S1 Ep. 7: Loaf Or Death Situation

Mimi’s love of steak leads to the tale of a haunted steakhouse and Underground Railroad location in Mequon, WI. Janine discusses the weird and wonderful world of toxic fashion trends in Victorian England. This episode contains a little more Capone, copious amounts of arsenic, and whiter than white bread.

We’d like to start recording mini episodes! Please send us your favorite urban legends or folklore tales or share your haunted experiences with us. We’d love to read them on the show! 

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Fashion Victims

Arsenic dyed gowns, mercury hats, and highly flammable clothing were in large supply during the Victorian era in Europe. I suppose this one fits into the “weird and wonderful” category.

All About the Green

In the early 19th century, fashionable people invested in garments that conveyed their lot in life and, even if these garments proved a danger to them, people dressed to impress. Dresses and accessories were often dyed by mixing copper and highly toxic arsenic trioxide, or white arsenic, to achieve a brilliant green hue that was popular at the time. Women adorned themselves with imitation flowers and wreaths that were dusted with the deadly substance, inhaling the powder and absorbing the toxins through their skin, but the employees tasked with creating the pieces for sale were hit the hardest by this fashion trend.

One such account from 1861 involves a young woman named Matilda Scheurer. She was only 19 and worked in one of the many factories tasked with creating the wearable curios the women of the time desired. Her specific job was to dust, or “fluff,” the leaves of the artificial flowers with  green powder. Her exposure was so high, the tips of her fingers had taken on a permanent green hue and even the whites of her eyes were green.  When she ate her lunch, the powder from her hands was inevitably ingested. Matilda, as was often the case with garment workers like her, died of her exposure in a rather violent manner. She convulsed  and expelled green foam from her eyes, nose, and mouth. Upon examination of her body after her passing, it was found that the green powder had infiltrated her lungs, stomach, and liver.

After Matilda’s death, an organization called the Ladies’ Sanitary Organization, a Miss Nicholson specifically, was particularly vocal regarding the horrifying conditions in which the people worked within the factories and published a first hand account of her findings. She stated that some of the women were half dressed and complaining of “a dreadful cold.” The handkerchiefs they pressed to their noses came away red with blood. Blindness and sores on the face and hands were also common exposure related ailments. The Association commissioned Dr. A.W. Hoffman, a world renowned chemist, to analyze the flowers contained in the average headdress. Hoffman found that one headdress contained enough arsenic to poison 20 people and a ball gown made from 20 yards of fabric could contain upwards of 900 grains of arsenic. Arsenic was also used in the production of shoes, gloves, wallpaper, and curtains.

Boots ca. 1880.

The fact that the white arsenic used to dye clothes was dirt cheap and alluring to clothiers was attractive and many hundreds of tonnes were used annually in consumer goods. Even small children could purchase it over the counter at any pharmacy. It wasn’t until the passing of the Arsenic Act of 1868 that the amount sold to individuals was regulated, but no limits were imposed on large scale production operations. By the 1880’s , arsenic had been banned from use in the clothing industry, but was still often used in marketing materials and packaging.

Luckily, the move away from arsenic dyed clothing was hastened by the creation of synthetic dyes. Public concern also helped to turn the tide, but the use of arsenic was only banned in Scandinavia, France, and Germany. Britain never banned the practice.

A Tip of the Hat

While women adorned themselves with poisonous foliage and attire, the men of the period also dressed in laced garments. Men’s hats, felted using hare and rabbit fur, were brushed with mercury in order to make the fine hair stick together. Hatters of the time were the hardest hit by exposure. Many experienced neuromotor and psychological problems. Some theorize that the phrase “mad as a hatter” was coined to describe those who suffered from276859b53d5e6f580862b8a7576ce8bf mercury poisoning. Cardio-respiratory problems and tooth loss were common side effects of prolonged mercury exposure, but only the hatters experienced these side effects; The men who purchased the hats were protected by the hat’s inner lining.

The use of mercury in hat making was never explicitly banned in Britain. Rather, hats fell out of fashion in the 1960’s and so the practice died out.

 

Fire Starter

In Victorian England, as well as in other parts of the world during this time period, women swathed themselves in hooped gowns layered with cotton and tulle and moved around spaces lit with candles, oil lamps, and fireplaces. They moved with all the grace of the Hindenburg, so it’s no small wonder that women were often victims of their environment.

In fact, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife is said to have caught fire and died from her injuries, she had sustained severe burns, the following day. Apparently a piece 3e42b2b48f24ac18805a3e90fd110e7aof paper had fallen on her gown, causing her to immediately ignite. Longfellow undoubtedly wore a fitted wool suit, common attire for gentlemen of the period, allowing him to move about more safely in his home environment. Bully for him!

Honestly, it’s a wonder anyone survived.

Are you fascinated by these strange practices? Chat us up in the comments and, as always,  don’t forget to like+follow+Tweet+share!

 

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

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S1 Ep. 3 Available!

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S1 Ep.3 A Lupine Dancer is A Steppin’ Wolf OR Sh!t Just Goat Serious

This episode features stories about the Goatman of Kewaskum, WI and The Beast of Bray Road (WI.) Find it at Haunt Heads.podbean.com

New episodes every Monday! 

Have a paranormal or folklore tale to tell? Send it our way and we’ll read it on the show!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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Chillingham Castle: Most Haunted?

Chillingham Castle has been featured on many ghost hunting shows. Scariest Places on Earth, Ghost Hunters International, and Holiday Showdown, to name a few, have all taken a turn on the crazy whirligig of fun that is Chillingham. Safe to say, it’s the least chill place on earth.

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Brief History

Located in Chillingham, Northumberland, the castle was the first line of defense preventing Scots from getting over the border to invade England. Originally a monastery in the late 12th century, the structure became a fully fortified castle in 1344 and was the seat of the Grey and Bennet families from the 15th century right up to the 1980’s. If you’ve heard of the Grey monument in Newcastle upon Tyne or savored a mug of Earl Grey tea, you should know that the Grey family has greatly influenced the course of history.

In the 1300’s, The War of the Roses had torn the Grey family apart, their support split between  Yorkists (Edward IV) and Lancastrians (Henry IV). The Lancastrians were the victors and the “winning side” of the family ordered 8 total executions of family members for high treason. They were hanged, drawn, and quartered. Sir Ralph Grey ordered his own son be put to death. The boy was hanged by the neck, cut down while still alive, his intestines were pulled from his abdomen, and he was quartered. His head was put on display at the gate as a warning.

In 1695, the Grey’s acquired the title of Earl of Tankerville, but had no son to to inherit it. (Perhaps if they’d refrained from killing the one they had..?) Lady Mary Grey married Charles Bennet who then inherited the title and brought the Bennet and Grey families together.

The following text read very much like an episode of Downton Abbey, Dowager Countess and all, so I’ll save you that frustration. I’m not saying it’s not valuable information. I’m saying I’d be here all day. Let’s skip ahead…

Structural Renovations

in 1344, King Edward III authorized battlements to be established at Chillingham in order to upgrade the structure into a stronghold and in 1617, after a visit from King James I (first king of England and Scotland), the moat was filled and the battlements were converted into residences. A banquet hall and a library were constructed.

During World War II, Chillingham housed soldiers and became a stronghold once again. Soldiers stripped much of the woodwork from the castle to burn for heat and pieces of a lead roof were removed, causing severe interior damage.

When the property was purchased in 1982 by Sir Humphry Wakefield, Second Baronet, whose wife was descended from the Grey’s of Chillingham, he set about restoring the structure to its former glory and opened sections of the castle to the public for tours.

Hauntings

The current owners of Chillingham market the castle as one of the most haunted places on earth. The structure has been investigated by paranormal investigators and has been featured on numerous television programs.

The most famous ghost, the Blue or, as he’s sometimes called, Radiant Boy is said to haunt the Pink Room. Guests claim a blue halo forms around the head of their bed and loud wailing can be heard. They then see the ghost of the  boy at the foot of the bed. During some of the castles many renovations, the body of a small boy and some scraps of blue fabric were found within a wall that was roughly 10′ thick. Those who found the remains reported that the bones of the fingers had been completely worn down, suggesting that the boy had been walled up alive and had tried to scratch his way out. Visitors to the castle still claim to see the blue light above the bed, but chalk it up to faulty wiring. The owners of the castle assert that there is no wiring in that wall.

ChillinghamBlueBoy

The spirit of Lady Berkeley, the wife of Lord Grey, was reportedly left alone with her daughter at Chillingham after Grey ran off with her sister. The rustle of her dress can sometimes be heard in the corridors as she wanders aimlessly awaiting her husband’s return. Guests also report a chill in the air and the sensation of being touched.

Dungeon

The dungeon at Chillingham was a literal hell on earth. Prisoners would have their legs broken and their limp bodies would be thrown 20′ down into a pit. Many Scottish prisoners were kept in the dungeon and marked their time by scratching it onto the walls. These marks still remain. Prisoners were starved and often had to resort to cannibalism of their fellow prisoners or, if they were truly desperate, began to eat pieces of themselves.

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The torture chamber was controlled by John Sage, one of King Edwards best men in battle. Sage was equipped with every kind of torture device imaginable and used each with pleasure. It is said that Sage tortured men, women, and children at the rate of 50 people per week for over three years.

When the war ended, Sage realized he had amassed a large number of prisoners and, in order to be rid of them, he had them all brought to the Edward Room. Men and women were separated from children and brought to the courtyard where they were burned alive. The children, locked in the Edward room and awaiting their own fate, watched with horror. Once Sage finished with the adults, he took an ax and butchered the children. Guests who stay in the Edward Room report a strong smell of blood and the ax used in the massacre is on display in one of Chillingham’s stairwells.

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Eventually, Sage got what was coming to him. A tribal leader had Sage tortured because he had supposedly killed the man’s daughter. Sage was strung up by his neck and his body was mutilated. His nose, testicles, and toes were cut off and he was left to die of his injuries. Locals who witnessed the event took pieces of Sage as souvenirs.

Over the years, many skeletal remains have been found inside the walls, in hidden rooms, in crawlspaces, and in sections of the castle that have been walled up for decades. Two bodies, a man and a boy,  have even been found within an old stone vault that had been walled up. There is no identification for these remains.

With all the dark history surrounding Chillingham, it is no wonder that the place is so active. Visitors report a feeling of overwhelming sadness hanging over the entire location and it is a rare occurrence to leave Chillingham unchanged by the experience. Visitors report their hair being pulled, being scratched and bitten by the unseen, and being touched by disembodied hands. Cold spots are often felt and orbs are often seen.

Hundreds of recordings and photographs stand as a testament to the activity at Chillingham Castle. It seems as if it will never outlive its past and is doomed to forever be a gateway for the horrors of the past.

Have you ever visited Chillingham Castle? Leave us a note in the comments.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

Hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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New podcast episodes available every Monday at hauntheads.podbean.com

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