Ignis Fatuus

Why having explained certain kind of phenomena in a scientific way when you can have a more interesting and fanciful version? In this case folklore does help a lot!

Science explains the Will O’ The Wisp (or Ignis Fatuus – Latin for “foolish fire”) event as atmospherical lights hoovering over marshes, cemeteries and bogs caused by burning gases that develops from the breakdown of organic matter in wet areas.

But, as for me, I really do prefer folkloristic “explainations” when these lights are often attributed  to mischievous spirits attempting to lead travelers astray and where we can read about ghosts, fairies and even the Devil himself. Sometimes the lights are believed to be the spirits of unbaptized or stillborn children, flitting between heaven and hell.

So, lets’ start with Europe: in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Ireland it is believed that these lights mark the location of a treasure deep in ground or water; or as the Finnish mythology says there are spots where an eternal flame associated with will o’ the wisps burns, called Aarnivalkea where you could find fairies gold.

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Haunting: Witches and Ghosts

While I’m working on my new post and doing a lot of research about the next topic I’m going to write about, I decided to relax my brain for a little bit and indulge myself by creating a playlist on 8tracks. I found myself to be a southern gothic “fan” and as I’m listening to a lot of this kind of music most of the playlist has this vibe, but you will find few surprises as well! ENJOY IT!

The Midnight Society #1: Enfield Poltergeist

midnightsociety

It’s midnight – well, at least where I live – and it is the perfect time for some real ghost stories! The Midnight Society (Do you remember “Are you afraid of the dark”?) is the new section of this weird blog and will be about real ghost stories and other spooky events. I still have to figure out if it will be a weekly or a monthly thing… we shall see!

From August 1977 to September 1978 a series of paranormal events took place in Enfield, a quiet north-London suburb, and have subsequently become one of the world’s most shocking and famous poltergeist cases. Reports of levitation, possessions and objects were moved and thrown when nobody was around – are few of the things that occured and left a permanent mark on all those who were involved.

The events took place at  Peggy Hodgson’s house, a divorced woman who lived with her four children (Margaret, Janet, Pete and Jimmy) in a council house at 284 Green Street. In particular, the phenomena appeared to rotate around Janet, who was then 11 years. The first to complain about something unusual was precisely Janet and her brother Pete (10 years), who told his mother that he felt their beds shaking. The next night they heard strange blows on the walls, and later the same Peggy Hodgson, initially skeptical, saw a big basket of laundry slid along the floor without anyone touching it, she tried to put it back in its place, but the basket moved again, returning to its previous position, from which it was impossible to remove. The following morning, the family went into the neighbour’s house and described the night’s events. Vic Nottingham, the neighbour, went into the house to see if he could explain what was going on. He too heard the noises, and said that the knocking followed him from room to room.

Reports of further incidents in the house attracted considerable press attention and the story was covered in British newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. It was a correspondent for the Daily Mirror who suggested the family to contact the Society for Psychical Research which entrusted the case to Maurice Grosse, who arrived on the scene on September 5, a week after the beginning of the events.

Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair recorded over 2,000 unexplained events at the house. Electronic equipment would occasionally refuse to work inside the house but operated perfectly as soon as it was taken outside. Late one evening, when the children were asleep in their rooms and Maurice Grosse was downstairs compiling his day’s findings, he was disturbed by the sound of Janet screaming. Maurice ran to the foot of the stairs only to see the 12-year-old apparently being dragged through her bedroom door by an unseen force she was hauled down the stairs and dumped unceremoniously at Maurice’s feet.

During the latter months of this haunting, the phenomena took an unexpected twist when one day the family was in the living room and suddenly a dog started barking they didn’t have a dog! Maurice decided that if the entity was able to produce a bark, perhaps it could be coaxed into speaking. He began asking questions and to his amazement the entity answered! The answers came from Janet, the voice was strange, deep and guttural, and very much sounded like that of an old man.

The spirit claimed to be that of a man called Bill who said that he was the previous occupier of the house, and stated that he had died of a brain hemorrhage in an armchair in the living room. A recording of the voice was played to the deceased mans son, he confirmed that the voice was his fathers.

I suggest you to watch this documentary where you can hear Bill’s voice. I can only and honestly say that it gave me the creeps.

Elle. x

Jessica Harrison

Usually when I think about ceramic or porcelain little statues the main scenario that pops into my mind is: an old lady surrounded by these teeny tiny and pretty camp objects and hundreds of cats (which it sounds a lot like I would imagine my future self, but instead of cats I’d be surrounded by cute little pugs).

Of course the works of the Edinburgh based artist Jessica Harrison don’t fit this kind of scenario and I would happily fill an entire room with her creations as she transforms these collectible ceramic items into a gruesome spectacle of beauty and gore.

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Unsolved Mystery #1: The Black Dahlia

It’s a famous case that almost seemed committed for Hollywood movie-makers, the brutal death of an aspiring actress, with a list of potential suspects that once included some of the movie industry’s elite.

Elizabeth Ann Short (1924-1947), known as The Black Dahlia, is the victim of a notorious murder case that is still unsolved.

The body of Elizabeth Ann Short was found Jan. 15, 1947, in a vacant lot in Los Angeles, the young aspiring actress had been tortured, cut in half at waist and had an ear-to-ear grin carved on her face. The body was drained of blood and her internal organs were removed. Because no blood was found at the scene, police detectives believe Short was murdered elsewhere and then dragged onto the lot, one piece at time.

During her stay in Long Beach she was nicknamed The Black Dahlia, for her passion for the film The Blue Dahlia and the habit to dress in black.

The investigations on the murder were among the most extensive in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department, and involved hundreds of agents and inspectors, even other departments. The suspects were hundreds, and thousands of people interrogated. According to some, investigations were not carried out properly as (officially) were never found tire-tread impressions or shoe prints. The police did not even pick up the fibers in the field. About 60 people confessed to the murder, mostly men. Of those, 25 were considered viable suspects by the Los Angeles District Attorney. In the course of the investigation, some of the original 25 were eliminated, and several new suspects were proposed. Detectives focused first on her former lovers and then later on medical students because of the body’s condition after dismemberment. Among the suspects (Orson Welles was on of them as well) police attention focused on Dr. George Hodel. Investigators had even planted a bug in the house to listen for incriminating admissions. But before authorities brought charges, Dr. Hodel abruptly abandoned his family and relocated to Asia. He died in 1991.

Well, over the years, theories abounded about who killed Short. Several writers have claimed their fathers were responsible. One writer claimed a drifter committed the act. In 1991, volunteers dug up a vacant lot looking for evidence after a woman said she recalled long- repressed memories of her father killing women there, but still the case remains unsolved.

Natural Born Celebrities

Let’s face it, in one way or another we all find morbid  and gruesome facts a bit (a lot for me) attractive, even if we don’t want to admit it. Believe it or not serial killers have always been part of the pop culture. From books to movies their stories inspired writers, directors and musicians. Cinema is the cultural space in which this phenomenon is perhaps most conspicuous, the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) lists over 1000 films featuring serial killers and most of the contributions to this sub-genre have been made since 1990. Psycho, a novel written by Robert Bloch in 1959 is inspired by the story of Ed Gein an american serial killer. The novel was then adapted into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960. The film was a huge success that generated three sequels, spin-offs and a shot-for-shot remake by Gus Van Sant. Ed Gein has also inspired the creations of various characters as we can see in movies like Deranged, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs, The House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects.

Fan of the charming Dr Hannibal Lecter? The famous cannibalistic serial killer created by Thomas Harris in The Silence of the Lambs, was reportedly inspired by a convicted Mexican doctor who he met in the state prison of Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, Mexico, as a young journalist. During various discussions Harris had with “Dr. Salazar,” he discovered that, besides having a medical preparation, was also a murderer who ate his victims.

Of course, these are just a couple of examples otherwise I could go on and on, there are Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Albert Fish, Andrej Čikatilo and a lot more that with their atrocious acts became (in)famous and gave a lot of inspiration to those who have been created (and still creating) movies, books, series and songs… and that we all enjoy.

But the main point is: Why we “love” serial killers? Why we find them so interesting? In many ways, serial killers are for adults what monster movies are for children, that is, scary fun! However, the pleasure an adult receives from watching serial killers can be difficult to admit, and may even trigger feelings of guilt. As for me I’ve always been “fascinated” by their stories and I’ve always openly admitted it, but by “fascinated” I mean I’m interested in their background and what could have been the main cause that brought them to commit what they did. The serial killers represent a lurid, complex and captivating presence among us and there appears to be an innate human tendency to identify or empathise with all things, whether good or bad, including serial killers. Speaking of which, I still remember when I watched Dahmer a film about Jeffrey Dahmer’s life; somehow understanding his loneliness I started to see him more like a human being, but of course nothing changes with what he has done nor I’m saying -“Oh poor thing!”, what I’m trying to say is that with these films about serial killers lives, sometimes directors depict their most and more subtle human side that makes us reflect and think.

I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions about this topic. Do you feel fascinated, or at least, interested by these characters? What do you think about popular culture idolizing serial killers? Let me know!

Elle. x

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Sourtoe Cocktail

“You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow,

but the lips have gotta touch the toe.”

What I find more intriguing than urban legends is weird traditions around the world.

The Sourtoe Cocktail is champagne seasoned with a mummified toe that has become an important tradition in Dawson City (Canada).

Estabilished in 1973, according to the story, Yukon local Captain Dick Stevenson found the toe preserved in a jar of alcohol while cleaning a cabin in 1973. After discussing it with friends, Captain Dick preserved and started serving the toe in a “Sourtoe Cocktail” at the Eldorado hotel bar. This is how the “Sourtoe Club” was formed. The first toe is said to have belonged to a miner and rum runner  who had his frostbitten toe amputated in the 1920s and preserved it in a jar of alcohol in his cabin, where Stevenson found it some 50 years later.

The first toe lasted only seven more years after its discovery. According to the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, “In July 1980, a miner named Garry Younger was trying for the Sourtoe record. On his thirteenth glass of Sourtoe champagne, his chair tipped over backwards, and he swallowed the toe.”

After that, seven more toes have been donated to the bar. Number two was given after an amputation due to an inoperable corn, number three was from a victim of frostbite (it was also swallowed accidentally), four was an anonymous toe, toes five and six were donated by a Yukon old-timer,  toe seven was an amputation due to diabetes and toe eight arrived in a jar of alcohol with the message, “Don’t wear open-toe sandals while mowing the lawn.”

Today you can still drink the Sourtoe Cocktail (which is still garnished with a real toe) and join the club, complete with a proper certificate. Of course the rule is slightly changed, instead of champagne you can have your favourite cocktail but the most important rule remains the same: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but the lips have gotta touch the toe.”

In August 2013 a customer came in, ordered the Sourtoe Cocktail, swallowed the toe (probably because of a bet)  and slammed down $500, the fine for swallowing the toe. Luckily the bar had a backup toe in waiting. The fine has since been raised to $2500.

Fancy a Sourtoe Cocktail now?