New Podcast Episode/The Haunting of Catherine Snow

A new episode of Haunt Heads is now available for download!

S3 Ep. 3: Just Pan Bein’ Pan, Yo!

hauntheads.podbean.com

This week, Katie takes us to Athens, Greece and we explore the myths, hauntings, and legends surrounding Davelis Cave. Janine goes back to her roots and shares the tale of Catherine Mandeville Snow, the last woman to be hanged in Newfoundland, Canada.

This episode contains ghostly footprints leading nowhere, Pan the original bar creeper, a haunted courthouse, and a murder mystery.

Intro/outro provided by Fox and Branch (www.foxandbranch.com)

 

The Haunting of Catherine Snow

Neighbors said their relationship was strained and their marriage when they finally took that next step, was even worse, prone to terrible fights and noise, so they were puzzled when the racket finally ceased. Then, they wondered what had happened to Catherine’s husband, John Snow, and their minds instantly settled on murder.

Catherine Mandeville Snow was born in Harbour Grace around 1793 and married John Snow in 1828 and lived with him in Salmon Cove near Port de Grave. Snow was originally from Bareneed and was a planter and fisherman by trade. Catherine and John quickly grew their family from two to nine and lived together in a modest home in Salmon Cove. On the night of August 31, 1833, after another of their knockdown, drag-out brawls, Snow disappeared without a trace

Police investigated Snow’s disappearance, finding nothing but a patch of dried blood on Snow’s wharf (fishing stage.) The police, instantly convinced they were dealing with a murder, quickly arrested Tobias Manderville (first cousin of Catherine Snow) whom they believed Snow’s wife was carrying on an affair with, and Arthur Spring, a household servant. Catherine went into hiding, running into the woods to evade capture, but she eventually turned herself in to the authorities in Harbour Grace. She likely thought that the police would simply question her and let her go given they had no evidence with which to hold or convict her.

 

The Newfoundlander (http://ngb.chebucto.org/Newspaper-Obits/nflder-1831-34.shtml)

Thursday, September 12, 1833

A most atrocious and unnatural murder has lately been perpetrated at Port-de-Grave, in Conception Bay. Mr. JOHN SNOW, a respectable planter of that place, having suddenly and mysteriously disappeared inquiry was set on foot, and from certain suspicious circumstances, a servant of SNOW’S named ARTHUR SPRING, and another man of the name of (Tobias) MANDEVILLE, were arrested, but there not being sufficient evidence to criminate them, they were, we understand, released on bail. We learn, however, that on Saturday last, SPRING made a voluntary confession, in which he stated that his master had actually been murdered, at the instigation of his own wife, that he had been shot by MANDERVILLE in his (SPRING’S) presence; and that after the deed was accomplished, they had attached the body to a grapnel and thrown it into the sea. MANDEVILLE, we understand, on being arrested and examined, admitted part of SPRING’S evidence, but denied having been the actual perpetrator of the crime – alleging that SPRING was the principal. MANDEVILLE and SPRING were brought to this town and committed to Gaol on Sunday evening. The woman had previously quitted Port-de-Grave, but although an active search has been made for her, she had not, at the time of writing this article, been discovered. SNOW and his wife were the parents of a large family and had been married about 17 years. The two prisoners underwent a long examination yesterday – the particulars of which have not transpired; but we understand it to have been similar to the former examinations.

Shortly after his arrest, Arthur Spring told the sheriff that he, Tobias Manderville, and Mrs. Snow had shot and killed John snow and tossed his body into the Atlantic. The two men each tried to blame one another for the crime during interrogation, but Catherine maintained her innocence throughout hours of questioning. Both Manderville and Spring plead not guilty (despite their previous admission) to the murder and were brought to trial with Catherine Snow on January 10, 1834. After 12 hours of deliberation, it was decided that all three were guilty of murder (despite there being no evidence to support Catherine even being at the scene or having a hand in it.) The attorney general told the jury, I can’t prove which one fired the shot, both were present for the murder. As to Catherine Snow, there is no direct or positive evidence of her guilt. But I have a chain of circumstantial evidence to prove her guilty. Attorney James Simms told the jury that there was no “direct or positive evidence of her guilt,” but she was nonetheless found guilty of murder along with Mandeville and Spring by an all-male jury. The trio was sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. Within days of the conclusion of the trial, Mandeville and Spring would meet the hangman’s noose, but Catherine received a 6-month stay of execution. She was pregnant with her 8th child and public outcry demanded she be allowed to give birth and to nurse the child prior to execution. While his mother sat in prison, Catherine’s newborn son would be Christened at the Old Catholic Chapel on Henry Street. On July 21, 1834, a large crowd gathered in front of the courthouse on Duckworth Street to witness the public spectacle. Catherine’s last words were, “I was a wretched woman, but I am as innocent of any participation in the crime of murder as an unborn child.”

According to the Public Ledger, “The unhappy woman, after a few brief struggles, passed into another world.”

Following her execution, the Catholic Church rallied hard to have her sentence commuted, but all efforts to do so were fruitless. They were able to give her a Christian burial because they believed she was innocent of murder so she was laid to rest in the old Catholic cemetery in St. John’s.

But this isn’t the end to Catherine’s story. Within days of execution, her ghost was seen roaming the interior of the courthouse and was spotted outside where the hanging had taken place. Her apparition was also witnessed in the cemetery where she’d been buried and the local newspapers reported each sighting.

Everyone reported seeing Catherine’s ghost from blue collar workers to the upper crust of society. There was a buzz about the great injustice done and those who had seen her ghost believed that her spirit was unable to rest. It was apparent to that group of believers that Catherine snow, doomed to wander having been accused of a crime she didn’t commit, was innocent.

https://www.pressreader.com/

In 1846, the courthouse in which Catherine’s trial had been held, and in front of which she’d been murdered, burned to the ground. Her spirit was seen wandering after the fire and also during the building of the new courthouse. Once the new building opened to the public, sightings of her ghost began again. The new courthouse was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1892 (St. John’s apparently has shit luck when it comes to courthouses,) but when the building was restored once again and reopened in 1902, Catherine’s spirit was seen again.  Her presence is still felt and her apparition still seen in the building, climbing the stairs or in the hallways. The elevator moves from floor to floor without being called and ghostly footsteps can be heard, but no explanation can be found for these occurrences.

In 1893, the old Catholic Cemetery was sold and St. Andrews Presbyterian was built on the site, opening its doors in 1896. It’s said that the remains of Catherine Snow weren’t moved prior to St. Andrews being built and supposedly lay somewhere under the structure. Reports of a woman wandering the grounds began to surface.

But that’s not the end of Catherine’s story…

179 years later, a new trial and a different verdict (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/179-years-later-a-new-trial-and-a-different-verdict-1.1180508)

Catherine Snow, who protested her innocence, was the last woman hanged in Newfoundland

CBC News ·  April 1, 2012

A modern-day jury has acquitted a Newfoundland woman who was hanged after being convicted for the murder of her husband in 1833.

The case, which depended largely on circumstantial evidence, almost led to riots and has troubled jurists ever since.

About 400 people turned out in St. John’s this week as a panel of experts tried to set the record straight.

The basics were the same: a judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a jury  — the audience.

The only thing missing was a proxy for the accused, 41-year-old Catherine Snow.

Just before her hanging, Snow acknowledged that she was a “wretched woman” but said she was as innocent “as an unborn child” in relation to her husband’s death.

The long-ago trial saw a testimony about traces of blood, marital infidelities and a keen wish to have her husband dead.

The circumstantial evidence was enough to convict her.

“The evidence of the affair is so prejudicial, it’s impossible to extricate it from the statements … there’s no way she could have a fair trial,” modern-day defense attorney Rosellen Sullivan said.

Today’s jury voted to acquit Snow.

She was the last woman to be hanged in Newfoundland — and may also be one of the earliest recorded cases of wrongful conviction.

Have you ever visited the courthouse in St. John’s or wandered the grounds of St. Andrews and witnessed Catherine’s ghostly form? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

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High Hopes and Horror

“You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!”

From Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_DeFeo_Jr.)

Around 6:30 PM on Wednesday, November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo entered Henry’s Bar in Amityville, Long Island, New York and [delivered the above statement to its patrons]. DeFeo and a small group of people went to 112 Ocean Avenue, which was located near the bar, and found that DeFeo’s parents were indeed dead.

Upon realizing the situation, DeFeo’s friend, Joe Yeswit, contacted Suffolk County police and had the following exchange with a dispatcher. (http://truelegends.info/amityville/call.htm)

Operator: This is Suffolk County Police. May I help you?”
Man: “We have a shooting here. Uh, DeFeo.”
Operator: “Sir, what is your name?”
Man: “Joey Yeswit.”
Operator: “Can you spell that?”
Man: “Yeah. Y-E-S W I T.”
Operator: “Y-E-S . .
Man: “Y-E-S-W-I-T.”
Operator: “. . . W-I-T. Your phone number?”
Man: “I don’t even know if it’s here. There’s, uh, I don’t have a phone number here.”
Operator: “Okay, where you calling from?”
Man: “It’s in Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police, and it’s right off, uh . . .Ocean Avenue in Amityville.”
Operator: “Austin?”
Man: “Ocean Avenue. What the … ?”
Operator: “Ocean … Avenue? Offa where?”
Man: “It’s right off Merrick Road. Ocean Avenue.”
Operator: “Merrick Road. What’s … what’s the problem, Sir?”
Man: “It’s a shooting!”
Operator: “There’s a shooting. Anybody hurt?”
Man: “Hah?”
Operator: “Anybody hurt?”
Man: “Yeah, it’s uh, uh — everybody’s dead.”
Operator: “Whattaya mean, everybody’s dead?”
Man: “I don’t know what happened. Kid come running in the bar. He says everybody in the family was killed, and we came down here.”
Operator: “Hold on a second, Sir.” 
(Police Officer now takes over call)
Police Officer: “Hello.”
Man: “Hello.”
Police Officer: “What’s your name?”
Man: “My name is Joe Yeswit.”
Police Officer: “George Edwards?”
Man: “Joe Yeswit.”
Police Officer: “How do you spell it?”
Man: “What? I just … How many times do I have to tell you? Y-E-S-W-I-T.”
Police Officer: “Where’re you at?”
Man: “I’m on Ocean Avenue.
Police Officer: “What number?”
Man: “I don’t have a number here. There’s no number on the phone. “
Police Officer: “What number on the house?”
Man: “I don’t even know that.”
Police Officer: “Where’re you at? Ocean Avenue and what?”
Man: “In Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police and have someone come down here. They know the family.”
Police Officer: “Amityville.”
Man: “Yeah, Amityville.”
Police Officer: “Okay. Now, tell me what’s wrong.”
Man: “I don’t know. Guy come running in the bar. Guy come running in the bar and said there — his mother and father are shot. We ran down to his house and everybody in the house is shot. I don’t know how long, you know. So, uh . . .”
Police Officer: “Uh, what’s the add … what’s the address of the house?”
Man: “Uh, hold on. Let me go look up the number. All right. Hold on. One-twelve Ocean Avenue, Amityville.”
Police Officer: “Is that Amityville or North Amityville?”
Man: “Amityville. Right on … south of Merrick Road.”
Police Officer: “Is it right in the village limits?”
Man: “It’s in the village limits, yeah.”
Police Officer: “Eh, okay, what’s your phone number?”
Man: “I don’t even have one. There’s no number on the phone. “
Police Officer: “All right, where’re you calling from? Public phone?”
Man: “No, I’m calling right from the house, because I don’t see a number on the phone.”
Police Officer: “You’re at the house itself?”
Man: “Yeah.”
Police Officer: “How many bodies are there?”
Man: “I think, uh, I don’t know — uh, I think they said four.”
Police Officer: “There’s four?”
Man: “Yeah.”
Police Officer: “All right, you stay right there at the house, and I’ll call the Amityville Village P.D., and they’ll come down.”

High Hopes

The sign that hung outside 112 Ocean Avenue (now 108 Ocean Avenue) read “High Hopes.” Undoubtedly, those who entered the residence were dreaming of making this house a home. For the DeFeo family, this was not to be. Ronald DeFeo Jr., then only 23, methodically murdered his entire family within the walls of what would become known as the Amityville Horror House. DeFeo systematically moved from bedroom to bedroom, shooting his parents, Ronald DeFeo Sr., 43, and Louise, 42; his sisters, Dawn, 18, and Allison, 13; and his brothers Mark, 11, and John, 9, with a shotgun blast from a .35 caliber Marlin rifle to the head. DeFeo first told police that he had arrived home to find his family murdered, then ran to a local bar for help. Later, he would amend his original statement, claiming that voices in the home told him to commit the murders.

amityville
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/22/the-amityville-horror-house-is-for-sale-five-bedrooms-3-5-bathrooms-and-one-bloody-history/?utm_term=.49b40c929374

“DeFeo’s trial began on October 14, 1975. He and his defense lawyer, William Weber, mounted an affirmative defense of insanity, with DeFeo claiming that he killed his family in self-defense because he heard their voices plotting against him. The insanity plea was supported by the psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Daniel Schwartz. The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Dr. Harold Zolan, maintained that although DeFeo was an abuser of heroin and LSD, he had antisocial personality disorder and was aware of his actions at the time of the crime.

On November 21, 1975, DeFeo was found guilty on six counts of second-degree murder. On December 4, 1975, Judge Thomas Stark sentenced DeFeo to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life.

Ronald_defeo
By Suffolk County Police Department – Suffolk County Police Department photographic records., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46207341

DeFeo is currently held at a correctional facility in the town of Fallsburg, New York, and all of his appeals and requests to the parole board to date have been denied.”

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

DeFeo still resides at Sullivan and is 66 years of age. Since his conviction, he has changed his story many times, even claiming that he committed the murders with two friends. Joe Nickell, a writer for Skeptical Inquirer (https://www.csicop.org/si/show/amityville_the_horror_of_it_all) has stated that the story has changed so much from interview to interview that DeFeo’s explanations should be taken “with caution.”

There has been speculation that Dawn DeFeo had a hand in the killings because gunpowder was found on her nightgown. Dawn, too, was murdered by Ronald DeFeo in the same way as her parents and siblings, but there has been speculation that Ronald and Dawn were intimately involved. Neither theory has been positively verified.

28 Days Later

De. 18, 1975

Enter the Lutz family. George Lutz, his wife Kathleen (Kathy), and their five children move into 112 Ocean Avenue. The Lutz’s bought the house (the realtor threw in some of the DeFeo family’s furniture for $400) for a meager $80,000, a ridiculously low price given that the home has sold in recent years for upwards of $1.5 million, and was able to put a substantial amount down on their mortgage due to their recent marriage. George and Kathy each had houses to sell, this marriage not being their first rodeo, and George intended on moving a home office for his land surveying business into the basement.

Upon moving in, George and Kathy claimed that paranormal activity began almost immediately. Their German shepherd tried to hang itself by jumping over the back fence while it was chained in the yard. A priest who visited to bless the home was told to “get out” by a disembodied voice and was slapped across the face. In an interview, the priest stated, “I was blessing the sewing room. It was cold. It was really cold in there. I’m like, ‘Well, gee, this is peculiar,’ because it was a lovely day out, and it was winter, yes, but it didn’t account for that kind of coldness. I was also sprinkling holy water, and I heard a rather deep voice behind me saying, ‘Get out!’ It seemed so directed toward me that I was really quite startled. I felt a slap at one point on the face. I felt somebody slap me, and there was nobody there.”

According to George, these incidents happened within hours of their first occupation. The paranormal activity in the home continued to escalate. George and Kathy claimed to have heard a marching band parading through their living room. When the marching band wasn’t performing, they claimed there was a sound like a clock radio between stations emanating from the living room. When someone went into the living room, the noises would stop. The porcelain in all the toilets turned black, slime ran down the walls and out through the keyholes, a flying, George would awake every morning at 3:15AM (the time of the murders,) Kathy would have nightmares about DeFeo wandering the house and slaughtering his entire family, a demonic pig with glowing red eyes named Jodie (supposedly a “friend” of George’s youngest daughter, Missy,) was seen hovering outside a second story window… All of this and more were reported by the family, but how much of what George Lutz has claimed happened can be believed?

In the book, released in 1977, The Amityville Horror: A True Story, author Jay Anson crafted several scenarios that may or may not have happened while the Lutz family lived at 112 Ocean Ave. The experiences are as follows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amityville_Horror):

  • George would wake up around 3:15 every morning and would go out to check the boathouse. Later he would learn that this was the estimated time of the DeFeo killings.
  • The house was plagued by swarms of flies despite the winter weather.
  • Kathy had vivid nightmares about the murders and discovered the order in which they occurred and the rooms where they took place. The Lutz children also began sleeping on their stomachs, in the same way that the dead bodies in the DeFeo murders had been found.
  • Kathy would feel a sensation as if “being embraced” in a loving manner, by an unseen force.
  • George discovered a small hidden room (around four feet by five feet) behind shelving in the basement. The walls were painted red and the room did not appear in the blueprints of the house. The room came to be known as “The Red Room.” This room had a profound effect on their dog Harry, who refused to go near it and cowered as if sensing something ominous.
  • There were cold spots and odors of perfume and excrement in areas of the house where no wind drafts or piping would explain the source.
  • While tending to the fire, George and Kathy saw the image of a demon with half his head blown out. It was burned into the soot in the back of the fireplace.
  • The Lutzes’ 5-year-old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named “Jodie,” a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.
  • In the early morning hours of Christmas Day 1975, George looked up at the house after checking on the boathouse and saw Jodie standing behind Missy at her bedroom window. When he ran up to her room he found her fast asleep with her small rocking chair slowly rocking back and forth.
  • George would wake up to the sound of the front door slamming. He would race downstairs to find the dog sleeping soundly at the front door. Nobody else heard the sound although it was loud enough to wake the house.
  • George would hear what was described as a “marching band tuning up” or what sounded like a clock radio playing not quite on frequency. When he went downstairs the noise would cease.
  • George realized that he bore a strong resemblance to Ronald DeFeo, Jr. and began drinking at The Witches’ Brew, the bar where DeFeo was once a regular customer.
  • When closing Missy’s window, which Missy said Jodie climbed out of, Kathy saw red eyes glowing at her.
  • While in bed, Kathy received red welts on her chest caused by an unseen force and was levitated two feet in the air.
  • Locks, doors and windows in the house were damaged by an unseen force.
  • Cloven hoof prints attributed to an enormous pig appeared in the snow outside the house January 1, 1976.
  • Green gelatin-like slime oozed from walls in the hall and also from the keyhole of the playroom door in the attic.
  • A 12-inch (30 cm) crucifix, hung in the living room by Kathy, revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.
  • George tripped over a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) China lion ornament in the living room and found bite marks on one of his ankles. Later this lion would reappear in the living room after George had moved it back upstairs into the sewing room.
  • George saw Kathy transform into an old woman of 90: “the hair wild a shocking white, the face a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth.”
  • Missy would sing constantly while in her room. Whenever she left the room she would stop singing and upon returning she would resume singing where she left off.
  • On one occasion Kathy heard what sounded like a window being opened and closed through the sewing room door even though she was sure no one was in there.

 

However, it seems as if Amityville’s Horror House is not all hogwash. According to historyvshollywood.com, there was one piece of controversial evidence captured during a paranormal investigation that could verify an otherworldly presence within the house.

“The debate over the alleged Amityville ghost image […] has been going on ever since George Lutz first revealed it during an interview on the Merv Griffin show in 1979. It had been taken three years earlier in 1976 by Ed and Lorraine Warren’s team of paranormal investigators, namely a professional photographer by the name of Gene Campbell.

Campbell had set up a camera equipped with black and white infrared film to shoot automatically during the night. Numerous rolls of film were used, with only one suspicious image being captured. The Amityville ghost image shows a figure with white eyes peering out of a doorway. Some believe that it is a demon or possibly the ghost of the murdered DeFeo boy, John. Others have concluded that it is likely one of the investigators, in particular, a man named Paul Bartz. They cite that his white eyes were possibly due to the infrared camera film.”

bghst
http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/amityville-ghost-boy.php

As of 2013, no other owners of the home have experienced any paranormal phenomena.

In 2006, George Lutz passed away suddenly. One of the last interviews he ever gave can be found at http://www.ghostvillage.com/legends/2005/legends36_04122005.shtml. In many ways, the Lutz’s purchase of the home was very straightforward. They saw the house, heard about the history, discussed numbers and commute times…basically the kind of shit you talk about with your significant other when considering a big purchase. I suppose we’ll never know what actually did or did not take place inside the Amityville Horror House, but we can be sure that the legend of the DeFeo murders and the Lutz family ordeal will survive for generations to come.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Listen to episodes of our podcast at hauntheads.podbean.com, iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you binge your podcasts!

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Ring My Bell: Safety Coffins and Death in the Victorian Era

I think it’s safe to say that those who lived during the Victorian era had an obsession with death. They crafted small portraits made from the hair of deceased family members that could be placed in brooches and worn, wore lachrymatory bottles (often mistaken for perfume bottles) on chains around their necks in order to catch the tears they wept for a departed loved one, and erected lavish monuments at grave sites. They even purchased new sets of mourning clothes each time someone passed on because keeping such clothing afterward and reusing it was considered bad luck. In fact, stores existed that catered only to those in mourning and sold every item an individual might need to properly mourn a loss. Mourning times ranged from four weeks (first cousins) to two whole years (for a spouse.) We wear black (or dark) clothing to funerals now, so that’s not too terribly odd, but we’ve since moved away from the regular practice of purchasing a special coffin for grandma, fully equipped with a bell, feeding/breathing tube, and spare set of crypt keys, just in case she was mistaken for dead.

Welcome to the wonderous (and often crazy) world of safety coffins.

Taphophobia, the fear of being buried alive, was quite common in the Victorian era, mainly because it was often difficult for doctors at the time to say for sure whether or not someone was sincerely dead. I’m currently flashing back to the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the Munchkin Coroner proclaims the Wicked Witch, “Most sincerely dead.”

42ee31ab0425b6fecb2b803ce4a7b4b2

On a completely unrelated note, I visited the National Musem of Funeral History in Houston, TX in March of last year and saw the costume worn by Meinhardt Raabe in the film. Anyway, I digress…

Stop Blowing Smoke…

Bodies would often be kept in Waiting Mortuaries or “Apparent Dead Houses” (as they were called in the Netherlands) for a period of time prior to being buried. The bodies in these mortuaries were cared for by a staff of nurses and were not buried until they showed signs of putrification. Flowers were placed by each bedside (to mask the odor or decay) and mirrors or feathers were held under the nose or by the mouths of the deceased in order to check for breath. In Europe, tobacco smoke enemas were often employed. Administered using a bellows, (they were originally done using a pipette and the smoke was blown into the rectum from the mouth of whoever was doing the check) the sensation of the smoke supposedly would wake those falsely proclaimed deceased. There were cases in which people did actually wake up. Of course, these cases then served as proof that the practice was viable. Of course, probes and needles were also used to poke and prod the body. Likely to give the poor bastard stuck with the smoke-blowing job a break. That’s a shitty end to the practice of drawing straws…excuse the pun.

Saved By the Bell

The first safety coffin was designed by Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick around 1790. His model included an air/feeding tube, a window to allow light, and a spare set of keys for the coffin itself and the tomb in which it was housed. By the 19th century, the Germans had created a whole line of safety coffins (around thirty or so) that included elaborate bell and pulley systems. Unfortunately, the human body tends to bloat when decomposing, causing the corpse to shift. Using a bell to detect accidental death is about as realistic as Dustin Diamond resurrecting his career at this point, but many mortuaries and cemeteries employed the bell as a tool to detect mistaken burial.

A Peek At the Afterlife

If you’ve ever gone wandering through Evergreen Cemetery in Vermont, you might have come across the grave of Dr. Timothy Clark Smith whose “window to the world,” is likely the creepiest physical manifestation of Taphophobia. The “window” is actually more of a tube that has a cap on both ends, allowing visitors to look down the tube and into the face of the sleeping Dr. Smith. At least it used to.

http://www.cultofweird.com/death/timothy-clark-smith-grave/

I’m pretty sure all anyone can see at this point is condensation and darkness, but people claimed to have been able to see Smith’s rotting corpse staring up at them, a hammer and chisel nearby to aid his escape. Of course, when Smith died, he was most definitely dead. Others weren’t so lucky.

In a report that dates back to the fourteenth century, whether entirely truthful or not, it is said that the philosopher John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was buried alive. Upon exhumation, Scotus was reportedly found outside his coffin with his hands and fingertips torn and bloody.

In Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, author Jan Bondeson writes,

pic

According to Wikipedia,

Newspapers have reported cases of exhumed corpses which appear to have been accidentally buried alive. On February 21, 1885, The New York Times gave a disturbing account of such a case. The victim was a man from Buncombe County whose name was given as “Jenkins.” His body was found turned over onto its front inside the coffin, with much of his hair pulled out. Scratch marks were also visible on all sides of the coffin’s interior. His family was reportedly “distressed beyond measure at the criminal carelessness” associated with the case. Another similar story was reported in The Times on January 18, 1886, the victim of this case is described simply as a “girl” named “Collins” from Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. Her body was described as being found with the knees tucked up under the body, and her burial shroud “torn into shreds.””

Live burial may seem like a thing of the past, but even the best doctors can make mistakes. The article continues,

“In 2005, a body bag was delivered to the Matarese Funeral home in Ashland, Massachusetts with a live occupant. Funeral director John Matarese discovered this, called paramedics, and avoided live embalming or premature burial.

In 2014 in Peraia, Thessaloniki, in Macedonia, Greece, the police discovered that a 45-year-old woman was buried alive and died of asphyxia after being declared clinically dead by a private hospital; she was discovered just shortly after being buried by children playing near the cemetery who heard screams from inside the earth and afterwards her family was reported as considering suing the private hospital.  In 2015 it was reported that in 2014 again in Peraia, Thessaloniki, in Macedonia, Greece, police investigation concluded that a 49-year-old woman was buried alive after being declared dead due to cancer; her family reported that they could hear her scream from inside the earth at the cemetery shortly after burial and the investigation revealed that she died of heart failure inside the coffin and found out that it was the medicines given to her by her doctors for her cancer that caused her to be declared clinically dead and buried alive.”

What are your thoughts on safety coffins, the Victorian view of death and bereavement, and the practice of housing the dead in Waiting Mortuaries? I’d love to read your comments!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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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.

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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

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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.

Spring_Heeled_Jack-penny_dreadful
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring-heeled_Jack

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.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring-heeled_Jack

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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The Mystery of Roanoke

The writing on the stone appears to be a message from Ellinor White Dare to her father describing murders by “sa(l)vages” (save 7 colonists) and the locations of grave sites along with where the group of surviving colonists might be found. Some scientists have speculated, upon close examination, that some of the stones appear to have been recently carved, one even looks as if it may have been done with a drill press. 

The Croatan are a small Native American group residing in the coastal areas of what is now North Carolina. Croatan Island (sometimes called Croatoan Island and now known as Hatteras Island) is located on the banks of the Staunton (pronounced Stanton) River and, in 1587, the Croatan got some new neighbors. They were English settlers, numbering somewhere between 115-120, led by Gov. John White.

White was to be the guiding hand and to aid in the development of a new colony. Sir Walter Raleigh had intended for the colony to be established in the Chesapeake Bay area, but the Captain of the ship they sailed upon dropped them on Roanoke Island instead, a site that had hosted a colony of settlers previously. The previous attempt had been a glorious failure.

The new settlers began setting up shop, building structures, and working toward creating some sense of home in their new surroundings, picture an even shittier version of Oregon Trail, but it wasn’t long before the group began to run out of supplies. White set sail for England to procure more stores for his settlers on August 27, 1587 and arrived in November of that year, just as England was about to go to war with Spain. Queen Elizabeth I ordered that all available ships to confront the Spanish Armada, preventing White from returning to Roanoke for a period of three years.

When White did return, he found the colony abandoned and all of the settlers missing. Although he searched endlessly for them, he found no clue as to there whereabouts nor did he find any human remains to indicate they had been killed. His daughter, Ellinor White Dare, son in law, Ananias Dare, and granddaughter, Virginia Dare, had vanished. A single word was carved into a wooden post, the only clue as to where the settlers may have gone or what had happened at Roanoke. That word was Croatoan.

What happened to the settlers of the lost colony of Roanoke? Were they captured by local native tribes? Were they murdered by an aggressive tribe? Were they assimilated into a friendly native tribe? Were they taken as slaves to work in copper mines? (It was speculated in Return to Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony (History Channel, 2015) that this was the colonist’s fate.) Were they murdered by Spaniards marching up from Florida or were they abducted?

White was left to wonder and failed to find any settler, alive or dead.

Virginia and The Dare Stones

Virginia Dare was the first child of English heritage to be born in the Americas and was named Virginia because she was the first born there. Her father was Ananias Dare, her mother was Ellinor White Dare (daughter of Gov. John White.) Illustrated depictions of young Virginia’s baptism into the Catholic faith at the Jonestown Exhibition in 1907 can be found online, but the child vanished soon after without a trace. Her life is a mystery and remains so to this day.

In 1937, a California man driving through the coastal Carolina region found a 21 pound rock, roughly 80 miles from Roanoke Island, engraved with strange markings. He delivered his find to the History Department at Emory University. When university officials declined to pay for testing of the stone, Haywood Pearce brought it to Brenau University and began tracing its origins and transcribing the writing on the stone. He put out a call for other stones, offering a reward, but was essentially buried in potentials, further muddying the mystery. There are a total of 48 stones supposedly describing the last days of the colony at Roanoke.

According to The Native Heritage Project (https://nativeheritageproject.com/2013/12/08/the-dare-stones-1-through-48/), the original stone reads as follows.

dare-stone-translation
https://nativeheritageproject.com/2013/12/08/the-dare-stones-1-through-48/
original_stone_two-up-800x533
http://www.brenau.edu/darestones/

The writing on the stone appears to be a message from Ellinor White Dare to her father describing murders by “sa(l)vages” (save 7 colonists) and the locations of grave sites along with where the group of surviving colonists might be found. Some scientists have speculated, upon close examination, that some of the stones appear to have been recently carved, one even looks as if it may have been done with a drill press.

 

A team of historians commissioned by the Smithsonian did assign some validity to the original stone. The team was led by Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard University. A preliminary report was released stating that the stone appeared to be valid and the stones officially became known as the Dare Stones.

In 1941, the Saturday Evening Post all but reported that Pearce Jr. had crafted the stones himself. There was talk of libel action against The Post, but WWII pretty much put the kaibash on that. The stones disappeared from view on campus.

In 1977, Leonard Nimoy narrated an episode of In Search of… on which a Brenau professor, Dr. Southerland, stated that he believed only the first stone was authentic. Ten years later, he amended his statement, asserting that even the original stone may have only a 50% chance of being real.

Interest in the stones was once again revived as Jamestown, VA, celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first English colony to gain purchase on American soil. An internet scavenger hunt (among other scheduled events) caused Brenau officials to receive dozens of phone calls. One of the items on the scavenger hunt list was a rubbing of one of the Dare Stones.

Location of the Stones

It has been speculated that the stones are housed in an 18th century mausoleum on campus, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Dare Stones are actually housed in a boiler room beneath the university amphitheater and range in size from 20-40 pounds each. One stone is on view at the Northeast Georgia History Center adjacent to campus. Two (including the original stone) are housed in the special collections section of the Trustee Library.

Every Good Mystery Has a Twist…

In an interesting twist, part of the Ellinor Dare legend is that she gave birth to a child named Agnes who was fathered by an American Indian “king” from North Carolina or Georgia. Tribes in that area believed that the souls of the deceased were transferred into sacred stones.

Kathy Amos, the university’s Tradition Keeper states that Brenau’s resident ghost showed up around the same time the stones did. Supposedly, the ghost’s name is Agnes.

Stories exist about the ghost of Agnes committing suicide by hanging herself in the theater. It’s generally a story of unrequited love. Agnes is also said to have been a pledge for Zeta Tau Alpha who died in an initiation gone wrong. It has also been said that she killed herself after being ousted from the sorority. Some claim that Agnes appeared in the 1930’s while others say she’s been around since 1960. She’s said to haunt the theater, the dorms, the library… It seems as if it depends completely who you talk to on campus as Agnes stories abound.

Have you ever seen the Dare Stones first hand? What’s the story with Agnes? Is she the deceased daughter of Ellinor or another spirit entirely? Let us know in the comments below!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

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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.

coffin
 

imagineersystems.com

 

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.
History_Vampire_Myths_42735_SF_HD_1104x622-16x9
 

www.history.com

 

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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