Monday, November 30, 2009

The Edwardian Ball 2010

Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of The Ball that started it all... join co-hosts Rosin Coven & Vau de Vire Society for the 10th Annual celebration of art, music, theatre, circus, ballroom dance, fashion, technology, oddities of nature, steam machinery, and of course, the art and stories of the late, great Edward Gorey.

Witness the beautiful, historic Regency Ballroom (celebrating it's 101st year!) transformed into an indoor-outdoor wonderland, The Edwardian Gardens, where the most civilized of citizenry mingle with mischeivious creatures of all stripes, where waltzes meet topiary, where contortion meets croquet...

Featured performers and presenters this year include Rosin Coven, Vau de Vire Society, Vagabond Opera, City Circus, Agent Ribbons, Jill Tracy, Vima Dance, Miz Margo, Delachaux, Dark Garden, and many more to be announced.

Festivities are only 2 nights this year and tickets are on sale now, including very limited VIP Reserved Balcony Seating.  Visit for more information and tickets.  Both nights are all ages, doors and show 8pm.  Presented by PARADOX Media with Vau de Vire.

THE REGENCY BALLROOM, 1300 Van Ness, San Francisco CA 94109.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ike's Aftermath

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Need a Steampunk Fix?

Check out Franklyn, the directorial debut of Gerald McMorrow.

Franklyn is the mind-tripping tale of Emilia, Milo and Peter - three lost souls in present day London who are about to be thrown together when masked vigilante Jonathan Preest crosses over from his Steampunk dimension of Meanwhile City to their world. The story leaves a couple of loose ends dangling and doesn't always make total sense, but the sets in Meanwhile City are gorgeously, darkly Steampunkian, reminiscent of such films as Dark City and Hellboy, with a dash of Watchmen thrown into the plot.

"Did You Know?" Part 2 - fact or fiction?

Did you know... In Czechoslovakia, there is a church that has a chandelier made out of human bones. 

The sound of bells drives away demons because they're afraid of the loud noise. When a bell rings, a new angel has received his wings.

 A bird in the house is a sign of a death. If a robin flies into a room through a window, death will shortly follow.

 If you get a chill up your back or goosebumps, it means that someone is walking over your grave. Light candles on the night after November 1. One for each deceased relative should be placed in the window in the room where death occurred. 

You must hold your breath while going past a cemetery or you will breathe in the spirit of someone who has recently died. If a clock which has not been working suddenly chimes, there will be a death in the family. You will have bad luck if you do not stop the clock in the room where someone dies.

 If a woman is buried in black, she will return to haunt the family. If a dead person's eyes are left open, he'll find someone to take with him. Mirrors in a house with a corpse should be covered or the person who sees himself will die next.

 If you dream of death it's a sign of a birth, if you dream of birth, it's a sign of death.

 If you touch a loved one who has died, you won't have dreams about them A person who dies on Good Friday will go right to heaven. A person who dies at midnight on Christmas Eve will go straight to heaven because the gates of heaven are open at that time. All windows should be opened at the moment of death so that the soul can leave. The soul of a dying person can't escape the body and go to heaven if any locks are locked in the house. If the left eye twitches there will soon be a death in the family. If a dead person's eyes are left open, he'll find someone to take with him.

 Funerals on Friday portend another death in the family during the year. It's bad luck to count the cars in a funeral cortege. It's bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. Thunder following a funeral means that the dead person's soul has reached heaven. Nothing new should be worn to a funeral, especially new shoes. Pointing at a funeral procession will cause you to die within the month Pregnant women should not attend funerals.

 If the person buried lived a good life, flowers will grow on the grave. If the person was evil, weeds will grow.

 If a mirror in the house falls and breaks by itself, someone in the house will die soon. 
 A white moth inside the house or trying to enter the house means death.
 If 3 people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.
 If 13 people sit down at a table to eat, one of them will die before the year is over.
 Dropping an umbrella on the floor means that there will be a murder in the house. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Did You Know?" Interesting Facts About Cemeteries.

 Do you know the difference between a coffin, a casket and a sarcophagus? 
 It's the shape!
 A coffin is wider at the shoulders, narrower at the head and feet.  A coffin is rectangular and a sarcophagus is more molded into the shape of  the human body and often had a portrait of the deceased painted on the lid.   Based on a standard grave size of 3' x 8', one acre of land will provide enough  space for 1,815 graves.   The typical iconography for Faith (cross), Hope (anchor), and Charity (mother  and child) are among the most commonly used Victorian funerary symbols.  Even groupings of three, such as three steps into a chapel or mausoleum,  or tiers on a monument, may signify this most favored symbolism of heavenly  apiration. The upward pointing obelisk (another popular monument style) will  often have a three layer base.  

  The custom of shutting the eyes of the deceased is believed to have begun  this way, done in an attempt to close a 'window' from the living world to the  spirit world. Covering the face of the deceased with a sheet comes from  pagan beliefs that the spirit of the deceased escaped through the mouth.    In some cultures, the home of the deceased was burned or destroyed to  keep his spirit from returning; in others the doors were unlocked and windows  were opened to ensure that the soul was able to escape.  In 19th century Europe and America the dead were carried out of the house  feet first, in order to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and  beckoning another member of the family to follow him. Mirrors were also  covered, usually with black crepe, so the soul would not get trapped and not  be able to pass to the other side. Family photographs were also sometimes  turned face-down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the  deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.   Some cultures took their fear of ghosts to an extreme. The Saxons of early  England cut off the feet of their dead so the corpse would be unable to walk.  Some aborigine tribes took the even more extreme step of cutting off the  head of the dead, thinking this would leave the spirit too busy searching for  his head to worry about the living.    

The use of tombstones may go back to the belief that ghosts could be  weighed down. Mazes found at the entrance to many ancient tombs are  thought to have been constructed to keep the deceased from returning to  the world as a spirit, since it was believed that ghosts could only travel in  a straight line. Some people even considered it necessary for the funeral  procession to return from the graveside by a different path from the one  taken in with the deceased, so that the departed's ghost wouldn't be able  to follow them home.    Some of the rituals which we now practice as a sign of respect to the  deceased, may also be rooted in a fear of spirits. Beating on the grave,  the firing of guns, funeral bells, and wailing chants were all used by some  cultures to scare away other ghosts at the cemetery.   In many cemeteries, the vast majority of graves are oriented in such a  manner that the bodies lie with their heads to the West and their feet to  the East. This very old custom appears to originate with the Pagan sun  worshippers, but is primarily attributed to Christians who believe  that the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.

  Did you know...  In 1785, the city of Paris removed bones from cemeteries to ease the  overflow of dead people. They took these bones and stacked them in  tunnels now known as the Catacombs. You can visit these tunnel  attractions and work your way along long corridors, which are stacked  with skulls and bones.  
 What's the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard?

  Answer:  A  graveyard  is  always  adjacent  to  and  part  of  a  church.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ghost of a Man's Mother Walks the Hallway at Night

This video footage was recorded by a home surveillance camera in the hopes of explaining some rather strange noises. A ghostly figure was caught on tape, which the owner of the home believes is the ghost of his deceased mother, who used to live in the house. Do you believe it?

Watch it here.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Opens here Christmas Day.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam and Charles McKeown. The film follows the leader of a travelling theatre troupe who, having made a deal with the Devil, takes audience members through a magical mirror to explore their imaginations.

Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, and Heath Ledger star in the film, though Ledger's death one-third of the way through filming caused production to be temporarily suspended.Ledger's role was recast with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell portraying transformations of Ledger's character Tony as he travels through a dream world.

In the present day, immortal thousand-year-old Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) leads a travelling theatre troupe—including a sleight of hand expert, Anton (Andrew Garfield), and a dwarf, Percy (Verne Troyer)—that offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality through a magical mirror in his possession. Parnassus had been able to guide the imagination of others through a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits), who now comes to collect on the arrangement, targeting the doctor's daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). The troupe, which is joined by a mysterious outsider named Tony (portrayed by Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell), embark through parallel worlds to rescue the girl.

Ghost Spotted on Side of the Road

A very interesting story. A couple sees a woman lying on the side of the road and reports it to the police. When they come to investigate - there is no body. What happens next is crazy!! Check out the video here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top 5 Ghost Tours

This article from has some good suggestions for your next ghost hunting vacation!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Famous Prostitute's Gravestone Deemed Too "Slutty"

The 77-year-old artist Tomi Ungerer’s parting gift to his friend Domenica Niehoff was to be a gravestone featuring two ample pink marble boulders in homage to her famously top-heavy figure. But those responsible for the Garden of Women cemetery, resting place of Hamburg’s most famous women, turned his design down, the paper reported.

Ungerer, who declared his interest in designing her gravestone immediately after her death, reacted bitterly to the decision.

“Domenica would have liked my design. She was not ashamed of herself,” he said.

Ungerer and Niehoff were friends for decades, and even shared a flat for a while in 1984. He published drawings of Niehoff and her colleagues in a book entitled “Guardian Angels of Hell” at the time.

But the cemetery officials are not alone in criticising Ungerer’s memorial. Photographer Günther Zint, another friend of Niehoff, told the newspaper, “There was a bit of a debate among her friends whether Tomi needed to emphasise her breasts like that. They were after all a bane of her life.”

Niehoff, who gained fame for advocating the rights of sex workers in the 70s and 80s, died at age 63 in February 2009.

Originally from Cologne, Niehoff lived through drugs, child prostitution and desperate attempts to get out of the sex trade. She grew up in an orphanage before slipping into prostitution, when she married a brothel owner, who committed suicide ten years later.

She worked as a prostitute in Munich and Hamburg and had her own brothel before she began to push for the legalisation of prostitution in Germany in the 1980s. She then became a social worker to help women to get off the street.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wisconsin Death Trip

I was given a copy of this book many years ago. It remains a classic of sorts for those interested in postmortem photography and obscure history. Here is but one documentary available about the book and photographs. The book has also been made into a movie.

Wisconsin Death Trip is a non-fiction book by Michael Lesy, first published in 1973. It has been adapted into a film.

The book is based on a collection of late 19th century photographs by Jackson County, Wisconsin photographer Charles Van Schaick, mostly in the city of Black River Falls, and local news reports from the same period. It emphasizes the harsh aspects of Midwestern rural life under the pressures of crime, disease, mental illness, and urbanization.

The film, which was directed by James Marsh and starred Marcus Monroe, was released in 2000. In a docudrama style, and shot entirely in black-and-white (except for contrasting sequences of modern life in the area, in color), it combined re-enactments of some of the events described in the book with a voice-over narration by Ian Holm. Its visual style was intended to carry the content of the film - as Marsh said:"I wanted to convey in the film the real pathos contained in a four line newspaper report that simultaneously records and dismisses the end of someone’s life"

Ghost of Boothill Graveyard

"This is the photo that changed my opinion about ghost photos," says Terry Ike Clanton, who runs the website. Clanton is an actor, recording artist and cowboy poet, and is also a cousin of the legendary Clanton Gang who clashed with the Earps and Doc Holliday at the famous gunfight at OK Corral. Clanton took this photo of his friend at Boothill Graveyard. The photo was taken in black and white because he wanted Old West-looking pictures of himself dressed in Clanton's 1880-period clothes. Clanton took the film for developing to the local Thrifty Drug Store, and when he got it back was startled at what he saw. Among the gravestones, just to the right of his friend, is the image of what appears to be a thin man in a dark hat. By height, the man appears to be either legless, kneeling... or rising up out of the ground.

"I know there was no other person in this photograph when I shot it," Clanton insists. And he believes the small figure in the background is holding a knife. "We thought this was a tie at first, but after further review, it appears to be a knife," Clanton says. "The knife is in a vertical position; the tip is located just below the figure's right collar. If you're not convinced that something is weird here, look at my friend's shadow in the photo. It appears to be going back slightly to the right of him. The figure in the back should have the same shadow, but it doesn't!"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Robert the Haunted Doll

Its not that unusual for a young child to have an imaginary friend or two. Often times parents think it cute? A mischievous little friend a foot to take the blame for some minor wrong doings.

In fact there are parents' that will claim a good imagination is healthy,

but what happens when the child begins to be tormented by the imaginary friend? To the point that the child can't sleep the night through without the friend awaking them to play? What happens when the play becomes ruff and frightening to the child?

So it goes this is the story of Robert...

The story begins in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Otto, the year 1896. It was well known that the Otto's mistreated there servant's, and were not the kindest of people.

One particular servant, that aided in the care of the couples son "Robert Eugene" (Gene) was said to be versed in the ways of voodoo. As the story goes the servant gave young Gene a doll. The doll stood three feet tall, and was stuffed with straw. The servant gave the doll life like features, that at first were very endearing to young Gene.

Gene decided to name the doll Robert. The doll became a constant companion to the little boy. Its said that the Otto's often heard Gene upstairs talking to the doll. This in itself might not have been so bad? What unsettled and puzzled the Otto's was hearing their son answering himself in an entirely different voice
than his own?

Many Strange things began to occur in the Otto household. Frequently Neighbors' claimed to see Robert move about from window to window, when the family was out of the house. Gene began to blame Robert for mishaps that would occur. The Otto's claimed to hear thedoll giggle, and swear they caught glimpses of the doll running about the house.

Gene began to have nightmare's, and scream out in the night. When his parents would respond to Gene's cries, they often found furniture over turned, and their child in a fright. As a rule they would find Robert thedoll at the foot of their sons bed - with his glaring gaze on his face! With Gene shouting,"Robert Did It"....

The doll was eventually put up in the attic. Where he resided for many years.

When Gene's father died, and the Otto home was willed to Gene.
Gene decided that he and his new wife would move into his childhood home. He had become an artist in his adult life, and felt the larger home would provide him and his wife a spacious place to live, plus the large turret room on the second floor would make a great studio for his painting.

After moving back to his boyhood home It wasn't long before Gene discovered Robert in the attic. He promptly moved him down to the turret room. Robert's hold on Gene was strong, and from the moment Gene again laid eye's on him, Robert's influence could be felt in the house. Gene's wife found Robert very odd and unsettling. One day while Gene was out of the house she decided she had enough of Robert's glare...and returned him to his attic sanctuary.

When Gene returned home, and found that the doll had been moved, he was displeased. He declared that Robert needed a room of his own where he could see out of a window. He hurriedly returned Robert to the turret room. It wasn't long after that Gene's wife began to question her husbands sanity ?

The citizens' of Key West began to spread rumors about Robert and his evil doings. Many people told stories of seeing and hearing Robert the doll in the turret room as they walked by the home. They claimed that Robert would mock them as they passed... School children feared walking by the Otto home , in fear of Robert's mean glare from the window above.

Gene, himself reported when visiting the turret room on occasion he would find Robert in the rocking chair by the window rocking, and complaining of his displeasure with his accommodations...

Finally Gene himself had enough of Robert's antics, and put him back in the attic. Visitors to the Otto's home would often comment on hearing something walking back and forth in the attic, along with strange giggling sounds. Guests'' no longer wanted to visit the home.

Gene Otto died in 1972, and his wife sold the home promptly - leaving Robert the doll behind in the attic.

A new family now lived in the home, and the stories of Robert died down...

Robert waited patiently up in the attic to be discovered once again. The Ten year old daughter of the new owners was quick to find Robert in the attic, and added him to her other toy's in her bedroom. It was not long before Robert unleashed his displeasure on the child... The little girl began screaming out in the night,claiming that thedoll moved about the room, and would climb on her bed and attack her as she tried to sleep. Even after more than thirty years later, she steadfastly claims that " thedoll was alive and wanted to kill her."

Robert, still dressed in his white sailor suit and clutching his stuffed lion lives comfortably, though well guarded in Key West at the Martello Museum. Employs at the museum continue to give accounts of Robert being up to his old tricks still today...
By Sharon Stajda

According to another person- The servant was dismissed
from the Otto household because Mrs. Otto spotted the 4 servants in the
backyard doing some form of what she thought to be black magic. Robert
(the little boy) did not go by the name Gene, he was called
"Robert". He only started going by Gene when one day his mother scolded
him using his name, and he told her that his name was not Robert, the
doll's name was Robert, and his name was Gene. According to several
residents of Key West (not me, I don't know whether this part is true) the
government did acknowledge Robert (the doll) and actually granted the
doll property rights.
Also, the servant who made the doll used Gene's hair for the doll. It's
a known fact that once a person's hair is cut it can't change colors
(of course!), however, the doll's hair is now white. If you choose to
visit Robert in the museum and want to take a picture you need to ask
politely and do NOT make fun of the doll! If he allows you to take a
picture he will tilt his head to the side, if he does not tilt his head and
you take a picture anyway bad things happen to not only you but to
anyone you were with or family members. The walls in that room of the
museum are covered in letters from people asking Robert to please take the
curse off, and apologizing for making fun of him.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Airplane Graveyard

Read the article here.

Salad Fingers

I first met Salad Fingers a few years back. He is a delight to the authentically twisted. To others he might just seem ill. Enjoy!

Salad Fingers is a surreal psychological horror Flash cartoon series originally created byBritish cartoonist David "Foyf" Firth in July 2004 which gained rapid internet popularity in 2005. The San Francisco Chronicle ranked it in the "top 10" pop culture phenomena for that year.

Already a well-known Flash animation series available on the internet, Salad Fingers premiered in Australia at the 2007 Sydney Underground Film Festival at the Factory Theatre. The first seven episodes were shown back to back, along with a variety of other animated short films, during the "Re-animation" session.  The cartoons' musical score features theremin played byClara Rockmore.


So, who's buying these for me?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nikola Tesla a strange man ahead of his time.

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan Lika, Croatia. He was the son of a Serbian Orthodox clergyman. Tesla studied engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic School. He worked as an electrical engineer in Budapest and later emigrated to the United States in 1884 to work at the Edison Machine Works. He died in New York City on January 7, 1943.

During his lifetime, Tesla invented fluorescent lighting, the Tesla induction motor, the Tesla Coil , and developed the alternating current (AC) electrical supply system that included a motor and transformer, and 3-phase electricity.

Tesla is now credited with inventing modern radio as well; since the Supreme Court overturned Guglielmo Marconi patent in 1943 in favor of Nikola Tesla's earlier patents. When an engineer (Otis Pond) once said to Tesla, "Looks as if Marconi got the jump on you" regarding Marconi's radio system, Tesla replied, "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents."

The Tesla coil, invented in 1891, is still used in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment.

A strange man ahead of his time

Coming to America as a young man from his native country (Austria-Hungary) with only four cents in his pocket, he first worked for Thomas Edison, but the two men were totally unlike one another. Edison slogged away at inventions, trying this and trying that and continuing on until something worked. Tesla got flashes of insight and then worked everything out in his mind. He never fit into the corporate world or wanted to be controlled by people with money, passing up a chance to set up a company financed properly by J.P. Morgan, although Morgan later did provide him with some seed money.

Tesla suffered from many phobias, always deathly afraid of germs and with an obsession about the number three. If he walked around the block, he would feel compelled to do it three times. He was obsessive about food, preferring to dine alone so he could compute the cubic contents on his plate before eating. He saw flashes of light before his eyes sometimes accompanied by a strong visual image of something being discussed. This was disturbing until he learned to control it and the effect seemed to diminish as he grew older. In his later years he spent part of each day feeding pigeons, bringing injured birds back to his apartment to care for them. Despite his fear of germs, he was often seen in the park with pigeons covering his arms. He even had a favorite white pigeon who visited his window at the hotel where he lived

There were other things about him that made some of the science establishment shun him. He once heard a regular pattern of signals coming over his receiving equipment and said he was hearing a message from Mars. This produced its share of ridicule until the famous Lord Kelvin publicly stated that he agreed with Tesla, that the messages were from Mars. Tesla believed there was plenty of other life in the universe and talked often about communicating with other life in the solar system. Throughout his life he disagreed with Einstein’s idea that nothing went faster than light and he never bought into relativity. Tesla believed the universe was filled with “ether” that was the source of matter. He said that matter had no energy within it that it did not get from the ether. It is undoubtedly these ideas that has endeared him to more recent proponents of non-Einsteinian ideas. There are still modern believers in the ether and debunkers of relativity.

Tesla had shown some psychic ability, seeing the death of his mother in his mind before it happened. He had extremely acute hearing and great sensitivity to nature, detecting the resonance of the earth. He felt both the earth and the upper atmosphere could be conductors of power. He would have found ridiculous the notion that his ideas came from Atlantis and never was attracted to occult ideas. On the contrary, he worked at finding mechanical explanations for everything, even his own clairvoyance. Although he had the ability to “see” pictures in vivid detail, he maintained that these were always manifestations of things the viewer had actually seen somewhere. He would have rejected the idea that they came from the spirit world or from a memory of a previous lifetime. That has not stopped others from speculating about his extraordinary powers. It is possible, of course, that the only explanation needed is that Nikola Tesla was simply a whole lot smarter than most people.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tiki's Zombie Style

You can get a set of these ceramic monsters for your next Zombie party HERE at the Tiki Farm. Look around the site! They also have skulls and other Zombies as well as lots of neat looking Tikis! Thanks to Haunt Style for bringing this site to our attention.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Madame Talbot's Victorian Lowbrow

Who is Madame Talbot? As her own blog so eloquently explains "Madame Talbot is self-taught in nearly everything she does, from painting, pen-and-ink illustration, framed curio exhibits, handmade Mourning and Apothecary cloth dolls, and her limited edition handmade books. She also is well versed in the art of penmanship and calligraphy, and is a taphophile by nature and historian by design. Her posters are one-of-a-kind, all images are hand-drawn using only pen-and-ink on illustration board and then printed the "Old School" way, with the use of an offset printing press on very nice paper stock."

I first stumbled upon Madame Talbot's fabulous art a few years back when perusing for Unusual, Dark art on the web. Since then I have obtained four of her posters and one of her coveted Plague Doctor Dolls (mine is Dr. Nicholas Blood) and I have my eye on a few of the  other styles like these foetal skull dolls. 

From her wonderful dark dolls to her themed posted and darkly bizarre framed curios, she is an artist like no other! No subject is too dark and she has made art- even useable art out of the strangest objects, such as the human heart nightlight. Her wares are authentic and very detailed, down to victorian buttons and fabric.

These photos (used by permission) are just a small sample of the lovely macabre goodies that await at her website which can be found HERE

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mc Kenzie's Pyramid

Hope St, Liverpool, UK

One cold foggy Sunday night in the autumn of 1871, 68-year-old Lionel Harland, a respected Rodney Street doctor, left his surgery and walked up Liverpool's Maryland Street, when he heard footsteps approaching. The shadowy figure of a tall wiry man wearing a top hat and a flowing cape was emerging from the swirling fog, a hundred yards ahead.

Dr Harland hesitated at the corner of Maryland and Rodney Street and felt a shiver run up his spine, even though he wore a heavy fur coat on this chilly September night.

The silhouette advanced towards the doctor with an almost military gait, and as it came within range of the flickering yellow flame of a lamppost, the elderly doctor saw to his horror that the approaching figure was the very same one he had encountered twenty years before.

It was not a living person at all, but the ghostly shade of a dead man - a dead man the doctor had known personally many years ago. It was the terrifying apparition of James McKenzie, an evil and wicked man who gambled with the Devil and lost his soul as a result, forever condemned to walk the earth without rest until Judgement Day.

Before the doctor could cross the cobbled road to escape the terrifying ghost, the apparition let out a spiteful laugh and sneeringly said: "Ha! Hospital Sunday!" The spectre was referring to a charity collection the doctor held on Sundays to raise funds for poor people needing hospital treatment.

Halfway across the road, Dr Harland was brave enough to take a single glance at the cursed phantom, and he almost fainted with fear. McKenzie's face looked as if it was lit up by a red flame, and his eyes were ink-black and lifeless. As the doctor shivered, the figure in black walked straight through the wall of the cemetery.

The trembling doctor reached the house of his friend Daniel Jackson in Blackburne Place, and after giving a garbled account of his meeting with McKenzie's ghost, he clutched his heart and collapsed onto the hearth rug.

Mr Jackson and a servant managed to revive the doctor and gave him a shot of brandy. Dr Harland nodded, then said: "Mr Brocklebank; tell him about McKenzie. He knows the story." Moments later, the surgeon quietly died in the fireside armchair.

The only Brocklebank Daniel Jackson knew of was the wealthy philanthropist and ship-owner Ralph Brocklebank, so after his friend's funeral, he forwarded a letter to the local tycoon about the strange story of Dr Harland, but did not expect a reply. He certainly did not expect a personal visit from the affluent Mr Brocklebank in response to his correspondence.

The 70-year-old millionaire paid his unexpected visit to Mr Jackson's house shortly before 11 pm. He alighted from a hansom cab in an anonymous black Ulster coat with a black felt fedora pulled over his eyes.

Brocklebank was led to the drawing room by a servant who he rudely dismissed with a wave of the hand. Daniel Jackson offered his illustrious guest a finely-cut tumbler of Hoagland's eight-year Scotch Whisky, rumoured to be Brocklebank's favourite tipple, but the mogul shook his head and in a cavalier manner he told his host to go over the story he'd related in the letter.

Mr Jackson gave his account of Dr Harland's final moments, and Brocklebank became very uneasy. He sat on the edge of the fireside armchair, jabbing the glowing coals of the fire with a poker with a tense expression.

After he had listened to Mr Jackson, he told a very strange story indeed which threw some light on the McKenzie ghost. It was a tale of greed, murder and the supernatural. Brocklebank seemed to see the events he described in the flames of the grate ashe spoke.

He said, "I remember James McKenzie. He was one of those people who are born old and crooked. Even then he was in his fifties. I was 25-years-old when I first met him, and your deceased friend was 23 and fresh out of medical school.

"McKenzie made and lost fortunes most men can only dream of. He backed the early railways and financed George Stephenson's locomotive machines. He was seen as pillar of the community and a backer of commerce and industry; but there was another unsavoury side to the man few people were aware of. He was a compulsive gambler and an ardent atheist.

"Someone told me that he put his family Bible on the fire after his sweetheart died from a fever. They say he hated God because of her death. And there were strange rumours about the man."

In 1826, eleven bodies were found in barrels in the cargo hold of a ship at Liverpool Docks. The police traced the barrels to a house at Number 8 Hope Street. That house was being looked after by a James MacGowan, who was an associate of James

Anyway, the police arrested Mr MacGowan after they found 22 corpses of men women and children that had been dug up from the local cemetery. Mr MacGowan refused to name names, but everyone suspected Mr Mackenzie of being the

There were whispers that he had turned Number 8 Hope Street into a body-snatcher's warehouse, where the corpses were pickled in barrels, ready to be shipped to the medical schools in Scotland. The going rate was £15 per corpse, be it a man, woman or a baby. But Mackenzie needed the money.

But in October 1850, something happened which I will never forget. McKenzie became acquainted with a mysterious gentleman known only as Mr Madison. Madison was the sharpest poker player McKenzie had ever met, and on this memorable occasion, they played a game throughout the night. McKenzie lost everything to the unbeatable Madison.

Just before dawn, the weary and defeated McKenzie was making preparations to leave when Madison made a bizarre proposal. He said: "One more game Mr McKenzie sir?"

McKenzie was literally penniless and said he had nothing left to gamble for. Mr Madison said, "What about your soul?" McKenzie said, "This is not the time for jests, please leave."

But Madison made it plain that he was not joking. He really did want to play a game of poker for McKenzie's soul. McKenzie nervously and said, "I think I know who you are." And Mr Madison said, "If you sir, are an atheist, then what have you to lose? For a man who does not believe in a creator cannot believe he was given a soul."

McKenzie was too proud to acknowledge the existence of the Almighty, and the fool played a game of poker for 'his soul - and Mr Madison won. James McKenzie fell to 'his knees with fear when Mr Madison presented his 'winning hand, but his opponent, who was really the 'Devil laughed and said to him: "Fear not, vain and defeated one. I will not take your soul until you are 'laid to rest in your grave."

And when McKenzie glanced up, Mr Madison had vanished, but there was an aroma of something burning in the room. This explains why Mr McKenzie was entombed in his little pyramid above ground sitting up at a card table with a winning poker hand.

It was his desperate attempt to cheat the Devil out of claiming his soul. As long as McKenzie's mortal remains are above ground, Lucifer can't claim his soul. But because McKenzie rejected eternal rest with God, he has condemned himself to walk the night as a restless ghost until Judgement Day.

When old Mr Brocklebank was leaving the house in Blackburne Place, Daniel Jackson said to him, "Sir, did you actually meet - you know who? Mr Madison?" Before the millionaire walked off into the jade fog, he nodded twice and with a worried look, he replied "You don't think I accumulated my wealth through hard work do you? But I'll have the devil to pay when my time comes." 

Thanks to Clare for this story

Friday, November 13, 2009


Now, I'm not knocking any Twilight fans, but you gotta understand: when you work in a bookstore, you learn to hate Stephanie Meyers. Lugging those bigass books around in massive quantities is hell on my spinal cord, just sayin'.

But I was quite amused to see this parody hit shelves recently.

Tales From The Crypt presents: DieLite; the story of a young girl who moves to the little town of Sporks and finds herself being stalked by Dedward Collins, the emo vampire boy who just will not leave her the hell alone!

It's intelligently written and contains references that most kids won't get, but that their parents will snerk over. I am so buying a copy of this for my god-daughter.


Friday the 13th

*abstract taken from a 1993 study published in the British Medical Journal provocatively titled, "Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?"*

Paraskevidekatriaphobics — people afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th — should be pricking up their ears about now, buoyed by seeming evidence that the source of their unholy terror may not be so irrational after all. But it's unwise to take solace in a single scientific study, especially one so peculiar. I suspect these statistics have more to teach us about human psychology than the ill-fatedness of any particular date on the calendar.

Friday the 13th, 'the most widespread superstition'

The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times, and their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year (there happen to be three such occurrences in 2009, two of them right in a row) portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to some sources it's the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won't eat in restaurants; many wouldn't think of setting a wedding on the date.

How many Americans at the turn of the new millennium actually suffer from this condition? According to Dr. Donald Dossey, a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of phobias (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia, also spelled paraskavedekatriaphobia), the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he's right, at least eight percent of Americans are still in the grips of a very old superstition.

Exactly how old is difficult to say, because determining the origins of superstitions is an inexact science, at best. In fact, it's mostly guesswork.

Although no one can say for sure when and why human beings first associated the number 13 with misfortune, the superstition is assumed to be quite old, and there exist any number of theories — most of which deserve to be treated with a healthy skepticism, please note — purporting to trace its origins to antiquity and beyond.

It has been proposed, for example, that fears surrounding the number 13 are as ancient as the act of counting. Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition.

Which has an edifying ring to it, but one is left wondering: did primitive man not have toes?

Life and death

Despite whatever terrors the numerical unknown held for their hunter-gatherer ancestors, ancient civilizations weren't unanimous in their dread of 13. The Chinese regarded the number as lucky, some commentators note, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs.

To the ancient Egyptians, these sources tell us, life was a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in stages — twelve in this life and a thirteenth beyond, thought to be the eternal afterlife. The number 13 therefore symbolized death, not in terms of dust and decay but as a glorious and desirable transformation. Though Egyptian civilization perished, the symbolism conferred on the number 13 by its priesthood survived, we may speculate, only to be corrupted by subsequent cultures who came to associate 13 with a fear of death instead of a reverence for the afterlife.


Still other sources speculate that the number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The "Earth Mother of Laussel," for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a cresent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the "perfect" number 12 over the "imperfect" number 13, thereafter considered anathema.

On the other hand, one of the earliest concrete taboos associated with the number 13 — a taboo still observed by some superstitious folks today, apparently — is said to have originated in the East with the Hindus, who believed, for reasons I haven't been able to ascertain, that it is always unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place — say, at dinner. Interestingly enough, precisely the same superstition has been attributed to the ancient Vikings (though I have also been told, for what it's worth, that this and the accompanying mythographical explanation are apocryphal). The story has been laid down as follows:

And Loki makes thirteen. . .

Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be "Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe," the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

As if to prove the point, the Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests — er, disciples — betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion.

Did I mention the Crucifixion took place on a Friday?

Some say Friday's bad reputation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It was on a Friday, supposedly, that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit. Adam bit, as we all learned in Sunday School, and they were both ejected from Paradise. Tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; and, of course, Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified. It is therefore a day of penance for Christians.

In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman's Day in Britain), but in other pre-Christian cultures it was the sabbath, a day of worship, so those who indulged in secular or self-interested activities on that day could not expect to receive blessings from the gods — which may explain the lingering taboo on embarking on journeys or starting important projects on Fridays.

To complicate matters, these pagan associations were not lost on the early Church, which went to great lengths to suppress them. If Friday was a holy day for heathens, the Church fathers felt, it must not be so for Christians — thus it became known in the Middle Ages as the "Witches' Sabbath," and thereby hangs another tale.

The witch-goddess

The name "Friday" was derived from a Norse deity worshipped on the sixth day, known either as Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility), or both, the two figures having become intertwined in the handing down of myths over time (the etymology of "Friday" has been given both ways). Frigg/Freya corresponded to Venus, the goddess of love of the Romans, who named the sixth day of the week in her honor "dies Veneris."

Friday was actually considered quite lucky by pre-Christian Teutonic peoples, we are told — especially as a day to get married — because of its traditional association with love and fertility. All that changed when Christianity came along. The goddess of the sixth day — most likely Freya in this context, given that the cat was her sacred animal — was recast in post-pagan folklore as a witch, and her day became associated with evil doings.

Various legends developed in that vein, but one is of particular interest: As the story goes, the witches of the north used to observe their sabbath by gathering in a cemetery in the dark of the moon. On one such occasion the Friday goddess, Freya herself, came down from her sanctuary in the mountaintops and appeared before the group, who numbered only 12 at the time, and gave them one of her cats, after which the witches' coven — and, by "tradition," every properly-formed coven since — comprised exactly 13.

The Knights Templar

One theory, recently offered up as historical fact in the novel The Da Vinci Code, holds that it came about not as the result of a convergence, but a catastrophe, a single historical event that happened nearly 700 years ago. The catastrophe was the decimation of the Knights Templar, the legendary order of "warrior monks" formed during the Christian Crusades to combat Islam. Renowned as a fighting force for 200 years, by the 1300s the order had grown so pervasive and powerful it was perceived as a political threat by kings and popes alike and brought down by a church-state conspiracy, as recounted by Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995):

"On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force "confessions," and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake."

A thoroughly modern phenomenon

There are drawbacks to the "day so infamous" thesis, not the least of which is that it attributes enormous cultural significance to a relatively obscure historical event. Even more problematic, for this or any other theory positing premodern origins for Friday the 13th superstitions, is the fact that no one has been able to document the existence of such beliefs prior to the late 19th century. If folks who lived in earlier ages perceived Friday the 13th as a day of special misfortune, no evidence has been found to document it. As a result, some scholars are now convinced the stigma is a thoroughly modern phenomenon exacerbated by 20th-century media hype.

Going back more than a hundred years, Friday the 13th doesn't even merit a mention in the 1898 edition of E. Cobham Brewer's voluminous Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, though one does find entries for "Friday and unlucky day" and "Thirteen unlucky" When the date of ill fate finally does make an appearance in later editions of the text, it is without extravagant claims as to the superstition's historicity or longevity. The very brevity of the entry is instructive: "Friday the Thirteenth: A particularly unlucky Friday. See Thirteen" — implying that the extra dollop of misfortune might be accounted for in terms of a simple accrual, as it were, of bad omens:


If that's the case, we are guilty of perpetuating a misnomer by labeling Friday the 13th "the unluckiest day of all," a designation perhaps better reserved for, say, a Friday the 13th on which one breaks a mirror, walks under a ladder, spills the salt, and spies a black cat crossing one's path — a day, if there ever was one, best spent in the safety of one's own home with doors locked, shutters closed, and fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Otranto Cathedral ~ Italy

Otranto (IPA: /ˈɔtranto/) is a town and commune in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.
t is located on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. The Strait of Otranto, to which the city gives its name, connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and Italy with Albania. The harbour is small and has little trade.

On July 28, 1480 an Ottoman fleet of between 70 and 200 ships arrived near the Neapolitan city of Otranto in the region Apulia. Possibly these troops came from the siege of Rhodes. On July 29 the garrison and the citizens retreated to the citadel, the Castle of Otranto. On 11 August this was taken by the invaders.According to Christian historiography a razzia was held to round up the male citizens. Archbishop Stefano Agricoli and others were killed in the cathedral. Bishop Stephen Pendinelli and the garrison commander, count Francesco Largo, were sawn in two alive. On August 12 800 citizens who refused to convert to Islam were taken to the Hill of the Minerva and beheaded. Some of the remains of the 800 martyrs are today stored in Otranto cathedral and in the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello in Naples. The cathedral is said to have been used as a stable after that.
This version has come under severe criticism. From Turkish side it is disputed that large scale executions took place; the bones to be found in the Cathedral of Otranto are actually those of fighters killed during the Turkish invasion. Italian researchers, on the other hand, conclude that some acts of terror were committed by the Turkish invaders to create panic among the Italians around Otranto.

There is no doubt, however, that some citizens were transported to Albania as slaves.
In August 70 ships of the fleet attacked Vieste. On September 12 the Monastero di San Nicholas di Casole, which accommodated one of the richer libraries of Europe, was destroyed. In October 1480 Lecce, Taranto and Brindisi were attacked.
Because of lack of food Gedik Ahmed Pasha returned with most of his troops to Albania, leaving a garrison of 800 infantry and 500 cavalry behind to defend Otranto. It was assumed he would return after the winter. More on the Cathedral HERE

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Navajo Code Talkers ~ Veteran's Day

In Honor of Veteran's day, we take time to remember all of those who have served and are serving.

Code talkers is a term used to describe people who talk using a coded language. It is frequently used to describe Native Americans who served in the United States Marine Corps whose primary job was the transmission of secret tacticalmessages. Code talkers transmitted these messages over military telephone or radio communications nets using formal or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. Their service was very valuable because it enhanced the communications security of vital front line operations during World War II.

The name code talkers is strongly associated with bilingual Navajo speakers specially recruited during World War II by the Marines to serve in their standard communications units in the Pacific Theater. Other Native American code talkers were used by the United States Army during World War II, using Cherokee, Choctaw and Comanche soldiers. Soldiers of Basque ancestry were used for code talking by the US Marines during World War II in areas where other Basque speakers were not expected to be operating.

Philip Johnston proposed the use of Navajo to the United States Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II. Johnston, a World War I veteran, was raised on the Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary to the Navajos, and was one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language fluently. Because Navajo has a complex grammar, is nearly a language isolate, and was an unwritten language, Johnston saw Navajo as answering the military requirement for an undecipherable code. Navajo was spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest, and its syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training. One estimate indicates that at the outbreak of World War II fewer than 30 non-Navajos, none of them Japanese, could understand the language.

Early in 1942, Johnston met with Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding general of Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, and his staff. Johnston staged tests under simulated combat conditions which demonstrated that Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds, versus the 30 minutes required by machines at that time. The idea was accepted, with Vogel recommending that the Marines recruit 200 Navajos. The first 29 Navajo recruits attended boot camp in May 1942. This first group then created the Navajo code at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California. The Navajo code was formally developed and modeled on the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet that uses agreed-upon English words to represent letters. As it was determined that phonetically spelling out all military terms letter by letter into words—while in combat—would be too time consuming, some terms, concepts, tactics and instruments of modern warfare were given uniquely formal descriptive nomenclatures in Navajo (the word for "potato" being used to refer to a hand grenade, or "tortoise" to a tank, for example). Several of these portmanteaus (such as gofasters referring to running shoes, ink sticks for pens) entered Marine corps vocabulary and are commonly used today to refer to the appropriate objects.

A codebook was developed to teach the many relevant words and concepts to new initiates. The text was for classroom purposes only, and was never to be taken into the field. The code talkers memorized all these variations and practiced their rapid use under stressful conditions during training. Uninitiated Navajo speakers would have no idea what the code talkers' messages meant; they would hear only truncated and disjointed strings of individual, unrelated nouns and verbs.

The Navajo code talkers were commended for their skill, speed and accuracy accrued throughout the war. At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor later stated, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."

As the war progressed, additional code words were added on and incorporated program-wide. In other instances, informal short-cut code words were devised for a particular campaign and not disseminated beyond the area of operation. To ensure a consistent use of code terminologies throughout the Pacific Theater, representative code talkers of each of the U.S. Marine divisions met in Hawaii to discuss shortcomings in the code, incorporate new terms into the system, and update their codebooks. These representatives in turn trained other code talkers who could not attend the meeting.

The deployment of the Navajo code talkers continued through the Korean War and after, until it was ended early in the Vietnam War.

Non-speakers would find it extremely difficult to accurately distinguish unfamiliar sounds used in these languages. Additionally, a speaker who has acquired a language during their childhood sounds distinctly different from a person who acquired the same language in later life, thus reducing the chance of successful impostors sending false messages. Finally, the additional layer of an alphabet cypher was added to prevent interception by native speakers not trained as code talkers, in the event of their capture by the Japanese. A similar system employing Welsh was used by British forces, but not to any great extent during World War II. Welsh was used more recently in the Balkan peace-keeping efforts for non-vital messages.

Navajo was an attractive choice for code use because few people outside the Navajo themselves had ever learned to speak the language. Virtually no books in Navajo had ever been published. Outside of the language itself, the Navajo spoken code was not very complex by cryptographic standards and would likely have been broken if a native speaker and trained cryptographers worked together effectively. The Japanese had an opportunity to attempt this when they captured Joe Kieyoomia in the Philippines in 1942 during the Bataan Death March. Kieyoomia, a Navajo Sergeant in the U.S. Army, was ordered to interpret the radio messages later in the war. However, since Kieyoomia had not participated in the code training, the messages made no sense to him. When he reported that he could not understand the messages, his captors tortured him.. Given the simplicity of the alphabet code involved, it is probable that the code could have been broken easily if Kieyoomia's knowledge of the language had been exploited more effectively by Japanese cryptographers. The Japanese Imperial Army and Navy never cracked the spoken code. High-ranking military officers have stated that the United States would never have won the Battle of Iwo Jima without the secrecy afforded by the code talkers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Anne Rice- is she back?

One of my favorite authors was always Anne Rice. As many of you may know, several years back Anne made a personal decision to cease her Vampire series, and begin to address more christian topics in her writing. I lost track of her after that.
But this new tome, which should be in stores now has me intrigued. The synopsis has a ring of the Anne that I couldn't wait to read! Has anyone read this yet?

"Anne Rice returns to the mesmerizing storytelling that has captivated readers for more than three decades in a tale of unceasing suspense set in time past—a metaphysical thriller about angels and assassins.

The novel opens in the present. At its center: Toby O’Dare—a contract killer of underground fame on assignment to kill once again. A soulless soul, a dead man walking, he lives under a series of aliases—just now: Lucky the Fox—and takes his orders from “The Right Man.”

Into O’Dare’s nightmarish world of lone and lethal missions comes a mysterious stranger, a seraph, who offers him a chance to save rather than destroy lives. O’Dare, who long ago dreamt of being a priest but instead came to embody danger and violence, seizes his chance. Now he is carried back through the ages to thirteenth-century England, to dark realms where accusations of ritual murder have been made against Jews, where children suddenly die or disappear . . . In this primitive setting, O’Dare begins his perilous quest for salvation, a journey of danger and flight, loyalty and betrayal, selflessness and love."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Have you ever seen a Ghost?

The photo above is said to have been taken at Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago.
There are numerous photos and even videos such as the one HERE that claim to have captured images of, or even movements cause by the departed. What do you think? Are these 'real' or not? Have you ever seen a ghost? Tell us about it!

Related Posts with Thumbnails