Ghost Nun, SpaceX Spaceballs, Stolen Sasquatch and More Mysterious News Briefly — September 20, 2021

Mysterious News Briefly — September 20, 2021

During the parachuting descent of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, mission specialist Chris Sembroski watched the movie “Spaceballs” on a tablet attached to his spacesuit, which Elon Musk later tweeted was his on of his favorite movies. And his favorite quote was probably Lone Starr saying to Barf, “Listen, we’re not just doing this for money. We’re doing it for a s*** load of money!”

Experts from the Paris Brain Institute found that when people listen to stories, they subconsciously synchronize their heart rates with the narrative and each other. Don’t try this with your medical school roommate while listening to a lecture on hearth attacks.

A nature photographer on a walk in Lesueur National Park near Jurien Bay in Western Australia’s Mid West accidentally discovered a new carnivorous sundew flower which uses its leaves to attract, capture and swallow flies and other insects. Horticulturalists working to come up with a name warn that it’s extremely rare but haven’t decided yet if it’s musical or movie worthy.

In a new study, food experts cooked 3D-printed foods in conventional ovens and with lasers and found that laser-cooked meat shrinks 50% less, retains double the moisture content, and shows similar flavor development to conventionally cooked meat. This won’t catch on until you can use a laser sword to make grill marks on your 3D steaks.

Bigfoot bandits stole a huge Sasquatch statue from outside Jimmy’s Backyard BBQ restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and the owner is offering a no-questions-asked reward of $1,000 and a free sandwich for its return. If it was stolen by a lovelorn Bigfoot looking for a sex doll, that’s a tough decision.

Freddy Goodall, a 23-year-old property developer from Sussex, England, found a hidden doorway in his family’s 500-year-old estate which led to a previously unknown secret labyrinth of underground tunnels. Do secret tunnels add to the square footage and raise your property taxes?

A photo taken just outside an old Civil War army hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, shows what appears to be a ghost that some people think belongs to a military nun from the Civil War. Military nuns probably carried yardsticks that doubled as shotguns.

Researchers at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology are analyzing a 50-milligram rock sample obtained during the country’s Chang’e-5 lunar return mission to determine if it contains the helium-3 isotope, which could be a viable fuel for fusion power plants on the Moon. If the idea of human-designed nuclear plants on the lunar surface doesn’t bring out the giant Moon people stomping on every lander they can find, nothing will.

A Wyoming woman appears to have caught a case of the rare pneumonic plague from one of her house cats. That strange whooshing sound you hear is the collective “Tsk-tsk” from dog people.

Experts at Statistics Netherlands announced that while the Netherlands remains the tallest nation in the world, Dutch women born in 2001 are on average 1.4 cm shorter than those born in 1980, while for men the decline is 1 cm, and while they’re not sure of the exact cause, most think it’s due to poor nutrition. Good luck getting the Dutch to add kale to their hot cocoa.

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The Mysterious Cursed Wreck of the Andrea Doria

Back in its day, the SS Andrea Doria was a source of pride for its native country of Italy. Ported in Genoa and launched in 1951, it was a 697-foot luxury ocean liner that was decked out with all of the frills, including three outdoor swimming pools, and was widely known for its numerous works of art, such as paintings, tapestries, murals, and even a life-sized bronze statue of the ship’s namesake, the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. Such magnificent art was so ubiquitous on the ship that it earned the vessel the nickname “The Floating Art Gallery,” and at a time when Italy was trying to rebuild in the aftermath of World War II the SS Andrea Doria was a source of national pride and symbol of renewal, being the largest, fastest, and most opulent in the entire country, complete with the most state-of-the-art technology and safety features available at the time. However, there were dark days ahead for the venerable vessel, and it would go on to become one of the biggest sea tragedies in the world, as well as a place rumored to hold dark forces and curses about it to this day.

On 25 July 1956, the Andrea Doria was on a routine run towards New York City, along with 572 crewmembers and 1,134 passengers. By this point, the liner already had an admirable service record, having made 100 successful transatlantic crossings, and was under the commend of Captain Piero Calamai, a seasoned veteran of both World War I and World War II, so there wasn’t at the time any reason to think that this voyage would be any different. On this day, at around 10:30 a.m., the Andrea Doria was being approached from the opposite direction by the Swedish liner the Stockholm, and both vessels were traveling a bit too fast and recklessly for the foggy conditions in such a heavily trafficked sea lane, both trying to shave off time from their voyages to reach their destinations on time. At some point the two vessels became aware of each other on radar, but through some misunderstanding or error, the Andrea Doria steered towards the incoming Stockholm rather than away from it, sending them on a collision course.

The Andrea Doria

By the time they figured out the error, it was too late. The Andrea Doria and the Stockholm collided practically head-on, despite all efforts to evade at the last second. The Stockholm had been fitted with a robust ice-breaker bow that easily shredded right through the other vessel and mortally wounded it to leave a huge gaping gash and mess of twisted metal. The Andrea Doria began to list immediately, leaving half of its lifeboats underwater before the shocked crew and passengers had really even had time to process what had happened, Fortunately, the ship managed to stay afloat for 11 hours, which combined with the high traffic of the area, high-tech safety features, and top-of-the-line communications systems ensured that the rescue went as smoothly as could be expected. Nevertheless, 46 people met their fate aboard the Andrea Doria that day, as well as 5 aboard the Stockholm, mostly killed on the initial collision, and it would go on to became one of the most infamous maritime disasters of all time. The Stockholm would survive the ordeal and go onto be repaired and put into operation, but the Andrea Doria was lost, eventually going into its death throes to slip beneath the waves and come to rest in the murky depths in around 240 feet of water about 60 nautical miles from Nantucket on the border of the continental shelf, practically teetering on the edge of an abyss. No official blame or cause of the collision was ever established, but the Andrea Doria would become well-known for other mysteries as well.

In the years after its sinking, the Andrea Doria became a very popular destination for divers, with its remote location, deep cold waters, strong currents, and the promise of treasures and historical artifacts proving to be an irresistible challenge for many, with anything found able to be kept due to the ship’s location in international waters and the fact that the owner of the shipwreck has never enforced its salvage rights over the wreck. The wreck has often been dubbed “The Mt. Everest of Wreck Diving,” and this seductive allure has drawn in divers from around the world looking to feed their egos and their pocket books, but the wreck has also gone on to be whispered about as a cursed place that swallows up all who would approach it.

The rumors stem from the fact that many who come here to investigate the wreck have been beset with numerous technical issues, freak accidents, or worse. Bad diving conditions and weather have supposedly suddenly descended on the area during dives, and faulty equipment and getting stuck in the deteriorating compartments of the ship itself have managed to cancel many dives, and it has even resulted in death. Indeed, the Andrea Doria has a rather sinister reputation for taking lives, with an estimated 18 people losing their lives here since 1956 while trying to explore the wreck. One some occasions, people have just straight up vanished, such as expert diver Tom Pritchard, who mysteriously disappeared while trying to explore the Andrea Doria in 2015. Such a high rate of deaths have caused speculation that there is some sort of sinister force pervading the wreck, but most experts have explained it as being merely the result of the dangers inherit to such a remote and difficult dive. Diver Steve Bielenda, who has made many excursions out to the wreck, explains of this:

It’s an inanimate object. It does nothing to you. It’s the diver — the equipment, what they do, and their health. It’s not really any more dangerous than any other wreck. It’s just an inanimate object laying on the bottom of the ocean. But any dive, regardless of its depth or location, can be dangerous. The wreck becomes dangerous because of its depth and the attitude of the diver. And then factor in health issues, and then factor in that you’re dependent upon equipment. You have to work your way in, keeping your buoyancy so you’re not touching the bottom or the walls and everything. The wreck is falling apart. It’s an underwater junk pile. And then take that underwater junk pile and cover it with sea anemones, dirt, and marine growth. So it’s like an underwater garbage pail that you’re diving into. It’s eventually going to be undriveable.

The depths involved and the cold dark conditions also mean that even expert divers with the best equipment only have a small window within which to operate, with a typical Andrea Doria dive only lasting around 15 minutes. During these forays, they have to utilize strobe lights on the moorings in order to help them find their way out, as well as hook lines fastened to themselves. Many of the divers who have died here did so when their lines got tangled, or when they got lost in the labyrinthine interior of the ship or panicked and lost their mouthpieces. There are a million things that can go wrong at a wreck like this, so it is likely that this is just a dangerous wreck that has attracted stories of curses due to its rather tragic history. Is it cursed? Who knows? It is likely just a largely unreachable wreck attracting a spooky lore around it, but it is still a rather fascinating glimpse into history and a wreck that had become notoriously difficult to safely approach.

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New Study Finds Prehistoric Humans Rarely Mated With Their Cousins

A popular sarcastic explanation for human behavior is: “This is what happens when cousins marry.” It works so well that it may go back to our prehistoric ancestors. If they used it, they were wrong – new research finds that ancient humans rarely chose their cousins as mates. Did they know something we don’t about genetics … or was it just because royal families hadn’t been invented yet?

“Parental relatedness of present-day humans varies substantially across the globe, but little is known about the past. Here we analyze ancient DNA, leveraging that parental relatedness leaves genomic traces in the form of runs of homozygosity.”

Homozy-what?

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and the University of Chicago explain how they searched previously published DNA data from ancient humans that lived during the last 45,000 years for signs of “homozygosity” — possessing two identical forms of a particular gene, one from each parent, indicating the parents were closely related. Using DNA from 1,785 individuals, they applied new techniques to compensate for the DNA being so old. The results surprised them.

“In a global dataset of 1,785 individuals only 54, that is, about three percent, show the typical signs of their parents being cousins. Those 54 did not cluster in space or time, showing that cousin matings were sporadic events in the studied ancient populations. Notably, even for hunter-gatherers who lived more than 10,000 years ago, unions between cousins were the exception.”

A mere three percent showed signs of the parents being cousins, even among recent hunter-gatherers whose choices for mates were limited. The analysis also confirmed what had been assumed – switching from hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society caused populations to boom, resulting in more mating choices outside of the immediate family – a trend that happened worldwide.

I need to settle down.

So, is the “This is what happens when cousins marry” insult outdated? Not by a long shot. Anthropologists estimate more than ten percent of all global marriages occur among first or second cousins. The practice is most common in people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern origin. Some religions allow first cousin marriages (Protestantism, Islam, Judaism and some forms of Hinduism), while others ban it up to sixth cousins. Governments banning it include China, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines and 24 of the 50 United States. (Before you call your cousin, check on your state here.) And, despite all of the jokes and suspicious behavior, inbreeding within royal families has been extremely rare for centuries –even they know about homozygosity.

Despite costing us a good insult, it’s good to lose homozygosity. Perhaps we should lose a few mores insults too … although a good one still beats fighting, shooting and murder. Here’s a classic from Mae West:

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”

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Evidence of a Prehistoric Clothing Production Site in a Moroccan Cave

Prehistoric bone tools found in a Moroccan cave may be one of the earliest examples of a clothing production site. The tools, which date back about 120,000 years, were discovered at Contrebandiers Cave on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

Approximately 12,000 bone fragments were discovered at the archaeological site with over 60 of them belonging to animals that were turned into tools that ancient humans could have used to process leather and fur.

The tools could have been used to make fur clothes.

In an interview with ScienceAlert, Emily Hallett, who is an anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, explained, “Organic materials such as leather and fur are extremely unlikely to preserve in deposits that are this old, so as archaeologists we are left with pieces of evidence that include tools and the bones from animals that preserve skinning marks,” adding, “We can put these pieces of evidence together and suggest that humans were using bone tools to prepare leather and fur that was likely used for clothing.”

While it’s quite probable that the leather was used for clothes, experts aren’t entirely certain as Hallett noted, “These bone tools could have been used to prepare leather for purposes other than clothing, such as storage devices.” On the other hand, clothing made from leather and fur would have been very beneficial to ancient humans who were migrating out of Africa into different climates.

The leather (and food) would have come from several bovid species as their remains were found in the cave as explained by Hallett, “Hartebeest, aurochs, and gazelle bones were found in high abundance in the cave, and these animals were also consumed by humans, because there are cut marks associated with meat removal on their bones.”

The tools could have been used to make leather clothes.

As for the fur, the experts found three carnivorous species with skinning marks on their remains – golden jackal, wildcat, and Rüppell’s fox. “The cut marks on these carnivore bones are restricted to areas where incisions are made for fur removal, and there are no cut marks on the areas of the skeleton associated with meat removal,” she said. Their study was published in the journal iScience where it can be read in full.

Some experts believe that the making of clothes began in Africa as far back as 170,000 years ago, so the tools found in Contrebandiers Cave could very well have been used to produce fur and leather clothing. A picture of one of the tools can be seen here.

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Mysterious Large Cat Filmed in Illinois Baffles Residents

Several days ago, a large cat was captured on a home security camera in Monroe County, Illinois, and locals are now baffled as to what it was. Portia Oberkfell said that in the early morning hours, her security camera caught the mysterious feline on her property.

When Robert Townsend from 5 On Your Side asked Oberkfell what she originally thought it was, she said, “Maybe a bug flying on the lens since it looked smaller on my phone.” However, she soon realized that it was something much larger than an insect as she explained, “I was shocked immediately and that’s when I nudged my husband and said you’ve got to see this.”

As for what type of large feline it was, Oberkfell admitted that she’s unsure, “That’s kind of the big question right now. Is it a bobcat or is it a cougar?” And it’s not only the Oberkfells that are baffled as the Monroe County sheriff’s deputies and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are unsure as well. If anyone else spots the animal, Major Chris Lutz has some important advice, “If you see [the] animal obviously don’t approach it. We really can’t do anything about it, but contact DNR if it resurfaces.”

Is it a cougar?

There haven’t been any new reports in the last several days of anyone seeing the large cat roaming around so perhaps it’s gone. “I just hope it’s working its way through and heading out of Monroe County,” Oberkfell stated, adding that she enjoys spending time outdoors with her two dogs but now she’s scared.

A news report showing the security footage of the large feline can be viewed here.

This is a very interesting and mysterious sighting since the American bobcat is the only native wild cat in Illinois according to the Illinois Bobcat Foundation. There are approximately 5,000 American bobcats currently in the state. However, if you compare the footage to a photograph of an American bobcat, it’s hard to tell if they’re the same animal.

Is it a bobcat?

On the other hand, between 2002 and 2009, the remains of four cougars have been found in Illinois. DNA analysis revealed that they were genetically alike to those living in South Dakota and could have traveled eastward. Furthermore, there have been numerous other confirmed sightings of cougars in the state, although there hasn’t been any evidence found of resident breeding populations. It is possible that cougars from South Dakota, Nebraska, and Rocky Mountain states have moved towards the eastern states to find new places to live as their populations rise.

So, what exactly is roaming around Monroe County? The mystery of the large Illinois feline continues…

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Dark Conspiracies, Mysterious Strangers, and the Bizarre Vanishing of Lt. Paul Whipkey

By all accounts, 26-year-old US Army Lieutenant Paul Whipkey was a perfect soldier and a model citizen. A R.O.T.C. honors graduate who had gone through Army aviation school to earn his Army pilot’s wings before ending up at Fort Ord, California, he would later be transferred to Camp Desert Rock in Nevada in 1957, where he flew several missions to pilot an observation plane during the tests of the atomic bomb, before returning to Fort Ord where he would remain. Everyone who knew him, including friends, family, and fellow soldiers, described him as an “All-American young man,” a hard worker, and a superior officer, and he was hardly the type that one would expect would become the center of a dark unsolved mystery. Yet, dark days were ahead for Whipkey, and he would become the focus of a bizarre vanishing surrounded by sinister conspiracies, mysterious strangers, weird clues, and other oddities that have never been solved.

In 1957, shortly after his assignment as an observational pilot, Whipkey began to experience a deterioration of his mind and body. It was reported that he had developed splotches on his skin, warts and moles all over his body, and dropped a shocking amount of weight in a short amount of time. In addition to this, his teeth began to fall out, and his personality went through a massive shift. The normally rational and level-headed Whipkey became morose and confrontational, often described as looking scared and nervous, and in the meanwhile he was often seen in the company of two mysterious men in suits, although who they were and what they talked about were unknown. According to friends, Whipkey refused to talk about who the men were, but he always looked very upset and depressed after they departed. On the afternoon of July 10th, 1958, Whipkey got into his car for what he said was a short trip to Monterey to “have a drink,” which was only around a mile away, and he declared that he would be back within the day. However, he never would return, and indeed no one has seen him since.

Paul Whipkey

When Whipkey did not return as promised, the Army oddly cleared out his living quarters right away without informing his family, which was weird and contrary to standard procedure, in which that the next of kin or legal representative must be notified before packing belongings. As the days went by with no sign of him, they listed him as AWOL, upgrading this to deserter when he didn’t show up for a month. Around 5 weeks after he went missing, Whipkey’s car was found his car in a remote and forbidding desert wasteland within Death Valley, a full 145 miles away and 15 miles from the main road, with a receipt for the Whites Motel in Mojave, California, around 350 miles from the base, where had signed the motel’s guest registration the previous night, and there was a receipt for 14 gallons of gasoline purchased in Mojave. Also left behind in the car were the missing man’s suitcase, dog tags, and other personal belongings, and the keys were still in the ignition, but of Whipkey himself there was no sign. One of the odder clues was that nearby the vehicle was a pile of cigarette butts, which is strange since Whipkey didn’t smoke. His bank accounts also went untouched, so where had he gone? The Army did only the most cursory investigation into the matter, in fact not even bothering to search for a possible body until nine months later, and they found no new leads or clues, no trace of his whereabouts, and in 1977 they would destroy all files on Whipkey. In the Army’s official conclusion, they said that he had lost his mind and wandered off into the desert to either run away or die, case closed. Or was it?

Whipkey’s friends and family did not buy the Army’s story at all, and some weird clues would begin to turn up that conflicted with the official version of events. It would turn out that an eyewitness had seen Whipkey’s car being driven through Death Valley by a man in a military uniform four weeks after his disappearance, but everyone at the base insisted he had left to go to Monterey in civilian clothes. This plus the mysterious strangers he had been meeting and the cigarettes left behind at the scene have convinced some of Whipkey’s family and friends that he was not the one who drove the car out to Death Valley, and that it had been staged, and the vanishing covered up, an idea further supported by the fact that the Army had cleared out his room only 24 hours after he had gone missing. There is also the fact that Whipkey was an upstanding, respected officer who was not at all the type to just desert, and his brother, Carl, has said of this:

I don’t think Paul deserted. It was completely out of character for Paul to do such a thing. He was a loyal American soldier, devoted to his work. I think the Army knew exactly what had happened to him. I think it was part of a big smokescreen cover up.

Other ominous clues orbit the case as well. Whipkey’s superior officer, Lt. Col. Charles Lewis would later claim that procedures had not been properly followed with regards to the clearing out of the room, the handling of the investigation, and the deletion of Whipkey’s records, and on top of this he claimed that he had been told in no uncertain terms to forget about the case. Lewis also recalled that Whipkey had been approached by the mysterious suited men since his time in Nevada, and that they had always managed to be let through security, yet would not state which agency they had been from. Even stranger still was a clue Carl Whipkey turned up while doing his own investigation into his brother’s disappearance. He would discover that a Lt. Charlie Guess, who had been friends with Whipkey and had served with him at Camp Desert Rock, had vanished while flying a plane just 11 days after Whipkey had gone missing. A year after that, the plane was found out in the desert with Guess’ remains on board, yet oddly the plane’s serial number was different from the one he had taken off in. Coincidence or not? All of this has led Carl to believe that the mysterious men had been there to recruit his brother into a top-secret CIA program, after which they had staged his disappearance in order to sever all ties with the outside world. Carl Whipkey has said of this:

During that era, there was a tremendous amount of nationwide recruiting conducted by the CIA. And with Lt. Whipkey’s qualifications, he would’ve been an exceptional candidate for such an assignment. January of the year he disappeared, he told me during a telephone conversation that he was going to be going on an assignment, that he was going to make a name for himself. Before he could tell me what it was, he was interrupted by some officers moving in the proximity of his desk and he could no longer talk to me about the subject. I theorize that Paul was recruited into an Army/CIA joint program that was going on at that time. When Paul left Fort Ord, he drove to the town of Mojave, California and checked into White’s Motel. There’s a possibility that he was met there by Army intelligence agents or the CIA and transported to Southeast Asia, possibly from Edwards Air Force Base, which is nearby. I think the Army took his car out to the desert to get rid of it. Out of sight, out of mind. If they would just say, ‘Yes, he died on a secret assignment,’ we could live with that. We’re all loyal American citizens in our family and we would buy that. And until the Army tells us what happened, there will be no peace in our family. I would be satisfied even if the Army would say they can’t tell us for security reasons, but until then, we can’t rule anything out. The Government knows what happened to my brother. There are so many questions still unanswered.

Other theories that have been thrown around are that he had been exposed to too much radiation during his flights at Nevada, which had not only caused his health to deteriorate but also caused him to suffer a mental breakdown, that he was silenced after witnessing experiments on human beings or something else he wasn’t supposed to see, or that he was killed while carrying out covert operations for the military. Making it even more curious is that in 1982, Whipkey’s case was reopened and reviewed by the Army, after which they found that there was not enough evidence to list him as a deserter, and so changed his status to “died in the line of duty.” What is going on here? Carl Whipkey would continue to pursue answers, trying to pierce into the Army bureaucracy in a search for answers, a crusade that would mostly come up against dead ends, uncooperativeness, and frustration. He would sadly die in 2019 without ever knowing what exactly happened to his brother. To this day he has never been found or heard from again, and we are left to wonder. What happened to Paul Whipkey? Was he recruited into some secret program, assassinated, or did he just have a mental breakdown? What is the meaning of all of the secrecy surrounding the investigation and breaches of procedure? We may never know for sure, and it remains a perplexing mystery.

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A UFO Speed Calculator and 1999 More Calculators You Never Knew You Needed

There was a time when humans had not yet invented numbers but needed ways to count and measure, so they used whatever they had available – rocks, sticks, hands, etc. Numbers and measurement standards made the tasks easier but less fun. There was a time much more recently when humans wondered at an invention called a “calculator,” which took the effort out of standard arithmetic. However, it still needed the operator to do substantial work to be practical. For example, a calculator can help you calculate how much a tube of toothpaste costs per ounce, but it’s no help figuring out how many brushes your family of four will get per tube. For that you need Omni Calculator – a Polish startup which has brought practicality and fun to counting, measuring and figuring with the release of over 2,000 specialty calculators. There’s one that will answer your toothpaste dilemma, another to figure out your bikini size, one to calculate the benefits of switching from driving to work to cycling, a new fun one for calculating in weird units … and at least 1997 more!

“In Omni Calculator, we knock down each and every obstacle that stands between you and an informed decision. We provide the numbers you need, making calculations fast, easy, and fun. A world driven by rational decisions is a better place. It’s a world where we don’t waste resources as much, believe nonsense a bit less, and don’t mistake opinions for facts. It’s the world we want to help building.”

Put down that book — there’s a better way

If the name Omni Calculator sounds familiar, it may be from its UFO Travel Calculator, which estimated those in famous Tic Tac UFOs to weigh more than 47,000 pounds (21,320 kg) with a span of 44.6 ft (13.6 m) and a speed of more than 11,800 mph — allowing one to travel from London to San Francisco (5,351 miles) in 27 minutes. Or more recently when a number of media sites directed Americans trying to figure out their Child Tax Credit to Omni ‘s Child Tax Credit Calculator. Then there’s the Toilet Paper Calculator that everyone should have used to determine exactly how much their family needs instead of creating a massive shortage last year. That’s what the founder of Omni would call a “rational decision.”

In 2011, Mateusz Mucha built a web calculator which could calculate in any direction, without a fixed input or output. He added a mobile app Percentage Calculator, made it available online and it’s been downloaded over 4 million times to date. Deciding that “everyday math problems are a universal struggle,” he started Omni Calculator in 2014. By 2019, it had twenty-four employees and it continues to grow because everyone who uses one of these calculators thinks of another they need – and Omni is ready to build it.

Many of the cool calculators from Omni are of the kind you never thought you needed – and now you can’t do without. A Chilled Drink Calculator to determine how long you need to keep your drink in the fridge to reach its optimal temperature. An Addiction Calculator to figure out how much shorter your life will be if that chilled drink contains booze. A Snowman Calculator to design the perfect Frosty. A Tree Value Calculator to figure out your tree’s net worth. A Crickets Chirping Thermometer to tell the temperature by listening to those annoying bugs. A Dog Size Calculator to estimate the adult size of your puppy. A Plant Spacing Calculator to help plan your garden. And then there’s the latest Weird Units Calculator that makes conversions from standard unit types (meters, kilos, minutes, etc.) to weird ones like football fields, cats, human pregnancies, candy bars and many others.

Can you help me, Omni?

What we need at this point is a calculator to determine what percentage of Omni’s calculators we’ve listed so far. Better yet, how about one that could look at your lifestyle and pick the right calculator for your need. OK, that may be too Big Brother for a company whose mission is to create a world driven by rational decisions. One the company makes is hiring specialists, academics and experienced polymaths from around the world – because every country has different problems.

What’s your problem? Get started finding a solution by visiting Omni Calculators.

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UPDATED: Who Killed Jeannette DePalma?

In late 1997, Weird NJ received a letter from a fan named Billy Martin. The short letter, entitled “In the Watchung Mountains”, read:

“There was an alleged ritual sacrifice, I think, in the Houdaille Quarry near Springfield. A local dog brought a body part home to its master which led to an investigation. I don’t know if it is true or just a local myth…”

In a pre-Google era, the editors at Weird NJ struggled to find additional corroborating information regarding this incident. Eventually it was decided to print Martin’s letter in Weird NJ #9, released in October of that year. The letter’s appearance ignited a small firestorm among Weird NJ readers who had grown up in Union County during the 1970s. Replies began to flood the Weird NJ office, one of which finally put a name to the victim:

“Her name was Jeannette DePalma and she was found on an altar…”

As time went on, more facts became clear—Jeannette had been hitching in Springfield Township one afternoon in August 1972, vanished, and was later found dead in the woods surrounding the Houdaille Quarry after a dog had brought her arm back home to the Baltusrol Gardens apartment complex on nearby Wilson Road. When the editors of Weird NJ began their own investigation into Jeannette’s unexplained death, they were immediately met with resistance from the local police, who claimed that all files and evidence relating to the DePalma case had been destroyed during flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Today, we finally know that to be untrue.

After a decade of working with Weird NJ correspondent Jesse P. Pollack, who co-authored with Mark Moran the definitive book on the DePalma case, 2015’s Death on the Devil’s Teeth, and Jeannette’s nephew Ray, Weird NJ has finally obtained copies of Jeannette’s case file from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. After years of denials from previous acting prosecutors, Pollack was able to consult with former UCPO Director of Communications Mark Spivey in 2019 to submit a detailed file request under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

After nearly two years of delays due to COVID-19 and personnel changes, the UCPO finally released the bulk of Jeannette DePalma’s case file to Pollack in February 2021, including crime scene photos that had been previously described by some New Jersey police officials as “missing.”

While Jeannette’s remains have been compassionately redacted from the photographs, the picture they paint is very clear. After a careful review of these photographs, Weird NJ feels confident that there was no “occult activity” involved in Jeannette’s death. The alleged “crosses made from sticks and twigs” and “halo of stones” that were supposedly found placed around Jeannette’s body are completely absent from the crime scene photos. Also absent are any “animal sacrifices” that were long rumored by whispering Union County residents to be near the remains. The closest object resembling a cross found near the remains are two rotten tree branches that had obviously fallen in that spot a long time before Jeannette had come to rest there. No “arrows carved in trees” or an “altar” of any sort are seen in the photographs either. This, of course, makes what the press said about these photos in 1972 all the more confusing.

An article that appeared in the September 29, 1972 edition of the Elizabeth Daily Journal entitled “Girl Sacrificed in Witch Rite?” made the following claim:

“Investigation into the death of 16-year-old Jeannette DePalma is focusing on elements of black witchcraft and Satan worship. A review of death scene photos, according to reports, is leading authorities to believe the girl’s death may have been in the nature of a sacrifice. Pieces of wood, at first thought to be at the scene by chance, are now seen as symbols. One searcher said two pieces of wood were crossed on the ground over her head. More wood framed the body ‘like a coffin.’ Another person who was there said, ‘I guess if you were looking for signs, they were there.’”

This article was the first publication to link Jeannette DePalma’s death with witchcraft and Satanism, but even a casual glance at the crime scene diagram drawn by UCPO Investigator Glenn Owens shows these supposed “signs” of “black magic and Satan worship” are tenuous, at best. The “two pieces of wood crossed on the ground over her head” were actually parallel to Jeannette’s body, with her right arm resting on the vertically parallel log, and the other horizontal log lying just beyond her head. Both logs were much larger than Jeannette’s entire body.

The reports of logs framing Jeannette’s body “like a coffin” are an exaggeration at best. As Owens’ diagram shows, the branches fell in a way that roughly resembles an open rectangle (and not a “trapezoid” as other newspapers reported in 1972) but considering this was a densely overgrown patch of woods, it’s probably safe to say that the Houdaille Quarry was filled with countless other branches that also fell into common shapes.

The overgrowth itself is another revelation, as well. For years, Weird NJ has been told time and time again by retired Springfield PD investigators that the spot where Jeannette’s body was found was a “party spot” and that she likely overdosed there while partying with several other teenagers, all of whom presumably fled out of fear of prosecution instead of rendering her medical aid. The death scene photos tell an entirely different story. The spot where Jeannette’s body was discovered is much more overgrown than ever previously described to us, with countless large plants and bushes surrounding the remains. No evidence of a “party” or any other social gathering is noted in the accompanying evidence reports or seen in the multitude of photographs released in February 2021.

What is noted in these reports, however, are the contents of Jeannette’s purse—and the revelation that it was apparently never recovered, despite previous accounts given to us by the responding officers on that day. Approximately eight feet south of Jeannette’s remains were the contents of her purse, apparently dumped out into one small pile. Listed in the evidence reports and shown in corresponding photos are a pack of Marcal tissues, a Vicks inhaler, a small compact, lipstick, a comb, a key on a ring, a “clear vial with an unknown substance” resembling a Coricidin bottle (Jeannette’s mother, Florence DePalma, told the press that her daughter had a mild cold on the day she vanished), and a small eye shadow box.

What is absent, however, is Jeannette’s purse itself, along with any money or a wallet. If Jeannette was murdered, it is now apparent that her killer took her purse and her cross necklace, possibly as souvenirs. The cross necklace was widely reported by her family to have been missing from her body and corroborated by the reports released in February 2021.

Obviously, this release is monumental for Jeannette’s family, friends, and readers who have been following this case for decades. Many questions have now been answered. It is almost certain that there was no occult element to Jeannette’s death. We now know that her purse was never recovered. But, as with most revelations with this case, more questions have arisen.

Why were her cross necklace and purse stolen from her body?

How did anyone inside the Springfield Police Department or the Union County Prosecutor’s Office sincerely believe there was an occult element to this case while looking at the crime scene photos?

Why did so many police officials insist for almost half a century that Jeannette’s case file and evidence had been destroyed in 1999 by flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd?

Weird NJ made a commitment to continue looking into this tragic case back in 2004, and we’re not about to stop. We will continue to do our best to bring answers and justice to Jeannette, her family, and their memory.

To all of you who have assisted us on this journey over the past quarter century, we sincerely thank you.

If you have any information about Jeannette DePalma or her mysterious death, please contact the Union County Prosecutor’s Office at (908) 527-4500 or you can reach us at editor@weirdnj.com. All requests for anonymity will be honored by us.

Jeannette Christine DePalma

1956 – 1972

Witchcraft and Satanists Implicated in 1972 Mystery

In issue #22 of Weird NJ magazine we examined an all-but-forgotten unsolved murder case from 1972 in which the body of a teenage girl was discovered atop a cliff, high above an abandoned quarry in the town of Springfield (Union County). Admittedly, at the time we didn’t know many details about the case, other than the fact that the corpse was found thanks to a dog that had brought home a badly decomposed human forearm to its master. The arm, and the corpse, would later be identified as having belonged to Jeannette DePalma, a local teenager who had been missing for six weeks. The details that had first drawn us to the sad story of Jeannette were the lingering rumors around the towns of Union County that the disappearance and subsequent murder had ritualistic overtones.

The remote hilltop location where the body was discovered was said to have been strewn with cult related symbols and the body of the young girl was rumored to have been placed on a makeshift altar in the woods. The various versions of the Jeannette DePalma story that we had heard either blamed a coven of witches or a local group of Satanists for her death. The strange thing that we discovered in our investigation of the case was that after thirty years most people who remembered the crime were still too frightened to speak with us about it. Everyone we questioned about the murder seemed to recall the same scant and gruesome details, but nobody wanted to go on record or have their name published in our article––including the Springfield Police Department!

The general consensus of the people we questioned in regard to Jeannette’s murder seemed unanimous in agreement on certain points: that it was in some way cult related, that there was a police cover-up of the facts in the case, and that Jeannette’s killers were still most likely at large.

But could the death of Jeannette DePalma really be attributed to some evil force operating the quiet neighborhoods of suburban Union County in the early 1970s, or had time and the rumor mill merely distorted the facts of the case and sensationalized the crime? This is that question that we pondered, yet could not answer in our original article. After the publication of that article we would receive several new leads in the case. Some were vague or contradictory, some were cryptic, and others were downright creepy.

Some of the tips were cautionary, while others seemed to have a sinister undercurrent. Most of the leads came to us in the mail in plain white envelopes without any return address. Some of the letters were typed, others were handwritten––all were anonymous. They came to us from all over the state, judging by the postmarks. Some were from people who still lived in the area where the murder occurred, while others came from people who had moved away years ago but still remembered the case with horror.

Location where Jeannette DePalma’s body was found as it looks today. (Photo by Mark Moran)

Not an Altar, but Logs Around Her Body

This is in regards to the story of Jeannette DePalma. When her body was found, it was not on an altar. There were logs around her body. She needs to be put at rest finally. I am sure something out there or someone must be able to give you some more about the case. Maybe she did herself in, because at that time there was a lot of Satan stuff going on in the Reservation. Sorry I can’t give you my name, for more reasons than one. –Anonymous

“The Witches” Planned the Killing

I was a young teenager when the discovery of Jeannette DePalma happened, and lived in the next town. About two years prior, there was much talk in my school about a cult in the surrounding area. They were known as The Witches. They must have let it be known in the area that they planned to kill a child on or about Halloween, either by kidnapping and sacrificing them or by poison. I remember being anxious about this because I went trick-or-treating in those days. I didn’t read the newspapers, but I was well aware of the dog that brought home the girl’s arm. The story was well known, as I lived within three miles of the quarry. –Anonymous

Arrows Point the Way

Apparently my Mom knew Jeannette, because Jeannette worked at a clothing store in Summit named Sealfons. They were about the same age, which should have been around 13 or 14. My mother and some of her friends used to hang out and camp in the Quarry. That is, until they found out about the murder. My uncle, who was a Summit cop, came to warn my mother against going there any longer. From what I was told these details were never released to the public.

When the dog brought the arm home and the search for the body started, they found arrows carved in the trees that would led you to the body. The location was high up on a cliff. All around her body were dead animals tied to trees with string and some in jars. Shortly thereafter there were reports of animals being mutilated and hung in the same fashion in the Watchung Reservation, which is also very close to the scene of the crime. The Watchung Reservation or the “Res” has been reported to be the center of devil worship activity for years. –Anonymous

I Saw the Sacrifices

I, too, forgot about the death of Jeannette DePalma. But I can never forget all the weird stuff that happened in Summit, Mountainside, Springfield, and for me, the majority of it in the Watchung Reservation. Now that I think back on it, It would make sense that Springfield would cover up the murder so as to not tarnish the reputation of the town. I know that the sacrifice that my friends saw was never reported or was in the newspaper. But I remember, and I sure as hell know they do too! –Anonymous

Just Can’t Forget Jeannette

I knew Jeannette Depalma very well and my friend went out with her. We used to go to church with her. She was a religious girl, but I think her parents forced her go to church.  She was kind of, a little bit of a wild girl. We all went up to the house and helped look for her and spoke with her parents.  I don’t think my friend, who was quite in love with her, ever recovered from it.

I was very surprised that they (the police) don’t have anything in the archives about her. It’s funny, my wife read the story and she says “Don’t even get involved. It’s a satanic thing.” It was all the talk of Union County for two weeks, then boom––it was gone. It left the papers very quickly. That is very spooky in itself. In the past thirty years I think I’ve only thought about that girl twice. And I felt a little ashamed of myself. And then I read the Weird NJ article, and I said “Holy cow, everyone forgot about Jeannette DePalma!” That poor girl.  –Rich

The preceding story is just a brief excerpt from our full article on the Jeannette DePalma case. For all the known details of the investigation please refer to issue #22 of Weird NJ MagazineFor the full story click here The book about the case, Death on the Devil’s Teeth: The Strange Murder that Shocked Suburban New Jersey, may be purchased through our Web Site or Amazon Store. A press release about a new book about the Jeannette DePalma murder case: DDT Press Release

This story is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission. 

Weird NJ Issue #56 can be ordered through our Web Site, Amazon Store, or Facebook Shop. It can also be found at hundreds of shop around the state and beyond. To find a store near you that carries Weird NJ go to this LINK.

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Strange Tales of Monkeys on the Rampage, and Monsters and More!

Situated just west of Dorchester, England is a place called Monkey’s Jump, at which, today, a roundabout and cafe exist, but which may have been the original crossroads in the area (crossroads, interestingly, play integral roles in many tales of a paranormal nature). A number of theories exist to explain the name, including the possibility that it was provoked by the escape – many decades ago – of a monkey from a traveling circus. Another, more intriguing, story, however, tells of a woman, driving a pony and trap from Bridehead to Dorchester, at some point during the First World War. According to the story, on-board the trap was the woman’s small, pet monkey that duly escaped at what is now Monkey’s Jump, scarpered up a tree, and which, after refusing to come down, was eventually shot for being a German spy! The “Monkey’s Jump” story is very similar to a tale that originated in 1879 in central England. It’s the saga of the Man-Monkey that haunted Bridge 39 on the Shropshire Union Canal, England. It was within the packed pages of Charlotte Sophia Burne’s book of 1883, Shropshire Folklore that the dangerous antics of what some have since perceived to be the closest thing that the U.K. may have to the North American Bigfoot and the Yeti of the Himalayas, were first unleashed upon an unsuspecting general public.

(Nick Redfern)

According to Burne: “A very weird story of an encounter with an animal ghost arose of late years within my knowledge. On the 21st of January 1879, a laboring man was employed to take a cart of luggage from Ranton in Staffordshire to Woodcock, beyond Newport in Shropshire, for the ease of a party of visitors who were going from one house to another. He was late in coming back; his horse was tired, and could only crawl along at a foot’s pace, so that it was ten o’clock at night when he arrived at the place where the highroad crosses the Birmingham and Liverpool canal.” It was then, Burne faithfully recorded, that the man received what was undoubtedly the most terrifying shock of his entire life – before or since, it seems pretty safe to assume: “Just before he reached the canal bridge, a strange black creature with great white eyes sprang out of the plantation by the roadside and alighted on his horse’s back. He tried to push it off with his whip, but to his horror the whip went through the thing, and he dropped it on the ground in fright.” Needless to say, Burne added: “The poor, tired horse broke into a canter, and rushed onward at full speed with the ghost still clinging to its back. How the creature at length vanished, the man hardly knew.” But the story was far from over, Burne learned: “He told his tale in the village of Woodseaves, a mile further on, and so effectively frightened the hearers that one man actually stayed with friends there all night, rather than cross the terrible bridge which lay between him and his home.”

Still on the matter of horses, carts and strange beasts, I’ll address the Welsh Bwbach, a diminutive creature that can be friendly or dangerous. Back in 1880, Wirt Sikes – in his book British Goblins – recorded the following: “There was a Bwbach belonging to a certain estate in Cardiganshire, which took great umbrage at a Baptist preacher who was a guest in the house, and who was much fonder of prayers than of good ale.” For those who may not know, they’re small, goblin-like things, and sometimes covered in hair, and on other occasions not.” Sikes continued: “Now the Bwbach had a weakness in favor of people who sat around the hearth with their mugs and their pipes, and it took to pestering the preacher. One night it jerked the stool from under the good man’s elbows, as he knelt pouring forth prayer, so that he fell down on his face. Another time it interrupted the devotions by jangling the fire-irons on the hearth and it was continually making the dogs fall a-howling during prayers, or frightening the farm boy by grinning at him through the window, or throwing the maid into fits. At last it had the audacity to attack the preacher as he was crossing a field.” The story continues:

“The minister told the story in this wise: ‘I was reading busily in my hymn-book as I walked on, when a sudden fear came over me and my legs began to tremble. A shadow crept upon me from behind, and when I turned round – it was myself! – my person, my dress, and even my hymn-book. I looked in its face a moment, and then fell insensible to the ground.” And there, insensible still, they found him. This encounter proved too much for the good man, who considered it a warning to him to leave those parts. He accordingly mounted his horse next day and rode away. A boy of the neighborhood, whose veracity was, like that of all boys, unimpeachable, afterwards said that lie saw the Bwbach jump up behind the preacher, on the horse’s back. And the horse went like lightning, with eyes like balls of fire, and the preacher looking back over his shoulder at the Bwbach, that grinned from ear to ear.’” Wirt’s account ends.

(Nick Redfern) Bridge 39 on the Shropshire Union Canal

There are several threads to all of these stories that are worthy of note. In the tales of the Monkey Jump creature, and the Man-Monkey of the Shropshire Union Canal, we see the presence of either a pony and trap or a horse and cart; while the Welsh tale of the Bwbach involved a horse and rider. And, in all of these cases, the animals seem to have been of relatively small stature: even the Man-Monkey has been given a height of between four-and-a-half and five-feet, for the most part. Then, there is the matter of the Dorset monkey shot for being a German espionage agent. This is clearly an update of an even earlier, and very famous, story that dates way back to the Napoleonic Wars, when a monkey – said to have been dressed in the uniform of the French military of the day – was supposedly hanged in Hartlepool, England for being a French spy! Somewhere, in all of these tales, I’m sure there are ultimate truths still to be found and understood. Today, however, those truths, whatever they may be, are so deeply entangled in distortion, myth, legend and folklore that it seems most unlikely we’ll ever have the full, true answers we seek.

The post Strange Tales of Monkeys on the Rampage, and Monsters and More! first appeared on Mysterious Universe.

Some Very Strange World War I Mysteries at Sea

War brings with it horror, as well as strange mysteries lurking in the cracks behind the scenes of history as we know it. The battlegrounds of World War I painted the landscape red with the blood of fighting, from land to sea as they swallowed countless souls in an orgy of blood and death. However, the ever present threat of death from the enemy was not always the only horror that lied in wait within these battlefields. From the fog of war, blood, brutality and violence of Word War I come bizarre cases of strange mysteries from the sea, involving mysterious disappearances and bizarre monsters from our very nightmares.

World War I broke out across our planet between the years of 1914 and 1918, and spread like a disease from a diplomatic crisis in Europe to infect all the world’s great economic powers of the time with the determination to kill, who were inexorably drawn in to what would be one of the most voracious, bloodiest, and costliest wars in all of history, and which mostly eventually devolved into more or less a battle of attrition and marked the rise of horrific, brutal trench warfare. The world was engulfed in warfare at the time, waged between the Allies, eventually consisting of the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as the United States, Japan, and Italy, and their enemies the Central Powers, including The German Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. The carnage that ensued would ultimately change the map of our world, dissolve the German Empire, Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, and leave an estimated 16 million people dead and large swaths of the landscape in ruin, and it is here from this storm of bloodshed that some decidedly weird accounts originate, with many of them occurring out in the grey, war-torn seas of the time.

One very strange case from the seas of World War I revolves around a merchant ship called the Zebrina, which was a 100-foot, 189-ton schooner-rigged, three-masted sailing barge launched in 1873 at Whitstable, on the north coast of Kent in southeastern England. The ship was originally designed for hauling meat, but in later years was repurposed for carrying other cargo as well, and on October 15, 1917, the Zebrina departed from Falmouth, in Cornwall, England, on a routine supply run towards Saint-Brieuc, France, with a cargo of coal under the command of a Captain Martin. The ship left in good conditions, with an able captain and crew, and there would have been no reason to suspect that this would be anything other than a completely normal, short cargo run, but things were about to get very strange, indeed.

Two days after the Zebrina’s departure, the vessel was found washed ashore at a place called Rozel Point, just south of Cherbourg, in northwestern France. The ship was in pristine condition, with no identifiable damage, and nothing particularly awry other than some rigging that was in a state of slight disarray, but of the estimated 23 crew members that had been aboard there was no sign. When authorities went through the vessel, they found everything to be completely normal, with breakfast set out on the table, the galley fire still burning, and all of the crew’s belongings left behind as if someone would come home at any minute, but no one was there at all. There was no sign of a struggle or anything amiss, and in fact the scene was almost eerie in its tranquility. None of the cargo had been touched. The captain’s log was also rather odd, in that the last entry was just a mundane, routine message that had been made right after the ship had left port. So where was everyone?

The most common theory is that the vessel had been boarded by a German submarine and the entire crew taken prisoner, but the typical procedure for this was for the enemy to torpedo the boat afterwards. The Zebrina was undamaged. There was also the fact that there did not seem to be any signs of panic or struggle, so if they had been taken prisoner then they did so without any fight or fuss whatsoever. There is the fact that the submarine could have escaped an allied vessel before being able to sink the ship, but why was everything in such good condition? Also, the Germans never admitted to having any such prisoners from the Zebrina, and none of the men were ever found, so why should this be? Was the submarine that took them sunk soon after? Another strike against the submarine theory is that such boardings always resulted in the captain’s log being taken, but in this case, it was left behind in full view along with various other documents. Why should this be? There was also apparently no German U-boat known to be in the area at the time, so if it had been a submarine, then where had it come from? No one really knows, and the mystery of the Zebrina’s lost crew has never been solved.

The 1900s brought another rather well-known case, that of the hulking steel-hulled American Naval warship the USS Cyclops. The massive behemoth of a ship was primarily tasked with shipping bulk cargo of various supplies and raw materials for the Navy in the early 1900s, such as coal to be used as fuel. On 9 January 1918, the USS Cyclops lumbered into port at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after delivering 9,960 tons of coal to allied British ships in the South Atlantic, after which it was loaded up with 11,000 tons of manganese ore to be used for the production of munitions and destined for Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States, with a stop off at Salvador along the way. After this the ship was supposed to head directly to Baltimore, and this is where things began to get strange.

Instead of going straight to Baltimore as scheduled, the USS Cyclops deviated from its course to end up in Barbados in March of 1918. This was not a scheduled stop, well off course in fact, and it was reported that the deviation had occurred because they were overloaded with cargo. However, an inspection of the vessel showed that it was in perfect order, that she was not overloaded as feared, and that all of the cargo was safely secured and nonthreatening. The USS Cyclops then departed for its final destination of Baltimore on March 4, 1918, to go on and apparently vanish from the face of the earth, with the last known sighting of the vessel allegedly made on March 9 off the coast of Virginia by the molasses tanker the Amolco, although this sighting has been disputed as this date and location does not match up with where the ship would be expected to be considering its scheduled arrival at its destination on March 13th.

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that the massive USS Cyclops never made it to its destination of Baltimore, and no trace of it, or even a scrap of debris or wreckage was ever found even after the area was thoroughly scoured by search ships and aircraft. The loss of the 306 crew members who had been aboard was, and is to this day, considered to be the largest noncombat loss of life in U.S. Naval history, and the vessel’s vanishing has become a great maritime mystery which has been pondered and speculated on ever since. With no clues to really go on, this speculation has run all over the place. Perhaps the most rational explanation is that a series of unfortunate factors led to the ship’s doom. It was known that the USS Cyclops had been having engine difficulties at the time due to the fact that one of its cylinders had been reported as having a crack in it, which would have reduced its overall seaworthiness and speed. On top of this, although the inspection at Barbados had been all clear, the ship is suspected to have taken on even more cargo and left overloaded after all, a problem only exacerbated by the fact that the USS Cyclops had no prior experience shipping ore, which was denser and more volatile than its usual cargo. Additionally, it was suspected that the vessel had suffered extensive cumulative hull damage over the years due to a coal fire, shifting cargo, and the corrosive nature of its cargo.

USS Cyclops

It has been surmised that these factors could have all conspired with a bout of foul weather to bring the steel beast down. The problem with this theory was that the vessel had not once issued a distress call, and the only bad weather capable of potentially sinking the ship or causing it any problem at all along its scheduled route occurred with a typhoon off of Virginia a day after the Amolco sighting, but with a bad engine and overloaded state it is considered unlikely the USS Cyclops could have made it that far by that date. Another theory is that the ship was sunk by German forces, but again there was no distress call, and furthermore the German government at the time insisted that they had not attacked the vessel, and to this day has adamantly denied any involvement in the disappearance. Of course, it has not been lost on many that the USS Cyclops happened to have disappeared in the notorious area known as the Bermuda Triangle, which opens up all sorts of less conventional explanations such as UFOs, inter-dimensional portals, and sea monsters. However, the disappearance has never been solved and no scrap of the ship ever found. For their part, the U.S. Navy has said of the matter of the vanished USS Cyclops: “Many theories have been advanced, but none that satisfactorily accounts for her disappearance.”

It has often been brought up that these mysteries could have been brought about by very mysterious means, and there are some cases from World War I that truly take us into the strange, involving actual alleged attacks on vessels by sea monsters. Certainly, one of the most well-known accounts of an alleged sea monster attack on a submarine occurred during World War I, when German submarines prowled the waters of the Atlantic looking to make trouble. For one German submarine, the UB-85, on April 30, 1918 it was trouble that found them. The story goes that the submarine was discovered floating on the surface by the British patrol boat Coreopsis. At the time the U-boats, as the German submarines were called, were a fairly novel and highly feared weapon of war, known for being invisible, deadly killers of the high seas, so it was quite a fortunate turn of events for the British to come across one that was basically a sitting duck out in plain view. They immediately fired upon it and the submarine began sinking without any attempt to retaliate. Things became even weirder when the British vessel approached and the submarine crew quickly surrendered without any resistance. The crew of the British ship was mystified. The only time most crews saw a U-boat coming was when a torpedo was snaking through the sea towards them, and to have a whole submarine just sit and wait to be sunk and its crew apprehended without incident was mind bogglingly strange.

It wasn’t until the Germans were brought aboard and the U-boat captain, a Captain Gunther Krech, was questioned that the reason became both clearer and more bizarre. Krech allegedly reported that the submarine had surfaced during the night for the purpose of recharging its batteries, during which there had been a violent surge of frothing water off the starboard bow. When Krech and some crew members had gone to investigate, a creature the captain described as a “strange beast” had suddenly erupted forth from the cold, dark water and begun clambering up the side of the ship, which had caused the whole submarine to start listing to the side. The beast was described as being enormous, with a small head with large eyes deeply set in a horned skull and a large mouth with sharp teeth that glinted in the moonlight. This strange monster was then claimed to have reached the forward mount gun and to have begun ferociously attacking it, chomping down on the weapon with its formidable jaws and thrashing back and forth.

World War I submarine

Fearing that the submarine would continue to tilt under the creature’s weight until the open hatch hit the sea and sank the sub, all available crewmen had opened fire on the mysterious attacker, yet the thing had refused to let go of the gun mount. It apparently had taken a sustained, intense volley of gunfire to finally make the monster relinquish its iron grip, after which it disappeared into the black sea, its ultimate fate unknown. Inspection of the submarine in the aftermath of the sudden, brutal attack showed that in addition to the gun being mauled, scratched and twisted, there had also been enough damage to the forward hull plates to prevent the submarine from submerging again. This was why they had been helplessly sitting out on the surface for their enemies to find them. The crew, weary and terrified by their encounter, had had no fight left in them when the British vessel had come for them, and had been almost grateful to have been relieved of the ordeal.

It is a frightening and dramatic account to be sure, but interestingly the official report logged by the British concerning UB-85’s capture makes no mention of such a creature, reading simply “UB-85 Krech, Kplt Gunther April 30 off Belfast Lough Gunfire Sunk by the drifter COREOPSIS. Crew taken off before boat sank.” There have been several theories offered as to why this might be the case. It has been suggested that the British navy may have been attempting to cover up the real circumstances surrounding the incident. Perhaps more plausible is the idea that the British simply did not believe the ramblings of the distressed German U-boat captain or that the report of the sea monster was completely fabricated after the fact. The story has very little hard evidence to back it up and indeed could very possibly be heresy or merely a scary war story or tall tale embellished over the years to become maritime legend more than anything else.

The veracity of the UB-85 encounter may be in question, but it is amazingly not the only meeting of sea monster and submarine to come from World War I. The cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans made mention in his book In the Wake of the Sea Serpents of yet another such violent altercation involving a German submarine, this time involving the U-boat U-28 Schmidt. The report apparently comes from a former German U-boat captain who recounted his terrifying ordeal in 1933. According to the former U-Boat captain, Commander Freiherr George G von Forstner’s testimony, on July 30, 1915, the U-28 Schmidt was prowling the waters off of a place called Fastnet Rock, 60 nautical miles south off the coast of Ireland, when it came across the British steamer Iberian, which was carrying a valuable cargo of mostly trucks and jeeps. Upon seeing such a choice target, the U-28 Schmidt immediately engaged, launching a torpedo which spectacularly blew an immense hole in the vessel, causing it to sink so fast that it was reported that its bow sprang up vertically into the air as it went down. Within moments, the Iberian had sunk beneath the rough seas of the North Atlantic, taking all of its 61 crew members to a watery grave.

Around 25 seconds after sinking, there was an immense explosion underwater, thought to have been caused by some kind of explosive device onboard or perhaps an exploding boiler. Whatever the cause, the enormous detonation sent a huge plume of water into the air, as well as an eruption of debris from the ship, some of which pelted and damaged the U-28 Schmidt badly. Amongst all of the flying water and wreckage, the explosion threw up something else from the depths; of all things a giant, seagoing reptile of some sort. The explosion was so violent that the alleged sea monster was reportedly hurled completely out of the water 80 feet into the air, after which it plummeted back into the sea to thrash and writhe about in the wreckage as the horrified crew looked on before sinking into the depths, presumably dead. The monster was described as a being an “aquatic crocodile,” around 60 feet long with a head that tapered to a point, a long, pointed tail, and four legs with webbed feet.

There is not much to corroborate this account, and it remains firmly lodged within the annals of the unknown mysteries of the war. In the end, all of these cases are, none of them solved and all of them serving to stimulate speculation and debate right up into the present day. It certainly seems that war can be a wellspring of such mysteries, with bizarre tales and strange accounts managing to hide out in the periphery past what conventional history tells us. It is likely that we will never truly know the answers to all of the questions we seek on such cases, as so much time has passed and the details remain lost to the mists of history. What was going on in these cases and what do they all mean? The answer to this will likely remain unanswered.

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