Stories

Tim Shelley / WCBU
This architect’s concept drawing dates to 1895.

      A little dive into the history of Peoria Public Library. Most of this comes from the book “Tomes of Terror“. I tried finding out more on the people themselves, but some of what is written in “Tomes of Terror” is just wrong and or I couldn’t find any information to support what was written. In those cases, I wrote out what I found and the source. Otherwise, take this story for what it is, a good legend.

      Peoria Public Library doesn’t look like a place that is cursed, nor does it look to be haunted. Something that looks fairly modern, it’s hard to imagine a place so juxtaposed from one that is typically imagined when it is reported to have as many as thirteen ghosts in residence.

      To start off our story, we go to the 1830s, when Andrew and Mary Stevenson Gray lived in a two-story home in Peoria, IL. Life was seemingly well for them until Mary’s brother died, and her nephew came to live with them. He brought with him grief and little else, for he tended to associate with criminals and be of no use as a drunkard. He spent a good deal of time in jail and accrued a lot of fines and fees for lawyers.

      Eventually, the Gray’s were unable to pay the debts for their nephew and had used their mortgage as a means to pay their lawyer, David Davis (no wonder he turned out to be a crap lawyer with a name like that). And as this story goes on, Mr. Davis wanted his money and brought a lawsuit against them to foreclose on the mortgage.

      Mary kicks her nephew out and when his body is found later floating in the Illinois River she curses the land with “thorns and thistles, ill luck, sickness and death to its every owner and occupant.” 1

      The land gained a quick reputation for being haunted. Stories began that Mary’s nephew could be heard crying and begging at the front door. Caretaker’s for the property refused to work there. Because the public opinion was so against David Davis, he never actually lived there and the home abandoned. What a waste!

      It’s unclear what or how Mary and Andrew spent the rest of their lives, however there is a legend that states that on the night the house caught fire, the local’s saw the ghost of Mary in the flames, dancing and laughing as the house burned.

Gov. Thomas Ford

      The property then becomes the home of Gov. Thomas Ford, who was thought to already have been cursed prior to moving in.2 (Side note: dude went to Transylvania University… I’m being superficial here, but again, what a name.)3

      Within quick succession he lost his wife to stomach cancer, then died a few weeks after. Mrs. Ford died of cancer of the stomach October 12th, 1850, aged 38 years; and the Governor, then removed to the residence of Mr. Andrew Gray, already in the last stages of consumption, breathed his last on Sunday, November the 3d of the same year… 4

      According to “Tomes of Terror“, the property is then given to an ex-slave, Tom Lindsay. Lindsay had recently been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and the son of his ex-master purchased a portion of the property and allowed him to live there.5 However, he wasn’t a slave and bought property himself, though I can find nothing on what property he bought.6

      The book “Tomes of Terror“, makes claims that Tom had a lot of issues living there, had to rebuild the home, and employing superstitious methods to live on the land peacefully. But again… the beginning of this section got it all wrong, so maybe there is no truth to this.

      Next up “Tomes of Terror” claims that many more property owners and their children died, but without any names I again couldn’t look it up, so I’ll just add it here, cause it makes for a spooky story.

      However, in the decades following Lindsay’s departure, several more residents of the property suffered a series of eerie fates. The first was a local businessman whose wife died tragically within the first year of the couple obtaining ownership of the property. The next was a banker whose wife died shortly after giving birth to a baby boy; the child died soon after. That same banker remarried and he and his new wife also had a boy. That boy, who suffered a bizarre affliction wherein he avoided warmth, was often found sleeping in the cold front hallway of the home in the depths of winter. He too, died. His mother’s grief and despair was so deep that she was sent off to Minneapolis in an attempt to recover her sanity. The next resident of the cursed site was a boarding room housekeeper whose son plunged to his death from a hot-air balloon, and whose daughter drowned in the nearby river.

      After the property was purchased to use as a library, Fred J. Soldan was appointed as head librarian. He was taken ill after a ride to Washington and returned with other members of the Peoria Bicycle Club in late October 1891 and died of pneumonia on November 5th at age 39.7

      E.S. Willcox was appointed next and twenty years later on April 6, 1915, died after being struck by a car.8

  1. Patterson Prowse died of a heart attack in the library, 1921.9

      Lastly in curious sudden deaths is Dr. Edwin Wiley. It is said he died in 1925 from ingesting arsenic, though that seems to be another legend.

      Sources:
1: Leslie, Mark. Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries. Dundurn, 2014.
2:https://www.pjstar.com/story/entertainment/local/2015/05/19/101-things-that-play-in/34529649007/
3:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Ford_(politician)#Death_and_legacy
4:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40193411?seq=4
5: Leslie, Mark. Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries. Dundurn, 2014.
6:https://www.peorian.com/history/history-news/local-history/2374-molly-thomas-lindsay
7:https://peoriapubliclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ppl-history-book.pdf
8:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40188815
9:https://peoriapubliclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ppl-history-book.pdf

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      Welcome to the series of Haunted Libraries (and Bookshops) Around the World. In which I will highlight a library (or bookshop) and its stories of ghostly apparitions, and maybe suggest a book along with it.

      Moravian Book Shop is currently located in Bethlehem, PA and boasts the title of being the oldest and possibly first bookstore opened in America. I’ll spare you most of the history, but to say that the bookstore itself has changed its location and name many times. So this little ghost tale probably doesn’t have anything to do with the original owners.

      The staff have felt like they were being watched in the basement and just generally don’t like being there1, but more spectacular was when the ghost led the store manager back to the kitchens, where she had discovered the stove was still on.

      Jane Clugston, who sells children’s books and has been with the store for almost 30 years, can corroborate. She told me that one night, while closing the store with a fellow employee, she saw a dark figure in a back hallway of the store, going into the kitchen. She and the coworker followed the figure back. Then, she says she realized the back kitchen stove was on, as well as the fan.

      “I don’t know why this person, ghost, spirit drew us back there, but I guess to turn off those appliances,” says Clugston. “I’d never thought of it until I told someone else and they said a ghost led you back there. But in that back hallway a lot of people have said that they’ve felt things and they’ve seen things.” It’s like something out of a book.2

      Besides then general sightings of thinking there may be patrons waiting is a story of how another manager saw a woman sprinting from one room to the other and had assumed that she was a shoplifter. He went to go investigate and discovered that he was the only person to have seen her.1

1:Haunted Places
2:The Guardian

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      They decided to go camping near the lake instead of the woods, where the trees canopy wasn’t so thick overhead that you couldn’t see the stars. Though now that it was getting darker, she wished she hadn’t ignored the niggling fear that was now quickly building to dread.

      She thought it had something to do with the water and how black the surface was. You wouldn’t be able to see your hand just below the surface.

      The ghost stories they shared earlier around the campfire hadn’t helped her nerves either. Her imagination was turning every snap of a twig into some terrible being coming to get her.

      She lay there in her sleeping bag, alone in her tent, unable to sleep. There were footsteps outside her tent shuffling past, then a splash in the water. She unzipped her tent, and although she didn’t know how to swim herself, thought she would sit on the dock and join whoever from her party was out in the water now. The moonlight was bright and in the water she could see her friend bobbing just above the surface. Then in the next moment it looked as if her friend were pulled under.

      She waited a few heartbeats, wanting to see if her friend would resurface, and when she didn’t, started to cry for help. Their other friends, bleary-eyed, came running from their own tents, one tripping over their fire pit. She explained what happened, and they both went running into the water.

      After several minutes, they pulled her friend onto the shore and began CPR. Her friend began to cough up water, and with a speediness surely not normal, stood up and started to walk away. She caught up to her and grabbed her arm.

      “What are you doing? Come back, we will get the fire going.” Her friend, the one she had known since grade school, ignored her. As she watched her friend walk down the dark path towards the main road, she felt as if somehow that wasn’t actually her in there. She walked back to the water’s edge and in the moonlight she could have sworn she saw her friends face just below the surface.     


      There are stories all over the world of ghostly beings that drown those foolish enough to swim in their waters. The story above was inspired by the myth of the Shui Gui. The Shui Gui is a ghost from Chinese folklore. They are the result of a person drowning and will free themselves only when they drown another. The stories I read through vary on what happens. The victim takes the place of the Shui Gui, but the freed spirit either takes over the body or moves on.1


      Another similar story is of a spirit that tries to drag it’s victims to the depths of the pond at House of the Binns, Linlithgow, West Lothian. Though I couldn’t really find any stories regarding these spirits, they were overshadowed by the General who lived there and his card games with the devil.2

      Next we travel to Blackwater, Florida. There is a local legend of a woman who is deathly pale, and smells of rotten flesh. 3

By Tim Ross – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3075595

      As part of the Blackwater River State Park, Blackwater River State Forest is a favorite outdoor recreation spot. But if you’re tubing, swimming, boating or fishing in the river, make sure to leave the water before the sun sets.
Otherwise a woman in the water will drag you to the bottom with her.
      One of the least known ghosts in the area, the woman in the water, has been described as a deathly pale woman with long jet-black hair.
      The few people who managed to escape her clutches first smelled rotten flesh right before she re-surfaced and tried dragging them to their deaths.
      One account says that the ghost of Blackwater River isn’t limited to the river. Apparently, she grabbed a man’s ankle from within a puddle as he ran away from her.
      He was lucky. You may not be. So, stay safe at the Blackwater River State Forest.4

  1. Uncovering Chinese Mythology: A Beginner’s Guide Into the World of Chinese Myths, Enchanting Tales, Folklore, Legendary Heroes, Gods, Divine Beings, and Mythical Creatures by Lucas Russo
  2. This Haunted Isle by Peter Underwood
  3. https://www.rd.com/list/haunted-bodies-of-water/
  4. https://backpackerverse.com/forests-in-florida/#6_Blackwater_River_State_Forest_Milton
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      Just then another knock, and the priest began to speak to the ghost, but was cut off when the artist yelled, for he had seen the ghost sitting in the fourth pew. He could see him clearly, and later, when the priest told him he imagined it, he would become angry, forgoing any further conversation and retiring to bed. The priest, though, would have his own experience later that night.
      The priest lay in bed. What really was that the artist saw? He wasn’t sure he exactly believed the artist, but he hadn’t meant to upset him either. As he was beginning to fall asleep, he heard three clear knocks close by in his room. They sounded odd—not quite something of this world. As with anything before in his life, he knew there was a dead man in his room. He began to pray. He prayed for the dead man, and as he did so, he began to feel the chill in the air and soon fell asleep. 
The next few nights passed in peace. The priest congratulated himself on freeing the ghost.

      “I really think I scared the ghost.,” laughed the priest. The artist smiled and began to climb up the scaffold.

      Knocks from one corner, then the other.

      The artist felt cold and wanted to leave. He finished the paint he mixed and left. However, the priest grabbed hold of his arm. 

      “Let’s face it.”

      The artist freed himself and looked to see the ghostly form of a man, all in black, glide down the aisle toward the sanctuary light.

      “Father! Do you see him? There! There! He’s just blown out the sanctuary light.”

The priest went to investigate, while the artist left.

      The following weeks passed with a familiar rhythm. The artist and the priest would work, and as soon as the chill became present, the artist would pack up and leave.

           On the nights that the priest did not join, the artist would make newspaper blinders and do his best to ignore the ghost, even when the ghost began to burn candles.

      This story is quite incredible and is written in detail by Louis Adamic in his article for Harper’s. The artist’s name is Maxo Vanko, and the priest who was the Father of the Croatian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas is Father Zagar. 

      The author wrote that he believed his friend and wrote the article before other publications picked it up.

      What I find amusing is that in his book “Real Hauntings: America’s True Ghost Stories,” Hans Holzer apparently speaks to the priest and is still upset at having never seen the ghost for himself. “Father X. paused. I was impressed by his well-told story, and I knew at once why Father H. wanted no part of us. How could he ever admit having been in the presence of a spirit without having seen it? Impossible.”

  1. The Millvale Apparition
  2. Holzer, Hans. “The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest.” Real Hauntings: True American Ghost Stories.
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It is cold and rainy inside the church. Every once in a while a large truck, or is it from the train men joining the cars together that is causing the church to shake? How late is it anyway, the man doesn’t know. Ever since he started working on the murals, he’s stopped taking his watch with him so as not to be tempted or tricked into thinking he’s tired.

      The man has been painting on top of a creaking scaffold now for four days. He is painting the Madonna, a difficult endeavor for him. He really was feeling tired and cold, but he wasn’t ready to quit yet, after all, he was on a short deadline.

He’s sees movement below him. Must be the priest, he reasoned. Why is he gesturing like that? Waving his arms around in that manner? The artist is annoyed, didn’t he ask the priest not to enter the church during this time? Well, he is probably practicing for his sermon. The artist chooses to ignore him, besides what right does he have to keep the priest out of his own church. It is laughable, really. Why too is the priest not saying anything? The artist reasons he really isn’t trying to distract him. “To the devil with him!” He really must work on this and does his best to ignore him.

          That night the man returns to the parish house where he is staying with the priest. The dogs go mad, barking and pawing him. The priest makes no mention of having been in the church during their normal cake and coffee, and the artist doesn’t ask, he only wants to get to bed.

      The next few days pass by with little incident. He works as much as he can and when he is at his most exhausted he joins the priest for their meal in the early hours of the morning. On the eighth night he is back on the scaffold, mixing paint, he happens to look down and see the priest again waving about. He feels strange. He can hear the priest mumbling and assumes the pries is prating. The artist does his best to ignore him, and again feels vexed at the intrusion. Still though, the cold, the weirdness, he decides it’s enough for tonight, and he will finish with the last of the paint he mixed, and retire early.

      The dogs are barking and excited again, and he is surprised that with all the commotion to find the priest asleep on the couch.

      “You must be sleep walker, ‘ he says to the priest when he wakes up a few moments later.

      The priest laughs, says no, then asks the artist to explain himself. And so the artist does, recounting seeing the priest on two nights come in and wave about. His assumptions…

      After the artist is done, the priest takes a moment and then explains that there have been stories of a ghost, though he himself has never encountered it. He goes on to tell the artist how worried he had been for him, high up on the scaffolding, and has been keeping guard outside, in case the artist sees the ghost and injures himself from fleeing.

      From that night on the priest joins the artist, and it is on that first night that he issues a challenge to the ghost. “Come on, ghost, show yourself and see if the gospodine profesor and I are afraid of you.”

      The artist laughed and began to work, when from the back of the church came a tapping or knocking sound. The artist felt a chill then asks “Hear that, father?”
      “What?”
      “That strange knock back there?”
      “Yes; but wasn’t it a creak in the scaffolding??”
      “I don’t know, I don’t think so?”

Note: I will continue this story next week, there you will be able to find my references.

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      This week I focused on why we see ghosts in our dreams and if it is just the subconscious or if like some believe, they really do appear.

      So far in my very limited research, it’s thought that when you dream of a ghost it represents unresolved issues, or the manifestation of your grief.1 But what about all of the anecdotal stories where the dead communicate something important, urgent even, that a dream couldn’t predict?

      Let’s ignore the completely reasonable possibilities that it’s the subconscious mind working over something and using the symbolism of a ghost. Or that the brain is acting out a play in which the dreamer accomplishes something by speaking with someone who has passed on. Instead, this is going to be focused on the stories that aren’t so easily explained. Starting with the common stories shared by people all throughout the world who have dreams of someone who was alive at the time they went to bed, dream of them saying goodbye, and awake to find out that the person has indeed died. These stories are adapted from various books and sources linked in references.

      Mr. Hans Holzer pulled up outside an impeccably clean church. There was nothing at all about it to suggest a haunting, and yet that was why he was here. For the purpose of this week’s story though, I am not focused on why he is there, but instead one of the priests he meets. After being told by the oldest Father that he wasn’t going to speak on the subject of it’s resident ghost, Mr. Holzer has a conversation with the assistant priest that tells him a curious story of when he was studying theology in Croatia.

      While there he made a friend, who like him, believed in the existence of ghosts, even when their peers scoffed at the idea. The friends made a pact that the first to die should come back and give a sign to the other. Not to long after the priest knew his friend had died after seeing him sit in a chair smiling and waving to him whilst he was asleep. He later learned that his friend had died in an accident at around the same time as his dream. (Holzer The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest)2

      This next story is about a woman who states she was having money problems at the time of her grandmother’s death. She began to dream of her grandmother repeatedly telling her that if she needed money to go look under her mattress. The woman ignored the dreams, but they persisted. So finally decided to see what she would find, she goes and looks under the mattress and finds $1,500 in Mexican Pesos.3

      I am a huge fan of Nuke’s Top 5 and there is a clip where a woman who had recently lost her husband was in a sleep clinic being monitored for her breathing issues. As she is sleeping, her sleep apnea starts and in the clip you can see a pale hand reach out and nudge her.4 (go to about the time mark 1:00:00). I know this isn’t about dreaming, but I liked the story too much not to share.

  1. World of Dreams
  2. Holzer, Hans. “The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest.” Real Hauntings: True American Ghost Stories.
  3. Money under the mattress
  4. Sleep Apnea
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West facade of Petit Trianon 002

If I told you there is a story about two woman in the early twentieth century who seemingly were transported to just before the French Revolution, would you believe it to be true?

In 1901, two British women Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, decided on taking a tour of the Petit Trianon. During the course of their walk, they became lost and began to experience incidents they wouldn’t be able to explain. Not being able satisfactorily answer what they experienced, they spent years piecing together evidence, then wrote a book under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont.

      What is interesting about their story is that they took great pains to figure out what they went through, and both these women were respected. Charlotte Anne Moberly was the first principal of St. Hugh’s Hall. “Annie’s credentials earned the confidence of parents who would not normally consider further education for their daughters. Under her leadership the numbers of female students at St Hugh’s Hall increased, and it was renamed St Hugh’s College. The college has a radical tradition: during its early years it had an active role in the women’s suffrage movement in Oxford and was part of the Oxford Women’s Suffrage Society. “1

      Miss Jourdain “left Corran in 1903 to become vice-principal and, from 1905, tutor in French at St Hugh’s, at a sacrifice of income and status that was rewarded when she succeeded Miss Moberly as principal in April 1915. In these years she emerged as a complex, controversial, and powerful personality. “2

      So here they are, vague notion of where they want to go in mind, supported by a Baedecker’s map. The first thing they encountered was that Moberly saw a woman in a building nearby shaking out a white cloth. However, Jourdain makes no account of this in her story.

      Marie-Antoinette, 1775 - Musée Antoine Lécuyer

Walking on they both come across two gardeners that were styled in long grayish green coats and tricorn hats. According to their later findings, that style had not been worn since Marie Antoinette’s time. While standing there, Jourdain writes that she saw a little cottage with a woman and two girls standing in the doorway with jug. This was not seen by Moberly. They were directed by the men to go up one of the paths, and as they followed it, they both had a sense of gloom and depression. The path they were on lead them to a gazebo type structure with a man sitting in the middle giving off a hostile air. Neither of the women wanted to go past him. The very air and woods around them changed, becoming “flat and lifeless”. 3 (Moberly & Jourdain 5)     

They chose a path to their right and began walking, when this time they were approached by another man who came running to them, telling them to continue on in the direction they were going to get to the maison. He wore buckled shoes and disappeared as suddenly as he appeared.

      Coming across a large lawn, Moberly saw “a lady was sitting, holding out a paper as though to look at it at arm’s length. I supposed her to be sketching, and to have brought her own camp-stool.” (Moberly & Jourdain 8), while Jourdain had a feeling of a person being nearby and needing to move her skirts out of the way. 3 (Moberly & Jourdain 20)

      Lastly, they both encountered a young man who directed them the proper way to gain entrance to the building, where in Moberly’s account she saw a wedding party walking arm in arm around the room and was trying to hear what guide was saying. “When we were in the front entrance hall we were kept waiting for the arrival of a merry French wedding party. They walked arm in arm in a long procession round the rooms, and we were at the back, — too far off from the guide to hear much of his story.”3 (Moberly & Jourdain 10)

      But in Jourdain’s version she “looked round the rooms in the wake of a French wedding party. ”  with no mention of the guide talking or the actual people having been in the room. Her account makes it seem as if they just departed rather than waiting for them like in Moberly’s version.3 (Moberly & Jourdain 20)

      It’s a neat story as it is, made all the more interesting when you take the women’s character into consideration. Neither women seemed in their lives to be ones to make a story like this up. They do a huge amount of research, and provide their evidence as to validate what they saw was real.

      There are many theories as to what they actually experienced (if we take out the paranormal), but my vote is on the theory that the French poet Robert de Montesquiou was basically holding a fancy dress party there, and the women inadvertently stumbled upon it. The huge glaring flaw in this though, is that many of the structures (the gazebo, the ponds and streams- not mentioned here, but are mentioned in the story) hadn’t actually existed when the women were touring the area. 

      Anyways, it’s a fun little read and is free. Links provided below.

References

  • About Moberly
  • About Jourdain
  • “An Adventure, with Appendix and Maps: by Moberly, C. A. E. (Charlotte Anne Elizabeth), 1846-1937; Jourdain, Eleanor F. (Eleanor Frances), 1863-1924 Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, London, Macmillan, 1 Jan. 1970, Book
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To Be Cursed

This tale of the Lady in White is probably one of the earliest accounts. Perchta of Rozmberk at the age of twenty was married off by her father to a man she doesn’t agree with, Lord John of Lichtenstejn (also known as Jan and Johann). Recently widowed and living with his mother in law and sister, all three of them made her life hell. It’s well documented in the letters Perchta writes herself, “Take me away from these evil people and you will merit praise, as if you released a soul from purgatory.”1

            Indeed, she goes on to write to her father, “they treat me, for at present I need this greatly; I would like to know Your Grace’s will about how I am supposed to exist in this [situation]; but you should know already that I feel exceedingly lonely and desperate.”2

      So here she is, married off and the only reason he marries her, is because he’s in debt and thinks she will have a large dowry. However her father failed to pay what was promised, leaving her to have to beg her brothers for funds.

      “That a number of his aristocratic peers intervened with him to improve his treatment of Perchta shows, however, that his neglect of his bride exceeded even male tolerance for how one mistreated one’s wife, at least if she were a Rozmberk daughter.”2 and “Perchta reiterates her human status in late December 1450 (Letter 16). Writing to her father, she reminds him that she is his child and that he should have buried her rather than married her to Lichtenstejn, and pointing out that there is a limit to the shame a person can humanly bear.”2

The Tales Begin

      It is said that on John’s death bed he asked for her forgiveness and when it was denied he cursed her.4 I found one site claiming she was burned at the stake when she practiced black magic in a church to get her beloved Jan to love her after he abandoned her for another woman. Either there was another Perchta and Jan of Rozmberk or yet another example of how legends morph.5 Besides a biographer of Perchta states she died from the plague.1

      The widely reported sightings are of her family seeing her in a white dress with keys around her waist. If she was smiling it was a sign of good luck. If she wore black gloves and appeared solemn it foreshadowed tragedy.3

      There are legends surrounding her and treasure as well. The most common story was that she looked out for the children in her family. The last child in her family, Peter Wok von Rosenberg was said to have found it.

When Peter was a baby, his nurse had fallen asleep. She woke to find Perchta taking care of him. The nurse yelled at her, and Perchta having taken great offense says she will never take care of the child again. To tell him when he is older about how much she loved and took care of him, and where she would enter and leave again. Having said that she turned and walked through the wall. When he got older he demolished the wall and discovered treasure.3

The second story regarding treasure involves a portrait of Perchta, or believed to be here. She is surrounded by Enochian script, and if you figure decipher the symbols painted there you would free her ghost and find silver treasure. However, the Enochian script6 was created in the sixteenth century by court astrologer and magician, Dr. John Dee (1527-1608), and his associate, Sir Edward Kelly (1555-1597), a decent hundred years after Perchta had died.

          Finally, the most recent recorded sighting of Perchta was when the Nazi’s were hoisting their flag, many witnesses saw a white figure in the Jakobínka tower. When they went to investigate they found no way to gain entry to the tower. There was no staircase or other method, so what did they see? 7

References

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