Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Walk In the Mansion

As promised, here's my the cut of my mansion walk earlier this week. I waited outside til the sun finished setting before heading into the building. There's a wall and fence around the perimeter, so I had to do a bit of work to get over safely! I used a boarded up window on ground level to get inside the basement, then gave myself a tour. I have to say, I was a little disappointed that nothing seemed to show up on video. There are some points where static interference gets in the way. I made sure to include those parts, because the interference in itself tells us that there is definitely some activity there. One area in particular, a boiler room of some kind, displayed a large amount of interference. Wait til 2:04 (just don't jump ahead!) Take a look at the video and you can get a small idea of what the mansion looks like from the inside.

Tomorrow, I'll share an EVP recording that's very...interesting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Series of Unlikely Coincidences

The Easttown Ledger from late summer, 1895
After the fire at the asylum, things seemed to remain relatively quiet, until this issue of The Easttown Ledger pointed out (whether on accident or on purpose) that it was anything but. The story at left continues about reconstruction efforts at the Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane and how the bodies of the Sinister Seven and Dr. Anastasia LeBoux were never recovered. There was however a hole so large at the back of the ward that it was structurally unsound after the fire. Two other articles seem to stand out even more. The first is about a series of disappearances in the community. The article announces that the fifteenth occurred the day before, but alludes to the fact that there may have been more. At the time, there would not have been missing persons reports filed for those living on the streets or otherwise "undesirable" as the article calls them. And in "unrelated" news in the same article, it seems that a number of corpses disappeared as well, from both graves and morgues.

As if all of that wasn't odd enough, another article discusses the theft of medical equipment from a local branch of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. A large amount of equipment went missing, but the strangest part is what happened to the security guard.
A security guard working at the location was hospitalized after being attacked during robbery, suffering severe injuries to his head and neck. Speaking to investigators, John Clyde said he was assailed by two very large men dressed in black, wearing strange masks and goggles. Clyde was expected to make a full recovery, but later died in hospital after doctors say he took a very unexpected turn for the worse.
Illustration of the
suspected robber that
attacked and killed a
security guard.
Medicine was a very fickle thing in the 19th century, but it seems strange that a patient would have such an unexpected turn of events after he was able to give an account of his assailants and was expected to make a full recovery. Stranger still is the illustration that was published in the paper itself: a masked man wearing goggles. Very uncommon for someone committing a simple robbery. I can't help but feel that the image itself looks very familiar.

My video from my trip to the mansion, along with more will be coming up tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preview: A Look Inside the Mansion

Exterior of the mansion.
Well, I decided to just go ahead and do my on-scene investigation of the mansion last night. It was a great trip with a lot of raw data collected. I'm still going through it all and will share more later this week. I'll have a short video put together to share with everyone as well. In the meantime, here are some photos I took along the way. I've gone through and quickly enhanced them to bring out detail. One of the things I noticed the the large number of pipes running through the building. It didn't seem like they were part of the original structure, but had been added somewhere along the way.

- MS

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fire at the Norristown Insane Asylum Leads to Unexpected Deaths

Clip from the Easttown
Ledger detailing preliminary
information on the Norristown
Insane Asylum Fire in 1895.
No sooner then I've learned about the Sinister Seven, I discover that all of them died at the same time! As reported by The Easttown Gazette in the summer of 1895, "the conflagration killed seven patients and one doctor." And who was the one doctor? Anastasia LeBoux. I  may be the only one, but it seems like more than a coincidence that seven of the asylum's most dangerous inmates and their doctor were all killed in one night, by a mysterious fire that left no bodies. I'm still not certain how Von Weren is connected to all of it, but I'm certain that he is in some way. I've been pouring over both his journal and LeBoux's medical notebook, trying to find some clues to what was really going on.

On a separate note, I plan on going into the mansion to conduct an on-scene examination sometime this week. It's important to remember that the historical research and on-scene research are both very important parts of the same coin. Without a full picture, there isn't much to be proved. I'll be conducting video and EVP recordings, along with temperature and barometric measurements. I'll be sure to share my findings as soon as I can analyze the data. Hopefully something will turn up!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The "Sinister Seven"

This section of LeBoux's medical journal provides details on the "Sinister Seven"
Amidst my research into Anastasia LeBoux and her link to the Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane, I have been reading through what appears to be her medical journal from her time there. It contains her notes on the patients she studied there. While it discusses a number of inmates and their horrible crimes, there was a section of the journal that read differently than the rest. It seems she spent a great deal of time with a handful of patients that became known around the asylum as the "Sinister Seven," which according to her, were the seven most dangerous inmates. Here are a few highlights:
Lloyd Carver: his father had the distinction of performing the most amputations during the Civil War; at a young age, became obsessed with watching his father's surgeries and eventually performed his first amputation after chloroforming his father 
Richard Doggett: veteranarian that experimented on bringing animals animals back to life; was institutionalized after digging up and attempting to reanimate a number of recently deceased human corpses 
Nathaniel Ivie: a horticulturalist and shut-in, obsessed with raising his plants as his only family; once kidnapped a man to use as fertilizer for his garden, keeping the man alive while his body slowly decomposed into the earth
Elijah Filling: while working as a dentist, a series of patients went missing; upon investigating the disappearances, a number of victims were discovered in his basement, some still alive, all with their faces and mouths mutilated
Bartholomew Knowles: working his whole life as an apothecary, began to lose self-control after modern medicine began to drive his business into the ground; began using more "experimental" cures that had less than desirable results 
Daniel McCutter: a butcher that was arrested after he began cutting up people instead of meat; the dismembered remains of four victims were found in his ice house, although another 13 suspected victims were never recovered
Burnham Oliver: a blacksmith by trade; arrested and sent to the asylum after it was found out that he had made metal casts from a number of live victims
All of these inmates were kept in a ward separate from the others and it appears that LeBoux spent a lot of time studying them. Her writings almost seem to admire them in some ways. Another thing that stood out to me was that all of the Sinister Seven had the notation of being eligible candidate for "the project." How this relates to Von Weren, I'm still not certain, but I'll keep digging deeper!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lights in the Dark

I decided to take a drive past the old mansion. I'm planning on going inside for an on-scene investigation one day soon, so I need to start scouting. I took a few photos from outside and was very surprised by what came up. When looking at the building, it appeared in its normal, abandoned state. However, something quite different came up when I looked at the photos.

I was very surprised to see these eerie lights seem to bleed through from inside the building. This is usually a sign of paranormal activity (spirits can often leave heat or infrared trails that don't show up in visible light). It wasn't until I got home and took a closer look that the photos and notice something else even more unsettling. Take a closer look at the first floor:

It looks like I won't be the only one inside the building.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane: An Early History of Trouble

The Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane, completed in 1879, is historically known for being the first hospital to allow female physicians to practice within its walls. This is largely because they kept male and female patients separate from one another. Although after checking with the hospital, I was unable to find any record of a Dr. Anastasia LeBoux (the one mentioned in Von Weren's journal) ever having worked there. Obviously very progressive, especially for the time, it seems some of the staff may have been too progressive in other ways. Not the least of which was experimentation on patients. It is unclear to what extent these experiments were conducted or degree of severity. There was at least one that became publicized in medical  journals at the time, which I will not go into any more detail on, as it is quite discomforting.

Another incident took place in the summer of 1883, as seen in this New York Times article titled, "The Insane Asylum Murder". On July 5, a patient was severely beaten by one of the hospital attendants. Exactly one month later, that patient died from "blood poisoning" as a direct result of his previously sustained injuries. Conveniently, the resident physician for the male ward failed to report the incident to the board because he was, "very busy at the time and [he] forgot it." A $500 reward for the capture and conviction of the attendant, who evidently disappeared, was offered.

Jumping to the present for a moment, the hospital is still running today as Norristown State Hospital and has one of the few forensics units (used to hold and evaluate some prisoners before trial) in the state. It should be needless to say, but the hospital, and the practice of treating mental health in general, has come a long way since then.

Back to the past, it seems possible that Von Weren could have gotten involved with the hospital in some way, with his surgical background. However, I don't have any definitive proof of that and can't really see how or why.

I'll leave you with some photos from the hospital:



Female Infirmary

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Cold Welcoming

A postcard featuring the administration building at the
Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
It seems that after Von Weren's wife died, no one saw or heard from him for months. With no one daring to go near the house, people may have very well believed that he had died of grief. His journal remained untouched, with the next entry jumping to March 27, 1895. Here, he reflects on a speaking engagement held at the Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane (now called the Norristown State Hospital). It is unclear why he was asked to speak at the hospital, since his research (as far as I know) did not include psychology and did not seem to have an practical relation to the field. Here is Van Were in his own words:
Wednesday, March 27, 1895 
I was requested to speak at the Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Leading up to the event, I received several letters from a Dr. Anastasia LeBoux, which at first I dismissed without reading. Then, a single letter became two, then three, until I was receiving five letters nearly every day from the woman. Finally, I relented and opened one of the envelopes, as to avoid clogging my chimney. Dr. LeBoux, as it turns out, has long followed my work and saw potential applications for it at the hospital, though I cannot imagine how. 
Skeptical, I agreed to speak at the hospital. In a small room, I spoke to a crowd of no more than a dozen disinterested psychologist (a profession of which, I believe, is of no profession at all). It was, indeed, quite the cold welcoming. Though I planned on immediately returning home, Dr. LeBoux cornered me before I left. We spoke at length about the work she was doing at the hospital and how she believed that even the most criminally insane patients could be "rehabilitated to further usage," given the correct treatment. It seems my research may have found a new, practical purpose, that may serve my own personal endeavors as well.

This all makes me wonder what the doctor had been doing in the intervening months. I'm sure dealing with grief, however to have such an abrupt change and a "new, practical purpose" seems very odd. Hopefully it will lead to something more. I'll share more history on the hospital itself for next time.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Death in the Family

The diary labeled "Gustav Von Weren".
It's been a while since my last post, but I've been spending a great deal of time doing research. I was recently given a box of items from an area resident whose grandmother actually knew Von Weren. Among the items was a diary with Von Weren's name on the cover. As I mentioned before, Dr. Gustav Von Weren moved to Berwyn, PA with his new wife, Ulrike, in late 1894 to continue his research into prosthetics and tissue reanimation. According to the diary, living in the recently abandoned Otley mansion provided him with the quiet and privacy he preferred. Sadly, this would inadvertently lead him to tragedy.

The end of the 19th century saw some of the coldest winters recorded in U.S. history. The Great Freeze in 1894 saw temperatures plummet to 18 degrees, and that was in Florida. A number of people in the area were stricken with "consumption" or what is now known as tuberculosis. Only two months after their move, Ulrike quickly grew ill, which is ill-characteristic for tuberculosis. Despite being a doctor, Gustav did not have the medical knowledge or medication necessary to treat infectious disease. Gustav sent word to the surrounding towns pleading aid for his wife, but all requests were "respectfully" declined. The people in the area had believed for years that the Otley mansion had a sordid past and thought it to be cursed ground. As a result, no one ever ventured out there, even if a life was at risk. This directly lead to (or at least Von Weren believed it so) to Ulrike's untimely death and the premature ending of their marriage. It should be noted that in point of fact, the only known remedy at the time was actually ineffective. It is likely that even with help, she still would have died.

Here is a quote from Von Weren's journal:
"Before my own eyes, her body has gradually withered away, her life's energy slowly draining, as vapors into the air. Color-drained skin wraps what is left of her frail frame. It is called a romantic disease, but I have no love for it. All of her has been consumed by this foul illness as I am left consumed by the grief left in her absence. I, too, shall consume those who have abandoned her to this fate. And theirs will not be peaceful."
I have more from his journal that I will share next time.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Reference to Gustav Von Weren In Easttown News Article

Here's an article from the Easttown Ledger that I found in the local archives and scanned for everyone to read. I've discovered a number of articles from the newspaper that fit the right time frame for the stories I've heard over the years. I'm still sorting through a lot of it, but this one seems like a good place to start. It talks about Gustav Von Weren (werewolf?) and his wife moving into the abandoned Otley Mansion. The mansion is still standing today (once again abandoned and in disarray) and has long been rumoured as a hotbed of paranormal activity.
A scanned copy of The Easttown Gazette from 1894.
The article describes Von Weren as "a scientist of moderate renown, best recognized for his studies into the creation of new mechanical appendages and rejuvenation of dead tissues." Pretty creepy stuff, if you ask me. It also seems that even back then, people were afraid of the mansion. It had only been abandoned for ten years and still there were "rumors of it being cursed." The article is accompanied by a photo of Von Weren and his wife. It wasn't uncommon for wealthy families to have their photos printed in the paper during certain announcements. A European doctor moving in to an abandoned house certainly would have been news.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Welcome to Noises in the Attic!

I’m starting up this blog to chronicle my investigation into the paranormal phenomenon that has been known to occur on the property of the long abandoned Otley Mansion. As an expert and experienced paranormal investigator, I will uncover the history surrounding the mansion and verify or disprove the terrible stories that have surrounded it. Growing up in nearby Malvern, I heard plenty of ghost stories about the old mansion. One of them takes place in the late 19th century and tells of a werewolf that would drag victims (both live and dead) back to its lair and turn them into monsters. The story has many forms, but I hope to find some historical account that may straighten things out. This is the first tale I shall work on finding truth in.