Creepy tales

Giambattista Basile‘s tales feature dismemberments, rapes and killings. Far from being the magical, Disney-style fairy tales we imagine, his works inspired a stunning movie that I recently watched called “The Tale of Tales” (Il Racconto dei Racconti), directed by Matteo Garrone.

I remember as a kid to be an avid reader of fairytales, especially the ones by the Grimm brothers, but of course most of the books I used to own back then were a lot “sugarcoated” because the original versions of the most famous fairy-tales we know are NOT very suitable for children. I’m pretty sure that there’s a sort of moral at the end and scarying the hell out of kids might work to make them understand the “message”.

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Let’s start with The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen), Ariel and her lovely friends having fun underwater (okay, it does sound wrong!). Well, in the original version the little mermaid doesn’t even have a name nor a soul and this is the lesser evil. She falls in love with a charming prince from the human world so she goes to Ursula the Sea Witch so that she can turn her into a human, not only is she voiceless, every step on her feet causes her agony; the sea-witch describes it as “walking on knives.” All this for the prince she loves, who at the end marries another girl. As the little mermaid contemplates dying, her sisters pop out of the water, having traded their hair with the witch for a magical knife so that she can kill the prince but the mermaid throws the knife away and prepares to meet her fate. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist she’s rescued by the “daughters of the air,” who tell her that she’s now one of them and that, if she flies around the world doing good deeds for 300 years, she might get a soul after all. What a deal?!

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Now it’s time for Sleeping Beauty, the original version would have terrified even Maleficent! Consider some of the plot devices found in the original story of “Sleeping Beauty” in the days of our distant past: adultery, bigamy, murder, the rape of a comatose woman and even human cannibalism. The young woman is put to sleep because of a prophesy, rather than a curse. And it isn’t the kiss of a prince which wakes her up: the king seeing her asleep decides to rape her. After nine months she gives birth to two children (while she is still asleep). One of the children sucks her finger which removes the piece of flax that was keeping her asleep. She wakes up to find herself raped and the mother of two kids. The king comes back, and despite him having raped her, they end up falling in love. However, another big problem: the king is still married to someone else. His wife finds out and not only tries to have the twins killed, cooked, and fed to the king, but also tries to burn the princess at the stake. Luckily, she is unsuccessful. The king and the princess get married and live happily ever after (despite the fact that he raped her).

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In Charles Perrault’s version of Little Red Riding Hood, included in his 1697 collection Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times: Tales of Mother Goose, there is no intrepid huntsman. Little Red simply strips naked, gets in bed, and then dies, eaten up by the big bad wolf, with no miraculous relief. In another version, she eats her own grandmother first, her flesh cooked up and her blood poured into a wine glass by our wolfish friend and another version has it that the young girl has sex with the wolf, who was a some sort of a werewolf.

Sometimes I wonder how different would Disneyland be if they stuck to the original endings, I’m pretty sure it would only be a place for some adults fun!

Elle. x

 

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Mould juice…on the rocks!

When Alexander Fleming was born, antibiotics did not exist. Minor infections often proved fatal and a quarter of all hospital patients died of gangrene after surgery.

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When Fleming enrolled as a medical student at St Mary’s in 1900 he dreamed of becoming a surgeon, but luckily for us, he was given a temporary position in the Inoculation Department, where he remained until his death.

One day in 1922, Fleming was hunched over his bacteria cultures as usual, despite suffering from a nasty cold. A drop of snot landed on his Petri dish, which led to his discovery of the antiseptic properties of mucus, saliva and tears. In September 1928, Alexander Fleming made another discovery that changed the course of medical history, when one of his cultures was contaminated with mould from a lab downstairs, Fleming hit on the healing properties of fungus, and effectively invented penicillin.

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Fleming’s assistant Stuart Craddock ate some of this “mould juice” to prove that it was not poisonous, Craddock claimed that it tasted like Stilton, prompting a flurry of sensational headlines about mouldy cheese being a miracle cure for disease.

 Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum

St Mary’s Hospital, Praed Street, W2

London

Very superstitious

Hello my lovely weirdos! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas time (or whatever event you have celebrated..or not celebrated). During these days I’ve read tons of ancient superstions that I found very interesting, so I’ve decided to gather them in this post. Well, probably I should’ve warned you before Christmas, let’s just hope you didn’t pissed off any evil force.

  • We all tend to spend Christmas Eve with our family, furry friends included, and stay up until midnight, but a legend has it that our feline friends acquire the power of speech at this time so anyone hearing this temporary “cat speak” will soon die.

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  • If you plan on hosting a Christmas dinner at your home, make sure you invite an even number of guests because a table set for an odd number merely invites bad luck or even death in the new year.
  • Those who are born on Christmas Eve turn into ghosts on that day every year while they sleep. If you were born on Christmas Eve and don’t want to have this happen to you, the remedy is to count the holes in a sieve from 11 o’clock on Christmas Eve until morning.
  • If you carry in your pocket a scale from a fish eaten at Christmas, your purse will be full all year.
  • An English superstition says that if you don’t give a pair of shoes to a poor person at least once in your lifetime, you will enter the next world barefoot. This leads to an influx of shoes being donated to charity shops at Christmas time.

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  • It’s unlucky to light a Yule Candle before supper on Christmas. It’s also unlucky to buy your own Yule candle or to snuff it before Christmas Eve ends, it should be left to burn itself out. If the candle is disturbed or snuffed out, back luck will befall the household. A portion of the candle should be kept to light the following years candle for good luck. A candle or lamp must be burned all night on Christmas Eve or there will be a death in the home.
  • The last day to indulge your Christmas time superstition is Candlemas (Feb. 2). Christmas decorations must be entirely taken down before the twelfth night after Christmas or goblins and bad luck will come. But be careful what you burn: it’s unlucky to burn Christmas greenery (except for mistletoe). Every leaf left up after Candlemas will result in either a goblin seen or a death in the house during the year.

Now, as we’re getting closer to New Year’s eve, here’s a list of superstitions that surround this day:

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  • We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of twelve would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.
  • Make sure to do — and be successful at — something related to your work on the first day of the year, even if you don’t go near your place of employment that day. Limit your activity to a token amount, though, because to engage in a serious work project on that day is very unlucky
  • At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded. It must leave before the New Year comes in, says popular wisdom, so doors are flung open to assist it in finding its way out.
  • Italian people welcome the New Year in an extremely interesting way, by tossing old things out of their windows! Old things are tossed out in an effort to make room for the new and lucky to enter their households and lives in the year to come.
  • Lucky foods which should be consumed on New Years Eve is lentil soup and pork. Chicken should not be eaten on the first day of the year or you will have financial difficulties for the rest of the year.
  • Whatever a person does on this day will influence his activity for the rest of the year. Therefore to wash clothes will bring a year of hard
    work. Washing may also cause a relative’s death. Certain tasks were not to be done between Christmas and New Year’s Day–among them were knitting, sewing and doing the family laundry.
  • Crying on the first day of the year must be avoided. One must always be happy and in good spirits on New Year’s day. If you cry on New Years’ for a sad reason you will have sadness all throughout the year.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, please let me know if you have some interesting New Year’s eve/New Year’s day traditions that I might have missed. I do hope that you’re going to have a wonderful new year, that you’re going to realize all of your projects and dreams… weird dreams as well! Thank you all for keeping me company during this 2015, not the most exciting year for me, but definitely quite interesting!

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Elle. xx

 

 

Optography

For hundreds of years, people had wondered whether it might be possible to capture an image of our last vision at the point of death, such idea  was a frequent plot device in fiction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to the extent that police photographed the victims’ eyes in several real-life murder investigations, in case the theory was true. The idea behind optography dates back to the 17th century when a friar named Christopher Schiener noticed a strange image in the eye of a dead frog.

It wasn’t until the invention of photography in the 1840s, however, that “optography” emerged as a scientific pursuit. The German physiologist Wilhelm Kühne began preserving eyeballs and believed that eye worked like a camera, and that a certain chemical found in the retina could cause a reaction similar to that of a photographic negative. His most successful optogram was obtained from an albino rabbit, with its head fastened to face a barred window. The rabbit’s head was covered for several minutes to allow rhodopsin to accumulate on the retina. It was then uncovered for three minutes to expose it to the light, then decapitated and its eyeball sliced from top to bottom. The rear half of the eye was placed in an alum solution to enable fixation of the bleached rhodopsin, which resulted in a distinct image of the barred windows.

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Kühne was satisfied with the results and wanted to try his experiment on a human subject next. His opportunity arose in 1880, when a man named Erhard Gustav Reif was sentenced to death by guillotine after drowning his two young sons in the river.  Kühne immediately retrieved the murderer’s decapitated head, removed the eyeballs, and reported seeing “violent and disturbing movements” on the dead man’s retina. The ambiguity of these images was attributed to the fact that the prisoner was blindfolded at the moment of his death.

Jules Verne even wrote about it in a novel called Les Frères Kip. The practice’s potential freaked out murderers of the day, causing some to destroy their victims’ eyes for fear of being caught in the retinal frame.

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Other similar experiments were carried out in the 1880s and 1890s. It was even suggested that an optogram should be produced from the eye of Mary Jane Kelly, one of Jack the Ripper’s victims. Ripperologist James Stewart-Gordon believed the technique was attempted on Annie Chapman as well. A rare case of forensic optography being admitted as evidence occurred in late 1924, after German merchant Fritz Angerstein had been charged with killing eight members of his family and household staff. Professor Doehne of the University of Cologne photographed the retinas of two of the victims, yielding what he claimed were images of Angerstein’s face and an axe used to kill the gardener. Angerstein was tried, convicted and executed, with Doehne’s optographic images included amongst other evidence in the case.

The last serious scientific attempt at retrieving images from retinas took place in 1975 when police in Heidelberg, Germany, invited the physiologist Evangelos Alexandridis to repeat Kuhne’s experiments. Like Kühne, Alexandridis successfully produced a number of distinct high-contrast images from the eyes of rabbits, but conclusively negatively assessed the technique as a forensic tool. The retinal images were then photographed, some of which can be seen below from the Museum of Optography.

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…so be good for Krampus’s sake!

Hey! I’m so sorry that I haven’t posted anything during this time but life is getting pretty hectic. I’m studying a lot and Christmas is getting closer so it’s all pure madness. I’ve never really liked this time of the year, I’ve always been the “Grinch” of the situation, who knows why?! But honestly, I can’t wait for this year to be over. Who’s with me?
Speaking of Christmas, with all its traditions around the globe, this year Krampus is having his/its big Hollywood time! I’ve seen Krampus themed things in every social network so out of curiosity I did some research about this all creepy topic.

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The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good, so as to deserve their Christmas gifts from Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, often come with a dark side: the punishment you’ll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you are not good! The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December.

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Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns. Krampus night is celebrated on December 5th, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior. The tradition is spreading beyond Europe, many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights including the Krampusfest in Los Angeles!

So, have you been a good kid for this year?

Elle. x

Rock ‘n Roll to the bone!

Music! I’m pretty sure I’ve never spent a single day of my life without listening to it. In fact, even now that I’m writing I’m listening to some good tunes. Music is always there, ready to cheer you up. Afterall it has always been said that music is the language of feeling and of passion, as words are the language of reason.

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However, there was a time in Russia where music was banned, of course not all genres, just the most “wild” ones: Rock and Roll and Jazz.

During the 50s some ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film. The thick radiographs would be cut into discs of 23 to 25 centimeters in diameter; sometimes the records weren’t circular. But the exact shape didn’t matter so much, as long as the thing played.

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Elle. x

Jack The Ripper: A Recap.

This is going to be the longest post ever! I’ve tried to keep it short but as you might imagine there’s always a lot to say about the most famous serial killer: Jack the Ripper. So, sit tight, grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Five murders are known to have been committed by the Ripper, but two others were once thought to have been his work as well. Emma Smith, who lived in Spitalfields, was attacked in the early hours of 3 April 1888. She said she had been assaulted by four men, but could or would not identify them. She died the next day.

Four months later, the body of Martha Tabram was found on a staircase, her throat and stomach had been stabbed with something sharp like a bayonet. Earlier that night, she and another prostitute had been seen in the company of two soldiers, they were then arrested but the second prostitute failed (or refused) to identify either her own or the other woman’s partner.

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