Weird year in review

Weird Year in Review: The Best Weird News and Oddities of 2017

A roundup of the weirdest news and most popular posts from Cult of Weird for 2017.

2017 has been a ridiculously strange year. There have been countless Mothman sightings reported in the Chicago area. Not one but two famous mustaches were discovered intact in their graves during high-profile exhumations. A mysterious photo was discovered that seems to offer clues to the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart after her disappearance. Hugh Hefner died. Charles Manson died. Luke Skywalker died. And, most recently, the US government admitted it has been studying UFOs for the last decade to assess the threat to national security.

It’s been an interesting year here at the Cult of Weird hive, as well. Every attempt I made to get out from under the crushing weight of the walls around me, and the stagnant routines I was drowning in…lead me to some new bit of irresistible weirdness.

I stumbled into a cemetery founded in the mid-1800s on the property of a family who believed the dead taught their daughter to play the piano. In Wisconsin Dells, the “water park capital of the world,” I came face to face with the mummified head of German serial killer Peter Kurten, the Vampire of Dusseldorf. I met filmmaker John Borowski and had a fascinating conversation about the exhumation of H.H. Holmes for the History channel series American Ripper. And, crossing a big item off my bucket list, I saw Stephen King with his son Owen in Milwaukee during their fall tour to promote their new novel Sleeping Beauties.

Also, my sister, along with my favorite Irishman (and soon to be brother-in-law, congrats, you guys!) took Cult of Weird on the road with an October trip to Salem on Friday the 13th.

Giles Corey at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Salem Witch Trials Memorial

Here are the most viewed posts and weirdest moments of 2017:

Lizard Man Sightings During the Eclipse

Lizard Man sightings during the solar eclipse
In all seriousness, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) warned citizens in the path of totality during this year’s solar eclipse to be on the lookout for lizardmen, even tweeting a map of locations where they have been spotted in the past. “SCEMD does not know if Lizardmen become more active during a solar eclipse,” the agency explained, “but we advise that residents of Lee and Sumter counties should remain ever vigilant.”

Pentagon UFO Study

UFO spotted by US Navy jet
The US government admitted it has been studying “anomalous aircraft that were seemingly defying the laws of aerodynamics” and that, according to Intelligence official Luis Elizondo, who ran the secret program, there is “very compelling evidence that we might not be alone.”

19th-Century Girl Identified

Coffin found beneath a home in San Francisco
Researchers discovered the identity of a young girl found buried beneath a home in San Francisco, left behind when the city’s cemeteries were moved to Colma.

Serial Killer H.H. Holmes Exhumed

The grave of H.H. Holmes
The grave of H.H. Holmes, America’s “first serial killer,” was exhumed to prove whether or not he conned his way out of his 1896 execution.

Clown Motel for Sale

Haunted clown motel
The haunted clown motel was put up for sale.

Sourtoe Stolen

Sourtoe cocktail
The main ingredient in the Yukon’s famous Sourtoe Cocktail, a real mummified human toe, was stolen.

Lost Chapel of Bones

Lost chapel of bones in Malta
A lost Chapel of Bones still remains beneath the ruins of an ancient church in Malta.

Man Eaten by Python

Missing man eaten by large python in Indonesia
A man who went missing in Indonesia was eaten by a 23-foot python.


Wisconsin Exorcist Theophilus Riesinger
A brutal 1928 case of demonic possession became the inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist.

Evil Dead

Evil Dead cabin
A piece salvaged from the ruins of the cabin used in Evil Dead 2 was sold on ebay.

World’s Largest Ouija Board

World's largest Ouija board
The world’s largest Ouija board is on the roof of the haunted Grand Midway Hotel.

Anatomical Diorama

Real human skull in famous Carnegie Museum diorama
Restoration of a famous diorama at the Carnegie Museum revealed a real human skull had been used in the 150-year-old display.

Salvador Dali’s Mustache

The mustache of Salvador Dali
When the tomb of Salvador Dali was exhumed to retrieve DNA samples for a paternity case, the artist’s surreal mustache was found intact.

Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film

Bigfoot film
Purporting to show a female sasquatch walking along the banks of Bluff Creek in Northern California, the controversial Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film turned 50.

Heilung Live at Castlefest

Heilung live at Castlefest 2017
Watch this spellbinding performance of neopagan band Heilung from the Castlefest 2017 festival in the Netherlands.

The Torryburn Witch

Face of the Torryburn witch
Using photos taken before the skull was lost, the face of the Torryburn witch was digitally reconstructed.

Greatest Show on Earth

Ringling Bros. Circus
After 146 years, the Greatest Show on Earth came to an end with the final performance of the Ringling Bros. circus.

Vampire of Dusseldorf

The head of Peter Kurten in Wisconsin Dells
The mummified head of Peter Kurten, a depraved serial killer who was beheaded in 1931, is on display in the water park capital of the world.

Lost in the Catacombs

Lost in the Paris catacombs
Two teens were rescued and treated for hypothermia after being lost in the Paris catacombs for three days.

Titanic’s Dead

What happened to Titanic's dead?
Only 333 bodies were recovered from the Titanic disaster. Those that were disfigured too badly to be identified were thrown back in. What happened to the rest?

Ouija in Class

Milwaukee teacher suspended for using Ouija board in class
A Milwaukee teacher was suspended for using a Ouija board in the classroom.

Creating Life

Andrew Crosse created life in the laboratory
Deemed a blasphemer, 19th-century amateur scientist Andrew Crosse believed he had accidentally created life in a laboratory experiment.

Death in Venice

Venice cemetery
Funeral gondolas, flooding graves, and an island of bones: What the floating city of Venice does with its dead.

Political Exorcism

Beatnik exorcism of Joe McCarthy
That time a band of beatniks exorcised the grave of Senator Joe McCarthy.

Stolen Relic

Piece of St. John Bosco's brain stolen
A sacred piece of St. John Bosco’s brain was stolen from an Italian basilica.

Searching for Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart
Forensic cadaver dogs used to search for the remains of Amelia Earhart on the remote island of Nikumaroro.

Fenn’s Treasure

Fenn's treasure
Families and police make plea to end treasure hunt, as another dies searching for Fenn’s hidden treasure chest.

Jeremy Bentham’s Head

Jeremy Bentham's head
Jeremy Bentham’s preserved head went on display for the first time in decades.

Historic Torture Devices

Nuremberg torture collection
The history of the Nuremberg torture collection, the largest collection of used torture devices ever assembled.


Silver Bridge collapse in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
The Silver Bridge disaster, known for the bizarre rash of Mothman sightings preceding it, happened 50 years ago.

Amelia Earhart Photo

Amelia Earhart photo
This photo seems to show Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on a Japanese dock after they disappeared.

Hip Bone of St. Nick

Bone of St. Nicholas
A bone fragment believed to be from the tomb of St. Nicholas has been dated to the correct era.

Tower of Skulls

Tower of skulls in Mexico City
Archeologists unearthed a legendary 16th-century tower of skulls in Mexico City

Tallest Man

Robert Wadlow, the tallest man to have ever lived
At nearly 9 feet tall, Robert Wadlow is the tallest person to have ever lived.

Ed Gein’s Grave

Ed Gein grave
Ed Gein was arrested 60 years ago. Here’s the reason why his grave is unmarked.

History Bones

Skeleton dioramas
This artist creates detailed dioramas of dark moments in history using miniature skeletons.

Odd Fellows Skeletons

Odd Fellows skeletons
When the Odd Fellows moved out of their lodges, sometimes the skeletons in their closets got left behind.

Lizzie Borden’s Mansion

Lizzie Borden's mansion is for sale
The Victorian mansion Lizzie Borden lived in until her death in 1927 is for sale.

Cult of Weird on Instagram

Best Weird Books of 2017

Here are the top 10 most popular books of 2017 from the Weird Book Club:

Rienzi Cemetery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Rienzi Cemetery, January 2017

Here’s to a weird new year! May 2018 be supremely bizarre.

Mothman and the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant

The Silver Bridge Collapsed 50 Years Ago After a Series of Bizarre Mothman Sightings

After a series of bizarre Mothman sightings in Point Pleasant, the Silver Bridge collapsed into the icy waters of the Ohio River and took 46 lives with it.

“I had a terrible nightmare,” Ohio reporter Mary Hyre told journalist John Keel on November 19, 1967, just under a month before the tragedy struck. “There were a lot of people drowning in the river and Christmas packages were floating everywhere in the water. Its like something awful is going to happen.”

50 years ago a bizarre rash of strange occurrences and sightings of a creature that came to be known as the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, culminated in the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15th, 1967. The bridge took 46 lives with it as it plunged into the dark, icy waters of the Ohio River.

After that, the Mothman sightings stopped.

Was the mysterious entity there to warn the community of the impending tragedy, or was it the cause? Of course, no one has any idea what Mothman actually was. Some speculate that it may have been a large bird – a heron or sandhill crane that might have wandered out of its migration route. Since those types of birds were not native to the area, it’s easy to see how locals could mistake one for a flying man with a 10-foot wingspan, glowing eyes, and the ability to keep up with a moving vehicle, right?

Mothman in the Archives

Mothman art
Mothman by Herman James, from the Monsters in America cryptid art show

Mothman Book Picks

If you want to learn more about the Mothman legend, as well as the strange events that gripped Point Pleasant before the disaster, here’s some recommended reading:

Photo of Mothman in Point Pleasant?
Mothman…or a bird carrying snake?

Mothman may not be stirring up trouble in Point Pleasant these days, but that doesn’t mean he’s retired.

Chicago Mothman

While its not related to the Silver Bridge tragedy, an increasing number of encounters with a bat-like flying humanoid are being reported in the Chicago area. The most recent happened in October, when a couple was attacked in their car in Piotrowski Park. My friend Allison Jornlin of has been investigating and sharing videos from the locations at

Is something bad going to happen in Chicago?

How to talk to your kids about Ed Gein

How to Talk to Your Kids About Ed Gein

Kids go to the Plainfield Cemetery to learn about Ed Gein.

There comes a time when you have to sit your kids down and have The Talk. You know, that one awkward conversation every parent dreads. It is inevitable and unavoidable. And no, it’s not about where babies come from. It’s the other conversation, in which your children come up to you unexpectedly one day and say, “Who was Ed Gein?”

Well, before you load the kids up in the Volkswagen for a field trip to Plainfield to learn about ol’ Uncle Eddie and why he wore women’s skin, give this video a watch for some pointers.

From the description:

HOW TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT ED GEIN is a short 10 minute film by Steve Chappell (CHAP) documenting one day back in 1997 when the family stopped at the PLAINFIELD CEMETERY in Plainfield, WI to teach the kids all about Ed Gein, the guy who inspired Robert Bloch to write the novel PSYCHO which in turn served as the inspiration for such movies as Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

Notably, this was filmed several years before Ed Gein’s gravestone was stolen, so it can be seen in the video:

Kids learn about Ed Gein at his grave in Plainfield, WI

I hope the follow up will be one of those “Kids react to…” videos about the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer.

This was originally shared in the unofficial Cult of Weird fan club.

Weekend Weird

Weekend Weird: Merry Cultmas Edition

Christmas monsters, pieces of saints, and the joy of Scary Christmas in this week’s roundup of weird news and media.
Weekend Weird Merry Cultmas Christmas edition
Tannenbaum planchette for conjuring the Christmas spirit(s)

Christmas gets a lot of hate. All the joy and merriment of the yuletide season is unparalleled in its ability to induce nausea and/or rage in the average earthbound human. Once you get past the commercialism, though, the holidays are steeped in way too much bizarre history, folklore, and pagan ritual to not be thoroughly fascinating.

Sure, I have twinkling multicolored lights haphazardly strewn around the house just like everyone else. I’ve erected a tree in the living room with gaudy baubles dangling from it’s branches. The skulls and taxidermy all get Santa hats. But it’s the spooky charm of the Old World underlying our seemingly trivial Christmas trappings that transcends hokey Americana.

Traditions like Krampusnacht, which honors the Alpine Christmas devil who punishes naughty children, or the Mari Lwyd in Wales, in which people carry around a decorated horse skull, singing songs and trying to scare others, are what make this holiday great. Not to mention historical enigmas like St. Nicholas, the 4th-century necromancer who inspired our modern-day Santa Claus, and whose venerated bones excrete an oily liquid renown for its healing properties.

“Until Jan. 6, demons, witches and monsters haunt Europe,” Caitlin Hu wrote in a 2014 article about Christmas monsters.

She goes on to describe Pere Fouettard, a butcher and serial killer who threatens naughty kids with his whip in France, a child-kidnapper named Zwarte Piet in Belgium and the Netherlands, Frau Perchta in Germany, who stuffs the bellies of bad children with straw, and the Kallikantzaros goblins of Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Balkans, who rise from their subterranean dwellings to demand piggyback rides.

And it all begins on the eve of December 5th, when Saint Nicholas and his hairy companion start making their rounds.

It’s also the time of year when I dig up strange, unusual, and often handcrafted artifacts from my favorite purveyors of art and oddities for the Cult of Weird holiday gift guide. If you’re still looking for stocking stuffers for that special corpse in your life, shop: Cult of Weird Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas cards went out to members of the Inner Circle this week.

Thank you for your support!

Weird news

The joy of Scary Christmas

500-year-old severed arm of Saint Francis Xavier is touring Canada

Tests reveal bone fragment of St. Nicholas is from the correct era

Neopagan band Heilung has become the soundtrack to my life

Wisconsin’s “Halloween killer” is being released in February

The dark side of Dickens

Mortar in Jesus’ tomb dated to around 345 AD

Viking-era stone carved with runes found in Norway

Photos of Scotland’s Cave of the Dead

Children, death, and the mystery of the unknown

Victorian hair work exhibit opening at the Mutter Museum

300-year-old note found in the butt of Jesus

Israel’s new underground city of the dead

The desirability of storytellers

Skeleton of Jeremy Bentham is coming to the Metropolitan Museum

Cassie Foster can’t rest because she was buried in the wrong grave

Could a Ouija board contact black eyed children?

Some of this week’s weird news was pilfered from Daily Grail, Order of the Good Death, Odd Things I’ve Seen, Strange Company, and The Anomalist.

Cult of Weird Community on Instagram

Tag your photos #cultofweird

This Week’s Featured WEIRD BOOK

Horror in the Heartland by Keven McQueen
Keven McQueen digs up strange history, burial customs, unexplained deaths, ghost stories, premature burials and more from Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Don’t forget to share your weird Christmas with us!
Christmas megacolon from the Mutter Museum
Put a Santa hat on something strange, like this plush megacolon from the Mutter Museum, and tag it #MerryCultmas


Watch: Heilung Live at Castlefest 2017

A friend recently shared this on Facebook (thanks Jake), and it has since become an obsession. This performance, Heilung’s live debut, was filmed at this year’s Castlefest in the Netherlands.

From the band’s Facebook page:

Heilung is sounds from the northern European iron age and viking period,” the band’s Facebook page says. “We used everything from running water, human bones, reconstructed swords and shields up to ancient frame drums and bronze rings in the songs.

The lyrics contain original texts from rune stones and preserved spear shafts, amulets and other artifacts. Furthermore poems, which either deal with historical events or are translations/interpretations of the originals.

Every attempt to link the music to modern political or religious points are pointless, since Heilung tries to connect the listener to the time before Christianity and its political offsprings raped and burned itself into the northern European mentality.

Heilung means healing in German and describes the core of the sound. It is supposed to leave the listener eased and relaxed after a sometimes turbulent musical journey.

Heilung LIFA live at Castlefest 2017

The live album is available on the group’s Bandcamp page right here.

Heilung live at Castlefest

Heilung live at Castlefest

Heilung live at Castlefest

Heilung live at Castlefest

Heilung live at Castlefest