Toughness is supposed to be a soldier’s defining characteristic, along with efficiency, loyalty, and especially logical thinking. They aren’t prone to flights of fantasy. Instead, they’re supposed to confront challenges head-on. This made what happened to British troops in 1914 even harder to explain.
British forces, backed into a corner and nearing death, saw something during battle that they couldn’t explain. At first, they brushed it off as fatigue. But then the mysterious entity returned, and it became clear they weren’t dealing with something that could be explained away. They weren’t even dealing with a human being…
In 1914, there wasn’t much else the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) could do but keep moving east. Even then, with years of freezing trenches ahead of them, the British were already heavily depleted. They had one goal: to fight the advancing Germans.
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That’s how they found themselves in the Belgian city of Mons. With its ghostly villages and empty streets, it felt like the city knew men were going to die there. The BEF knew it, too: They didn’t stand a chance…
What couldn’t be denied was the sheer manpower of the German troops. The BEFs looked like ants under the Germans’ heel. The British had to rely on military strategy, so when they trapped the Germans along the Conde Canal, the BEF started shooting.
With the Germans debilitated, the BEF hastily retreated. Still, this didn’t last long. With the Germans on their tail, shooting seemed like a near constant defense on both sides. Hours went by like this, with firing and retreating their only options…
Years after those endless hours of retreat, people speculate over what really happened. Mass delusion? Fatigue? Wishful thinking? No one knows for sure. All we do know is that, in the least likely setting, a miracle happened.
Dunkirk/Warner Bros. Pictures
“The Germans may be able to kill them, but by God they can’t beat them,” a British commander said. As one British battalion later described, they were practically overrun by German troops when, for the first time, they heard a strange noise above the gunfire.
“Array! Array!” The fighting soldiers peered through the mist, trying to find the source of the command. That’s when they saw them: shadowy figures, practically blending into the surrounding mist, standing alongside the ragged British troops.
Even in the rain and muck the BEF recognized the ghostly army from their history books: They looked like the bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt, which was a major British victory during the Hundred Years’ War nearly 500 years before.
David Plater / Contributor
And according to the British troops, these phantom soldiers didn’t just look like the bowmen from Agincourt. They fought like it, too, if the shouting and clanking armour were any indication. Most shocking of all, the BEF weren’t the only ones who saw them.
According to the Germans, they were astonished (and more than a little confused) as to why the British were suddenly on horseback, clad in armor, and shooting arrows instead of bullets. They wouldn’t have time to linger on the strange sight, however.
That’s because these ghostly visitors weren’t dissolving back into the mist. Instead, other British troops in Mons continued to report strange sightings, things that would’ve sounded like a joke from one person but was downright strange coming from an entire baffled battalion.
Entire troops reported another strange sight: tall, winged beings suddenly appearing in front of the oncoming Germans, stopping them in their tracks and giving the British enough time to retreat. Soon enough, these sightings became more frequent.
One of these mysterious figures was identified as the patron saint of England, Saint George. When a wounded soldier told a nurse about seeing Saint George, she was shocked when other men in the hospital supported his claim down to the saint’s hair color.
A story appeared in the 1915 edition of the North American Review about British soldiers rescued by St. George during the Battle of Mons. In this story, the Germans were stunned to find hundreds of dead German soldiers, with no apparent bullet or arrow wounds.
The German troops, it seemed, saw things they also couldn’t explain. They once retreated because they saw hundreds of British forces coming towards them, only to realize after retreating that the troops had vanished completely.
After a battle during which angels reportedly supported the British troops, one German prisoner asked a British officer who the “officer on a great white horse” had been, because he’d witnessed him being shot multiple times without falling.
“It was God [who] did it,” the BEF claimed. One lance-corporal described what he saw as “a strange light which seemed to be quite distinctly outlined…I could see quite distinctly three shapes, one in the center having what looked like outspread wings.”
He continued by saying, “They were above the German line facing us. We stood watching them…all the men with me saw them.” He finished by saying, “I have a record of fifteen years’ good service, and I should be very sorry…telling a story merely to please anyone.”
It’s hard to deny a story when different people at different times see the same thing, but that’s exactly what happened once word spread about the angels of Mons. Indeed, many believe that these incredible sightings came from somewhere else entirely.
Photo by © Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
In 1914, author Arthur Machen wrote a story called “The Bowmen” based off of soldiers’ accounts of the Battle of Mons. Their improbable escape, the endless nights slogging through the mud; it all made for a great story, albeit a fictional one.
The Bowmen/Arthur Machen
Just because it was fictional, however, didn’t mean Machen’s story wasn’t taken as fact. He wrote the story using a first-person perspective, and since it was published in the newspaper, many people read “The Bowmen” and thought it had really happened.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
“The snowball of rumor that was then set rolling has been rolling ever since…it is now swollen to a monstrous size,” Machen later said of his story. It’s true that as the years passed, “The Bowmen” and the real-life soldiers’ accounts blended into one…
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
But no one can really understand the horrors of war until they experience it themselves. Maybe the ghostly soldiers were works of fiction; maybe they were miracles. What can’t be denied is how the British, despite the enormous odds, somehow lived to fight another day.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
History is filled with mysteries, both on and off the battlefield. Centuries before those British and German soldiers witnessed the impossible, explorers in search of a new world witnessed something even more improbable: A disappearing island.
When Christopher Columbus so famously sailed the ocean blue in 1492, England got jealous. Establishing a colony in North America seemed like a savvy move. So, after defeating Spain’s “Invincible” Armada, a green-with-envy England decided to send explorers to the dangerous New World.
One of these expeditions included an artist named John White. White’s job was to create a visual record of the native people and map the islands along the coast of the Atlantic. Two years later, his role would be drastically different.
After a successful expedition, John White was tasked with establishing the first English colony in America. The colony would include men, women, and children with White acting as Chief Governor. Enchanted by the idea, he began to gather volunteers.
American Revolution Museum
In 1587, John White led 120 colonists across the Atlantic. He brought along his only daughter, Eleanor, who was pregnant with her first child. They landed off the coast of what was then Virginia. They repurposed an abandoned military camp nearby, unaware of how short-lived their stay would be.
The now-infamous “Roanoke Island” would have been England’s first established colony in America, giving them a much-needed victory over Spain. John White would’ve been considered a hero, even royalty. But the New World came with surprises.
Days after settling, Eleanor gave birth. Baby Virginia was the first child born of English parents in North America. She was also John White’s only grandchild. With a successful colony and a bouncing new baby, John White was happier than ever…for a little while.
Supplies were quickly running low at the settlement. So, with haste, John White sailed back to England to stock-up on essentials and find new volunteers. He was looking forward to praise and acclaim upon his return. Instead, he found himself in the middle of a massive Spanish invasion.
Historic Fort Wayne
All English ships were confiscated for battle. Without a boat, John White was stranded in England for three whole years. Finally, in 1590, White returned to Roanoke Island to be met with heartbreak. The entire colony, including his family, had vanished.
Where could over 100 people have gone? White searched the island for signs. He feared finding a Maltese cross, which would indicate the colony had been pushed out by force. In the middle of town, there were two strange messages.
The first message was a post carved with the word “CROATOAN.” The second was a tree carved with the letters “CRO,” perhaps a first attempt. Thankfully, there was no cross, which gave White hope. After consideration, he realized what the message meant.
William James Linton
The “Croatoan” were a native tribe who lived on an island nearby. They had been friendly with the English, which brought White some comfort. And yet, despite being a mapmaker, White wasn’t sure which island the Croatoan lived on. He began the daunting search.
Despite White’s best efforts, there was no evidence of his colony on any of the surrounding islands. The search party was quickly snuffed out by harsh weather conditions. With dwindling supplies, White had no choice but to retreat. The question remained — what happened to those 120 people?
Unfortunately, White wouldn’t live long enough for another journey. He died around 1593, having made peace with the loss of the colony and his family. One would assume that modern archaeologists would be able to solve the mystery that haunted White to his deathbed, yet there is still hot debate.
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott Wakefield
Some believe the Croatoan natives took the settlers in. However, DNA records and physical remains from surrounding islands are inconclusive. In addition, the natives were unlikely to have enough resources to care for such large number. Of course, there’s a more brutal possibility.
Between warring tribes, murderous Spanish forces, and the dangers of the New World, the Lost Colony may have faced a gruesome death. However, a discovery in the 1990s seemed to dispute that idea.
An excavation on the island of Hatteras, close to Roanoke, came up with an interesting find: a gold ring that seemed to date back to John White’s expedition. This would provide evidence that the colonists survived over 60 miles south. Years later, the ring was re-examined and stirred new debate.
An X-ray device was used to determine the ring’s composition. Turns out, it was a fake. A mix of silver, lead, tin, and nickel was found, meaning it was brass. The ring was likely a common item. AKA: junk. There was only one bit of evidence left.
An explorer named John Lawson visited the Hatteras Island in 1709 where he met natives claiming to be descendants of “White people.” They were notably friendly toward the English. Lawson noted their grayish eyes, which could indicate a mixed heritage. He was convinced they had descended from the Lost Colony.
In truth, the islands had been re-inhabited multiple times, meaning any European colony could have interacted with the natives and influenced their genetics. With no remaining evidence, scientists can only look to John White’s paintings, like the one below, for answers.
The mystery of the Lost Colony attracts curious visitors and researchers from around the world, determined to un-Earth any answers they can find. With a tourist attraction that appealing, it’s a mystery worth remaining unsolved. Meanwhile, many Americans have turned their attention to inexplicable phenomena that are far more recent.
There were more than whispers that something fishy was going down on Long Island in the early 1980s. Camp Hero, once an active US military base, was said to be useless and ready for sale, yet others claim it was the center of total chaos.
The smoking gun was a self-published book by a man who claimed to witness many misdeeds and supernatural happenings there. Some claim Preston B. Nichols’ book, The Montauk Project: Experiments In Time, is science fiction. Over time, though, supporters started to surface.
Preston’s book detailed recovered memories from his time as a witness and participant in two major conspiracy theories surrounding government operations: the Philadelphia Experiment and the Montauk Project. The picture he painted was more than grim.
The supposed goings-on at Camp Hero included kidnapping and torturing subjects to test the powers of mind. Using various psychological control methods and telepathic techniques, ruthless scientists opened portals in space and time.
Stranger Things / Netflix
If the story in Preston’s book were true, the truth would blow the public’s perception of the government to smithereens. Still, it was largely considered another sci-fi story stoked by conspiracy theorists, until a movie brought up someone else’s buried memories.
Al Bielek watched the movie The Philadelphia Experiment and felt an eerie wave of déjà vu. He too was compelled to tap into his psyche and revisit some of the haunting memories that were deeply suppressed.
Get Out / Universal Pictures
With the floodgates of his mind open, Al remembered that he was involved in the Philadelphia Experiment, but that wasn’t all. He recalled details of the Montauk Project too. In fact, watching the filmed triggered an identity crisis, he realized Al wasn’t actually his name.
The deeper he dug into these recollections, the more blocked-out information rushed to the surface. He believed his real name was Edward Cameron. His convenient forgetting of all this absurd information was thanks to the CIA’s mind control MK-Ultra tactics.
As for the Philadelphia Experiment, Ed was there. He and his brother Duncan were crewmates on the fateful ship Eldridge when it supposedly vanished into space and time in 1943. The brothers were transported into the future onto the grounds of Camp Hero in Montauk.
Ed and Duncan became darlings of the conspiracy theorists community. Though, frankly, their ideas were largely discounted for how heavily the narrative inflated their egos. Nevertheless, they stood firm in their beliefs that they were instrumental in the Montauk Project experiments.
Fitting snugly like a puzzle with Preston Nichol’s book description, Ed purported that he and Duncan helped create the Montauk Chair. Not so different from the X-Men’s Cerebro, it was a device that helped psychics enhance their abilities via electromagnetism, which was key to the entire project.
X-Men: Apocalypse / Twentieth Century Fox
In the bowels of the locked-down Camp Hero facilities, psychics like Duncan would sit in the Montauk Chair and use their abilities for a variety of outlandish experiments beyond the bounds of reality. These stories became the basis for the Netflix show Stranger Things.
The creators of the series, Matt and Russ Duffer, used Preston Nichols’ book as a blueprint for their story. Originally they set their story in Long Island near Camp Hero but had to swap the location to Indiana in the face of a plagiarize lawsuit.
Popsugar / Netflix
Fans of the show know Eleven, a psychic child, opened a portal to another dimension during a secret experiment of the mind. She was kidnapped and groomed as a lab subject, which is the rumored method of how they obtained subjects for the Montauk Project.
Stranger Things / Netflix
In his book, Preston Nichols referred to these children as the Montauk Boys. He insisted that children were taken from troubled homes, the youngest only four years old, and condition through beatings, severe temperature fluctuations, and even LSD.
Stranger Things / Netflix
These allegations were supported by a man who identified himself as one of the Montauk Boys. Stewart Swerdlow claims to be clairvoyant with the ability to see energy fields and read DNA sequences and mind patterns — skills he honed for 13 years in the Montauk Project.
Stillness In The Storm
Despite the echoes of the same accusations from different sources, there were a lot of far-fetched theories tossed into the mix. Stewart believes he and other recruits traveled to Mars periodically as well as back to biblical times.
All of this abuse fuelled psychic research finally came to an end in a way that was very similar to what played out in the Netflix series. According to Nichols’ book, it all came crashing down with the arrival of a monster.
Stranger Things / Netflix
When Duncan was in the Montauk Chair, channeled into the recesses of his psychic mind, someone whispered into his ear, “The time is now.” Suddenly, a monster appeared first on the transmitter screen, then it materialized in the real world wreaking havoc on the lab.
Stranger Things / Netflix
The military denies the project ever existed, but that’s the same line they gave about dabbling into mind control. It’s now known as fact that the CIA led a massive mind-control project through drugs, abuse, and torture called MK-Ultra.
Whether the Montauk Project actually happened is still hotly contested. People flock to Long Island to see the boarded-up remnants of Camp Hero, the bottom-most levels of the structures long ago filled to the brim with cement.
Most of the facility is open as a state park, but armed guards are still spotted at Camp Hero. It makes you wonder what else is hiding in plain sight. One wrong turn down a government rabbit hole can reveal a lot of darkness, as one journalist discovered.
Political writer Garrett Graff covered a lot of hot-button issues in his lifetime, from the War on Terror to the 2008 U.S. presidential election. But perhaps his most eye-opening research started when his friend handed him something peculiar.
“It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community,” Graff said, “and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he’s like, ‘I figure you can get this back to this guy.'” The friend, he noted, had found the ID on a parking garage floor.
Right away, Graff noticed something peculiar about the ID: step-by-step driving instructions covered the back of it. So Graff, inquisitive journalist that he was, used Google Maps to locate the direction’s end destination—and the results surprised him.
The directions led him to a mountain peak just over 70 miles outside of Washington D.C. There, at a peak known as Raven Rock, the road just… ended. It led to the face of the mountain and then, nothing.
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
Graff recalled everything else he saw once he made the trip out there. “You can see very clearly these big concrete bunker doors,” he said. “This little guard shack, chain-link fence, and then this set of concrete bunker doors beyond.” What had he just found?
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
“It was a facility that I had never heard of that wasn’t on any map,” Graff elaborated. His inner historian and journalist totally freaking out, he started researching what he’d found as soon as he could.
About Camp David
He didn’t know it when he first stumbled upon the structure, but the directions had led him to Raven Rock Mountain Complex, also known as ‘Site R’. To put it more bluntly, he’d found a nuclear fallout shelter!
Graff’s research turned up plenty of information on the United States government’s nuclear war contingency plan—some of it comforting, some of it horrifying, and all of it fascinating. For example…
The Truman administration sanctioned construction on the bunker in 1951 once the Cold War with the Soviet Union started warming up. They used a construction team who’d carved out New York City subway tunnels to do the job. So how’d they keep it secret?
U.S. National Archives / Flickr
Laborer Gene Bowman—who was paid $1.35 per hour in 1951 to bore through the granite of Raven Rock—put it this way: “They just said they were building a tunnel. Wasn’t nobody interested in what they were doing.” Once dug, however, it didn’t look like a simple tunnel.
In his interview with NPR, Graff described the Raven Rock Complex as “a free-standing city… built inside of this mountain.” Intended to be a “backup Pentagon,” Site R boasted two 34-ton blast doors capable of thwarting nuclear bomb blows.
Beyond the blast doors and inside the heart of the rock, 100,000 feet of office provided all the room military officials would need to operate. Infirmaries, cafeterias, and utility areas allowed for up to 1,400 of America’s V.I.P.s to live somewhat comfortably—with a catch.
With the president, his or her cabinet, officials, and military personnel inhabiting the bunker, there was no room for spouses. This led to a famous exchange between then-Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and another official…
Handed an ID badge for access to Raven Rock, Justice Warren realized there wasn’t one for his wife. When told she wouldn’t be allowed in, the justice handed back the ID and said, “you’ll have room for one more important official.”
But believe it or not, Raven Rock wasn’t just a place for the elite and powerful to hobnob as the world around them fell apart. As Graff discovered, officials set up very specific operation plans for every federal branch—even the IRS and post office.
West Virginia Gazette
Yep, even in the case of nuclear destruction, the government wasn’t going to let people off the tax hook so easily. The IRS had a post-bomb plan that covered how to appropriately tax damaged—rather, vaporized—property.
And where would people get money to pay taxes in an apocalyptic society? Uncle Sam had a plan for that, too: officials stashed away publicly scorned $2 bills in another bomb shelter to redistribute as currency.
Edward Betts / Wikimedia
Other federal departments had assigned duties as well: the Parks Department would set up refugee camps, the Department of Agriculture would divvy up rations, and the post office was charged with finding out who died in the blast.
At the time of the Cold War, a nuclear attack felt so imminent that Raven Rock had been fully manned and operated 24 hours per day—up until 1992. Operations were picked up and modernized once more after the September 11 attacks in 2001. They again run 24/7.
Though the ID card Graff received listed directions to only one secret bunker, his research uncovered half a dozen or so other doomsday shelters (like one beneath the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia here), each more or less the same in function and design.
Greenbrier Hotel & Resort
In Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs lie another hidden doomsday bunker. Like Raven Rock, this complex was built in the 1950s and served as “the command post responsible for defending both Canada and the U.S. from air attacks,” Graff said.
North American Aerospace Defense Command
Cheyenne Mountain had reservoirs of water and fuel, doctor’s offices, gyms, and even a Subway sandwich joint. So in the event of a nuclear attack, whoever was working the cash register at the time earned a spot among the surviving elite.
Through all of his research, though, Graff learned something unsettling. “If you’re trying to preserve and restart the government after an attack,” he explained to NPR, it “becomes this very existential question about what is America?”
As far as Graff could tell, the bunkers provided a disturbing answer. “The civilian population will be left to itself for weeks or months at a time,” he said, “and a small number of senior government officials will be spirited out to these bunkers.”
In other words, the government’s plot to rebuild post-nuclear war America didn’t really include the people. Preserving artifacts and the system of government took precedent, but in a time of chaos, what else could be done?
Graff dove deeper into his findings in a book he titled Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself — While the Rest of Us Die. To think, his journey into some of the country’s biggest secrets started with just a lost ID badge!
But seriously, what would you do if the world was about to end? Most of us would probably just cross our fingers and hope for the best, but there are a few individuals out there who have gone to extreme measures to prepare.
John Hay had it all. He was the co-founder of popular tea brand Celestial Seasonings and owned lucrative real estate all over the country. Still, there was one lingering fear that kept him up at night…
Nuclear annihilation. After a period of de-escalation, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union shot back up in the early 1980s. Both sides were stockpiling weapons and mobilizing troops all over the globe.
Courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration
However, Hay was sure the Soviets were poised to strike first, and that the entire world would soon turn a bright shade of red. America couldn’t protect him from this threat.
But Hay could protect himself. He was a born self-starter. A former marine, Hay built Celestial from the ground-up by picking herbs in the Rocky Mountains and stuffing them into hand-sewn bags.
In 1983, Hay turned his attention to the tranquil Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. He purchased 240 acres of empty land for a mere $146,000. So how would this keep him safe?
Flickr / super*dave
Well, Hay wasn’t so much interested in the woods as he was in the gigantic limestone cave that ran beneath them. He believed it had the potential to house the ultimate fallout shelter. Construction began immediately.
Flickr / Dan
However, relations between America and the USSR soon improved, and it became increasingly unlikely that any nuclear war would take place. What could Hay do with his half-built bunker?
Hay, a shrewd businessman as always, knew how to adapt under changing circumstances. Maybe his underground abode could be used not just for survival, but for recreation. He drew up a new plan.
After a few more years of intense construction and furnishing, the Beckham Creek Cave Lodge was born. What was once a bomb shelter was now a subterranean, high-end hotel.
Hay naturally felt quite pleased with its transformation. “I didn’t want to come through the war like Tina Turner in Mad Max,” he said, “so I created Tinseltown.”
To stay in one of the cave’s four bedrooms, guests have to shell out as much as $1,600 per night. Although the rate is as steep as the mountains surrounding the hotel, the price is worth it!
Each morning you can take a hot shower that will wash away the problems and worries that you brought from above ground. That’s right, you can stay clean even when you’re living in a cave.
You can relax and watch a movie on the 75-inch LED television mounted on the limestone walls. The lodge’s thermal heating will keep you nice and cozy even in the dead of winter.
Later on, you could head over to the state-of-the-art kitchen to enjoy a classy dinner and good company. Unlike most bomb shelters, the Beckham Creek Cave Lodge has way more than just canned goods.
Of course, guests aren’t confined to the indoors. You can hike around the Ozarks and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the region’s majestic wildlife.
Facebook / Beckham Creek Cave Lodge
There’s plenty of nature still present inside the hotel too. The lodge preserved some of the original cave features, like the stalactites hanging from the ceiling, as well as this waterfall.
And the Beckham’s guests never have to be afraid. Should the danger of a nuclear attack ever resurface, the hotel can seal all the openings in the cave with concrete blocks.
Like any eccentric millionaire worth his salt, Hay also installed a helipad. That could really come in handy for all those instances when the average Joe travels by helicopter.
If you dream of making this luxurious cave your own, you are in luck. The property recently went on sale for the sum of $2.75 million. One lucky person can make the Beckham Creek Cave Lodge their own private retreat.
Just imagine sitting by the fire on the front deck, with nobody around for miles and miles. You could sip a mug of herbal tea and be grateful that John Hay’s paranoia created such a special place.