The Bath Curse Tablets

When you think of curses you might think of grand legends, dashing heroes, clever heroines, and evil villains. However, many curses were much more specific and much more mundane than you’d expect. A fantastic cache of curse tablets was discovered in Bath, England that date back to the 2nd-4th centuries CE. There were discovered in the Roman Baths and written, most likely, by the Roman occupants.

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There are two basic kinds of curse tablets. First, there are defixiones (binding curses) used to restrain competitors in love, sport, law, and more. The second is ‘prayers for justice’ which is the category many of the Bath curse tablets fall into. Theft (and cursing thieves) is a hugely common theme in these kinds of curse tablets. It makes sense that many of the curse tablets left around Bath and its hot springs would be about theft since hot springs and spas were a great place to filch everything from money to clothes.

The curse tablets were typically made of pewter or lead. Once inscribed, the curser would throw them into the hot springs at Bath. They were also sometimes hidden under the floor or shoved into wall cavities around the baths. Many of the curse tablets found around the baths were to Sulis Minerva, Romano-Celtic goddess, and asked for revenge or for wrongs to be made right.

It was believed Sulis Minerva’s spirit dwelt in the hot springs and that is why so many of the curses asked her directly for help and were thrown into the springs or secreted away in her temple. Minvera was the Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, commerce, handicraft, poetry, and the arts at large. Sulis Minerva was frequently requested to harm people and her relation to the hot springs brings some connection to the underworld and darkness.

Some of the curses include:

“I have given to the goddess Sulis the six silver coins which I have lost. “It is for the goddess to exact them from the names written below: Senicianus and Saturninus and Anniola.”

Solinus to the goddess Sulis Minerva. I give to your divinity and majesty my bathing tunic and cloak. Do not allow sleep or health to him …who has done me wrong, whether man or woman, whether slave or free, unless he reveals himself and brings those goods to your temple.”

“Docimedis has lost two gloves. (He asks) that (the person) who stole them lose his mind and his eyes in the temple where (she) appoints.”

“I curse (him) who has stolen, who has robbed Deomiorix from his house.  Whoever (stole his) property, the god is to find him. Let him buy it back with his own life.”

Atlas Obscura makes the interesting point that these tablets may have been read aloud as a way of lowering crime, “The Bath tablets may have been displayed publicly and read aloud to the public before being dropped in the sacred pool. Faraone compared the Bath texts to those of the Sanctuary of Demeter at Cnidus, Asia Minor; those texts were set up publicly so that worshippers, who would hear them being read aloud, “might provide missing information about unsolved crimes and … might also bring social pressure to bear upon the alleged criminals … and thereby resolve the conflict.”

One of the most valuable aspects of the curse tablets is their ordinariness. For the most part a lot of what we have from this time are from great people. However, these tablets are basically the daily prayers and wishes of those who lived in the community. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, “The Roman curse tablets from Bath are the earliest known surviving prayers to a deity in Britain.” Additionally, they note “The Roman curse tablets offer also an insight into the extent of bilingualism in the British population under Rome.”

The 130 Roman curse tablets recovered from Bath are on the UNESCO UK register.

The above image is the "The Roman curse tablets from Bath Britain's earliest prayers. These tablets are inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register of significant documentary heritage. They are the only documents from Roman Britain on that list. Complaint about theft of Vilbia - probably a woman. This curse includes a list of names of possible culprits. Perhaps Vilbia was a slave." From the Temple Courtyard. Roman baths, Bath, UK. CC-BY-SA-4.0. Photograph by Mike Peel.

The MacLeod Fairy Flag

At Dunvegan Castle lays a treasure that was, allegedly, bestowed upon the MacLeod family by fairies themselves. Behind this curious artifact lays a story of romance, loss, and, surprisingly, luck. In Gaelic, it is known as Am Bratach Sith.

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The fairy flag is a treasure your eyes might pass over if they should ever come through the doors of Dunvegan castle. In this age, it appears tattered and brown and quite a ruined object. However, in its heyday, this object protected Clan MacLeod time after time.

Like many magical objects, there are a few origin stories of the fairy flag. The second one is the more romantic (and more popular) tale so that is what I’ll be telling you. Legend has it that a fantastically noble, young Chief of the MacLeod clan fell in love with a fairy princess. The pair, just like Arwen and Aragorn, planned to marry but the fairy princess’ father would not hear of it. However, the king of the Fairies saw how distraught his daughter was at the idea of never being able to marry her dashing MacLeod...so, he offered her a deal. He would allow them to “Hardfast.” Hardfasting was a common practice in the Scottish Highlands in which a pair could be trially married for a year and one day. However, the King said, at the end of this time the princess must return and take nothing human with her.

Their time together was nothing short of blissful and soon enough a baby boy was born to the couple. Each day the new family’s time together dwindled and dwindled until there was none left. Honoring her promise to her father the princess returned and the couple parted with great sadness in their hearts at the fairy bridge that connects our world to theirs. She made Chief MacLeod promise that he would never allow their son to cry. The princess claimed that these cries would follow her into the fairy realm and cause her untold amounts of grief. The good Chief kept his promise and his son was never left unattended or given the chance to cry.

Although he still had his son as time went on the young chief continued to mourn the loss of his fairy wife. The clansfolk desperately wanted to lift his spirits so they decided they should throw him a grand birthday party to take his mind away from the fairy princess. This idea worked...for a spell. The young chief enjoyed himself alongside his clansmen and the merry-making lasted well through the night. However, the nursemaid tasked with watching over the little baby soon grew restless and jealous of the other partygoers and went to the edge of the room to open the door and observe the festivities. She was so entranced by the wonderful party that she did not hear the little baby begin to whimper.

The fairy princess heard his cries from the fairy realm and instantly appeared by his crib. She took him into her arms, cradled him back to sleep, and wrapped him in her own shaw. The maid returned when she heard the princess singing. The maid ran into the room, picked the baby up, and ran to the chief to alert him.

Years later when the baby became a young man he told the tale of his mother visiting him in his infancy and deemed that the shaw should be a great talisman of luck and good fortune for the MacLeod clan. He claimed that his mother somehow communicated to him that if they waved this flag in battle the fairy legions would rush forth to ensure their victory. The only catch? This flag could only be waved three times and only three times would the fairy legion rescue the MacLeod’s. So, they both agreed to share this tale with the clansfolk and keep the flag in a safe place.

According to the legend, the flag has been used twice.

First, it was used when the MacLeod clan was outnumbered by their most hated enemy, the MacDonalds. The Chief took the flag from its case and waved it. It was at this point that the battle took a turn in favor of the MacLeods, despite being outnumbered.

It was used a second time when the entire land of the MacLeods was plagued and the cattle continued to get sick. Because of this, many of the MacLeod clan were dead or dying of starvation. The Chief at the time waved his flag and the cattle were raised from the dead and the plague ended.

The legend has continued to have great meaning to the MacLeods in the centuries since. In fact, many MacLeod men carried a picture of the flag in their wallets in WWII. Additionally, Dame Flora MacLeod during WWII offered to bring the flag to Dover and wave it, in the event that the Germans should invade.

The flag remains encased at Dunvegan castle.

A photo of the Dunvegan Cup, Fairy Flag, and Rory Mor's Horn. This image is a cropped version of the photo which appears between pages 38-39, in the book The Macleods of Dunvegan from the time of Leod to the End of the Seventeenth Century. The photo is credited to Roderick Charles MacLeod. It is the public domain.

Blå Jungfrun

Blå Jungfrun, which translates to Blue Maiden, is off the coast of Oskarshamn, Sweden. Today, it is an abandoned island. Blå Jungfrun primarily inhabited by all sorts of birds, including eagles and eider ducks. The island itself is thought to be around 570 million years old. It is spotted with giant burrows, smoothly rounded rocks, and herb-rich woodlands. There is even a labyrinth, known as the Trojeborg labyrinth, that no one knows who built it. Most interestingly, according to lore it was home to witches.


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The island itself is a little more than a half mile long and is dome-shaped. In 1926 Blå Jungfrun was named a national park. Blå Jungfrun has been an ominous, small island for generations. In fact, many people avoid saying its full name which is Blåkulla. Sailors who were near it avoided saying it aloud or even writing it down as it was believed if it was uttered a storm would instantly fall upon the vessel. So, that is why it is now known largely as Blå Jungfrun.


According to 16th century Swedish ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus, Blå Jungfrun has been a home to witches, rituals, and magic for centuries. In 1555, he wrote that witches openly worshipped the devil every Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). In addition, the island is thought to be generally cursed and any who remove even a small pebble from the site are said to endure a lifetime of bad luck.


It was also a common practice to leave votive offerings on the shores of the island in hopes of avoiding its wrath or cruse. Many of these offerings were female clothing.


Although many people have feared the strange island before recently archaeological evidence brought to light compelling proof that rituals may really have once taken place on Blå Jungfrun.


The archaeological team from Kalmar County Museum and Linnaues University began their fieldwork in Spring 2014 and found “extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age.” Which is quite interesting, especially since its believed to have always been largely uninhabited.


The most compelling sites were two caves. The first of the caves has a sizable hollow about 2 feet in diameter which was purposefully hammered into a wall. Underneath this hollow, there is a fireplace. The layout of the cave is also strange, "The entrance to the cave is very narrow, and you have to squeeze your way in. [However,] once you're inside, only half of the cave is covered and you can actually stand above the cave and look down into it, almost like a theater or a stage below," said Papmehl-Dufay.


The second cave provided equally interesting artifacts. The proof of human use of the space was found in the form of a hammerstone and an area that the archaeologists believe was dedicated to grinding up materials. It is believed that the room could have been used to give some sort of offering or serve as an altar-like structure.


In between these two strange caves the archaeological team also found a rock shelter that held stone tools and remains of seals. Radiocarbon believes that the seals were prepared and consumed by people about 9,000 years ago.


Papmehl-Dufay notes, “A few people could have been sitting or standing, perhaps just resting or spending the night during sporadic stays on the island...However, more-specific activities with ritual elements to [them] cannot be ruled out, such as feasting in connection to the rituals performed in the nearby caves." This is interesting because it seems to further promote the idea that the area was used primarily for some kind of ritual and not permanent human habitation.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

A Haunting in Horicon

Horicon, Wisconsin is a small town of just a little over 3,500 people. The kind of town your drive through or past and see a charming main street, a local diner, and plenty of friendly faces. It is not the kind of town you would ever think would have one of the most intense hauntings in America.

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Debbe and Allen Tallmann has been living on Larabee Street, Horicon for about two years. The couple had a seven-year-old son named Danny, a daughter named Mary Ann, and Debbie was pregnant with the couple’s second daughter, Sara. One day, wanting to economize space and even bring some fun to the home the Tallmanns decided to go out and purchase a bunk bed for their children.

Before the purchase of the bunk bed, the Tallmanns home was your average American household. However, things began to change and shift around the time the bunk bed was bought and put into the home at the end of 1987.

Strange things began happening in the home but at first, they could be brushed off. The children, who were rarely sick previously, were now regularly sick or fatigued. When the couple would tuck Danny in at night his clock radio would suddenly spring to light seemingly on its own, even changing channels. Then storied signs of a haunting began to manifest...doors would open and close at will, chars would rock themselves, and quiet, disembodied voices could be heard in rooms that were known to be empty.

On one night the children began to complain of the old woman that came to their room at night. They described the woman as being old, ugly, red eyes, having long black hair, and that she glowed. There were also reports of the children seeing fires within the room.

Allen and Debbie felt that something was happening in the home that was beyond their control so they went to their local church for help and guidance. Their pastor agreed to come to the home and see if anything strange was going on. When the pastor entered the Tallmanns’ home he immediately felt uncomfortable and shaken. The pastor went as far as saying that he felt the devil within the home. He blessed the home and left...but the activity continued.

The children were now regularly frightened, Debbie and Allen felt uncomfortable, and it seemed like the blessing of the home had not helped enough. One night, Danny came into his parents’ room crying and said he wanted to leave the home. Frustrated that he was unable to protect his family, Allen told the spirits to get out of his home and that if they wanted to frighten someone they should stop picking on his children and fight him instead.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

Three weeks after Allen’s challenge to the evil that was tormenting his family, he returned home from a late shift around 2 am. It was January 7th, 1988 and when he pulled his car into the driveway he heard a howling sound that seemed to emanate from within the garage. As he got out of his car to further investigate he said the howling stopped and a voice said simply, “come here.” Wanting to get to the bottom of the noises he decided to check around back to see if anyone was playing tricks on him but he saw no one. Then, he walked back to the front of the garage which, to his dismay, was now on fire. He ran inside to get the fire extinguisher but when he returned to the garage just seconds later the fire had gone out. The garage door was completely undamaged.

Feeling shaken, Allen reentered the home quietly so he would not wake his family. He went to put away his lunch pail from his shift that he had put on the table but then suddenly it flew across the room.

Unsure of what to do, he went to bed. Over the next few weeks, he began to sleep in his daughters' room where most of the activity seemed to take place. On one night he awoke to fog swirling in the room and heard a clear voice say “You’re dead.”

Shortly after those two major events, a family member was babysitting the Tallmann children while Allen and Debbie were away. Allen’s relative was only vaguely aware of what was happening in the home but was doubtful and unperturbed at the thought of having to watch the children there. However, the horrible old woman seen by the children appeared and screamed at everyone in the house. Scared to death, the relative phoned Debby to tell her what had happened and Debby told her to pack some clothes for the kids and to get them out.

Shortly after this final event, the family moved out of the house on Larabee street. After moving, the family was contacted by Unsolved Mysteries and some footage was shot at the actual home with permission from the new owners. The episode itself aired in October 1988.

The family, who suspected the activity may be related directly to the bunk bed since the activity started around their purchase, also destroyed the bunk bed. Since moving and destroying the bunk bed no one in the family has had another paranormal experience. Those who have lived in the Larabee street home have also reported no activity.

The above image is unrelated to the story and is from flickr user Anthony Woodside. It is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

The Haunting of the New London Ledge Lighthouse

A lonely building, atop a small manmade island, sits alone on the sea. It is the New London Ledge lighthouse of Groton, Connecticut. In 1900 the need for a lighthouse to keep up with the increased traffic to the New London harbor. It was finally completed 1909 and became an utterly unique landmark...and a haunted one as well.

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Unlike the tall, round lighthouses we’re used to seeing the New London Ledge Lighthouse was a three-story, eleven-room brick building. The uniqueness of the lighthouse is thanks to the influence of Edward Harkness and Morton Plant who wanted the lighthouse to represent of the styles of their decadent homes. It began operating on November 7th, 1909.

The lighthouse demanded 3 or 4 man crews maintained the light, keep up the polishing, oiling, fueling, painting and any and all lighthouse repairs.

The 3-4 man teams would tend to the lighthouse until 1939. In 1939, the Coast Guard took over operation of the lighthouse. Then, in 1987 the lighthouse was automated and did not need to be regularly automated. This automation came to the relief of many...as over it’s nearly hundred years of manned operation all sorts of strange and unexplained happenings occurred to the men whose job it was to keep the light on.

Many going-ons have been reported in the lighthouse...some as negligible as ghostly footsteps and doors opening and closing to a deck swabbing itself and even a Coast Guard Officer Randy Watkins who heard his name being called from an upstairs room when every other man was asleep. Many of the lesser going-ons were chalked up a very helpful ghost, Ernie.

Ernie, although that isn't believed to be his real name, was a lighthouse keeper around the mid 1920s or 1930s. While he was tending to his lighthouse duties and away from home his wife, who lived ashore, ran off with the Captain of the Block Island Ferry. Consumed with grief, loneliness, and sadness Ernie climbed to the top of the lighthouse and jumped. Though his body was never recovered many people feel his presence to this day.

As strange things began to happen they were always chalked up to Ernie. Author William O. Thomson wrote that, “Ernie would turn on the foghorn, and that he sometimes polished brass or cleaned windows.” According to NElights,  “Actual ghost sightings were rare, and supposedly only visiting women have ever seen the lighthouse’s ethereal resident.”

Perhaps Ernie still feels camaraderie for those who visit and tended to the lighthouse in the decades after his death. In fact, those who recount their experiences with Ernie never seem to be scared. In fact, his interactions with humans seem to be playful and at times even helpful, as he was often reported as helping out with daily duties.

Ernie was so impactful to those who had long stays at the New London Ledge Lighthouse that an unknown Coast Guard office penned this goodbye to the lighthouse and to Ernie, “Rock of slow torture. Ernie’s domain. Hell on earth - may New London Ledge’s Light shine on forever because I’m through. I will watch it from afar while drinking a brew.”


This photo was taken of the lighthouse by Moondancedryad. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Getting the Aliens’ Attention

It should come as no surprise to Astonishing Legends’ fans that scientists have been working on contacting aliens for generations. In 1974, the most powerful broadcast, the Arecibo Message, was sent into space. The Arecibo message contained a basic pictorial message that was aimed at the M13 globular star cluster about 21,000 light years away from us. According to SETI, “It consists, among other things, of the Arecibo telescope, our solar system, DNA, a stick figure of a human, and some of the biochemicals of earthly life. Although it's unlikely that this short inquiry will ever prompt a reply, the experiment was useful in getting us to think a bit about the difficulties of communicating across space, time, and a presumably wide culture gap.”

But, that was over 40 years ago...so what have we been doing lately to reach extraterrestrials?

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In November 2018 an article published in the Astrophysical Journal written by James Clark and Kerri Cahoy, researchers at MIT, posit that it may be a little be easier to reach our cosmic neighbors if we mark our position with bright lights. Well, not bright to us because the several million watt laser would shine with infrared light.

This kind of light could be detected as far as 20,000 light-years away. In that distance, there are about 10 billion start systems. As SFGate.com notes, “this would be the mother of all porch lights.” It is also important to note that this would also be enough light to be deemed “non-natural” so other space travelers would know the light was left purposefully on.

However, this isn’t the only idea to contact otherworldly beings. While not as far reaching, in 2017 astronomers sent a radio message to a neighboring star system, specifically Luyten’s star (GJ 273) which is a mere 12 light years away and there is a planet in the system that is in the habitable zone, meaning it might harbor liquid and even life.

This new message was beamed from an antenna in Norway for 8 hours over a 3-day period. According to New Scientist the new message “Begins with information about counting, arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry, and includes a description of the radio waves that carry the message, as well as a tutorial on clocks and timekeeping, to see if any potential inhabitants of GJ 273b have an understanding of time similar to our own.”

We haven’t heard anything back (yet) but it could take up to 25 years to receive a reply message.

In 2018, SETI is launching a competition to compose a new message for SETI. According to Wired.co.uk ,”This time though, the scientists want to involve school kids through an online competition. To enter, teams of students will first have to solve puzzles about space exploration, Arecibo and astronomy. Only the first 45 teams to solve the puzzles will be able to submit a design that could be beamed beyond the Solar System – although the direction has yet to be decided. The interstellar message is due to be broadcast in November next year.”

Not everyone thinks contacting aliens is a good idea. In fact, there were 28 signatories who warned against the possible dangers involved in messaging extraterrestrial intelligence. Wired.co.uk quotes a portion of that letter which says, “We know nothing of [ET’s] intentions and capabilities, and it is impossible to predict whether [ET] will be benign or hostile,” wrote the authors of the letter, including Elon Musk. Stephen Hawking, too, has warned of the dangers of contacting an alien civilisation that may be much more advanced than us.”

Artist impression of a habitable exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger)



The Stick Indians

The Northwest Indian tribes, particularly the Salish, have a tale of a particularly malevolent and dangerous being that dwells deep in the forests of the Northwest. They are known primarily as Stick Indians. Physically, their description changes from tribe to tribe. Many legends acknowledge that they at least somewhat resemble other Native Americans, for example, they are about as tall as any other tribe. The Salish and tribes say that Stick Indians resemble our idea of Bigfoot. Even more curious, the Nez Perces call them little people.

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The Stick Indians are seldom seen, they are almost completely nocturnal, and it is said that their language does not mimic human speech but instead sounds like birds and other animals. They primarily hunted and fished to feed themselves and seemed to not have any permanent settlement. They were clothed with deer skins or other fixings from the forest.

It is believed these creatures got their name Stick Indians because they dwell in the forest and share many traits with animals of the forest rather than typical tribes. Other inspirations for the name Stick Indians is believed to come from their puckish habit of thrusting sticks into teepees, lodges, and individuals while they slept.

Similar to the Pukwudgies, these beings were not a problem...until they were. Many Stick Indians will play pranks on villages during the night when they come across them. These pranks, while annoying, were fairly mild. For example, they would steal fish from nets, take off with food, and removed men’s clothes.

However, when threatened by other tribes or when tribes interfered with their lives the powers of these creatures would soon be on display. Stick Indians were incredibly vindictive and always sought revenge.  It is believed that the Stick Indians have some powers of mental persuasion. Although the range of the powers differs (some believe they have the power to hypnotize or cause instant insanity) almost every tribe agrees that they are able to induce dread, confusion, and anxiety to humans, especially humans wandering alone. One of the ways they accomplish this is through disorienting a travel by whistling and mimicking animal noises.

Many people who disappeared were thought to have been taken by the Stick Indians as a punishment for disrespecting them. Children, specifically, were warned of the Stick Indians and wandering into the forest at night because the Stick Indian’s stole them away and brought them up to act as wives and slaves.


The above image is unrelated to the story and is from flickr user Mrs. Gemstones and is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Fetch

You may have heard of Doppelgängers before, but did you know the Irish have their very own version of the Doppelgänger? Well, it isn’t quite a Doppelgänger but a Fetch is an apparition of a living person and typically classified as a wraith.

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The fetch is typically depicted as a mere shadow that resembles a living person, including their clothing. Fetches are usually seen not by the person the fetch resembles, but by a close friend or family member. Fetches are only seen for a short time, usually at a bit of a distance, and fade away shortly after being seen.

Fetches are not substantial nor are they made of matter. They are often described as being airy or not “all there” indicating to those who see the fetch that they are not the person they think...merely a portrayal of that person.

Encountering a fetch doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, if you saw a fetch (even your own fetch) in the morning it meant good luck was coming your way. However, if a fetch was seen after nightfall it almost guaranteed death or catastrophe was close. Seeing a fetch while the person was ill was also typically a bad omen.

In the Book Haunted England, folklorist Christina Hole recounts the story of Sir William Napier, “who stopped at an inn while traveling from Bedfordshire to Berkshire. When he was shown his room, he saw a corpse lying on the bed. Upon closer inspection, he was astonished to see that the corpse was himself. Shortly after arriving in Berkshire, he died.”

Fetches do not appear to have specific power or interaction with the warning world besides as an omen (good or bad). It is silent, little seen, and does not seem to directly interact with the humans that encounter it.

Fetches classifications as a wraith make sense, especially considering Wraith translates to “dark shadow.” If we believe Fetches to shadows of people currently living, it tracks that they would fall under the larger category of wraiths.

So, if you think you see a ghostly representation of a close friend or loved one make sure to give them the warning that the fetch carries.

The above image is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘How They Met Themselves, watercolor, 1864.’ It is in the public domain.

The 'swallow your soul' EVP

Hey folks. This is Scott. I’m stepping into Tess’s blog domain here because I want to make a quick statement regarding the “I’ll swallow your soul” (henceforth SYS) EVP. As we indicated during the episode, we are well aware that the character Henrietta says this line in Sam Raimi’s  Evil Dead II. To be more specific, she said it five times before he cut off her head spectacularly. Well, she said it a few times even after that.

The line was not in the first Evil Dead, and it was not in the third film, Army of Darkness either. After Army of Darkness, our hero, Ash, was ported over to an original series on Starz called, Ash vs. Evil Dead.  That series ran for three seasons, but sadly for fans, Bruce Campbell has gone on record saying he’s ready to move on from playing Ash so there will not be a fourth season.

The iconic line was uttered twice in the course of Ash vs. Evil Dead’s 3 season run. Once in the first 2 minutes of the season finale of the first season entitled  “The Dark One.” Then again in the first minute or so of episode one of the third season, entitled  “Family.”

I’ve compared the SYS EVP to all of Henrietta’s lines in Evil Dead 2, as well as the Season Finale of the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, but was unable to find a streamable version of episode 1 from season 3. I found that none of the five times Henrietta said it, nor one of those two times I could find it in the Starz series matched the voice, delivery, and quality of the one in the SYS EVP. So that’s the first observation I wanted to share.

Regarding the timeline of the SYS EVP as it relates to the Evil Dead franchise; Evil Dead came out in 1981 but did not have that line in it. Evil Dead 2, which did feature that line 5 times, came out in 1987. Ash vs. Evil Dead did not appear on Starz until 2015.

The SYS EVP, recorded in March of 2005, eighteen years after Evil Dead II, and ten years before Ash vs. Evil Dead. Evil Dead II is a possible inspiration for the line by that logic, but not the Starz series if the file dates are accurate. We have not personally verified them, but have no reason to doubt their veracity at this point.

That particular file is among hundreds of EVP files associated with it, all from the Sallie House, that has been shared with us by the Pickman family. By their admission, they’re not organized in the best way because they are from multiple investigations, by various investigators with varying degrees of standards for terminology and categorization. The Pickmans themselves were involved in some but not all of them. However, 99 percent of the EVPs are labeled with the date they were recorded. Is that easy to change?  Sure. We have not as of yet explored metadata on the source files, and our timestamps were all updated in the process of moving the data around in our archives. But manually entering random dates in a couple of hundred EVP file names is some diligent hoax work there if that’s what folks are doing. Knowing the Pickman’s as I do at this point, I am not of the mind that the dates of all of those EVPs are made up. I do not believe that.

The Kansas Paranormal Group collected the SYS EVP  during an investigation. The voice in it is not the voice of anyone who was present. We’ve found numerous cases recently of peoples own voices appearing in EVPs, and I’ll point to the presence of what sounds like a version of my voice in File 10 during a time when I was not even in the room. To be clear the Pickman family was closely associated with KPG, but as far as we can tell the group at this time is no longer particularly active. The investigation that captured the SYS EVP was, after all, 13 years ago.

As I said, the SYS EVP is only one of probably over 200 that we have right now. I’m not going to pretend I’ve heard them all, but I’ve listened to several dozen and while I don’t always listen to what the person who captured it thought was there, MOST of the time I do. We all know how that works so take that with a grain of salt, but here’s some of what the other EVP’s we have been saying.

1) “There was a boy there.”

2) “Take it to him, Margaret.”

3) “Now you are one of us.”

4) “Can’t keep warm.”

5) “It’s Murphy’s Law.”

6) “Thomas do you want some sun.”

7)  An apology after a camera turns off saying, “Sorry about that.”

8) “Did somebody already take the rabbits.”

9) “Deep Unknown”

10) “Here’s another seer.”

11) “I’m a little bit scared.”

12) “I’m not putting anything back.”

13) “Tell Everyone.”

14) “There’s something else. Don’t hurt him.”

There are at least 150 more. We’re going to go through all of those EVPs as time allows an attempt to help the Pickman’s organize them for posterity.

So, yes, the  ’swallow your soul’ EVP is in a cult classic horror film and later TV series. The EVP reportedly being recorded after the former and before the latter. Do I think that whatever is there might have said it anyway? Yes. I believe it’s a prankster with a dark, twisted and sometimes sick and evil sense of humor. By 2005, multiple investigation teams had been in and out of that house. We could go so far as to say that no one knows how many people had been in and out of there doing God knows what. The Pickmans moved out 15 years prior. It’s easy to imagine people paying for access, going in there with a few beers and even watching Evil Dead II inside the house to see what would happen. Could that thing that is there have seen that scene? Maybe also loved it? Yeah. Do I think it would find a way to repeat it back because it knows what scares people? Yes. Why? Because it is sentient and it feeds on fear; correction, it feasts on fear.

The other thing that EVPs do all over the world, not just in The Sallie House, is mimic. They mimic the people in the room. They mimic the people doing investigations. So why can’t they mimic media? I’ll also add, that when it comes to scary things to say, “swallow your soul” is not exactly the most original line in the world. I’d ding both Sam Raimi and the entity at the Sallie House on that one, and frankly, it plays into the clumsy nature of how these things communicate in the first place. They aren’t great at it.

I think the other thing that makes this one so unusual, especially for our audience, is how clear it is. It’s in an entirely different class from our File 10 EVP, but it’s a well known class and certainly not exclusive to The Sallie House. But it does fall into that danger zone of the picture that’s too clear so it must be fake! Although some could say that File 10 is the picture that’s ‘too blurry’. I digress.

I suppose my overall point is this: even if that SYS EVP is an exact match for a line in a movie or TV show, having been in that house, it will take more than that at this point for me to rule it out as authentic. Additionally, just because you can find an instance of dialog in an EVP that was said somewhere else, does not mean it’s not authentic.  You should also keep in mind that if you hear a particular phrase from a piece of media, that’s not necessarily where it originated.

If this one were proven a hoax somehow, it would not negate the other couple hundred EVP’s we have in our possession now, all the years of other evidence, including the photos, nor of course the EVP that I got. The mountain of evidence in our possession right now involved dozens of people if not more from all walks of life. Could someone have been up to something? Sure. But even if that were the case, it would not change what I believe about what is in that place.

With any other house, or maybe other people providing evidence that I don’t know, I would be more doubtful. Not this place.

Scott

November 20th, 2018

The above image is an 1866 painting Dancing Fairies by A Malmström. This work is in the public domain.

Samhain: An Overview

According to Celtic lore, the year is divided into two halves, the dark half and the light half. The dark half begins on November 1st and is marked by Samhain. It was on the day of Samhain where the veil between this world and the otherworld was believed to be thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.

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Like Hallow’s Eve, Samhain is also an ‘eve.’ Samhain preparations and celebrations begin early on Samhain Eve. Since Samhain marks the end of summer, families usually begin the day with an intense fall cleaning so they could begin winter with a fresh, clean home.

Like many things, Samhain is all about balance. There were both good and bad spirits that could visit them during Samhain. Family’s ancestors and loved ones were welcomed into the homes of the living and celebrated while costumes, masks, and other creations were used to disguise and scare off the spirits that wished to do harm.

The colors orange and black also have their origin in Samhain. The black represents the time of darkness and, according to some sources, the death of god(s) (linked to the sabbat Lughnasadh) and the orange symbolizes the hope of the coming dawn during Yule when god is reborn. Some believe Jack-o’-lanterns also have their beginnings in Samhain when turnips and gourds were carved into scary faces, hollowed out, and lit up with a candle in some cases. The horrific faces were meant to scare away bad spirits. However, there is also the belief that light leads spirits to the afterlife (which is why bonfires and lanterns are important to Samhain).

As quoted in Time, “According to historian Nicholas Rogers, author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Samhain was a “time of stock-taking and perhaps sacrifice” — including probably animal sacrifice — during which “pastoral communities [prepared] to survive the winter.”

Although some sacrifices were made they weren’t gruesome or uncommon for the time period. Typically crops and sometimes livestock would be burned in bonfires. These were offerings for the other side as a way to protect against evil and gain favor from the more malicious spirits that may try to malign or hurt the community.

Bonfires also raged throughout the night. All of the community would come by the bonfire and enjoy food, drink, and dancing. Some members of the community would wear costumes, usually dressing up as fearsome animals, as a way to scare bad spirits away from the community.

Because the veil was so thin it was also a popular time for human tricks. Many people played tricks, pranks, or got up to other mischievous business and instead of taking responsibility for these actions they were often blamed on fairies and spirits which were running rampant.

In addition to tricks, Samhain was also supposed to be the best time to try your hand at divination. Divination was accomplished in a variety of ways such as throwing bones, reading tea leaves, and other means. Or, people who would not normally want or desire their future told feel the need to find out or ask by the light of the bonfire.

In the 800s AD, due to the Christianization of Britain, the early Church attempted to take Celtic festivals and Christianize them. Pope Boniface IV called November 1st (Samhain) All Saints Day which had similar themes of honoring the dead and preparing for the winter. October 31st (Samhain Eve) was then named “All Hallows Eve”...and that would eventually phase into ‘Halloween.’

The above image is an 1866 painting Dancing Fairies by A Malmström. This work is in the public domain.

Where does Trick-or-Treating Come From?

Although Trick-or-Treating a very American practice the phrase itself dates all the way back to medieval Europe. Like many ancient celebrations, they occurred at specific times of year (which is why there are so many festivals and traditions worldwide from late September through early November). In fact, before it was trick-or-treating it was known as ‘Souling’ and later as ‘guising.’

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A common practice called ‘Souling' is reminiscent of Halloween. In its earliest form (and likely with pre-Christian roots) Souling entails leaving ‘soul-cakes’ a sweet, simple treat outside the home for departed souls to munch on (and leave those in the dwelling alone). However, this developed into a practice by the impoverished and later children. Impoverished people went ‘Souling’ going from day-to-day on November 1st singing ancient songs and prayers for the deceased a people’s doors. They would be rewarded for their songs and prayers with soul cakes (or other small loaves and quick bread). Later, children also joined in to get treats from those whose ancestors they sang and prayed for.

In Scotland and Ireland ‘guising’ was also popular. Unlike ‘Souling’ the young people would purposefully dress up and sing, juggle, recite poems, tell a joke, or perform some other kind of ‘trick’ to be rewarded with fruit, nuts, coins, or other small treats.

It was believed that these traditions of Souling and guising traveled with immigrants to America and began weaving themselves into the fabric of Halloween. However, the phrase trick-or-treat would not really take hold until the 1930s.

Although it got off to a bit of a rough start especially with the sugar-rationing of WWII by the early 1940s trick-or-treating, dressing up in costume, and asking for candy from the community became as popular and American as apple pie (which is to say, like apple pie trick-or-treating had a long and storied history before it became an American hallmark).

The above image is by Paul Sapiano. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Dia de Los Muertos

November 1st is for many a holiday that rivals Halloween in its power and personal meaning. Día de Los Muertos is Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st through November 2nd. Día de Los Muertos is a time to commemorate death. Although it is often compared to Halloween there is nothing scary about Día de Los Muertos. In fact, it is a celebration that is imbued with love and remembrance of those that have gone.

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According to the National Hispanic Center, “Essential to Día de Los Muertos rituals and practices is the pre-Columbian belief in the universal duality of life; birth and death, light and dark, joy and pain are critical and necessary partners in the cycle our existence.” The basic premise of Día de Los Muertos is the belief that at midnight on October 31st the souls of the dead are able to reunite with their loved ones. Those who died in childhood are said to come on November 1st whereas adults come down November 2nd.

To celebrate their homecoming families construct colorful, merry altars in their homes. These altars are usually decorated with flowers, candles, their loved one’s favorite food, pictures of the deceased, the deceased’s favorite things, and pan de muerto. Pan de muerto is a sweet bread that is made specifically to celebrate Día de Los Muertos.

But, Día de Los Muertos is not just celebrated in the home. In fact, loved ones travel to cemeteries to picnic, play music, clean off the gravestones, dance, and sing to the departed. Some even will spend the night in the graveyard.

You may be wondering how Día de Los Muertos most unique and identifiable symbol, the Sugar Skull, came to be. They are called ‘Calavera Catrina’ now but before there were sugar skulls, there were Literary Calaveras. Calavera does mean skull but in the 18th and 19th century the most popular way to celebrate the dead on Día de Los Muertos was to write short, silly poems that sarcastically poked fun at the living.

This began to shift in the early 20th century thanks to Mexican political cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada. He created a design to go along with literary Calavera. In this design, he personified death as a feminine skeleton dressed decadently in French clothing. According to National Geographic, he meant it to act as “social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos Somos Calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our man-made trappings, we are all the same.”

In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured this fancy French skeleton in his famous painting, ‘Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.’ He named her Catrina and ever since her colorful and extravagantly decorated skull has been made in sugar form.

In addition to celebrating at cemeteries, with home altars, and by sharing sugar skulls Día de LosMuertos also involves a larger celebration. Oftentimes, people dress up as skeletons, pain their face to mimic Calavera Catrina, and wear fancy clothes and costumes.

Today Día de Los Muertos is more popular than ever...but don’t confuse it for Halloween!

This image is from the Thacher Gallery. “Day of the Dead: Altar Building with Chisme y Comida.” Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Jack-o’-Lantern: A Brief History

The word Jack-o’-Lantern has only been used since the early 19th century in American but the term dates back to 17th-century Britain, where it referred to a night watchman with a lantern tasked on keeping watch through the night. But, the use of gourds lit with candles goes back much farther than either of these terms.

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The history of the Jack-o’-Lantern is muddled with poor research and confusing accounts. Why? Well because a lot of the tradition occurred in times where recording traditions like this weren’t very common.

Although pumpkins are the Jack of choice these days turnips, in pre-Christian Britain, were the most popular Jack-o’-Lanterns. However, beets and other smaller gourds were also popular Jacks to use. The early Jack-o’-Lantern had a similar function to a man with a lantern. During Samhain, which is believed to be when the lanterns were used the most, however, it is not unthinkable that it could be used during other time of the year. These turnips and other vegetables were carved with the most frightening faces a person could imagine. The scarier the better because it was the person’s hope that these carvings would scare away the spirits that would wander by their homes when the veil was thin. These faces were also sometimes illuminated by coals.

There is also the myth of Stingy Jack which is also linked to Jack-o’-Lanterns. In Ireland, ages ago, there lived a man named Stingy Jack. Based on name alone I’m sure you can guess he wasn’t a very fun fellow. He was known as the town drunkard and on top of that he often lied, cheated, stole, and played countless pranks on unsuspecting townsfolk. Every night he would walk down the pub and drink until he was kicked out.

One night on his evening sojourn to the pub he came across a grotesque and inhuman body lying on the ground. This frightening body was that of the Devil who had come to collect Jack’s soul and bring him to the depths of hell. Shocked, Jack requested one more earthly delight...another drink.

The Devil, surprisingly, agreed. So, they both walked to the pub and Jack ordered a drink. When he had finished his ale he turned to the Devil and with some unknown confidence requested the Devil pay the tab. The Devil was equally shocked at this request and wanting to continue the fun he transformed himself into a sixpence so he could walk over and give it to the bartender...but Jack didn’t pay.

Instead, he slid the six-pence piece into his pocket right next to his crucifix. Being so close to a crucifix trapped the Devil and lessened his powers. Having all the power, Jack decided to make a deal with the Devil...he’d let the Devil out of his pocket but only if he promised his spare his soul for another decade. The Devil agreed.

Ten years pass and a scene much like his first meeting with the Devil occurs. Jack, knowing his time was up, agreed but made one more request. He requested to eat one more able from a nearby apple tree. The Devil, pleased at this simple request, agreed and climbed up a tree. As he was climbing and distracted, Stingy Jack cunningly carved a cross into the tree with his knife. The Devil was stuck...again. And Jack had another barter. The Devil had to promise to never take his soul to hell. The Devil agreed.

Stingy Jack finally died after a long life of drinking and debauchery. He was turned away at the gates of heaven but was unable to go to Hell, either. So, he was doomed to wander alone. The Devil, strangely, felt something for the cunning man who had eluded him twice and gave Jack a single, burning ember to help light his way through the dark.

When Jack came upon a turnip he hollowed it out, placed the ever-burning ember inside, and created a lantern that would forever guide his way through the darkness of the netherworld. It was then he lost his nickname Stingy Jack and gained a new one...Jack of the Lantern.

So how did it come back in the 19th century? Well, Halloween used to be epically pranky. One of the most popular pranks involved carving faces into pumpkins and then using those pumpkin heads to scare people in the dead of night.

At the end of the 19th century, their attractiveness and symbology of Halloween took hold in America and they became a common decoration.

The above image is from Flickr user Benny Mazur. It is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Nos Galan Gaeaf

You might know November 1st as a day to celebrate All Souls Day or Días De La Muerta but there is another holiday that also takes place on November 1st: Calan Gaeaf. Calan Gaeaf is a Welsh holiday. Like Halloween the day before Calan Gaeaf was called Nos Galan Gaeaf or Spirit Night.


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Similar to our understanding of Halloween and traditions that shaped Halloween it is believed that Nos Galan Gaeaf is the time when the veil is the thinnest between the living and the dead. On Nos Galan Gaeaf it is suggested that you avoid all places where spirits are likely to gather such as churchyards, graveyards, and crossroads.

One of the popular albeit morbid games often played was called Coelcerth. Families would build massive fires and place stones in the fires with their names on it. If any of the stones were unable to be found it was believed that it would mean that the person whose stone was missing would die within a year.

Nos Galan Gaeaf was also a time to celebrate the second harvest and the stored food that would see the people through their winter. A harvest feast was typically had and there were dancing and frolicking into the night.

In North and South Wales there are two different focuses of Nos Galan Gaeaf that bringing together bring together two important parts of the world, black and white, together. In the south, there is the focus of ‘Ladi Wen’, also known as a Lady in White. Although this Lady in White isn’t our typical Resurrection Mary because Ladi Wen has no head. In the North, there is ‘nwch ddu gwta’ which presented a black sow without a tail. Together they would roam all of Wales together on the night of Nos Galan Gaeaf. They were two terrifying beings so if you weren’t by a raging outdoor fire, in a barn, home, or another dwelling you might be in serious trouble.

Nos Galan Gaeaf was also a good night to try and test future-telling. It was said that boys could ten ivy leaves throw away one and put the rest under his head before he sleeps to see his future. Girls should train a wild rose to grow into a hoop then on Nos Galan Gaeaf she should climb through it three times, cut it in complete silence, and go to bed with its length under her pillow.

Around the 18th century as Wales grew less and less rural the traditions of Nos Galan Gaeaf began to die away. However, Nos Galan Gaeaf night is still not wholly forgotten and remains a night to think about strange spectres, headless wraiths, and foreboding tailless sows.


The above image is unrelated to the story and is by Flickr user aseop. It is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Folklore Behind Bobbing for Apples

A common Halloween party tradition is bobbing for apples. But, how did this strange tradition begin? While it is a fun party game today its origins and development can be traced back to the Samhain festival, ancient Rome, and has its roots in divination.

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The Romans originally brought apples to the Celtic people when they covered Britain. One of the many things they brought with them were the apple trees and a goddess of beauty and fertility, Pomona. The Celtic people had been celebrating Samhain long before the Romans came and the Romans saw a way to blend the two cultures through apples.

When the Celts first encountered apples they couldn’t help but notice that when you cut an apple in half its seeds form a pentagram. The pentagram in Celtic culture was a fertility symbol and since Pomona, the Roman goddess represented by the apple tree is also a fertility goddess apples seem to be a highly potent fertility symbol.

They also have some pretty serious implications. Atlas Obscura points out, “bobbing for apples is sometimes called dooking or douking for apples, the same word used to describe dunking a woman in water to test if she might be a witch.”

During Samhain, it was believed that bobbing for apples could be a divination tool. Back then, bobbing for apples was for a very specific set of people: unmarried young people. Young unmarried people would try to bite into an apple and it could either be floating in water or hanging from a string (it is usually called snap apple when on a string). It was said the first person to bite into an apple would be the next one to marry. This is the most simplistic take on the tradition.

But, the game doesn’t have to be over when one person gets the apple. The game can also be held en masse. For example, if multiple young, unwed people are bobbing at once the moment they catch one they could peel it quite carefully and then wrap the peeling (all in one ribbon) around their head. Once they’ve wrapped it they are to throw it over their shoulder. Once the peel is flung the shape it lands in will be representative of the first letter of their true love’s first name.

Ann English tradition-spin on bobbing for apples doesn’t really look like the classic bucket full of water and apples. In fact, apples are strung up and then twirled so they spin in front of a lit fireplace. The order the apples fall will tell the order in which the people that hung them will be married.

Other times the divination aspect is slightly altered because the young names of those bobbing would also be written or etched into the apples. So, if you watched carefully enough you could aim to snag the apple with your lover’s or crush’s name!

Snap-Apple Night, painted by Irish artist Daniel Maclise in 1833. It was inspired by a Halloween party he attended in Blarney, Ireland, in 1832. It is liscensed in the public domain.

The Hungry Ghost Festival

Now that we’re just one week away from Halloween I wanted to change up #Blogstonishing a bit. This last week will focus on exploring Halloween traditions and similar celebrations in other cultures. We’re starting with The Hungry Ghost Festival. The Hungry Ghost Festival starts a few months before Halloween but shares many similarities.

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The Hungry Ghost Festival takes place on the 15th night of the 7th Chinese month, which is usually in mid-to-late August. However, sometimes it is held in early September. Also known as Yu Lan it has its roots in Taoist and Buddhist beliefs. On this day the gates to the spirit world are opened and the deceased are permitted to walk the earth once again. In fact, Anven Wu Yim-ching, a director the Federation of Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community Organizations, says “It can be just like Halloween,” and even included a Ghost Festival costume contest in 2015.

Similar to early Western conceptions and festivals (and what would later come to form Halloween) The Hungry Ghost Festival takes place in a liminal space where the dead have free reign over the living world once again. It is the practice to make offerings in order to appease and pacify these ghosts and ensure the living’s safety.

Hungry Ghost Festivals have their origin in the Ullambana Sutra. According to this sutra one of Buddha's disciples, Mahamaudgalyayana, learned that his mother who had passed away had been reborn as a hungry ghost. Hungry ghosts, according to legend, are beings with huge stomachs but their mouths are too small and their neck too thin to take in enough food and so they live with an insatiable craving. Some believe that you can become a hungry ghost is you live a life of gluttony, obsession or addiction. Mahamaudgalyayana tried to ease his mother’s suffering but when he offered her food it transformed into burning coals. So, he turned to the Buddha to learn how to help his mother.

Buddha told him that on the 15th day of the 7th month the Buddhist community should fill bowls with fruits and other food. In addition to physical food spiritual offerings of incense and candles should also be made. Then, they should place the bowls of food in front of an altar and recite prayers en masse. The ghosts who arise will receive the food and be blessed for a hundred years.

When the ghosts of your ancestors arise on this day it is important to make offerings to them. Should you ignore Ghost Month and especially the Hungry Ghost Festival your ancestors might curse, haunt, or otherwise malign you. Popular gifts include Zhizha (hell money, which dates backs to 1000 BC) which should be burned so it can be transported to the underworld and ghosts can use it as they please.

According to Terence Hang, a sociologist from the Singapore Institute of Technology, “Individuals now purchase and burn whatever is fashionable to consume in a contemporary, globalized society. One can get hold of paper iPads, paper credit cards, paper Rolls Royces, and more.” Paper effigies of everything from popular beers to TVs can be found and offered.

However, real food is still used. If you are going to use real wood you should place fresh food outdoors near your home (maybe on a porch or balcony). During this time of year, according to Louise Hung, “For the entire ghost month, my street in West Kowloon was never without takeaway boxes of food placed on the sidewalk after dark. Some laid out red cloth or flowers for the food to sit on, others placed bottles of water or beer alongside the offerings. It was all about giving people’s ancestors their favorite foods, or pleasing passing spirits so they wouldn’t bother the inhabitants of someone’s home or shop.” She noted that she rarely saw leftovers or trash left out in the morning, save for a few food items that may have gotten run over in the night.

Now that we have learned what to do during Hungry Ghost Month Louise Hung provides on the blog, Order of the Good Death, a list of things to avoid during this month:

1) Don’t begin a new job, get a new home, get married, be born, or do anything new during ghost month. Your new beginning may be doomed. If you have to be a special snowflake and be born during ghost month, only celebrate your birthday during the daylight hours.

2) Ghosts are drawn to red, so don’t wear red or else a ghost may attach itself to you.

3) Don’t pee on a tree. A ghost may be living in that tree.

4) Always close exterior doors, you don’t want to invite in wandering ghosts.

5) Don’t lean on walls – ghosts stick to walls.

6) Never disturb a ghost’s food and offerings. If you do, apologize profusely.

7) The night is not yours during ghost month, it’s for the dead. Unless it’s in honor of them, don’t do things outside after dark.

I have also read on various other sites (sources linked above) that you should not buy a house during this time, enter a romantic relationship, or make big moves (like a marriage proposal or trying to start a family) within an existing romantic relationship.

The above image is licensed in the public domain. It is entitled the Second section of the Hungry Ghosts Scroll located at the Kyoto National Museum. The scroll depicts the world of the hungry ghosts, one of the six realms of Buddhism and contains tales of salvation of the hungry ghosts. This particular section explains how those who have been born as hungry ghosts are saved by the offerings of the living. It relates the story of one of the thirty-six types of hungry ghosts who constantly seek water to drink. The central scene of this section shows people pouring water on a funerary marker for the ullambana festival for the dead. The whole scroll has been designated as National Treasure of Japan in the category paintings. It was possibly part of a set of scrolls depicting the six realms which were kept at Sanjūsangen-dō.

Jerome of Sandy Cove

One lovely summer afternoon on September 7th, 1863 fishermen were tending to their nets and lobster pots in the Bay of Fundy, right off Digby Neck. While they were working they noticed an odd white ship in the distance. However, full-rigged ships in the bay were quite common and they went about the work. But, after some time whispers began arising that the ship didn’t look quite right.

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Some fishermen commented that it looked like a foreign ship. As they worked the ship continue to hover right offshore going back-and-forth on the same short course. This furthered curiosity among the fishermen and they could not decide on a logical explanation for why a ship, especially a foreign ship, would be acting so strangely in the bay.

The next day something even stranger happened. On September 8th, 1863 8-year-old George Colin ‘Collie’ Albright discovered a figure huddled by the rock. At first, the strange shape could have been mistaken for a seal or other detritus from the bay but upon closer inspection, Collie discovered it was a young man who was horrendously hurt. He went back home and got his family to go and help the man.

The man appeared to be in his mid-twenties. When he was found he was partially conscious and mumbling indistinctly in what people believed to be an unidentified foreign language. The sand around his body was deeply stained with blood from his very recently amputated legs. Besides this man were a loaf of bread and a jug of water. There were footprints on the beach, clearly not made by this man. Although the injury seemed dastardly what remained of his legs were skillfully and purposefully bandaged. His clothing was also strange. He had a wonderfully lined waistcoat with a pattern not seen before in Digby Neck, his shirt was made from extremely lovely linen, and his knee-length pants were equally strange and wonderful.

The man had been moved to Mr. Gidney’s in Mink Cove. Within hours the word has spread of the strange and injured visitor and people from all over made their way to the Gidneys. Many people tried to speak to him in languages other than English including Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian. The man responded positively to none of these languages.

According to the Gidneys he only really uttered one recognizable word, ‘Jerome’ which is what he then became known as to the community. After moving around the community a bit, locals unsure what to do with him but not wanting to abandon him, Jerome finally found a somewhat permanent home at the Nicolas.

Jerome seemed comfortable at the home of Jean Nicola and would stay for over seven years. Early in his time with the community he would growl at people trying to ask him questions, remain aloof, or simply smile sadly.

Wanting to help out Jerome without too much strife the community petitioned Nova Scotia to help pay for his keep. The government gave the family that cared for him $2 a week to help support him.

After seven years at the Nichola household Jeans wife, Juliette, passed away and Jean decided to return to Europe. Jerome then moved in Mrs. Deider Comeau. The Comeau family did use Jerome a bit and charged an admission to those who wished to visit with him. Jerome did not seem to put out by this idea and would remain with the family until his death.

The only true joy people saw in Jerome was when he was around children. In fact, when he was positive there were no other adults to overhear him he would speak ever so slightly to the children. He was reported saying in French ‘Non, non, non’ when children asked why he didn’t speak to other adults. On another occasion, a child asked what happened to his legs and he responded simply with ‘chains.’ He would also laugh and smile around children. Digby Neck stories report that “Not many months before he died, a Mrs. Doucet visited Jerome. She was the daughter of Jean Nicola and had been a child when Jerome lived at her father’s home. Mrs. Doucet had pleasant memories of the strange man who loved to watch children at play. Jerome’s eyes lit up as she entered the room. She appealed to him to speak to her. Tears came to his eyes as he leaned forward and tried to speak. But the words would not come. Evidently, the vocal cords, idle so long, would not respond.”

So, it appears, the man had some joy in his quiet and removed life.

He did utter a few words. According to Digby Neck stories, “Once, when asked where he came from, he snapped a reply: "Trieste." Another time someone asked what ship brought him to Nova Scotia, and he answered: "Colombo.” Each time he spoke even just one word to an adult he would withdraw and grow even more sullen and aloof. These moods would last for weeks after he had spoken.

Jerome spent his last thirty years alive in complete silence. He died on April 15, 1912, without ever having discussed where he had come from, what happened to his legs, or any other identifying information. He was believed to be in his mid-70s. He was buried and his headstone simply says ‘Jerome.’

However, theories abound with who Jerome was before he was found in 1863. One of the most logical answers is that he was a sailor who incited an unsuccessful mutiny. He was punished with the double amputation before being laid on the beach with the provisions where he would be found. Perhaps his silence stems from PTSD or even just the shame of going against his Captain. However, it was reported he had smooth hands and was dressed in finery which seems a bit odd for a sailor.

Others believed he was some kind of disgraced nobleman who had perhaps tried to gain more power or went against a higher-ranking noble and was cast off and crippled purposefully.

Others believe he had suffered some kind of head wound that impaired him (perhaps in the same accident that led to the loss of his legs or perhaps he lost his legs as a result of his injury and impaired judgment.) He was said to have rage, fear, and other problems controlling strong emotions and this could have been linked to an inability to clearly express himself because of his brain injury.

What do you think happened to Jerome?

Thanks to Neil A for this #blogstonishing topic suggestion!


The above image is not directly linked to the story. It is made available in the Public Domain and is entitled, “The war in America : the Federal steamer Chesapeake, seized by Confederates, landing crew and passengers off Musquash harbour, Bay of Fundy.”

Bog Butter

Besides bodies, butter is another artifact often discovered in the watery, misty bogs of Ireland and Scotland. Bog butter was likely originally placed in a bog for safe-keeping. The acidic, low-oxygen waters of bogs were cool places to store butter and also acts as a natural preservative. So, bogs acted as ancient refrigerators. But why go to so much trouble for butter...and how does it stay, well, butter for hundreds of years?

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Although bog butter served a practical purpose - storing the butter to keep for later, it also had a ritualistic angle as well. Many large hoards of bog butter have been discovered in places with great ritual significance to the lifestyles of the early Irish and Scottish. This theory is also supported by what has been found alongside bog butter such as weapons, jewelry, regalia pieces, wooden sculptures, tools, and even bog bodies. Researchers believed that butter, along with the other items, were offered to regional deities with the hope of securing that deity’s protection. In these instances, the butter was never meant to be recovered.

Dark Side of History posits an interesting theory of how bog butter went from ritualistic to practical, “discovered in a bog by chance by someone who passed by. This unknown person from an unknown time inspected the substance and tasted it out of curiosity, discovering that it was still edible and might have even enjoyed the taste of bog butter, deciding to make more; the technique was very simple after all. The person also realized that butter could be preserved and stashed for leaner times in the bog, and started doing just that.”

Bog butter is somewhat commonly discovered and peat bogs and is usually contained within wooden boxes, animal skins, or earthenware pots. When opened the bog butter reportedly still smells like butter and even as a buttery texture...however eating it randomly is not necessarily suggested, as it could date back as far as the Iron Age!

According to Atlas Obscura, when Andrew Zimmerin, a food historian, tried 3,000-year-old bog butter he noted it as having “a lot of funk” with “a crazy moldy finish.”

Butter was also protected because, according to the Nordic Food Lab, “Butter and other dairy products were frequently used as a form of taxation and rent.” Furthermore, “Butter is valuable: for that reason alone worth hiding, even more so in lawless times. One author gives testimony that treasures were buried inside fats, so when bog butter was discovered it was pierced from all directions to check for valuables”

There are so many examples of bog butter being found likely because of the earlier, ritualistic nature where the butter was never meant to surface again and the fact that sometimes people forgot or died before they could retrieve the bog butter they had purposefully laid in the bog.


Thank you to Friday V for the #Blogstonishing topic suggestion!


This image is not directly related to the story. It is entitled “On the Watershed Bogland near Lochan an Fhitich beneath Sgurr Chòinich. The water I am standing in will flow, slowly at first towards the North Sea via the Allt an Fhitich, Allt Ghariadh Ghualaich, Loch and River Garry, Loch and River Oich and Loch and River Ness. Lochan an Fhitich are hidden amongst the peat hags. A short fair interval on an increasingly foul day, typical of mid altitudes in a Scottish Winter.” Richard Webb / On the Watershed / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pukwudgies

Pukwudgies are a magical, humanoid race of people that feature prominently in Algonquian folklore. To different tribes, the Pukwudgie acts and looks differently. For example, in the Ojibwe tribes they are described as a mischievous but mostly good-natured being that may trick people but rarely has malicious intent. The Wampanoag and many other tribes of New England know the Pukwudgie to be both a trickster but also dangerous. They are known to play tricks but, in some cases, help out a human who has encountered them. If you wrong them or somehow offend them they are known to steal children, commit acts of terror, and can even be deadly.

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Pukwudgies are usually likened to the Western European fairy or gnome. While almost all accounts note that they are tricksters accounts vary on whether or not they have malicious intent. They are typically described as being about knee-high to an average height human. They have large hands, sagging shoulders, a stooped appearance, and a tendency to hunch forward when they walk. Despite this, they still appear to be agile and quick. Although they are small they are typically carrying arrows (which sometimes have poison arrows), knives, or spears. They also can attack in unison to kidnap people, push them off cliffs, or otherwise intimidate.

Their name denotes they habitat. ‘Pukwudgie’ translates directly to ‘person of the wilderness’ and they are often revered and respected of protectors or spirits of the forest. They are also known to have special powers. These powers vary depending on the tribe speaking about Pukwudgie lore, but they usually include the ability to become invisible, confound people, shapeshift, and bring harm to people simply through their gaze.

Native Americans believed that if you were to cross the path of a Pukwudgie you should avoid it as much as possible and not interact with the being at all.

The Wampanoag legend of the Pukwudgie is particularly interesting had a connection to Maushop, the creation giant who is believed to have created the land which is now Cape Cod. He was a beloved god and the Wampanoag people often felt they were blessed and especially taken care of by Maushop. The Pukwudgies felt forgotten and tried to help out the Wampanoag people so the Pukwudgies could be as revered as Maushop. However, their efforts often backfired or their tricksy nature got the best of them and the Wampanoag people were not, at the time, grateful for them.

Sensing that they would never be as beloved as Maushop the Pukwudgies decided to fire back. They became more and more malevolent. They played tricks, scared Wampanoag people, and did nothing to improve their daily lives. One day they Wampanoag were fed up with the feud and decided to visit Granny Squanit, Maushop’s wife, for guidance. Maushop, on his wife’s orders, collected up as many Pukwudgies as he could and flung them all around the area - from New England to the Great Lakes and even as far south as Delaware! He hoped this would lessen their power and if they were more spread out it would be harder for them to have such a big impact on humans’ lives.

Satisfied but exhausted from the work Maushop and his wife took a short sabbatical. However, during this time the Pukwudgies snuck back to Massachusetts. Infuriated that the Wampanoag were behind their scattering they elevated their attacks on them. Instead of just being nuisances and tricksters, the Pukwudgies began stealing children, burning villages, leading those lost in the woods to their deaths, and other horrible misdeeds.

Maushop was aware of this but did not want to fully return yet so he sent his five sons to fix the Pukwudgie problem. However, his sons were not a match for the Pukwudgies and they tricked them, ensnared them, and killed all five of them. Maushop and Granny Squaint were furious over their sons’ deaths and they attacked and killed as many Pukwudgies as they could. However, many escaped to the lands of New England.

Many still survive to this day and, according to some stories, a group of Pukwudgies overwhelmed Maushop and killed him.

It is interesting to note that after this story takes places Maushop largely disappears from the Wampanoags’’ mythos.

The folklore of the Pukwudgie is so pervasive that The Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, includes a brief section on Pukwudgies. It was published in 1855 and you can read it in full here:


“Far and wide among the nations

Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;

No man dared to strive with Kwasind,

No man could compete with Kwasind.

But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,

They the envious Little People,

They the fairies and the pygmies,

Plotted and conspired against him.”

Eyewitness accounts of the Pukwudgies and their good (and bad) deeds have been around for centuries. Although running into a Pukwudgie is always a scary situation because of their power and capricious nature it is not necessarily a death sentence. However, it is important to be wary of them and their intentions.

One of the areas with the most activity is in Freetown-Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts. It is on this land that a 227-acre Watuppa Reservation, which belongs to the Wampanoag Nation, is located. In fact, reports in the Freetown-Fall River State Forest forest rangers have put up a ‘Pukwudgie Crossing’ sign. Although this may be in jest, it does reflect the large number of calls, stories, and experiences with Pukwudgies that emerge from this area.

One of the most famous encounters occurred in the Forest. A local named Joan was walking her dog along a path in the forest, something she had done many times before. Without warning her dog began running excitedly off the path and into the forest. When the dog finally stopped running and Joan caught her breath she raised her head and found herself face to face with a small, humanoid creature. According to Joan, the being was roughly two feet tall, with pale gray skin, and short, stocky legs. It had large lips, a canine-like nose, and a human-like face.

The creature did not make a move towards Joan and her dog and Joan simply stared. Soon her dog began pulling her back towards the path and Joan followed. Unsettled by this strange and unexplainable experience Joan tried to forget it. However, this did not seem to make the Pukwudgie very happy. Later that night, and for a number of weeks, the creature would appear at Joan’s bedroom window in the middle of the night and wake her up.

Does the Pukwudgie crave human attention, or perhaps need it in some way? It is important to remember that previous to the Wampanoags’ run-in with them and the fight that erupted between Pukwudgies and Maushop, they enjoyed at least respect and acceptance of the Wampanoag people...they just wanted more. Although sightings are somewhat rare and scattered over the years I wonder if Pukwudgies make themselves known after they have been out of the news for some time. If they didn’t need or care about human interaction...why not just disappear deeper into the woods? If they have the ability to make themselves invisible why would they ever let themselves be seen? For this reason, I believe there is some kind of cross-over or necessity of human attention directed towards Pukwudgies...good or bad attention.



Thanks to Fallyn E T for the #blogstonishing topic suggestion!


The above image is unrelated to the story and is entitled Road through the Forest (Berkshires), Scenic. It is made available under the public domain.

Ohio Grassman

The Ohio Grassman is a legend that has persisted for nearly 150 years in Ohio. The first sightings date back to 1869. They described the being, which would later become know as the Ohio Grassman, as a large, hairy, bipedal creature that stood at a staggering nine feet tall.

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The Grassman is quite similar to Bigfoot based on description alone as it a large, hairy, bipedal creature. However, its behavior and habits set it apart from typical Bigfoot lore. The Grassman seems to largely eat tall grasses. In fact, that’s where The Ohio Grassman gets its name from! The Grassman is often seen around farms and especially eating tall grasses such as wheat. This is perhaps the reason it is so particular to Ohio, which has quite a bit of farmland. 150 years ago when the sightings first began, Ohio was quite underpopulated and there was plenty of water, places to shelter, and even game to hunt. Although it appears the Grassman’s main diet is wheat and other farm products when these are no longer available they could hunt game, which is plentiful.

In addition to a different diet, the Grassman also seems much more sociable than Bigfoot. Many Grassman sightings include more than one Grassman, and it is reported that mothers have been seen with babies.

One of the most famous sightings too place in 1978 at Evelyn and Howe Cayton’s home. The family was enjoying a quiet evening with their children, grandchildren, and a few friends. While Evelyn and Howe were relaxing in their home when suddenly their children and a few of their friends came screaming through the door, apparently scared to death. They told Evelyn and Howe that while they were playing outside they came across a monster in a gravel pit. Unsure of what to do but believed the fear of the children so the pair headed outside and saw a creature covered in dark hair that was about 7ft and around 300 pounds.  When asked, Evelyn said that the Grassman simply stood there...although she hightailed it out of there quickly after witnessing it.

This would not be the last time the Caytons would see this creature and they reported they saw it many more times. Sometimes they would simply smell that it had been there as it often left a strong rotten-eggs smell whenever it passed through.

The Caytons never reported to the creature stealing anything, disrupting the family, or acting aggressively which against puts it at odds against similar creatures like the Minerva Monster.

Thanks to Lea B for the #blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is not directly related to the story. It is a farm in Ohio. The picture is entitled Remodeled house on Scioto Farms, Ohio and is made available thanks to the public domain.