Wednesday Weirdness: The Disappearance of Tom Eggleton

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageHi, Friends. Welcome to another Wednesday Weirdness. Thanks for visiting today as I roll out a post about a mysterious disappearance—and thunderbirds.

These enormous winged creatures have long been an integral part of Native American folklore, but original Thunderbird legends date back thousands of years and can be traced to Egypt and Africa. With wingspans of twelve to fifteen feet or more, the Thunderbird has been known to carry off small animals, children, and even adults. It is a formidable avian spirit, able to shoot lightning from its beak and summon the roar of thunder with a clap of its powerful wings. A storm spirit, it is a harbinger of change.

Dramatic sky with clouds backlit by fiery colors, black on the opposite side, with lightning bolts severing sky

Surprisingly, there have been numerous sightings of Thunderbirds in the 20th and 21st centuries. My home state of Pennsylvania is abundant with them. The story I’d like to share, however, dates back to the late 1800s, a bizarre tale that beings on a hot summer evening in August 1897.

On that date, nineteen-year-old Thomas Eggleton decided to hike to nearby Hammersley Fork in order to mail his mother a letter. He told his employer, a farmer, where he was headed, then set out on his evening trek. It was a walk he’d undertaken numerous times in the past without incident.

But Tom never arrived in town, nor did he return to the farm the next day. Worried by his absence and fearing he could be injured, the farmer traced Tom’s footsteps in the dirt, following the path he’d taken toward Hammersley Fork. When he lost Tom’s tracks outside of town, he enlisted the help of others. Bloodhounds were added to the effort, and the dogs tracked Tom’s scent to the middle of a bridge where it vanished.

Old Wooden Bridge through Heavy Forested Path

Fearing the worst, the people of Hammersley Fork dragged the river, but Tom’s body was never found. Spooked by the odd circumstances, murmurs of thunderbirds erupted. Several locals insisted they’d seen a massive bird in the vicinity shortly before Tom’s disappearance and grew convinced it must have carried him away. With the flames of fear stoked, schools closed for two full weeks until the panic eventually passed.

Four years later, the farmer who’d been so worried about Tom received a letter from him. Tom stated he had recently awakened in a South African hospital with no memory of his past or how he’d come to be there. All he could recall was that he had worked for a famer outside of Hamersley Fork.

Had Tom been abducted by a Thunderbird? Could he have been snatched off the bridge as many locals speculated, or had he somehow slipped through a hole in time? The mystery of Tom Eggleton has no definitive answers, but whispers and rumors of Thunderbirds remain.

This story was relayed in the book, Monsters of Pennsylvania by Patty A. Wilson. Want more weirdness? There are “Monster” books available with the strange denizens of various states on Amazon. Check them out! After all…

Who knows what creatures and beasties lurk in your neck of the woods!

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Resurrecting the #Mothman

Before I jump into today’s legend, I want to mention I’m also visiting with Sara-Jayne Townsend, sharing a post about fear. And that’s a perfect segue for my Mythical Monday topic. 🙂

Even if you don’t live in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, you’ve probably heard of the Mothman. Much like Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman, this semi-human creature has reportedly been seen by numerous eyewitnesses. Most of the sightings, many documented, occurred during the mid-1960s.

In 1965, a woman told police her son had come in from playing and reported seeing an angel in the yard.

????????????????????????????????????????On November 15, 1966, Roger and Linda Scarberry, along with friends Steve and Mary Mallette, were driving toward Point Pleasant when they saw a large white creature, close to seven feet tall, standing on the side of the road. According to the four friends, the being had wings folded behind its back and red eyes that glowed in the darkness. It took to the air and followed their car as they drove. They described it to police as a ‘’flying man with ten foot wings.’’

Newell Partridge also saw the Mothman later that same night. He was watching TV when the screen suddenly went blank and emitted a loud whining noise, like a generator winding up. Outside, his dog Bandit, began howling. Partridge grabbed a flashlight and hurried to investigate.

Shining the beam around, he spied a creature near his barn, its eyes “two red circles which looked like bicycle reflectors.” Bandit raced after the creature while Partridge darted inside to grab a gun. He later told reporters he was certain the creature had not been an animal. It frightened him so baldy, he thought better of returning outside and slept with the gun by his bed throughout the night. In the morning, he discovered Bandit had disappeared. Tracks in the mud indicated his dog had run ‘round and ‘round in a mindless circle, as if chasing his tail.

Barn at nightTwo days later, Partridge was reading the local paper when he stumbled over an article detailing what Roger Scarberry, his wife, and friends had witnessed the night Bandit disappeared. Scarberry reported seeing the body of a large dog on the side of the road during their drive into town. When he and the others left, returning by the same route, the body was gone.

Bandit never returned and Partridge never saw the dog again.

The bulk of Mothman sightings occurred from 1966 to 1967. During that period over 100 people reported seeing the creature, most on a tract of land about five miles north of Point Pleasant in an area locally known as the TNT Area. During WWII it was used to store ammunition and is located adjacent to what is now a wildlife management station. Densely forested with steep hills, wetlands and tunnels, it’s a virtual labyrinth of secluded hiding places.

Many believe the Mothman sightings of ’66 and ’67 were an omen of looming catastrophe.

Tragedy struck on the bitterly cold day of December 15, 1967. Rush hour traffic was at its peak when the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant to Kanauga, Ohio, abruptly collapsed. Thirty-one cars fell into the icy waters of the Ohio River, resulting in forty-six deaths. Two of the victims were never found, their bodies forever claimed by the frigid river.

Were the Mothman’s appearances and the collapse of the bridge related?

An eyebar-chain suspension bridge built in 1928 and named for the color of its aluminum paint, the Silver Bridge was not well-maintained and was known to sway in strong winds. The mayor at the time even banned its use during parades. Later analysis revealed the bridge collapse was caused by a small, 0.1 inch defect in a single eyebar—a straight metal bar with a hole at each end for connecting to other bars in the chain.

Scientific and rational scrutiny aside, it’s interesting to note sightings of the Mothman virtually stopped after the Silver Bridge collapse. Had the creature been trying to warn of impending danger?

Skeptics claim the Mothman may have been a sandhill crane, a bird that can reach a height of over three feet, with a six-foot wingspan. Given the wetlands and wildlife refuge nearby that may be a legitimate argument, but cryptozoologists and many residents of Point Pleasant believe otherwise.

If you visit the small town, don’t be surprised by the sight of an imposing stainless steel Mothman statue leering down at you. You can find “Mothy” in downtown Point Pleasant’s Gunn Park, a reminder of the brief span during the 1960s when sightings were rampant. You can also take part in the annual Mothman festival, held every September. Whatever you do, I caution against visiting the TNT Area. Who knows what danger lurks among the concrete munitions igloos and densely treed hillsides?

Harbinger of doom, or messenger sent to warn of danger, the Mothman legend continues today. I’m intrigued by it so much I’m already planning a novel!

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Unicorn

Before venturing into the land of myth, I’m happy to announce that Ronda Tutt is the winner of my giveaway during the New Year’s Eve Blog Hop and will receive a $15 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, plus a copy of my paranormal/time travel romance, WEATHERING ROCK.  Congratulations, Ronda!

The Grand Prize winners should be posted later today on Carrie Ann Ryan’s Blog Hop Page here. As always, Carrie Ann did a great job organizing for all of us. I hope everyone had fun. I love a good hop and making new friends!

If you happen to be a new subscriber to my blog (thanks to everyone who signed up, liked my page on Facebook and gave WEATHERING ROCK a ‘like’ on Amazon…those made me a happy camper :D), every Monday I share information about a creature or subject from myth. Today, I’m visiting one of my all-time favorites, the unicorn.

Poets, minstrels, writers and artists have all immortalized these majestic beasts. I’ve loved them since I was a little girl, enchanted by their gracefulness, noble spirit, and ties to heraldry. So what is it about the unicorn that causes so many to fall in love with them? Perhaps, their unique combination of purity and power.

Although gentle by nature, unicorns were not to be trifled with and would react fiercely when a situation demanded.  In medieval times they were aggressively hunted due to the magical properties of their horn. This included the ability to purify water or bring healing with a single touch. Given the value of a unicorn horn which was often crushed and ground into medicines, it’s no wonder they shied from humans. With one exception:

ENCHANTEDUnicorns were intrinsically drawn to the purity of virgins. According to legend, if a virgin girl sat beneath a tree, a unicorn would lie down beside her and place its head in her lap, attracted by her virtue. But it isn’t only innocence and chastity that are linked to the unicorn. Throughout time, it has been associated with the season of spring, the pure white light of the moon, honesty, and even religion.

Look for the unicorn in the Bible and you’ll find several mentions, especially in older translations. In some versions when God gives Adam the task of naming all that he sees, the unicorn is the first animal he names, forever setting it above all others.  It appears several times throughout the Old Testament making many think that the unicorn, like other animals, simply passed into extinction. Still others believe it took to the water and evolved into the narwhal, a single-horned artic-water whale known as ‘the unicorn of the sea.’

According to the lyrics of The Unicorn Song by the Irish Rovers, the unicorn perished through its own folly. When Noah led the animals onto his ark, two by two, the unicorns were too busy frolicking in the rain to follow. Left behind because of their foolishness, the floodwaters swept them away.

Whatever became of this noble animal, its legend continues today. Perhaps the most poetic representation of all, the constellation Monoceros which shares the night sky with Orion the Hunter, is more commonly called ‘the unicorn.’ How befitting that this beautiful mythical creature has been given a place among the stars.

Do you have any specific memories of unicorns in books, movies, songs or art? Please share!

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Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Christmas Eve Legends

The celebration of Christmas touches us each in different ways. For me, as for many, it is a religious holiday, but it’s also a time for merriment, family, celebration and joy. There is a special magic that occurs at Christmas which transcends description, an enchantment of being that is spiritual, mythical and mystical. The power of believe!

The Eve of Christmas is noted for many old world superstitions and beliefs, among them the idea that the veil between worlds grows thin, allowing the departed to return to the homes of their loved ones.

bigstock-Medieval-Tavern-3878785 lightenedIn Scandinavia, people prepared feasts for the spirits, setting a table laden with holiday fare. They had their own festive celebration first, then before retiring for the night, made certain all the bowls and platters were refilled and heaping with food, jugs were brimming with Yule ale, and a fire burned brightly in the hearth. Many times chairs were wiped clean with a white cloth. The following morning the cleaning process was repeated and, if a bit of earth was discovered, it was proof-positive a visitor from the grave had been there.

Another myth related to Christmas Eve involved animals. At the stroke of midnight many believed animals could speak in human voices.  The downside? Anyone who overheard an animal talk usually met with an untimely end or some other dreadful circumstance. Probably why no one has ever reported hearing Fluffy and Fido shoot the breeze. How I would love to have a one-on-one with a cat!

In Europe it is said cattle kneeled to worship the new-born King, and that bees came together in great numbers to hum a Christmas hymn. Wouldn’t that be something to hear?

The creepiest legend I found involved a blacksmith. One Christmas Eve when a bell tolled, beckoning all the people of his village to midnight mass, he ignored the summons and continued to work. Not long after, a stranger arrived. Tall, but stooped over, he asked the blacksmith to add a nail to his scythe. When the blacksmith finished the task, the stranger told him to summon a priest for the work would surely be his last. The next morning the smitty perished, never realizing he had repaired the scythe of the Grim Reaper.

Surprisingly, there are many legends and superstitions related to this holiday, those above only a sampling of what I found. Given I’m a Myth-monger, I found all of them riveting. One item, however, that is certainly not a myth is the pleasure I receive from sharing these. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Whether you discover talking animals tonight, friendly phantoms come to call, or just the good cheer of family and friends, may your Christmas Eve be blessed and merry!

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Ghost Lights

Beware the marsh when night unfolds,
and darkness sends the sun in flight.
‘Tis no place for mortal creature,
but faerie, nymph, and ghostly light.

They have many different names depending on culture and location, but ghost lights have long been intertwined with magical things that go bump-in-the-night. Often referred to as ‘foolish fire’ for the propensity to lead night time travelers astray, these lights have various names including will-o-wisps, elf light, fox fire, and spook lights among others.

Commonly attributed to the Fae or elemental spirits, they rarely bring good fortune to those who see them. When viewed in a graveyard, they are called ghost candles. Dancing over marshy grounds and bogs, locals have dubbed them Jack o’ lanterns or friar’s lanterns. In some cases they’ve been said to mark treasure (assuming one is brave enough to go slogging through bog-muck in the middle of the night. *shudder* ).

The practical explanation is that ‘ignis fatuus’ is produced from swamp gases when organic matter decays. Not very lyrical, is it? I much prefer the views of country folk who lived on the edges of bogs and forests and whispered of glowing lights that bobbed and weaved through the darkness. You can almost hear the hushed warnings as villagers huddled in their cottages and locked doors to ward off the spellbinding bewitchment. The night came alive with a symphony of light, whispering of enchanted paths, restless ghosts, and unexplored byways.

I’ve always been fascinated by night time lights, particularly during warm weather months. There are so many attractive ways to add soft lights to our outdoor living spaces these days, I wonder if that isn’t a throwback to the enchantment our ancestors felt when they saw a dancing elf light or hinky-punk (the names are endless). So while I strategically dress my yard with ornamental lighting in hopes of conjuring a soothing, inviting environment, I can’t help wondering what a stray will-o-wisp might feel should it blunder into my little oasis.

Would you follow a disembodied light into a dark forest or swamp? Personally, as much as I love myth, I’ll content myself with writing about it. 🙂