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The Magnetic Strip

 

There are hundreds of unexplained mysteries from every corner of the planet involving cars, drivers, hitchhikers, car theft, and abduction.  One of the most unusual occurred soon after a new section of the Autobahn in Germany was opened to traffic between Bremen and Bremerhaven in 1929.  During the first year alone no fewer than a hundred cars crashed or came off the Autobahn, but the accidents were all happening in exactly the same place, very close to kilometer marker number 239.  On one particular day, September 7, 1930, nine separate accidents took place adjacent to the marker post, in each of which all vehicles were destroyed.

There appeared to be no explanation for the accidents, as the stretch of road in question was flat and straight and no hazards had been reported.  And that day in September had been particularly fine and sunny.  However, survivors told police that when they approached the marker they had felt a sensation in their stomachs as if they had crossed a humpback bridge at speed, and a "strange force then took over the steering and threw their car off the road."

German police were perplexed until a local water diviner, Carl Wehrs, suggested that a powerful magnetic force caused by an underground stream might have been the reason for the mysterious accidents.  Accompanied by witnesses, he walked with a steel divining rod toward the marker.  He was about ten feet away when, all of a sudden, the rod was ripped from his grasp, the sheer force of it spinning his body around 360 degrees, like an Olympic hammer thrower.

Wehr’s solution to the problem was to bury a box of copper next to the marker stone, and the accidents immediately stopped.  To further test his theory, he later dug the box back up, and the first three cars to pass by all crashed.  Once the box was reburied the marker post was removed, the area was sprinkled with holy water, and the accidents ceased and have never recurred.

 

 


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One evening in 1974, building workers in Indianapolis employed by the Dowling Construction Company securely locked up the site, leaving a steel demolition ball dangling from a crane more than two hundred feet above the ground. When the operator arrived for work the following morning, he climbed the crane and took his seat in the cab before he noticed the steel ball was missing. It had completely vanished. A thorough search was made and statewide appeals for information were issued. To this day, police officers are puzzle by the theft. No trace of the demolition ball – at nearly three tons in weight, not easy just to slip into one’s pocket – has ever been found.

 

 

At 10:30 PM on the evening of March 9, 1929, Mrs. Locklan Smith heard the sound of screaming coming from the building next door, a small laundry at 4 East 132nd Street in New York. She immediately called the police, who searched the deserted premises until they came across a small, securely locked room at the back. Unable to break in, officers finally managed to gain access by lifting a small boy through a tiny window; he then released the bolts to the door from the inside. In the room lay the body of the laundry owner, Isidore Fink, who had been shot twice in the chest and once through the left hand. Powder burns indicated the gun had been fired at point-blank range, and yet no gun was found in the room.

Isidore had not committed suicide, he had been murdered, although cash in the safe and in Fink’s jacket pocket suggested that robbery was not the motive. At first the police believed the murderer must have made his escape through the window as Isidore always securely bolted the doors from the inside when he worked alone at night. But not only would the window have been too small or awkward to get through (unless the murderer had been a dwarf or a small child), it also did not explain why the killer hadn’t simply unbolted the door and walked out through that instead. Others suggested Fink had been shot through the window, but tests proved the powder burns would only show if the gun had been fired from a distance of a few inches, so unless the murderer had twelve-foot arms, they would have to rule that idea out too. No other clue was ever found, and two years after the death of the unfortunate Mr. Fink, the New York police commissioner, Edward P. Mulrooney, was forced to declare the incident an “unsolvable mystery.”

 

 

At some time between June 28 and July 6, 1907, a person or persons unknown walked into the strong room of Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle and stole the Irish crown jewels, said to be worth £250,000 at the time. Whoever stole them must have had keys, as no locks were broken and there was no sign of forced entry. How the thieves could have gotten hold of a set of keys is a mystery in itself, as the sole key holder was Sir Arthur Vicars, the Ulster king of arms, who was out of the country at the time. Staff calculated it would have taken between fifteen and twenty minutes to remove the jewels from their individual cases before the thieves made their escape. During this time, none of the four heavily armed guards on duty noticed anything out of the ordinary, and despite a lengthy investigation by Scotland Yard, no trace of the crown jewels has ever been found.

 

 


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Werewolves

 

Besides being a recluse, Gilles Garnier was also a mass murderer who devoured children when they strayed from home. Witnesses who saw him committing these atrocious crimes said he sometimes took the form of a wolf. Once captured Garnier confessed that he had indeed changed himself into a wolf and killed and eaten children. He was charged with the abominable crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft and burnt alive at Dole, in eastern France, on 18 January 1573.

Usually only starving or rabid wolves attack people, and in the sixteenth century these were assumed to be werewolves (from the Old English word wer, meaning man). Garnier came from a wolf-infested area where four people were tried as werewolves between 1520 and 1575. Elsewhere in Europe trials were less common, though many more accusations were made. England had none, as wolves had been eliminated by 1500. A notorious werewolf came from near Cologne, Germany. Peter Stubbe was convicted of murdering and eating 13 children (including his own son) and two pregnant women. He boasted that the devil had given him a magic belt, which he used to turn himself into the likeness of a devouring wolf. Stubbe was broken on the wheel, beheaded, and burnt on 28 October 1589.

During the witch craze of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, female witches were said to ride to their sabbats on wolves, and male witches to change, or shape-shift, into wolves when attacking people and animals. If a transformed wolf was injured, the person’s body would still bear the wound when it returned to human form. A 1588 story from the French Auvergne tells of a huntsman who cut off the paw of a wolf and placed it in his bag. Later, when showing it to a local nobleman, he was astonished to find that it had changed into a hand wearing a golden ring. The horrified nobleman recognized the ring and rushed to his kitchen where he found his wife nursing her wounded arm. She was promptly burnt as a witch. In many werewolf trials, such as the Gilles Garnier case, the defendant was judged to be genuine shape-shifter and was condemned to a painful death. But since ancient times lycanthropy – the belief that one is turning into a wolf – has also been recognized as an abnormal mental condition. Afflicted people howl, frequent graveyards and crave human flesh.

In 1603 a 14-year-old shepherd boy, Jean Grenier, was tried at Bordeaux in France for attacking and eating children. In court the boy claimed that the lord of the forest had given him a wolf skin and a salve with which to turn himself into a wolf. He admitted eating a dog, a baby and two little girls. But detailed questioning during his trial showed that Grenier was given to inventing all manner of wild stories. After consulting with medical specialists, the judge pointed out that the unfortunate Grenier was clearly mentally retarded and called for a verdict of insanity. Instead of being burnt at the stake, he was imprisoned in a monastery, where he died at the age of 20.

While most convicted werewolves do seem to have been psychotic serial killers, werewolves also have a more benign side. In 1692 an 80-year-old peasant named Thiess told the judges of Jurgensburg, Livonia – at that time a province of Russia – that three times a year he turned into a wolf. It was his destiny, announced at his birth, to change into an animal and fight on behalf of his people. On the nights of Saint Lucy, Saint John and the Pentecost, Thiess claimed he joined the other Livonian werewolves on a journey to hell to fight with the devils and sorcerers over the harvest for the coming year. Thiess seems to have been continuing an ancient tradition of dream battles for fertility undertaken by special people in the form of animals.

Wolves were traditionally associated with the realm of the dead and werewolves were thought to be most active during the 12 nights after Christmas, when the dead were supposed to roam the earth. In hunter-gatherer societies the ability to change temporarily into the shape of an animal was one of the sources of a shaman’s power. The belief that some people can change themselves into wild animals seems almost universal. In areas where wolves do not exist, other creatures fulfill this role. In South America they change into were-jaguars; in Africa into were-leopards, were-hyenas, and even were-crocodiles; in India into were-tigers; and in Japan into were-foxes and were-badgers.

 


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