Hoax: The Haunted Dentist Office

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I am currently working on a long-form blog post about haunted offices (is there anything scarier?) and I came across this interesting news clipping about “The Chopper.” If going to the dentist wasn’t scary enough…

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The Philadelphia Inquirer, 28 September 1983, page 3. 

Happy Valentine’s Day: Ghost Stories of Tragic Love

Happy Valentine’s Day. I dusted off this post from the archives for you! ❤

Notebook of Ghosts

shadowhand“Deep in earth my love is lying. And I must weep alone.” -Edgar Allan Poe 

They say tragic events can leave spirits on earth, and passionate love so often ends in tragedy. They also say unfinished business can leave souls wandering the earth. How often have we felt a romance end without closure? Today, on the most romantic of holidays, I thought we might explore these stories of love. Love so passionate it leaves a heartbroken, supernatural stain on earth.

The Bride on the Bridge

In Stowe, Vermont lies a covered bridge they call “Emily’s Bridge.” There are several versions of Emily’s sad tale. Some versions say that Emily and her boyfriend were meeting at the bridge to elope, since her parents did not approve. He never came, and she hung herself from a rafter. Another version says Emily was left at the wedding alter. She hopped on a carriage to…

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Archival Research: Haunted in a Prison Cell

jingda-chen-364070-unsplashI have a hobby of searching old newspapers for state history on hauntings. So often do stories of ghosts slip trough the cracks of time, while others are documented in books and lore. So, I thought I would share interesting stories I come across in my newspaper research.

“Cole Was Haunted Day and Night – Daviess County Man Confesses Murder of Cousin” (The Elwood Daily Record, 20 December 1909)

Stephen Cole was in jail for the murder of his cousin, George Cole, and claimed to be innocent. His son Charles had written to his mother, pleading for her to say anything she might know to exonerate him. When Cole got wind of the communication, he called his lawyer and finally admitted his guilt. He was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. While this could pass as another episode of Law and Order, the article ends with a supernatural twist. It seems he was haunted day and night by his murdered cousin in Daviess County jail.

During his confinement in the jail Cole has told the attaches that he has nightly been haunted by ghosts of the murdered man, and many times in the night would call to them that he was being haunted and that on two occasions when he called that he had in mind to make a clean breast of the affair, and when they would enter the cell he would again gain courage to stave it off.

“A Ghost Story: How a Citizens’ Committee Investigated the Mystery of a Haunted Church” (Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, 29 December 1885) 

This article was a reprint from the Cincinnati Enquirer. This story was in “Our Five Cent Column” among advertisements for medical cures (Salvation Oil and Ely’s Cream Balm) and local businesses. 

There was an old and empty church for sale at the entrance of a cemetery in New Bremen, Ohio. Rumors began to spread throughout the village about strange noises and lights appearing in the church at midnight, even though it had not held a service in many years. Some believed the rumors were started by interested buyers trying to lower the cost. Others truly believed it was haunted, briskly walking past the church at night. The town was so excited by the supposed haunting that they appointed a committee to investigate.

One dark night, a committee led by the village Marshal approached the haunted church. Before even entering the church, lights were seen and clatter was heard in the attic (“like some’ one beating on a lot of tin pans”). They continued into the church and up the stairs towards the attic. Suddenly, the lights turned off.

The Marshal tried to convince the committee to continue the investigation in the morning, but was met with jeers. He finally agreed to go upstairs alone, with just his butcher knife, while the committee stayed at the bottom of the stairs.

He heard groans as he turned the door knob. When he opened the door, a white object came flying towards him. Frightened, he stabbed it with his knife, which caused a noise “as if a thousand hailstones had fallen.” The Marshal, having already been deserted by the rest of the committee, ran straight out of the church. So emotionally scarred, it took him several weeks to even leave his house.

Well, this is what really happened.

The Marshal’s son and friends caught wind of the committee’s investigation and decided to have a little fun. The boys lit some candles (the mysterious lights) and waited for the Marshal to arrive. When they heard him coming, they put out the candles and hid in the attic. They had hung a bag of nuts so when the door at the entrance of the stairs opened, the bag moved aside. When the attic door opened, the bag would swing across the entrance. When the Marshal stabbed the bag, nuts rolled out of the bag and down the stairs (the hailstorm).

Well, the story leaked and the Marshal became a village joke. So much, in fact, he had to resign.

Frozen to Death

It’s freezing in Indiana, so I thought I’d share this post from the archives!

Notebook of Ghosts

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Welcome to a special Wednesday post about freezing to death: perfect winter ghost stories to tell around a warm fireplace or for scaring others at the cold bus stop.

When The Midnight Society announced their #SpookyAllYear blogging event, I thought of two things: (1) I have to participate and (2) Damn, I miss Are You Afraid of the Dark?

My favorite episode (with a young Melissa Joan Hart) was “The Tale of the Frozen Ghost.” Our protagonists encounter a blue-ish, pale ghost of a young boy in the woods that utters the words, “I’m cold.” By the end of the episode, he peacefully goes to the other side when the protagonists find his red coat. To this day, I say the “I’m cold” line in a young boy’s voice when I’m especially cold to usually unamused friends.

This childhood memory triggered another childhood memory. One day, in fourth grade, I had to…

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In My Commonplace Book: Monsters of the Midwest

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“In My Commonplace Book” is a regular series in which I share the recent scribblings from my commonplace book. Opposed to my well-researched posts, these are simply interesting things I have been reading about. To learn more about commonplace books, you can read a general introduction here. Each of these posts will include a writing prompt to get you writing in your own notebook/commonplace book. 

I was driving through Elizaville, Indiana recently and remembered the 7-foot tall man beast that is allegedly tied to a list of disappearances in the community. I was inspired to see what other monsters roam the Midwest, so I began to fill the pages of my commonplace book. After googling what states are considered the Midwest (ha ha), I documented each beast with name, location, and description. Here are five of my favorites.†

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A not-so-glamorous desk shot of my commonplace book.
  • The Phantom Kangaroo (Nebraska): People have reported a hopping kangaroo that will suddenly disappear. Interestingly enough, phantom kangaroos have been spotted all over the United States. The kangaroo likes to chase and eat dogs.
  • Loveland Frogs (Ohio): These 4-foot tall frog humanoids were first spotted in the 1950s by a businessman late at night (there are various versions of this story). The frog dudes were conversing and one eventually held a wand over his head that shot sparks. The scared businessman ran quickly away from the scene. They were spotted again in the 1970s by two police officers on two different nights. During the second sighting, the creature was shot. It turned out that it was not a Loveland Frog, but a large iguana without a tail.
  • The Mill Race Monster (Indiana): In the 1970s, Columbus, Indiana was tormented by a large, green, and bipedal monster (described by some as amphibious). The monster was tied to Mill Race Park, a park with lush forests, winding rivers, and two lakes. On November 1, 1974, two different groups of teenagers spotted the large beast. The second sighting was by far the scariest. Two young women spotted the monster while sitting in their car at night. The monster ran over and started banging on their windshield, leaving a thick mucus on the glass. They were able to turn on the car and drive away.  There were other sightings reported and many enthusiastic monster hunters headed to the park with baseball bats and guns. The city eventually closed the park to the public at night.
  • Space Penguins of Tuscumbia (Missouri): During an early winter morning in 1967, a farmer spotted a UFO sitting in one of his fields. Accompanying the mushroom-shaped space craft was a group of tiny green creatures with hand-less arms and large black eyes (or were they goggles). Located where their nose or mouth would have been were dark protuberances (part of their actual face or maybe a mask for breathing in earth’s atmosphere). The farmer described them as “green space penguins.” After several failed attempts to hit the craft with rocks, due to the force field, the farmer watched the UFO and the penguins fly away.

Source / Source / Source 

Please note these are legends and facts are very fast and loose, especially when circulated on the internet. So, enjoy the stories and do your research if you want to learn more! 

Grab a notebook. What monsters inhabit your state or neighboring states?

Halloween #HumpDayHaunts

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Starting November, I’ll be back to my regular blogging. Until then, please follow me on Instagram for some haunted history each day this week!

If you don’t follow me already, you might not know about #humpdayhaunts. Each Wednesday I share a bit of paranormal history. Since it is Halloween, I thought I’d do it all week long. Come join the fun (or horror)!

Til Death: Ghost Brides of the United States

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I am in the middle of planning a (goth rustic) wedding, which I do not enjoy doing. I was just not wired to be a bride. Instead of calling caterers or sending out invitations, I have been looking up ghost stories about brides. There are a lot of them. I could go into the theories behind why there are so many, but I’m just here to tell some stories!

The stories that started all this research were urban legends I heard as a child.

There are several versions of this first story, but they basically go like this. A young woman, groom, and some of their wedding guests decided to play a game of hide-and-seek in a large mansion used for the wedding reception (one version say it was the father-of-the-bride’s house). Someone other than the bride was designated as “it” (some versions say the maid of honor, others say the groom). Everyone was found, but the bride. Friends and family searched the house for hours, days, and weeks. A missing person report was filed. Eventually, the groom had to move on with his life. One day in the far off future, someone was cleaning the house. They opened a large chest in the attic and found a skeleton in a tattered wedding dress. It seemed that the lid of the chest shut on the bride when she used it as a hiding place. She was unable to open the lid and she suffocated to death (some say the heavy lid crushed her skull).

Another legend I grew up hearing involves a deadly wedding dress. There are many versions of this story, too. Sometimes it is not even a wedding dress. The story goes that a dead young woman was to be buried in her wedding dress, but her parents decided last minute to bury her in another dress. Since the wedding dress was expensive, they sold it for profit. This dress ended up in the hands of a another young woman as she needed it for a community dance. The entire night of the dance, the dress gave off an odor and she felt very faint. Her date decided to take her home, since she was not feeling well. She did not make it home alive. Her date told the doctor about the odor. The doctor investigated and found formaldehyde in her veins, which had caused her blood to coagulated and stop flowing (I don’t know). When they asked the store about the dress, they revealed that they received it from a funeral home and it had been worn by a corpse. The dancing most likely caused the young woman to sweat, which opened her pores and took in formaldehyde.

I am not sure why revisiting such dreadful stories brings me comfort during the stress of planning my own big day, but nevertheless it sent me down a rabbit hole full of ghost brides. The best way to avoid wedding tasks, I suppose! Enjoy the following bits of paranormal history involving brides, grooms, and haunted wedding dresses.

joel-overbeck-657174-unsplashOld Faithful Inn  (Yellowstone National Park)

The inn itself is very haunted. A woman staying in Room 2 reported a woman dressed in 1890s clothes floating at the end of her bed. People have also reported the fire extinguisher moving and doors opening and closing. The most interesting ghost, though, is the headless bride. People have reported a woman in a white dress drifting across the Crow’s Nest, holding her head under her arm. According to legend, the bride was a young woman from 1915 New York that, despite her wealthy father’s wishes, married a much older male servant. Her father provided them a one-time dowry of a substantial amount with the agreement that they would not ask for money ever again and would leave New York forever. They married and headed to Yellowstone National Park for their honeymoon (staying in Room 127 of Old Faithful Inn). On their way to Yellowstone, the groom spent most of the money on gambling and booze. A month into their honeymoon, their dowry was gone. This led to intense arguments between the couple, which was heard by hotel staff. One day the husband stormed out and never returned. The hotel staff thought they might give the heartbroken wife her space and after a few days decided to check in on her. The maid found the young bride bloody in the bathtub. Her head was no where to be found. A couple days later, an odor in the Crow’s Nest led staff to…her head.

Dauphine Orleans Hotel (New Orleans, Louisiana)

A young courtesan named Millie worked in May’s Place, a bar in the Dauphine Orleans Hotel. The morning of her wedding, her groom-to-be was shot dead in a gambling dispute. Millie, from that point on and even after death, walked around the bar in her wedding dress. She still walks around the Dauphine in her wedding dress today, waiting for her fiancé to return.

Driskill Hotel (Austin, Texas)

Room 525 is haunted by two brides. Allegedly two young women ended their lives in the room on their honeymoons, 20 years apart. The room was closed for a time and then eventually reopened for renovations. The renovations brought about some paranormal activity including apparitions, weird sensations, unexplained leaks, distant voices, and other odd noises.

Hotel Galvez (Galveston, Texas)

Since her death in the 1950s, a ghost bride haunts Room 501 in Hotel Galvez. Her fiancé wasources a mariner and she, when expecting his return, would watch the sea from the hotel. One tragic day, she watched as his ship sank and soon after ended her life. He had actually survived and returned to heartbreak. She still walks the halls, scaring guests. One guest in Room 501 abruptly left the hotel at 3 a.m. in tears. 

City Tavern (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

A bride and her bridesmaids were preparing for the wedding when one bridesmaid accidentally knocked over a candle, setting the curtains on fire. The fire spread throughout the tavern, taking the lives of the bride and her bridesmaids.  The ghost of the bride is active today, especially during wedding events at the tavern. Some wedding photographers have even reported seeing her apparition appearing next to the (living) bride when looking through the camera viewfinder. Although, no one has caught her on film.

Emily Morgan Hotel (San Antonio, Texas)

The Emily Morgan Hotel resides in a building erected in the 1920s; the hotel itself was established in the 1980s. The building, first used as a Medical Arts building, is lined with gargoyles portraying a different medical ailment. Such an astonishing building comes with some astonishing ghost stories, of course. The seventh floor of the thirteen-floor building is haunted by a ghost bride. Her backstory is unknown. Visitors of the hotel have called down to the front desk after hearing loud shrieks. Hotel staff simply reply, “We’re sorry, but we do think it might be a ghost responsible for that.”

Hotel Conneaut (Erie, Pennsylvania)

Elizabeth and her new husband stayed in Room 321 on their honeymoon. Their blissful vacation was interrupted by a raging fire in the hotel. The husband was able to get out alive, but Elizabeth was trapped in the room and died. The heartbroken bride still roams the third floor, looking for her husband and sobbing. Wearing a wedding dress, she leaves behind the smell of jasmine.

The Alpha Gamma Delta House at University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)

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Thomas Cooper Gotch, Death the Bride

The AGD sorority house at the University of Georgia once housed the wealthy families of Athens. The mansion was built by William Winstead Thomas in 1896 as an engagement gift for his daughter, Isabel, and her fiance, Richard W. Johnson. The house is often called “the wedding cake house,” because of this. Isabel ended her life in the house after Richard left her at the altar. The house went through a couple of hands before becoming a sorority house.

According to several reports, the scorned bride is still active in the house. Paranormal activity includes faucets turning on, lights turning on and off by themselves, doors opening by themselves, and faces appearing in the window. One sorority sister named Sarah lived in the “Engagement” room and described her experiences :”The door to my bedroom and my roommate’s closet door randomly swing open on their own […] I swear that the ghost who lives here is doing it. It really freaks me out.”

Long Island Campgrounds (Bolton Landing, New York)

The state campground has 90 sites over 100 acres. In the 1960s, a new husband and wife decided it was the perfect location for their honeymoon. They were allegedly murdered in their sleep while camping. The bride now wanders the grounds, looking for her husband among the living campers.

Phelps Grove Park (Springfield, Illinois)

When driving over a bridge in Phelps Grove Park, a newly married couple lost control of the car and both died. The bride still haunts the location. She can be seen holding the hem of her wedding dress. Her face is only darkness.

Curves (Onondaga Hill, New York)

A similar story appears in Onondaga Hill folklore. About 60 years ago, a young couple died in a car crash on a very snaky road just after their wedding. People claim to see the bride on Halloween. Her glowing figure floats down the road in a wedding gown, searching for her husband. Some say she carries a bright orange lantern. To read more about this legend, visit Weird New York.

Baker Mansion (Altoona, Pennsylvania)

Anna Baker, the daughter of the rich Elias Baker, fell in love with a local steelworker. Her father forbade her to marry him, because he was of lower class. She died alone. Much later, The Baker Mansion (in Altoona, PA) was made into a museum and a wedding dress was put on display in a glass case in Anna’s bedroom. When there is a full moon, the dress violently shakes, sometimes to the point of almost breaking the glass. Myth says she is so mad she never got to wear a wedding dress, and therefore shakes it in anger. Some people often report seeing it dance by itself (with the shoes tapping along).

Some Small Town (North Dakota)

The book Haunted America by Michael Norman and Beth Scott tells a spooky story of giphy (2)sisterly jealousy in the 1930s. Sisters Lorna Mae and Carol were complete opposites. Lorna Mae, the youngest sister, was strong, cheerful, and a hard worker. The older sister, Carol, was reportedly more attractive, grumpy, and lazy. They both fell in love with a widower with three children, Ben. Ben chose Lorna Mae to be his wife, imagining the both of them working side-by-side on the farm. Carol was very angry. Shouldn’t he be with the prettier one?

Shortly before the wedding, Lorna Mae suffered abdominal pains. Carol was nearby and was sent to get the doctor. She returned saying she could not find a doctor in town. It is believed she lied and even dawdled in town. Lorna Mae was rushed to town, but died of a ruptured appendix shortly after arriving.

Carol set out to marry Ben. She even demanded the undertaker to remove the wedding dress from Lorna Mae’s dead body before the burial. A month after the funeral, Carol was able to convince Ben to marry her. Their wedding was in mid-July in 100-degree heat. Carol look beautiful in Lorna Mae’s high neck wedding dress. During the festivities, though, Carol began to sway and grab at her throat. She died in Ben’s arms.

The autopsy revealed that it could not be heatstroke. The wedding dress had absorbed some of the embalming fluid while on Lorna Mae. The hot weather caused Carol to sweat, which opened her pores and allowed the fluid to enter.

Well, I’m back at that same childhood legend. I still do not have a wedding dress for my own wedding, but I’ll tell you what: I won’t be going vintage.

***Please note: the stories shared are legend. While they may have factual elements, they should be consumed with an “ALLEGEDLY” lens. 

 

Featured Image: Photo by Alex Dukhanov on Unsplash

New Orleans & A Cursed Nicolas Cage

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I traveled to New Orleans this past week for work. What did I do with my free time? Visited cemeteries and haunted locations, of course. A common thread I found on my guided tours of New Orleans was a disdain for Nicolas Cage.

Here’s how the story goes (according to local lore/rumor/facts)…

giphy (3).gifNicolas Cage loves New Orleans (who wouldn’t; it’s a great city). He also loves the occult. He purchased two cursed properties in New Orleans (2007): LaLaurie Mansion and the historic Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel. He purchased the LaLaurie Mansion, because he figured “it would be a good place in which to write the great American horror novel.” In 2009, he lost the properties to foreclosure. They were worth $6.8 million.

Rumor says he was having nightmares after purchasing/losing (it’s unclear) these cursed properties and sought advice from a psychic/medium. He was informed to buy a grave as close to famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau as possible. This is very difficult, you see. She is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1, which is completely packed. Nicolas Cage had money and was able to convince the diocese to make room for his nine-foot-tall white pyramid. His name is not on the future memorial, but it has the Latin phrase “Omni Ab Uno,” which translates to “Everything From One.” What does this all mean? There are theories.

giphy (1)Cage was able to keep his memorial, as I was told on a tour, because the IRS cannot take cemetery plots. The tomb, for good reason, pissed off a lot of people in New Orleans. Many accuse him of having bodies moved to make room for his pyramid. Fans have left lipstick kisses on his tomb, so not everyone is a hater.

Local lore says “the curse” not only caused Cage to lose his New Orleans properties, but also caused the downfall of his career. Though, some could argue that happened way before the curse. I was also told on a tour that his tomb (not even the tallest in the cemetery) was struck by lightning. Was Cage cursed? Or does he make poor life choices?

Fairy Circles of Doom: Natural or Supernatural?

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You are walking in the woods alone. You come across a circle of mushrooms or a barren circle surrounded by lush greenery. Do you step into the circle? Might seem innocent enough, but lore recommends turning around and heading back home.

Listen, I’m not a wilderness woman. I cannot tell you which poisonous plants and wildlife to avoid, but I can tell you what supernatural spaces and forest demons to avoid when camping. So, get your pen ready…

Fairy Rings

Fairy Rings (also called Fairy Circles, Elf Circles, Elf Rings, or Pixie Rings) are circles of mushrooms that appear in forestland and grassland.

Fairy_ring_on_a_suburban_lawn_100_1851Various cultures attribute fairy rings to supernatural beings: witches, fairies, elves, demons etc. These circles form a space for magical beings to gather, dance, or protect. Any non-magical human who enters the circle will face consequences. Some (somewhat) scary consequences include:

  • If you enter the ring, you will be forced to dance to exhaustion or madness (English and Celtic folklore).
  • If any livestock crosses the fungi boundary, the milk they produce will be sour. That’s where the devil keeps his milk churn, after all (Dutch folklore).
  • If you dance in a fairy circle, you might enter a time warp. You see, fairies live at a different pace. You may leave the circle thinking it has been minutes, but it has actually been days or weeks (“Rhys at the Fairy-Dance”).

Not all fairy rings are bad. Some happy consequences include:

  • If you grow crops around such circles and have cattle feed nearby, you will increase fertility and fortune (Welsh folklore).
  • On Walpurgis Night, witches dance in the circles.

What creates these rings? Austrian folklore says the fire of a dragon, but there are some natural explanations.

A fairy ring is formed when a mushroom spore falls in the right spot and grows a mycelium (“vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony”) and then spreads tubular threads called hyphae underground. The mushroom caps grow on the edge of the network. Basically, the formation absorbs and pushes the nutrients outwards. When the nutrients are exhausted, the center dies and leaves the ring. The rings can grow up to 33 feet in diameter.

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Circles Without Vegetation

During my research, I came across the phenomenon of barren circles in nature. In these cases, I never heard the word “fairy circle” uttered. Nevertheless, I am going to discuss them (I’m the blog boss).

Devil’s Tramping Ground (North Carolina)

In Bear Creek, North Carolina there is a 120-year-old legend concerning a barren circle of forest ground created by the devil’s tramping. Animals refuse to enter the circle; plants will not grow. If you leave an object in the circle overnight, no matter its weight, it will be thrown from the circle by the next morning. The devil needs room to dance!

Journalist John William Harden (1903–1985) wrote of the spot:

Chatham natives say… that the Devil goes there to walk in circles as he thinks up new means of causing trouble for humanity. There, sometimes during the dark of night, the Majesty of the Underworld of Evil silently tramps around that bare circle– thinking, plotting, and planning against good, and in behalf of wrong. I have heard that boy scouts spent the night there and woke up with their tents a few miles away. There were also some guys who tried to stay up the whole night there. 2 men attempted to stay up all night, but were lulled to sleep by a soft voice.

Devil's Tramping Ground
CC BY-SA 2.5 by user Jason Horne

Would you be brave enough for a campout? In recent years, a journalist (and his two dogs) stayed the night in a tent right in the middle of the circle. He went there to disprove the old legend, but ended up hearing footsteps circle his tent. Other overnight campers reported strange shadowy figures staring at them from the treeline.

Is there a natural explanation for this barren circle? Could heavy traffic and bonfires be the culprit? Soil scientist Rich Hayes, who has run several tests of the site, says it may not be that easy: “The fact that there are written accounts going back hundreds of years about this spot being barren of vegetation makes me think something else is going on here besides people camping and burning big fires.” He argues soil tests do not give any reasons why plants cannot grow there. The mystery continues!

Hoia-Baciu Forest (Transylvania region of Romania)

Hoia-Baciu is called the “Bermuda Triangle of of Transylvania” and was named after a shepherd who disappeared in the forest with a flock of 200 sheep. The Clearing, where trees abruptly stop and surround a barren oval, is by far the creepiest part of the forest. In 1968, a military technician captured a photo of an alleged UFO flying above the clearing and received international attention. The Clearing, according to The Independent, “attracts Romanian witches, sword-wielding Americans, and people who try to cleanse the forest of evil through the medium of yoga.” I have no natural explanation for you concerning this circle, so maybe hold off on your yoga retreat.

The forest itself is home to ghosts. People have also reported losing track of time, electronic devices failing, and random “ectoplasms” floating in the air. One legend says a five-year-old girl was lost in the forest and returned years later, unchanged and wearing the same clothes.

Fairy Circles of Namibia

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CC BY 2.5 by user Stephan Getzin (via Beavis729)

There are mushroom fairy circles and there are these fairy circles: circles created by mysterious grass formations. Until recently, this phenomenon only occurred in the grasslands of the Namib desert of southern Africa. These circular patches can range in size from 7 to 49 feet, dotting the red desert surface like chicken pox.

Folklore says these circles are the footsteps of the gods or poisoned patches caused by dragon breath. These circles are believed to hold spiritual powers.

There are two competing scientific theories behind these circles. One theory is that termites are clearing the area around their nests, creating the circles. Another theory is that plants are competing for water. There was a detailed article about the scientific journey to explain these circles printed in The Atlantic last month. I recommend giving it a read.

Stay out of the forest and don’t walk into fairy circles! 

Lemuria: Beans, Ghosts, & Exorcism

It will be the ancient sacred rites of Lemuria,

When we make offerings to the voiceless spirits.

 Ovid

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According to Ovid, the month of May was named for the ancestors (maiores) and on May 9th, 11th, and 13th, the Romans celebrated the festival Lemuria (or Lemuralia). The term Lemuria is connected to lemures: “angry or overlooked spirits, who could cause trouble for the living” (AshLI).† The festival sought to appease these spirits through offerings. Ovid describes one type of offering ritual, or exorcism, performed at midnight in Book V of Fasti.

He who remembers ancient rites, and fears the gods,

Rises (no fetters binding his two feet)

And makes the sign with thumb and closed fingers,

Lest an insubstantial shade meets him in the silence.

After cleansing his hands in spring water,

He turns and first taking some black beans,

Throws them with averted face: saying, while throwing:

‘With these beans I throw I redeem me and mine.’

He says this nine times without looking back: the shade

Is thought to gather the beans, and follow behind, unseen.

Why Beans? According to scholar Robert Schilling, “This food was considered a powerful attraction for the Lemures, for in archaic times beans constituted a food par excellence.” So in preparation for Wednesday, stock up on some beans!


† Not to be confused with manes: “ghosts [that] were members of the natural, and ever-increasing band of dead ancestors and close relatives, who functioned as guiding and protective forces in Roman daily life.” They were celebrated in another festival in February called the Parentalia (AshLI).

Sources

Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions Project (AshLI), “Did the Romans Believe in Ghosts?”

Robert Schilling, “Roman Festivals and their Significance,” Acta Classica (1964)