Weird People - Impostors , Eccentrics & Hoaxes

The weird and unusual people described in this section are a varied collection of known impostors, hoaxers, and strange eccentrics. What then is their connection with the generally 'paranormal' or 'supernatural' characters discussed on the rest of this site? On the surface, very little, but when examined more closely, some of the events in the lives of these odd people bear a startling resemblance to characters described in other, more traditionally 'paranormal' chapters. 

For example, the seemingly straightforward Princess Caraboo hoax reveals that Mary Willcocks, before she became 'Princess Caraboo', had lost her job as a servant because the beds in the house were unaccountably catching fire, a type of phenomena known from many poltergeist cases , including that of Carole Compton, the Scottish nanny, included here in the Poltergeist Girls section. Also in the Princess Caraboo story we meet the mysterious Portuguese (or apparently Portuguese) gentleman who corroborated Mary Willcock's invented story of her origins as fact, and was never heard from again.

The weird case of Bella in the Wych-Elm where, admittedly, its witchcraft and black magic connections are more apparent than real, nevertheless provides us with almost the ultimate character for this site. A mysterious woman, murdered by an unknown person for an unknown reason. The paranormal aspects of the Henry More Smith case are more obvious. The cases of Bamfylde Moore-Carew, so-called 'King of the gypsies' and Sarah Wilson, another royal impostor, are more plainly of imposture and imagination, though what they achieved and how they managed to achieve it is in fact stranger than some of the obviously 'paranormal' cases in this book. 

Finally, I make no apologies for including here a character that could have found a place in a sections on this site - Charles Paget Wade. An eccentric collector of odd machines and unusual craftwork, suspected by some of dabbling in the occult, and whose Cotswold Manor House was (and perhaps still is) undoubtedly haunted.

There is, however, another equally important side to these impostors and hoaxes. Their stories should serve to illustrate the dangers of taking the psychic abilities' or phenomena associated with mysterious people uncritically at face value. Though most of the characters here are known to have lied, at the very least about their identities, they were believed by the majority to be exactly who or what they claimed to be, on the whole because people wanted to believe in what they did, who they were, or what they had to say. They were in a sense providing people with what they needed at a particular time, in a particular place. This is in fact the real danger in dealing with the unexplained and the mysterious, so many have the desire to believe in the unbelievable that objective judgment and criticism is crippled from the outset. 

Perhaps these denizens of the dark side of the street should act then as signposts or danger signs, their importance lying in the guidance they give through the tangled and treacherous undergrowth of the unknown.  

Copyright 2005 by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.

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