It's a weird world we live in, and 2004 was not a disappointment when it comes to reports of paranormal phenomena. It's difficult coming up with the "top ten" events among the many ghost reports, monster sightings, psychic experiences and other mysteries of the unexplained, but here, in no particular order, are ten of the most interesting.
1. Ghostly Discoveries
The Psychic and the Ghost of a Murdered Girl - The Wheatsheaf pub in West Boldon, England had a history of ghostly activity: chairs and utensils moving about of their own accord, and even an occasional shove of the pub's staff by unseen hands. Psychic Suzanne Hadwin came to investigate as part of a psychic charity event and got more than she bargained for. She said she sensed as many as 37 spirits in the pub, but in particular tuned in to the ghost of a six-year-old girl named Jessica Ann Hargreaves. Hadwin said little Jessica told her she had been raped and strangled to death in 1908, and her body stuffed in the pub's fireplace; she said her body was still in the pub. Now a psychic can tell any story and it can be difficult to verify it. However, in this case, a bit of digging was done in the wall where the pub's old fireplace used to be. Sure enough, a lock of hair, a heel of a shoe and fragments of clothing from a little girl were found - just where Jessica's ghost said they would be. (Full story.)
2. Haunted Places
Ghosts at a Courthouse Set Off the Security System - It's one thing to sense a ghost or even claim to see a vaporous apparition. Those can easily be dismissed as works of the imagination. But high-tech security systems don't have imaginations - they react to whatever is in front of them. So when motion-detecting cameras at Mendocino County Courthouse in Ukiah, California clicked on for no earthly reason, they confirmed what the janitorial staff had long known: the place is haunted. The janitors had experience with a ghost they've named George, a female ghost in dress and heels, and a spirit that like to take control of an elevator. In late March, 2004, however, the courthouse's new security system, designed to click on when they sense motion, caught an anomalous mist that moved back and forth across the lower hallway. The unknown entity even partially obscured a light. Pretty convincing evidence.
3. Bigfoot Encounters
Woman Surprises a Skunk Ape - Large, hairy ape-like creatures have been reported in every state of the U.S. In the Pacific northwest it's called Sasquatch. In places like Ohio it's known as Bigfoot. But in Florida and a few other southern states, the tall, upright walking hominid is called the Skunk Ape. A highly credible sighting of the Skunk Ape was reported in August by Jennifer Ward as she was driving home with her children on a dark rural road. It was crouching in a ditch, but as she slowed her car to see it better, the creature stood to its full six- to eight-foot height. "When he saw me, he was as surprised as I was," Ward told the newspapers. She described it as being covered almost completely with dark hair about two inches long, white areas around the eyes, and full lips that had the color and texture of the pad on a dog's paw. This kind of detail is most compelling and is good evidence that there really are unknown creatures out there. (Full story.)