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Six Seriously Spooky Cemetery Stories

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It's that time of year, when we look to graveyards for tales that scare the dickens out of us. Ghosts, unexplained phenomena, and even vampires figure in these stories of graveyards from all over.

1. Silver Cliff Cemetery

Silver Cliff Cemetery in Colorado took its name from the nearby mining town of Silver Cliff, which was named for the Silver Cliff Mine. It was a silver mine. Despite an abundance of ore, bad management and financial shenanigans ran the company into the ground -three times! The cemetery is famous today for its dancing blue lights. National Geographic published an article about the lights in 1969. Witnesses say the lights are small, round, and come in other colors besides blue at times. The lights dance across the gravestones. Some say they are reflections of lights from town, but sightings were recorded before electricity came to Silver Cliff.

2. Stepp Cemetery

Stepp Cemetery is a small abandoned cemetery in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Indiana. Only a couple of dozen graves are there, some going back 200 years. It is officially a local family cemetery, but legend has it that it was founded by a cult called the Crabbites, whose rituals include snake handling and sex orgies. Some reports say you can still hear the chanting of their gatherings in the cemetery at night. However, I could not find any references to the Crabbites outside of Stepp Cemetery stories, which gives it urban legend status. Another story holds that a devoted mother stayed at the grave of her infant every day, even after the mother's death. Yet another story attributes the crying sounds heard to an old woman who put a curse on the cemetery after a fraternity group killed her dog and left its body at the cemetery.

3. Camp Chase Cemetery

Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio is the final resting place of 2,260 Confederate soldiers. Why Ohio? It was the site of a Union POW camp, which held 9,400 rebel soldiers during the Civil War. A smallpox epidemic struck the camp in 1863, and the victims, both prisoners and those who worked at the camp, were buried there. After the war, the camp was dismantled and the cemetery is the only remnant left. Gravestones began to replace wooden markers in 1895.

Louisiana Ransburgh Briggs was a Southerner from New Madrid, Missouri, whose father sent her north to Ohio to avoid the war. After the war was over, she married a Union veteran but never forgot her Southern sympathies. She visited the Camp Chase Cemetery and placed flowers on various graves, even those covered with overgrowth. Briggs wore a veil to hide her identity during her evening visits, earning her the nickname "the Veiled Lady of Camp Chase." She later spearheaded the efforts to reclaim and maintain the cemetery. After her death in 1950, reports of mysterious flowers appearing on graves and the sounds of crying were attributed to the ghost of Mrs. Briggs, who then came to be known as "The Gray Lady." Her activities are particularly connected with the grave of a 22-year-old soldier from Tennessee named Benjamin F. Allen. There have also been reported sightings of Confederate soldiers' ghosts at Camp Chase.

4. Highgate Cemetery

Highgate gothic

Highgate Cemetery in London, England, has its share of celebrities, but after it was filled, maintenance declined and the resulting overgrowth made it a classically spooky-looking place. So much so that a series of horror movies from Hammer Films were filmed there in the late '50s. In the 1970s, interest in the occult led to rumors and sightings of first ghosts, then vampires, in Highgate Cemetery. Vandalism and graverobbing stunts fueled these rumors, and ultimately led to a competition between "magicians" Seán Manchester and David Farrant. Both vowed to be the one who could rid the cemetery of the vampire. A series of escapades in the cemetery occurred between 1970 and 1973 in which crowds of people gathered after dark, and corpses were found unearthed, damaged, and sometimes posed. Police tried to keep order, and in 1974 Farrant was jailed for vandalizing graves. Manchester and Farrant carry on their occult rivalry to this day. A lasting document from the vampire scare 40 years ago is the Hammer film Dracula AD 1972, which was inspired by the Highgate Cemetery hijinks. Image by Flickr user Anders B.

5. Chase Mausoleum

The Chase Family Vault in Christ Church Parish, Barbados was built in 1724 and first used in 1807. Remains were interred and sealed with marble and cement. In 1812, the mausoleum was opened for the fourth burial, but the three earlier coffins were found to have moved! An infant's coffin was found standing on end. They were repositioned and resealed. Twice in 1816 and once in 1819, the crypt was opened for further burials and the previous coffins were found flipped over or turned end-to-end. The island governor ordered a seal placed on the door and sand was put on the floor to retain evidence of any break-ins. Yet when the crypt was next opened, the seal was unbroken, the sand was intact, and the coffins were again moved. That's when the family decided to relocate the coffins of their loved ones elsewhere. The vault has not been used since. Although contemporary accounts say there was no evidence of flooding, the simplest explanation is underground water seepage, which could move coffins without seeming to disturb a layer of sand. As the vault is built of coral, leakage does seem to make sense.

6. Chesnut Hill Cemetery

Chesnut Hill Baptist Church Cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island is reported to be haunted by a vampire named Mercy Lena Brown. She was preceded in death by her mother and sister, victims of tuberculosis, and Mercy would often visit their graves. In January 1892, 19-year-old Mercy herself fell to tuberculosis and was interred with her family members. Mercy's father George claimed she haunted him every night, complaining of hunger. His son Edwin fell sick, also with tuberculosis, but as he experienced visits from Mercy, the family and townspeople considered the cause of his illness to be the restless dead. George Brown, with the help of others, dug up the graves of his wife and two daughters on March 17, 1892. Only Mercy, who died in January, was free of decomposition. This led George to believe she was a vampire. The villagers cut out Mercy's heart, burned it, mixed the ashes with water, and gave the concoction to the ailing brother Edwin as medicine. He nevertheless died a couple of months later. The story of Mercy Brown was an inspiration for elements in several novels, including Bram Stoker's Dracula.

If you don't see your favorite haunted cemetery in this list, you light try 10 of America’s Most Haunted Cemeteries.

See also: America’s Most Haunted: Six Seriously Spooky Sites
The Haunted Hospital
The Haunted Plantation
The Happy, Haunted Island of Poveglia

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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