COCOA BEACH – There are plenty of different aspects to world history that a good historian can study, George Khoury said, and over the years many of his fellow historians have carved out careers exploring wars, presidents, and significant moments in our past.
But for Khoury himself, a lot of his interests started not in a history class at school, but somewhere else: a movie theater, where as a child he found himself spellbound by the on-screen antics of two cinematic legends: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.
It was Karloff who created such memorable screen monsters as Frankenstein and the Mummy, Khoury noted, and Lugosi who gave Hollywood one of the screen’s earliest versions of the bloodsucker Dracula.
“I sit here before you because of two men – Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff,” Khoury said, during a presentation at the Comfort Inn and Suites hotel in Cocoa Beach on Saturday. “I remember the first time I saw ‘The Mummy.’ I would cut school, run to the library, and ask the librarians, ‘Do you have books about mummies.’ “
A passion, he said, had been born.
“The public libraries became more important to me than sitting in a row in a classroom,” Khoury said. “I owe Lugosi. Because of his role in Dracula, I wanted to know, ‘Do vampires exist?’ ”
That developed within Khoury a fascination for the supernatural, the paranormal, and the unexplained. It’s a passion he has maintained for years as a historian and researcher, he said, as he discussed “Paranormal Mysteries.”
“As I got older, I got answers, but the more answers I got, the more questions I had,” Khoury said.
He’s not alone. This Halloween season, Khoury said, polls by the Gallop firm note that 42 percent of Americans believe in haunted houses. And in an age where mass murder and genocide exist, Khoury said, a belief in evil should be a no-brainer.
“As a historian, I can tell you that evil and demonic possession has walked the face of the Earth,” he said, citing Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazis as an all-too-clear example.
“We know evil exists,” he said. “That’s not even an argument today.”
Law enforcement officials and sociologists, he added, like to ascribe certain causes for violent, anti-social behavior, he noted – such as the use of drugs to confuse the brain.
“The excuse is it’s bath salts all of a sudden,” Khoury said, a reference to new, highly addictive designer drug labeled Bath Salts which contain stimulants that act much like Methamphetamine and Cocaine, but can also produce the added effect of hallucinations.
If only all evil or seemingly possessed behavior could be so easily diagnosed, he said.
“Evil,” he said, “invites the innocent.”
A student of paranormal activities and mysteries, Khoury said the world has produced a lot of unsolved cases over the decades, such as the Philadelphia Experiment on Sept. 12, 1943, when the U.S.S. Eldridge was rendered invisible – both the ship itself and the men on it – in the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
“The Navy will still not admit any of that ever occurred,” he said.
Then there are crop circles — a huge pattern created by the flattening of a crop such as wheat.
“These things have been found in 25 countries, and there are 10,000 of them documented,” he said. “Ninety percent of them are found in England near Stonehenge,” a prehistoric monument in the English county of Wiltshire, composed of a circular setting of large standing stones.
And then, he said, there are haunted houses, many of them linked by the strange series of occurrences that go on inside them, Khoury said.
“Pets staring off into the darkness … the feeling that you are being watched … or in some cases feeling that you’re being pushed,” he said.
Even the White House, he said, is reputed to be haunted.
“Winston Churchill refused to sleep in the White House,” Khoury said of the late British prime minister. “President Franklin Roosevelt’s dog would howl at night in a particular room – the Lincoln bedroom.”
Then there’s the General Wayne Inn in Merion, Pennsylvania, a tavern listed on the National Register of Historic Places that dates back to 1704, and is supposed to be haunted by ghosts.
“The ghosts of Hessian soldiers and Edgar Allan Poe walk there,” Khoury said. “Poe is said to have carved his initials in the wall there. It is listed in the book ‘Weird Pennsylvania.’ “
But it’s no longer a tavern, he said, having been purchased by Chabad of the Main Line, and converted into a synagogue and Center For Jewish Life.
“You no longer go there and have a drink there because it is now a synagogue,” he said. “I don’t know if the Hessian soldiers there are Jewish.”
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