Top Weird News & Oddities of 2015

A look back at the strangest and most-viewed posts on Cult of Weird for 2015.
Most viewed weird news articles of 2015

Not only did 2015 mark the 5th anniversary of the Cult, it was a great year in weird. Goatman sightings, mummified monks, furry trout, and other oddities were abundant in the news. Here’s a quick look at some of the things that happened this year:

Cult of Weird was viewed by well over a million curious visitors this year, and that’s not even taking into account social media.

Thanks to all of you who read, comment and share! Without you, this wouldn’t be possible.

2015 Top Cult of Weird Posts

Perhaps due to our involvement in the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, I had a renewed interest in the bizarre history and folklore of my home state this year. While the scope of Cult of Weird is not limited to any particular region, many of the most-viewed stories featured here come from the desolate reaches of Wisconsin.

Man Catches Rare Furry Trout
Man catches rare fur-bearing trout in Wisconsin river
A fisherman claimed to pull this furry trout from a Wisconsin river. Is it a hoax? Fur coat? Trout koozie? You decide. This was shared by National Geographic, making it the most-viewed article of the year.
Read Story Here

Scan Reveals Mummified Monk in Buddha Statue
CT scan reveals mummified monk found inside 1,000-year-old Buddha statue
A CT scan of a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue revealed the mummified remains of a Chinese monk inside. And ancient writings on paper scraps were used to replace his organs.
Read Story Here

The Tragic Story Behind Chicago’s Mass Circus Grave
Mass burial of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus at Showmen's Rest after the train wreck
A mass grave in Chicago contains the remains of the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus, which was wiped out in a devastating train accident in 1918.
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Witchcraft and Murder in 20th Century Pennsylvania
The Nelson Rehmeyer hex murder house in York County, Pennsylvania
How superstition and paranoia lead to a brutal murder in Pennsylvania in 1928.
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1947 Buick Frankenstein Hearse
1947 Frankenstein Buick hearse
A beautiful, one-of-a-kind vintage hearse found rusting in a field in Greece.
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Ed Gein Cauldron Hits the Auction Block
An antique cauldron found covered in blood at the Ed Gein crime scene in Plainfield, WI
A cauldron once owned by Ed Gein and witnessed holding human entrails came up for auction. And guess who bought it…Zak Bagans of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventurers.
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Feather Crowns Foretell Impending Death
Vintage feather death crown photo by Lori Kimball
In Appalachian culture, a lump of feathers in your pillow, called a death crown, is believed to signify impending death.
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Earliest Known Murder
Fractured skull from the Pleistocene may be the earliest known homicide
A 430,000-year-old fractured skull shows evidence of the earliest known murder.
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Digging Up Ed Gein in Plainfield, WI
The grave of Ed Gein in Plainfield Cemetery
Our latest expedition to Plainfield in search of Gein history for this post turned out to be more than just a road trip into the depths of human depravity, according to the controversy it sparked.
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Family Tormented by Haunted Bunk Beds
Haunted bunk bed of Wisconsin from the Horicon haunted house
In 1988, the bizarre events experienced by a family in Horicon, Wisconsin made national headlines and became the subject of an Unsolved Mysteries episode.
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PhD Student Makes Yogurt from Her Vagina Bacteria
Wisconsin student makes vagina yogurt
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St. Nazianz: A Town Founded by Heretical Mystic Cult
St. Nazianz cemetery of priests and the crypt of Father Oschwald
This small Wisconsin town was has a long history of unusual happenings centered around a German priest who brought his followers here after the church removed him from his duties for heretical works.
Read Story Here

Feather death crown
Artist Troy Walter submitted this illustration for the October Instagram giveaway. For a chance to win a “box of weird” each week, viewers had to share a photo answering that week’s question.

#cultofweird

Making a Murderer: Netflix Documentary Unravels Steven Avery Case

Netflix documentary reveals the murky details and rampant misconduct in the murder case of Steven Avery in Wisconsin.
Making a Murderer tackles the strange case of Steven Avery
Steven Avery in a lineup for a 1985 sexual assault he was wrongly convicted for.

As a Wisconsin resident, the case of Steven Avery has been difficult to ignore. In 1985, Avery was incarcerated for a crime he claimed he didn’t do. In 2003, he was finally exonerated by DNA evidence that proved another man had committed the sexual assault he spent 18 years in prison for.

Related: Did a secret Satanic club frame Steven Avery for murder?

Then, two years later, just weeks after the officers involved in his wrongful conviction were deposed in his $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Avery became the only suspect in the murder and dismemberment of a local woman whose remains were discovered on his property.

It was around this time that filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos read about the case. They spent the next ten years documenting the Avery family’s struggle for justice, through trials, convictions, and appeals. The result is Making a Murderer, a comprehensive 10-part series highlighting the horrific flaws in the criminal justice system that lead to Steven Avery, as well as his 16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey, receiving life sentences for a murder with nothing more than a few highly questionable pieces of evidence.

The Murder of Teresa Halbach

On October 31st, 2005 photographer Teresa Halbach arrived at the family-owned Avery’s Auto Salvage in rural Two Rivers, Wisconsin to take photos of a van for Auto Trader Magazine. Though she had been there many times previously, this would be her last.

Halbach was reported missing after a few days. Friends and family formed a search party, which focused on the last place she was known to have been: the Avery compound. It wasn’t long before Teresa’s Toyota Rav4 was found hidden amongst other vehicles in the yard. Splotches of blood inside were a match for Steven Avery.

Officers from Manitowoc and Calumet counties quickly descended upon the property. An exhaustive 8-day search uncovered charred bone fragments in a burn pit, and the key to Teresa’s Rav4 inside Avery’s mobile home. Not long after being freed, the man who had become the poster child for wrongful conviction found himself in police custody once again.

But the evidence was sketchy at best.

Police testimony (and photos) showed that the first time through Avery’s home, the key was not present in the location where it was later found. It was discovered only after two Manitowoc officers involved in Steven’s previous conviction had been inside the home.

As the documentary reveals, one of those officers also had access to a vial of Avery’s blood, which was used in the DNA test that freed him. When the vial was inspected, it was found to have a hole in the lid the size of a hypodermic needle.

Also, there was reason to believe the bone fragments may have been moved from a different burn location and placed in Avery’s pit.

Brendan Dassey Confesses

Months into the investigation, with no new evidence, police questioned a young member of the Avery family who stated that Brendan Dassey, Steven’s nephew, had been acting strange. She claimed he had lost a lot of weight, was often seen crying, and claimed to have witnessed body parts in a bonfire he attended with Steven the night Halbach went missing.

Dassey was taken from school for questioning, resulting in a grueling 3+ hour interrogation. Throughout the taped session, Dassey, clearly of below average intelligence and comprehension, is continuously lead and coerced into telling a story of his participation in the brutal rape, murder, and disposal of Teresa Halbach in Steven’s home and garage.

At the end, Dassey asks when he can go back to school as he is concerned about a project he had due. He seems to have no understanding of the weight and consequences of the words that were just wrenched out of him.

Furthermore, the supposed scene of the crime is devoid of hair, blood or any other forensic evidence to substantiate the claims.

But that was apparently enough to convict.

Throughout the ten hour binge-watching session, my opinion of Avery’s guilt continuously wavered. At times I was positive by his tone and demeanor that he did it, while other times I was enraged by the obvious police misconduct and lack of evidence.

The one thing Making a Murderer makes quite clear throughout? Hope you are never accused of a crime. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not you actually did it.

Binge-watching Making a Murderer for Christmas

What do you think? Are Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach, or are they the victims of a malicious conspiracy and a flawed system?

Read this: Evidence ‘Making a Murderer’ Didn’t Present

Share your opinions in the comments below.

Recommended Reading
The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath

Historic Haunted Mortuary For Sale in California

An historic home is for sale in Dunsmuir, complete with mortuary, human remains, and ghosts.
Historic haunted home and mortuary for sale in Dunsmuir, California
The Old Mortuary home for sale in Dunsmuir, CA

Behind the imposing facade of this historic Dunsmuir, California home is a dark history that has haunted the sleepy town for many years with tales of a dead mortician, his troubled wife, and a house full of restless spirits. Now, the house that inspired local author Maralee Lowder’s best-selling novel The Mortician’s Wife can be yours.

The property has changed hands several times in recent years. Some have claimed to witness ghostly phenomena in the house, while others have denied experiencing anything out of the ordinary. For current owner Brad Warner, who bought the house with his wife in 2010, strange things began happening almost immediately.

Living room

Lowder, a friend of the Warners, described their first encounter with whatever otherworldly inhabitants seem to have taken up residence in the home:

The current owners, Nancy and Brad Warner, readily admit to experiencing quite a variety of spiritual activities. As an example let me tell you about the very first night they stayed in their newly acquired home. They had brought all of their furniture in, but had not set up their bed yet. So, they placed their mattress on the main floor, in the living room. There was a roaring fire going in the fireplace, they had the lights turned on and were watching a DVD on their computer. Suddenly, everything went off—the lights, the computer…and the fireplace!

Brad spoke into the darkness, “We are going to be living here…this is our home now. We are not going to try to make you leave. All we want is to live here in harmony with you.” At that moment everything came back on. The lights turned on. The computer came back on. And, yes, the fire in the fireplace suddenly relit itself.

Since then, the sounds of footsteps, pages of a Bible turning by themselves, and other unexplainable happenings have become regular occurrences for the Warners. If you are wondering why, the answer can most likely be found in the basement.

The Old Mortuary Inn

Sometime in the early 1900s, the Young family moved into the house and opened a mortuary. While most of the house was remodeled when the Warner’s decided to open a “dead and breakfast,” the basement remains largely untouched. The bolts that once held the embalming table can still be found in the wall. The faucets used to wash bodies are still working. There is a long hallway once used by the horse-drawn hearse.

Bedroom belonging to the mortician's wife

According to local legend, Mr. Young died at the kitchen table. His wife was so distraught, she left him there to rot for weeks, locking herself away in her room where she felt safe from the spirits.

To add another layer to the mystery to the house, the Warners believe that architect Julia Morgan may have had a hand in the design. They think she came to know the Young family while she was working nearby on William Randolph Hearst’s Wyntoon estate. Though there is no documentation to support the claim, it is said that Morgan helped the Youngs remodel after a fire in the 1920s.

Haunted stairway

So what does the $899,000 price tag get you? Nearly 9,000 square feet of creepy. The three level home includes 7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, the mortuary, and a casket in the basement containing the skeletal remains of a 17-year-old girl.

More on the house right here.

The house is located at 5957 Sacramento Ave, Dunsmuir, CA 96025

John Lennon Was Killed 35 Years Ago Today

Today marks the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder in front of the Dakota in New York by shooter Mark David Chapman.
The entrance of the Dakota where John Lennon was murdered in 1980
The entrance of the Dakota where John Lennon was murdered in 1980.

John Lennon was gunned down here at the entrance of the Dakota in New York City 35 years ago today. The shooter was 26-year-old Mark David Chapman, a disillusioned Beatles fan. He was angered by the feeling that Lennon was phony, a man who preached “imagine no possessions” but had accumulated millions. Chapman, a christian, was also upset by Lennon’s statement that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

Chapman had been planning the murder for three months. On December 6th, 1980 he flew from his home in Hawaii to New York. On December 8th, he spent most of the day waiting near the entrance of the Dakota. He had met Lennon’s 5-year-old son Sean on a walk with the housekeeper, and shook his hand. Later in the afternoon Lennon left the building for a recording session. Chapman stopped him, asking him to sign a copy of the album Double Fantasy. Eerily, this moment was captured on film by photographer Paul Goresh.

John Lennon just hours before his murder
John Lennon signs an album for his killer just hours before he was gunned down. Photo by Paul Goresh.

When Lennon returned that night, Chapman was still waiting. Lennon was passing through the large arched doorway to go inside when Chapman opened fire from the street. He shot Lennon four times in the back, then stood at the scene reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye until police arrived and arrested him. Inside the book, he had inscribed the words “This is my statement.”

Strawberry Fields Imagine memorial
Strawberry Field Imagine memorial for John Lennon in Central Park.

Though I’ve never been a fan of John Lennon or the Beatles, standing where his life ended during my trip to New York in 2012 was an incredibly sad, though profound, experience. Here, the world lost a powerful artist, a sonic shaman, someone who could truly move the world.

Naughty or Nice? The Beasts Come Out for Bloomington Krampus Night

A pack of Krampus terrorized the streets of Bloomington, Indiana last night for the annual Krampus Night event.
Krampus Night in Bloomington, Indiana

Krampus Night? What is it? According to Austro-Barvarian folklore, Krampus is a huge, sinister, horned beast that has been enslaved by St. Nicholas. As Old Nick journeys across the Alpine countryside bringing gifts to good children, the chained demon stalks behind him, waiting to be unleashed on naughty children. Punishments handed out by Krampus include, but are not limited to, leaving coal instead of gifts, handing out beatings with a birch switch, marking sleeping children’s faces with ash to attract nightmares, and worst of all, carrying the worst of the children off to hell! Intense, huh?

Related

It’s long been tradition in Alpine villages for young men to dress in elaborate Krampus costumes and parade down the street, and afterwards lurk in alleys and dark places waiting to frighten passing children. It’s like someone took the best aspects of Christmas and combined them with Halloween. Those Europeans have the best ideas!

Now the tradition is becoming more and more popular in the United States. Not only is Krampus now a major motion picture, and has appeared in various television shows and graphic novels. But before all that, Bloomington, Indiana has been bringing this unique tradition to life each December for the past four years.

Krampus sidewalk chalk drawing

This year Cult Of Weird was on hand to cover the festivities. Krampus Night began just before twilight with a Bazaar situated in a small parking lot. Patrons could purchase tee shirts, bundles of switches, and food and drink. Various family activities were available to keep children entertained–God forbid a sudden bout of boredom leads children to mischief just as a pack of Krampuses are readying to march through town! The kids could occupy themselves with sack races, Krampus balloon headdresses, making homemade Krampus masks, or drawing images of the beast in sidewalk chalk. But most important of all, this is where you get your naughty or nice stickers. Nice patrons get candy. Naughty ones run the risk of meeting Krampus up close.

An hour later, just as night fell, ominous horn and drum music could be heard in the distance and troop of angels appeared from around the corner–lovely women in white, gyrating with light-up neon hula hoops, while a very stoic, Old World Saint Nicholas oversaw the performance. The women would then approach onlookers and hand out treats to children labeled nice. As bright and spectacular as this scene was, a dark cloud hung over the festivities. Dark haired men with ashen faces followed several feet behind with torches blazing high in the air, and behind them the menacing roars of dark beasts could be heard. Soon a dozen or more fierce, fur covered goat men with, enormous, twisted, wild horns appeared carrying long staffs made of bundles of switches. The creatures howled and growled and lunged at the crowd in search of the naughty. The crowd howled and growled back, and older siblings yelled out to the Krampuses, ratting out younger siblings for being bad. Myself, naughty by my own admission, was spanked across the shins with a huge staff of switches, and one particularly large Krampus (who I later learned was named Kindergobbler) grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me sharply as punishment.

Bloomington Krampus Night parade

One Krampus stopped in front me with a bright torch, sipped some foul smelling liquid, and spat fire high into the dark Bloomington sky. The crowd cheered in approval as more Krampuses dashed at the onlookers. Finally a pickup truck emerged from around the corner, with a particularly vile looking Krampus in back. Sitting around him were several small children, their faces covered in ash. As other little children moved into the street for a closer look at the Krampuses, a small blonde girl shouted from the truck “run you idiots! They’ll take you away! Run for your lives!”

As the parade moved through town the crowd followed, until all the onlookers arrived back at the Bazaar for a chance to have their pictures taken with St. Nick, the Angels, and the demonic Krampuses. A host of the beasts were locked inside a pen made of police caution tape, and for an additional donation, you could walk through the menagerie, as they shook and swatted you with switches. At the end of the night St. Nicholas entered the pen, and all the Krampuses dropped down on one knee to honor the man who’d tamed and mastered them. Nicholas raised his staff, and a horn blared. He then loaded all of the beasts into the back of trucks and they drove off to Downtown Bloomington, screeching and bellowing, where they’d spend the remainder of the night lurking outside of pubs and restaurants, waiting to punish the naughty.

The entire event seemed extremely surreal, as the Krampus tradition is far darker than anything we have in the States. But despite the dreadful notion that the devil is waiting to drag you away, the kids in the audience loved it all, as it was all so over the top it seemed more theater than threat, though the same underlying message we all hear at Christmas was there–“you better be good, for goodness sake!”

Bloomington Krampus Night

J. Nathan Couch is the author of Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?
Find more at www.jnathancouch.com