The Tokoloshe

Today we visit South Africa for a story about the Tokoloshe, a small and terrifying creature that seriously messes with your ability to have a restful night’s sleep. Tokoloshes are a creature from Zulu mythology that inhabit South Africa. These creatures attack you in your sleep and are said to be a part of the reason while many people in the Zulu culture used to sleep with their beds raised off the floor.

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Tokoloshe are described physically in a large variety of ways. One constant seems to be their small size. Sometimes they are described as small humanoid creatures (like gremlins or brownies) and other times they are described more primate-like.

These creatures are malevolent and very dangerous. They are said to crawl into sleeping people’s rooms and cause all kinds of havoc - from simply scaring them all the way to choking them to death with their long, bony fingers. It seems to particularly enjoy scaring children, often leaving them with long scratches on their bodies. One way to keep the Tokoloshe at bay is to put bricks beneath the legs of one’s bed. This will you put you out of reach, and hopefully out of harm’s way, of the Tokoloshe.

Tokoloshes are creatures called upon by those with magical abilities (like witches) to wreak havoc and pain in a community.  One of the ways the witches are able to keep them docile is to cut the hair out of their eyes so they can see and feed it curdled milk.

If a Tokoloshe continues to terrorize a household or a community a sangoma (Zulu witch doctor) is summoned to exorcize the area and/or the home with the use muti, a kind of traditional magic practiced by the sangoma.

But why was the Tokoloshe such a promintent and terrifying creature? And why did it only attack the sleeping? Well, there might actually be a very real, terrifying reason for the creation of this creature.

Let’s back up to the sleeping arrangements quickly. As mentioned above, raised beds are an important way to combat the Tokoloshe. Traditionally, many South Africans in areas rife with Tokoloshe myths slept on grass mats encircling a warm, wood fire that would keep them warm during the bitter winter nights. However, sometimes healthy people would inexplicably be found dead come morning.

Why? Well, the Tokoloshe of course.

But, there is a theory that sleeping close to the fire in their homes may have depleted the oxygen levels and filled the home with carbon dioxide. As it is heavier than pure air, it would sink to the bottom of the home where people slept. Thus, seemingly healthy people and sometimes entire families would be found dead. A parallel was found between elevated sleepers and a lack of death so the Tokoloshe was told as a story forewarning those who slept close to the ground (and the fire). While it might not be an actual malevolent creature, what kept away a Tokoloshe would also keep away death from carbon monoxide.



The feature image is by Flickr User Jason Rogers, entitled Day 466 / 365 - Reach for the Light and liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)



The Rusalka





Sirens, mermaids, fish-people...notions of humanoids that live in water pervade many cultures throughout the world. The Slavic peoples are no different and their own mermaid myth. They call them a rusalka.

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The folklore of the rusalka has been dated back to the eighth century although it was probably a part of the oral tradition for quite some time before it was written down. In fact, the rusalki are said to be descended from Bereginya. Bereginya, in Slavic folklore, is the great goddess and creator of the world. According to the Slavic Chronicles, “Bereginya is basically a combination of  “hearth-mother,” associated with the guardianship, even of the nation itself,” although some consider her to be a spirit.

Unlike some stories of mermaids, the rusalka are made from human choices and do not seem to be a race of creatures independent from humanity. What I mean by this is the idea that rusalki are created, not made. It is said that a variety of circumstances can transform a human into a rusalka, although many have to do with death. For example, if a young woman dies a particularly violent death related to water she may become a rusalka. Other times it deals with suicide, such as a young woman drowning herself because she has become pregnant by wedlock or rejected by a lover. Others say that any young woman who dies a virgin is bound to become a rusalka.

Another interesting fact, if one considers these potential origin stories, is that the rusalki are said to have a finite time in the world. According to Ancient Origins, “These souls linger on in water until their allotted time on earth is complete (this version of events usually accompanies the violent death or suicide origin stories). Others must remain until their death is avenged (this version of events usually accompanies the murder or jilted lover origin stories).”

As folklore has grown and mutated throughout the centuries so do the rusalka looks. In the earliest stories regarding rusalki their hair and eyes are described as blue and green while later stories their hair is described as red, the color of sin. However, their shapeshifting powers seem to remain constant with their ability to transform into animals related to the water such as fish and frogs. Another constant is that they are not half-fish, they appear as typical human women with feet. However, they do have the ability to survive in and manipulate water.

Like sirens, it is believed rusalki are predators. They tempt people, in particular young men, by her voice or physical appearance. Once tempted, she traps him and pulls him under the water. In folklore stories of heroes the rusalka often represents a ‘test’ and if abused or if the hero fails the test he will be cast into a watery grave.

However, they do have some protective power and don’t seem to be all bad. For example, during harsh storms, hail, and other intense water-related weather if they are worshipped correctly, they will protect the people. It is also believed that rusalki take revenge very seriously. According to Slavorum, “In other stories a rusalka may fall in love with a man from the world of the living but they always end in tragedy. No good may come from such a love story and there is no happy ending for the poor rusalka’s damned soul: she’ll haunt the river forever with her sorrow and vengeful fury. Even almighty Slavic Gods Perun, Svarog, Veles and many other couldn’t stay indifferent to a beauty of Rusalka.”

Today, some places still celebrate Rusalka Week, also known as Green week, which occurs after Easter. It is said that at this time the rusalki are supposed to be at their most powerful and they sing and dance in the woods bringing with them water to reinvigorate life.





The featured image is Załaskotany (cykl Rusałki). Olej na płótnie. 38 x 109,5 cm. Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego w Krakowie and is liscensed under the public domain.


This is your Brain on Mud

In 2009 archaeologists from the York Archaeological Trust found one of the rarest items in all of the field of archaeology: preserved soft tissue. It is extremely rare in archaeology to discover soft tissue remains of creatures. When skin, flesh, hair, and more are discovered it is entirely unique and has the potential to forever change our understanding of days gone by. So, what was the rare soft tissue find that the York Archaeological Trust discovered? A brain.

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This brain was discovered in Heslington, York, England during the excavation of an Iron-age dig. One of the items discovered was a skull, with the jaw and two vertebrae still attached. This find wasn’t incredibly surprising, but when the skull was being cleaned, Rachel Cubitt noticed there was something...inside.

The 2,000-year-old brain was harboring a secret, it was harboring a brain. Rachel notified the team and they immediately reached out for an expert medical opinion. Shortly after, the skull was scanned at York Hospital and the existence of a preserved brain was confirmed. Dr. Sonia O’Connor, a research fellow at the University of Bradford said, "This brain is particularly exciting because it is very well preserved, even though it is the oldest recorded find of this type in the UK and one of the earliest worldwide."

A team of over 30 researchers have been studying the brain ever since and have discovered a few interesting things about the person behind the brain. This person is a man and is believed to have lived during the 6th century BC. Researchers have also discovered his cause of death. At the time of his death, he was somewhere between 26 and 45. It appears that, through analyzing the remaining vertebrae, that he was hit hard on the neck and then the neck was severed with a small, sharp knife. The head was removed completely shortly after he was killed and then the body was buried. Where he was buried was a clay-rich ground with a fair amount of moisture, which provided a sealed and oxygen-free burial.

Although the brain did change (for example, it shrank) it preserved roughly the same shape as well as defining brain-features that are found only in brain tissue.

We know how this man died, but the reason(s) for his death remain unknown, although some believe it was ritualistic. The brain is now known as ‘The Heslington Brain.’


The featured image is of the Heslington Brain and is liscensed by the University of York under fair use.


Italy’s Red House

One of my favorite things to write about on this blog is haunted houses you may have never heard of. This particular haunted house came to me thanks to someone posting about it in the facebook group. So, without further ado, let’s head to the mountains of Cortenova in Italy and open the doors to Villa De Vecchi, also known as the Red House and what may be one of the most haunted homes in Italy.

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Villa De Vecchi lies just east of Lake Como in the bewitching, lush forests in the mountains of Cortenova. Villa De Vecchi, in addition to being known as the Red House, has also been called the Ghost Mansion and the House of Witches (Casa Delle Streghe). It took three years to build between 1854-1857 and was initially created to be the summer home of Count Felix De Vecchi. The count specifically sought out his friend and architect Alessandro Sidioli to design the home but it would be Sidioli that would serve as the first bad omen for Villa De Vecchi. Sidioli would die one year before the completion of the home and would never be able to see the finished project.

Some of the rumors about the home might be about its unique architecture, at least for Italy. Before he became a decorated war hero Felix spent much of his youth traveling through Egypt, India, and the Middle East. While traveling he wrote and sketched beautifully of his adventures and even published them in a book, which was celebrated. His travels continued in the early 1840s during his honeymoon with Carolina Franchetti di Ponte. His reputation as a lover of eastern art, architecture, and culture proceeded him and it only made sense that his home would reflect the architecture and art he so admired.

The family lived in the summer retreat for several seasons enjoying the beautiful architecture and lush forest that surrounded them. However, as the legend states, one summer the tranquility of the home was forever changed. In 1862 while the Count was off working his daughter and wife stayed at home in their summer retreat without his protection. In a move that was believed to be born out of anger for Felix’s support of Unification, a team of people unknown to this day snuck into the home and brutally murdered his wife and stole away his daughter. Although he searched for her, it was in vain and she was never discovered. In a fit of pain and unable to continue on without his family, he took his own life.

Although this seems like a legend bound to create a  haunted house, it has been largely debunked. According to Italy Magazine, this tale is, “Not true. The building was abandoned and fell into disrepair after De Vecchi’s death.”

However, it is said the house was never habitable again for a consistent amount of time, even as a vacation home. Although several aristocratic families tried to make their stake in the beautiful and utterly unique home each left shortly after spending time on it. Some say it is because of the ghosts of Felix and his family, others say the very ground is cursed, and others say that something about the house just seems to drive people...mad.

However, the home’s reputation continued to make its way around Europe and in the 1920s infamous occulist, Aleister Crowley spent a few nights in the home. Although it is not reported quite what he did there his visit inspired many of his fans to also make pilgrimages to the Red House. Fans began to flock to the home and rumors of ritualistic orgies, animal sacrifices, ritual harm, spell-casting, astral projection, and other occult activities began to swirl.

Locals of the area say that the infamous, but now destroyed grand piano, can still be heard distantly playing in the distant. Urban explorers frequent the site to this day, although it is now off limits since the second floor collapsed and injured an explorer. Although it has been heavily affected by the elements the house miraculously survived a 2002 avalanche. Large boulders came falling down throughout the moment but they stopped mere feet before they reached the home. And, as Italy Magazine says, “ Locals are not sure that was a good thing.”

The featured image was taken by jeff kerwin and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).






Nullarbor Car Jacking Incident

Australia is home to many strange stories and creatures. From the Bunyip to the strange Black Mountain. But did you also know it is home to one of the strangest UFO stories I’ve come across? Enter the Knowles family. The Knowles family was driving deep in the Australian outback on the Nullarbor Plain when their lives would forever change.

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To set the scene, let’s talk a little bit about the Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor Plain is the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock, is quite arid, and nearly treeless. It is not the most inviting or habitable place in Australia.

In the early hours of January 20th, 1988 the Knowles family had been driving for roughly 13 hours with very few stops. In the car were Faye Knowles and her three young adult sons Wayne, Sean, and Patrick who were all between 18 and 24 years old. They were making the trek from Perth to Melbourne.

At this point, Sean was behind the wheel and the rest of his family was soundly asleep in the car. While the typically plain landscape flashed by Sean he noticed something eye-catching in the distance: a light. Now, a light seen while driving at night might not seem out of the ordinary but this particular stretch of land was sparsely and barely populated and the Knowles hadn’t seen another car for some time. So, the sudden appearance of an inexplicable light caught Sean’s attention.

The light continued to grow and become more prominent until it became apparent that it wasn’t something as simple as light. Sean, scared, woke up the rest of his family to witness what was happening. This initial sighting turned into a 90-minute ordeal that left the family shaken.

According to Faye Knowles, the large glowing object looked “like a big ball” and followed the family and terrorize them for almost two hours. During the chase, the ball of light continued to grow larger and create more of a presence. The culmination of the event occurred when the ball of light landed physically on top of the Knowles’ car. Faye rolled down the window and noted that “all of this smoke stuff started coming into the car, the car was covered in black stuff.”

When the object made contact with the car the car was briefly lifted into the air. Sean, unsure of what could be done in their state of suspension, pushed his foot on the accelerator hard. He and his mother screamed but according to reports their screams were distorted and changed as if they were in slow-mo mode.

A police spokesman who took the Knowles’ witness accounts later told media, “It apparently picked the car up off the road, shook it quite violently and forced the car back down on the road with such pressure that one of the tyres was blown.”

The family fled from the car. Even after the event, Faye’s fear is palpable when she says "We thought we were dying, then we got out the car and we hid behind a little tree and the bushes and it couldn't find us."

Once they believed they were safe the family re-entered the car and had almost no issue getting it back up and running. They drove to the nearby Ceduna and went right to the police station. The police took the report seriously namely because of the physical evidence. What physical evidence, you may ask? Well, the car was strangely dented and had an inexplicable dust-like film over most of it.

But what really happened that night? Skeptics and believers have yet to come to an answer but Psychology Today believes it was a shared hallucination. According to them, “Given the lack of corroborating physical evidence, and the frightened state of the occupants, it appears that family members, fatigued from a long trip, under the cover of darkness while traveling on an unfamiliar road, mistook an anomalous light for an extraterrestrial spacecraft that they believed was pursuing them.  It is also notable that based on interviews with the family, they were all in an extremely emotional state, “shouting and crying.” Mrs. Knowles even said she thought they were going to die.”

While this is admirable, I was surprised that the article lacked the rarity and potential implausibility of shared hallucinations. Additionally, if they were just fatigued and were frightened by a small light why don’t we have dozens and dozens of reports from long-haul truckers in Australia and across the world with similar stories? Perhaps I am not keeping an eye on the news as much as I need to, as I have come across very few possible UFO-sightings like this.

Whether you believe the Knowles encountered a UFO or other non-human tech that night or that they simply had an extremely powerful shared hallucination both answers seem fascinating and the Knowles case is certainly a unique one in UFOlogy.

The featured image is from Paul Banfe and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). It is of the Nullarbor valley.


Into the Valley of the Headless Man

The Nahanni River surges through the Nahanni National Park Reserve in Northern Canada. This National Park is every nature lover’s dream with its deep canyons, wonderful hiking trails, and majestic waterfall that is near twice the height of Niagra. But deep in this remote wilderness something strange lurks.

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Much of the Nahanni Valley is a sacred and protected place and many areas are closed off to the general public, so much of the valley remains veiled in mystery. According to the myth of the first peoples that once tried to make a stake near the valley, there are Mountain Men that inhabit the land. Mountain Men were described as being bigger than any man, hairy, and primitive, even resorting to eating humans. These Mountain Men allegedly hunted all those who dared entered the valley and separated their heads from their bodies. These Mountain Men are, allegedly, protecting an incredible hoard of gold. Although its land has been charted, photographed, and even filmed and the treasure has never been discovered it doesn’t stop people from trying.

One of the most prominent stories begins in the early 1900s with the McLeod brothers. In 1908 Willie and Frank McLeod decided to head to the Nahanni Valley in search of gold. Although they left excited and seemingly prepared the brothers never returned. Two years later they were discovered...but not alive. Their bodies were discovered on the banks of the powerful Nahanni River. The two men appeared to have been murdered...and decapitated.

Nine years after the McLeods’ fate was discovered, in approximately 1920, Martin Jorgenson set off a similar hunt for cold. Shortly after he left he made an effort to stay in communication when he could. He even sent out letters exclaiming that he had struck gold! However, when the letters stopped people grew curious and set off for his cabin. They found the cabin inexplicably burned to the ground. In the ashes, Jorgenson’s remains were discovered. And, just like the McLeod brothers, his body was also found without a head.

Decades later, the valley revealed another headless victim. A miner from Ontario body was discovered in 1945 headless in his sleeping bag.

For this is forbidding country, which has been disastrous to both white man and Indian. According to the U. S. Geographical Survey, virulent meningitis once wiped out an Indian village in the area. Some Indians say the valley’s haunted. At any rate, no one lives there now. Of the relatively few whites who have explored and prospected along the Nahanni, three have been murdered, another may have been murdered, and almost a dozen, including a girl, have simply vanished.

There are a few theories and stories behind how these men and who knows how many others have met this disastrous fate. One of the most popular ideas is that wolves decapitated the men, who likely died of natural causes or the elements. Another theory is that this terrifying folklore was spread by those in the Nahanni region to further dissuade more white men searching for gold on their land. These stories soon infected the prospector camps and those who had recently arrived to the area.


The featured image is by true person and is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).


The George Stickney Home

Although Astonishing Legends spent a lot of time investigating Chicago for the Resurrection Mary series, Mary is far from the only strange thing residing in the great state of Illinois. One of these strange residents isn’t a person, but a house...specifically the George Stickney house.

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The mansion was first built in 1836 by George and wife Sylvia. The Stickneys had been a part of the area for quite sometime before they built their mansion. In fact, George Stickney was the first white man to settle in Nunda Township in the early 1830s.

The Stickneys were also large believers in spiritualism and supported the idea that spirits had the desire to act through the living. They were believed to have first gotten into spiritualism as a way to deal with the immense tragedy in their lives. The couple had ten children together but of the 10 only three survived to adulthood. They relied on their faith in spiritualism and communication afterlife as a way to grieve their children and give them their hope. Their belief in spiritualism directly affected how they built their dream house.

The first consideration was location. The Stickneys chose a remote place in an effort to avoid questions from strangers or odd rumors cropping up about their practices. So, they went to Illinois, specifically a remote location in the forest right outside Bull Valley. The home is two floors and the first floor is pretty typical of any home with bedrooms, a kitchen, and other living spaces. But the second floor of the home is entirely dedicated to a hugely grand ballroom.

One of the strangest architectural details of the home is that it completely lacks any sharp corners. Every angle in the home is rounded. This was done in the hopes that spirits would be able to move through the home unimpeded, as corners are believed to impinge upon the ability of spirits to roam and even, in some cases, trap or confuse them.

But, back to the ballroom...why would one dedicate so much space to a ballroom in a home in the middle of nowhere? Why to hold extravagant seances of course!

One of the legends of the home, although it has not been entirely proven, is that George died in the only room with a 90-degree corner, which the architect inexplicably included. He died with a look of terror on his face when he realized where he had died would trap his soul forever within the home.

Survived by his wife, Sylvia the Stickneys prominence in the spiritual world continued to grow. Throughout this time Sylvia claimed to keep up conversations with both her departed husband and children.

After Sylvia died, the house fell a bit into disrepair. A group of so-called devil worshippers was believed to move in but in reality, it was just a group of burned-out hippies in the 1960s who painted the room, left strange messages, and set fires throughout the home. Although rumors like this sprung up in the following decades alongside purported hauntings have never been proven.

The house sold in the mid-20th century although the next owners never claimed anything unusual or supernatural happened. They moved out a few years later when their plans for restoring the home fell through.

Today, the home is owned and occupied by the Bull Valley Police Department. The gorgeous ballroom once used for seances and to discuss matters of spiritualism is now a series of storage rooms for the police department.

The featured image is of the George Stickney House, Bull Valley, Illinois, National Register of Historic Places.


Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill is the tallest artificial prehistoric mound in Europe. Although its precise build date is elusive it was believed to have been built using 400 million man hours sometime between 2470 an 2350 BC. Why did Neolithic people use their time, effort, and talents to create this...and what are the myths and legends that endure to this day.

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The hill itself takes up about five acres and stands at an impressive 131 feet high today, although some believe it may have once been even taller when it was originally built. It is made up of a variety of natural materials including gravel, stones quarried from the surrounding area, clay, and chalk. According to English Heritage.org “The monument we see today was not conceived and built in a single campaign but enlarged over several generations. Perhaps different people brought soil and chalk from their own neighboring lands, bringing communities together. Over time, the project became more ambitious, with huge quantities of chalk dug from the surrounding ditch to build the mound.”

It was also much more complicated than it appears today. In addition to its grand height, there was also a double-moat the enclosed much of the hill. There is also evidence of heaps of mud and dark soils in and around small pits that were likely related to a ceremonial activity.

Although it as built long before the Romans ever saw it they still seemed to respect its purpose and those who built it as evidenced by the Roman Road which purposefully weaves around the hill. In addition to the road, there is also evidence of a small Roman village at the base of the hill.

The mound first gained some archaeological interest in the late 1770s. Specifically, Hugh Percy, Duke of Northumberland, supported the first dig lead by Edward Drax. They dug a vertical shaft beginning from the summit and into the center of the hill but failed to find the exciting central burial they were expecting. A little less than 100 years later, the dean of Hereford, oversaw the creation of a horizontal tunnel into the hill. But, once again, no central burial was discovered.

The BBC then sponsored a dig another 100 years later from 1968 through 1970. The excavation was televised and many people were looking forward to discovering hat may lay inside this fascinating hill. While no grand chamber was discovered, it taught us much of what we’ve learned today about the construction of the hill and the team was able to identify that the hill was built in three phases.

As mentioned before many were interested in the hill early on because of the belief that it may be a very important burial site. Folklore dictates that it may have been the final resting place of King Sil. King Sil was a mythic warrior knight who was buried in this monumental hill atop his horse. Folklore even says that the king and his horse transformed in death to figures of solid goal...so perhaps early interested was roused by those looking for treasure.

Many stories of strange monuments from the Neolithic age also were rumored to be helped along by the devil himself and Silbury Hill is no different. Allegedly, the Devil was planning a serious attack on the people of Marlborough. What was he going to do? Drop a huge apron of soil onto the town. However, priests at Avebury united and the Devil was forced to drop the dirt on Silbury.

Like many large archaeological finds, it is also a popular theory that the hill may have served an astronomical purpose. The top of the hill is leveled specifically to the north and the meridian line from Silbury runs through Avebury church which stands on a ley line between Stonehenge at the stone circle at Winterbourne Abbas.

Perhaps we will never know the true purpose of Silbury Hill...but it sure is fun to theorize!

The above image comes from Chris Gunns / Meadow near the car park Avebury, Silbury Hill in the distance / CC BY-SA 2.0


Gjenganger

A Gjenganger, hailing from Scandinavian folklore, is not your typical ghost. In fact, many Scandinavian people fear that when they die they may come back a Gjenganger. A Gjenganger, at its most basic, is a ghost that has been revived from death to purposefully haunt the living.

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The word “Gjenganger” is a combination of the words ‘again’ and the word ‘ganger’ means ‘foot’ or ‘walker’ so Gjenganger translates to ‘walking again.’ This is even more fitting because Gjengangers usually look wholly corporeal and real and not at all “ghostly.”

Typically, Gjengangers are those who died before their time, usually a victim of murder, suicide, or another crime or accident. These revenge-motivated ghosts are extremely vicious and with the goal of seriously disturbing the lives of those who wronged it in life.

Gjengangers mostly commonly attack in the dead of night while their victim is fast asleep. The Gjenganger will then pinch the sleeping person and flee the scene. When the victim awakens they’ll notice a strange, blue spot where the Gjenganger pinched them. This is a sign of coming sickness and death for that person.

In addition to attacking specific people who have wronged it, Gjengangers also seem to enjoy wreaking havoc among all the living. They are adept at spreading sickness and, if it touches you, even if it is just a brush, your flesh will soon begin to slough away as the virus reaches your heart.

To avoid Gjengangers there are some practices that can be put in place to avoid the creation of them. A person who has the potential to become a Gjenganger must be buried in a specific way with a specific runic inscription being written inside the coffin to prevent any waking up and walking around.

Interestingly enough a lot of the symptoms caused by the Gjenganger seem to mimic real-life diseases that were common at the time. Could the skin sloughing disease be necrotizing fasciitis which often occurs after an injury or even simple abrasions or cuts? Furthermore, could the pinching-based disease be a symptom of cancer or other internal issues?

The above image is entitled Porteous Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia PA. It was taken by Flickr user Thomas. It is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).


A Brief Overview of Crossroads

Crossroads factor into many stories of the occult, strange, and astonishing. But, why? And who are these strange creatures that seem to be pulled towards to them to interact with humans? Like many special places in folklore such as bridges, dusk, and stairwells, crossroads act as a liminal space. Every magical being from fairies to Old Scratch himself has been rumored to be available to call upon or see at a crossroads. Crossroads also represent the need for a choice - if you are a traveler you must make a decision, which road will you take? And how could this direction change your life?

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There are crossroads myths that date back to well before there were any roads for carts or cars and can be found all over the world from Africa to Europe to Asian. Crossroads myth and folklore also dates incredibly far back all the way to America in the 20th century, and perhaps even more recently.

Before I begin diving into the crossroads and the beings that guard, appear, or interact at the crossroads I do want to stress not that all aspects of the crossroad are necessarily or inherently evil. In fact, crossroads play an integral part of all sorts of magic. Commonly, an offering of food, wine, silver, or lavender is made at a triple crossroads when asking for advice when you are a metaphorical crossroads in your life. Many magical practices, such as a wash, also need to be poured out or completed on a crossroads to finish and solidify the magic.

Let’s begin with what Icy Sedgwick calls the “Daddy of crossroads legends”, the Devil. The Devil appearing at a crossroads is quite a popular through-line of the myth, however, Old Scratch appearing at a crossroads and offering fame, knowledge, power or fortune is one of the most popular crossroad deals you’ll hear in American myth. In America, he sometimes appears as a well-dressed man (typically white or black) offering you a wily deal that’s bound to end in disaster and, of course, with him getting another soul to add to his book.

One of the most infamous crossroads myths in America is that of Robert Johnson. In this story, Johnson does not begin as the great talent we recognize today. Frustrated as gig after gig landed him nothing and being asked to stop playing multiple times, he decided to make a deal with the devil...literally. The story goes that late at night Johnson made his way to a crossroads and expressed his intention and desire for a deal in the middle of them. Summoned, the devil took Johnson’s guitar out of Johnson’s hands and into his own, while strumming a few nearly unlistenable chords. When he was done, he handed back the guitar to Johnson. However, when Johnson played the notes came easy and talent flowed from him. Some of his lyrics are often nodded to as “proof” of this deal, such as “I got to keep movin’, blues fallin’ down like hail… And the day keeps on worrin’ me, there’s a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail.” -- Hellhound on my Trail, Robert Johnson (1937)

Robert Johnson died early at the young age of 27, joining the infamous 27 club. Was his death the work of the devil, or simply bad luck?

In addition to devils, there are also animals of the crossroads. Oschaert, from Belgian folklore, was a black dog that haunted crossroads. A bit of a trickster, this creature often played tricks on those who are unknowingly wandered into one of his crossroads. Luckily, you could be saved from his trickery by standing in the dead center of the crossroads and waiting for Oschaert to leave, tail between his legs. Never fear cat-lovers, there is also a crossroads cat, often called the money cat. In order to conjure the cat, you must leave a food offering, particularly a dead hen until it shows itself to you. Then, it will allow you to take it home. Once in your house, it must be trapped in a box or corner of the house until it is tamed. You must take diligent care of it, including feeding it well and offering it treats. If you let it out early or if you do not take proper care of it, it will flee your home and curse you with bad luck.

Another figure of the crossroads is Papa Legba, an African trickster god, and the god of the roads. Like the crossroads itself, Legba is also a liminal being with the power to open the way between the world of the living ad the world of the dead. Gerdès Fleurant, a sociologist focusing on music and folklore, noted that without Papa Legba, “nothing can be done. No ceremony can take place. He is the one who opens the gates of the universe.” Unlike the devil at the crossroads, Papa Legba is typically helpful and kind, despite being a bit of a trickster. He is willing to help as long as you honor him with his favorite things (like candy) and treat him with respect and he will teach you what you wish to know or lead you to a choice when you are at an indecisive mental crossroads.

As mentioned before the crossroads are a powerful place to perform magic. According to Danish lore on midnight on New Year’s Eve if one stands within a rectangle formed by horse-cart tracks a ghost of any dead person can be summoned and will be forced to answer three questions of your choosing. It is said in German lore that if you’d like to hear the names of the people that will die in the coming year you simply need to visit a crossroads between 11p, and midnight on New Year’s Eve to hear the names called out by the wind.

Without a doubt, the crossroads are a place of great, time-old folklore, mystery, and myth. We urge caution when driving or walking through at night. And, if someone asks you to sign a book in a crossroads in exchange for fame and glory...we highly suggest you close the book and keep on moving.


The featured image is Crossroads by Flickr user Jacopo. It is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Qalupalik

When you think of a mermaid, a few different images may cross through your mind - images of kind-hearted, beautiful half-fish, half-human maidens or perhaps sirens that may be beautiful but once they have you in their clutches turn to heinous beasts ready to kill you. But, the Qualupalik is a bit different.

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The legend of the Qalupalik comes from the Inuit people and their icy, arctic waters. Unlike many other mythical mermaids, there is nothing attractive about the Qualupalik. They are described as aquatic humanoids with scaly, bumpy skin. They are often depicted as having fins coming out of their heads, backs, and torsos. Their hands, though webbed, are clawed and made for the hunt. The Qualupalik are also rumored to smell like sulfur and wear eider duck clothing. Most hauntingly is what they carry -  an amautik. Amautiks are commonly worn by Inuit women to secure their babies to their backs. They carry amautiks so they can snatch small Inuit children.

Inuit parents warn their children frequently about the dreadful Qualupaliks. One of the warning signs if they are near the shore and hear a humming noise. The humming is a warning that the Qualupalik is near. The humming is meant to entice curious children to come closer to the edge of the shore so the Qualupalik can steal the child away. However, the threat does not vanish if you’re away from the shore. Sometimes the Qualupalik will knock under the ice drawing a child to a weak part or hole in the ice to steal them away.


But what do the Qualupalik do with the stolen children? Some say they eat them but other legends say they take them away to a cave and put them under a sleeping spell. They feed on the young, innocent energy to remain immortal.

Like many creatures from folklore Qualupalik serves a utilitarian purpose in the harsh environment of what is now Northern Alaska and Canada. By scaring the children out of wanting to be alone or going too close to sea ice or the shore they lowered the chances that the child would venture near those dangerous places.

The above image is Pink floyd88 a. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.


The Coptic Spell Book

Grimoires, magic book, spell book...whatever you call them these strange and mysterious tomes have been rumored of and spoken about for centuries. Whether they are playfully depicted in movies like Hocus Pocus or were used as a reason to steal people from their homes in the middle ages on claims of illegal witchcraft, you’ve probably stumbled upon a story of a spell book in one form or another in your life. But, what about when those spell books are discovered?

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Also known as ‘An Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power’, the Coptic Spell Book is a scroll full of invocations and spells. It gets its common name, the Coptic Spell ook, because of the language it was written in. Coptic is an Egyptian language that is based on the Greek alphabet augmented with letters borrowed from Demotic, the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language. The book itself dates back to, approximately, the 8th century BCE and likely originated in Upper Egypt. Researchers classify it as a codex and it made from 20 bound pages of parchment.

The text was originally discovered in 1981 when a researcher was going through the extensive papyrus collection at Macquarie University and it was recently translated by Malcolm Choat and Ianin Garnder.

The book seems to be laid out purposefully. It begins with a series of invocations which eventually culminate in drawings and words of power. These invocations are followed by spells to cure various ailments, spiritual issues (including possessions), and finally spells to bring about desirable things like success in love and business.

Surprisingly, the Coptic Spell Book contains links to Christianity. Many of the invocations are actually Orthodox Christian invocations. However, it’s main focus seems to be Sethian. Sethians were a group that held that Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, in high regard. The book also calls upon Baktiotha, who is an ambivalent figure. However, according to Live Science, “The researchers believe that the invocations were originally separate from 27 of the spells in the codex, but later, the invocations and these spells were combined, to form a "single instrument of ritual power.”

Who was this codex created for? It would not necessarily need to be a priest, monk, or another religious figure. Perhaps it could be used by those outside the ranks of the clergy or religious world. I certainly think this is a possibility because of the spells included, especially towards the end. While it would make sense to include healing spells and cures to ailments to a religious text for religious use, I think the addition of things like success and lay spells indicates lay-person usage.

The above image is entitled Museo Archeologico - Milan. It is liscensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 and was taken by Jose Luiz Bernardes Riberio.

The Magical Healing Properties of Dirt

Folk medicine, old wives tales, and homeopathic cures have been a part of every culture since prehistory. While many of the herbs, rituals, and remnants of these healing rituals remain in use today there are many that were, well, let’s say not as reliable. However, one of the surprising healing powers of centuries past is dirt. Specifically, soil from Toneel North in Boho, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

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The grasslands of the Boho Highlands of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years. In fact, there is evidence that Neolithic people lived on the land 4,000 years ago. Despite the little we know about druids there are reports that claim that druids also lived on the land roughly 1,500 years ago. For centuries it was said the soil from this town had the ability to heal a large number of common ailments from toothaches to sore necks.

How did they use the dirt? Most commonly, they would take a small lump of soil and wrap that in a cloth. Then, the dirt satchel would be placed next to the infected or pained area or underneath the ill’s pillow for 9 days.

But how did the dirt go from ancient cure to medical breakthrough?

Well, we have a research team the UK’s Swansea University Medical School and the Ulster University School of Biomedical Sciences and Croatia’s Laboratory for Molecular Genetics at Ruđer Bošković Institute to thank for that! With the rise antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like the dreaded MRSA, this team was on a search for non-traditional and inventive new ways to combat resistant bacteria.

So, after hearing about this soil with magical healing properties the team decided to procure some of this soil. And, with this soil, they hit proverbial gold! The research team discovered that this soil “contains a previously unknown strain of Streptomyces, a bacteria that has already shown themselves to be effective against some of the superbugs.” They continue in their new study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, says that this new strain “was proven effective in inhibiting growth of four of the top six multi-resistant pathogens (Vancomycin resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumonia, and Carbenepenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumanii), a list that includes the notorious MRSA.”

Now that this new strain of Streptomyces has been discovered the team is working to further isolate it with the hopes of replicating it. They are also investigating if this dirt is capable of treating other diseases and illnesses.

Most importantly, Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University Medical School says, “Our results show that folklore and traditional medicines are worth investigating in the search for new antibiotics. Scientists, historians and archaeologists can all have something to contribute to this task. It seems that part of the answer to this very modern problem might lie in the wisdom of the past."

As a Legender, I’m sure that statement excites you. I, personally, have a great hope that in 2019 folklore and traditional medicines continue to be investigated and that I get to report on more stories like this for you in the coming year!

The above image is unrelated to the story except for the fact it is is an image of the “Limestone pavement/grassland abutting the hills of Boho, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland“ it was taken by Youngbohemian and is liscensed under Creative Commons.

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).