Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “An Unanchored Man”

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In 1899, the muckraking journalist Vera Van Slyke debunked the Spiritualist medium Ludmila “Lucille” Prášilová at a mansion in Boston. In 1903, after the duo had become good friends, they returned to that mansion to rid it of ghosts. But that story is long enough to fill a book (hint hint).

Exhausted from that case, Vera and Lucille decide to relax on nearby Cape Cod. But it’s not long before they’re on the trail of ghosts again. The title of that investigation is “An Unanchored Man,” and it’s this month’s ghostly mystery.

“An Unanchored Man” is one of those chronicles that confuses me. While narrating the investigation, my great-grandaunt focuses on a retired sea captain named Henry Thorn Lord. He says he was on a ship called The Junior when the crew mutinied. This actually happened in 1857! This book recounts the mutiny, and this newspaper article specifies that Henry Thorn Lord was the ship’s second officer. Another verifiable fact related to the case is the pod of pilot whales (also called black-fish) beached on Cape Cod on 1902. But my ancestor also says the Cape Cod village where the ghost hunt took place is named Granger — and there is no Granger, Massachusetts. So how much truth is there in this tale?

While I can’t solve that mystery, Vera Van Slyke certainly solves the mystery of the invisible marauders that have started ransacking the old captain’s cottage each night. (Then again, not all of the witnesses agreed with her solution.)

You’ll find a link to “An Unanchored Man” in .pdf, .epub and .mobi/Kindle formats on the Complimentary Haunting page.

Blackfish

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Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “A Burden that Burns”

the-v-filesThe year was 1902. The great ghost hunter Vera Van Slyke found herself a bit bored. She decided to run an advertisement in newspapers across the U.S., offering “Help for the Haunted.”

Before long, she and her assistant were in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. (That spelling of Pittsburgh is historically accurate for 1902, by the way.) They had been hired — at considerable recompense — to solve a mystery involving a series of fires that was preventing millionaire J. Horace Ritchie from building his telephone factory. These fires appeared to spring from no visible hand, and Vera discovered that they had a history much longer than Mr. Ritchie would have imagined.

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Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “Dark and Dirty Corners”

the-v-filesWhen I inherited the manuscripts that make up Help for the Haunted: A Decade of Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries, 1899-1909, I assumed they were probably works of imaginative fiction that my great-grandaunt had written.

But then I started discovering real people named in them. Houdini was easy to spot, but there are less famous real people named, too. And the case titled “Dark and Dirty Corners” features Stickney House, a very real, very unusual house that still stands on the outskirts of Chicago. The stories about it being haunted continue to be told.

In “Dark and Dirty Corners,” Vera and Lucille travel to the prairie town where that house with rounded corners sits. They learn about Mrs. Stickney, one of the area’s first white settlers, and the death of her son there. These seem to be the spirits lingering in the house. But Mrs. Stickney was a headstrong and defiant woman, so her ghost is particularly difficult to exorcise.

Then again, Mrs. Stickney never had to a contend with the likes of Vera Van Slyke.

Learn more about Stickney House and the theories of why it had been built with rounded corners in this month’s FREE ghostly mystery, “Dark and Dirty Corners.” There’s a link to it in .pdf, .epub, and .mobi/Kindle formats on the Complimentary Haunting page.

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Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “Skittering Holes”

the-v-filesHaving solved the mystery of the haunted Scepter Theater, Vera decided to spend some time with her friend Lucille in Chicago.

It’s there that they met an elderly immigrant, a man who had cared for Lucille during her worst times. He was a talented musician — and he’d been experiencing something odd in his third-floor tenement room.

When he played his oboe in harmony with a phonograph, iridescent, purple “halos” appeared in the dark. And these unnatural, dangerous circles appeared to be holes to another dimension!

Learn more about this man, the violet circles, and their connection to Vera’s emerging theory regarding guilt and ghosts in “Skittering Holes.” There’s a link to it in .pdf, .epub, and .mobi/Kindle formats on the Complimentary Haunting page.

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Profile: Harry Houdini

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After I inherited the chronicles of Vera Van Slyke’s ghost hunts from my great-grandaunt — the tales now published in Help for the Haunted — I researched some of the names found there. Cook County Coroner Peter Hoffman, sea captain Henry Thorn Lord, cryptozoologist Geoffrey Wallace Livingstone Adams have all proven to be real people.

Needless to say, I didn’t have to research the client spotlighted in the chronicle “Houdini Slept Here.”

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Profile: Geoffrey Wallace Livingstone Adams

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Every now and again, I hear from someone who has read Help for the Haunted: A Decade of Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries (1899-1909) — and can supply me with additional information on the people who interacted with the great ghost hunter.

Last week, I received a scan of a file photo from a librarian at St. Genesius College in Moncton, New Brunswick. The photo shows Dr. Geoffrey Wallace Livingstone Adams, who taught in the Department of Anthropology at that school. Adams was also very interested in cryptozoology, the study of species only rumored to exist. As a dedicated cryptozoologist, Adams traveled widely in search of what has come to be called Bigfoot. (In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the creature was better known as “wild man in the woods” and variations thereon.)

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Do the Vera Van Slyke Chronicles Follow a Formula?

the-v-files“Often have I been asked to formulate my views about ghost stories and tales of the marvellous, the mysterious, the supernatural. Never have I been able to find out whether I had any views that could be formulated.”

— M.R. James

As I edited my great-grandaunt Lida’s chronicles of Vera Van Slyke’s supernatural investigations, I was faced with an obvious question:  Are they fact, or are they fiction?

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Foiling the Frauds: Some of Vera Van Slyke’s Colleagues

the-v-filesI’ve never located a copy of Vera Van Slyke’s book Spirits Shouldn’t Sneeze: A Decade of Defrauding Mediums (1901). It must not have sold well, or there would be copies available in used book stores. This book played a key role in sparking the friendship between Van Slyke and Lucille “Lida” Parsell. Lida had been a phony medium, you see, but she eagerly consented to be interviewed for the book.

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The Internet Can’t Help Solve This Vera Van Slyke Mystery

the-v-filesOne of the most interesting aspects of having edited the Vera Van Slyke chronicles is knowing that, with the Internet, I can do follow-up detective work in ways that Vera and my great-grandaunt Lida never could.

Take, for instance, the case titled “Dark and Dirty Corners,” which is found in Help for the Haunted. It involves an unusual house out on “the moors” of the Chicago-area hinterlands, a building known as Stickney House. A curious feature of this house is that it was built with rounded corners, both inside and out.

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