That’s when the cannibalism started…

At one point in time, people believed that miasma, a poisonous gas let off by sewers or pits, was the cause of many diseases and that the four humors governed the ideas surrounding personal health and well being. There were also cure all’s composed of various familiar substances that might make a sufferer feel well again. In my neck of the woods, people carried small potatoes in their pockets to get rid of warts and put pebbles under their tongues that they’d found on the graves of pious men and women in hopes of curing rheumatism.  Goose fat and scorched linen was used to “cure” many afflictions of the skin ranging from generally dry and itchy to scaly and rough, and stitching bible verses into the linings of children’s coats prevented a wide range of afflictions and created an aura of protection. It sounds batshit crazy, but there are people who still believe that some of the old “cures” used in isolated communities still work and those people still use them. However, something tells me that we’re no longer using ground up mummies to cure anything. It was called corpse medicine and it was absolutely a thing in the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is Humorous

There are four humors: Blood/Sanguine, Phlegm, Yellow Bile, and Black Bile and these four humors (according to Hippocrates) governed a large majority of early “medical” practices. Let’s take a peek at each individually, shall we?

440px-Humorism.svg

The four humors and their qualities.

Blood: Blood is found in veins and arteries (seems pretty normal, right?) and can also be referred to as Sanguine (Latin for to deal with blood.) Hippocrates believed that the liver was exclusively in charge of the blood making process within the body and that the amount of blood within a single individual could influence their complexion as well as their personality. Production of blood was linked to spring and summer and, as the seasons got warmer, the increasing heat brought blood to the surface of the skin producing sweat in an effort to cool off (likely why the blood humor is linked to heat and moisture.) If you had an excess of blood, it meant you were Sanguine and your personality would be jovial or charismatic. It could also mean that you were big into day dreaming and sociable toward others. Sanguine personalities often had red complexions, further leading *”physicians” of the time to believe that their evaluation of Sanguine individuals was correct. Bleeding was the general cure for too much of this humor.

*Please note that I’ve put the term “physician” within quotation marks. During this time, anyone could be a physician on a whim. There were “good physicians,” but nobody really had a clue as to the inner workings of the human body. Anyone could wake up one morning and decide to start treating patients. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. Moving right along…

Phlegm: You’ve likely become familiar with this humor while hacking up a lung during cold and flu season. Way back when, phlegm was associated with winter and cold weather. Makes sense. While it was cold and damp outside, people had a tendency to get sick and, of course, the phlegm itself was considered the cause of the illness (not a byproduct.) The treatment would be to avoid cold foods and liquids. If you’re sick, you don’t really have that get up and go, which is likely why people who were categorized as Phlegmatic were quiet and sluggish. The brain and lungs were said to produce this humor.

Black Bile: It just doesn’t exist within the human body. It is likely that clotted blood was mistaken for black bile and was categorized as such. It was believed that Black Bile was produced by the gall bladder and diseases of “fear and despondency.” This was later called melancholia (melancholy,) meaning sad. Black bile is associated with the earth and the season of autumn.

Yellow Bile: If you’ve ever gone a while without eating to the point of being physically sick, you’ve likely met this humor. Yellow Bile was associated with aggression and the element of fire. That makes sense because vomiting stomach acid can be very uncomfortable.

Lavater1792

The four temperaments as depicted in an 18th-century woodcut: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine and melancholic.

When treatments for certain ailments failed to produce a desired result or a cure, new methods of treatment were explored. Here’s where shit gets weird.

Dear Mummy

Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with the four humors, let’s look a little closer at the practice of corpse medicine. Now, corpse medicine is not about providing medicinal aid to corpses (because that would be silly.) “Here, Uncle Bob, take this cough syrup and bundle up before you catch cold!” I wish I could say that it’s not what it sounds like, but it’s absolutely what it sounds like. This one quacks like a duck…

Just imagine going to see your chosen “physician” to get treated for a severe case of gout. It is likely that you’d be prescribed  a small tincture of powder. That powder would be the ground  up remains of an Egyptian mummy.

Seriously. A mummy. I’m not kidding.

You could mix the powder with water or in alcohol (if you could afford such a luxury) and drink it down or add just enough water to make a paste and rub it on the affected area. People might even bake it into bread or stir it into whatever they were eating.

Mummies were stolen from their tombs, Irish burial sites were raided and, in an effort to provide a “cure” for what ailed ‘ya, some people even created a powder on their own in order to make a fast buck. It was probably just ground up bones and a little dirt, but the placebo effect was good enough for most people.

Eventually, the world of corpse medicine began to expand to other human remains. Let’s be honest, there aren’t that many mummies in the world and there certainly wasn’t enough supply for the demand.  Grave diggers were employed by those willing to pay for corpses that had been recently buried. Now, when you went to see the “doc” for your gout treatment, you were likely prescribed fat from a human body. You’d be told to slather the fat onto the affected area and then wrap it. I wish I was making this up. Even the King himself (King Charles II) embraced corpse medicine as a way to treat what ailed him. Daily, he would take The King’s Drops, a small tincture that he carried on his person at all times consisting of ground human skull muddled into alcohol.

Perhaps the King could afford corpse medicine, but what about the lowly peasants? Basically, they had to fend for themselves. At public executions, the crowds would gather as close to the front as possible on the off chance that they might be hit with a spurt of blood at a beheading and dip handkerchiefs in the blood that pooled onto the scaffold. Just when you thought there was no possible way to make a beheading more gruesome. Some people paid a small amount for a cup of blood that they could then consume (apparently it was better/more effective warm.) For those who preferred to have their blood cooked, a recipe from a Franciscan apothecary in 1679 described how to make it into a marmalade.

Another reason why corpse medicine was so popular was because consuming the remains of another human being was said to be akin to absorbing that persons essence into yourself. If you consumed the blood of a robust young man or of a virginal young woman, that blood was said to have been especially potent.

According to Beth A. Conklin, a cultural and medical anthropologist  at Vanderbilt University who has studied and written about cannibalism in the Americas,

“Even at corpse medicine’s peak, two groups were demonized for related behaviors that were considered savage and cannibalistic. One was Catholics, whom Protestants condemned for their belief in transubstantiation, that is, that the bread and wine taken during Holy Communion were, through God’s power, changed into the body and blood of Christ. The other group was Native Americans; negative stereotypes about them were justified by the suggestion that these groups practiced cannibalism. “It looks like sheer hypocrisy,” says Conklin. People of the time knew that corpse medicine was made from human remains, but through some mental transubstantiation of their own, those consumers refused to see the cannibalistic implications of their own practices.

Conklin finds a distinct difference between European corpse medicine and the New World cannibalism she has studied. “The one thing that we know is that almost all non-Western cannibal practice is deeply social in the sense that the relationship between the eater and the one who is eaten matters. In the European process, this was largely erased and made irrelevant. Human beings were reduced to simple biological matter equivalent to any other kind of commodity medicine.” 

 

I know corpse medicine sounds crazy, but it actually kind of (stay with me here) made sense. In the 16th and 17th centuries, they weren’t even sure how blood was being circulated throughout the body, let alone what all of the organs inside the body were responsible for. Back then, this form of medicinal treatment made sense because the cure was applied to the afflicted body part. Have a headache? Maybe rub some of this on your head. Stomach upset? Drink a bottle of this. Have rough skin? Rub some of this on it. The cure and the affliction went hand in hand and, until we figured out a little more about the complicated machine that is the human body, that was all we had to go on.

According to Leonardo da Vinci, “We preserve our life with the death of others. In a dead thing insensate life remains which, when it is reunited with the stomachs of the living, regains sensitive and intellectual life.”

Seems legit, Leo. Seems legit.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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Spring-Heeled Jack: Victorian Boogeyman

In Victorian England, no mythical creature was more frightening to people or more sensationalized than Spring-Heeled Jack. Some claimed he was a devil, a creature who could jump unnaturally high and was abnormally agile, while others believed he was a human being hiding beneath a mask and a cloak.

Jack mainly attacked women, ringing the doorbell and tearing their clothing to shreds once they answered. The only injuries reported during this time are scratches and cuts from the creature’s claws, described by many as long, sharp talons. John Cowan, Lord Mayor of London at the time, made a statement to the public asserting that he believed the attacks were perpetrated by a gang of wealthy thugs and dismissed any supernatural elements that most of the reports contained. Cowan’s written statement was also published in The Times.

It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the highest ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion, that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near London in three different disguises — a ghost, a bear, and a devil; and moreover, that he will not enter a gentleman’s gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The wager has, however, been accepted, and the unmanly villain has succeeded in depriving seven ladies of their senses, two of whom are not likely to recover, but to become burdens to their families.

At one house the man rang the bell, and on the servant coming to open the door, this worse than brute stood in no less dreadful figure than a specter clad most perfectly. The consequence was that the poor girl immediately swooned, and has never from that moment been in her senses.

The affair has now been going on for some time, and, strange to say, the papers are still silent on the subject. The writer has reason to believe that they have the whole history at their finger-ends but, through interested motives, are induced to remain silent.

Cowan’s appeal fell on deaf ears and the papers of London continued to report grandiose tales of Jack’s exploits and Penny Dreadful’s were printed telling of England’s newest boogeyman. Jack was used as a tool to scare children into behaving for their parents and Catholics told tales of Jack to curb their parishioner’s enthusiasm for spirits.

Sightings

Spring-Heeled Jack was first seen in 1837 in the Black Country, an area in the West Midlands. It is said that a woman was attacked by Spring-Heeled Jack and that her blouse was torn off and her stomach was scratched violently. The individual, creature, entity, demon, or whatever it may be, then leapt away. Police asked the woman what the individual looked like and she claimed it was a man wearing a cloak with long, razor-like fingernails. When the papers began to publicize the attack, many more people came forward claiming to be victims of this supposed crazy man. It wasn’t until this first publicized attack that people told of their experiences because they were afraid people would question their sanity. The newspapers sensationalized the story, creating mass hysteria. Armed vigilante groups patrolled the streets at night and even encountered what they believed to be Spring-Heeled Jack on more than one occasion during their excursions. Individuals pretending to be Spring-Heeled Jack became commonplace. Many took to the streets in an effort to gain attention for themselves or to scare friends and family. However, they could never catch him as, as soon as they would come upon him, he would leap onto a rooftop or over a fence and be out of sight in a blink.

A year later, a young woman was attacked by an individual who breathed blue flames at her, likely making this one of the worst cases of acid reflux in history. Many more people came forward claiming they had also seen a creature that breathed blue flames and could jump extremely high. Descriptions of the individual were so varied that it was impossible to obtain an accurate description of a suspect. In some cases, Jack looked like a devil with short horns and a pointed beard. In others, he resembled something closer to human. The only common threads were the long talons and the ability to jump to great heights.

Likely the most famous encounter with Spring-Heeled Jack happened to a woman named Jane. One night, Jane heard a knocking at her door. When she asked who was calling at such a late hour, a voice from the other side of the door claimed to be a police officer and demanded a light. The voice told Jane that she should hurry because they had caught Spring-Heeled Jack. Jane ran to get a candle and opened the door, but the figure that stood on the doorstep was not that of a police officer. The figure was that of a tall man with glowing red eyes. Before Jane could speak, he spat blue flames at her. The man attacked her, but Jane’s sister, hearing the struggle from another room, rushed in and scared the man away.

A short time later, a woman named Lucy Scales was out walking with her sister at night. She reported that a man jumped out of the shadows and spat blue flame into her face. Scales’ sister claimed the act caused Lucy to have some sort of seizure and fall to the ground. Both ladies reported that the man was tall, lean, and was wearing some sort of tight fitting white outfit. On his head he wore a strange helmet and his eyes were two balls of flame. Scales’ encounter helped to shape the image of Jack as a gentlemanly devil. After this encounter, Spring-Heeled Jack again disappeared.

In the 1870’s, people in the English countryside began seeing Spring-Heeled Jack and became victims of attacks. Village people set up traps and patrolled at night, desperately trying to catch whomever was attacking the locals, but their efforts were in vain. Again, Jack disappeared. Shortly after these attacks, people began seeing a similar creature/individual in Kentucky and it is believed that Jack had made his way to America. The description of Jack by those who had seen him were similar to those of the reports in England, but people in America reported that Jack shot flames out of his chest not his mouth. It is at this point that tales of Spring-Heeled Jack disappeared for some time. There were no further attacks in Kentucky and reports of sightings dwindled and disappeared altogether.

In 1939, people in Cape Cod began to report strange sightings. The creature’s ability to disappear and reappear at random, leap to great heights, and move very quickly really freaked people out. This particular creature was known by locals as the Black Flash and was believed to be the devil incarnate. The creature would attack at random, brandishing long iron claws and, as quickly as it appeared, sightings of the creature ceased. Black Flash was also seen in Provincetown, MA, around the late 1930’s. Two men were attacked by this individual and witnessed the Black Flash leaping over 8′ fences. The last known sighting of the Black Flash was in December of 1945.

In 1973, a Canadian family was visited by Spring-Heeled Jack. They claimed that the visitor arrived on their doorstep one night and, when they answered the door, they were greeted by a pair of glowing red eyes and a tall, gangly stranger dressed in all black. He had fingers topped with long, sharp claws. As quickly as he appeared, he leapt away. The family explained that the visitor had reached heights of 50-60 feet in the air!

In 1996, a police officer pursued a suspect who was seen jumping tall hedges in a residential neighborhood. The officer managed to catch up with the individual but, before he could utter a word, he was punched in the face and knocked out cold. When the officer came around, he was told that he’d been punched by Spring-Heeled Jack. Apparently attacks like those were common in England in the 19th century.

Who is Spring-Heeled Jack? Was Cowan right to believe that the “creatures” people saw were simply well-to-do jerk-wads out to scare innocent people for fun? Reports of Jack are now few and far between, but some believe that reports of creatures like Mothman in Point Pleasant, WV, are actually sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack. Are they one and the same?

Until next time, stay spooky!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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Bird of Death: An exploration of vampiric folklore and legend.

Perhaps one of the most influential horror films of all time is F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, an expressionist horror film released in 1922. It was an unauthorized adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stoker’s heirs sued Murnau, ordering that all copies of the film be destroyed. A copy slipped under the radar and Nosferatu still lives on today with a ravenous cult following, but the same can be said of Vampire folklore. There’s a reason why Nosferatu holds the spot for third-best reviewed horror film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes. People are still watching, enthralled by the cinematography of a silent, black and white film that first premiered in America seven years after its release in Germany.

Since the release of Nosferatu, vampire legend has been at the forefront of popular culture. From Fright Night (1985) and Van Helsing (2004), to Leslie Nielsen’s vampire comedy Dead and Loving It (1995) and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), the story of the vampire and the struggles that one without a pulse might face enthrall us. They captivate us and make the small hairs on the backs of our necks stand up. Well, aside from the Leslie Nielsen movie, anyway.

But vampire folklore isn’t always about entertainment and celebrating characters that embody the truly tortured spirit of the creature of the night. Vampire legends have existed for millennia: the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, ancient Greeks, and Romans all shared cultural folklore tales of demonic entities bent on drinking the blood of the living. In fact, beliefs regarding these legends were so strong that they created mass hysteria and led to executions.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, many believed that those who suffered from tuberculosis were actually vampires in disguise. Individuals with TB experienced loss of muscle mass, exhaustion, lack of appetite, a chronic cough that produced blood, redness (swelling) around the eyes causing light sensitivity, low body temperature, chills, and malaise and, when one member of the family came down with TB, often the whole family would be affected. When a family member passed, they would be buried for a short time, then dug up and their corpse examined. Blood in the mouth, paleness of the skin with no general decomposition, or bloating of the corpse were all signs that their family member was actually a vampire, feeding on them nightly and stealing their health. Now, we understand that bloating is a natural part of decomposition and TB is often accompanied by a chronic cough that produces bloody sputum, but early on in many cultures around the world, the fear of having a loved one turn into a vampire was very real.

Rabies was also often linked to outbreaks of vampirism, which would cause the afflicted to become senile, be light sensitive as well as to garlic, and there’s that nasty propensity to bite people.

Rabies and tuberculosis were often mistaken for vampirism, but according to folklore tales from Greece, Romania, England, and Japan, a person can become a vampire not only by being bitten, but also if they:

  • Ate of a sheep that had been killed by a wolf.
  • Were the child of a woman who was once looked at by someone who was a vampire.
  • Were a nun who stepped over a body that had been exhumed or had not been buried.
  • Had teeth when they were born or stillborn.
  • Practiced sorcery.
  • Were an illegitimate child or their parents were illegitimate.
  • Died before being baptized.
  • Were excommunicated from the church.
  • Were the seventh son of the seventh son.
  • Had red hair.
  • Were suddenly killed or committed suicide.
  • Renounced their religion.

In order to free oneself from the vampire curse, the afflicted would have to do one of the following:

  • Dig up the corpse of the suspected vampire, cut out its heart and burn it on a sacred stone. The ashes would then be mixed with water or wine and drank.
  • Burn and grind the bones of a vampire and blend with flour. Make bread. Eat of the bread.

Neither of those suggestions seem particularly appealing to me…

There were also ways to protect yourself against vampire attack. Some vampire folklore states that a small bag of salt should be carried at all times. According to vampire legends, if salt is spilled on the ground, the vampire will have no choice but to stop and count each individual grain. In a pinch, birdseed can be substituted. It is also said that “sealing” your home with salt can protect against creatures of the night or against those who might bring harm. Sprinkling salt around door and window frames will keep vampires and other demonic creatures at bay so long as they are not explicitly invited to enter. In Romania, it is believed that a young boy dressed all in white and sent into a cemetery on a white horse can find vampires beneath the earth. If the horse stops atop a grave, you’ve found a vampire.

In Slavic society, it is believed that the spirit lingers forty days after death. In southwest Romania, in the small village of Craiova, in February of 2004, police investigated a case of grave robbing. Recently deceased villager, Petre Toma, had been dug up and impaled. According to his family, he had become a vampire. They believed that Toma was returning from the grave each night and drinking their blood because family members felt ill and tired, feelings they were unable to shake. Six weeks after his funeral, his corpse was dug up and, upon examination, they found that his hands were no longer clasped, rather they were at his sides, and his mouth was full of blood. The villagers did what their beliefs dictated. They used a pitchfork to remove Toma’s heart and, finding there was also blood in that, they burnt the heart and mixed the ashes with water, sharing the mixture among themselves. Instantly, they felt better and the family was no longer plagued by nightly visits from Toma.

This case is not unique in and of itself. There were many people of many different cultures throughout history who believed that vampires were real and, because they were a real threat, certain precautions were taken when preparing a body for burial. Those with birth defects such as cleft pallets or other deformities might be singled out. In this case, the body is pierced through the heart or “trunk of the body” using an iron stake. It is said that iron is a natural ward against evil and will pin the vampire to the earth, preventing him from rising from the grave. In other cases, bricks or stones were forced into the corpse’s mouth, effectively breaking the jaw and preventing the vampire from feeding. A more familiar practice to modern day vampire aficionados will likely be the use of garlic as protection. Vampires are said to despise garlic and, in many instances, the mouth of a corpse might also be filled with garlic.

Today, there are people who claim to be vampires, there are people who drink the blood of the living, but they’re not the real deal. Popular authors like Stephen King and Anne Rice have written about these blood drinking creatures of the night, but a story is just that.  In the case of vampirism, I think we can drive a stake through it and put it to rest. Just in case, I think I’ll sprinkle a little salt before I go to bed tonight.

Sweet dreams!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

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S1 Ep. 10 The Amazing Jumping Crucifix

NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD!

This week, Janine shares an oldie but a good-ie, A Haunting in Connecticut, and Mimi introduces us to the ghost of A.W. Priest at the Hearthstone Historic House Museum in Appleton, WI.

This episode contains phantom hay fever, a shoutout to Thomas Edison, an oddball family, and a jumping crucifix.

Disclaimer: Box of eyelids not included.

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Also available wherever you listen to podcasts. =)

A Haunting in Connecticut: Fact Or Fiction?

It’s a familiar tale. A struggling family moves into a beautiful house, ready to make it a home. They fill their new home with artifacts, mementos from family vacations, photographs, and textiles. Then, a darkness seems to settle over the space… There are strange noises in the night. Family members begin acting strangely. You can feel eyes moving over you. There are shadows moving in your periphery. The house is far from being a home.

In 1986, the Snedeker family rented a beautiful colonial style home in Southington, Connecticut. Carmen Snedeker found it was large enough for her entire family and was very reasonably priced, encouraging an immediate move. Carmen had been driving her son some distance from their current home for cancer treatments and the drive was difficult on him due in part to the nausea from the treatments and his medication. After searching for some time for a home closer to the hospital, the colonial home seemed to drop conveniently into her lap. The landlord said she was welcome to move in immediately, she’d struggled with finding a place that would allow four children, and she and her family did so. Carmen’s husband, Allen, still had to travel for work, but was there on weekends or as often as he could be.

As the family started moving their belongings in, they began to notice there was something odd about the house itself. Above each doorway on the main floor, a crucifix was mounted. They appeared old and as if they had been there for some time. In the basement, there were strange tables lined against the wall containing what appeared to be medical tools, in the center of one of the rooms was a metal table on a swivel. In a corner of the basement was a large drain. A large hoisting mechanism was situated on one of the main walls. The family soon realized that the home they had moved into was originally the Hallahan (sp) funeral home and had operated as such since sometime in the 1930’s (some neighbors have speculated the business had operated there even longer). This in itself didn’t make it impossible to live in the house. After all, a funeral home is nothing to fear. Yes, corpses had once been stored in the basement and lifted in coffins to a viewing area on the first floor. Yes, preparation of the dead, embalming and drainage of fluids, had taken place. Every old house has a history. But, after a very short time, that history began to show its face.

Carmen’s son, Phillip, began exhibiting strange behavior. He was irritable, paranoid, and prone to fits of anger. Carmen chalked the behavior up to the medication and treatments he was receiving, believing that some of the things Phillip claimed to see were only in his mind. He would tell Carmen he saw men in the basement with long, dark coats and spoke with the ghost of a young boy with black hair down to his hips who lost his life in the house. When one of Phillip’s episodes became violent, threatening the safety of his siblings, Carmen made the difficult choice to have her son institutionalized. It was safer for everyone involved.

When Phillip left, the activity in the house escalated. One by one, the crucifixes above the doorways on the first floor inexplicably disappeared. When the crucifixes were all removed, the paranormal activity that seemed to be confined to the basement began to move upstairs. Food placed in the refrigerator would become rotten quickly, even if it had only just been purchased or eaten a short time before being stored. Carmen, while cleaning the kitchen floor, found that the mop water turned blood red upon contact with the linoleum and began to smell of decay. No matter how much she tried to mop it away, the festering puddle just kept getting bigger. The children began seeing shadows moving in their rooms at night, heard strange noises and voices, and experienced objects being thrown by unseen hands. The Snedeker children claimed that even leaving the house gave no relief. The spirits harassing them at home would follow them into social situations. If they went out, either they or their friends would experience the sensation of being touched or, on a couple of occasions, slapped. Both parents reported they had been raped and sodomized by demons. Many people asked why the family didn’t just move. Carmen stated that, not only would they lose their deposit for breaking their lease, something they were financially unable to do, they worried that the dark energy in the house would attach to and follow them wherever they went.

After a few weeks, the activity in the house got so bad that the family slept together in the living room on air mattresses.

It was at this point that Carmen decided to call Ed and Lorraine Warren, experts in the field of the paranormal and unexplained. It didn’t take long for the Warren’s to declare the house haunted and recommend the family go public about their experiences because, as Lorraine Warren stated, it would be easier to get the Catholic church to take notice and get involved if there was public outcry. Carmen’s husband was reluctant to go public at first, but after living in the home for so long, he had reached his breaking point. Their story was made public and the home was, eventually at least, as the Warren’s claimed, “successfully exorcised.”

Horror novelist Ray Garton brought the Snedeker’s story to light at the Warren’s insistence. Garton interviewed each family member individually about their experiences, but he encountered a problem. None of the stories matched up and they were unable to keep their stories straight about the paranormal activity. Garton claims he approached Ed Warren about the issue and was told that the whole family was crazy. According to Garton, Ed told him to find what story he could and make the rest up. “Make it up and make it scary.” According to some, that is exactly what Garton did.

The current owners of the home state that they have had no paranormal activity whatsoever, but that they are constantly bothered by people trying to take pictures of the home and asking about their experiences within its walls. Neighbors of the Snedeker’s have reported suspicious activity surrounding newspaper reports vs. actual occurrences on the property and doubt the property was ever really haunted at all.

Is the Haunting in Connecticut just another Amityville Horror story or is there more to it? Were the Snedeker’s telling the truth about what they experienced?

Neighbors and friends of the Snedeker children claim never to have heard anything about the haunting, though they did see the Snedeker children running around outside on warm evenings and making “spooky sounds” in through the open windows. None of the children ever mentioned it. One friend reported that he was eight at the time of the supposed haunting and it was never brought up. Were the children so afraid of what was happening in the house that they couldn’t bring themselves to speak of it? How realistic is it for a child around eight years old to keep that information secret? Was Carmen feeding stories to her children for the press and telling them to keep the information from their friends?

Enter the 2009 film, A Haunting in Connecticut,  supposedly a true story about the Snedeker’s ordeal. The movie claimed to be “based on true events” and told of all the horrifying and demonic experiences the family had in the house. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it seemed as if the movie often deviated from Carmen’s account. I’m still trying to figure out where the box of eyelids, bodies hidden in the walls, huge fire engulfing the house, and the carved symbols into Phillip’s body come into play. If by “true events” they mean a family moved into a haunted house and had some crazy shit happen to them, I suppose they’re not wrong…? The movie grossed over $77 million at the box office and DVD sales topped 1.5 million.

Haunting_in_connecticut

 

Gold Circle Films/Integrated Films/Lionsgate

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haunting_in_Connecticut

 

The truth is, there is little to no proof of any paranormal activity in the case of the Snedeker family. Perhaps they saw all the press The Amityville Horror had received and found out how the Lutz family had profited from their story. Maybe the mounting medical bills from Phillip’s treatment made the opportunity to craft a believable story impossible to resist. Desperate times…

What are your thoughts about the Snedeker’s  story? Let us know in the comments.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

Facebook: Haunt Heads Podcast

Find episodes of our podcast at hauntheads.podbean.com, on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2,  or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

NEW EPISODE!!! S1 Ep. 9 Highknocker-ed

NEW EPISODE AVAILABLE TOMORROW!

S1 Ep. 9 Highknocker=

This week, Mimi takes us to a supposed haunted hot spot, Dartford Cemetery in Green Lake, WI, and Janine enlightens us with tales of immurement, the practice of walling up the faithful and/or the penitent. This episode features a haunted mausoleum, foundational sacrifices, and a conversation about finding the story behind paranormal occurrences

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Stay spooky!

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Immurement: A Rock and A Hard Place.

A Long, Rich History

Elizabeth_Bathory_PortraitIf you know anything of the case of serial killer Elizabeth Bathory, The Blood Countess of 1610, who believed the blood of local virgins would keep her young forever, you already know about Immurement, or the practice of sealing an individual up in a wall or other confined space for a prolonged period of time. Bathory was sealed inside a tower in her castle and left with only a tiny opening for food. Likely very flat food. Bathory lasted four years in her prison, but some sentenced to immurement lasted far longer. Some didn’t last long at all.

Immurement can also be found in literature. Edgar Allan Poe used immurement as a form of punishment several times, but most famously in The Cask of Amontillado. Villain Injun Joe meets an accidental and untimely end in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when he is immured in a cave. Oscar Wilde wielded immurement like a club in The Canterville Ghost and several characters in the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, specifically Barnabas Collins (Collins is a vampire and cannot die so his punishment is eternal), suffer immurement.

Cultural folklore is rife with tales of people being bricked up inside bridges and behind the walls of ancient castles. It was popular to offer a “foundation sacrifice” to ensure the longevity of the structure and to bring good luck to those who would reside within it. In particular, Greek, British, Scandinavian, German, and many other cultures participated in the practice. If it’s any consolation, the sacrifices were likely put to death prior to being immured, though we can’t be sure.

Misery Loves Company

Immurement sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, but there were actually people who elected to be immured, particularly the devout of several religions including monks, nuns, and priests. In some cases, these devout souls would be bricked up along with a small child, a symbol of innocence and purity. It was not uncommon for nuns to be bricked up for a decade or more with a child companion, generally an orphan but sometimes willingly given by their parents, who was a “gift” to the Catholic church. Both individuals would receive food through a small slot and would never emerge from the chamber. There are no records of a child surviving immurement.

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In the 4th century A.D., a nun named Alexandria was immured for ten years. Saint Jerome wrote of one devout follower who spent his entire life living in a cistern and surviving on only five figs a day.

Punishment

As much as immurement could be used as a faith strengthening practice, it was also used in the religious community as a punishment. Priests who were found to have committed pederasty were sealed in a coffin and suspended inside a tower until they starved. in 1409, four clerics in Bavaria were subjected to this form of immurement as church officials felt the usual punishment, immolation, was too merciful.

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In the 18th century, the governor of Lebanon, Jazzar Pasha, decided to build a wall, something both decorative and entertaining, around the city of Beirut. Pasha, known to be a cruel and vengeful man, captured a large number of Greek Christians and ordered that they be built into the structure. Their heads protruded from one side, allowing Pasha to watch as they suffered and starved to death.

In 1906, a cobbler from Marrakesh was convicted of murdering 36 women and walled up for his crimes. His screams were heard for two days after his immurement. On the third day, he fell silent.

According to Henry Charles Lea, an American historian, civic reformer, and political activist, “The cruelty of the monastic system of imprisonment known as in pace, or vade in pacem, was such that those subjected to it speedily died in all the agonies of despair. In 1350 the Archbishop of Toulouse appealed to King John to interfere for its mitigation, and he issued an Ordinance that the superior of the convent should twice a month visit and console the prisoner, who, moreover, should have the right twice a month to ask for the company of one of the monks. Even this slender innovation provoked the bitterest resistance of the Dominicans and Franciscans, who appealed to Pope Clement VI., but in vain.”

Sir Walter Scott,  a Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet, notes in a remark to his poem Marmion (1808): “It is well known, that the religious, who broke their vows of chastity, were subjected to the same penalty as the Roman Vestals in a similar case. A small niche, sufficient to enclose their bodies, was made in the massive wall of the convent ; a slender pittance of food and water was deposited in it and the awful words Vade in pace, were the signal for immuring the criminal. It is not likely that, in latter times, this punishment was often resorted to; but, among the ruins of the abbey of Coldingham were some years ago discovered the remains of a female skeleton which, from the shape of the niche, and the position of the figure seemed to be that of an immured nun.”

Ancient Entombment

In Ancient Egypt, it was often the practice to entomb a deceased King or Queen along with those who served them in life and any pets they wanted to bring with them into the afterlife. In some cases, the living sacrifices were drugged prior to being immured with their master. In the 14th century, a mongol khan was immured with his servants, wives, and “several vessels of drink.” In others, as was the case of the widows of a great chief in Africa, legs would be broken prior to being immured.

In an effort to ensure a fruitful harvest, during The Festival of the Sun, the Ancient Incas would sacrifice animals and hold celebrations lasting nine days in an effort to thank the gods for providing their bounty. When Christian Spaniards intiarrived in the 16th century, they attempted to convert the Incas to Catholicism. This was likely due in part to the custom of immuring young women (aged 12 or younger) inside a water-less cistern as a form of sacrifice to the gods.

Infanticide

Why would anyone immure a newborn, you ask? Cases of child immurement were often due to an inability to provide for the infant or in order to hide the shame a child might bring to their parents. Often, these children were the offspring of nuns who had become lustful or who had been raped by monks or priests. Children might also be immured if they came from poverty stricken families. In most cases, the children were left in abandoned places and not actually entombed as they were unable to attempt escape.

Immurement On Television

Mr_BurnsYou’ve likely seen the episode of The Simpsons (Last Exit to Springfield) where Mr. Burns relates the story of a worker in his grandfather’s power plant is found with atoms in his pockets. As he is dragged away, Burns discusses  labor unions and Japan’s economical and industrial prominence. He then remarks “If only we’d listened to that young man instead of walling him up in the abandoned coke oven.”

 

On the HBO TV series OZ, a preacher (Luke Perry) is walled up by some inmates. He is later found by prison officials.

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In a 1984 episode of Thomas the Tank Engine, Percy is immured in a tunnel for refusing to leave during a rain storm. I think it had something to do with being afraid he’d ruin his paint job. You’ll have to trust me on that one.

 

On the HBO TV series Game of Thrones,  Doreah and Xaro Xhoan Daxos are sealed in an empty vault in Daxos’ villa, after betraying Daenerys and attempting to steal her dragons.

Here’s the Rub…

There was definitely a trick to surviving this particular method of torture. Obviously, rationing what little food and water you were given and finding something to keep yourself from going batty were givens, but your fate really relied on your keeper and whether or not the people on the outside would continue to care for you. If they forgot about you completely,  you were doomed to spend the remainder of your short life entombed with only the spiders and cobwebs to keep you company. Unless you were a nun who was immured with a kid. Then the two of you could play Parcheesi or whatever until the food and water ran out.

What do you think about the practice of immurement? Did it have practical applications? Was it just a way to punish and murder people? Chat us up in the comments below. =)

Until next time!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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