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Phantom Shooters, Mysterious Deaths, and Magic Bullets

Shootings are scary enough as it is, and it seems in this day and age a senseless crime of this sort can erupt at any moment without warnin...

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Shootings are scary enough as it is, and it seems in this day and age a senseless crime of this sort can erupt at any moment without warning. However, usually the perpetrators of these tragedies are caught or killed in the process, and at least we have answers to what has transpired. Yet, there are some very peculiar shooting incidents that have managed to worm their way into the world of the paranormal due to their enigmatic nature and the fact that in some cases they seem to defy physics. Here are some very odd cases of mysterious shooters who vanished into thin air and left very bizarre clues, or lack thereof, behind.

One of the weirder cases is one that was covered by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in his book Mysterious America, and supposedly took place in May and June of 1952 on and around US 66, near Joliet, Illinois, in the United States. It was along this lonely expanse of road that two separate drivers would first have an encounter with what they described as a large blue automobile, which had pulled alongside them and then fired on them with a weapon, injuring one of them. These would be followed by yet another report of a man south of Lincoln, also on US 66, who also said he had been fired on by the phantom vehicle and its occupants, and cases would only grow from there.

On June 2, 1952, an Edward Smith was making his way along Route 48 near the Sangamon River and was startled when something struck his vehicle. When Smith slowed down to see what it was, thinking it had been maybe an animal, he purportedly saw the shadowy figure of a man get into a blue car that looked like either a Ford or Buick sedan and go speeding off. It would later appear that what had hit his car was a bullet, which had damaged his rear window, but the projectile itself was nowhere to be found. Reports would increase in intensity, sparking a major hunt by law enforcement for this mysterious blue car, but they had no luck, even when the blue car supposedly attacked a police officer by the name of Lawrence Brown, only to speed off and escape, easily pulling away into the distance as they reached purported speeds of up to 90 mph. Making it odder still was that, while these people claimed to have been shot at by a firearm, no actual bullets or even fragments of bullets were found. This made the police suspect that they were dealing with perhaps someone using firecrackers and throwing stones, and State Police Chief Thomas J. O’Donnell would say:

We have not relaxed our search and we are investigating every case but we are not convinced there is a phantom gunman or that any shots were fired in most of the ‘shooting incidents’ reported. We have yet to find anyone who saw a gun or who could give anything definite about the description of the sniper. On the other hand, we have a maze of vague and conflicting information that does not add up to the conclusion that one gunman is causing all these reports.

Yet there were other reports that seemed to definitely point to a firearm being used, such as the June 17 report of a driver who clearly saw two bullets smash through his windshield, with police later confirming that the damage seemed to have been inflicted by .22 caliber bullets, yet the bullets could not be found anywhere. At around this time there were other mysterious shooting reports that were not connected to a blue sedan, such as a yellow Chevrolet panel truck that had fired upon witness Fred Manley with a shotgun, as well as a black sedan with a man within who took potshots at witness L. J. Wiles. There would be around a dozen such reports, and then it would just stop, leaving the “Blue Phantom of Route 66” lost to history.

An even earlier account is the case of the 1872 death of distinguished Civil War veteran Captain Colvocoresses, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA, which was originally covered by Charles Fort in his 1932 book Wild Talents. Apparently the captain was one day found lying on Clinton Street very dead of a bullet wound, but oddly his clothing had not been penetrated or disturbed in any way, as if the bullet had just phased through. It seemed as if the gun must have surely fired from under the clothes, yet from the calculated trajectory and range of the shot, plus the lack of any gunpowder evidence pointing to such a close range attack this seemed impossible. The gun would be found lying some distance away, but according to Fort it was never explained how the captain could have been shot and killed in such a way as to leave his clothes intact, and for the gun to end up over there. It was surmised that the man could have committed suicide by opening his jacket, firing, and then closing it again, but why would he do this and how would the gun end up discarded so far away? Whether it was suicide or murder, it is curious.

Another earlier case is that of Isadore Fink, who seemed to have been killed in 1929 by a very peculiar bullet indeed. Perhaps one of the more well-known mysterious real locked room murders is that of the Polish immigrant Isadore Fink in the early 20th century. Shortly after immigrating to the United States, Fink set up a modest laundromat in New York City, a place where he also lived in a tiny attached apartment. By all accounts Fink was an eccentric and reclusive man, mostly keeping to himself and rarely interacting with others in the neighborhood, and he also seems to have been obsessed with keeping himself safe from the crime he perceived all around him. Indeed, his business and apartment were a veritable fortress, with double locked doors and thick bars over all of the windows, which were also firmly nailed shut from the inside, all in order to keep trespassers out. It seems as if it would ultimately do him no good.

New York City of the era

On March 9, 1929, Fink went out to deliver some laundry, and shortly after returning home a neighbor named Mrs. Locklan Smith heard screams and some loud thumps coming from the apartment, as if someone were fighting, which spurred her to contact the police. Oddly, when the policeman arrived almost immediately after it was found that the apartment was completely sealed and locked from the inside, all of the windows remained barred and nailed shut from the inside, and there was no sign at all of anyone having broken in. The only way into the apartment was found to be a tiny transom window that was too small for a grown person to squeeze into.

Not wanting to disturb the crime scene, the police officer found a small, thin boy and had him wiggle and crawl through the transom window to unlock the door from inside. The apartment itself was found to be in pristine condition, with no signs of struggle and nothing apparently stolen. The only thing out of place was Fink’s very dead body lying on the floor with three gaping gunshot wounds ripped through it. The immediate assumption was that he had killed himself, yet it would soon become apparent that there was no gun anywhere to be found, and there was also the fact that there was a close-range gunshot wound to his wrist, suggesting that it had likely been incurred while trying to defend himself from an attacker. Another wound to his chest was thought to have killed him instantly. Adding to the strangeness of it all was that no one else’s fingerprints were present anywhere in the apartment, and the neighbor who had contacted the police insisted that she had heard no gunshots, only bangs and bumps that sounded more like someone having a scuffle.

The lack of a weapon at the scene and the nature of the wounds soon had police considering it a murder, but there were still plenty of mysteries, such as there appeared to be no clear motive. Although Fink was a bit of an oddball he didn’t seem to have had any enemies, and nothing had been stolen from the apartment, including cash that was found in his pockets and in drawers. Perhaps even more pressing was how someone could have gotten into that apartment in the first place, since everything was securely bolted down and locked shut from the inside, with only that transom window that a skinny kid could barely get through.

The whole thing had investigators baffled, and they tried to come up with theories as to what had happened. One was that the shooter had shot through the transom window, but this was soon ruled out as the angle would have made it impossible for Fink to have incurred his particular injuries, especially the wrist wound, which was found to have gun powder marks indicating it had been inflicted at point blank range. There was also the fact that even the transom window had been shut. Another idea was that he had started to have a fight with the assailant outside, during which time his wrist had been injured, forcing him to retreat indoors. The assailant might have then fired through the transom window to deliver the final fatal shot, but this was also deemed rather unlikely, especially since the neighbors had not seen any such altercation.

Yet another theory was that a very small and agile assassin had simply climbed into the apartment, shot Fink, and then left through the window rather than the front door, but this would mean that Fink was killed by a child-sized gun-toting murderer who left no fingerprints and stole nothing, and there was still the fact that no one in the area had heard the actual gunshots. More paranormal theories are that he was killed by a ghost or that he even physically manifested his potent fears of being shot. The murder of Isadore Fink has never been solved, no one has ever apprehended for the crime, and the case has been discussed, analyzed and debated ever since with no real answers in sight. The trail has long gone cold, it has been labeled an impossible and unsolvable crime, and it remains one of the most enigmatic unsolved murder cases in history.

One case that seems in many ways similar to the Blue Phantom of Route 66 covered earlier is what has come to be known as “The Ghost Sniper,” of New Jersey, in the United States, where a town was gripped with fear as a mysterious, phantom assailant went on a serial shooting spree, opening fire seemingly at random, and leaving behind no clues, evidence, or even bullets, as if both the attacker and his weapon were manifestations of some supernatural force. Beginning in November of 1927, the area of Camden, New Jersey was visited by an enigmatic, seemingly ghostly force that terrorized the populace. In this month, several cars and even a city bus traveling along the Camden Bridge, also called the Federal Street Bridge, had their windshields shattered by what at first seemed to be bullets. In total, five vehicles would be shot at in this manner, and it at first seemed to be a straightforward case of gun shootings, yet inspection of the cars revealed no signs of any bullet fragments or shell casings, as if the bullets themselves had simply vanished without a trace. One of the victims of the attacks was none other than former State Senator Albert S. Woodruff. Luckily, none of the passengers of the vehicles were directly hit by a bullet, and the only injuries were from broken glass, but this was not the case with some of the authorities looking into the matter.

During an investigation into the mystery, one police officer by the name of John J. Rodgers was fired upon twice as he made his way across the bridge, with one of the projectiles hitting him directly in the back, hard enough to cause him to spin around before falling to the ground reeling in pain. In this case, the guilty projectile was found and oddly turned out to be a blue marble, although no on could figure out how it could have been fired with such spectacular velocity, especially from the distance it was deduced the shot must have travelled, and a thorough house to house search of the area as well as meticulous canvasing of the surroundings turned up no sign of a culprit. The shot that had missed was found to have left a considerable dent and chipped paint on the heavy steel railing of the bridge, further illustrating the sheer force which had propelled the marbles. The officer himself escaped with a wicked bruise on his back but otherwise unsettled but intact.

Despite the discovery of the marble, analysis of the smashed vehicle windshields of the vehicles that had been attacked led to authorities unanimously agreeing that the damage must have been caused by bullets, likely of a .22 or .25 caliber. But from where, and where had they gone? One idea was the shot fired on the city bus had perhaps come from inside the vehicle, but there were no fragments of bullets anywhere and authorities could not come to an agreement on this matter.

The attacks continued as various private automobiles, trolleys, and buses and taxis, as well as electric lights were fired upon by bullets that seemed to disappear. All in all, 11 vehicles were attacked in this manner, and in almost every case witnesses reported hearing no report of a gunshot. Additionally, no sign of any shooter in the afflicted areas could be found, indeed not even a decent vantage point from where such well-placed shots could be fired could be located. Baffled authorities were still trying to figure out what was going on when another series of phantom attacks was carried out, this time in various other locations. At a place called Cramer Hill, a store owned by a Gottlob Mayer was assaulted when its plate glass door was penetrated by an unknown missile. An investigation into the attack determined that the projectile had definitely been fired from outside, but no trace of any bullet fragments or sign of any other projectile such as a metal ball, ball bearing, or marble could be found on the premises despite a thorough scouring of every inch of floor, as if it had vanished into thin air. Once again, there was no report of any one hearing the boom of a gun being fired, and no one from the fire station across the street had heard or seen anything either.

Similar phantom attacks were reported from Collingswood and Lindenwood, New Jersey as well, yet in all of the cases no sound of gunfire nor evidence of any bullet could be found, further puzzling authorities. In some of the cases, unconventional projectiles were found at the scene, such as a nickel-plated screw and more marbles, but police were not sure if these were the work of the real phantom sniper or a copycat. For the most part, authorities were completely at a loss as to what was going on. The best guess that anyone could come up with was that someone was using some sort of high powered air gun or slingshot to carry out the attacks, but this was counter to the amount of damage caused, which seemed very much as if it had come from bullets. Additionally, there was no type of airgun or slingshot known to police at the time that could account for the sheer force with which the projectiles had apparently been fired. Another prevailing theory was that the mystery assailant was using a type of sophisticated silencer.

Authorities desperately searching for answers were only presented with a very few clues. In one case, police came up with a young boy who they thought may have shot at passing vehicles through a window located not far from the bridge, but there could be found no clue as to how he had projected the missiles with such force nor how he could have been responsible for the other attacks. In the meantime, the locals were getting increasingly panicked by the phantom shooter, who had not caused any fatalities but to most it was just a matter of time. It seemed as if the seemingly ghostly shooter could strike at any time and any place, and no one was ever sure if its sights were being set on them at any given moment. People were afraid to go out of their houses, and most avoided the bridge altogether. It is thought that it is this very desperate panic that may have caused copycats to come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the chaos, which further muddies the waters when trying to reach a conclusion on this case.

Another possible lead came in the form of a mysterious incident that occurred when a shot pierced the bedroom window of two young women sleeping in their bedroom at around 4:30AM. In this case, the victims explained that they had seen a strange man lurking on the street outside their home, who ran away with astonishing speed. One of the victims would say of the situation thus:

We saw a man with a gun, standing across the street. He was looking up at our window. As we looked, he broke into a run. He reached the corner and I heard him say to another man: ‘It’s all right now, Louie.’

The mysterious man was described as being very tall and fleet of foot for his size, easily scampering away into the darkness. It is unknown who the enigmatic “Louie” may be. In this case, a projectile of sorts was actually found, in the form of a .32 caliber bullet found on the bedroom floor. Even so, police were unable to identify the perpetrator or figure out where the bullet had come from. It could not even be accurately deduced from which direction it had entered the room. The rampant panic of the area continued until suddenly the attacks just suddenly stopped in 1928, leaving authorities no closer to solving the case than they had ever been. The whole incident remains a compelling mystery and is still unexplained. Who was this mysterious shooter and how were they able to so effectively evade police? Indeed, what happened to the bullets, which seemed to be just as spectral as the assailant? This is a bizarre case that still inspires speculation to this day, and no shooter or sign of his phantom bullets have ever been found.

Here we have shooting cases that have never been satisfactorily resolved and indeed present more questions than answers. How is it that these crimes could be committed without anyone held accountable and where did these phantom shooters go? More perplexing still, how do we explain the strange circumstances surrounding them, such as the disappearing bullets or shots that seem to defy the laws of physics? There are no set answers at the moment, and these remain curious historical oddities that are perhaps doomed to never be unraveled.

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