Erotic Ectoplasmic Birth: Vaginas and Scientific Probing in the Age of Spiritualism

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This is a work in progress. A (much) better version of this post appeared in Dirge Magazine when it was alive (RIP!). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save the final, edited version before the site went down. I had some really great editors! Nevertheless, I find the topic interesting and thought I would share. I’ll probably make further improvements in the future! 

On September 27, 1726, a young woman in rural England gave birth to three legs of a cat, one leg of a rabbit, and the backbone of an eel. Over the next month, Mary Toft gave birth to around a dozen rabbits. Due to a theory that emotions could cause birth defects, this birth seemed plausible and Mary became a local celebrity. Eventually, mounting evidence and the threat of court-appointed and experimental pelvic surgery led to Mary’s confession that it was indeed a hoax.800px-Mary_toft_1726

How does one fake the birth of animal parts and full-grown rabbits? After a miscarriage, Mary hid the animal parts while her cervix was still open. For future births she sewed a pocket in her skirt where she hid the rabbits. While the doctor was distracted, she placed the rabbits inside her and faked birth.

This would not be the last time a woman put a peculiar thing in her vagina to trick the men of Science. At the height of Spiritualism (late 1800s and early 1900s), or the belief that the living could communicate with the spirit world, mediums put on entertaining seances with knocks, moving tables, and a mysterious white substance called ectoplasm that sometimes came out of their vaginas.

Spiritualism and Female Sexuality

Spiritualism was a movement that did not discriminate based on socioeconomic class or gender, and most mediums were women. People looked to women for a peek into the afterlife, giving them substantial power and respect. It is no surprise then that many members of the American suffrage movement were also Spiritualists and even Susan B. Anthony supported the assertion that Spiritualism was the only religious sect to acknowledge the equality of women (Dickey 74).

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Spiritualism gave women the space to move their bodies and speak in ways they had not before. In Ghostland: An American History of Haunted Places, Colin Dickey writes, “Spiritualism tended to valorize traits that were elsewhere labeled as women’s psychiatric diseases, including convulsions, incoherent babbling, open displays of sexuality, and other violations of Victorian decorum” (74). Behaviors that would usually get a woman institutionalized became evidence of otherworldly communication. Mediums’ open displays of sexuality during seances also revealed to observers another mystery of the universe: the vagina.

Science was already confused about female sexuality and was using new tools and procedures to explore what Freud called “the black continent.”  In “Bawdy Technologies and the Birth of Ectoplasm,” Anne L. Delgado writes:

Ectoplasm emerged at a time when women’s bodies were under special scrutiny: surgical gynecology allowed physicians to examine pathological conditions hidden within the female body and medical practitioners had devised and made use of gynecological instruments like the speculum that could reveal female interiors. It was also during this period that parts of the female anatomy were being removed through procedures like the ovariotomy, a surgery designed to treat phantom ailments like nymphomania and hysteria.

Society’s misconceptions about female bodies and desire to understand the afterlife set the stage for a fascinating elaborate hoax. Using the tool of ectoplasm, women convinced many they were giving birth to a new biological order.

With any threat to patriarchy comes a wave of backlash. Although, it did not help matters that mediums were using fraudulent practices. Two key figures in the ongoing public discussion concerning Spiritualism’s credibility were magician Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle. Harry Houdini, using his knowledge of illusion creation, developed a task force to disprove dishonest mediums. Doyle, on the other hand, was a huge proponent of mediumship and a believer of ectoplasm.

Ectoplasm: The Magician’s Secret

Ectoplasm, a term coined by French physiologist Charles Richet, is the materialization of spiritual energy that extrudes from a medium during a seance. This milky white substance varies in description and its make-up may change throughout the ectoplasmic process, beginning as a vapor or solidifying into a plastic substance (Doyle). It may be snake-like, web-like, sticky, airy, smokey, doughy, moist, dry, cold, or warm. Furthermore, ectoplasm is sensitive to light and any flash of light might “drive the structure back into the medium with the force of a snapped elastic band” (Doyle).

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A “spirit” hand created from animal parts.

Ectoplasm enters the world of the living through orifices of the medium’s body: pores, mouths, ears, nipples, and vaginas. Once ectoplasm is released from the body, it may transform into limbs, faces, or entire bodies. During one seance led by medium Madame d’Esperance, observers watched as a cloudy patch moved along the floor, gradually expanding. Then near the center, something began to rise from underneath the material, forming what looked like to be a 5-foot humanoid figure. In another example, Mina Crandon produced a ectoplasmic hand from her navel.

Ectoplasm was later proven fake as spiritualists were using cheesecloth, egg whites, or other this-worldly materials. You know that hand that came from Mina’s navel? It was animal tissue and trachea cut and sewn together.

The Queen of Ectoplasm: Eva Carrière

Like the mystery of female sexuality, ectoplasm baffled science, resulting in many intrusive experiments involving the examination of orifices for hidden “ectoplasm.” It was not uncommon for mediums to have their vaginas searched before mediumship experiments. No one was more intimately studied that French Spiritualist, Eva Carriere (1886-1943).

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Eva producing ectoplasm during a seance.

Eva Carrière (born Marthe Béraud) was so prolific in producing ectoplasm and ectoplasmic bodies that she was nicknamed the Queen of Ectoplasm (Jaher 47). Her most notable seance character was Bien Boa, a 300-year-old Brahmin Hindu that would rise from her ectoplasmic emissions. She attracted the attention of many critics and believers, including Houdini and Doyle.

Physical researcher Juliette Bisson and German physician Bardon Albert von Schrenck-Notzing would perform the most thorough and titillating examination of Eva’s body and vaginal excretions in the early 1900s. They took turns before sessions examining her vagina for any evidence of hidden material. Sometimes, even after Bisson thoroughly checked her genitalia, Eva would invite Schrenck-Notzing for a second examination.

In a letters to Schrenck-Notzing (Delgado), Bisson describes the erotic dance between Eva and the spirit world.

On my expressing a wish, the medium parted her thighs and I saw that material assumed a curious shape, resembling an orchid, decreased slowly, and entered the vagina. During the whole process I held her hands. Eva then said, ‘Wait, we will try to facilitate the passage.’ She rose, mounted on the chair, and sat down on one of the arm-rests, her feet touching the seat. Before my eyes, and with the curtain open a large spherical mass, about 8 inches in diameter, emerged from the vagina and quickly placed itself on her left thigh while she crossed her legs. I distinctly recognized in the mass a still unfinished face, whose eyes looked at me.

And months later in another letter:

Yesterday I hypnotized Eva as usual, and she unexpectedly began to produce phenomena. As soon as they began, Eva allowed me to undress her completely. I then saw a thick thread emerge from the vagina. It changed its place, left the genitals, and disappeared in the navel depression.More material emerged from the vagina, and with a sinuous serpentine motion of its own it crept up the girl’s body, giving the impression as if it were about to rise in the air. Finally it ascended to her head, entered Eva’s mouth, and disappeared. Eva then stood up, and again a mass of material appeared at the genitals, spread out, and hung suspended between her legs. A strip of it rose, took a direction towards me, receded and disappeared. All this happened while Eva stood up.

Bisson and Schrenck-Notzing also took a number of erotic photographs of Eva (you know for science), including Eva naked with fake ectoplasm dripping from her breasts. Many argue that Bisson and Eva were romantically involved, creating elaborate ectoplasmic performances to seduce and trick a male audience. Were Bisson and Eva using sexuality as a method of distraction? Were they exploring new sexual desires? We’ll never know their intentions.

Photographic evidence eventually revealed Bisson and Eva as frauds. Prior to this, Schrenck-Notzing and other male researchers found out about the hoax, but kept quiet because they believed in mediumship so strongly. After one observation of Eva, Houdini said both women had taken “advantage of the credulity and good nature of the various men with whom they had to deal” (Delgado). Basically, women were lying seductresses and men were victims of sexual misdirection.

The Witch of Lime Street: Mina Crandon

Another famous medium known for her alleged sexual behavior and vaginal ectoplasm was Mina Crandon (1888-1941) of Boston, known by her followers as Margery and by newspapers as the Witch of Lime Street. In The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World, David Jaher describes Harry Houdini’s witch hunt against lauded medium Margery. She had convinced Boyle of her skills, so much so that he urged her to enter a contest sponsored by Scientific American. The publication promised a sizeable monetary award to the first authentic medium. This began a publicity war between Spiritualism and Science, and all eyes were on Mina’s body.

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Harry Houdini (left), Malcolm Bird (back), Mina Crandon (middle), O. D. Munn (right)

While Mina was never examined to the extent of Eva, her vagina was still under scrutiny. One member of the Scientific American committee, psychologist William McDougall of Harvard, said she concealed fake ectoplasmic hands in her vagina. He also said that her husband Dr. Crandon must have surgically expanded her vagina. Houdini also said she was in bed with investigators, winning their silence. Whatever way you look at it, Jaher writes, she was considered a “loose woman” by committee members. She did not win the award.

Maybe these mediums were protesting the rigid scientific analysis of female anatomy by male-dominated medicine. After all, mediums were convincing otherwise educated men that a piece of cheesecloth was a manifestation of spiritual energy. Maybe these mediums wanted the opportunities men had: captivated audiences, money, and respect. We praise Houdini for his illusions, but these mediums were just as intelligent and creative. History portrays these women as seductresses, loose women, and sexual deviants, but maybe they should be honored as Magicians of Matriarchy.

Sources

All photos from Wikimedia Commons. All Public Domain. 

Delgado, Anne L. ““Bawdy Technologies and the Birth of Ectoplasm.” Genders, no. 54, 2011.

Dickey, Colin. Ghostland: An American History of Haunted Places. Viking, 2016.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The History of Spiritualism, vol. 2, 1926.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Facts on File, 1992.

Jaher, David. The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in The Spirit World. Broadway Books New York, 2013.

Reilly, Lucas. “The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits.” mental_floss, 28 January 2014.

Ghost Webcams: The Grey Lady of Willard Library

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From Wikipedia, Public Domain

I have blogged before about my childhood obsession with finding everything ghost related on the internet (and filling my commonplace book). One of my favorite childhood hobbies was watching the Willard Library ghost cams excessively.

The Willard Librarygiphy (2) in Evansville, Indiana (incorporated in 1881) has fully embraced their ghost(s). They allowed websites to place cameras in the library so internet users could watch and capture possible paranormal activity 24/7.  These sites gave me a chance to ghost hunt from the safety of my computer chair and, although I could not watch at night (I was a teen with a bedtime after all), I was able to see what other users had captured during their “investigations.” The whole thing was wild to me. People from all over the United States and beyond were watching this library in my home state Indiana, waiting to spot something off. 

My husband told me recently our friends were moving to Evansville. Of course my response was: “Let’s visit. I can finally go to Willard Library.” I began to reminisce about the hours I spent on AOL looking for the Grey Lady of Willard Library. Lucky enough, these sites are still up and running.

Put up your metaphorical away message and take a trip with me down memory lane…

*BRB* Watching ghosts on Willard Library’s Ghost Cam. =-O

About the Ghost

The Grey Lady Ghost of Willard Library is believed to be Louise Carpenter, the daughter of the library’s founder. Some say she harbors resentment for the library, because her father left much of his estate to it. First seen by a custodian in the 1930s, the ghost was last seen in 2015 (arguably):

[…] two library staff members in the children’s department noticed a security camera showing a strange woman looking out a glass door. She turned to look at the camera, but then her image began pixelating on the video. (Source)

The ghost has been spotted throughout the library, even the elevator (spooky!). Some paranormal activity attributed to the ghost include: water being turned on and off, cold temperatures, the smell of perfume, odd noises (including the clinking of typewriter keys), hair and earrings being touched, new objects appearing, and objects being moved (Source).

The Web Cams

There are two different websites with Willard Library webcams (both linked on Willard Library’s main site). Both sites’ cams provide different angles and capture entities other than the Grey Lady. The first site is Library Ghost, which has cameras in three locations: (1) the children’s room, (2) the basement hall, and (3) the research room. The site is hit-and-miss now; sometimes the cams don’t work. This site also hosts a forum, but no one really moderates or participates anymore (Some robot posted about bathroom faucets 300 times. Maybe it’s the Grey Lady? She does play with faucets at the library). gray-lady

The second site, Willard Ghost, has recent user interaction (last post was this month). The three camera locations in the library include: (1) the main room , (2) the children’s room, and (3) a stairwell.  You can capture shots of the ghost and submit them to the moderator, who then posts them on the site with comments. The site also shares audio captured on microphones placed in the library. 

These sites are not as active as they were in my childhood, but are still running! Take a few minutes (or hours!) today to catch a ghost, before these sites become ghost towns.

Sources

The Grey Lady Ghost, Willard Library

Tori Fater, “Why spooky ghost stories keep people coming back to Willard Library.” Courier & Press, 21 October 2017.

Further Reading

4 Creepy Haunted Doll Sites. Ghosts and Ghouls, 24 October 2012. 

Wagner, Stephen. “Ghost and paranormal webcams from around the world.” Thoughtco, 2 July 2018. 

“Terror and Tomes: Haunted American Libraries.” Notebook of Ghosts 

 

In My Commonplace Book: Miscellaneous Ghost Quotes I

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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. 

In between titled entries in my commonplace book are random pages filled with quotes that I come across while reading. I thought I might share some of my favorites.


“All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.” – Samuel Johnson on ghosts

“Ghosts — if they cannot exactly be described as living history — certainly personify our shared past by replaying it. They are so valuable to us because they are externalised memories, reminding us of the layers of history beneath our feet, of the old stories that refused to be erased” – The Ghost by Susan Owens (page 12)

“‘Think of it Ben,’ she said. ‘Controlled multiple haunting. Something absolutely unique in haunted houses: a surviving will so powerful that he can use that power to dominate every other surviving personality in the house.'” – Florence in Hell House by Richard Matheson (1971)

“Fear seemed to exude from the walls, to dim the mirrors with its clammy breath, to stir shuddering among the tattered draperies, to impregnate the whole atmosphere as with an essence, a gas, a contagious disease.” – Ella D’Arcy’s “The Villa Lucienne” (1896)

“It seems rather to be more like a memory image of the person, as if some startling  or highly dramatic event had left such an impact that the house is impregnated with it. The theory is: during acts of violence great waves of hysteria or emotion-laden thoughts are released, which somehow seem to photograph the actual event just as if a movie had been take at the scene. This ‘physic film’ is capable of being seen when conditions are just right, or by especially sensitive people.” – Susy Smith on ghosts without a purpose in Haunted Houses by the Millions (page 15)

“Certainly poltergeists seem to like company, while the more normal ghosts generally prefer solitude.” – Joseph Braddock’s Haunted Houses of Great Britain (page 82)

“The room itself might have been full of secrets. They seemed to be piling themselves up, as evening fell, like the layers and layers of velvet shadow dropping from the low ceiling, the dusky walls of books, the smoke-blurred sculpture of the hooded hearth.” – Edith Wharton’s “Afterward”

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. 

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.

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). Three frog dudes were conversing; one was holding a wand 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 spacecraft 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. Objects left in the circle overnight will be found thrown from it in the 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!