March 30, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: The Puerto Rican Vampire Killings

I first heard about this very bizarre string of events back when I was doing my undergrad. In one of my classes (I believe it was a Latino literature course) my professor told us a little about a Puerto Rican gang in New York City called the Vampires. It was the late fifties, and Latino gangs were in an upswing in the city, and would inspire the writing of the musical West Side Story.

A kid named Salvador Agron went from being a member of the Mau Muas to the Vampires. Agron was known for taking his gang's namesake to a theatrical level, wearing a Dracula-style black cape with red lining inside everywhere he went. He also got a kick out hiding in the shadows on New York's streets, and then jumping out at people walking by to scare them half to death. Gaining a rising street reputation for his wildly unpredictable behavior, Agron was called by some "a creature of the night."

One late summer night the Vampires, along with members from a few other Latino gangs, went to Hell's Kitchen to rumble with some members of an Irish gang called the Norsemen. Upon entering a park where they expected to find the rival gang members, Agron and the others spotted two white kids sitting on a bench. Despite the fact that the two kids did not seem to know what was going on, the Latino gangsters viciously attacked them with broom handles and bottles. Another of the Vampires members, Hernandez, carried a large umbrella with a long and sharp tip he used to stab the victims. Agron upped the ante and pulled out a silver-handled knife. He stabbed one kid in the back and the other in the chest, killing both within a few short minutes.

The murders sent the city into a complete uproar, since two other kids in New York City had been killed by gang violence in the same week. You could fairly say it was the camel that broke the straw's back, and the kid who wanted so desperately wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the city's citizens that he dressed like a vampire found he was being treated just like a monster.  After his capture, though, Agron did not seem phased by the public's disdain for him. He even famously said "I don't care if I burn; my mother can watch."

In the end, Agron--who was then 16 years old--became the youngest person in United States history up to that point to have been sentenced to death, but later his sentenced was commuted to life. Agron was called by the press "The Capeman" while Hernandez was called "The Umbrella Man" as if they were comic book super villains of some sort.

Later, a musical called "The Capeman" was made. After Agron was released from prison in the late 1970s, a television movie was made about his life, as well as a book was written. Agron used the funds from his royalties to support his victims' families. He campaigned against gang violence until his death at the age of 42 from pneumonia and internal bleeding.

March 23, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Is John Douglas Psychic?

I recently finished reading a book by John Douglas, Mind Hunter, which is about criminal profiling in the FBI. For those who don't know, Douglas is one of the pioneers of criminal profiling (and the author of The Silence of the Lambs).

The book is intense and disturbing, since Douglas talks at length about the many serial killers and rapists he has interviewed or helped capture. If you want my full review, check out my Goodreads page.

There were many interesting points in the book, including when Douglas would talk about psychics. He largely dismissed them, saying most are just good at picking up on nonverbal clues so they gain law enforcement's confidence. In fact, when Douglas was working the famous Atlanta Murders case, he said psychics near and far came out of the woodwork offering all kinds of wild explanations.

Douglas does say that he thinks there are a few select psychics who actually are helpful in criminal investigations. He admits that he doesn't know how exactly, but then Douglas also admits criminal profiling is part science and part "magic." In fact, at one point Douglas pauses to wonder if he himself doesn't have some latent psychic abilities that help him create criminal profiles where others cannot. In some cases Douglas was able to "guess" that a suspect spoke with a stutter, had a limp or some other uncommon ailment.

Perhaps there is something to the "witchcraft" claims some people make about good criminal profilers. 

March 16, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Emailing From Beyond the Grave? Also, More Chupcabra Activity in Mexico

For centuries, mankind has been obsessed with contacting the dead, even communicating with those who have partaken in death's sleep. The reasons for doing so vary from those who wish to ensure their loved ones are happy in the afterlife, to people wanting to employ the dead to harm their enemies.

Up until recently, though, contact with the dead has involved using what you might call primitive devices such as a spirit or Ouija board, psychic mediums, etc. In our modern times we have turned to our technology to reach out to those who have passed on. EVPs or electronic voice phenomena are commonly used by modern ghost investigators who believe the dead's voices might turn up--grainy and quiet--on a digital audio recording. There is even the ovulus that combines several environmental readings to produce supposed communications with the dead.

I thought I had heard of it all, and then I recently read an article about the dead communicating through email.

Yes, that's right, email.

As crazy as it might sound, some people in the UK claim that their deceased friend and family member has been contacting them using email. Unlike some other accounts of posthumous email contact, these emails do not involve spam or other commercial content. In fact, some of the emails contain information only known to the deceased and the recipient, casting doubt on a hacker being the source.

I guess you could make an argument that in this modern society of ours, we truly cannot get away from our dependency on technology, even in the afterlife.

Now, on to the Chupacabra news. As told by quite a few international news agencies, people in Paracuaro, Mexico claim that 35 sheep were killed by chupacabras. Apparently the sheep were not harmed, save for what appeared to be teeth and claw marks on their necks.

What makes the story strange is that several horses and pigs were contained in the same area as the slaughtered sheep, yet these other animals were untouched. Past animal deaths blamed on chupacabras have included a variety of livestock, especially cows. For this and a few other details not released to the media, several cryptozoologists are skeptical that the attack was performed by a chupacabra.

From what I have studied, most attacks blamed on the legendary "goat sucker" (that's what it means in Spanish) involve animals' bodies being desanguinated (all of the blood sucked out of the body) through only two or four tiny wounds that resemble pin pricks. No blood is found on the ground around the prey, which is contrary to the behavior of known wild predators such as wolves or mountain lions.

So what caused he death of the sheep? Who knows, but after the Bigfoot freezer gag I think a lot of people are less likely to just buy any ol' wild claim about legendary creatures (at least so I hope).

March 2, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Old Lehi Hospital Hauntings

Utah has a surprising number of paranormal hot spots, including numerous old haunted locations. One of these locations is the old Lehi Hospital. Lehi sits at the north end of Utah County, which is just one valley south of the Salt Lake Valley where Salt Lake City is located. What was once a rugged frontier town quickly grew into a hub of activity that necessitated the construction of what was at first a bank when the building was constructed in 1891. After the bank moved out of the building, it was used solely as a crematorium for a time. The furnace in the basement was too small to fit an entire body, so workers had to cut up corpses and then stuff the parts one-at-a-time into the furnace. Later, the building was converted for use as a hospital as Utah County's population continued to grow.

Being that it was a hospital that operated for several decades, many people died on-site. Hospitals can also be places of great suffering, which many theorize can also leave a spiritual imprint on the building. To top it all off, the hospital had a mental ward as well as a crematorium in the basement. Unfortunately, the old Lehi Hospital was condemned and torn down in 2009.

Several Utah-based paranormal investigative groups spent time in the Lehi Hospital when it was still standing, collecting evidence such as EVPs (voice recordings of spirits) and spikes of electromagnetic activity. Those who have spent time in the hospital reported hearing strange noises throughout and also seeing full-body apparitions (which are more rare than Hollywood movies would lead you to believe).

A famous urban legend in Utah has added fuel to the fire of speculation about whether the hospital was a center of paranormal activity. The legend claims that the hospital's head doctor had become deranged late one night and attacked the head nurse. Victorious, the doctor hung the nurse on the flagpole outside at the front of the building. Another legend tells of a man who died on his way to the operating room on the second story because the elevator moved too slowly.

The hospital fell into disrepair after it was closed. Windows were broken out and one of the staircases inside fell down. Some people went so far as to claim the ghosts in the Lehi Hospital had done the damage to keep the living out of the building. The owner converted the building into a spook alley to raise funds for its restoration, but he was unable to earn enough. Even though the building is gone, some people speculate that the land might still be haunted, meaning any new building placed on the same parcel of land might also be a hotbed of paranormal activity.