It is time for my annual Valentine's Day Post. This is my favorite post of the year because Valentine's Days origins are so interesting. I hope you all have a happy Valentine's Day!
My favorite thing about holidays are their bizarre origins. Most of our modern celebrations have roots in old pagan traditions. Valantine's Day is no different. Its pagan roots are just more bizarre than most. They are so strange I like to write about them every year. I know it is slightly off topic, but naked people being flogged with animal hides is worth discussing in any forum. Apparently the ancient roots of Valentine's Day begins with the Romans. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia from Feb. 13 to 15. In Roman mythology Lupercus was the equivalent of the Greek god Pan who was known to be a sexy sort of fellow who promoted fertility. His holiday was a somewhat romantic kind of celebration. During Lupercalia the men would sacrifice a goat and a dog and then whip women with the hides of the dead animals. The women would line up naked in order to be whipped. They did this because they believed this ritual would make them more fertile. Afterwards, there would be lottery in which men and women would be paired up for a night of naked fun.
I know, you are now wishing we still celebrated Valentine's day this way. Enough with the cheesy cards. Where are the dead animals, whippings, and naked people? It was the Catholic Church that ruined the fun. Emperor Claudius II killed two Valentine's in different years of February 14th. Both men were martyred and the day derives its name from these two martyred saints. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I got confused and merged the two martyrs into one person and named February 14th after them. He also absorbed the romantic traditions of Lupercalia into the day in order to soften the pagan debauchery and retake the day for Christianity. Christianity has a long history of doing this type of thing. Christmas was taken from Roman Saturnalia traditions and Norse Yule traditions. By absorbing pagan holidays rather than forbidding them, ancient Christians were able to gain new followers rather than lose them.
Chaucer and Shakespeare can be credited with further romanticizing St. Valentine's day and turning it into the romantic, kissy holiday it is today, but I will always think back to better days when women ran naked through the streets being beaten with dead animals.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
Some of the best ghost stories are the kind of stories you hear around campfires and before bed at night. They aren’t linked to a haunted place with a history that is confirmed or well researched. They are just stories told by people that have had encounters on lonely country roads or in bed at night. One of the best ghost stories I have been told recently was told by a woman whose husband comes home late at night. Every night he drives the same old country road home alone. A few weeks ago, he was driving home with three of his children in the back of the car. He was tired and so were they, but when they saw something that looked like a woman crouched over on the side of the road they slowed down to try to help her. When they pulled up next the woman they could see her more clearly. The woman was crouched down in the fetal position and was all skin and bones and completely nude. This made the family very concerned that she might have been hurt or injured. The teenage son opened the door and the woman turned. At this point, he slammed the door shut. The woman’s face was not human. It was humanish but was twisted and distorted and she opened her mouth into a terrifying wail. The family sped away as quickly as they could. Upon arrival at home, the woman’s daughter ran to her crying. The family relayed the story to her tearfully. They were clearly very scared, but the woman couldn’t entirely believe it. She thought that maybe shadows and fatigue had played tricks on them. She was worried that an injured woman might have been left on the road so she got in her truck and went looking for her. She drove up and down the road for a while until she saw the figure. She didn’t slow down, the very sight of the hunched over, skeletal form sent a chill down her spine that she could feel in her very soul. The thing was clearly not human. She sped away and held her family close. They haven’t seen the creature they now call the banshee again, but they always look and they never forget that lonely night.
Monday, January 19, 2015
I haven't written in a while. I was promoted at my day job in November and supervising a team of therapists has proven to be much harder than just being a therapist. Working ten hours a day is more haunting than any ghost and living people's emotional problems are far more consuming than any phantom tragedy I know. I have missed writing here and when I heard this story I knew it was time to pull myself away from life and write a story. It is also my goal to have at least one story a week on this blog from now on.
This story was brought to me by a gentleman who read my commentary on Ouijia Boards. He read my story and told me about a night that he decided to be a little wild and try to summon the dead. He and a group of friends thought that it was a brilliant idea to take the Ouijia Board to a cemetery at midnight because they believed they would be able to contact more spirits this way. Of course, what they didn't know was that trouble can come from summoning spirits in such an open place. According to Voodoo and Hoodoo folklore, going to a cemetery at midnight without salt for protection can lead to trouble.
The young men were a little drunk and set about attempting to contact the spirits. When they first put their hands on the planchette, a white cat leapt onto the board. The young men shoed the cat away. They were a bit perturbed about the incident but they kept going and the cat jumped on them again. They threw the cat away a second time. After the third time the cat jumped on them, they gave up and went home. It was only later that it occurred to this man that the cat might have had some meaning. Reasearch into Chinese and Egyptian folklore shows that cats are said to drive away evil spirits. The man researched the event and after learning the significance of the cat now believes the cat was protecting him from the dark spirits that were summoned by his nocturnal wanderings.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
I watched the movie Ouija this weekend. It wasn't a particularly wonderful movie. It was one of those movies driven by the utter stupidity of the protagonist. I did enjoy it, however. It also made me think about the Ouija Board and its history.
The Ouija Board was first created during the spiritualist movement of the late nineteenth century. It was designed as a tool to help communication with spirits. Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard were the first to patent the device. In 1966, the device's patent was sold to Parker Brother's who still own it. Ever since its creation the Ouija Board has been controversial. The most famous case of demonic activity with Ouija Board was the case that was later the inspiration for a book The Exorcist. I've blogged about this case before. A little boy named Robbie and his aunt attempted to contact a deceased relative and the resulting demon possession was legendary.
I remember my first experience with the Ouija Board was fairly typical. I was at a slumber party and one of the girl's brought out the board. We all took turns asking questions. I can't remember them all. They were mundane girly questions like "will Billy Bob ask me to the dance," or "Will I be a doctor when I grow up." At the end, the girl who brought the board out told the spirit thank you and said that she would give it all her Halloween candy as a way of saying thank you for all its help. She put her bucket of Halloween candy by the board and we went upstairs to play light as a feather stiff as a board. When we returned, all the candy was gone. The wrappers were still there. They were still sealed, but the candy was gone. I'll admit, this could be some kind of slumber party prank, but I don't know how this girl, who was pretty clueless pulled it off.
Almost everyone you talk to has a Ouija board story and almost all of them are bad. Mine was quiet and stupid, but almost everyone I talk to about the board agrees that it opens doors that shouldn't be opened. My grandmother passed away recently, which had lead to much contemplation on her life. She was a woman who always dabbled in the supernatural and believed firmly in ghosts. In fact, she had a relationship with a ghost named Alonk that lasted years via the Ouija Board. She forced my mother and her sister to help her continue this relationship. Alonk told her he loved and sent her love stories. It really creeped my mother out, although my aunt grew fond of Alonk.
There are a million Ouija Board stories. One local story, involves a teen that used the board regularly. One night the sofa he stored the board under burst into flames, burning down the entire apartment complex he lived in. Another story I found in a book, describes a young man's interaction with a spirit via the board. During this interaction, the spirit said the board was specifically designed to communicate with those in hell. Only spirits that had been damned could be contacted using the board.
I have heard a few good stories about the board. One woman at a paranormal meeting I went to said she talked with a playful girl spirit that had lived in her house before her. She said the interaction was positive and helped bring peace to herself and her daughter who had been afraid of the ghost before the conversation via the board. I know that some people must be having positive experiences with the board, because it still sells very well. There is even an online version of the game now that allows you to play alone using your mouse. However, the overwhelming bulk of the stories are terrifying. Which brings me to the question. Is the Ouija Board a gateway only to evil or can it be used for good? Are people being swayed by the abundance of negative stories or are there any possible good uses for this tool?
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Thursday, September 18, 2014
The golden gate bridge is one of the defining features of San Francisco. No trip to the bay area would be
complete without a glimpse of this landmark. During our recent stay, we found that really seeing the bridge is a rare gift, as it is always wrapped in a heavy fog that always seems to obscure a perfect view of this daring landmark. Despite all of its scenic beauty and historic significance, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most haunting and haunted places in the world.
I didn't realize this until I was researching a story on Aokigahara, Japan. Aokigahara is the notorious suicide forest at the base of Mount Fugi in Japan. I had always thought it had the highest number of suicides committed there in the world each year, but I was wrong. More people kill themselves by jumping from the scenic heights of the Golden Gate Bridge than any other place in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge earned its name as one of the most popular suicide destinations in the world almost immediately. The first jumper ended his life on this bridge ten weeks after it opened in 1937. Since that time, it has averaged two jumpers a week. The bridge claims the lives of its melancholy victims in one of two ways. They either die on impact with the water since they often hit the water at 86 mph or they die from hypothermia in the icy, turbulent waters beneath the bridge.
It isn't surprising that this killer bridge has amassed a large number of ghosts over the years. According to The Haunted Bay (http://www.hauntedbay.com/features/goldengate.shtml), "The Golden Gate Bridge connects more than San Francisco and Marin County; it connects the world of the living to that of the dead. Since its opening in 1937, the 4,200-foot suspension bridge that spans San Francisco Bay has played host to on average 25 suicides per year, more than 1,000 suicides total" This site tells the dark and haunting story of the bridge as predating the bridge itself. It describes the ships that were claimed by the all consuming fog of the bay and the lives that were taken in these shipwrecks as the foundation upon which the darkness of the bridge began. In fact, according to Seek Ghosts, phantom ship encounters are the most frequently told ghost stories associated with this haunted historic monument. Visitors often describing seeing phantom ships in the mist. They also report hearing the disembodied screams of the ghosts that lurk in the shadows.