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The Strange Prophecy of Benrose Billman

It was March of 1892 in the sleepy Ohio village of Doylestown, just south of Akron. The heart of the village was the hotel known as the Billman House, owned by Benrose Billman, who was a genial host and known throughout the village as an upstanding pillar of the local community.

A few weeks earlier Benrose Billman had undergone a severe sick spell, and, for several days, his life was in the balance. His health gradually improved and one day he was able to get out of bed and hobble around with the aid of a cane.

The office of the Billman House was the local hangout spot for the young men of the village, who gathered daily at the hotel to exchange gossip and check upon the health of the well-loved owner. It was on this particular March morning when Mr. Billman left his sick room and made his return to the hotel office, much to the delight of the crowd.

The crowd hanging out at the hotel that day consisted of John Mealy, William Busson, James Eitel, Fred Baysinger and Kent Young. All were …
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Haunted Alaska: The Mystery of Chirikof Island

Ghosts of prisoners said to haunt site of former Russian penal colony

Off the southern coast of Alaska lies the Kodiak Archipelago, a group of islands comprising over 5,000 square miles of land. Much of this land is forested and teeming with wildlife, and several of the islands are populated. At the extreme southern tip of the archipelago lies an anomaly-- a treeless, barren wasteland surrounded by treacherous seas. This desolate place is Chirikof Island, and it strikes the imagination as being the ideal place to strand blood-thirsty criminals until Mother Nature metes out her own brand of justice.

It is perhaps for this very reason that Chirikof Island was said to be the site of a 19th century Russian penal colony. Though some historians refute this idea, the legend of the lost Russian penal colony still survives to this day. And, according to legend-- and numerous eyewitness accounts-- the island is haunted by the ghosts of long-dead criminals  and exiles.

One of the first authors to w…

The Parhamites: A Tale of Jesus, Pedophilia, Sodomy and Strangulation

Of all the religious cults in American history, few have had a reputation of debauchery like the Parhamites, a strange Pentecostal community founded by preacher Charles Fox Parham in the early years of the 20th century. While Parham is still remembered as a pioneer of American Pentecostalism (it was Parham who popularized the Pentecostal practice of "speaking in tongues", or glossolalia), most have forgotten the sensational scandals associated with Parham and his maniacally devoted followers.

As a young man in Kansas, Parham belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church and began preaching at the age of fifteen. A disagreement with church leadership led him to abandon the Methodist faith, and inspired Parham to start his own non-denominational ministry. In 1900 Parham established Bethel Bible College in Topeka. Although the school charged no tuition, the controversial and often bizarre beliefs of its founder prevented the college from flourishing. Within a few months, Parham wa…

The 5 Most Improbable Things That Have Ever Happened

In a classic 1991 episode of Seinfeld ("The Statue"), Elaine argues with a woman named Rava about coincidences. After Elaine mentions a "big coincidence" Rava angrily points out that there is no such thing as a small coincidence or a big coincidence-- just coincidences. "That's what a coincidence is!" Rava insists, which causes Elaine to protest: "No, there are degrees of coincidences!"

While statisticians have been debating ever since whether or not there are "degrees" of coincidence like Elaine Benes insists, most experts agree that coincidences are surprisingly common.

Mathematicians Frederick Mosteller and Persi Diaconis have defined a coincidence as a "surprising concurrence of events that are perceived as being meaningfully related", though neither (unfortunately) expressed an opinion about big coincidences and small coincidences.

History, however, presents several examples of concurrences so mathematically improbabl…

Dowsing for Lost Graves

Dowsing, also known as divining, is the ancient practice of locating buried objects with twigs or metal rods. While the mind immediately conjures up old-time treasure hunters searching for buried loot, dowsing has traditionally been used to its greatest extent in the search for underground water. Even today, some utility workers use dowsing rods to locate buried pipes and cables-- much to the eye-rolling of "enlightened" skeptics.

Yes, the overwhelming consensus is that dowsing is a pseudoscience. The art of dowsing has never been shown to work in a controlled scientific experiment, and even famed skeptic James Randi tested the claims of numerous dowsers in the form of his now-defunct One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. Dowsers who participated in the challenge by agreeing to find buried water pipes under highly-controlled circumstances all met with utter failure.

However, there are some educated persons who maintain that dowsing really does work. After all, there are co…

A haunted streetcar in Savannah

This fascinating story comes from 1893, and features a haunted electric streetcar. According to the story, every time the car passes by Laurel Grove Cemetery, the cries of a child can be heard. The story also points out that the haunted streetcar, "No. 26", had recently struck a killed a child. Spooky!


Pierre Davis: The Hermit Prophet of Porum

Pierre Davis made his home in a small hut on the bank of the Canadian River, near the village of Porum in Oklahoma's Muskogee County.  He lived in solitude in this humble abode for thirty years, and during that time he never journeyed more than six miles in any direction, and then only for the most necessary of provisions.  Pierre stood six feet tall, was finely built, and had a commanding presence.  However, it was neither Pierre's hut nor his imposing physique which made him famous throughout Muskogee County; it was his hobby.  Pierre Davis' hobby was prophecy and, from what history records of the hermit, he was pretty darn good at it.

Unlike many prophets, whose predictions are vague and open to interpretation, Pierre had a specialty.  His predictions were limited to floods.  So accurate were Pierre's predictions that railroad workers from the Midland Valley Railroad consulted with the revered recluse before laying tracks and building bridges.  Three times, in the a…