glutton seems too fantastical to be believed, but there is evidence of another such individual capable of such grand consumption. A man named Charles Domery
“Charles Domery was a man born in Poland in 1778. Domery joined the Prussian army when he was young, but was very dissatisfied with the rations. He even went over to the French army just for the food. Once he went through all of the French’s food, he turned to cats. Reportedly, Domery ate 174 cats in a single year. Other unimaginable feats of his include eating 5 lbs (2.3 kg) of grass per day, and attempting to eat the severed leg of a fellow soldier. Domery’s incredible eating abilities is due to a medical condition called polyphagia, which involves excessive appetite. One time, the British army gave him the following items just to see if he could eat them: 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of meat, multiple bottles of wine, a raw cow’s udder, 2 lbs (0.9 kg) of candles. He did.” (Curiosity.com)
Were Tarrare and Domery one and the same? We will likely never know.
Welcome back for another creepy season of Haunt Heads!
This week, Katie’s hitting the thrift shops and bargain basements and talking about the objects we find at second hand stores and the energies they hold. Janine visits 17thcentury France and tells the (often disturbing) tale of Tarrare the glutton.
This episode contains some awesome podcast recommendations, a disappearing fork, transference of spiritual energy, and a massive gastrointestinal upset.
WARNING: This episode might be a little much for some of our listeners. Janine’s piece begins at roughly 59 minutes in. If you can’t handle the insanely creepy and grotesque (including cannibalism and a brief mention of infanticide) , we understand. You’ve been warned.
Our theme song is St. James Infirmary by Fox and Branch. Find more of their music at foxandbranch.com.
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.)
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?
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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!