MU History Department Lecture Series- The Demons of 1866

Miskatonic University Department of History Lecture Series:  The Demons of 1866 Presented by: Dr. Charles Gerard An article on the front page of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1866 retold incredible accounts from a farm family in rural Mount Hope, New York. The article states that the family had been awakened one early spring night by a faint sound, as if a choir was chanting. They soon started hearing sounds of human wailing and suffering as well. Animals on the farm joined in, dogs howling, horses and cows baying. Then, a bright light lit the night sky as though it was noon. The article reads: It was as if a thousand waving festoons of electric light had swooped down from the murky heavens to unfold, with gauzy wreaths of flame and tongues of fire, the trunks and limbs of trees barren of foliage. Then, the doors of the house suddenly blew open, and a large creature with the upper body of a beast and the lower body a contorted human shape, like a demon minotaur, entered the house moaning and breathing blue fire from its nostrils. It passed its scaly fingers over the face of each family member, then, it stalked away in a trail of smoke. In the morning, the family found a trail of rock that looked like crushed lava, and a phosphorescent smell that lingered in their house. That same year, a spate of strangely similar encounters appeared in newspapers around the country. Some kind of half-human, half-beast was showing up regularly in rural areas and harassing homesteaders. Nathaniel Squires of Bracken County, Kentucky described seeing a bright flash of bluish light, and then a giant creature with the head and upper body of an ape, white horns on its head, the legs of a man with cloven hooves glowing red eyes and fire shooting from its nostrils. It disappeared in a spiral column of flame. Squires’s neighbors saw other forms of the so-called Devil of Bracken County. One with the head of a horse, another the head of an elephant, yet another the head of a vulture. But in April that year a man by the name of Oden was tracked down and lassoed by an angry mob. He had dressed up in a horse hide and a mask and used phosphorus to create a hellish stench so he could scare people away and plunder their houses. Yet the strange minotaur of Mount Hope appeared a month later, when Oden was still in jail. In June, a smoldering devil covered in rhinoceros hide was seen sitting on a fencepost near Chicago. Two years later, in Virginia, residents saw a pale bluish figure three times the size of a man with large horns and terrible claws. In 1876, a huge brimstone-breathing beast covered in chains was seen roaming Douglas County, Missouri.  The capture of the hoaxter Oden does not exactly put the mystery to rest. Were the others all copycats? How did they perfect their special effects? Could this have been a massive coordinated ring of puppeteer terrorists? If so, what did they really want? For my part, knowing that someone is outside my window pretending to be a demon — is nearly equal to the horror of the real thing. To see more strange newspaper articles, stop by the special 19th-century newspaper collection titled “The Devil’s Penny.”   This lecture was sponsored by the Miskatonic University Department of History.]]>