Japan is a country with some really creepy, bizarre yet captivating past. Picking just one story was very difficult as Japan has a lot to offer in terms of spooky stories and urban legends (and movies! I highly recommend watching Hausu. It’s just a weird masterpiece, but I loved it a lot!). Domo arigato Japan!
Ancient Japanese believed that using human skeletons or parts of their bodies in construction would yield a strong support to the buildings. They also believed that the use of human skeletons would serve as a sacrifice to the gods and thus render more stability to the architecture, this practice is called Hitobashira.
Bones and other remains have been found on-site of several different locations, lending at least some possibility that human sacrifice may have been involved in the making of some buildings: this include the Maruoka Castle and the Jomon Tunnel. Train drivers have reported hearing ghostly noises under the tunnel, which is believed to be the screams of those who were buried in the walls to support the foundations.
Stories of hitobashira and other human sacrifices were common in Japan as late as the sixteenth century, needless to say that currently, hitobashira is no longer practiced in construction.
Hairy hands is the name given to a ghost believed by some to be responsible for the high number of motor accidents on a stretch of road in Dartmoor. Many drivers have reported feeling a hand take hold of their steering wheel and forcing their vehicle off the road.
According to the story surrounding them, the Hairy Hands are a pair of disembodied hands that appear suddenly, grab at the steering wheel of a moving car or the handlebars of a motorcycle, and then force the victim off the road. In some cases the hands are described as being invisible. That’s the story that’s been repeated many times since the first incident in 1921, when a Dartmoor Prison guard was killed as his motorcycle went out of control and crashed.
This happend again when another motorcyclist were driven off the road at the same spot, this time the passenger saw a large hairy hand grab the handlebar and forcibly crash the bike. In one incident, in 1924, a woman camping on the moor with her husband reported seeing a hairy hand attempting to gain access to her caravan during the night, she reported that the hand retreated after she made the sign of the Cross.
Most variations of the legend of the Hairy Hands do not specify the origins of the hands or attribute to them any specific purpose, other than driving motorists off the road. A few local versions of the story attribute the hands to an unnamed man who died in an accident on the road, the ghost of a deceased Dartmoor Prison inmate or an evil spirit wandering the moor. Well, whatever it is be careful if you find yourself driving in that place.
Ireland is famous for its vast mythology, from leprechauns and fairies to banshees and kelpies, the Emerald Isle has at least as many legends as it has real, recorded history. But not every Irish legend is fairy tale material.
The Black Cat of Killakee is an old, legendary creature that has reportedly been sighted for centuries. However, its legend really sprung to life in 1968, when a young couple bought the rundown Killakee House in Dublin and started renovating it. The workers soon reported strange sounds and eerie events, which culminated when a huge black cat with glowing demon eyes started haunting them. The lady of the house first thought the workmen were merely superstitious, but soon, she and her husband started encountering the beast as well, the Black Cat appeared in hallways and areas with clearly locked doors, staring and snarling at frightened witnesses.
Before long, an exorcism was performed in the premises. This took care of the cat, at least, for a few months. An unwitting séance held by a group of actors not only brought the Black Cat back, but also caused the house to be haunted by a pair of ghostly nuns who, claimed by a medium, were the unhappy spirits of two women who had assisted at satanic rituals held by the “famous” Hellfire Club in the 18th century.
Heartbreaks can cause despair, especially when you break up with someone you really love.
When Rezsö Seress, a hungarian composer (1899-1968), has been left by his girlfriend because ofhis lack ofprofessional successand hisstubbornnessin wanting tocontinue in themusical careerdespitefailures, he composed a very sad song called “Szomorú Vasárnap“, which means “Gloomy Sunday”. This song had a huge success, and is known as the suicide song.
The first documented case occured in Budapest: theshoemakerJosephKellerwasfound dead in hishome, it was immediately clear that it was asuicide. Thepolice discoverednear thebodya farewell letterin whichhe quotedthe wordsof Gloomy Sunday. This songhad claimedits first victim.
There were at least 17 ofthese darkconnectionsbetweensuicidesandGloomy Sunday. In most cases, the victims had committed suicide by jumping into the Danube River carrying a copy of the song, so for this reason, throughout Hungary, the song was banned.
Seress driven by the famereached,decided torecontact hisformergirlfriendto show her thathis perseverancewas rewarded but a few days later she was found dead and next to her body was found a note where it was written “Gloomy Sunday“.
Due to these unfortunate events the song reached a big success that it was released throughout the rest of the Europe, here too there were reports of strange events related to its listening. Berlin, Rome, London, this song was claiming victims everywhere. The bad reputation of Gloomy Sunday all over Europe, and the increase of suicides in England, led the BBC to prohibit the transmission in its listings and even nightclubs, pubs and many other followed the example. This ban remained in place until 2002. The same thing happened in France and in other countries.
The reputation of this song spreads even moresothat theChappell& Companytook chargeof its release in America and, even if translated in english, in May 1936, a young boy was found dead on the night of the prom. A friend interviewed shortly after the fact said that before the young man had said: “It’s a gloomy sunday, I’ll do it tonight.”
In any case, the infamousreputationdid not discouragethesuccess of the songandan increasing numberofartistsbecame interested in thecase, so that from 1940 onwardsGloomy Sunday is includedin the repertoire ofthebiggest names in music. What is certain is that from Billie Holiday on, the widespread version is no longer the “cursed” lyrics composed by Seress but it has a “sweetened” text.
As for the suicides, some people think it was a “coincidence”, other people think it might be a copycat suicide phenomenon known as the “Werther Effect” following Goethe‘s novel The Sorrow of Young Werther ( Die Leiden des jungen Werthers). In the novel, Werther shoots himself with a pistol after he is rejected by the woman he loves, and shortly after its publication there were many reports of young men using the same method to kill themselves in an act of hopelessness, hence the name Werther effect.
However, the sameSeressfell victimof his song, never gone to the US to collect the money of the copyright of his worldwide hit, he spent his life in poverty and depression, throwing himself from the window of his apartment in Budapest in 1968.
Located in London’s Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Brompton Cemetery is arguably one of the most stunning Victorian cemeteries in the world. It opened in 1840 and was originally known as the West of London and Westminster Cemetery. Consecrated by the Bishop of London in June 1840, it is one of Britain’s oldest and most distinguished garden cemeteries and houses 35,000 monuments, from simple headstones to substantial mausolea, mark the resting place of more than 205,000 burials.
Half-hidden amongst the shrubbery, one very mysterious mausoleum, which is believed to be a Time Machine.
An imposing construction, decorated with elaborate Egyptian-like figures, houses a mysterious trio of spinsters about whom almost nothing is known. The wealthy Courtoy spinsters, an unmarried mother and her two daughters are reputed to be buried inside, but the key is missing and the huge bronze door has not been opened in more than 120 years. Nor can any plans can be found for the mausoleum, setting it apart from other structures in Brompton cemetery, which required careful planning and schematics to be approved.
The imposing trapezoid of dark polished granite is twenty feet tall and decorated with narrow bands of carved hieroglyphics – not surprising, when one discovers that the builders of the mausoleum were Samuel Warner, an english inventor, and Joseph Bonomi, an architect and Egyptologist.
Bonomi was part of the team that first deciphered the hieroglyphic texts found on papyri in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Some speculate that the text he studied discussed the possibility of time travel, a topic which fascinated the Victorians.
At the time of his death, Samuel Warner was in negotiations over his plans for aerial bombs and sea mines with Duke of Wellington, and his unmarked grave lies nearby. Sixty feet away, Bonomi’s gravestone bears similar hieroglyphic carvings to those found on the mausoleum, including a portrait of the Egyprian God Anubis, Protector of the Dead. Anubis appears to be sitting on a depiction of the mausoleum and staring in its direction.
To add to the mystery of the site, some people believe that Samuel Warner was either murdered to prevent his designs for weapons falling into the wrong hands, or by someone who stole them from his dead body. Others believe that Warner was a fraud and a charlatan whose inventions never worked.
Together, Bonomi and Warner may have developed plans to build a time machine, and gathered financial support for their venture from the wealthy, eccentric Courtoy ladies.
Maybe the women wanted to cheat death and travel into the future. Perhaps they felt no one would suspect that a building in an isolated corner of a graveyard could be an experimental doorway through time. After death, they vanished as surely from the face of the world as if they had stepped out of this era and into another, for there is also almost no trace of the Courtoy spinsters; they left no records of their existence, even though the opulence of their tomb suggests they were immensely wealthy.
In 1853 as the Courtoy mausoleum was completed, the Irish Peer Francis Jack Needham, the 2nd Earl Kilmorey, sought permission to build an Egyptian-style mausoleum in Brompton Cemetery for his mistress, Priscilla Hoste. After much quibbling and at great expense, the Kilmorey mausoleum was built, but frustrated by persistent bureaucratic red tape, Needham moved it to the grounds of his house at Chertsey Park in Weybridge in 1863. Why did the cemetery officials give Needham such a difficult time? Perhaps they felt that one mysterious, eccentric Egyptian-style time machine on their grounds was quite enough?!
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.
I’m sure you have all seen at least one of the thousand videos on YouTube called the “Charlie Charlie Challenge” or “The Pencil Game Challenge”. A lot of YouTubers that I follow made this kind of video so out of curiosity I decided to do some research about this “spooky” situation.
Basically, this challenge consists in a some sort of a séance where one (or more persons) uses two pens and a piece of paper to create a makeshift version of the Ouija board. A grid is drawn on paper to make four panels, two of which are labelled “yes” and the other two “no.” The pens are then put on top of another, positioned like a cross. After that you can start to ask questions and “wait” a reply from the hereafter.
The main point here is: Where did this come from? Does this game have an origin or it was all created for (or from) the web?
From what I uderstood this game has a long history as a schoolyard game in the Spanish-speaking world, traditionally this version with the crossed pencils was called ‘Juego de la Lapicera‘ and ‘Charlie Charlie‘ was a distinct game, played with coloured pencils but in a completely different way (click here and see the difference). At some point the two games merged together and… well, the web did the rest, making it a viral phenomenon.
Thankfully is an harmless challenge, given that no one’s deforming their lips or suffocating themselves with cinnamon. Still, according to popular legend, Charlie haunts players who fail to say goodbye before they close out of the game. Better be polite if you’re thinking of playing this game!
Why did I write about this? Because I have a soft spot for urban legends.