Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Superstitions

The website for Merriam-Webster defines a superstition as "a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck : a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck."  One of the days that is most likely to have superstitions surrounding it is New Year's Day.  Below, I will list just a few of the popular superstitions for this first day of the year.

FIREWORKS AND LOUD NOISES

It's hard to imagine a quiet New Year's Eve - one without fireworks, noise makers, singing, etc.  In fact, if you've ever experienced a simple New Year's Eve without all the commotion, you know that it's pretty anti-climactic, almost depressing.  But what is with all the ruckus and roar?  As it turns out, all the carrying-on that happens on this night is traditionally done to scare away evil spirits.  So, when the time comes this year, make sure to cause quite the stir - it could help you out immensely in the upcoming months!

KISSING AT MIDNIGHT

Whether it's just a peck on the cheek or the biggest smooch you've ever seen, a kiss is a wonderful way to show someone you care.  And not only that, but if you get one at the stroke of midnight on New Year's, it will ensure that you have plenty affection to last the whole year.  Oh, you say you're alone this year?  As long as you have a pet like a dog, cat or bunny nearby, their mojo will work too.  And if you get desperate, maybe you can kiss yourself while gazing into a mirror?  No one would know!

COLLECTING WATER

Every New Year's Eve morning, I set a cup of water next to every major entrance to my house.  Water is one of the four elements and it's a spectacular purifier.  The liquid will also absorb all the negative energy in the area.  When the clock strikes midnight, I briskly toss the water out the door.  By doing this, I banish unwanted energy and start the year off fresh.  However, this practice totally contradicts the next superstition.

NOTHING GOES OUT

Don't take out the trash, don't throw out food, don't take anything out of the house on New Year's Day.  Some people even go so far as to set their pot-luck items outside on New Year's Eve or make sure all items are taken to their destination prior to the first day of the year.  The idea behind this one is that you don't want to be losing things all year long.

NOTHING GETS WASHED

Don't do any laundry, don't wash dishes, don't even take a bath/shower.  Believers in this superstition think they will be washing away all their good luck, and may even bring death to a family member in the coming year.  Personally, if I don't wash dishes for a day, they get totally out of hand and that will be all I have time for the next day.  Besides, who wants to go to a party all stinky and smelly?

EATING THE RIGHT FOODS

Some people eat black-eyed peas and greens.  Others eat grapes, pork or lentils.  Whether you eat southern food or something else on New Year's Day, chances are the nourishment you take in represents money or symbolizes forward movement.  While I was growing up, we always ate pork and sauerkraut.  I'm told that as animals, pigs root forward for their food, so if you eat pork, you'll move forward in the coming year and never have to worry about having enough food.  To contrast that, I was also always warned off from eating chicken on New Year's Day.  For this, I was told that chickens pick and scratch for their food.  Who wants to pick and scratch for their food all year long?

So tomorrow morning when I wake up, I'll put my cups of water by the doorways.  At the stroke of midnight, I'll hoot and holler and kiss my hubby, our kids and my cat before I toss the water out of the house.  Then, on New Year's Day, I'll cook the pork roast that is currently sitting in my refrigerator.  What are your plans?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lucky Beings of Myth and Lore

I received a question on my last blog post asking if there were any mythical beings that brought good luck.  This post is in answer to that question.

There are indeed creatures that are thought to bring good luck.  For the sake of this post, I have researched a few popular cultures, but not all.  With that being said, this is in no way a complete list of lucky mythical beings.  The cultures I have looked into are Chinese, Japanese and Celtic. 

CHINESE/JAPANESE

Note that I am not grouping these two cultures together because I think they are the same.  I am listing them together because I have found that many of the myths and legends of these cultures are highly similar.

Dragons



Most people are familiar with dragons.  More or less, these are creatures that are large, reptilian and breathe fire.  These four-legged mythical beings have been thought to be able to control water in order to bring about natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes.  However, they are also symbols of power, strength and good luck.

Feng Huang



These creatures are also called phoenixes.  They have been labeled the Emperor of Birds.  When a male and female bird are represented together, they symbolize everlasting love.  They are birds of the sun and warmth and the summer and harvest.  Feng Huang are symbols of the Empress of China and of brides on their wedding day.

Kirin

Giraffes were once mistaken for these beings.  This mythical beast looks a lot like a demented pony with very long hair and antlers.  Though the Kirin looks vicious, it eats only fruits and veggies, punishes wrong-doers and is a bringer of good fortune. 

Maneki Neko

If you've ever been inside of an Oriental restaurant, you may have seen one of these statues.  The Maneki Neko is basically a cat with one paw raised in the air.  With a name that means "beckoning cat," this creature brings good luck and prosperity. 

CELTIC

Far Darrig

A lone faery who dons a red cap and coat, this being is also known as the "Red Man."  He enjoys playing practical jokes that have a gruesome twist and is considered lucky for farmers to have around.

Fear-Gorta

The "Man of Hunger" is another solitary being.    A Fear-Gorta is a phantom that resembles an emaciated human.  He roams the land during a famine and will bring good luck to those who leave offerings of food or money.

Though some of the creatures listed do not look like the average protagonist in a Disney cartoon, they are all lucky to have around.  Looks can be deceiving and that is apparent in many stories and tales.  Just as a stunningly beautiful person can be totally ugly on the inside, so too can a creepy-looking old beggar woman be a goddess in disguise.

Like stated above, this list is not a complete list of lucky beings of myth and lore.  If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mummies and Their Curses

Wikipedia defines a mummy as "a deceased human or animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body will not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions."

Whereas mummies have been found on every continent, the most well-known are Egyptian.  Some of these Egyptian mummies are also said to bring curses on those that disturb their slumber.  And why not?  What other culture is so unbelievably old, mysterious and romantic all at the same time?  But are these curses real, or are they merely a fabrication of Hollywood and the media?



A National Geographic article called "Curse of the Mummy" details some facts about mummies and their curses.

Through an expedition funded by Lord Carnarvon, the tomb of King Tut was discovered in 1922.  Howard Carter was the first person to take a look at the treasures of the tomb, and he set off quite the trend for Ancient Egypt.  Because Carnarvon died of blood poisoning and six other members of the excavation team also died within a decade, talk of curses ensued.

But what do Egyptologists think of these curses?

Salima Ikram (American University in Cairo) thinks that stories of curses were used in Ancient Egypt to scare away grave robbers.  Dominic Montserrat thought that a writer may have seen a play where authentic Egyptian mummies were unwrapped.  This writer probably wrote a story about what they saw, then another writer wrote something similar, then another...you get the idea.

A scientific take on mummies and curses states that the Egyptian tombs may have been shut up for so many years, that they produced dangerous pathogens.  Most scientists, however, think this is just not the case.  In fact, it has been said that the conditions of Upper Egypt in the 1920s were so unsanitary that those conditions would have been more likely to kill a person than anything shut up in a tomb.

What's my take on mummies and their curses, you ask?

I think it's easy to see a leathery-like body laying in a museum (or on a table, or elsewhere) and think about sinister, creepy, evil things like curses.  But I also think that curses only have power over those that believe in them.  Do you know the saying "careful what you wish for?"  Well, if you spend all your time thinking of curses, you will be cursed.  Instead, try focusing your thoughts on positive things.  If you do good and wish for good, you will find that good things will come your way, and things like curses will start to sound very silly to you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bloody Mary

Question:

Bloody Mary is:
A. a popular adult beverage
B. a divination ritual practiced by adolescent girls
C. a historical English monarch
D. all of the above

Answer:

D. all of the above

THE COCKTAIL



A mixture of vodka, tomato juice and a number of spices and flavorings, a Bloody Mary has been said to cure a hangover.  As many people know today, alcohol does not cure the horrible feelings of a hangover, it only masks the pain.  However, because of the link, a Bloody Mary is a popular adult beverage for morning, noon and night. 

I don't care for the beverage as I'm not a big fan of vodka.  I don't drink too often but when I do, I am lucky enough to suffer few hangovers.  But if I did, I wouldn't drown the feelings of a hangover with more alcohol.  To me, a hangover is simply your body trying to rid itself of a toxic substance.  It's a process that should be encouraged, not hindered with more toxicity.

THE DIVINATION RITUAL

Like with many other pieces of folklore, the "game" of Bloody Mary changes with the person telling the story. 

Historically, a girl is suppose to walk up a staircase in a dimly lit room backwards with a hand-held mirror.  By gazing into the mirror, the girl will see either the image of her future husband or, in the case of death before marriage, a skull.

The image of Bloody Mary can come as either a corpse, a witch or a ghost.  She can sometimes be covered in blood.  Bloody Mary is sometimes screaming at, cursing, strangling, otherwise harming, or drinking the girl's blood.

A more modern version of the ritual has participants taunting Bloody Mary about her baby.  This version ties the historical figure of Bloody Mary with the divination ritual. 

I remember attempting this ritual as an adolescent.  I don't remember ever seeing any actual images, but I do remember having the crap scared out of me.  I was to stand in front of a mirror and call out "Bloody Mary" three times.  I was told the image of Mary would appear behind me.  It didn't work.  My preferred method of divination lies with tarot cards.  I'm of a mindset that you shouldn't conjure anything unless it is absolutely necessary.

 THE HISTORICAL ENGLISH MONARCH



Queen Mary I of England (Feb 18, 1516 - Nov 17, 1558) was the only daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.  For the first years of her life, Mary was doted on by her father.  But when Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533, Mary was deemed illegitimate, stripped of her title of princess, had her home taken away and was forced into servitude for her half-sister, Elizabeth.  Mary's relationship with her father continued to be strained until the Act of Succession of 1544 stated that after the death of Henry, his son, Edward would be king who would be succeeded by Mary and then Elizabeth.

Long story short, Henry died and was succeeded by Edward.  During his reign, Edward excluded both of his sisters from the throne.  Edward died at the age of 15, probably of tuberculosis.  For a short time, Lady Jane Grey - a cousin - was named queen, but the validity of this was highly questioned.  Mary fled to East Anglia and established a campaign to reclaim her throne.

After her success, Mary did her best to restore England to its Catholic faith - a religion expelled from the country by her father.  Over the course of five years, Mary had over 280 people burned at the stake for disobeying her religious beliefs.  Because of her ruthless religious policy, she became known as Bloody Mary.

Mary was married to Prince Philip of Spain.  Whether the couple had feelings for one another is unknown.  But there were a number of times that Mary, along with her court and her doctors, thought she was pregnant.  Each of these pregnancies turned out to be false, resulting in no children -an no heirs - for Mary.  She was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth.  Mary and Elizabeth are buried together in Westminster Abbey.  Latin words are inscribed on their tomb that translate to "Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection."

Even though I'm not a big fan of religious zealots, I can't help but feel bad for Mary I of England.  She began life as Daddy's Girl, only to have it all ripped away.  She basically became a nobody.  As a writer, I do have future plans for Mary! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jack the Ripper

Are you up for another unsolved mystery?  I've got a whopper for you this time!  A figure that instills fear by name alone - Jack the Ripper.

For as much publicity as his story has gotten, very little is actually known of Jack the Ripper.  He was never captured, so no one knows what he looked like.  He lived and killed during a time when murders were on the rise.  A lot of those murders were extremely violent and seemingly unconnected, so we don't even know how many people Jack the Ripper really killed.  In fact, there are so many theories about who this man was that there is a term given to the study of related cases - "ripperology."

Between April 3, 1888 and February 13, 1891, eleven murders were reported in and around Whitechapel, the town in London where Jack the Ripper's victims were found.  Of these eleven cases, five victims are thought to be those of Jack the Ripper.  The things each of these victims had in common were slashed throats, abdominal/genital mutilation, missing internal organs, facial mutilation, and they were prostitutes.

Though the man that committed these dastardly deeds was never captured, an investigation was conducted.  As per the method of the times, policemen went door-to-door to question people.  It has been said that over 2000 people were interviewed, about 300 people were investigated, and 80 people were arrested.  Just like with many other historical outbreaks of hysteria, certain sorts of people were targeted more than others.  With the case of Jack the Ripper, butchers, slaughterers, surgeons and physicians were under heavy scrutiny because of the condition of the suspected victims.  Other speculations were that the killer lived close by (because of the location of the bodies) and that he was a member of the upper-class (because of his possible attire as per some witnesses).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Edgar Allen Poe

Pretty much everyone has heard of Edgar Allen Poe for his poetry like "Lenore" and "The Raven."  Poe's short stories like "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Masque of the Red Death" are well known too.  Here are a few facts about the first American to make writing a full-time career.



Edgar Poe (January 19, 1809-October 7, 1849) was born to Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and David Poe in Boston, MA.  He had a brother and a sister.  When Edgar was just a year old, his father left the family.  A year later, his mother died of tuberculosis. 

Left an orphan, Edgar went to live with John and Frances Valentine Allen.  The Allen's raised Edgar and gave him the name Edgar Allen Poe, but they never officially adopted him.

Poe joined the United States Army on May 27, 1827.  He lied and said his age was 22, but he was only 18.  In the same year, he published his first book of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems.  Eventually, Poe was discharged and went to West Point where he graduated on July 1, 1830.

Poe secretly married his cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm, when he was 26.  Virginia was 13, but their marriage certificate said she was 21.  During his lifetime, Poe was best known as a literary critic.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious.  He was hospitalized and ended up dying four days later.  His cause of death is still a mystery.

My favorite work of Poe's is "The Tell-Tale Heart."  What's yours? 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Mutter Museum

I love the strange and unusual.  I also enjoy going to museums.  When the two of them are put together, it results in the Mutter Museum.

The Mutter Museum was established in 1858 as a place of medical research and education.  It is part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

Gretchen Worden, a former curator for the museum, would often appear on the Late Show with David Letterman and various documentaries.  She would use humor and shock value to instill interest in the Mutter Museum.

Some of the exhibits in the museum are:
  • The Soap Lady - A woman died and was buried in a sackcloth which was sprinkled with lye (a common practice of the time).  Underground, her body fat and the lye mixed together and produced a chemical reaction.  The resulting substance was soap-like and mummified the body.
  • Human Balloon - A man was afflicted with a colon which lacked the ability of peristalsis (the squeezing motion that gets everything moving).  He became so constipated that he died due to pressure on his other internal organs.
  • Lady With a Horn - A French washerwoman had a horn growing from her head.  The horn was made up of the same cells as hair and fingernails.
The Mutter Museum is also home to numerous other medical oddities.  Though it is part of an educational system, it is open to the public.  This museum is definitely on my bucket list!

For this blog post, I researched the Mutter Museum in the book Weird Pennsylvania: Your Travel Guide to Pennsylvania's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Matt Lake.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Amityville Horror Story

When the Amityville Horror is mentioned, what comes to mind?  For me, it's the oddly shaped windows on the well-known house, and the murders that occurred in the house.  For some people, the book that was supposed to be based on true events may come to mind.

THE MURDERS

Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family, in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY.

THE BOOK

The Amityville Horror: A True Story was written by Jay Anson, and was published in September 1977.  The book centers around the Lutz family and the house located at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY.    The Lutz family was said to have purchased the six bedroom house for $80,000. 

According to the book, the Lutz's also acquired the furniture of the previous owners for an extra $400.  A friend of the family heard of the house's history and insisted the house be blessed.

Some of the paranormal activity mentioned in the book included:
  • father waking up at 3:15 each morning (the time the murders took place)
  • cold spots
  • strange odors
  • swarms of flies
  • apparitions
  • strange sounds
  • glowing red eyes
  • slime oozing from the walls
  • cloven hoof prints in the snow outside the house
The book also claims that a second house blessing was conducted in January 1976.  After this blessing failed, the Lutz's took the necessities with them to a family member's house nearby.  The family claimed that the paranormal activity followed them.  The Lutz's officially moved out of the house on January 14, 1976.

SKEPTICS SAY 

There has been much debate on whether The Amityville Horror: A True Story was actually a true story to begin with.  Some of the things skeptics have brought up have been:
  • the book looks too much like what occurred in The Exorcist
  • research of documented events in the house do not coincide with what the book claims
  • the priest that blessed the house has given different accounts of what took place
  • there was no snow on the ground the day the cloven hoof prints were supposed to have been seen
  • changes were made in the text with different editions of the book
With all of the evidence debunking the events in The Amityville Horror: A True Story, I think it is safe to say that it is a work of fiction.  To claim truth of a paranormal story is a popular tactic, as is people's willingness to believe everything they read/see, even if told the book/movie is fictitious.  Other sources we've seen this in have been The Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity movies, The Da Vinci Code, and more.

Also, the events recorded in the book were said to take place over the course of 28 days, with the Lutz's moving out January 14, 1976.  The book was released in September 1977.  The author was said to have used 45 hours of recorded tapes on which to base his story.  From what I have learned during the past year while I've studied the craft of writing, it takes a lot longer than a year and some change to come up with a novel of historical facts.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bram Stoker

Abraham Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland on November 8, 1847.  Just about everyone knows that he was the author of the 1897 novel DRACULA.   But most don't know that Stoker was best known as the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London during his lifetime.



Stoker was the victim of an unknown illness which left him bedridden until he was seven years old.  After his recovery, he began school.  Fortunately Stoker was able to grow up without further illnesses.  He even became quite the athlete.

Stoker was a Protestant and worshiped in the Church of Ireland.  He graduated from college with honors with a B.A. in mathematics.  Stoker married Florence Balcombe, and together they had one son, Irving Noel.

Stoker died on April 20, 1912.  The cause of his death is a bit of a controversy.  Some historians think he died of tertiary syphilis, others believe he was overworked.  Stoker's body was cremated and his ashes were displayed at the Golders Green Crematorium.  The ashes of his son are in the same urn.  Visitors that wish to see the urn are permitted in the room under supervision, as vandalism is feared.

The first film adaptation of DRACULA was released in 1922.  It was called NOSFERATU.  Stoker's wife claimed that she was never asked for permission to make the book into a movie.  Eventually she won the case and the film was supposed to have been destroyed.  However, the movie can still be found today.  In my opinion, it is still very creepy!  The first authorized adaptation of DRACULA was released in 1931 and stared Bela Lugosi.

Happy birthday, Bram Stoker!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Baba Yaga

Allow me to take you on a trip to Russia.  Well okay, not an actual trip-trip, but something more akin to a folkloric journey.  On our "trip" we will discuss the story of Baba Yaga.



There is some debate on the name Baba Yaga.  In Old Russian, the word BABA may have meant "midwife," "sorceress," or "fortune teller."  In today's Russian language, BABA probably refers to "grandmother."  The most common translations I have found on YAGA have been "witch," "worry," and "pain."

Some common themes in the various versions of Baba Yaga are:
  • Repulsiveness (ugly, big nose, deformed sexual parts)
  • Flying around in a mortar
  • Wielding a pestle
  • Dwelling is a hut that stands on chicken legs
  • Fence is decorated with human skulls
  • Cannibalism  (she is said to eat her victims)
Just like with all folklore stories, there are many versions of Baba Yaga.  In some tales, she is a lone woman who lives deep in the woods.  In others, she is not one woman, but three.

I have seen a version of Baba Yaga on TV, in the SyFy program LOST GIRL.  In that version, Baba Yaga was interested in young women.  She put them to work in her house as servants and ate them when they displeased her.

I have also read a version of Baba Yaga.  In the story, two children were sent to the home of Baba Yaga by their unloving stepmother.  They were put to work as servants in the witch's house.  By the end of the story, the children were able to escape Baba Yaga with the help of some animals and a tree.  The morals of the story - as I saw them - were (1) evil thoughts and hatred grow inside of a person until there is no more good within them, and (2) as long as you are nice and kind, others will be nice and kind in return.

Have you seen or read a different version of Baba Yaga?  I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Tower of London

Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, A.K.A. the Tower of London, is located along the River Thames in London.  It has been used as a royal residence, an armory, a treasury, a menagerie and a prison, to name a few purposes.  In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will be exploring the darker side of the tower.



The Tower of London has an infamous reputation as being a place of torture and death.  However, the tower itself was home to only seven deaths before the World Wars.  The deaths associated with the Tower of London were generally conducted north of the castle, on Tower Hill.  Over the course of 400 years, 112 deaths occurred there.  During the World Wars, twelve men were executed for espionage.

With such a rich history, it's no wonder the Tower of London would be the home of a few ghosts.  Some of the more notorious specters are Anne Boleyn, Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, and the Princes in the Tower.

Being a bit of an amateur ghost hunter myself, I've got a mental bucket list of places to visit.  Most of the destinations on my list are locations within the United States.  But in the event I ever find myself in England, the Tower of London is a MUST SEE.

Have you visited the Tower of London?  Tell me about it!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween or Samhain?

The subject of Halloween vs. Samhain (sow' -en) has been debated repeatedly.  Is one holiday just an older version of the other?  Is one a mocking tribute to a sacred black sabbat?  The answer to both questions is probably no.

Halloween is the fun-filled, secular holiday where people get to don costumes, play pranks, beg for candy and entertain their macabre side.  The word Halloween is a shortened form of All Hallows Even (the day before All Hallows Day).  I love Halloween!  Not only does it take place during my favorite season (fall), but it packs one heck of a level of shock value.



Samhain is a Pagan sabbat.  It marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  In my opinion, Scott Cunningham described it best:

"Samhain is a time of reflection, of looking back over the last year, of coming to terms with the phenomenon of life over which we have no control - death.  The Wicca feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is thin.  Wiccans remember their ancestors and all those who have gone before."



Personally, I celebrate both Halloween and Samhain.  During the month of October, I plan, carve, decorate and scare with my family.  The day of Halloween, after the kids are in bed and things are winding down, I take the time out to remember the people who have passed before me. 

How about you?  Do you celebrate Halloween, Samhain or both?  

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Pretty much everyone knows something of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," even if they haven't read Washington Irving's short story.  But just in case you are unfamiliar, let me give you a very brief run-down. 

The story is set in Tarry Town, a fictitious place in the state of New York.  A local ghost story is told here of a Headless Horseman, who was killed in an unnamed battle during the American Revolutionary War. 

Ichabod Crane, a lanky schoolmaster from out of town, is the story's main protagonist.  He goes to a party one night and falls in love with Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of a wealthy townsman.  However, Ichabod soon realizes that he must compete for Katrina's hand with none other than the town's local hero, Brom Bones.

After leaving the party, Ichabod experiences an encounter with a giant cloaked horseback rider.  Ichabod desperately tries to out-ride and out-smart this figure, who could only be the Headless Horseman.



The next morning, Ichabod is nowhere to be found and the story ends as many short stories do - with more questions than when it opened up.  Was Ichabod just another victim of the Headless Horseman?  Was the whole chase really between Ichabod and Brom Bones (in disguise)?  Was Ichabod merely spooked, causing him to have a terrible accident?  Is something supernatural to blame?  What really happened?

If you haven't read the original story, I'm sure you've seen one of the many other adaptations.  From small screen, to the silver screen, to the stage, and beyond, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is one of the most popular ghost stories around today.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Vampire Infliction

If you know me or you've read my blog, you know that not only do I love vampires, I also study the myths and legends surrounding them.  Every now and then, I turn to a book I have called THE VAMPIRE ENCYCLOPEDIA by Matthew Bunson.  The book is filled with all sorts of interesting little tidbits and lore on my favorite type of monster.

In his book, Bunson presents a list of traits that have been said to lead a person to become a vampire.  Keep in mind, the vampires of legend and lore are generally considered to be fearsome monsters, not the sexy seductive creatures that are so prevalent in today's horror genre.  Also, most lore - being based off of the beliefs of people long gone - often seems to be outdated with regards to today's knowledge of science.  Bunson says:

"Becoming a Vampire

Methods by which a person can become an undead, as documented from traditions and customs of folklore.

Predispositions

Birth:
  • Born at certain times of the year (new moon, holy days)
  • Born with a red caul, with teeth, or with an extra nipple
  • Born with excess hair, with a red birthmark, or with two hearts
Conceived on a holy day
Weaned too early
Suckled after weaning
Born the seventh son of a seventh son
Death without baptism
Received a curse
Mother did not eat enough salt during pregnancy
Mother stared at by a vampire while pregnant

Actions in Life Leading to Vampiric Transformation

Committing suicide
Practicing sorcery or witchcraft
Eating sheep killed by a wolf
Leading an immoral life, i.e., prostitutes, murderers, and treacherous barmaids
Saying a mass while in a state of mortal sin (for priests)
Being a werewolf

Death or After-Death Causes

Death at the hands of a vampire
Wind from the Russian Steppe blowing on the corpse
Having a cat or other animal jump or fly over the corpse
Having a shadow fall on the corpse
No burial or improper burial rites
Death by violence or murder
Murder that is unrevenged
Having a candle passed over the corpse
Having one's brother sleepwalk
Death by drowning
Stealing the ropes used to bury a corpse
Being buried face up in the grave (in parts of Romania)"

Today, this list seems a bit over-the-top.  Pretty much anyone could be a vampire with all of these superstitions.  But it is a list made up of the beliefs of people from various cultures throughout history.  I find the information to be very interesting.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hansel and Gretel

Most people know something of the story of Hansel and Gretel.  Here is how I grew up knowing it:

A little boy (Hansel) and his sister (Gretel) wandered into the woods one day.  They became lost and frightened.  They walked around and tried to find their way home but were unable to.  Finally, they came upon a house made of candy and sweets.  The two children immediately began to eat the goodies that made up the house.  The owner of the house (a wicked witch) came home and saw the children eating.  She invited them into the house - pretending to be a kind old lady - and ended up kidnapping them.  Over the course of the next few weeks, the witch fed Hansel and Gretel until they became fat.  Her intent was to cook and eat them.  Somehow, the children managed to escape the old witch and find their way home where they lived happily ever after.



In preparation for this blog post, I visited the website www.candlelightstories.com.  There I acquired a copy of the story of Hansel and Gretel from the Grimms' Fairy Tales collection.  When I read the story, I noticed some differences from what I always believed the story to be.  My summary of the Grimm Brothers' version of Hansel and Gretel goes like this:

There was a poor wood-cutter that lived with his wife and two children.  Times were getting so hard that there was little food left to eat.  One night, the man's wife convinced him they needed to lure the children to the woods and abandon them there so that the man and his wife would no longer have to worry about feeding them.  Hansel and Gretel over-heard this conversation and Hansel prepared by collecting white pebbles.  The next day, the man and his wife led the children into the woods and Hansel left a trail of pebbles so he and his sister could find their way home.  It took them some time, but Hansel and Gretel found their way back to the house.  The man was very happy to see his children, his wife was not.  Soon, the wife convinced the husband that they must lure the children into the woods again, but take them farther in so they would be unable to find their way home again.  The next day, the children went into the woods with their parents.  This time, Hansel left a trail of bread crumbs.  When the children went to follow the trail home, they discovered that the crumbs had been eaten by birds.  Hansel and Gretel wandered the woods and got lost.  They came upon a house made of bread and cakes with windows made of sugar.  The wicked witch that lived in the house went out to lure the children into her home.  She pretended to be nice for that night but things were different the next day.  She locked Hansel away so that while he ate, he would become fat.  The witch made Gretel her maid.  After some time, the witch decided it was time to eat Hansel.  She tried to trick Gretel into walking into the oven, but Gretel was too smart for her.  When the witch stepped up to the oven, Gretel pushed her in and locked the door.  Hansel and Gretel eventually made it back home where their father was very happy to see them.  The man's wife was already dead.  The father and his children lived happily ever after.

When I read the actual story, I found that while it was considerably longer and some minor things were different than the story I grew up knowing, both versions of Hansel and Gretel are basically the same.

How does your story of Hansel and Gretel differ from the ones provided above?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Symbolism

Symbolism has been around for as long as anyone knows.  Symbols are used all around us and for various reasons.  Depending on their image, they can instill happiness, caution or fear.  For the sake of this blog, I intend to discuss a few very recognizable symbols and their meanings.  After that, I will reveal a few of my favorite symbols.


Made you flinch, didn't I?  This is the ever-recognizable biohazard symbol.  It has been used in hospitals and labs for years to caution people to the presence of substances that cause a threat to one's health.  Recently it has been used as a symbol to warn of a zombie apocalypse. 


Ooh, this one caught your attention, didn't it?  Unfortunately, this symbol has become representative of racism and "white supremacy."  The dark period of the Holocaust used this symbol to breed hate and fear.  However, the swastika happens to be an ancient symbol of peace. 



This is an elaborate, Gothic ankh (AKA: the key of life).  I have this symbol tattooed on my right thigh.  Normally there wouldn't be any points and the symbol would be gold.  It is an ancient Egyptian symbol for eternal life.

Another ancient Egyptian symbol, the Eye of Horus (AKA: Eye of Ra) is symbolic of protection, royal power and good health.  I love the beauty of this one!
 
 
Are there any symbols that you fear?  What are your favorite symbols?
 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Werewolves

I must admit, when I first came up with the topic of this blog, I was not too excited about it.  As anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows, my monster of choice is definitely a vampire.  Werewolves are NOT my cup of tea!  But duty to the world of writing overcame me and I proceeded to do a little research.  Some of what I found out has intrigued me, and I intend to share that information with you here.



The myths and stories surrounding werewolves originated in Europe.  Many of today's ideas seem to be heavily influenced by German Paganism.

Belief in werewolves seems to be non-existent before the 14th century.  Werewolf superstitions seem to have arose along side the rising popularity of Christianity.  Once Christianity became the norm, transforming into a wolf - or other beast - was seen as a Pagan belief and thus associated with the Devil.

Werewolves also have a strong tie to the European witch trials, particularly during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Once the witch trials subsided, werewolves became extremely popular within folklore and helped bolster the Gothic horror genre. 

There have also been medical explanations given for the belief in werewolves.  I have found four medical conditions associated with werewolves:

  • Congenital Porphyria (symptoms are photosensitivity, reddish teeth and psychosis)
  • Hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth - hereditary condition)
  • Downs Syndrome (I didn't find much info here, just that some scholars have linked the two together) 
  • Rabies (remarkable similarities - supports idea of being bitten by a wolf and becoming a werewolf)
Just as with myths of vampires, a person could go on for days - or longer - explaining all there is to know of werewolves.  The above are just a few of the things that stood out to me.  Do you know of any other information that you think is interesting and wasn't mentioned in this blog?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Salem Witch Trials

Have you ever been to Salem, MA?  I have, a number of times.  I love its Old World feel and narrow - sometimes cobblestone - streets.  I love it's shops, both quaint and magickal.  And the town is totally rife with history.



Between February 1692 and May 1693, The Salem Witch Trials took place.  During this dark period in American history, nineteen people were hung and one person was pressed to death with stones.  Many more people were accused of witchcraft and sent to prison. 

Americans were definitely not alone in their fear of witchcraft.  From 1560 to 1670, the rest of the world conducted persecutions on people suspected of having trafficked with the Devil.  It was a very common belief that demons would prey on those that were not pious enough.  And science was no where near what it is today, so infant deaths, illnesses in general and crop failure were all looked at from a supernatural point of view.



When two girls in Salem Village began to act in, what was then thought of as strange ways, suspicions of witchcraft were raised.  The first women accused of witchcraft were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba.  All three women were considered outsiders and had no one to stand up for their good characters.

The trials proceeded, spiraling out of control.  I don't intend to review the entire set of trials here - there are whole books and courses set aside for just that.  However, I would like to note that the cause behind the Salem Witch Trials is still unknown. 

Was there a family feud that became so big, the entire town suffered for it?  Did a strange illness infect everyone in the area?  Did a few kids just want to stir up some mischief and have a fun time?  We will probably never know.



 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ancient Aliens

As anyone who knows me or has read my previous posts knows, I love a good unexplained mystery.  I'm really a "prove to me it doesn't exist"..."prove to me it isn't real" type of girl.  With that being said, there are a few things even I have trouble believing. 

It is a very popular belief that aliens exist, that there is life somewhere that exists in a place other than the Earth that we live on.  I'm not going to say that theory is totally unbelievable.  In fact, I think there must be other life forms somewhere.  Why not?



But there are also a number of structures here on Earth that some people claim have been put here by aliens.  Crop circles are a big one that I'm sure come to a lot of people's minds.  However, I'm going to focus more on the ancient structures of Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Great Pyramids. 

STONEHENGE

There are some people that believe it is highly unlikely that Stonehenge was built by the people of Earth.  While Stonehenge was being established, Neolithic peoples were roaming the land.  Some believe these early people lacked the knowledge and resources to build such a structure.  They think it is more likely that ancient aliens built Stonehenge. 

Another belief is that Stonehenge was built by the Neolithic people and that they designed it with the image of a UFO in mind.  The design was intended to pay respect to visitors from outer space.

EASTER ISLAND

No one knows for sure what the statues on Easter Island are supposed to represent.  It is a belief that ancient aliens helped the people on the island establish their civilization.  In return, the people of Easter Island built the statues to represent the helpful beings.

THE GREAT PYRAMIDS

Historians ponder over how the Great Pyramids may have been built.  Some people believe that ancient aliens observed things about the Earth - such as location and magnetic poles - with their abundant technology and built these giant structures accordingly.

The possibility of the above structures being built to represent aliens and their paraphernalia seems more likely to me than any of the others.  After all, isn't that what sacrifices and idols are used for in various religions?  Or perhaps the ancient peoples responsible for the building of the structures were merely practicing their religions - honoring their gods, not aliens at all?  I don't know.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Legend of Sawney Bean

Do you remember the 1977 movie THE HILLS HAVE EYES (remade in 2006)?  It was a film set in America about a cannibalistic clan that terrorized a town.  Did you know the movie was based on the Scottish legend of Alexander "Sawney" Bean?



According to the legend, Sawney Bean was the head of a 15th or 16th century family, executed for their gruesome acts of violence and cannibalism.  He is said to have disliked the manual labor required of daily living in his Scottish village.  Bean left his hometown with a woman and together they started a family.  Their clan is said to have been quite large and they lived together in a cave, ambushing their victims by night.

The disappearances were noted and villagers began to take revenge.  Many people were wrongly accused and put to death.  Local innkeepers were targeted more than other villagers because they would be the last to see the missing people.  Eventually, the Bean family was discovered by a manhunt lead by King James VI of Scotland.  When captured, the Bean family was executed without trial; the men were dismembered and allowed to bleed to death, the women and children - after being subjected to watch the deaths of the men - were burned alive. 

For the most part, historians tend to dismiss the story of Sawney Bean, claiming that it is just a bit of folklore.  What do you think?  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gypsy Mythology

Long curly hair tied back with a bandanna, flowing skirts, giant hoop earrings, bangle bracelets, palm reading and crystal balls.  These are just some of the things that come to mind when the word Gypsy is uttered.  But who are Gypsies?  

Gypsies - also known as Romanies -are a group of nomadic people.  Their culture originated in India during the Middle Ages.  According to Romani mythology, India was experiencing a period of turmoil and upheaval.  When society began to divide, groups of people were either accepted or not.  Those outcasts tended to be thieves, musicians/actors, and magicians. 

Gypsies tend to adopt the major religion of whichever country they reside.  However, the main religions of the Romanies are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.  They are also known to participate in Shaktism - a practice that states that a female consort must be represented in order to worship a god.  This practice dates back to the days of India.

Some of the more widely known folklore topics of the Romani people are:
  • Astrology
  • Curses
  • Dhampir - a child of a vampire and a human
  • Divination
  • Dragons
  • Fortune Tellers
  • Palmistry
  • Psychics
  • Spirit Invocation
  • Tarot
  • Vampires
  • Witches
What things come to your mind when you hear of Gypsies?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Floods

Please excuse me for a moment while I discuss a topic that is not typical to the horror genre.  But sometimes the everyday stuff is scary on it's own. 

My five year old son is a bit of a science geek.  Natural disasters are his biggest area of interest.  It is very common in our house for National Geographic and Nova documentaries to be on the TV.  Each member of our family knows facts about natural disasters that the average person  may not.  For instance, did you know that floods kill more people than any other natural disaster?  That's some kind of scary!




Being a military family, we've moved around quite a bit.  Right now we call the great state of Colorado home.  Colorado has been in the news an awful lot lately.  The wildfires that spread through the state earlier this summer were devastating in their own right.  As soon as things started to turn back to normal, Colorado was bombarded with flash flooding.  Lives have been lost, homes have been taken and roads were washed away.  Fortunately for my family, we have not been directly affected by the floods that have occurred in the state.  But I, personally, have been a victim of a flood before.

Nearly ten years ago, I was living in Pittsburgh.  Torrential downpours were a daily occurrence.  One evening, flash floods began to wash through some areas.  I worked the night shift at a psychiatric hospital and as I drove down the road that would take me into work, I ended up driving right into a lake that was never there before.  Luckily my supervisor was outside with a police officer at the time.  He watched my car become surrounded by water.  It wasn't long after that when water came rushing into the car from underneath the floorboards.  I knew I didn't have a lot of time, so when my supervisor instructed me to jump out the window - I wasn't able to get the door open as there was too much water pushing against it - I grabbed my bag and jumped.  Needless to say, that car never ran again.  And long story short, things worked out okay.  The next day I had a party to attend.  Nearly everyone there had a story to tell about the flood - this room flooded, that yard took on water - but I was the only one who had a truly frightening experience.

So the next time you watch or read the news and see that someone somewhere was affected by a natural disaster, take a moment to realize that someone's personal horror story happened that day.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday the 13th

The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina has reported that approximately 17 to 21 million Americans have a fear of Friday the 13th.  This makes Friday the 13th the most feared day in history.

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the term that describes the fear of Friday the 13th.  There are two root words in this expression.  Frigga is the name of the Norse Goddess for whom Friday took its name.  Triskaidekaphobia refers to the fear of the number thirteen.

There is an extremely popular horror series about the day, and mentioning Friday the 13th can instill frightened looks.  But why is this day so feared?

Here are some theories and superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th:
  • Thirteen is an unlucky number, and Friday is an unlucky day, are two older superstitions that merged together.
  • In numerology, the number twelve is the number of completeness.  The number thirteen is irregular and messes up the completeness of twelve.
  • Having thirteen people sit down to dinner - like in The Last Supper and a lesser known Norse myth - will result in the death of one of the people seated around the table.
  • Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday.
  • Hundreds of members of the Knights Templar were arrested in France on October 13, 1307.
Here are a few books that have correlations between Friday the 13th and the Knights Templar:
  • FRIDAY, THE THIRTEENTH (Thomas W. Lawson, 1907)
  • BORN IN BLOOD: THE LOST SECRETS OF FREEMASONRY (John J. Robinson, 1989)
  • THE DA VINCI CODE (Dan Brown, 2003)
So is Friday the 13th an unlucky day?  In the interest of shock value - I'm a big fan - I like to bring it up in conversations whenever I can.  But alas, logic tells me it's just another day.  In fact, fewer accidents are reported on Friday the 13th than any other day.  This is probably because people are more careful, keeping their fears of the day in the front of their minds. 

But just in case I haven't convinced you yet, here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • In Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is considered an unlucky day.
  • In Italy, Friday the 17th is the day to be most careful.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

Marie Laveau (September 10, 1794-June 16, 1881) was a practitioner of Voodoo and earned herself the nickname The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.  She was a woman of color, but she was born free -  she was not a slave.

 


Laveau had many children but one of her daughters, Marie Laveau II, has often been confused with her.  Some people believe that Marie Laveau II was the woman spotted walking the streets of New Orleans after her mother's death, but it is not certain.

It is still not known how powerful Marie Lauveau was.  Some believe that she was merely very skilled in finding out people's personal information - an accusation held by many disbelievers of anything having to do with psychic powers.

Marie Laveau has been the subject of a lot of popular culture.  Books, movies and television shows have characters based off of her.  Perhaps the mystery surrounding her is what draws people in the most.

Laveau is said to be buried in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1.  This too, however, is up for debate.  The reported tomb is one of the most recognizable in New Orleans though, because of the drawings that mark it.  Many visitors have placed a series of X's on it's side.  It is believed that doing this may earn you a granted wish.  

 
Happy birthday, Marie Laveau!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Erotic Horror

Okay, let's face it.  People love horror.  People also love sex.  So what could be better than sexy horror?

Erotic horror is the genre term used to describe works where sexuality and horror are intermingled.  Both the erotic and the horrific are topics of controversy.  Put them together, and you're left with such political un-correctness that it's bound to hit a nerve.

Book stores, television and movies are all filled with erotica these days.  It's no secret that the popularity of the 50 Shades Trilogy has had a part in making this happen.  The topic of BDSM is less of a taboo topic now than it was before.  But E.L. James was definitely not the first person to write of such carnal delights.

The French aristocrat Donatien Alphonse Francois (1740-1814) - better know today as simply the Marquis de Sade - published a number of erotica titles, both under his own name and anonymously.  The combination of sexuality and violence written by the Marquis de Sade landed him in prison - a number of times.

During some of the years the Marquis de Sade was in prison, he was actually encouraged to act out some of his works, using fellow inmates as the actors.  Some time after this, a new law placed the Marquis de Sade into solitary confinement and prohibited the use of pens and paper.  Today, we have words like "sadism" and "sadist" to describe people like this.  Where do you think we got those words?

Traditionally, horror discusses issues people don't like to think about.  Sex, on the other hand, is a topic people aren't supposed to think about.  But I think the human mind has no choice but to ponder over such topics.  "What would happen if..." and "it feels so good to..." are very common thoughts.  When these two things are mixed, it brings about a whole new set of possibilities.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Dark

Are you afraid of the dark?  Don't laugh....Many people are!

Professionals agree that it's normal for children, ages 3-6 years, to be afraid of the dark.  This developmental fear is usually outgrown by the time children reach adulthood.  But what about adults?

As we grow older, we learn to rationalize things.  But we also learn to fear what can't be seen.  If we literally can't see what's in front of us, we begin to think about what COULD be there.  Our minds start to play all kinds of tricks on us!  Not to mention, many predators hunt at night!

There are a variety of words to describe fear of the dark:
  • achluophobia - a fear of the dark that reaches pathological severity
  • nyctophobia - a fear of night
  • scotophobia - a fear of darkness
  • lygophobia - a fear of twilight
I'm not sure there would be so many words for it if it wasn't so common.  How about you?  What do you fear might jump out from the dark to grab you? 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mary Shelley


On August 30, 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born.  She would go on to become better known as Mary Shelley, the English writer of the novel Frankenstein.  Her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, were philosophers.

Her mother died when Mary was but eleven days old, leaving Mary and her half-sister to be raised by their father.  He encouraged his daughters to follow his liberal political theories through a rich but informal education.  This early background would influence Mary Shelley to remain a political radical for her entire life.

In 1814, Mary entered a romantic relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley.  At this time, Percy was a married man.  But that didn't stop the couple from taking a European vacation.  When they returned home, Mary was pregnant.  She and Percy would marry in 1816, after Percy's first wife committed suicide.

The year 1816 would take the Shelley's on another vacation, this time near Geneva, Switzerland.  There, they spent the summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Claire Clairmont.  While they vacationed, Lord Byron suggested that they each write a tale of the supernatural.  It wouldn't take long for the idea of Frankenstein to come to Mary.  When she began writing, she assumed it would be a short story.

Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley would be best known for her uber-famous novel and her efforts to publish her husband's works.  Now, scholars have shown an interest in Mary's other works, particularly her other novels.

The last ten years of Mary's life would be plagued by illness.  She died from a brain tumor on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.  But I highly doubt that I am the only one that will be wishing her a happy birthday today! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bubonic Plague

Ring around the rosie,
a pocket full of posies.
Ashes, ashes,
we all fall down.
 
Hands clasped tightly together with bunches of other children, circling the playground, only to fall to the ground at the end.  Who hasn't heard that nursery rhyme?  But does it hold a hidden message about the Bubonic Plague?  Let's take a look at the disease and then we'll come back to the question.
 
The Bubonic Plague is a bacterial infection which kills about two-thirds of it's victims within four days.  Sound scary?  It is!
 
If a person gets bit by an infected flea, they may come down with plague.  Some of the best known signs and symptoms of plague are:
  • infection of the lymph glands
  • gangrene
  • chills
  • fever
  • muscle cramps
  • seizures
The most deadly outbreak of Bubonic Plague occurred when it hit Europe in 1347.  Daily life became more violent because of the mortality rate.  With the disease, there was an increase in warfare, crime and persecution. 
 
In the past, if a person was infected with plague, it was like a death sentence.  Fortunately, today we have these wonderful things called antibiotics!  People that suspect they may have come into contact with the disease should start a round of antibiotics within 24 hours of the first symptoms.
 
So back to our question: is the "Ring Around the Rosie" rhyme about the Bubonic Plague?  The answer: no.  The rhyme is simply a poem of unknown origin with no specific meaning.  Someone-at some point-decided to give the child's rhyme a dark meaning by tying it to the Bubonic Plague.
 
People often pay more attention to the things they fear.  Friends get together and talk about certain subjects and rumors start to fly.  Today it's extremely easy for this to happen.  The Internet breeds rumors faster than we ever thought possible!  The way around it: do research.  Make sure you have all the facts straight before you get on the horn to all your friends!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Exorcisms

In preparation for this post, I watched a documentary called The Rite of Exorcism: Myths, Mystery and Hope.  For the Catholic-centered program, various men were interviewed on their beliefs.

The video stated that possession is when the Devil takes temporary control over a body.  There were four ways discussed that will lead to a person being possessed:
  • the occult
  • hardened sin
  • a curse
  • signing a pact
Of the above, the only path of destruction discussed in detail was the occult.  One of the men being interviewed described the occult to be when people turn away from God.  He also stated that examples of such practices would be Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm reading and the like.

The signs of possession were listed as follows:
  • abnormal strength
  • ability to speak in an unknown foreign language
  • knowledge of unknown things (clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc.)
A few more points broached in the documentary were that giving man free will was a risk God decided to take.  It is up to all people whether they will chose good or evil.  It was stated that God desires for everyone to go to heaven and that it is not He that sends people to hell, but people chose to walk there themselves.  One of the men interviewed said that it is Satan's goal to lead people to destruction and that he wants to keep people from heaven.  According to the documentary, before an exorcism is conducted, a full psychological evaluation needs to be conducted.  One person interviewed stated that the person conducting the exorcism should be the last person to suspect that a possession is present.

I'm not going to lie, it was very hard for me to watch this documentary in its entirety.  Being from a path that finds it unsettling to preach to others, it sounded to me like that was the only objective of this program.  By the descriptions given in the video, most of the practices of my faith have been demonized.

Studies have been conducted with findings suggesting that people who believe in a higher being  are more happy.  One must not believe in the Christian God in order to benefit from this.  A person simply has to believe in a higher power than themselves.

The gods and goddesses from Pagan faiths have both light and dark qualities.  There is no one supremely evil being.  But, since both light and dark sides of deities can be called upon, it is up to the  individual practitioner to chose between good and evil.  With that being said, Pagans have rules that state they are not allowed to harm anyone (including themselves) and they are not to take away the free will of another being.  The above points don't sound all that different to me than the ones stated in the documentary.

How about you?  What's your take on it?  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cemeteries

What's the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?  Is there anything a person is not supposed to do while in a cemetery?  Are there any cemeteries you feel drawn to or shy away from?



As many people know, a cemetery is a place where the deceased are buried.  But how do they differ from graveyards?  A graveyard is also a place where the dead are put to rest.  However, graveyards are burial grounds that are located next to, and part of a church. 

A few reasons graveyards made way for cemeteries are:
  • a sharp rise in the population; possibility of people residing farther from the center of town
  • outbreaks of infectious diseases made people want to bury the victims far from cities and towns, where most graveyards were located  
  • lack of space in graveyards
  • the church refused to bury the bodies of people that did not attend their church

There are a few superstitions or old wives' tales centered around cemeteries.
  • A person traveling past a cemetery needs to hold their breath so they don't breathe in the spirits of the dead.
  • A person should not step on the graves in a cemetery, or they could inhale the spirit of the body that is buried beneath.
  • Tombstones put weight on the bodies so they don't rise from the grave (as in ghosts, vampires, ghouls, etc.).
I'm not sure how much truth resides in any of the above tales.  For me, I've always felt a great sadness when passing by or walking through a cemetery, I don't even need to know anyone buried in them.  I tend to feel awkward stepping over individual graves, it gives me the creeps.  As for tombstones weighing bodies down, it sounds like something that could have its basis in folklore of the past.  How about you?  What feelings do you get when you enter a cemetery?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A High School of Monsters

I was recently invited to a child's birthday party where the theme was Monster High.  I was tasked with making the cupcakes and it got me to thinking....


I love the thought of a high school full of monsters.  When I was growing up, we had cartoons like Beatlejuice and Count Duckula, but I don't remember these shows having the same amount of popularity as the dolls of Monster High.

My three year old daughter has a the vampire doll, Draculaura.  The doll is creepy and disturbing, and I love it!  At Christmas time, I sat her on a table as a sort of Goth version of an Elf on the Shelf.  It was weird, I know.  But, I'm weird.

I've stated before that I saw my first vampire movie when I was nine years old.  It was no child's movie with a romantic twist, it was hard-core and I loved it!  I began to immerse myself in everything vampire related, including folklore, to thoroughly understand my monster of choice.  To say the least, this set me far apart from the other female third-graders. 

As I grew older, I waited for my fascination with vampires to cease, but it never did.  Now I know, without a doubt, that just like vampires themselves, my love for them will never die.  But when I think back at my monster-loving childhood, I am reminded of just how far I stood out from so many other kids.  I learned to hide this, and thus kept myself from being ridiculed too much.  

If Monster High dolls were around while I was growing up, I wouldn't have felt so different.  I would have been just like all the other little girls toting vampire, zombie and werewolf dollies.  But I've learned that being just like everyone else isn't always such a great thing.  So the next time you come across a "weird" kid that others laugh at, stop and think.  Maybe that kid isn't so weird after all.  Maybe they're just the trend-setter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Creepy Kids

Have you ever wondered why horror movies with kids in them are so much more creepy?



Movies like The Shining, The Others, The Omen, Poltergeist, The Ring and many others all center around children.  Personally, this makes the movies scarier for me to watch.  It always has.  But kids in horror movies took on a different feel for me after I became a mom.

Before I had kids, it was more of a general creep factor.  The small hands.  The overall tininess.  Now, it's hard for me to see anything happen to a small child.  I keep thinking...that boy is so much like my son...the little girl reminds me of my daughter...what if it were one of my kids. 

Good horror movies will grasp attention no matter the age or background of the audience.  I suppose that's why scary movies with kids in them work so well.  How about you?  What's your big creep factor in a horror movie?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vampire-Killing Kits

Okay, so let's set the scene....

It was a dark and stormy night.  The vampire's castle sat atop a mountain, overlooking a village.  The village people have grown tired of being frightened.  They hire a vampire hunter to take care of the problem....

Sounds like an old monster movie?  Yep, but it also has some truth to it.

You see back in the day, before science was able to explain just about everything, people were naturally more superstitious.  There were signs and symptoms believed to be vampiric evidence.  In other words, people believed that vampires existed.  I know, I know, there are people today that hope and pray that vampires do exist.  But to these simple people of long ago, vampires were total monsters, not the beautiful and sometimes sparkly (*ugh*) creatures that we know and love today.  People would go out in search of vampires to set their souls free.  With that being said, there were also kits one could acquire to aid in the killing of a vampire.



Some of the things that might end up in a vampire-killing kit would be:
  • Stakes (sharp pointy objects)
  • Crosses and crucifixes (religious symbolism)
  • Holy water (to throw at the vampire)
  • Matches or candles (for fire lighting)
  • Mirrors (highly irritating to vampires)
  • Garlic (or anything else that's stinky...onions, pungent cheese, etc.)
  • The Bible (for scripture reading)
  • Seeds (traditionally, vampires would have to stop and count every seed you threw at them)
Is there anything you would add to your kit?  Or would you gladly join the evil undead?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lizzy Borden

Lizzy Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
 
How's that for a little rhyme?  In just a few short days, it will be the anniversary of the gruesome murders that inspired the passage above.
 
On August 4, 1892, Andrew Jackson Borden and his wife, Abby, were murdered in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts.  The rhyme above is a little off.  Andrew suffered 11 whacks to the head while he slept on the sofa.  Abby was dealt 19 blows while she was cleaning an upstairs room.
 
The number one suspect in their murders was their daughter, Lizzy.  For the time, it was the trial of the century.  I mean come on...how could a woman murder anyone like that?  Yep, that was what a lot of people said.  Anyway, after a long, hard trial, Lizzy was released from police custody.  If you haven't heard the story, I highly encourage you to do a little research.  It's a very interesting piece of historical information!
 
The house that Lizzy Borden grew up (and possibly committed these heinous murders) in is now a bed and breakfast.  The business also gives ghost tours.  I've taken the tour twice.  The first time, I went with my husband, the second with a friend.  On my first visit, there was a large crowd and not much ghostly activity was experienced. 
 
The second visit was different.  My friend and I were the only ones taking the tour that day.  We heard a voice in the house and my friend's camera stopped working.  The camera began working again after leaving the house.  AND THE CAMERA WAS A FILM CAMERA!!! 
 
How's that for a ghost story?  Have you been to the Lizzy Borden house?  Did you have any experiences?
 
    

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gargoyles Galore

Gargoyles can be frightening for some people.  They're made of stone.  Some of them have wings and hideous faces.  But what the heck are they for?


Some explanations for the use of gargoyles are:
  • the plumbing of rainwater
  • a reminder that evil exists
  • warding off evil
  • encouragement to come to church
Plumbing

Gargoyles can be used to divert rain water from the roofs of buildings.  These types of gargoyles have been around since the Ancient Greeks, or maybe even before that!

Reminders of Evil

Gargoyles could have been placed on buildings to remind people that evil exists in the world.  Medieval people were warned that evil can take many forms....You better come into church, you would hate to end up like this....Sounds like something my grandma would say!

Warding off Evil

One of my favorite explanations for gargoyles is protection.  They may have been meant to stand guard and ward off evil spirits.  If they were ugly, they could scare off anything.  Gargoyles were said to have the ability of come to life at nighttime in order to keep people safe while they were sleeping and at their most vulnerable.

Encouragement for Church

In the days when Christianity was trying to become more popular, they may have used gargoyles on their churches in order to encourage pagans to come to church.  Not many people during this time were literate, so images would be used instead of words.  Since pagans were familiar with images of animals and animal/human mixtures representing their gods, Christians may have used the gargoyles to comfort the people they meant to convert.

There are some other explanations for the use of gargoyles.  The ones listed above are only some of the more popular.  Can you think of any other possible uses for gargoyles?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Zombies? Eeewwwww!

As a hard-core vampire fan, I've been curious as to why people have started going so hog-wild over zombies. I mean, who would choose a rotting corpse?

It has been brought to my attention that zombie fans are a lot like vampire fans.

When I see the word "vampire," thoughts come to mind. I think most people are the same.  These thoughts are shaped from many books, movies, TV shows and other sources.  Whether you're thinking tall, thin, bald head, long fingers and pointy ears or sexy and well dressed, it doesn't matter.  Both forms are now widely accepted.  But there are also mythological aspects of vampires. And let's not forget about the references to human sexuality!

For zombies, physical traits can come to mind too.  Some things that come to my mind are puss, sores and missing body parts.  But I might be biased!  Anyway, it has been brought to my attention that an underlying aspect of planning for a Zombie Apocalypse has its uses too. While a person imagines what they might need if zombies ever try to take over the world, a lot of the supplies they may take along with them would probably also be needed during a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, other evacuation). Planning for a Zombie Apocalypse can therefore help people plan for disasters of many kinds.

If you have something to add, please leave a comment for me.  You may also leave a comment if you are feeling the need to defend zombies everywhere.  However, I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with the vampires!

Friday, July 19, 2013

(Ab)normal

I was asked by my friend and fellow writer, Mardra Sikora, to participate in a blog hop.  The topic...normal.  What is normal?  Why do people strive to be normal?  I thought about it and have decided to take this opportunity to write a blog on the abnormal....

Black pants with chains and other hardware, hair died as black as can be, thick black eyeliner and black lipstick, possibly a spiked collar...these are some of the things that would mark a person as being Goth, a freak, weird and abnormal.  Things that give other...normal...people reason to be afraid, to shy away.

Well I guess I'm not normal, because these just may be my peeps.  Though I've never adopted the tell-tale look completely, I do tend to weave certain aspects of it into my daily appearance.  I don't dye my hair black, but dark brown.  My eyes are lined with black, a lot of my clothes are black, and sometimes my jewelery can make people stare (silver and black chains, skulls, and yes...spikes).  Growing up, I realized that some of my family members were easily frightened.  And boy, does my family like to gossip!  Maybe that's why I never completely adopted the look, I don't know.



I've never been frightened off because someone looks a little odd.  I always gravitated toward stores like Hot Topic, because I liked the people in there.  I have found that these people can be some of the friendliest and most intelligent people around.  If taken the wrong way, they can come off as offensive.  When seen in a different light, the offensive becomes humorous.    

About a year and a half ago, I began to become close friends with a group of girls.  We call ourselves The 6 Pack (yes, there are six of us...a six pack of chicks).  We have nicknames too, The Bitch, The Nice One, The Bad Influence, The Freak...guess which one I am.  Yep, I'm the freak.  Am I angry with this nickname?  No, I love it!

In my experience, everyone is a nerd, geek or freak with something.  I love to read, the thicker the book, the better.  My mind tends to run toward the dark side of things and I think about vampires way too much.  How about you, where does your freakdom lie?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Psychic Ability

Have you ever known anyone who could tell you what was going to happen before it did?  Were you ever in a room with someone while they were speaking with a member of the spirit world?  Have you ever had your Tarot cards read?

There are a number of things that may pop into your mind when you hear the word "psychic."  Crystal balls, hoop earrings, long flowing skirts, Jamaican accents...the list goes on.  But can people really be psychic?

Most people go through their day to day lives and have a limited number of occurrences where they knew things without explanation.  But what about when those occurrences happen too frequently to be ignored? 



There are people who possess certain psychic abilities.  Some of these people have one ability, others have more.  Some of the more common psychic abilities include:

  •  Aura Reading- perception of the energy fields surrounding people, places and things
  • Automatic Writing- writing produced without conscious thought
  • Clairvoyance- perception outside the human senses
  • Empathic Abilities- ability to sense and experience the feelings of others
  • Divination- gaining insight into a situation via a ritual
  • Precognition- perception of events before they happen
  • Mediumship- ability to mediate communications between our world and the spirit world

The list above is not all inclusive.  However, it is a short list of some of the abilities that I have witnessed first hand.  How about you?  Do you have any abilities to add to the list?