Robert The Doll – A Perfect Little Patsy

Key West, a U.S. island city, located at the southernmost point of Florida, roughly 90 miles north of Cuba is known for its beautiful scenery, its coral reefs, laid back nightlife, a past residence to two literary giants Earnest Hemmingway and Tennessee Williams, and a current home for a malevolent little doll that goes by the name of Robert.  On this weird and odd little journey we’re going to expose this urban legend that revolves around a doll that is known for being mischievous and that is causing people who visit him to write apologetic letters to avoid any sudden “accidental” deaths.

robert-the-doll

The legend behind Robert The Doll

Robert Eugene Otto was given a doll as a present when he was a small boy.  Robert, called Gene by his family and friends, quickly became fond of the doll and named the doll Robert after himself.  Gene was seen on many occasions whispering secrets into Robert’s ear and they were inseparable.

On one evening, Gene was supposedly tucked in bed slipping off into dreamland.  Gene’s parents were about to call it a night themselves and while getting into bed they heard loud crashing sounds coming from Gene’s room.  As they quickly got up and rushed to investigate the racket coming from their little boy’s room they started hearing cries for help from their pleading child in distress.  The parents quickly tried to get through the door to his room but the door was locked from the inside and would not budge, no matter how much force was being applied. And then, all of a sudden the door just opened on it’s own.  Gene’s room was redecorated with broken pieces of furniture scattered all over the room. Gene was sitting on his bed while hugging his knees close to his chest crying out of terror. His parents asked what happened. While Gene was sobbing he pointed to the doll and said “Robert did it”.  His parents looked at Robert sitting at the foot of the bed with an innocent expression on its face while being accused of a crime that it couldn’t have possibly committed. While dismissing the claim from their child as an overactive imagination, they helped Gene clean up the mess and tucked him back in bed.

Child eugene and friend

Child Eugene and friend

The parents eventually started getting worried when the doll seemed to have had some type of hold over Gene.  Gene’s parents would sometimes hear their son talking to Robert in his bedroom and sometimes a deep strange voice would answer back.  The parents would check in on Gene to see who was in the room with their child and it always was the same, Gene would be sitting in his room alone with Robert and Gene would look at his worried parents in a nonchalantly manner.

Similar events plagued the Otto Family for many years to come.  Gene and Robert’s bond lasted through the years into Gene’s adulthood.  After Gene’s parents passed away, Gene and his wife Anne moved back into his child home were Gene was reunited with his doll Robert.  Gene decided that Robert needed a room of his own and placed his doll in the upstairs room on a rocking chair near the window overlooking the street.  Anne kept getting weird feelings about Robert and tried to convince Gene to have Robert put in the attic. Gene eventually conceded and locked his childhood buddy in the attic.

Soon after, guests would visit the house and reported hearing footsteps of someone pacing  back and forth in the attic. Some people reported hearing devilish giggling sounds. Children walking by the house on their way to school would see Robert at the upstairs room window mocking them as they went by.  The neighborhood kids informed Gene about these accounts numerous times and every time Gene went to the upstairs bedroom he would find Robert sitting in the rocking chair looking out the window. Robert would be sent back to the attic every time this happened to avoid any arguments with his wife.  No matter how many times Robert was placed back into the attic he would always return sitting on the rocking chair in the upstairs bedroom looking out the window.

After Eugene Otto’s death in 1974, Myrtle Reuter bought the house along with the estate and became the  caretaker of Robert. Rueter often found Robert in different places in the house from where she had left him.  Rueter’s guest also witnessed the doll’s ability to appear and reappear and the expression on Robert’s face had a tendency to change like it was completely aware of what was going on with conversations.  If Robert was disrespected or if anyone discussed Eugene in a negative way his face would show a disdainful expression. Supposedly, people who made this mistake of disrespect would shortly be victims of “accidental” deaths, divorces, or illnesses.  In 1994, Myrtle donated Robert to the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Fl, where he still sits today.

The origins of Robert the Doll

After reading several blogs and websites, shuffling through all of the tourists trade sales pitches, opinions of antique toy collectors, and looking at lot of creepy pictures of dolls; I have not only found two origin stories but possibly developed a bad case of pediophobia.

The supernatural origin story…

The Otto family had a bad reputation for mistreating their servants and while walking out of the Otto home for the last time a Bahamian servant girl gave little Robert Eugene Otto a going away gift.  Eugene quickly became attached to his new companion not knowing that the doll was cursed with voodoo black magic that was destined to wreak havoc and terror on his family for decades to come.

The other origin story…

Many of my references are claiming that the doll was manufactured by the Steiff company and was purchased as a birthday gift by Eugene’s grandfather while visiting Germany.  It’s not really clear when the doll was made or how old Eugene was when he received his present. One reference was stating that the doll was bought in 1904. Another reference was stating that Eugene received his doll when was 8 years old.  What is factual is that Robert Eugene Otto was born in 1900.

Steiffmargarete

Margarete Steiff

A brief history of the Steiff company

Margarette Steiff started off as a seamstress and had her own clothing business which successfully sold clothes and household articles.  After seeing a sewing pattern from a magazine, Margarette made a stuffed elephant and used it as a pin cushion. Shortly after with the aid of family the first stuffed elephant shortly became an accidental success which led to the creation of the Steiff company in 1880.  After Steiff’s success of selling stuffed animals imitations were entering in the market. In 1904, the Steiff company started to add a button with a tag on the left ear of all of their products to help customers distinguish the difference between an authentic Steiff doll and an imposter.

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A replica of a Steiff model, The first Steiff Bear

The Steiff company started making felt dolls in the early 1900’s through the 1930’s.  These dolls were made to reflect occupations and culture (soldiers, students, butchers, etc.) rather than just serving as playful toys for children.  Most of these dolls appeared in the 22 to 50 cm size range. Robert the Doll is 100 cm in size which would be unusual for these line of Steiff dolls, however there are mentions of 100 cm dolls from Steiff catalogs.  The materials used and the seam patterns of Robert were typical of Steiff dolls of the early 1900’s. However it is still uncertain if Robert the Doll is a “genuine” Steiff Doll.

Final Thoughts…

Just in case Robert has figured out how to access the WiFi at his current residence I would like to extend my deepest apologies.

Dear Robert,

If I have said anything that might have seemed disrespectful then I apologize for my rudeness.  You’re are very handsome and remarkable little sailor and Eugene was a very talented artist.

Respectfully yours,

The Weird and The Odd

References

IDo You Believe In The Steiff Supernatural? (2014, May 24). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from http://mysteifflife.blogspot.com/2014/05/do-you-believe-in-steiff-supernatural.html.

Serena, K. (2019, August 19). This Doll Might Be The Most Haunted Toy In History. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://allthatsinteresting.com/robert-the-doll.

eKomi. (n.d.). History of Steiff teddy bears and steiff animals. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://www.steiffteddybears.co.uk/more-things-steiff/history-of-steiff-bears.php.

Ghosts & Gravestones. (n.d.). Robert The Doll – Key West, FL. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/key-west/robert-the-doll.

Robert Eugene “Gene” Otto (1900-1974) – Find A… (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/24778775/robert-eugene-otto.

Rahn, A., & Rahn, A. (2015, July 26). Ten Things You Didn’t Know: Steiff bears & toys. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://www.antiquetrader.com/toys-collectibles/ten-things-you-didnt-know-steiff-bears-toys/.

Steiff: The Story. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://www.steiffusa.com/steiff-the-story/.

Robert the Doll – The Story of Eugene Otto and his Enchanted Doll. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://www.hauntedrooms.co.uk/robert-doll-story-eugene-otto-enchanted-doll.

A BOY & HIS DOLL. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from http://robertthedoll.org/a-boy-his-doll/.

Robert (doll). (2019, September 30). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_(doll).

Seriously the Most Scorching Time of the Year “The Dog Days of Summer”

When people mention “the dog days of Summer have arrived”, have you ever wondered what they mean?  Are they associating the behaviors of dogs laying in the shade, drinking more water, excessive panting, or taking more frequent naps during this time period of summer?

Unfortunately the expression has nothing to do with our actual furry companions or how they cope with the heat.

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Sirius

There is one dog that is associated with the expression of  “dog days of summer”. From Latin, Sirius “the Dog Star”; one star of a binary star system, is the brightest star in our night sky from a distance of 8.6 light years away.  The dog star, Sirius A, is 20 times brighter than our sun. Sirius B, the companion star, is referred to as the pup and is a white dwarf. Sirius A is the only one that can be seen and is one of the stars that make up the Canis Major constellation.

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Mythology

In Greek the star is called Seirios meaning “scorching” or “the scorcher”.  When the ancient Greeks noticed that approximately a 40 day period of extreme heat in the early summer coincided with the Sirius star rising and setting with the sun, they concluded that the additional heat was coming from the Sirius star.

The Greeks and the Romans were not pleased during this time of summer.  They believed that when the Sirius star made its timely appearance along with the Sun that it was going to be a time of evil brought to their lands in forms of droughts, disease, and discomfort.  Sirius was described by Roman poet Vigil as a “bringer of drought and plague to frail mortals, rises and saddens the sky with sinister light”.

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A bust of Sopdet, Egyptian goddess of Sirius and the fertility of the Nile

Sothis

The ancient Egyptians referred to the star as Sothis and welcomed this event.  The Nile River flooded every year which brought rich fertile soil desperately needed to grow crops in the desert region.  At first they couldn’t tell exactly when this would occur but they eventually noticed that the floods would happen on the days when Sothis would rise before the Sun.

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Sirius A and Sirius B.  “The pup” Sirius B is on the lower left.  The rings and spikes are instrumental effects

Fact or Myth?

The Dog Star has nothing to do with the extra heat during the summer.  The reason for the heat is due to the Earth being farthest from the sun in July.  During the summer , the Sun’s rays hit the Earth at a steep angle. The rays do not spread out as much which increases the amount of energy hitting any given spot on Earth.  The long daylight hours increases the time of the Earth to reach warmer temperatures. During winter time, the Earth is closer to the Sun causing the Sun rays to hit the planet at a shallow angle.  The rays are more spread out, which minimizes the amount of energy that hits any spot on Earth. The longer nights prevent the planet to reach high temperatures. This is of course if you’re dwelling somewhere on the Northern Hemisphere.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, traditionally the 40 days of the Dog Days of Summer begin July 3rd and end on August 11th.  This time period however is not going to be accurate with our current calendar. Astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and director of the Doane Observatory, Larry Ciupik stated, “The calendar is fixed according to certain events, but the stars have shifted according to the way that the Earth wobbles…So in about 50 some years, the sky shifts about one degree.”  Meaning in several millennia from now, the Sirius star would be rising along with the sun during winter.

There is a small piece of truth behind the myth of the dog days that revolves around plagues.  A 2009 Finnish study tested the claim that the high rate of infections during this time period of summer.  The authors of the report who conducted the study confirmed this myth to be true.

References

Why is it hot in summer and cold in winter? (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/seasons.html

Sirius (n.). (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/sirius

Constellation Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.constellation-guide.com/constellation-list/canis-major-constellation/

Canis Major, the Great Dog. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://stardate.org/astro-guide/canis-major-great-dog

Kirkpatrick, N. (2019, May 23). The real meaning of the ‘dog days of summer’. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/stories/real-meaning-dog-days-summer

Klein, C. (2015, August 05). The Ancient Greek Origins of the ‘Dog Days of Summer’. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.history.com/news/why-are-they-called-the-dog-days-of-summer

Little, B. (2015, July 10). Why Do We Call Them the ‘Dog Days’ of Summer? Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/150710-dog-days-summer-sirius-star-astronomy-weather-language/

Old Farmer’s Almanac. (n.d.). The Dog Days of Summer. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.almanac.com/content/what-are-dog-days-summer

 

Longpig – The other kind of pork, the pork that speaks

connoisseurs say the meat tastes like pork and others say veal.  

While many say it is morally wrong and it’s against the law.

Others treat it as a another meal.

clan of cannibals

The eating of one’s own species is very common and acceptable amongst many other organisms in nature.  Humans however, are still hung up on the idea of eating your fellow human as morally wrong and it is considered a cultural taboo in many societies.  Regardless of it being illegal or immoral, people do resort to cannibalism out of survival or for ritual practices. Longpig; by the way, is a Polynesian term from the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, describing what humans would look like when cooked.  The word has become slang for cooked human flesh which is featured on many cannibal-fetish sites on the dark web.

The weak is meat, the strong do eat

Donner Party Memorial

Donner Party Memorial

The Donner party

May 1846, a group of families; the Donners and Reeds, along with employees, set off on a wagon train bound from Independence, Missouri to California.  With many mishaps and a few attacks by the local indigenous tribes, these pioneers thought the worst of their troubles were over, until they became trapped in the Sierra Nevadas due to a series of early winter storms.  Due to the severity of the weather, the first rescue party arrived in February 1847. Of the beginning 87 member party only 48 survived and made it to California. Out of survival instincts, some of the remaining of the party stayed alive by resorting to cannibalism.

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19)

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT – La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19)

Raft of the Medusa

A painting by Théodore Géricault depicts an event that occurred early in the summer of 1816.  The frigate Medusa was taking civilians and French officials to claim control of Senegal after the fall of Napoleon.  Due to negligence of the Captain the ship grounded. The lifeboats couldn’t accommodate the 400 passengers on board. A large crude raft was created for the less fortunate people and was towed by the lifeboats.  With no food or water rations onboard the raft, people were getting hungry and dehydrated. Tensions grew between the passengers on the lifeboats and on the raft that lead to the people onboard the lifeboats cutting the tow line of the raft.  The abandoned passengers on the raft had to resort to cannibalism to survive. A rescue party arrived 13 days later on July 17. Only 15 castaways were left on the raft, five died shortly after the rescue.

Survivors of Uruguayan Air Force flight 571

Survivors of Uruguayan flight 571

Uruguayan Flight 571

On October 12th, 1972, chartered flight 571 was en route from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile.  There were 3 crew members and 45 passengers on board. A Uruguayan rugby team, their family members, and supporters were on their way to a match in Chile.  While crossing the Andes, the inexperienced co-pilot made an error and the plane struck the mountain. Of the 45 passenger it was reported that 28 survived the initial crash and all of the crew died.  After the 10th day of the crash, the survivors heard a broadcast over a transistor radio that the search for them was called off. With no results of the search, it was presumed that nobody survived the crash.  Rather than facing starvation the survivors resorted to eating the dead. Three of the survivors, without any gear or experience, decided to climb a glacier blocking their path and hiked for 10 days. They eventually came in contact with a Chilean arriero (muleteer) and after over two months of being stranded; on December 23rd, the 16 remaining survivors on the Andes were rescued.

Ritual Cannibalism

The practice of ritual cannibalism has been apart of human behavior from around the world long before recorded history and is still practiced today.  Anthropologists found human bones that showed signs of de-fleshing by other humans in cave dwellings of Homo antecessor; a archaic human species of the Lower Paleolithic that existed between  1.2 million and 0.8 million years ago in Western Europe. Human remains found in Gough’s Cave in England dating roughly 15,000 B.C. showed evidence of cannibalism. It appeared that many of the skulls were used as drinking vessels, indicating that cannibalism was a sacred practice in this location.

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Pyramid of Unas

Ritual texts were found while excavating tombs in Egypt.  Amongst these Egyptian texts, the Cannibal Hymn was found in the tomb of Pharaoh Unas.

The Pharaoh is he

Who lives on the being of every god,

Who eats their entrails…

Pharaoh is he who eats men

And lives on gods

During the first century, the Greek writer Diodorus Siculus recorded an ancient story in which Osiris forbade Egyptian people to eat one another.

Aghoree,_Hindoo_mendicant,_Benares

An Aghori, c. 1875

The Aghori

A sect of Hindu ascetics in India, believe that all things in the universe are equally sacred including human remains.  The Aghori believe that holding, caressing, and eating the human dead will help them transcend all dichotomies and attain nirvana by becoming one with ultimate reality.  This practice is considered a taboo amongst followers of mainstream Hinduism.

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A Korowai man

The Korowai

The people of the Korowai tribe, mainly in the western area of Papua New Guinea, practice the act of cannibalism out of revenge.  It is believed that when a family member is falling ill and or dies it was from the hands of a Khakhua (witch). When someone is accused of being a witch, the tribe would kill them and eat their remains to avenge their loved ones.

dried human placenta

Dried human placenta as medicine

Placentophagy

To prevent postpartum depression (PPD) and other perceived health benefits, some women consume the placenta after giving birth.  The first documented accounts of placentophagy were in North America in the 1970’s. Due to health advocates and the media, the ritual has seen a huge rise in popularity.  Despite the claims of the health benefits that still haven’t been confirmed, there are health risks of partaking in this ritual. The one function of the placenta is to protect the fetus from harmful substances.  Elements of selenium, cadmium, mercury, lead, as well as bacteria have been identified in the post-term placental tissue.

What are the Pros and Cons of Cannibalism?

If there is no food and it is out of survival, that would be a pro.  Chowing down on your former travel companion or neighbor will give you plenty of calories that will buy you a few more days.  Consuming cooked human flesh is no more hazardous to your health than eating the cooked flesh of other animals.

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Zombies from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead

Despite what the zombies say, don’t eat the brain!  Eating the brain will more than likely cause Prion disease, which is similar to Mad Cow disease and you will die from that.  Cooking your meat is very important. Not only will you get parasites and e coli, you will also get blood borne pathogens from your meal as well.  If for whatever reason you have to resort to cannibalism make sure you eat your vegetables. Like eating any other meat, if you don’t eat your side salad, digesting your fellow human will be very complicated and will lead to constipation.

After developing your reputation for being a cannibal you might be arrested, exceptions might be made if it was for survival reasons and the person was already dead.  Seek legal counsel on that one. Whether it is legal or not, you will be looked at, in a very judgemental way, probably for the rest of your life.

Final Thoughts…

From the words of a philosopher, writer, and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau : “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich”.  To build off of that, if the filthy rich are going to act like greedy pigs then logically they must taste like pork.  Hmmm… bacon, I like bacon. How about you?

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Just plain uncooked bacon, or is it?

For related articles

The Legend of Sawney Beane

Vampires

For Further Reading

Sleeping with Cannibals

The Chilling Case of “Fat Longpig,” the Cannibal With a Child Dungeon

References

Long pig definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/long-pig

Nuwer, R. (2014, February 03). Human Flesh Looks Like Beef, But the Taste Is More Elusive. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/human-flesh-looks-beef-taste-more-elusive-180949562/

Akpan, N. (2017, April 06). If you had to eat a human, which body part should you pick first? Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/served-archaeologist-considers-nutritional-value-humans

Flint, K. (2017, December 15). Being a Cannibal – Is it Really Bad to Eat People? Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://particle.scitech.org.au/food/is-it-really-bad-to-eat-people/

Newman, T. (2018, January 19). Cannibalism: A health warning. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311277.php

Robbins, M. (2010, September 08). What does human meat taste like? | Martin Robbins. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/sep/05/human-meat-taste-cannibal

Editors, H. (2010, March 05). Donner Party. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/donner-party

Donner Party. (2019, May 14). Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donner_Party

Britannica, T. E. (2019, February 01). Théodore Géricault. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Theodore-Gericault

Peregrine, A. (2016, July 12). Raft of the Medusa: A grisly tale of incompetence and cannibalism. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/articles/raft-of-the-medusa-louvre-explained/

Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. (2019, April 11). Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguayan_Air_Force_Flight_571

Santiago, A. P. (2012, October 14). Andes plane crash survivors mark 40th anniversary with rugby game. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/14/andes-plane-crash-survivors-rugby

Coffey, J. R. (2017, November 22). Ritual Cannibalism: Past and Present. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://spirituality.knoji.com/ritual-cannibalism-past-and-present/

Thomas, B. (2017, April 25). Eating People Is Wrong-But It’s Also Widespread and Sacred. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.sapiens.org/body/cannibalism-ritualized-sacred/

Should I Eat My Placenta? Placentophagy and Placenta Pills. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/baby/should-i-eat-my-placenta#1

Coyle, C. W., Hulse, K. E., Wisner, K. L., Driscoll, K. E., & Clark, C. T. (2015, October). Placentophagy: Therapeutic miracle or myth? Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4580132/

(n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2019, from http://www.sofiatopia.org/maat/cannibal.htm

 

What is so Weird & Odd about January?

 

The month of January is recognized globally as the beginning of the new year.  On December 31st people will congregate in large to small groups from within the biggest cities to small villages worldwide to celebrate the beginning of what is to come.  Traditions such as singing “Auld Lang Syne”, shooting off fireworks, shooting guns in the air, coming up with a new year’s resolution, and kissing after the stroke of midnight are all common to this day.  What are the meanings and origins of these customs? What other traditions do people partake in to welcome in the new year?

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Janus

The month of January was named after the Roman god Janus in 46 B.C. by emperor Julius Caesar.  Janus was the protector of gates and doorways. He was portrayed as having two faces, one face looking into the past and the other looking into the future.  Janus was the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He presided over the beginning and end of conflicts, such as war and peace.  The gates of a building in Rome that were named after Janus were opened in times of war and closed to signify the arrival of peace. It is safe to assume that these gates were open for business often because the Romans were constantly at war.

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John Masey Wright and John Rogers illustration of the poem, c. 1841

Auld Lang Syne

A Scottish poet by the name of Robert Burns wrote 6 volumes totaling 160 Scottish folk songs in “The Scots Musical Museum” that was published between the years of 1787-1803.  “Auld Lang Syne” appears in volume 5. Robert Burns noted that he didn’t write the song itself, he stated that it was an ancient Scottish folk song, but he was the first to put it down on paper.  For those who are not familiar with this tune I have provided a link below.

Auld Lang Syne

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Ring out the Old and Ring in the New

Making a lot of noise seems to be a very common tradition throughout the world when it comes to celebrating the new year.  In ancient Thailand firing guns in the air was believed to frighten off demons. In China shooting off fireworks was also done for similar purposes.  In North America today the sounds of sirens and party horns would ring through the air to bid the old year farewell. The Japanese will ring large temple bells at the stroke of midnight.

Speaking of shooting guns in the air, GRAVITY WORKS!  When someone shoots their gun in the air the bullet will come down and could possibly kill someone.  At least use blanks if you’re going to participate in this particular activity. That is what a responsible gun owner would do.

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New Year’s Resolutions

The tradition of coming up with a New Year’s Resolution can be traced back to the Babylonians.  They would reportedly make promises to the gods in hopes of gaining favor in the coming year. It is still to this day a common practice at New Year’s Eve parties to come up with a New Year’s resolution, but unfortunately it is also common that they are rarely ever kept.  According to a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago; Joe Ferrari, to improve the chances of a resolution to be kept one should share their resolution with others to help hold them accountable.

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Pass the Binaca spray

Kissing someone is a very old tradition to celebrate the new year.  During the celebration of Saturnalia, a Roman festival that occurred during the winter solstice, orgies would take place that also involved a lot of kissing.  For more information on Saturnalia.  Saturnalia is also part of why we today kiss under the mistletoe.

In Ancient Greece, to celebrate the festival, people would also kiss underneath the mistletoe because the plant represented fertility.  During the Renaissance era in Europe, people would remove the masks at the masquerade balls and kiss to purify each other from evil. It was also a way of starting off the new year with a clean slate.  In English and German folklore it was believed that a kiss at midnight would strengthen a romance, and those who avoid a kiss would be doomed to be loveless throughout the rest of the year.

For those who are single and can’t find a date for the New Year’s Eve parties, no need to feel left out.  With a little bit of money you can travel to Scotland. The Scottish celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish new year celebration.  At the stroke of midnight everyone in the room receives a kiss. The tradition connects friends and strangers. It is also to make the single people feel included.  God bless the Scottish!

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Other traditions from around the world

  • In Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes, one each at the stroke of the clock at midnight.  Each grape represents good luck for each month of the new year.
  • In Columbia, in hopes of a good travel-filled year, people will carry empty suitcases around the block.
  • The people of Denmark will throw plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits.  They also like to stand on chairs and jump off at midnight to leap into January for good luck.
  • In Finland, people will try to predict the  coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpret the shape the metal takes form of after hardening.  A heart or ring is a sign of a wedding, a ship predicts a journey, and a pig signifies that there will be plenty of food.
  • To ward off evil spirits, burning of effigies (muñecos) of well known people, fictional characters, or political figures in Panama.
  • Round shapes are very commonly seen in the  Philippines during the new year. The shape represents coins to symbolize prosperity.  Many people will wear clothes with polka dots for luck.
  • In Brazil as well as other Central and South American countries it is believed that if you wear a certain color of underwear on New Year’s Eve good luck will follow.  Red underwear is thought to bring love and yellow is believed to bring money.
  • An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Eve in Greece as a symbol of rebirth.  On New Year’s day, parents will wake up their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.

What to do after the party ends…

After the hangover wears off there are still plenty of things to do in this month.  January has been recognized as the National clean up your computer month. For those who were thinking about  breaking out the water and bleach solution, DO NOT! For more information on how to clean your computer check out How to clean your computer.

The National Tea Council of the USA has also claimed January as National Hot Tea Month.  On January 12th it is National Hot Tea Day. The Tea council of the United States was founded in 1950 as a nonprofit organization that facilitates a partnership among tea importers, tea packers and other related industries in the United States along with other tea producers from other countries.

From The Weird and The Odd,

Have a happy new year!

References

New Year. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2064.html

Dove, L. L. (2012, December 17). Why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-other/why-make-new-years-resolutions1.htm

Dodgson, L. (2017, December 31). This is why we kiss each other at midnight on New Year’s Eve – and it dates back thousands of years. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/why-we-kiss-each-other-on-new-years-eve-2017-12

Robert Burns Country: The official Robert Burns site. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from http://www.robertburns.org/

The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne | Scotland is Now. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.scotland.org/features/the-history-and-words-of-auld-lang-syne

9 New Year’s Traditions From Cultures Around The World. (2017, October 09). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://worldstrides.com/blog/2016/12/9-new-years-traditions-cultures-around-world/

Old Farmer’s Almanac. (n.d.). New Year’s Traditions From Around the World. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.almanac.com/content/new-years-traditions-around-world

Old Farmer’s Almanac. (n.d.). Daily Calendar for December 31st, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.almanac.com/calendar/date/2017-12-31

National Hot Tea Month Highlights the Love of Tea. (2018, September 25). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://worldteanews.com/tea-industry-news-and-features/national-hot-tea-month-highlights-love-tea

Getting a lump of coal for Christmas?

If the kids  are whining about the lump of coal they received for misbehaving on Christmas, just remind them, it could be worse.  They could receive a beating, have their internal organs ripped from their bellies, or be tortured and eaten alive in hell.

Krampus and saint nicholas visit a Viennese home in 1896

Krampus

From the Germanic word krampen, meaning “claws”, Krampus is a demonic character with long horns and a goat-like beard that closely resembles the image of Satan.  Throughout the year Santa Claus works on his list of children who are being naughty and nice. He rewards the children who behave with candy and presents. Krampus is the henchman who will tag along with Old St. Nick to take care of the naughty ones by stuffing them in his bag and taking them to hell to be tortured and then eaten or let them off lightly by beating them with a tree branch.

Mikuláš_a_Krampus_1900s

Origins

The folklore behind Krampus has no known origins.  Some folklorists are suggesting that it has Pre-Christian origins.  St. Nicholas became popular in the German culture around the eleventh century.  The celebrations consisting of adults wearing devilish masks parading in the streets during the winter holidays have been taking place in Germany since the 16th century.  The Krampus tradition is practiced in several regions including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Northern Italy, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Folklorists are postulating that Krampus was assimilated from pagan roots into Christian customs of traditional winter ceremonies.  A very similar entity was being worshiped by pagans in the areas that reside in the region of the Alps. The name of this deity goes by the name of Perchta.

Peruehty_Perchten 1910

Perchta

From the folklore of Bavaria and Austria, Perchta was believed to roam around the countryside of the Alps accompanied by evil spirits of winter.  Sometime around midwinter, Perchta would enter homes during the night when everyone was asleep and reward well behaved children with a small silver coin in their shoe or pail.  The naughty ones would have their bellies slit open and have their internal organs ripped out. Their empty bellies would then be stuffed with straw and pebbles. Perchta was believed to be a god-like creature half-man and half-woman, usually portrayed as a woman, that would protect the people of the Alps from the evil spirits that traveled with her.

800px-Krampus_Morzger_Pass_Salzburg_2008_04

A person dressed as Krampus at Morzger Pass, Salzburg (Austria) 2008.

Perchta  vs. Krampus Celebrations

Perchta and Krampus celebrations still occur to this day.  Even though It has been difficult for people to tell the difference between the two, there are some differences.  The Krampus celebrations still occur in the regions of the Alps in Europe and have managed to cross the Atlantic into American culture.  Adults dress up in Krampus outfits with masks resembling the devil with a tongue sticking out. They would carry chains and bells jingling them while on their processions.  They would also carry and whip tree branches at onlookers of the parade and chase the spectators down the streets in terror. Krampus is the yang to the yin of Santa Claus and only serves the purpose of punishing the wicked.

The celebrations of Perchta are traditionally still performed in small towns and villages in Austria.  The Adults would wear similar fur covered outfits, like Krampus, but the masks that resemble the devil do not have their tongues sticking out.  Perchta is a figure that protects the people from evil and is also a giver of wealth to the good and holds the naughty ones accountable.

Final Thoughts…

Due to social progress throughout the years, Krampus is now known for gifting bundles of sticks or giving a lump of coal to the naughty children.  Who would have thought that beating your children with a stick, condemning them to hell, or threatening to have their innards replaced with hay and pebbles while they were asleep could leave a permanent emotional scar?  How is that lump of coal sounding now?

From the Weird and the Odd,

Happy Holidays!

A 1900's greeting card

References

Billock, J. (2015, December 04). The Origin of Krampus, Europe’s Evil Twist on Santa. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-180957438/

Fear the Austrian Perchten: Pagan Traditions in the Alps, Part I. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from http://www.tourmycountry.com/austria/perchtenpagancustom1.htm

Perchta. (2018, August 31). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perchta

Lut, K. (2018, October 19). Krampus – another folk tradition being exploited? Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://thinkglobalheritage.wordpress.com/2018/10/19/krampus-another-folk-tradition-being-exploited/

Zimmerman, J. (2017, December 07). 9 Facts About Krampus, St. Nick’s Demonic Companion. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from http://mentalfloss.com/article/71999/9-facts-about-krampus-st-nicks-demonic-companion

Krampus. (2018, October 12). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

Lights Over St. Louis

ghost-train-of-st-louis canadian stamp

A collection of Will-o’-the Wisp ghost stories revolving around an abandoned rail bed near St. Louis, Saskatchewan, Canada.  A phenomenon that has inspired ghost stories, helped two high school students earn a gold medal in a Science Fair, and even earned its mark on a Canadian stamp.

The St. Louis Light

An unidentifiable light phenomenon is visible along a rail bed north of St. Louis where the tracks have long been removed.   The light is said to begin as a glow starting on one side of the rail bed that increases in brightness as it moves to the center of the rail bed.  A common description by eyewitnesses of the level of intensity of brightness has been compared to the brightness of a star. The length of time of the phantom light lasting varies from a few seconds to roughly an hour.  In some accounts the phantom light is followed by a deep red light.

What is this phantom light?

 

Story #1

Way back when the rails ran past St. Louis, a railroad worker was on a routine rail inspection.  While on his daily work routine consisting of inspecting the rails, moving from one stretch of rail to the next on his iron coal fed work horse, and of course not to mention his routine visits of his ol’ pocket companion the flask, the inebriated worker stopped at a stretch of rail just north of St. Louis.  When getting out of his overworked iron horse he inadvertently neglected to make sure the brake was applied. The worker was on the ground behind the engine checking the rail with his head aligned parallel to the rail facing away from his oncoming death. While lining up his sights on the rail, the engine slowly started to roll in reverse and unhurriedly severed his head.

campfire

To this day…

Some say, the phantom light is the rail worker holding out his stretched arm clinching to his lantern in front of him looking for his lost head. “Oooo…”

 

Story #2

A long time ago, some time between World War I and World War II, a train passing by St. Louis had to come to a complete stop just north of St. Louis due to snow covering the tracks.  Two men decided to exploit the situation and rob the train. At some point during the heist the thieves killed the hapless conductor and over a dispute over the loot one of the thieves killed his partner.  Both bodies were buried under the snow and were not discovered until later in the spring when the snow melted away.

campfire

To this day…

Some say, the phantom light is the spirits of the conductor and the thief wandering the rail bed, lost for eternity. “Oooo…”

Another Story

Back in the days when it was common to see the sights of trains permeating the skies with their black bellowed smoke clouds grinding and chugging away down the rails a passenger train derailed just north of St. Louis.  The passenger cars were illuminated with oil lanterns. When the train derailed, the lit lanterns fell and immediately endoused the wooden passenger cars into flames. All passengers died in a fiery hell.

campfire

To this day…

Some say, the phantom light is the front of the train and the tailing red light is coming from the rear of the caboose transporting the lost souls to a destination that they will never arrive to.  “Oooo..”

The Scientific Explanation

Two 12th graders in Saskatchewan Canada conducted an experiment for a science fair project on the St. Louis Phantom Lights starting in the fall of 2001 and ending in winter 2002.  After doing several experiments to figure out this unknown light source and trying to recreate the phantom light they succeeded. The conclusion to their theory of the explanation behind the ghostly lights suggests that it is an optical phenomenon called diffraction.  Diffraction is the process by which a small beam of light from a distance is spread out through a narrow passage, such as gaps between trees, and create the appearance that the light source is closer to the observer. Their project received the gold medal.

diffraction

Another Tidbit

In 2004, Canada Post debuted their “spooky tales” stamp collection.  1 of the 5 featured stamps was dedicated to the St. Louis Ghost Train.

 

References

Byrd, D. (2016, October 29). Ghost lights: Believe if you dare. Retrieved October 12, 2018, from http://earthsky.org/human-world/ghost-lights-believe-in-them-if-you-dare

‘Ghost train’ of St. Louis, Sask., gets its own stamp | CBC News. (2014, June 13). Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/ghost-train-of-st-louis-sask-gets-its-own-stamp-1.2674498

Riemer, T. (2014, October 31). Ghost train story haunts small Saskatchewan community. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://www.producer.com/2014/10/ghost-train-story-haunts-small-saskatchewan-community/

Northatlanticblog. (2017, September 05). Ghost Train: The St. Louis Light. Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://northatlanticblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/ghost-train-the-st-louis-light/

Yanko, D. (n.d.). The St. Louis Ghost Train. Retrieved October 12, 2018, from http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/ghost_train.html

St. Louis Light. (2018, May 07). Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_Light

“There’s a Ring Around Your Rosy Dude”

Ring-a-ring-a-roses

Are the Children actually singing and playing a game about pestilence and death,or is it folklore evolving about folklore?

The Game

The singing play game involves a group of children holding hands to form a circle, dancing around singing, “Ring Around the Rosies”.  The lyrics have many variations and have also developed over time.

This is the version that I remember as a child:

Ring around the rosies

Pocket full of posies

Ashes…Ashes…

We all fall down

When the children finish singing the last line, “we all fall down”, the children fall to the ground. The last child to hit the ground ends up in the center of the circle and the game continues with another round of the lyrics.

Another variation of Ring Around the  Rosy

children playing ring around the rosey

Hidden Meanings

The most notorious hidden meaning in the nursery singing game is about the Black Plague also known as the bubonic plague originating from Central Asia and spreading throughout Europe in the late Middle Ages starting around 1340 and lasting ‘til 1400.

  • Ring around the rosies:  represents the red sores that are a common symptom
  • Pocket full of posies:  the posy flower was used to help relieve the pain of the sores
  • Ashes…Ashes… :  It was common practice  to cremate the infected bodies and homes
  • We all fall down :  A third of the Western European population died from the bubonic plague
Plague_-buboes

Plague Buboes

Another Common Version

Ring a ring a roses

A pocket full of posies

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall down

This version of the song is supposedly referencing the plague that occurred in London 1665.  A-tishoo! A-tishoo!, is claimed to be representing the sound one makes when sneezing, that or… London depleted their tissue supply in 1665 and the people were demanding more tissue. “A-tissue! A-tissue!”.  That last statement about tissue was completely 100% made-up and it seemed funny at the time so I’m standing by it.

Anyways…

The first printed version of “Ring around the Rosy” was published in 1881 in Kate Greenaway’s Mother Goose Old Nursery Rhymes.

mother goose

I have a question

If there were groups of children gathering in the streets of Europe holding hands dancing and singing about pestilence and death for roughly over 500 years why didn’t anyone report it or at least document it?

 

MetaFolklore

Folklife Today, has classified folklore that is about folklore as metafolklore.  It is typically untrue but some might have some small truths to them.  The metafolklore about the game in question is untrue. The lyrics of any version of “ring around the rosy”  have no real meaning or known origin. As for the origins of the game involving the nursery rhyme, Folklorist Philip Hiscock suggested:

“The more likely explanation is to be found in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century, in Britain as well as here in North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the “play-party.” Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment. They were hugely popular, and younger children got into the act, too.” (Snopes)

Final Thoughts…

Ring around the rosy is a children’s game with many variations from around the world and modern versions have developed and are currently still being played as a sing play game by our little ones today.  It is very human of us in wanting to believe in hidden meanings behind the games, stories, movies, or other forms of entertainment. The older the secret of the hidden meanings the better, whether it’s true or not, doesn’t matter.  It creates an added entertainment value to the old original piece of folklore. As long as the beliefs in these hidden secret meanings are maintained the value of the entertainment will hold its value.

Some other interesting hidden meanings…

According to Urban Dictionary, a ring around the rosy is a service that one will provide with their tongue after doing some butt stuff with a partner.  As for those gentleman who have experienced having intercourse with a lady who was having her menstrual cycle, if you discovered that you had a red ring around your penis after taking off the condom, that… is a ring around your rosy dude.

References

FACT CHECK: Ring Around the Rosie. (2000, November 17). Retrieved September 16, 2018, from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ring-around-rosie/

Bubonic plague. (2018, August 27). Retrieved September 16, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubonic_plague

McDaniel, S. A. (2017, May 03). “Ring-around-the-Rosie” Is Not about the Black Death, Nor Has It Ever Been. Retrieved September 16, 2018, from http://talesoftimesforgotten.com/2017/05/03/ring-around-the-rosie-is-not-about-the-black-death-nor-has-it-ever-been/

Winick, S. (2014, July 24). Ring Around the Rosie: Metafolklore, Rhyme and Reason. Retrieved September 16, 2018, from https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2014/07/ring-around-the-rosie-metafolklore-rhyme-and-reason/