Episode 72: Haunted & Cursed Objects

Haunted items – or so called haunted items, are available for sale seemingly everywhere you look on the internet today. A quick Google search resulted in about 21,400,000 results, on the day I Googled it. This buying and selling of supposedly ‘haunted’ items has become a popular trend.  EBay has a whole section devoted to it, also on Facebook you can find any number of groups that dedicate themselves to the sale and purchasing of these items. But, can items truly be haunted? Can spirit attach themselves to an inanimate object? Is it indeed possible for a spirit to stay with a physical item it loved during life, or an item that possibly caused their death like a car? (Which we’ll discuss later in the show).

As we saw last episode, with my wonderful guest Duane Cerny from the Chicago Antiques market, that sometimes pre-loved items do come with ‘extra’s’ added to them. In this episode I’m going to discuss a number of supposedly haunted or allegedly cursed items, are they the same thing even? Some of you may have heard of these items. Some may be new to you? But the question as always is; are you willing to walk with me into this part of the Shadowlands and see what awaits us there? Then let’s begin.

The subject of haunted items is nothing new. It’s been around as long as our ancestors have. In fact, in many cultures people make items especially, to house spirits. Masks being the most common item used in this way, especially if they are to be used for ritual or spiritual purposes. In many cultures, as the mask is being made, the maker asks a specific spirit or deity to inhabit it. And supposedly, when this mask is then used, it helps the wearer to tune into the specific spirit or deity. In some cases, the wearer can be temporarily taken over or possessed by said being. But any single item, or multiple items can have spirits or energy attached to them.

The simple reality is, that we are energetic beings, and we are constantly shedding energy. Think of it like house dust, that goes everywhere. Every single thing that we touch, we leave a little of our energy on. So just imagine some item that you treasure above all else, you hold it, stroke it, touch it, admire it, you infuse all your loving energy or negative energy into this item, whatever it may be.  You infuse it with your emotions at that point in time, positive or negative. So, it’s already got a large portion of your energy attached to it. Is it such a stretch of the imagination to consider that any object, whatever form it takes, was so loved of its owner, that they don’t want to let it go and so stay near it. The same works for items that are less friendly and supposedly ‘cursed’.

By the way, people who are very sensitive are quite capable of ‘reading’ the energy on any object, and getting information about the deceased or previous owner, or history and situations associated with that object. In fact, some police departments, in different countries have used sensitive’s who have this gift to help them solve crimes. A number of television shows have been created using sensitive’s, to obtain information about an unknown victim. This is done by holding a photo of them (in an envelope, so they can’t see what the person looks, or by holding a personal item, or piece of clothing belonging to that person. This particular gift is called psychometry.  Some people may not recognize that they have this ability, but perhaps just feel uncomfortable when touching an object, or feel emotional, or feel the object calls to them in some way, as with Duane’s friend last episode. They react on a mostly subconscious, visceral way, to the energies put off by the object.

Now, cursed items are a wee bit different. How do negative energies or entities become attached to such objects? And thi,s is almost always deliberately done. The person usually does this in a form of a ritual of some sort or another, from shamanic rituals practiced in some cultures, to other occult or ritualistic practices, always intentional. They then summon a spirit or lower level entity and bind them to the object for a specific purpose or set of purposes.  Whilst this practice is still done by some today, it was more common in earlier centuries, however it is very likely that there are still very old objects in circulation that have entities still attached to them. Likely these would be small wearable items, but not always – and I’ll talk specifically about a couple of larger items later on in this episode.

However; for now, I’m going to share part of a conversation with Robert Bitto, a guest coming up in about 3 episodes. When I was interviewing him, I asked him if he had ever come across a haunted object in his business of buying native artefacts mostly from Mexico. Here is the interesting story he told me.

The Reading Doll

I had a woman who was selling to me when I had a retail store and she was the granddaughter of a witch. And she had all of these healing properties and stuff like that. She was a very weird, a strange character, you know, someone who would live on the outside of town like we were talking about. But she said, you need to be burning incense in this place. There’s, there, I can feel the energies of these of some of these things, these dolls that you have, these sculptures, they were made with feeling and meaning. And, you need to be burning sage, and you need to be doing all this stuff. And I’m like, yeah, whatever, blah, blah, blah, whatever.

And then a few weeks later, I opened up the store with an employee, so I have a witness. There was one piece of merchandise –there was a sculpture. It was a storyteller sculpture. It was a woman. A seated woman telling stories with an open book with cats. She was a cat lady, that had like six cats. One on her shoulder –  two on her shoulders, you know, and just the cats were like listening to her read. That sculpture had moved on the shelf about one foot. And, it had moved all of the other pieces – clay pieces on the shelf away, and there were some on the floor, OK? Yeah, there was some on the floor and my employee was like, what are you doing? You’re trying to trick me or whatever. I said, No, you just came. You came in when I did right here. I didn’t do this.

And, it was as if something happened in the middle of the night to move the sculpture and to knock out the others that were on the shelf. And then I said to him, you think I’m going to ruin merchandise like this? This costs me money. There’s stuff on the floor that’s broken. You think I would do that just to scare you? No, but and then that wasn’t the first time too. I’d have things fall off the wall and yeah, some things did happen.  But, you know, like that woman, the granddaughter of the witch said, you know, you, you don’t know how some of this stuff was made, you know, with what intention is behind all of this. And she said, you need to be burning some sage and doing some things to clear out all the bad stuff that might be in here. So, yeah

As I consistently say to members of my Facebook group and in various episodes of this podcast, intent is everything. Intent is absolutely everything and you do not know with what intent an object was made. The maker might have been having a really tough time, or was angry, hurting, grieving – who knows? When they made that object, and they put those, their energies and that intent into it. OR, absolutely it could have been a deliberate intent added.

But, what sort of items can be haunted or cursed and where can they be found? Well, as the saying goes, how long is a piece of string? Here are some places where you can possibly and innocently pick an item that has an attachment.

  • Antique shops
  • Auctions
  • Estate sales, especially larger items such as furniture, mirrors, but even smaller items like a ring or a chain, or even a mixing bowl, can have attachments and you might not even be aware until you start experiencing strange things at home.
  • Flea markets & Antique fairs.
  • Inheritance
  • Roadside finds. Very often if you find an item that’s been chucked out, that’s in good condition even if a wee bit old, it may have been chucked not only because the owner no longer wants it, but because of what comes with it.
  • Thrift or second-hand stores

Because there are so very many stories of haunted or cursed objects, I’m really having a struggle to limit the examples. And really – what does that tell you about how easy it is for our energy to attach to inanimate objects? But, perhaps I’ll begin with that most innocent of children’s toys. The doll, or more specifically haunted dolls. For those interested, there are photos of these items, where I could find them on this episodes page of the podcast website: www.walkingtheshadowlands.com. Let’s begin with possibly one of the most famous and well-known of haunted dolls:

Robert the Doll

Robert the Doll

Robert is handmade and one-of-a-kind. He was created around the turn of the century. He has blank features that were once painted on, but have been lost with time. He stands over three feet tall, is stuffed with wood shavings, and is dressed in a faded sailor suit. The doll takes its name from its long-time owner, Robert Eugene Otto, who lived in Key West, Florida.  Otto actually used the name Eugene. He, named the doll Robert.

As a child, Eugene often blamed the doll for accidents and other misbehaviour. His parents and visitors to the Otto household often heard Eugene talking with the doll, while another, unrecognizable voice answered. Eugene’s other toys were found mutilated or destroyed, acts he inevitably attributed to Robert. Neighbours — especially children, claimed to see the doll peering out from different windows of the house.

There’s a story that says an aunt convinced Eugene’s parents to get rid of the doll. Which was then moved into the aunt’s attic. Soon after Robert was moved, the woman was found dead of a stroke. In spite of these things, Eugene retained ownership of the doll well into adulthood. Some say he even dedicated a room in his house to Robert. He decorated it like a child’s room and filled it with furniture and toys from when he was a child.

Eugene passed away in 1974. By the time of his death, Eugene’s home had become a local attraction known as the Artist House, because it was so colourfully painted. After Eugene’s death, Robert the Doll continued to haunt the property, which by then had become sold to Myrtle Reuter.

The Artist House

Footsteps and giggling in the attic room where Robert was kept were frequently heard. According to the Key West Art & Historical Society, a plumber once turned around to find that the doll had moved across the room on its own. A reporter named Malcolm Ross visited Robert, and later claimed that the doll’s expression changed in reaction to things that were said in its presence.  Malcom felt that the doll was listening to their conversation and possessed some sort of intelligence.

Myrtle, who bought the home after Eugene’s death, kept Robert with her even after she moved homes. She finally donated the doll to the Fort East Martello museum in 1994. Upon donating the figurine, Myrtle confirmed the rumours that Robert was haunted. She claimed; it had scurried around her house.

Now when Robert’s stay at the museum began, staff almost immediately noticed a significant change in atmosphere soon after he went on display. Visitors complained that handheld cameras and electronic devices stopped working, whenever they stood near him. Their devices began start working as soon as they moved away from him. Then letters started arriving at the museum that were addressed to Robert. The letters were from previous visitors, apologizing for acting rudely to the doll and begging for forgiveness, as misfortune had befallen them since their visit to the museum. Letters continue to arrive at the museum, where Robert remains on exhibit, to this day. In fact, the staff of the Fort East Martello Museum recommends that patrons behave respectfully while in the doll’s presence, that patrons ask permission before anyone tries to take his photo. They even suggest politely introducing yourself, just to be on the safe side….

Elmo Knows Your Name

Elmo Knows Your Name

A cute little furry red Muppet from Sesame Street, is our next experience. Elmo is a very, very popular character and has remained so, for many decades now. And a specific Elmo toy was released by Fisher & Price who manufactured them in 2005 called ‘Elmo knows your name’. This cute toy absolutely topped the list of toy of choice for wee ones that Christmas. Not only because he was such a lovable character on Sesame Street, but because this particular toy was interactive, in that it was programmed to recite the owner’s name, along with some other personalised phrases. A very clever marketing device and made Fisher & Price a lot of money that year and in subsequent years, undoubtedly.

Now this particular story begins in 2008 three years after it’s release. A wee two-year-old lad by the name of James Bowman had been given one of these adorable wee toys by his parents, who thought they were giving him this lovely, cute, interactive playmate. And they were, initially at least. However, this particular Elmo knows your name toy didn’t only know James’ name, BUT, it liked to include the word ‘kill’ before saying it. Yep! You heard that right. Kill.  Elmo would say “Kill James” repeatedly, until his naturally upset Mum, took the toy away from the wee toddler. Apparently, this Elmo only began spouting these death threats, about an hour after it’s batteries had been changed, when the original ones that came with the toy had died.

James’ mum Melissa said: “It’s not something that really you would think would ever come out of a toy, but once I heard, I was just kind of distraught. About an hour later, I noticed exactly what it was saying, and my son was repeating exactly what it was saying. Kill James. Kill James. Kill James” The parents naturally contacted Fisher & Price, and Melissa in an interview with the local news channel said on contacting the company, “Considering the fact that my son was repeating it, really upset me. And, there’s nothing that they are even going – they didn’t even sound concerned about it really, when I, when I spoke to em.” The Television company then contacted the maker who offered a replacement and said they had ‘experts’ who could evaluate the toy.

On this episodes page of the podcast website at www.walkingtheshadowlands.com there is a video which you can see of the actual interview with  Melissa.  Was this the result of some programmer adding a little extra to the program that parents had to download to get the toy to work, or was it something else entirely? You decide for yourself.

Mandy (Mereanda)

Mandy

When Mandy was donated to the Quesnal museum, in British Colombina, Canada in 1991, she wasn’t in very good condition. Her clothing was dirty, her body was ripped, and her head had cracks in it. But then she was over 90 years old, so perhaps a wee bit of wear and tear was to be expected.

Apparently, strange things happen when Mandy is about. The person who donated Mandy to the museum, told them she would wake up in the night and hear a baby crying from the basement. But, when she went to look, she would find a curtain blowing in the breeze from an open window. The donor later told the museum, that once she donated Mandy, she no longer heard a baby crying.  This is a direct quote from the Museums page on Mandy. Yes, she has her own page which is linked from this episode’s page on our website.

“But now, the museum staff and volunteers were saddled with weird and unexplained events; lunches would disappear from the refrigerator, and be later found tucked away in a drawer; footsteps were heard when no one is around; pens, books, pictures, and who knows what else would go missing, some never to be found and others which would turn up later. Of course it was passed off as the staff being more absent minded than usual.

Mandy as yet did not have a “home” within the museum. As she sat facing the public entrance way, visitors would stare, and talk about this doll with the cracked and broken face, and sinister smile. With time, Mandy was moved to another part of the museum and carefully placed in a case by herself because rumour had it that she should not be placed with the other dolls because she would harm them. Since that time, there have been many, many stories surrounding Mandy.”

Some visitors to the museum have had strange experiences with the doll, such as their video camera light going on and off every 5 seconds. Some people say they have seen Mandy’s eyes follow them around the room. While others say they have seen Mandy’s eyes blink.

Annabelle

Annabelle

Possibly the most famous and well known doll is Annabelle. By now most of you may have heard of or seen the movies inspired by an actual true story. Of course, great liberties were taken with the Hollywood productions surrounding it. Much of which is ‘added on’ for dramatic effect and didn’t happen. But, the genuine story is scary enough for some. So here’s the readers digest version of the real story.

The real-life Annabelle story begins in 1970 when a 28-year-old nurse named Donna, received the Raggedy Anne doll as a birthday present from her mother. Donna put the doll on her bed, and shortly after this Donna began noticing that the doll would change positions when she was out of the room. Like she would find the leg crossed, or her laying on her side.

This soon escalated into Donna and her roommate Angie supposedly finding notes written on parchment paper, around the home containing messages such as “Help me, help us.” Both of these women swear they had had no parchment paper in the house.  Then the doll began turning up in different rooms of the house, and at one time appeared to be leaking blood.

At first the girls thought this was all down to an intruder moving the doll around and writing them notes. And just doing everything they could to scare them! They quickly ruled out that it was an intruder and then not knowing what else to do, they turned to a medium for help. During a séance with this medium, they learned of Annabelle Higgins, who was supposedly a young girl who may have died on their property, before the apartments were built, at around seven years of age. Through the medium, Annabelle said she was comforted by the roommates being there and “wanted to stay with them, and be loved”. Donna & Angie gave Annabelle permission to “inhabit the doll”, and then things got worse.

They had a male friend, Lou staying the night. Apparently Lou woke up to find the doll staring at him, feeling like he was being strangled. And discovering deep scratches on his upper body. It was at this point that Ed and Lorraine Warren who were known by some as so called ‘demonologists’ and as paranormal researchers, became involved. And the doll was handed over to them, and remained in their possession until their deaths.

They felt that the doll was inhabited by an ‘inhuman spirit’ and that it should never be touched. They had the doll on display in a locked glass case surrounded by salt to keep it bound in the case. With a sign on the case not to touch the doll. One museum-goer who ignored the warnings and supposedly taunted the doll, died in a motorcycle crash shortly after being told to leave the museum. Since the Warren’s died their museum is being looked after by their son-in-law, Tony Spera, and presumably Annabelle remains there.

Charley

Charley

Charley was discovered in 1968, in the attic of an old Victorian home in upstate New York, USA. He was found in the bottom of a tattered trunk full of newspaper, the only other item with him was an old piece of paper containing the Lord’s Prayer. The old newspaper used to pack the trunk had dates on it going back to the early 1930s, but the actual age of the doll couldn’t be determined.

The family already owned a collection of antique dolls and this doll was simply added to it. The doll was given the name Charley. At first, family (husband, wife and five daughters) didn’t pay too much attention to Charley. He was just another doll amongst the many. It wasn’t until Charley seemed to move from place to place on the bench, that was full of dolls, that anyone took notice.

The parents were quick to blame their five kids, but they all said that they knew nothing about how the doll moved. Then the youngest daughter, who was four-years-old, said that Charley had spoken to her when she got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Naturally, the parents assumed their baby was imagining things.

The parents never actually witnessed Charley doing anything, but children soon became very obsessed with the doll and were terrified of it. All five of them refused to get up during the night to use the bathroom, and none of them would go within five feet of the bench the doll resided on. The final straw was when the parents discovered that their youngest daughter was covered with scratches. She was adamant it wasn’t from their cat, but that Charley had done it to her.

The parents never really found out the truth, because they decided since it was upsetting the kids so much, and causing so many issues with them, that they took the doll back to the attic, and locked him in the trunk he was found in. Things soon returned to normal, and the doll was forgotten.

Years later, once the children were grown, the house was sold. The trunk was removed from the attic to be sold at a garage sale. The doll remained one of the last things to go. Finally, a woman bought the doll to add to her antique doll collection and the homeowner recounted his own story to her regarding Charley. Since then, the doll has changed hands a few more times and its story has followed it. Charley has been said to still move from time to time, but he really only seems to affect children.

So let’s move on from dolls to some larger objects the first of these is one that has fascinated me since I first heard about it some decades ago.

The Conjure Chest

The Conjure Chest

This is an absolutely beautiful piece of craftsmanship that contradicts the strange experiences surrounding it. The history of this chest of drawers is very well known, and this piece of furniture currently resides in the Kentucky History Museum, in Kentucky, USA. Where it was donated by it’s last owner. Here is the history of this beautiful piece of furniture.

Jeremiah Graham was expecting his first born son, and in preparation, he ordered his African American Enslaved person, Remus, to build this chest in around 1830.  The chest was beautifully crafted, with to me, exquisite details, from the turned legs to leaves carved at the top of the chest of drawers. A piece of furniture most lovers of finely crafted antique items would enjoy.

However, Jeremiah was not at all happy with what Remus had created and in a fit of bad temper, he beat the poor man to death. Graham’s other enslaved people vowed to avenge the death of their friend and they sprinkled the dried blood of an owl in the chest and had a ‘Conjure man’ (otherwise known as a witch doctor), put a curse on the chest.

Ultimately all those associated with the chest would succumb to the power of the curse. Although apparently Jeremiah himself escaped it, his descendants did not. Despite the fact that he apparently ‘despised’ the chest of drawers, he put it in his unborn child’s room. His son was born, but lived only a few days. Every single time, from his son’s death, that someone put personal items, particularly clothing, inside of this chest, they then subsequently died or suffered some misfortune. In total sixteen people were struck by this curse. So let’s talk about the victims and what happened to them, because, it’s pretty well documented on the museum’s page dedicated to this particular object.

  1. The first victim was Jeremiah’s child that the chest was made for who died a couple of days after birth.
  2. Second victim. Jeremiah’s twin brother, Johnathon’s son. He had a son, whose clothes were placed in the chest. He was stabbed by his body servant on his twenty-first birthday. Then the chest was placed in the attic by Jeremiah’s sister in law, Amanda Winchell, who married into the Graham family.
  3. Victims three and four. Next there was John Ryan, who was a recent immigrant from Ireland. He eloped with Catherine Winchell. Amanda Winchell arranged for them both to live on land belonging to the Graham’s and gave them the chest, which they both used. John was killed in an accident and then Catherine died
  4. Catherine Winchell
  5. The next victim was one Louise Gregory a ten-year-old child of Eliza Ryan and John David Gregory. Whose clothing was placed in the chest.
  6. Victim number 6. Their only son Ernest Gregory, married a Stella Stonecipher. Stella put her wedding clothing in the chest and died, less than two years later.
  7. Mabel Louise Whitehead, a relative to the Gregory family, came to live with Eliza and John David Gregory in 1884. She married a Wilbur Harlan in 1897. In 1901 Mabel and Wilbur had a baby named Chester, whose clothes went into the chest. Chester died at two weeks of age.
  8. Wilbur Harlan’s clothes were placed in the chest and he died in 1905.
  9. David Gregory’s nephew, Emmett, was the son of John David’s sister, Lucy B. Gregory. Lucy hid knitted gloves and a scarf in the chest for her son’s Christmas present in 1909. Emmett worked for the railway and one evening in December, he got off the train and fell thirty feet through a trestle, presumably to his death as well.
  10. Nellie Gregory, daughter of Eliza and John David, married Fred Fraize in August 1905. Nellie had placed her wedding clothing in the chest. He deserted her.
  11. When Eliza Gregory’s husband, John, David, died in 1908, Eliza rearranged her house and moved the chest into her room. Presumably placing clothing in it. She took her own life and died on the fourth of April 1915.
  12. The chest then moved to Louisville with Eliza and John David Gregory’s granddaughter, Virginia Cary Hudson Cleveland and her husband Kirtley Cleveland. She put her first child’s baby clothes in the chest. The baby was born prematurely and died on the same day on, August 8, 1915
  13. Virginia had two other daughters, the youngest being Ann Cary Cleveland. Ann’s clothing was placed in the chest. She was struck with polio, although she recovered she had polio related symptoms all her life.
  14. The older daughter was Virginia Hudson Cleveland. Her wedding clothing had been placed in the chest. She married one Wilbur Brister in 1943. In 1944 Wilber was rushed to hospital for an emergency appendectomy. He died from an overdose of ether whilst undergoing surgery.
  15. Virginia and Kirtley’s neighbour, Herbert H. ‘Sonny’ Moore Jr., put some of his hunting clothing in the chest. He was killed in a gun accident at the home of neighbours April 5, 1946.
  16. Virginia and Kirtley’s son, Richard, put his clothes in the chest. Less than a week later he was stabbed through the hand at school

And that was the final straw for Virginia. She had had enough of the chest and was determined that no one else would die or be injured because of it. So she asked a maid named Sallie who had worked for Virginia for most of her life, if she knew how to break a conjure. Virginia and Sallie then set about breaking the curse placed so many decades previously.

Owl feathers kept in the top drawer of the chest.

In order to break the curse, Sallie told Virginia she needed a dead Owl brought unasked by a friend. Then she had to take the leaves of a willow tree planted by a friend and boil them for a day, in sight of the owl. Next she was to put the liquid in a jug, and bury it with the handle facing east under a flowering bush. They would know it worked, when either Virginia or Sallie would die before all the leaves fell off the bush in the autumn.  What a horrible way to end the curse for either of the woman, considering they believed in this, that was incredibly brave of both of them. Sallie died the following September.

Before Virginia died, she donated the chest of drawers to the Kentucky History museum in 1976.  She did this, because, she did not feel that it was right to put it out for some other poor, unfortunate person to collect, knowing that anyone who put items into the chest could die. She wanted it to be preserved, but in a place where innocent people could not be hurt. And she made it perfectly clear that it wasn’t under any circumstances to be used.

To this day, some of the owl feathers remain in the top drawer, supposedly to keep the curse at bay. So, in total counting the unfortunate Remus, and Sallie, a total of eighteen people died as a result of this chest.

Haunted Bunk Beds

The family home.

In 1987 a family living in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin was gripped by what may be the only case ever of haunted children’s bedroom furniture.  They experienced nine months of torment after purchasing a second hand bunk bed that unleashed an evil entity into their home.

Allen and Debbie Tallmann bought the bunk bed from a second hand shop and moved it into their home on quiet Larabee Street. Strange things began happening almost immediately. The radio would switch stations on its own. The children saw an ugly old woman in their room. She had long black hair and a glow like fire. Doors banged open and shut, a chair rocked by itself. Disembodied voices called out from empty rooms. The Tallmann’s decided to bring in their pastor, who said he felt the presence of the devil and blessed the house.

Haunted Bunks

But the activity continued, and their son soon became so scared he no longer wanted to stay in the house. Frustrated one day, Allen walked into the house shouting at the top of his lungs, “Pick on me, leave my kids alone!”

The next day, whatever entity was inhabiting his home accepted the challenge. Allen heard a voice from the garage say “Come here.” When he went to investigate, he saw the orange glow of fire inside, with red eyes staring at him through the garage door windows. Later, while in bed sleeping with his frightened children, Allen witnessed a fog rise out of the floor. It turned into flames with green eyes. A voice emanated out of it, telling him “You’re dead,” and then it was gone.

A few days later, a relative of the family spent the evening at the house, helping Debbie with the children while Allen worked late. A skeptic of the paranormal, this relative became a believer that night when a horrific figure materialized in the bedroom as he was putting the children to bed. The Tallmann’s fled their home, that night in the dead of Wisconsin winter.

The story of the haunted house in Horicon quickly took on a life of its own, growing to include blood oozing from the ceiling, a hole to Hell in the basement, and a snow-blower that cleared the driveway by itself.

The sheriff contacted the family and met with them at the station. Many harrowing and sleepless nights had Allen and Debbie on edge. After hearing their account of the events over the last nine months, he became convinced of their sincerity. At his request, they eventually shared the details of their experience with a few select members of the press who were not seeking to sensationalize their story and promised to protect their identities. The sheriff hoped the truth would quell the growing hysteria around town. But the interest only continued to grow.

Following threats of arson, he eventually decided to release the address of the vacant house to ensure a neighbouring home with a sleeping family didn’t get set on fire.

James Dean

James Dean & Little Bastard

The famous, deceased actor James Dean had a car he called “little Bastard’, which was a Porsche 550 and his story begins a week before his death in the car.

On September 23, 1955, whilst driving his pride and joy around Los Angeles, James met up with British actor Alec Guinness outside of a restaurant. Guinness was a deeply superstitious man and after James had shown Alec his new pride and joy, Alec wrote in then, unpublished, diaries and letters, regarding the car: “The sports car looked sinister to me…. [E]xhausted, hungry, feeling a little ill-tempered in spite of Dean’s kindness, I heard myself saying in a voice I could hardly recognise as my own: ‘Please, never get in it…. If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.”

Apparently Dean just laughed. A week later on September 30th, Dean and Rolf Wütherich — a former Luftwaffe pilot and factory-trained Porsche mechanic were driving the car towards Paso Robles in California, when they were in a head on crash with another car. Wütherich was thrown from the car and Dean died on the way to hospital. The car was left at the side of the road.

George Barris purchased the wrecked Porsche for $2,500 (with the likely intent to sell tickets to look at it, because, it was a big thing. James was a famous actor), and transported the car back to his shop. The car slipped off the trailer and broke the leg of a mechanic. Barris then sold the engine and drive train to Troy McHenry and William Eschrid. The two used parts to build cars of their own, and were racing against each other with those parts in place.

Henry lost control and slammed into a tree, the impact killing him instantly. Eschrid was driving his car, and the wheels suddenly locked up for no apparent reason, sending the car rolling over in a turn. He was seriously injured in the crash.

Two tires from the Little Bastard were in Barris’s garage, untouched since the accident that claimed Dean’s life. He sold the tires, and both of them exploded simultaneously, causing the driver to run off the road. Barris had kept the car in his possession sans the sold parts and it caught the attention of two would-be thieves. One of the thieves’ arms was torn open trying to steal the steering wheel while the other was injured trying to remove the bloodstained tartan seat.

In a piece that appeared in Jalopnik, the curse apparently continued even further:

“Due to all the incidents involving “Little Bastard,” Barris decided to hide the car but was convinced by the California Highway Patrol to lend the cursed heap to a highway safety exhibit. The first exhibit was unsuccessful as the garage that housed the car caught fire and burned to the ground. Mysteriously the car suffered virtually no damage from the fire. The next exhibition at a local high school ended abruptly when the car fell off its display and broke a nearby student’s hip.”

Later, George was hauling the wreckage on a flatbed truck and was killed instantly when the Porsche fell on him after he was thrown from his truck in an accident. Mishap after mishap continued until 1960, when the twisted debris was on loan to a safety exhibit in Miami. Following the exhibit, the wreckage and the truck that was hauling it mysteriously vanished on the way back to Los Angeles. Neither have ever been seen since.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this episode’s journey into this part of the shadowlands and before I close for this year. I want to wish all my listeners, wherever you are in the world, in the 54 countries who currently listen to my podcast, seasons greetings to you all, if you celebrate this festive season in any way. And for those of you like myself who don’t, well, it’s a time to just chill and relax for a wee bit. Me, I might end up on the beach enjoying New Zealand’s summer sun on Christmas day. But, my thoughts go out to all of those of you who are by themselves this season, I know this can be a very difficult time of year for many, for any number of reasons. Be kind to yourself, and do something that brings you a little joy – even if its as simple as going for a walk. Look after yourselves, be safe, and I’ll see you all early next year with our next episode on the 5th of January 2021.

Don’t miss it. It’s a really fascinating interview with a wonderful chap who is a guide, doing story telling and ghost tours around an outdoor living history museum in Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia. Join us as he recounts some of the experiences both he and guests on the tours have experienced. Best not listen to this one with the lights off.

Today’s music was Are You Scared Yet? by Sascha Ende (c) copyright 2019 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/saschaende/59247 Ft: Admiral Bob. And a special thanks to John Stinson for voicing the Alec Guinness quote for me in his lovely British accent.

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