Some people would be
quick to say that the world is crazy and is
falling to pieces.
That may be so, but the world was still crazy a
century ago, said Chad Lewis, a paranormal
investigator for Unexplained Research, LLC.
Lewis is the author of the new book
Hidden Headlines of New York: Strange, Unusual,
& Bizarre Newspaper Stories (1860- 1910).
book is a compilation of newspaper clippings
from around the state, including the Olean
Democrat and Olean Evening Times. A handful of
Olean events and a Bradford, Pa., event can be
found in the book.
The Olean Evening Times reported on March 3,
1909, that 78-year-old John Dolan died during
the funeral of Michael Downey at Mt. Morris. He
would have fallen in the grave if he wasn't
The publication, which merged with The Olean
Herald in 1932 to become the Times-Herald, also
reported an unfortunate coincidence of death for
Mr. and Mrs. August Sigel, Sept. 13, 1910. The
couple's eight-month-old son, Erwin, died after
a long battle with cholera infantum. The couple
lost another son, Erwald, from the same disease
Sept. 13, 1910.
An athletic ghost in Bradford, "offered to lick
a spectator" according to an article in the
Olean Democrat July 17, 1894. About 20 Bradford
spiritists gathered for a seance at the home of
James Campbell on Congress Place. They each paid
$1 to talk with the dead through Medium Oren
Stevens was found to
be a fraud when he posed as the ghost of a
baseball player who was killed in "a hot game in
Tennessee some years ago." Stevens jumped around
the room showing spectators his pitching style
when W.L. Dudley grabbed the ghost and found him
to be alive. Stevens later acknowledged he was
an impostor and said he could beat up Dudley.
Stevens left the next day and Dudley threatened
to have him arrested for obtaining money under
false pretenses if he returned to Bradford.
The book has a number of even more bizarre
events that make any modern publication's "news
of the weird" look tame from a wolf attacking
people in a Brooklyn-area theater and sea
serpents in lakes to a man who ate a quart of
grasshoppers and UFOs.
Mr. Lewis came across many weird New York
stories while doing research for a similar book
for his home state of Wisconsin. The stories
piqued his curiosity and he set out to find just
how weird New York could be.
"(This book) certainly has a lot of my favorite
stories in it," he said, recalling the story of
a half human-half monkey arriving at a port near
New York City.
Mr. Lewis said he spent months looking at
microfilm and microfiche of old news papers and
did some research online. The research was a lot
of fun, although the research "took of few years
off my eyes," he said.
"I kind of got sent back to another era," Mr.
Lewis said. "I really felt like I was walking
the streets of New York."
Many of the stories wouldn't appear in today's
newspapers, he said.
"During this time period, the newspaper served
not only as a news source but also as a source
of entertainment and gossip," he said, adding
that competition may have led to a bit of
embellishment of some strange stories.
Mr. Lewis is working on a similar book about
California and would like to eventually collect
stories for every state, he said.
"There are a lot of similarities but there are a
lot of things that make each state unique as
well," he said. "A lot of stories tell what it
was like to live in each state."
The era surrounding the turn of the 20th century
was a strange time with a lot of uncertainty,
similar to the turn of the 21st century, Mr.
"People were strange back then as well and maybe
we are not so different today," he said.