A Weekend at the Myrtles

photo of the myrtles

If it’s a good ole haunted house getaway vacation that you are looking for, or you just want to visit the South, then check out the Myrtles Plantation Bed & Breakfast in St. Francesville, Louisiana.  A cursed ancient Indian burial ground, home to death from disease, slavery, murders, and a survivor of the Civil War; “the Myrtles” house has a very dark and deep history that has been the influence of many ghost stories that have been told over decades that has led this now Southern B&B to be a topic of focus on TV shows such as Unsolved Mysteries in 2002 and Ghost Hunters in 2005.  “The Myrtles” has been given the title of being one of the most haunted houses on the United States soil.  Plus, they even have a gift shop.  What more can you ask?

History of the Myrtles

James Bradford an attorney, businessman, Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and then later a criminal for his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion, fled the Pennsylvania area and eventually settled in an area in Louisiana which is now known as St. Francisville.  He purchased six hundred acres of land and then built an eight room home near Baton Rouge and named it “Laurel Grove”.  Due to Bradford’s efforts of settling a territory dispute between Spain and the United States, President John Adams pardon Bradford in 1799.  After being pardoned Bradford moved his wife Elizabeth and their five children to “Laurel Grove”.

William Bradford

William Bradford

Clark Woodrooff; a student of Bradford’s, earned a law degree and married his teacher’s daughter Sarah Mathilda.  After Bradford’s death, Clark Woodrooff took over managing the plantation for his mother in-law Elizabeth.  Eventually, Clark and Sarah had three children, Cornelia Gale, James, and Mary Octavia.  Then the yellow fever epidemic, which ran rampant through Louisiana, claimed the life of Sarah Mathilda on July 21, 1823.  In 1824, the fever took the lives of two of his children James and Cornelia.  Elizabeth Bradford sold the farm to Woodrooff, who later changed his name to Woodruff, and continued to manage the plantation until he sold “Laurel Grove” and the plantation in 1834 to Ruffin Grey Stirling.

Clark Woodruff

Clark Woodruff

The Stirlings were a wealthy family who owned many plantations on both sides of the Mississippi River.  “The Laurel Grove” house went under some serious renovations and remodeling that ended up doubling the size of the original house and the name of the house was changed to “the Myrtles”.  The name change was inspired by the myrtle trees that decorated the landscape of the property.  After four years of completion, Ruffin Stirling died from tuberculosis on July 17, 1854.  His wife Mary Cobb inherited most of his estate and quickly developed a strong reputation as a hard business woman and managed to operate all of her fields almost single handedly.  The Stirling family was frequently visited with tragedy.  Only four of the nine children survived and lived long enough to marry.  In the same year of his father, Lewis Stirling; the oldest son, died from yellow fever.  Sometime during the Civil War many of the family’s personal belongings were looted by Union soldiers.  The wealth that backed the Stirling family’s bourgeois lifestyle, was confederate currency, and became worthless after the war ended.    Mary Cobb hired William Drew Winter, the husband of her daughter, Sarah Mulford, as an attorney to help manage the estate on December 5, 1865 and as one of the perks William and Sarah got to live in “the Myrtles” house.  The January 1871 issue of the Point Coupee Democrat newspaper wrote an article about William Winter.  He was teaching a Sunday school lesson in the house when a stranger on horseback rode up to the house and called out William.  William walked out of the house onto the front porch and the mysterious horseman shot and murder the Sunday school teacher.  William Winter died on January 26, 1871.  The newspaper stated that a man named E.S. Webber was to stand trial for the murder but the outcome of the trial was never recorded.  After Mary Cobbs death in 1880, her son Stephen Stirling purchased and maintained ownership of “the Myrtles” until 1886.



The property changed hands for decades and was divided up many times.  In the 1950s, the house itself was sold to Marjorie Munson.  Supposedly after experiencing unexplained events in the house, Marjorie asked locals in the area if they knew anything about the history of the property.  This is where the ghost stories behind the Myrtles gave birth.  After changing hands for several more years, “the Myrtles” was purchased by Arlin Dease and Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Ward and the stories were continuously evolving with greater embellishments as time went by.  The stories were spread by word of mouth and for a great while the stories only existed in the area until James and Frances Kermeen Myers purchased the property and soon after, the story of “the Myrtles” was being covered in magazines.  The house appeared in the November 1980 issue of Life magazine and the ghost stories involving the house spread all over the country.

The Ghost of Chloe

The most infamous of the stories is the story of Chloe.  There are several variations to the story of the vengeful slave girl that haunts the property.  One of the versions of the story apparently took place in 1817 when Sarah Mathilda was pregnant with her third child.  Clark Woodruff had a strong reputation for being a man of integrity and a man of law.  He also had a reputation for having intimate relationships with the slave girls.  One of these girls was named Chloe.  Woodruff brought Chloe in from  the fields to be a household slave.  Chloe hated having to be forced to have sex with her master, but she realized that if she resisted her master’s sexual demands that her household slave position could immediately change and she would be forced back out into the fields.  Chloe had a habit of eavesdropping on Woodruff’s  private conversations and in one incident was caught.  Woodruff and had her ear chopped off and to cover her deformity Chloe started to wear a green turban around her head.

Out of fear of being thrown back out into the fields with the other slaves, Chloe hatched a devious scheme to paint herself as a hero to the family by baking a birthday cake that was laced with poison.  When the children ate the cake her plan was to rescue the sick children by giving them the antidote and then become the savior to the family.  Her heroic efforts would be greatly appreciated by the family and her position as a house slave would be permanent.  Well, that plan went south real quick.  According  to the story Sarah and two of her children died from eating the cake.  During the incident Woodruff was out of town, so the other slaves decided that it would be best for their interests to hold her accountable before their master returned to alleviate a backlash towards all of the slaves.  They dragged her off to the woods and hanged her from a tree.  Later her body was cut down and had a rock attached to her body and was thrown into the Mississippi river.

The haunted Staircase

Reports of phantom foot steps that can be heard going all the way up to the seventeenth step are the footsteps of William Winter who was murdered.  The story claims that after he was shot by a mysterious horseman, William dragged himself from the porch into the house and climbed the seventeen steps and died in his wife’s arms.

staircase at the myrtles

The everlasting Bloodstain

During the Civil War, three Union soldiers were caught looting the house and were shot in the gentleman’s parlor thus leaving a bloodstain that refuses to be wiped away.  When the Myrtles house became a B&B, a maid was mopping the floor and when she tried to mop over the stain, the mop was being mysteriously held away from stain.  No matter how hard the maid forced the mop over the stain an invisible force was preventing her from erasing it from history.

The murder of  Lewis Stirling

Lewis Stirling  was supposedly stabbed to death in the house over a gambling debt.  his ghost allegedly is one of many that haunt the house.

The Myrtles haunted mirror

The mirror that holds the spirits of Sarah Woodruff and her two children are the main attraction to this Southern inn.  Visitors frequently have their pictures taken in front of this mirror in hopes of possibly getting photo bombed by Sarah and or her children.  Supposedly the mirror was the only mirror that wasn’t covered during the wake.  It is a custom in many cultures to cover mirrors in a home to prevent the recently deceased from being trapped.  People claim to have seen ghost children in the mirror and some have stated that hand prints mysteriously appear on the mirror.

haunted_mirror_myrtles_plantation

Final Thoughts…

Of all of the stories that have been created that revolve around the “Myrtles”, only one of the murders was actually documented.  William Winters was shot and died on the porch.  There is  no other documented proof that all the other murders took place within the house.  The documented facts surrounding the house contradict many of the ghost stories that are currently still being told to visitors of the famous B&B.  This leads to the question is the “Myrtles” really haunted or were these stories, originally created to entertain the locals and are now being used to generate business?

There is suspicion that the Myrtles house was originally built over an ancient Indian burial ground.  There was an enormous amount of misery surrounding  the property such as slavery and death.  There is a saying that is commonly said from upper management types, “if it’s not documented then it never happened”.  That saying can go both ways.  Just because someone failed to document their evil deeds for posterity purposes doesn’t mean it never happened.

Another Thought…

I wonder if they do kid’s birthday parties and the staff can tell the story of Chloe while the children are eating their birthday cake.

References

C. (2016, June 6). The Myrtles Plantation Mirror. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://realunexplainedmysteries.com/the-myrtles-plantation-mirror
Myrtles Plantation. (2017, July 28). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtles_Plantation
Taylor, T. (1970, January 01). American Hauntings. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://troytaylorbooks.blogspot.com/2016/08/debunking-history-of-myrtles-plantation.html
Myrtles Plantation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/louisiana/myr.htm
Rhodes, C. (2016, December 07). History vs. The Ghost Story. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://catierhodes.com/2011/10/history-vs-the-ghost-story/
Myrtles Plantation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com/wiki/Myrtles_Plantation
Posts about General David Bradford on Where the Ghosts Live. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://wheretheghostslive.wordpress.com/tag/general-david-bradford/
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London Bridge is Falling Down

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The history and the hidden meanings behind a classic childhood game that can serve not only as a cheap form of entertainment for the little ones but also as: a quick history lesson of the Thames River, a “How to Build a Bridge For Dummies” guide, a very subliminal way to scare the kiddos into behaving, or a way to express our sexual desires through innuendos and maneuvers.  Yes; that’s right!  “London Bridges”, is not just for kids.

Song Reference

How to play the game

Two children face each other and form an arch by raising their arms forward and interlocking each other’s hands together.  The rest of the children take turns walking under the arch while singing the song and on the last word of the verse “lady” is said, the arch comes down and captures one of the children.  The game continues until all of the kids are captured or the little tikes get bored and restless.

london_bridge_1616_by_claes_van_visscher

Short History Lesson

Bridging the Thames River was a long and tedious task that began during the late Roman empire era.  In 43 AD, the Romans established Londinium (London) as the capital of England.  During this time period the Romans made several attempts of building bridges over the river and finally succeeded around 50 AD.  Then, the shortly lived wooden bridge, was burned down during the Viking and Saxon invasions.  Bridges were rebuilt many times also due to natural disasters such as the 1091 tornado and the 1136 fire.

In 1176, the construction of the first stone arch bridge in Britain, “Old London Bridge”, started in efforts to replace the wooden bridges that survived from the Roman occupancy.  Peter, a priest and chaplain of St. Mary’s of Colechurch, was the architect and project leader until his death in 1205.  The construction of the bridge was completed in 1209.  The new stone bridge had 19 arches including a gatehouse with a drawbridge.  To create a source of income from the bridge, shops and homes were constructed and lined on both sides of the roadway of the bridge.  For thrills locals would shoot the bridge from their small boats.

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Three years after being completed a fire destroyed all the buildings on the bridge and killed thousands of people.  The houses and shops were quickly rebuilt narrowing the pathway to four meters (approx. 13 feet).  Do to the pressure of winter ice, five arches collapsed in the winter of 1282.  The arches were rebuilt as well.  The constant additions to the buildings eventually created a tunnel like passageway across the Thames River.  Queen Elizabeth I, ordered to have water mills added onto the structure of the bridge in the 1580s.  Despite the bridge having a bad reputation of constantly being under repairs and more and more additions being added to the shops and houses, the Old London bridge was the only crossing of the Thames River in London until 1750 when the Westminster Bridge was completed and opened.

london-bridge-watercolour1799

Shortly after the city decided to repair the London bridge the project was taken upon Charles Labelye.  All of the houses were removed and the roadway over the bridge was expanded to 14 meters ( approx. 45 feet) and the two center arches were replaced with one great arch at the middle of the bridge.  After completion in 1762, the remodeling of the arches led to erosion of the riverbed.  Eventually the city decided to give up spending resources to fix the bridge and gave the New London Bridge project to John Rennie.  The new bridge was built several yards upstream from the old bridge.  Rennie died in 1821 before construction of the new bridge could start and was picked up by his two sons.  The project was completed in 1831.  After serving the Londoners for 622 years the Old London bridge was demolished.  Rennie’s  bridge lasted almost 140 years until it was dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic ocean to the United States, where it now resides at Lake Havasu, Arizona.  The modern London bridge was built between 1968 and 1972.

The origins and meaning

Similar rhymes have been found all over Europe that pre-dates the earliest London Bridge version.  “Knippelsbro Går Op og Ned” from Denmark, “Die Magdeburger Brück” from Germany, “Pont Chus” from France, and “Le Porte” from Italy, are all suspected to be the influence of the “London Bridge” version.  The earliest reference to the English version was in the comedy “The London Chanticleers” printed in 1657.  No words of the rhyme or mention of the melody were stated, however the popularity of the rhyme and melody was greatly influenced by Henry Carey and his satire play, “Namby Pamby” in 1725.

Namby Pamby is no clown,

London Bridge is broken down,

Now he courts the gay Ladee,

Dancing o’er the Lady-Lee.

In 1823, a more popular version was printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

London Bridge is broken down,

Dance over the Lady Lea,

London Bridge is broken down,

With a gay lady.

Then we must build it up again

What shall we build it up withal?

Build it up with wood and stone,

Wood and stone will fall away.

etc…etc…ete…

The meaning behind the rhyme is not really clear and numerous theories have developed.  The modern version was first recorded in the late 19th century.  The game that is associated with the song resembles arch games that date back to the middle ages.  The theory of the meaning about the constant struggle of repair and rebuilding the many bridges that allowed Londoners for centuries to cross the Thames River may have some small truths, but the original rhymes regarding the London Bridge were very different compared to the earliest forms of the modern version.

 

The Fair Lady

The identity of the “fair lady” reference within the rhyme is uncertain, nothing has been proven, but suspicions of the identity to the reference are:

  • The River Lea – another river that feeds into the Thames River.
  • The Leigh family of Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire– a family linked to a story about a human sacrifice that lies under the bridge.
  • Matilda of Scotland– The Queen of England, Henry I consort, who was responsible for building the series of bridges between 1110 -1118.
  • Eleanor of  Provence– Henry III consort, who had custody of the revenues of the Old London bridge from 1269 -1281.

The Human Sacrifice theory

Alice Bertha Gomme, a folklorist, who wrote The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland (1894-1898);  presented the idea that the Old London Bridge could be involved in a human sacrifice during the constructions and/or reconstructions of the bridges.  Gomme pointed out that in certain variations of the “London Bridges” rhymes there is a watchman or a prisoner mentioned in the later stanzas of the songs.  Human sacrifice was believed to be necessary to protect the structures, to serve the purposes as guardians or “watchman” and protect the building from supernatural forces.  In 1880 Calcutta India locals were afraid to be out at night due to people disappearing.  Sacrificial offering towards the construction of the Hooghly Bridge was a popular suspicion to the explanations of the missing people of the area.  The prisoner reference is suspected to be metaphor for a live or dead human sacrifice to be entombed in the structure for eternity.  However, there were never any reports found stating that human remains were ever found when the Old or New London Bridges were torn down or, shall I say… falling down.

Meanwhile…

london-bridge-945499_960_720

London Bridge Today

According to the Urban Dictionary, London Brides is also a modern slang word for panties. When a lady says “you make her london bridges fall down”, she is saying you make her hot… sexually.  It is also a sexual position involving four consenting adults, two males and two females, or four females with attachments.  For further explanation look that up for yourself.

References

Gomme, A. B. (1894, January 01). The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/literature/fable/traditional-games-of-england-scotland-and-ireland/index.html

Grenby, M. O. (2014, February 13). The origins of children’s literature. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-origins-of-childrens-literature

Billington, D. P. (2002, October 25). London Bridge. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Old-London-Bridge

Library, W. P. (n.d.). London Bridge Is Falling Down. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from http://www.worldlibrary.org/Articles/London%20Bridge%20Is%20Falling%20Down?&Words=the origins of london bridges falling down

 

The Origins of Christmas

christmas-tree-with-candles

Family and friends gathering together on a day of exchanging gifts, eating themselves to food stupers, laughing and singing, and getting blitzed on grandma’s eggnog, are just some of the traditions that have been around long before the concept of commercialism.

Winter Solstice

Various cultures have been celebrating the shortest day of the year on the northern hemisphere for thousands of centuries.  Pagans in the Scandinavian regions a.k.a Vikings, would have fire festivals to encourage the sun to return and to pay tribute to Thor.  Yule; depending on the year of the Gregorian calendar, was and currently celebrated sometime between December 21 to 23.  A Yule or Juul log would be brought into the home and burned in the fireplace.  Pouring wine on the log to add a sweet smell when burning or adding other chemicals onto the log to give the flame a certain color became part of the traditions of Yule.  The log would be burned until there were nothing but ashes and then collected. Some people would throw the ashes out onto their fields for good luck.  Others would keep the yule log ashes as a charm or use them for medicine.  Sometimes a piece of the log that remained from the fire would be kept for goodluck and used for next years celebration as kindling.  The Yule tradition lives on even today in Europe and North America.

yule-log-tree-budnik-serbian-church-local-tradition

Saturnalia

The Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice by honoring Saturnus the god of agriculture, liberation, and time.  Saturnus was the inspiration behind the naming of the planet Saturn and also Saturday.  During the celebration of Saturnalia laws were ignored and slaves were temporarily freed.  Drinking, singing and gambling became open in the public view with no fear of getting busted by the authorities.  Orgies, feasts, gift giving, and sacrifices were also common traditions during the festivities.  Cookies shaped as humans were baked and given as presents that would be later consumed by the recipients.  The statue of Saturnus would be unbound from its woolen shackles connecting it to its base and carried through the streets of Rome and placed in a public courtyard while the public wines and feasts to celebrate the liberated god that is amongst them.  

saturnalia

The festival started off with a tradition known as the “Lord of Misrule”.  The leaders of the Roman communities would select a criminal or slave and free them.  They would allow them to sit at their table as an honored guest and wine and dine them.  At the end of the festival the honored guest would be sacrificed as a representation of vanquishing evil from society.  How much of this practice is true or was even commonly practiced is uncertain.  However, one of my sources stated that Gaius Petronius Arbiter; a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero, wrote about an incident that involved a slave who was allowed to sit at the table of his masters.  After heavy consumption of alcohol the slave started to mock emperor Nero and the slave’s master joined in and encouraged his impudence.  Towards the end of the dinner party, the master and his guests circled the slave and brutally murdered the foolish man for acting like the emperor.

Saint Nicholas

Also known as “Nikolaos of Myra”, was a fourth century Greek Orthodox saint who was born in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey.  Nicholas was born into a well-to-do christian family.  His parents died from an epidemic and Nicholas inherited a great fortune.  Nicholas was then raised by his uncle and the Greek Orthodox church and became highly educated.  Later becoming an ordained priest himself,  St. Nicholas developed a strong reputation for being a generous and kind man.  

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Legend has it, a very poor man had three daughters who were going to be forced into prostitution due to their father not having any money to pay dowries towards potential husbands.  Once Nicholas got wind of this, Nicholas visited the man’s home and threw in a bag of gold coins through an open window to pay for the eldest daughter’s dowry.  Later Nicholas came back to do the same thing for the other two daughters.  The poor man caught Nicholas in the act the third time and was so grateful, even under Nicholas’s advisement not to,  the poor man announced to the public about Nicholas’s kindness and generosity.  St.  Nicholas’s acts of kindness spread greater than the own man’s deeds themselves and later ended up making him the Patron Saint of Children and Sailors.

The Nativity of Jesus

The discussion of Jesus’s birth didn’t appear until after 200 years of his persecution. The telling of Jesus’s birth originated from  the gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Neither gospels mentioned a date or the year of Jesus’s birth.  The first date that was documented was from Clement of Alexandria and he stated that Jesus’s birthdate was on Pachon 25 (May 20th).  Other religious scholars have placed the date on March 21, April 15, April 20, and April 21.  It wasn’t until around the fourth century when Pope Julius I set the date on December 25th.  The first staged nativity scene occurred on Christmas Eve night in a town of Greccio, Italy in 1223.  St. Francis of Assisi was inspired to create the live nativity scene due to his disgust with the greed and materialism that plagued Italy.  It was to serve as a reminder that Jesus didn’t come to us a rich king but as a poor child.

free-nativity-clipart-public-domain-christmas-clip-art-images-6-2

The First Christmas Tree

Germany has been credited of starting the Christmas tree tradition sometime during the 16th century.  It is believed that Martin Luther, a renegade catholic priest who became a Protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to a tree.  Supposedly Martin Luther was walking home one night and was bewildered by the stars in the sky twinkling behind the backdrop of the evergreen trees in the forest.  According to the story, Martin Luther chopped a tree down and brought it to his house.  He set the tree up inside his home decorated the tree with the first homemade wired set of candle holders.  Martin Luther wanted to share his previous experience in the woods with his family by lighting the candles that were draped around the tree that represented the twinkling stars in the heavens.

christmas-tree-with-candles

References

Understanding the Nativity Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://archstl.org/stewardship/page/understanding-nativity-scene

Nuwer, R. (2012, December 14). The First Nativity Scene Was Created in 1223. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-nativity-scene-was-created-in-1223-161485505/

Saturn – God of Agriculture – Crystalinks. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.crystalinks.com/saturnrome.html

Haskell, C. (n.d.). How to Celebrate Yule With a Pagan Family. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/113242/how_to_celebrate_yule_with

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://bible.org/article/should-christians-celebrate-christmas

History.com Staff. (2009). History of Christmas Trees. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees

St. Nicholas to Santa: The Surprising Origins of Mr. Claus. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

St. Nicholas – Saints & Angels. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=371

(n.d.). St. Nicholas, Santa Claus & Father Christmas on whychristmas?com. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml

The Winter Solstice – Yule Lore. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yule.htm

December Solstice Customs. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html

Saturnalia. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/saturnalia.html

The Origins of Christmas. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/history/2009/Origins-of-Christmas.html

Origin of Christmas | The history of Christmas and how it began. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

Auletta, K. (n.d.). The Most Unique Christmas Traditions Around The World. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/world-christmas-tradition_n_4479333.html

Gateway to Evil or Just a Game

ouija-board

The belief and/or desire to communicate with ghosts of loved ones, historical, famous, or infamous, is a common human behavior and has always been a part of human culture.  Examples of communing with the dead can be found in the Bible, mythology, classic literature, and on the shelves of your nearby children’s toy store.  Does the Ouija Board really work or is it just a game for entertainment purposes only?  

seance-scene-in-dr-mabus-008

Spiritualism in America

During the year of 1848, the obsession of spiritualism, already popular in Europe, spread like a wildfire in the U.S. when Kate and Margaret Fox; two sisters who lived in Hydesville, NY, became instant celebrities by claiming they contacted the spirit of a dead peddler.  The word “medium” is used as a label that identifies the talented or “gifted” person who has the ability of communicating with the dead by using various methods such as table turning (tilting or taping).  The medium along with the attendees would sit around a table and place their fingers lightly on the edge of the table top.  The medium would ask questions and then call out letters or numbers and if the table taps the floor on the letter or number the answer is presumed to be the spirit communicating back.    Another method was developed by placing a pencil sticking through the center of a small basket and the spirit would write out the answer of the questions  asked by the medium.  Later this tool developed into what is now known as the planchette, French for small plank.

hisc  Interesting historical tidbit…

Mary Todd Lincoln conducted a séance in the White House after their 11 year old son died from illness in 1862.

Other methods and tools were also used and developed to commune with the spirits but failed in the market.  The planchette tool became the most popular method of communing with the other side, due to the cost of manufacturing, this device was cheaper than its competitors such as the various types of dial plate instruments which were sometimes referred to as psychographs.  

In 1886 certain variations of talking boards where becoming the latest craze in the spiritual culture.  Business partners Charles Kennard, Elijah Bond, and a few other investors created their first version of their talking board.  They managed to convince a patent worker that it worked and the first patent talking board gave credit to Kennard and Bond in 1890.  The Ouija board got its name supposedly from a séance that took place with Kennard, Bond, and Helen Peters, Bond’s sister-in-law, who had a reputation of being a strong medium.  When Miss Peters asked the board “what would you like to be named?”  The board responded by spelling out Ouija.  Miss Peters asked, “What is the meaning of the word Ouija?”  The board answered back, “Good Luck”.

william-fuld

William fuld

Starting as a varnisher for the Kennard Novelty Company, Fuld managed to climb the company’s ladder and became a major stockholder and eventually ended up running the company.  Fuld never claimed and is not the creator of the Ouija board, but somehow the New York Times  reported  this mis-information by declaring him the inventor.  In 1927, Fuld died from falling off the roof of his new factory.  Ironically, supposedly the Ouija board told Fuld to build the factory in the first place.

Does the board work?

If you have ever used an Ouija board at a party there are always those who will try to get a scare or a quick laugh, but it is also common when people are using the board to claim that they  are not the ones moving the planchette and accuse the other person and of course the other person denies it and says the same thing.  The ideomotor effect is the culprit behind this phenomenon.  Ideomotor actions are unconscious movements that occur when we focus on not trying to move.  The movement of the planchette on the board can occur naturally for the same reason dowsing is believed to be a good way to find water.

Is the Ouija Board evil?

Spiritualism was a very popular trend during the Civil War era.  During and after wars it is very common for people to try to contact lost loved ones.  In 1967, a year after Parker Brothers bought the rights from Fuld’s company, the Ouija board sold 2 million boards which outsold Monopoly that year.  The year 1967 was also the same year where more American troops were sent into Vietnam and also the year of  “Summer of Love” in San Francisco.  The evil reputation of the Ouija board didn’t really start developing until the movie The Exorcist was released in American theaters in 1973.  Then more horror movies used the Ouija board and helped create the evil reputation of the Ouija board that is now known today.

References

Waxman, O. B. (n.d.). ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ and the True History of the Ouija Board. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://time.com/4529861/ouija-board-history-origin-of-evil/

Jackson, J. (n.d.). The ideomotor effect. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.critical-thinking.org.uk/psychology/the-ideomotor-effect.php

Museum of Talking Boards: History of the Talking Board. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html

Museum of Talking Boards – Board Gallery Page One. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/gal1.html

McRobbie, L. R. (2013, October 27). The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/

 

 

Halloween

vintage-halloween-card11

The origins of Halloween can be traced  all the way back to the Celts (800-450 BC).  Samhain (pronounced Sow-in or Sah- win) means “Summer’s end” and to the Celts, November the 1st  was considered to be the New Year.  What’s amazing is that a few of the customs that our pagan ancestors celebrated during Samhain have been maintained and have transcended through time to what is currently now known as Halloween.  There have been a lot of adaptations added from other cultures all throughout the time span that has molded this unique day that pays homage to the dead.

Samhain…

A fire festival, that was used by the Celts to encourage the sun to stay up as long as possible, that would start to take place on what is now known as October 31st and considered to be the last day of the year.  It was believed that on this day the veil between the living and the dead vanishes and the spirits of the dead become visible to the eyes of the living.  It was a common believe of this time period that the spirits would roam the earth looking for a body to posses, so the Celts would dress in costumes, mainly wearing animal heads and skins, and dance around bonfires to entertain the spirits and hopefully dupe them to prevent possessions of their bodies from malevolent spirits.  They would leave their front doors open to their lost loved ones.  The original Jack-ó-lanterns, made out of large turnips, beets, or potatoes, were placed on window ledges to scare off evil spirits.  November 1st, was the day that represented the end of summer, end of harvest, and the beginning of the dark cold winter.  Which is typically the time that is associated with death in many other cultures as well.

ft5s-samhain

Feralia and Pomona

Around 43 AD, the Romans were able to expand the territory that claim the majority of Celtic land and for 400 years influenced the former Celtic people with two Roman festivals known as Feralia; a day to honor the passing of the dead, and a day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruits and trees.  The “bobbing for apples” game that is frequently played at Halloween kid parties is suspected to have have originated from the Romans because the apple served as a symbol for Pomona.

pomona

Roman Catholic Church

In 601 AD, Pope Gregory issued an order to his missionaries regarding concerns of converting the Celts.  The Roman Catholic church learned from experience that when dealing with pagans, instead of condemning them for their ideologies you used their beliefs and redirected them to be about Christ and allow them to continue their customs.  Pope Gregory IV had planned on turning Samhain into All Saints day in 835, but All Souls Day was established in 998 in a French monastery and spread quickly throughout Europe.  The celtic pagan rituals and beliefs were converted into worshiping martyrs and saints.

los Días de los Muertos

The Aztecs festival of the dead was originally a two-month celebration that also fell into the Fall season and was tied into celebrating the harvest season.  The festival was to pay homage to Mictecacíhuatl, the Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld also known as Mictlán.  Mictlán was not considered  to be a dark or scary place, it was actually viewed to be a peaceful realm where souls resided and waited for the days of visiting the living.  After the European invasion of the Americas, the Catholic monasteries employed the same tactic used with the Celts.  All Souls day was instituted into the daily lives of the natives and All Souls day and the native Aztec beliefs merged and formed what is now considered los Días de los Muertos (The Days of the Dead) which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.

dia-de-los-muertos

Halloween in the United States

Various Halloween traditions that are celebrated in the U.S. were influenced by European immigrants, mainly during the second half of the19th century.  By combining Irish and English traditions, the trick-or-treat tradition began in the U.S.  In the 1950’s, community leaders decided to make the holiday more directed towards the youth to minimize vandalism.  

References

History.com Staff. (2009). History of the Jack O’ Lantern. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history

History.com Staff. (2009). History of Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

Pon, D. (n.d.). The Origins of Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.albany.edu/~dp1252/isp523/halloween.html

Origins of Halloween and the Day of the Dead | EDSITEment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from https://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/origins-halloween-and-day-dead

Santino, J. (n.d.). Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

The origin of Halloween is found in Celtic Ireland. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/origin-of-Halloween.html

Warning! Potential Water Hazards

Half human and half fish or half human and half bird folklore lives and breathes in religious texts, literature, film, and big fish tales shooting from the mouths of drunken sailors spreading their over embellished stories of their voyages of the seas.  Folklore involving merfolk is embedded in cultures throughout the world, landlocked to coastal regions.

Era or Oannes

oannes

Babylonian deity Era aka Oannes is the Fish-god that is represented on seals and sculptures that date back to 5,000 BCE.  This fish god was usually depicted to have a bearded head with a crown and a half upper half man with a scaly fish tale instead of legs. This is the first known depiction of a merman.

Atargatis

oriental-mermaid-goddess-atargatis

Atargatis is a Syrian origin goddess whose influence spread to Greece, Rome, and beyond. Atargatis is the first depiction of a  mermaid.  Over the hundreds of years of being worshiped she was referred to be the goddess of fertility, goddess of the earth and water, and the goddess of love.  She is believed to be the direct inspiration to the Greek love goddess Aphrodite.

Folklore

The lore of merfolk can be greatly diverse from culture to culture.  Some folklore portray the mermaids/mermen as benevolent beings who are responsible for prosperous harvests. The morning dew on plants was believed to be the results of mermaids or water sprites dancing on land under the moon lit nights.  Other cultures perceive these merfolk to be malevolent beings that lure unsuspecting travelers with false promises of romance or luck that lead the victims to their watery deaths.

Rusalka…

rusalka

a slavic myth of a ghost, water spirit, succubus or mermaid like demon that dwells at the bottom of the rivers, lakes, or wells.  Rusalki (plural) are spirits of young women who died a tragic death anywhere near a body of water.   In some versions, unbaptized babies who were drowned by their mothers were believed to be the creations of Rusalki.  Rusalki were cursed to live in the form of a mermaid and reside in the waters to where they originally met their fate.  They would sing enchanting melodies to entrap men, women, or children to their watery deaths.  Rusalki can live on water or land and are commonly described to be pale or to have translucent skin, and to have no visible pupils.  Some stories state that they have green fiery eyes with green or golden hair which is always wet.  This variation with the wet hair description states that if the hair of the Rusalka drys, she will die.  In some versions, the Rusalki had a positive effect on crops.

Sirens…

viktor-mikhailovich-vasnetsov-the-birds-of-joy-and-sorrow

a Greek mythological creature described to be a half bird and half woman who lure sailors to their deaths with their beautiful melodic voices.  Homer, the ancient Greek poet, mostly known for The Iliad and The Odyssey, claimed to have seen two sirens on an island in the western sea between Aeaea and the rocks of Scylla.  In The Odyssey, the Greek Hero Odysseus wanted to hear the beautiful sounds of these creatures.  Under advisement from a sorceress named Circe, the crew stuffed wax into their ears to silence out the temptresses.  Odysseus had himself tied to the mast of the ship to prevent the temptation of the beautiful sounds that would lead to impending death.

A little History tidbit..

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed out from Spain to find a western trade route to Asia. Taken from his journal entries, On January 9, 1493, near the Dominican Republic, Columbus noted that he spotted three mermaids.  Later, the conclusion was drawn that Columbus could have mistaken manatees for the creatures that he described in his journal entry.

References

Sullivan, K. (n.d.). Rusalka: The Mythical Slavic Mermaid. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/rusalka-mythical-slavic-mermaid-006738

Columbus mistakes manatees for mermaids. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/columbus-mistakes-manatees-for-mermaids

Took, T. (n.d.). Atargatis, the Phoenician Great Goddess. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/atargatis.php

The Beautiful Monster: Mermaids. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2014/10/the-beautiful-monster-mermaids.html

Siren. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Siren-Greek-mythology

SEIRENES. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Seirenes.html

Sirens. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Sirens/sirens.html

Mermaids & Mermen: Facts & Legends. (n.d.). Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/39882-mermaid.html

 

The Silver Arrow

silver-pin

Urban legends involving ghost trains have been reported from around the world since the early days of locomotives.  The Silver Arrow, later to be known as Silver Pin, is a story that dates back to the the mid 1960s behind the backdrop of Stockholm, Sweden.  

capture

The legend begins when an experimental aluminum model C5 train was built.  1 out of the 8 prototypes was left unfinished.  The car was left unpainted and had other differences that separated it from its peers.  It was missing an air suspension, it had a whining distinctive motor sound, and it had outlying sliding doors.  It was stated the sliding doors were an idea that would allow more room on the inside of the train for passengers.  Another difference between the cars was that the interior panels were installed on the other cars that supported beautiful advertisements on the walls that brought a little color into a commuter’s mundane life.  The interior atmosphere of the The Silver Pin was described to be an urban ghetto landscape littered with graffiti and a metaphorical imagery of the daily grind mentality from the working class perspective.  The odd “red headed step child” train was only put into commission to be used as a backup car in the Stockholm metro system.

c5

The Folklore

The stories of the ghost train vary from each other.  One claims that the The Silver Arrow or Silver Pin is believed  to be a train that is only for the dead.  Another legend states that If one were to step into the train and sit down they would disappear forever or would finally get off the train weeks, months, or even years later.  Reports from subway tunnel workers and commuters claim to have seen Silver Pin moving down the rails filled with commuters with emotionless stares gravitating to the front of the car.

Another urban legend of a haunted abandoned metro station, Kymlinge station on Line 11 also referred to as The Blue Line, had intertwined with the legend of The Silver Pin.  Another legend  of The Silver Pin ghost train claims that the last stop on the Silver Pin is the Kymlinge station.  “Bara de döda stiger av i Kymlinge”,  (“only the dead get off at Kymlinge”).

kymlinge-station

My Thoughts…

The reputation of the train, while being in use, would probably have something to due with the infamous reputation that it later ended up earning.  Being only used as a backup would explain why common everyday commuters would rarely see the unique car.  The Silver Pin also developed the reputation of not being very reliable.  Due to it being the back up train I’m willing to bet the schedule of arrivals at the various stations would be affected.  Out of frustration, the people relying on the metro system waiting to be picked up could’ve had a part in creating the references of the legend.  I know from personal experience, while having to be dependent on public transportation from my younger days as a teenager, I had made statements such as “I  will probably be dead by the time this damn bus arrives.”  Of course I’m paraphrasing from the original comments that I made that were filled with all kinds of colorful language and euphemisms.

References

Investigations into the unknown and weird. (2013, October 9). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from https://silentthrill.wordpress.com/tag/silverpilen/

Journals, W.L. (n.d.). Silverpilen. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://worldjournals.org/article/WHEBN0002652899/Silverpilen

Grundhauser, E. (2015, October 7). The Silver Arrow, the Real Ghost Train Haunting the Stockholm Metro. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-silver-arrow-the-real-ghost-train-haunting-the-stockholm-metro

Ghost train (folklore). (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_train_(folklore)

Stockholm haunted by ghost train. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/destinations/europe/74125955/The-mystery-behind-the-ghost-train-that-haunted-Stockholm