Halloween

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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 windows 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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The Silver Arrow

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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.  

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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.

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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

La Isla De Las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls)

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Imagine traveling in a boat and then slowly approaching an island where the landscape is littered with mutilated dolls, decapitated doll heads, and doll limbs, hanging from trees like Christmas ornaments or dangling from a dead man’s noose.  Would you be brave enough to explore and stay overnight on the Island of the Dolls?

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La Isla De Las Muñecas is located on what was once Lake Xochimilco, south of Mexico City. Before the Spanish colonization the area was part of the Aztec Empire.  The Aztecs created artificial islands known as chinampas that provided a variety of crops that became a primary source of food for the people of the Empire.  These man-made islands were connected through a labyrinth of canals that established a network with other nearby lakes.

Folklore

The legend of The Island of the Dolls starts in the 1950’s.  A man, either by the name of Don Julian Santana or Julian Santana Barrera, took residence and became the caretaker of the island.  One day while Julian was walking he stumbled upon the body of a dead girl on the shore of his island.  One source states that a group of girls were playing near a canal and one of the girls ended up drowning and washed up on Julian’s island.  Some sources claim that Julian also found an abandoned doll next to the girl and out of respect he hanged the doll on a limb of a nearby tree to keep the spirit of the girl at peace.  From time to time Julian would find dolls floating in the canals nearby the island.  He would hang them from trees or tie them to trunks or posts.  It is even stated that he would venture off his island and look for discarded dolls through other people’s garbage.

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My sources vary when it comes to the reasoning for Julian’s obsession of collecting abandoned or lost dolls/doll parts and hanging them to trees.  One source claims that after discovering the girl’s body, the spirit of the girl was tormenting him and he was protecting himself from the wrath of the spirit by giving her dolls to keep the vengeful spirit happy.  His family stated that the ghost of the girl was just a figment of his imagination.  Another source stated that the girl reminded him of his daughter whom he abandoned when he decided to become a hermit and was collecting dolls for the spirit of the girl out of kindness.  However, all the variations have a common and mysterious ending.  In 2001, the dead body of Julian was found on the same exact spot where the girl was found in the 1950’s.

Tourists Beware…

The family of Julian Santana have made the La Isla De Las Muñecas a tourist site.  Tours of the Island are given during the daytime.  However,  locals claim that at night the island becomes alive.  The dolls will move their remaining limbs or heads.  It has been reported that the dolls will whisper to each other and sometimes child laughter will echo through the eerie landscape of the Island of the Dolls.

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References

Hoeller, S. (2015). There’s a terrifying island in Mexico that’s full of hundreds of mutilated dolls. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/la-isla-de-las-muecas-doll-island-in-mexico-2015-10

Swancer, B. (2014, July 01). The Mysterious and Creepy Island of Dolls | Mysterious Universe. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2014/07/the-mysterious-and-creepy-island-of-dolls/

The Island of the Dolls in Mexico | Oddity Central – Collecting Oddities. (2009). Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/mexicos-island-of-the-dolls-is-beyond-creepy.html

La Isla de la Munecas – Island of the Dolls. (2012). Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://unusualplaces.org/la-isla-de-la-munecas-island-of-the-dolls/

Kuchisake Onna (the Slit-Mouthed Woman)

Kuchisake Onna

The legend of Kuchisake-Onna, a.k.a. The Slit-Mouth Woman, is a Japanese tale about the consequences of vanity and infidelity that can be dated back to the Heian Era (794-1185).  Many variations of the tale have been adapted to fit modern times, but the underlying life lessons still remain.

Folklore

A very beautiful wife of a Samurai was obsessed with pulling males complimentary attention to her radiant glow of her promiscuous presence that reached a point where suspicion of infidelity started to creep into the thoughts of her husband.  Eventually the Samurai couldn’t bare the shame and  humiliation of his wife having an affair and out of rage the husband started to beat his wife and took a knife to her mouth that gave her a permanent smile from ear to ear while yelling, “who will think you’re beautiful now?”  The woman died shortly after her domestic assault and then arose as the vengeful spirit known as Kuchisake Onna.

According to the earliest version of this story that I have found, the first appearance of Kuchisake Onna was described to be wearing a Kimono and would hide her face with one of the large sleeves while haunting the streets looking for her next victim.  She would approach lone male travelers while hiding her hideous deformity with her sleeve and ask them, “Do you think I’m pretty?”  If the unsuspecting prey says yes, she will reveal her face and and ask “Do you think I’m pretty now?”.  If the victim lies and says “yes” Kuchisake Onna will give the liar a permanent smile just like hers or If he says no she will slit his throat.

Kuchisake-Onna-Legend-Wife-Of-Samurai

A more modern version of the tale states that Kuchisake Onna was a victim of a botched plastic surgery operation and haunts the streets wearing a trenchcoat and a surgical mask to cover her mouth.  Instead of using a knife as a weapon, she would use a pair of dull rusty scissors to bring a smile to her victims.

Kuchisake Onna 2

The surgical mask adaptation is the scariest version, in my opinion, due the fact that it is very common to see people commuting around the bigger cities of Japan.  Due to huge populations in cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, etc.  the fear of spreading germs is a norm in the culture of the populace and surgical masks have become the standard accessory that people wear while commuting in these cities.

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True Events

In 1979, the legend of Kuchisake Onna blew up into mass hysteria among the children of Japan.  A woman with a Glasgow Grin was witnessed chasing children around.  The news spread rapidly like a forest fire through the rest of Japan, South Korea, and even China.  Parents, teachers, and local law enforcement of Japan got swept up into the scare by closing schools earlier in the day to allow teachers to escort the children home before it got dark.   Parks, once filled with children playing, became ghost towns.  Police increased their patrols in the neighborhoods.

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Survival guide to avoid or escape the Slit-Mouthed Woman

It was a common belief that Kuchisake Onna comes from shadows, so children would avoid streets that had shadows present in the area.  Many other tactics were developed to avoid or to ward her off.  When she asks if she is pretty, answering her question with the question, “do you think you’re pretty?” or reply “So-So” is believed to confuse her and buy you sometime to escape your deadly date with this vengeful spirit.  The smell of Pomade (a certain type of hair gel) offends her and will prevent her from coming near you.  It is believed, according to the modern plastic surgery version, that the surgeon was wearing Pomade while performing his operation on the soon-to-be Kuchisake Onna and the smell of it caused her to move her head which led to her deformity and death.

References

Matsuura, Thersa. “Frightful Japan: The Torn-Mouth Woman (Kuchisake Onna) – HNN | Horrornews.net – Official News Site.” HNN Horrornewsnet Official News Site. N.p., 06 Feb. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.  Retrieved from http://horrornews.net/30080/frightful-japan-the-torn-mouth-woman-kuchisake-onna/

Kuchisake-Onna. (n.d.). Retrieved August 08, 2016, from http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Kuchisake-Onna

Wirawan, Anita. “Legend Of The Slit-Mouthed Woman: Kuchisake Onna – Anita’s Notebook.” Anita’s Notebook. N.p., 04 Feb. 2013. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.  Retrieved from http://anitasnotebook.com/2013/02/legend-of-the-slit-mouthed-woman-kuchisake-onna.html

Schwarz, Rob. “Kuchisake-Onna, the Slit-Mouthed Woman.” Stranger Dimensions. N.p., 01 July 2013. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.  Retrieved from http://www.strangerdimensions.com/2013/07/01/kuchisake-onna-the-slit-mouthed-woman/