The Screaming Tunnel

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 13th, 2018.


Niagara Falls, Canada is home to many ghosts. Countless landmarks are actually inhabited by citizens that once walked the streets of this beautiful place, and now refuse (or are unable) to move on. Perhaps you’ve even heard of some of its most famous haunts: The Olde Angel Inn, The Blue Ghost Tunnel, and The Doll’s House Gallery, to name just a few. It’s also home to a place known as “The Screaming Tunnel”, which is an old railway tunnel that has attracted a couple of ghosts of its own.

The first is an old woman whose story many locals have passed down through the years. Back when there was still a small neighbourhood nearby the tunnel, this woman lived in one of those houses with her husband. Legend goes that she and her husband would be up every night fighting, and that when they finished, she’d storm down to the tunnel, and scream at the top of her lungs. The neighbours believed that she was trying to make everyone feel the pain she did in her marriage. When she died, it would appear that she kept returning to her tunnel to scream.

The main ghost in the tunnel, however, is where the story gets interesting. It also happens to be where the story gets really twisted.

The most popular ghost in the Screaming Tunnel is a young girl, thought to be around 14 years old. The problem is, as time has passed, her story has gotten more and more warped, and three variations currently exist. But they all end the same way.

Photo Courtesy of Johannes Rapprich via Pexels.com

Photo Courtesy of Johannes Rapprich via Pexels.com

The first variation of the story says that she was a little girl who got caught in a nearby barn fire, and ran to the water that flowed through the tunnel at the time in an effort to soak her burns. But she was too late, and succumbed to her burns while lying in the stream.

The second variation believed her to be the child caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle between her mother and father. When her father lost, he became so enraged, that he took her down to the tunnel, doused her in gasoline, and burned her alive.

The third variation is the most horrifying. It involves the little girl being sexually assaulted by an old man who, in order to destroy the evidence of his crime, murdered her, and burned her body in the tunnel.

Regardless of the lead up to the event, because of the fact that she died burning, it’s believed that anyone who enters the tunnel and tries to light a match will draw out her spirit, which becomes so terrified of the flame, that she blows it out. This inability to light a match in the tunnel, and the sound of screaming often heard, is what draws people and their curiosity to the site.

No one quite knows which story – if any –  is real, but there are many legends about this tunnel aside from the above mentioned. Either way, next time you find yourself in Niagara Falls, consider checking out the tunnel. Just beware of any screaming that you hear emanating from inside. And whatever you do – never light a match.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

What to Read in March 2019

March is the month of surprise snow storms, excessive Irish drinking, and some time to check out some magnificent books. If you’re pondering what your next great read will be, have no fear. We Voices keep up-to-date with both classics and the newest releases in the book world.


The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was the divine mind behind Beloved, the beautifully creepy story about a family and their life after abolished slavery, chronicling the experiences of a black woman named Sethe. Beloved focused on not just her days as a slave and her time living as a free woman, but also the mental trauma that she endured. Morrison infused Beloved with the heavy theme of infanticide, representing the true historical actions of many slave women.

Morrison was also the writer behind many other great books like The Bluest Eye and Paradise, and in February 2019, she came out with a brand new book, The Source of Self-Regard. As a collection of essays, speeches, and meditations, she evaluates social issues with keen awareness as well as giving insight to her work as a creator and artist.

If you’re interested in some deep reading to get you through the chaotic snow drifts of March, I strongly recommend giving Morrison a look.

Check out  Penguin Random House  for Morrison’s new book.

Check out Penguin Random House for Morrison’s new book.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

A possibly biased opinion, but Shirley Jackson was the foundation of modern Gothic literature. With her creepy inspiration, she published a massive collection of short stories along with five novels in her lifetime. Her most popular novels were The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but The Sundial was one of the most deviously clever novels.

What set this book apart from others was the thoroughly unlikeable cast of characters living in a grand house, driven mad with paranoia and potential prophecies of end times.

Jackson appreciated fine architecture. Her work is full of grand mansions that are overwhelming in physical details and personal histories. The Sundial revolved around the large mansion of the family, and turned into their prison as they began to fear the world ending, due to a supposed ghostly apparition claiming that the family would inherit the Earth in a year’s time.

Fearful of destruction, panic from the real world Cold War infused itself into the plot. The family retreats into this mansion like a bunker, preparing for world’s catastrophic events. They begin to burn their possessions to make room for necessities like first aid kits and rations, and slowly descend into madness.

Winter might seem like the end of the world, but you can at least take comfort in Jackson’s delightful dialogue and dramatic plot lines.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out  Penguin Books UK  for this great read.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out Penguin Books UK for this great read.

Looker: A Novel by Laura Sims

I always appreciate a fantastic debut novel, especially when it is so masterfully creepy.

Telling the story about a woman obsessed with her famous neighbour, Laura Sims describes a delicate boundary between admiration and obsession with a master touch. Living just houses away, there is no privacy to be found in this story. The narrator obsessed over not just the woman but her garbage and looks, adopting similar lipstick and clothing to become the woman.

The theme of stalking in literature has become immensely popular due to the Lifetime-turned-Netflix series You, and we have become much more aware of the privacy concerns. We’ve possibly all tried to cyber stalk an ex-partner online, or have been stalked by others, and we have grown startling used to cat-fishing. Looker is a new spin on the issue because it removes romantic obsession from the story, and infuses the desire for friendship and basic relationships.

Friendship is often an undervalued theme in literature, and Looker revealed the danger that can exist between two different people, without the inclusion of a sexual element.

An excellent contribution to the thriller genre, Sims manages to include jealousy and real world infertility struggles into her work. We should all be keenly anticipating her next novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out  Simon & Schuster  for this brilliant novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out Simon & Schuster for this brilliant novel.

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson

Famous for her poetry, Maggie Nelson draws inspiration from real events that impacted her own family when her Aunt Jane Mixer went missing and was found murdered in the 60s.

Her work The Red Parts had been written after her collection of poetry based on Jane, titled effectively as Jane. The poetry shed insight of true crime and the issues of inherited grief, and contained enough research that it became heavily valuable to detectives who picked up the case. She was communicating frequently with the lead detective, sharing her personal research and providing careful insight to certain elements of the case.

Due to limited resources at the time, Mixer had been a cold case before DNA had grown highly useful. With new technology and options available, her case was reopened and connected to two different DNA sources, allowing justice to be legally given.

The Red Parts is a personal examination on the experiences on living exposed. Mixer had originally been suspected to have been a victim of the Michigan Murders, but elements of her case had separated her from other bodies. Because of the mystery behind her disappearance and reappearance in a graveyard, her family suffered trauma and confusion. Death becomes more terrifying when a sister and daughter are found strangled on top of a grave, with her possessions pooled around her.

Nelson cleverly gave testimony as a stranger to her dead Aunt, but it shows how deeply Mixer’s murder impacted her own life, and her relationships with her family. An excellent nonfiction look into the corners of the true crime world, Nelson weaves poetic language into her prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to  Penguin Books UK  and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to Penguin Books UK and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Recently widowed Elise is sent to her husband’s country estate, and is tossed into a Gothic landscape filled with unsettling wooden figures that slowly multiply over the course of the book. Carrying on in the same vein of other excellent books like The Haunting of Hill House and Rebecca, this book is highly recommended to readers who love the feeling of anxiety twisting in their stomachs.

She’s recently released a new novel in the past year, and I highly recommend browsing through her work. She establishes historical scenery and fixates on proper representation of women as both victims and villains.

Modern (and successful) takes on the Gothic genre are incredibly rare, but Laura Purcell managed to successfully transform the element by including brand new material like wooden mannequin dolls. With a dead cow left on the doorstep of the country estate and unreliable narrators, this is a brilliant read that you will fly through. You’ll be pondering over the true villain for days afterwards.

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up  Penguin Random House .

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up Penguin Random House.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Is anything more haunting than a postwar mansion slowly crumbling away?

Sarah Waters spins a haunting tale about the Hundreds Hall, a once impressive and massive estate that is now falling to pieces. The garden is overwhelmed with weeds and the house is becoming a challenge to maintain with limited income by the Lady of the house and her two grown children. Doctor Faraday becomes quite close to the family of Hundred Hall, and begins to pry apart the ghostly secrets within the walls.

This book is definitely the opposite of a classic ghost story. Waters uses this novel to reveal the historical downfall of the entire class system post war, with the infusion of a possible ghost running around. With delightful atmosphere and lengthy dialogue sections, this book is fairly lengthy, but a perfect read to get you through the month of March.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, you will adore the tense and unreliable narration, and the vivid characters springing to life across the pages. Waters has written many great novels that focus on different areas of history, but this is one of her most vividly researched pieces.

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at  Penguin Random House Canada .

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at Penguin Random House Canada.


Don’t be a victim during the final stretch of winter’s cold, icy grip. Set yourself up with either some fictional tales of ghosts or brilliantly written accounts of true crime, and find yourself a comfortable place to hermit.

Any books catch your attention lately? Let me know @rahel_taller.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Stop and Smell the Poison

As children, many of us wasted away hours traipsing through our parents’ gardens, pretending to be princes or princesses, witches, dragons, and all kinds of other fantastical things. Our imaginations ran wild, and with such a beautiful backdrop like the sweet-smelling flowers planted by our parents, it was the perfect scene to set the mood.

Photo courtesy of Jacqui via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Jacqui via Flickr

The world is full of many different gardens that range in size and beauty. One such place is the Alnwick Garden, located in North East England. This garden, however, is unlike the ones we all grew up playing in for more reasons than one. For behind all the roses, and tulips, and tiger-lilies, far at the back, a black, iron gate is found, warning all those brave enough to enter. Because The Alnwick garden is very beautiful indeed. But it’s also the world’s deadliest garden.

In 1995, when Ralph Percy became the 12th Duke of Northumberland, his wife, Jane Percy (now the Duchess of Northumberland) obtained ownership of Alnwick Castle’s garden. Her husband instructed her to do something about the garden, which had fallen into an unfortunate state of disuse over the years. Not wanting to have just any lovely, traditional garden, the Duchess, taking inspiration from a trip to Italy’s poison garden, Medici, decided to gather as many of the world’s most lethal plants as she could find, and plant them for her own collection. Today, the Alnwick Poison Garden gathers around 600,000 visitors a year, so the Duchess was clearly onto something.

The garden is full of all manner of poisonous and deadly plants. With a range of different plants, from the simple cannabis plants, to those much more vile, such as Amorphophallus Titanum - also known as ‘the corpse flower’ which is named for the fact that it smells like a dead body. The symptoms and effects the plants in this garden have on people also vary. Some simply smell horrible, while others have horrifying, physical effects: Hemlock causes muscular paralysis, including the muscles required in breathing. Foxgloves, in addition to hallucinations, also cause vomiting, blurry vision, seizures, and death. And one of my personal favourites, Atropa Belladonna, more commonly known as “Deadly Nightshade”, has the ability to cause dilation of the pupils, hallucinations, rashes, and death.

Atropa Belladonna; Photo courtesy of DerWeg via Pixabay.com

Atropa Belladonna; Photo courtesy of DerWeg via Pixabay.com

In the past, these plants have been primarily used for innocent means, leaving the user to learn a little too late of the real effects. Deadly Nightshade, for example, was often used by Venetian women in drops from the berries juice, because as mentioned above, it dilated their pupils, and they believed this made them more attractive. Too bad it also made them go blind, in addition to its other less-than-pleasant effects mentioned above.

Angel’s Trumpet was thought to be a strong aphrodisiac, and Victorian women often added a little of its pollen to their tea in order to experience its high. Unbeknownst to them, Angel’s Trumpet, in addition to hallucinations and delirium, also causes comas and death. Not exactly worth the high if you ask me.

Photo courtesy of Duncan Andison via Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Duncan Andison via Shutterstock

Because of the degrees of deadliness of all the plants contained within, Alnwick’s poison garden is littered with warning signs, discouraging all visitors from eating, touching, smelling, or even getting too close to the plants. However, there are always those that choose not to listen, and it should come as no surprise a number of people pass out in the gardens each year, and there are countless health and safety reports written up. Word to the wise: don’t ignore the signs.

The signs, however, are not the garden’s only means of security for the general public against these plants. The garden was granted special permission to grow coca plants (cocaine) and marijuana plants (weed), both of which are kept in metal cages within the garden because of the effects they can have on the human body. Duchess Jane Percy uses these plants to get across an anti-drug message to children who tour the garden, telling Smithsonian Magazine that “it’s a way of educating children without having them realize they’re being educated.”

Ultimately, that’s the goal of the garden: to showcase something unique, but also to teach everyone who visits about the world’s most dangerous plants, and what they can do. In fact, not every plant in the garden is just lethal - some actually have other uses too that, when handled properly, can actually be quite helpful.

Opium Poppy; Photo courtesy of Vishnevskiy Vasily via Shutterstock

Opium Poppy; Photo courtesy of Vishnevskiy Vasily via Shutterstock

Take, for instance, the opium poppy. It has a wide array of uses that range from harmless to harmful, depending on which part of the plant you use, and in which concentration. Its ripe seeds can be harvested as an ingredient in some baked goods, oils and seasonings, and can even be used as birdseed. The capsules of its unripe seeds, however, fall on the more dangerous end, as the milky latex within is what is used to produce drugs such as opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin, all of which have positive medical uses, but are lethal when overused.

Of course, not everyone to ever have made use of these kinds of plants used them for pure reasons. In London in 2010, a young woman was arrested for crushing up Monkshood seeds and sprinkling them in a curry for her ex-lover.

Thankfully, no one has ever died in the garden. So if you’re like me, and itching for a chance (no pun intended) to get into this garden and have a peek around, check out places such as Trip Advisor. Just remember to heed the warning signs, lest you be one of the many visitors to pass out among the beautiful, but deadly plants.


I couldn’t even begin to cover all of the plants in this awe-inspiring garden, but feel free to leave a comment below about your favourite deadly plant, and what exactly makes it so harmful. Perhaps I’ll even re-visit this topic in the future, and do a post on some of the specific plants behind the black iron gates.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Bytown Museum Hauntings and Disturbances

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, October 10th, 2018.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash.com

Rattling doors and crying porcelain dolls are the stuff that ghost stories are made of. Ottawa as a city is a fantastic area filled with activity and heritage. However, one of Ottawa’s most unique attributes is its long history of ghosts. With so many heritage buildings located in the city, it isn’t strange to consider their morbid history. The Bytown museum, located next to the similarly haunted Chateau Laurier, is rumored to be haunted by Duncan McNab, a previous supply manager.

Despite being dead for over 150 years, his spirit remains active within the museum. The Bytown museum is known for cold spots and the peculiar sound of footsteps that persistently follow workers and visitors.

Originally designed to act as a storehouse for supplies, it eventually underwent a drastic transformation in the 1950s, turning into a museum that would host the history of the Ottawa area and the Rideau Canal. However, despite any alterations that the building underwent, ghosts seemed to cling to the building. The Bytown Museum has gained notoriety for its haunting, bringing in a host of paranormal experts and even the local haunted walks of Ottawa, all seeking to unveil the secrets of the building.

The Bytown Museum is famous for more than just cold spots and the sound of footsteps, though. Porcelain dolls have often appeared to be crying, items move freely of their own accord, and strange experiences with orbs of light that flash in rooms. Rumors say that the museum isn’t haunted by a single ghost, but at least two, due to an encounter with Lieutenant-Colonel John By having controlled a computer within the building, bring up his name again and again on a document. By was an engineer who supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal and the founding of Ottawa (originally known as Bytown).

However, an argument can be made that the ghosts are neither McNab or By, but rather the hundreds of Irish workers who died during construction of the canal. With little ceremony and burial rituals, bodies had often been disposed of freely. Not until 2004 was a plaque commemorated to mark their passing. Irish workers had taken jobs digging the canal due to the limitations they faced during their time, and they suffered from illness, exhaustion, and hunger while working on the canal. Death rates were high and it wouldn’t be unlikely for a spirit or two to be restless still. The Bytown museum is perched beside the canal and could play host to the Irish. As Tony O’Loughlin said, canal workers were “despised in life and forgotten in death”.

Who knows what or who is behind the disturbances in the Bytown Museum. It could be a disgruntled previous worker as a manager, or it could be dozens of restless souls, rattling at the doors and stomping across the rooms.

Check out the museum here: https://bytownmuseum.com/

Photo courtesy of Steinar Engeland via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Steinar Engeland via Unsplash.com


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Merciless Mountain

Back in the day, having a car or an indoor toilet used to be the much-coveted status symbol that we all wanted. Not too lofty a goal, right? It’s pretty sensible. An indoor toilet won’t put your life in too much danger, especially if you have a good toilet plunger. Well, the status symbol of the late eighties was considerably less sensible. People wanted to reach the summit of Mount Everest, one of the dreaded ‘Eight Thousanders’, the highest and most dangerous mountain on planet Earth.

You’ll find Everest in the Himalayan mountain range, rising 8844.43 metres above sea level. That means the summit is in the upper troposphere, where oxygen is sixty percent less than it is at the first base camp. So it makes sense that a person would want to go there, where they can quickly die from several different fatal illnesses, like cerebral edema, hypothermia, and altitude sickness. To date, two hundred and twenty-three climbers have died, mostly from falling or being caught in the path of a colossal avalanche.

Consequently, Everest is littered with corpses that cannot be retrieved because it’s too dangerous to take them down. One such corpse is simply called ‘Green Boots’. It lies in a limestone alcove four hundred metres below the summit and has been there ever since the ’90s. Though this corpse remains unidentified, people theorize that it is Tsewang Paljor, a member of the first Indian team to reach the summit. He died during the infamous 1996 Everest disaster, which also claimed the lives of seven other climbers.

Image courtesy of  Maxwelljo4 0 via  Wikipedia .

Image courtesy of Maxwelljo40 via Wikipedia.

Another of Everest’s victims was none other than George Mallory, a participant in the first three British expeditions on the mountain. We will never know whether George ever reached the summit on his last try in 1924, because he never returned to his camp. No one knew what happened to him—until 1999, when American climber Conrad Anker discovered Mallory’s corpse lying face-down on Everest’s north face. Despite the fact that he had been dead for seventy-five years, his corpse was remarkably well preserved, mummified, bleached white by the sun. He still had a full head of hair, flesh on his body, a boot on one foot and name-tags on his clothes.

Left: photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Right: photo courtesy of Dave Hahn via Getty Images.

Left: photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Right: photo courtesy of Dave Hahn via Getty Images.

They were even able to retrieve his personal effects: goggles, letters, a knife, and a compass. On formal examination of Mallory’s corpse, it appears that he sustained a severe head wound, likely inflicted by a stray ice axe. However, the body of his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, has never been found.

The third and final of Everest’s most notable corpses is Hannalore Schmatz, the first woman and the first German citizen to die on the mountain. Schmatz reached the summit in October 1979 and was on the descent when she and her fellow team member Ray Genet decided to set up camp in the death zone, despite being told not to by the Sherpas. In winter, the temperature in the death zone can drop as low as -60°, so it’s no surprise that Genet died of hypothermia during the night. Genet’s death prompted Schmatz and the Sherpas to start the descent again, but the attempt was short-lived. Schmatz was eventually overcome by exhaustion. She asked for water, then passed away.

An attempt was made to recover her body by Police Inspector Bahadur Thapa and Sherpa Ang Dorje, but both men fell to their deaths in the attempt. So, for the next two decades, Schmatz remained on the mountain. Hundreds of passing climbers encountered her corpse one hundred metres from Camp Four, still sitting up, eyes open and hair blowing in the wind. But, eventually, a fierce wind blew her corpse over the Kangshung face, and she was never seen again.

There are approximately one hundred and fifty bodies left on Everest, many of which will not be recovered or even found. Sounds to me like we should respect Mother Nature and leave that mountain alone.

For more information, check out this informative video by Caitlin Doughty from Ask A Mortician.


Would you consider climbing Everest? Or do you think commercial mountaineering has gone too far? Tell us in the comments, or tweet @Atticvoices!


20181225_162803erwe.png

Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Yukon Jack with a Dash of Cannibalism

Here at Voices in the Attic, we promise to bring you a regular dose of all things creepy. And I like to think we’ve made good on that promise. Today, however, I bring you something new. While you can still call it creepy, this story is one I think is just plain gross. So buckle up, readers, and allow me to tell you about one of Canada’s most hilariously disgusting traditions: The Sourtoe Cocktail.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Sager via The Wallstreet Journal

Photo courtesy of Ryan Sager via The Wallstreet Journal

As of 2016, Dawson City, Yukon held a population of 1,375 people. Despite this limited population, it draws tourists from all over the globe. All of this is due to a creative, crazy tradition, held within the Sourdough Saloon. The tradition involves joining “The Sourtoe Cocktail Club”, by drinking the club’s namesake.

The Sourtoe Cocktail is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a shot of alcohol with a human toe in it. The toe has actually been through several incarnations, all of which come with their own unique backstory.

The tradition began, as legend would have it, with a pair of brothers. Louie and Otto Liken were miners and rum runners during the 1920s. One day they were caught in a blizzard, and Louie suffered severe frostbite that ultimately cost him one of his toes. The brothers preserved the toe in a jar of alcohol as a way to commemorate their trip. It’s uncertain how it left their possession, but once it did, it ended up in the possession of Captain Dick Stevenson, in 1973.

Intending it as a joke, Captain Dick decided to start an exclusive club, which had only a single rule in order to gain membership: anyone who wished to be a member was required to drink the Sourtoe Cocktail. As he liked to say: “You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips must touch that gnarly toe.” There weren’t any other specifications besides that. Some say that originally you had to drink the shot with whiskey, but these days it can be any kind of alcohol that’s 40% or higher. Most elect to drink the cocktail with Yukon Jack.

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Courier

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Courier

But sadly, the first toe was not long for this world. In 1980, a man named Garry Younger was attempting to break the Sourtoe record of most shots in one sitting. He made it through thirteen before his chair fell backwards, causing him to accidentally swallow the toe.

Not much is known about the second cocktailed toe, other than the fact that it was donated from somebody who had it amputated after discovering they had an inoperable corn.

The third toe, much like the first, was donated from a victim of frostbite, and also became the victim of swallowing from a saloon patron.

Toe number four mixed the legend up a bit, and was donated anonymously before later being stolen.

Both the fifth and sixth toes were donated to the saloon by an old patron of the saloon who wished to exchange his withered digits for a round of drinks for his nurses.

Toe seven was about as uneventful as toe number two, in that all anyone seems to recall about it is that it came from someone who had it amputated due to diabetes.

The eighth toe—and my personal favourite—was dropped off at the saloon in a jar of alcohol with a note that simply said: “Don’t wear open-toe sandals while mowing the lawn.” Important words for all of us to keep in mind! But this is not the only reason this toe is of particular interest. On August 24th, 2013, toe number eight met its demise when a man named Joshua Clark walked into the saloon and ordered, as many had before him, a Sourtoe Cocktail.

Photo courtesy of LadyHobo via Ladyhobo.com *

Photo courtesy of LadyHobo via Ladyhobo.com *

Clark was not the first patron of the Sourdough Saloon to swallow one of the toes. He was, however, the very first to do it intentionally. Upon ordering his shot, he promptly downed the whole thing, toe and all, and paid the $500 fine attached to the toe in case of swallowing, and then immediately left the bar. Because of him, the fine was subsequently hiked up to $2,500.

His actions also deeply angered Terry Lee—otherwise known as the Toe Captain: the man who oversees the drinking of each Sourtoe Cocktail—who then sent a search party after Clark and the toe, which was comprised of bartenders and regulars at the saloon alike, as well as, according to some, a few Hell’s Angels.

This search party never found Clark, however, and by the following morning, he’d left town. He was then permanently banned from the Sourdough Saloon.

Fortunately for the legend though, the saloon had two toes in circulation at the time, and Clark only swallowed one, so the cocktails were still able to continue. However, toe number eight was allegedly Toe Captain Terry’s favourite, and he was very displeased that not only was it stolen, but that the remaining toe was suffering from overuse and would, therefore, need to be replaced soon.

According to CBC, Clark felt so guilty about what he’d done that he eventually got in contact with the saloon, and willed his own big, right toe to them upon his death. Whether or not Clark intends to keep that promise remains to be seen, but nonetheless, the Sourtoe Cocktail is still in circulation today, awaiting the next brave souls willing to give it a kiss.

Perhaps you’ll even be one of them.


*This particular photo came from the blog of a woman listed simply as “Lady Hobo”. She’s clearly someone who’s been to the Sourdough Saloon, and I encourage you to read her article, The Sourtoe Cocktail Experience, because not only does it include facts not in my post (including the fact that the Toe Captain has a list called “The Captain’s Shit List” with names of past “Toe Abusers”), but it’s a really well written article.

Let me know in the comments down below if you’ve ever tried the Sourtoe Cocktail, or if you ever would!


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Olivia Gatwood is the Life of the Party

Both Olivia Gatwood and New American Best Friend were a gift given to humanity. Her first book of poetry was published in 2017 and was an expertly crafted collection of work. In particular, Gatwood focuses on the elements of being a woman and living in modern America. In particular, her series of odes are particularly breathtaking in their raw honesty and presentation.

Cover image from  Random House

Cover image from Random House

We did not deserve Gatwood when she slammed her way into popularity with her viral videos like “Ode to My Bitch Face” and “Ode to the Women on Long Island”, and we certainly did not deserve her new collection, Life of the Party. This collection expands on what her earlier work started, and further projects her voice into covering topics like violence and victimhood. Gatwood excels in writing about womanhood and sexuality, and has a huge audience desperately waiting for her next collection to be released.

As an educator in sexual assault prevention, her work has been showcased in publications like Poetry City U.S.A and Winter Tangerine. Gatwood’s recordings have garnered thousands upon thousands of views, and her voice easily carries not just words artfully strung together, but manages to convey entire stories that expand far past the pages of her writing.

Life of the Party is deeply inspired by true crime, and Gatwood presents her own perspective on very real situations. America has recently been cracked open and had its dark underbelly forcefully exposed by a multitude of women in the past few years, and her voice further aids to the progress being made. Our obsession and romanization of murdered women is often fixated on by the cold reality that we currently live in. There is danger in being a woman, and especially a woman of color.

The appearances of murdered women on movies and television shows is a constant theme. They act as an object to dwell on, and they also serve to support male leads and their lives moving forward. Dead bodies and the act of murdering has become a romanticized dark area in pop culture, which influences how we perceive violent acts. Staggering numbers of teenagers today admire serial killers and their activities, transforming them into heroic figures while ignoring the bodies behind their statistics.

Books based on true crime have become popular. They analyze crime scenes and present information to the general public, making information accessible. However, often books distance themselves from the identities of the murdered women and victims, and these books slowly lose sensitivity. Like a moth to a flame, we gravitate and devour these books.

When I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara was published posthumously in 2018, we were obsessed. There is something so heartbreakingly compelling about reading the stories of victims and their families living in the aftermath. McNamara had compiled her research and built the foundation of the book with her outlines, previously written articles and a few fully fleshed out chapters. Efforts by ghostwriters ensured that the book was published and McNamara’s voice continued, telling the history of the Golden State Killer.

The book rose into popularity throughout bookstores across North America and was the 2018 winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards. McNamara managed to restore the voices of the victims inside their own narratives.  This artful act of compassion and respectful journalism managed to fixate an entire audience of readers who firmly then turned their attentions to the legal actions against Joseph James DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer, that unravelled throughout that year. Because of McNamara’s efforts, we were able to remember the victims behind DeAngelo’s actions properly. Nothing was glamorized, and McNamara directed out attention to the staggering reality of cold case files as well as both the effective and ineffective abilities that DNA has on solving the ‘unsolvable’.

Photo courtesy of  Olivia Gatwood  via Twitter

Photo courtesy of Olivia Gatwood via Twitter

The connection between Gatwood’s electric poetry and McNamara’s carefully researched writing is obvious. These women are fixated on restoring narratives and weaving a complex story. Without women like these two, we would not experience such carefully pieced together work, and we as a whole would all suffer. When women die, they either become invisible and voiceless, or they are dragged out on display. We need women willing to restore voices and narratives, but also to provide compassionate storytelling.

There’s a reason women carry their keys in their hands and don’t go jogging at night. We also avoid discussing the complex differences between murdered white women and murdered women of color. We dislike engaging in discussions on the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, but we are certainly fascinated with Robert Pickton and his activities. Pop culture builds an image of strangers murdering women, but statistically, women are more likely to be abused by men that they had an already existing relationship with. We need to look beyond media representation and look at the bigger picture, and who is truly impacted.

The conversation around murdered women is heavily limited and censored. Thankfully, we have writers and educators willing to lend their own voice and provide a platform for new thinking.

We are certainly marking down the days to the release of Life of the Party, and you should be too.


Random House will be releasing Gatwood’s Life of the Party August 27th, 2019. You can get your hands on the paperback for $17.00. Until the summer, though, you can catch more of her thoughts @oliviagatwood as well on the podcast that she co-hosts, called Say More.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

West Coast Ghosts

British Columbia, on Canada’s West Coast, is known for many things. The Rocky Mountains, for instance, or perhaps the groups of killer whale that populate the ocean around Victoria and Vancouver. But B.C., much like many other places around the world, is also home to its fair share of ghosts.

Today we’ll be addressing what many refer to as the most haunted place in Victoria. It was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who lives out there, and now I’ll be bringing it to your attention in the hopes of giving you a few shivers yourself.

Photo courtesy of Victoria News

Photo courtesy of Victoria News

These days, Bastion Square is a pedestrian mall filled with shops, food, and the hustle and bustle of people going about their daily lives. But the same couldn’t always be said. Many of the buildings that existed back then have been converted into modern uses, but a number of their past residents and memories still remain. It’s believed that there are hardly any buildings in Bastion Square that don’t have at least a ghost or two within their walls.

What was formerly the old Supreme Court building now houses the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, which draws in a high number of tourists on a daily basis. But the visitors that walk these floors are not always of the living variety, and when you take into consideration the building’s history, you come to understand why.

Originally, the grounds upon which the old Supreme Court Building was built were home to the old jailhouse and the city’s first gallows. And to make matters even creepier, quite a few of the men who were hanged at this location still call the ground beneath its foundations their final resting place.The jail was knocked down in 1885, and the old Supreme Court building was taken over by the Maritime Museum in 1965, but some things about the site’s history were never altered. And they continue to walk the streets they once knew.

And it would seem that walking around the places they once lived isn’t the only thing these ghosts do. Visitors to Bastion Square and its various buildings have been known to report several different kinds of hauntings, and those who visit the old Supreme Court building in particular, talk of hearing footsteps running down the stairs (but coming from nowhere), whispers coming from unknown sources, and even some instances of objects moving around the gift shop on their own. Some guests have even reported hands pushing them while on the stairs.

But as I said, the old Supreme Court building is not the only place in Bastion Square that’s haunted, and it’s certainly not the only place where people have claimed to see or hear things that weren’t really there.

Photo courtesy of  Bobenis Rodriguez

Photo courtesy of Bobenis Rodriguez

One of the paths out of Bastion Square is Helmcken Alley, a place that, in the past, ran right by the jailhouse and gallows. Muffled footsteps and dragging chains are among the sounds that have been reported by those walking through here, but perhaps the scariest claim comes from those that insist they’ve seen a prisoner, still dressed in prison uniform and chains, following them through the alley.

It’s believed that at least two of the prisoners killed there were actually innocent, and one of them didn’t even make it to the gallows. Instead, he was murdered by a prison guard who was supposed to be taking him to his execution. It’s believed that the guard grew impatient with the prisoner, and decided to beat him to death instead of waiting for him to be hung. These days, many believe that the same prisoner is now the ghost that follows passersby through Helmcken Alley.

These are just a few of many stories that come out of Bastion Square in Victoria, B.C., so I encourage you to check into it some more if you’re curious. Or even better, maybe take a visit for yourself if you’re nearby. If not, I’ve heard many great things about Canada’s West Coast, and hey, I think a few spooks are the perfect thing to spruce up a trip.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

More Tales from Jail

Welcome back to the Attic.

This will be our final post on the Ottawa jail for now, as our stay was unfortunately only for one night. However, while we were there, we experienced some things and learned even more about the happenings on the property, both past and present. To begin, we sat in a cell on Death Row with an audio recorder, which returned some sounds that did not come from any of us, that we know of. The recording is below, including the time codes of the unexplained sounds.

1:26 → Distant scream.

6:34 → A long breath.

7:30 → A low ‘Ooooo’ sound.

Some of the Voices went to the explore the jail before midnight, when the noise of traffic outside had died down. Two of them got lost in the maze of cells and hallways before they too got separated. Michelle, sensing that she was being followed or watched, called Joseph from her phone, while Rachel was looking for the source of what she believed to be rain. She never found where the sound was coming from, but it certainly was not raining outside. When they found one another again, both of them described feeling the same thing: that they were not alone.

ca. 1910, N.D. Wilson  / Library and Archives Canada / PA-044706

ca. 1910, N.D. Wilson / Library and Archives Canada / PA-044706

Meanwhile, in the guards’ quarters, I learned about some more interesting stories associated with the jail. First off, the vampire. And no, not the Dracula-kind.

The story of The Jail Vampire began with a cryptic note left in one of the walls in a Death Row cell. It’s something of a legend, which you will read about in books or hear on the Haunted Walk, with various bits of misinformation. So we asked a member of staff at the hostel and they did indeed verify that there had been a note discovered during renovations. It was apparently placed there at some point in the sixties, but not actually discovered until some time later.

The message read like this:

“I am a non-veridical Vampire who will vanquish you all. One by one I will ornate your odorous flesh with famished fangs. But Who? Are there 94 or 95 steps to the 9th floor? A book on the top shelf will lead you on the right path.”

In the book Haunted Ontario’ by Terry Boyle, Haunted Walk guide Carol Devine revealed that even while the jail was in operation, prisoners described the vampire as a spiritual entity which “tries to push your soul out of your body”.

“They say it feeds on the sick. No one knows for sure whether this creature’s territory extends throughout the jail or not.” She said.

Two stories in particular are associated with the ‘non-veridical’ vampire. The first occurred in 1994, and the second occurred while the jail was still in operation.

The 1994 incident involved two men who were staying overnight in the Governor’s quarters. One of the men woke up in the night to see a shadow in the doorway, so he turned the light on. As he did so, the light bulb exploded, and the shadow darted into the wall. Later workers discovered a passage behind that same wall, which subsequently led to theories that the vampire spirit was using the old passageways to travel around the jail.

The second ‘non-veridical’ vampire story also took place in the Governor’s quarters. At that time, the warden’s family, including his eight year old son, had moved into those quarters. I know, a jail probably isn’t a great place for a boy to grow up, but then, the management at this jail had a long record of bad ideas. As most little boys do, the son often played in the stairwell outside the quarters. But, after a while, the warden’s son changed. He developed an intense fear of the dark, a mysterious illness, and a rather swift change of personality. His sudden decline is attributed to the vampire.

Spirits such as this are not at all uncommon. They have been well-documented all over the world, often described as parasites, which suck the energy and life out of their victims, or anyone who resides in their vicinity for too long. So it’s safe to say that the Governor’s quarters are not a great place for an extended stay.

Views of Ottawa, published by J. Hope & Co, 1884. Courtesy of  Urbsite .

Views of Ottawa, published by J. Hope & Co, 1884. Courtesy of Urbsite.

The stairwells are also rather notorious for their violence. The first stairwell, which we used to go from reception up to our room, was allegedly the sight of an incident between two inmates and a guard. The inmates overpowered the guard and pushed him over the railings, where he fell to his death. Subsequently, steel railings were placed down the middle of the stairwells to prevent such things from happening again.

At the back of the prison, there is another stairwell, and they lead from death row down to the gallows, then further down to the gallows courtyard. Both stairwells, though they are now lit by emergency lights, would have been extraordinarily dark, but at least the front stairwell has a little illumination from the skylight, whereas the gallows stairwell does not. And it’s absolutely frigid in the winter months.

The beam in the gallows stairwell.

The beam in the gallows stairwell.

It is said that several prisoners voluntarily jumped to their deaths there. I say voluntarily because other prisoners were not lucky enough to choose how or when they perished, as they were the victims of illegal, undocumented executions.

We looked up above the stairwell, to see a thick wooden beam cemented into the walls on either side. It’s clear that the beam serves no structural purpose, and that it was placed there after the wall’s completion. What’s even more clear are the rope marks in the beam.

Deaths at the jail often went undocumented, left up to mystery. Inmates either died with a noose around their neck, hanging from that beam, or they perished from neglect. This was also the case for immigrants—men, women, and children who came to Canada seeking a better life, then found themselves locked in the basement of the jail, exposed to the elements. They were in the dreaded quarantine, because it was believed that they carried foreign diseases.

Until recently, it was unknown how many people really died at the jail. But construction next door on the Mackenzie King Bridge gave a harrowing indication as to what really went on behind the six metre high walls. The courtyard, which now serves as a parking lot, was uncovered, revealing one hundred and fifty charred skeletons, one of which likely belongs to Patrick Whelan. Later deaths were interred at Beechwood Cemetery in unmarked graves, so the courtyard corpses could be just the tip of the iceberg.

If this place sounds like a medieval dungeon, as it was so accurately called in 1972, then you are getting the right idea. As a jail, it was a cold, overcrowded hellhole at the best of times, and it would’ve likely been shut down much earlier had word got out about the unrecorded deaths and burning of bodies on the property.

However, as a hostel, the Carleton County Gaol is a wonderful place to stay. There is so much to learn from the walls around you, from the heavy prison doors, and the creaking floorboards. They all tell the grim tale of Ottawa’s past, and the poor souls who endured their sentences inside. But somehow, despite the many horrific things that happened at the jail, there’s something warm about the building, and it’s not just the radiators blasting heat into the rooms. There’s a new life there which exists alongside the darkness of its past, which I attribute to the care and positivity given to it by the staff members and the much needed renovations.

In conclusion, long may the Ottawa Jail stand, and long may we learn from its lessons.


If you’ve heard stories about the jail, or experienced something on the Haunted Walk, let us know in the comments! If you haven’t spent the night before, book a bed at Hostels International and stay a while.


20181225_162803erwe.png

Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Black Bird of Chernobyl

On April 26th, 1986, the city of Chernobyl in the Ukraine was put on the map when reactor no. 4 in their nuclear power plant triggered a catastrophic meltdown.

But that isn’t where our story begins today.

In the weeks leading up to the disaster, everything was, for the most part, normal for the citizens of Chernobyl. But for the workers in the power plant, a strange rumour had started to go around. Employees in the plant were complaining of waking up from horrible nightmares, as well as receiving threatening phone calls. Some even claimed to have seen a giant black bird-like creature flying around above the power plant - and in particular, reactor no. 4.

Drawing done by: Unknown; found on Pinterest

Drawing done by: Unknown; found on Pinterest

As found on phantomsandmonsters, the description several employees gave of this creature was a “large, dark, headless man with gigantic wings and fire-red eyes.” Talk of the sightings of the creature, as well as the nightmares and phone calls that appeared to come with them, circulated the power plant and surrounding town, but nobody thought too much of it at first, and it was mostly dismissed.

But then, April 26th rolled around, and reactor no. 4 melted down, causing what we now know as the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation. Immediately, all the nightmares and phone calls ceased, and the black bird was never sighted again.

So what happened here, and what exactly was this fabled giant bird creature? Was it responsible for the accident, or was it simply a warning? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time a creature existed as a prediction of death. Harbingers of death exist across a multitude of cultures, and they all have different means of letting people know that death is upon them. So is that what this bird-like creature was trying to do? Or did the citizens of Chernobyl simply imagine it altogether?

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

There is a theory that the creature everyone saw was actually an endangered black stork, which was a species known to inhabit southern Eurasia. But this is the significantly less believed theory because not only did descriptions of the creature not properly match the black stork, but it also didn’t account for all the phone calls and nightmares also preceding the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

While the mysterious bird did disappear completely after April 26th, it was reported by a number of survivors of the fallout, as well as workers who tried to rescue those trapped in the reactor, that the same creature could be seen flying in and out of the smoke spiraling up from the damaged reactor. This is, in part, what leads people to believe more in the theory that the creature was an omen of death. In fact, many believe that it was the same creature West Virginians claimed to have seen in Point Pleasant before the collapse of the Silver Bridge. They referred to that creature as “Mothman”, but the descriptions they gave were eerily similar to the Black Bird of Chernobyl.

The Black Bird of Chernobyl vs. Black Stork.jpg

For more on the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, check out my previous post on SpineOnline!


What are your thoughts on the Black Bird of Chernobyl? Do you think it’s the same creature West Virginians dubbed “Mothman”? Do you think it was the work several overactive imaginations and rumours spun out of control? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

The Voices Go to Jail

Ladies and gentleman, it is February 20th, and tonight, we are going to jail.

Well, not exactly. We are going to the Ottawa Jail Hostel, formerly known as the Carleton County Gaol. If you’ve been on the Ottawa Haunted Walk or stayed here yourself, then you’ll know all about this place.

It seems lost now, as a brooding and austere five-story Victorian building amongst the modern high rises and shopping centres. There’s still a pillory on the front lawn, and a faded sign above the courtyard gate saying: ‘Jail Entrance, Entrée De La Prison’. But no prisoners have passed through the doors in forty-five years now, or not a living one at least.

Photo: ca. 1870-1880, William James Topley  / Library and Archives Canada / PA-012371

Photo: ca. 1870-1880, William James Topley / Library and Archives Canada / PA-012371

Yes, you guessed it. The building is very, very haunted. In fact, Lonely Planet calls it the ninth most haunted place in the world, and that is what we call a good review.

But first, before our stay begins, the story of the jail itself.

The Gaol was constructed in 1861, with a four story cell block to the rear, the administration block facing directly onto the Rideau Canal, a gallows yard surrounded by walls up to six metres high, and an underground tunnel going to the Courthouse next door. Its architect was Henry Hodge Horsey from Kingston, who also designed many of Ottawa’s notable Victorian buildings like the Banque Nationale and the original City Hall. At the time, the Gaol was considered ‘state of the art’, but as we all know, the standard in the nineteenth century tended to be quite low.

For starters, men, women and children were all doomed to serve their time within its walls—some of them murderers, others pickpockets and the like. They shared sixty cells with one hundred and fifty of their fellow inmates, in unsanitary conditions and without heating in the frigid winter months. Inmates only received one meal per day if they were lucky, while some of them were placed in solitary confinement, naked and alone. So it should come as no surprise that some inmates died before their sentences were up.

Photo: ca. 1910, N.D Wilson  / Library and Archives Canada / PA-044698

Photo: ca. 1910, N.D Wilson / Library and Archives Canada / PA-044698

Seven years after the Gaol began operation, an important part of Ottawa’s history took place between one Patrick Whelan and the Minister of Parliament for Montreal West, Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

Patrick J. Whelan  / Archives of Montreal.

Patrick J. Whelan / Archives of Montreal.

McGee was coming back from a Parliamentary debate just after midnight on April 7th, 1868. He ascended the steps towards the boarding house on Sparks Street where he had been staying, and greeted the owner of said boarding house, when he was suddenly shot through the neck. The shot reportedly knocked his dentures right out of his mouth. When others came to the scene, they found McGee dead on the street, with no sign of his assassin.

But it only took the police a day to find the culprit, in a tavern, with a .32 Smith & Wesson pistol in his pocket—allegedly the very pistol that had taken the life of McGee the previous night. The assassin was Patrick J. Whelan of County Galway, a man suspected of sympathizing with an Irish militia called ‘The Fenian Brotherhood’. When brought before the Court, however, Whelan insisted upon his innocence, but it was to no avail. In September, the Court found him guilty and sentenced him to die. Upon receiving the verdict of the Court, Whelan spoke these words:

"I am held to be a murderer. I am here standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and to my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed."

It’s not entirely clear if Patrick Whelan was indeed the man who killed D’Arcy McGee, as the evidence against him ended up being circumstantial at best. Nevertheless, not six months after the murder, in front of a crowd of five thousand spectators, Whelan again declared his innocence, before being hung from the Gallows at the Carleton County Gaol.

His body was buried on the property, where it presumably still remains with all the other men, women, and children who perished there. Afterwards, only two more executions took place there, the last being in 1945.

Eventually, in 1972, the outdated and infamously inhumane County Gaol closed for good. However, unlike most of the beautiful buildings designed by Henry Horsey, the Gaol was not demolished. It was instead turned into a hostel, after enjoying a much needed renovation. Guests stay in former cells, tour-goers pass by on the Ghost Walk and spirits linger alongside them. According to the stories, Patrick Whelan is unsurprisingly the most prolific phantom at the jail-turned-hostel. Guests often describe waking up to find Whelan standing over them, or he is seen walking towards the gallows. His spirit is certainly not alone though. There have also been many reports of disembodied screaming and crying, a feeling of intense negativity, and even violent encounters with the more aggressive spectral residents.

So we are going to spend the night with them.


If you’ve stayed here and experienced some spooky stuff yourself, tell us about it here, on Facebook, or tweet @AtticVoices! Remember to check the #VoicesInTheGaol tag on Twitter for our live-tweets and stay tuned for more terrible tales from the Carleton County Jail.


20181225_162803erwe.png

Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Stranger Than Fiction

Special effects combined with the imagination of writers and producers make so many impossible things possible in movies and television these days. Some people are born with part wolf genes, others are bitten by sharp fangs, and others still are somehow reanimated after death. We watch all of these things happen and never question it because anything is possible when you plunk yourself in front of screen and suspend disbelief just a little bit.

Medical shows are just another in a long line of programs these days that take certain liberties with what’s possible out in the real world, and while quite a few people grumble and groan about lack of realism, there is still something to be said for the value of entertainment. Nonetheless, no one can claim that there aren’t a few things in medical dramas that aren’t real.

That being said, there are also a number of conditions out here in the real world that sound like they’ve been plucked off the silver screen. Let me give you a brief overview of five such diagnoses:

Walking Corpse Syndrome (Cotard’s Syndrome)

Photo courtesy of Paradise studio via Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Paradise studio via Shutterstock

Cotard’s Syndrome, otherwise known as Walking Corpse Syndrome, was named after Dr. Jules Cotard, who was the first to diagnose a patient with this peculiar mental illness. His patient was referred to only as Mademoiselle X, and she insisted that she was lacking her brain, chest, stomach, and intestines. Because of these missing organs, Mademoiselle X refused to eat, citing that she no longer needed to, and subsequently died of starvation.

This syndrome has taken on the nickname of Walking Corpse Syndrome because of its startling similarities to zombie-like viruses seen in movies. However, in real life, it is a mental disorder in which a patient believes that they are dead or missing one or several vital organs.

According to studies, this syndrome affects less than 1% of the world’s population. Nonetheless, it exists, and researchers and scientists are still working on finding a proper treatment. For more detailed information on Cotard’s Syndrome, check out Dead Alive on Medical Daily.

Witches Brew (Ergot Poisoning)

In Salem, Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft, and a number of them were hanged for it. To make matters worse, the Salem Witch Trials were only one of many witch hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries. For more on the Salem Witch Trials, one of Voices in the Attic’s member’s, Rachel Small, already wrote a post on it. Today we’re focusing on a very specific aspect of the witch trials.

During this period of time, accusations were hurled with very little actual proof provided. Instead, the accusers relied on evidence such as victims that they claimed had been bewitched by the so-called ‘witches’.Those supposedly bewitched exhibited a wide variety of symptoms, such as: convulsions, vomiting, delusions, hallucinations, and crawling sensations on the skin. Countless victims exhibiting such symptoms were brought to court as proof of witchcraft.

Photo courtesy of the Botany Department of University of Hawai’i via their website

Photo courtesy of the Botany Department of University of Hawai’i via their website

However, there is another explanation: Ergot poisoning. It’s believed that what people didn’t know during the time of the witch trials, is that victims exhibiting these symptoms were in fact not bewitched, but suffering from ergot poisoning.

Ergot bodies are found in plants such as barley and grass before harvest. They are dark purple or black kernels, and a proper separation process is required in order to get rid of ergot bodies before processing the plants for edible products. This process involves soaking the grains in a brine solution, because while the grains meant to be consumed will sink, ergot bodies float.

The problem is, this process didn’t exist at the time of the witch trials, and so people were being poisoned upon consumption without realizing, and were in turn quickly looking for something - or someone - to blame.

Rye is believed to be one of the main transmissions of ergotism, and that’s where the epidemic during the witch trials that history records as witchcraft likely came from.

Oh the things we learn with just a little bit of hindsight!

Exploding Head Syndrome

I’m sure that to many readers, Exploding Head Syndrome sounds like the worst thing on this list, but in reality, its name is significantly more dramatic than its symptoms.

Photo courtesy of Matic Stojs via Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Matic Stojs via Shutterstock

Exploding Head Syndrome is a sleep-related disorder characterized by a loud crashing sound ringing in a person’s head, much like the sound of a gunshot, a car crash, or an explosion, while the person is falling asleep. The kicker: it’s entirely imagined.

Not a lot is actually known about this syndrome, but it’s suspected that it could be related to extreme stress or fatigue, or minor seizures. It seems to occur more in women than men, and tends to show up after the age of fifty, as well as being, naturally, very disruptive to sleep. It’s not certain how many people experience this, but it seems that among those that do, some experience it once in a while, while others experience it several times a night.

For more on Exploding Syndrome, check out “Exploding Head Syndrome” on tuck.com. Unfortunately there is no proper cure for it, but there are some treatments doctors can try, beginning with studying a patient’s sleep patterns.

Dissociative Fugue

Dissociative fugue differs a little from the previously mentioned ailments in this post in that it isn’t so much unbelievable as it is terrifying.

Dissociative fugue is a kind of amnesia where the sufferer suddenly forgets absolutely everything about themselves, including their entire past and their entire identity. While it has been found to be caused by extreme psychological trauma, it comes on suddenly, and leaves the sufferer in a state of confusion that, in many cases, results in them wandering off. There have been reported cases of someone suffering from dissociative fugue where the sufferer completely abandoned their current life and struck up an entirely new one.

It is a very rare kind of amnesia, and in most cases only lasts for a few hours. However, it can last for days or weeks, and in some cases, even longer. What’s more, once the sufferer ‘wakes up’ from their state, they usually have no recollection of what transpired during that time.

There is so much to this disorder, as is the case with most diagnoses, and I can’t hope to cover it all here. But I do encourage you to look more into it if you’re curious. An excellent place to start is, perhaps, one of the most famous cases of dissociative fugue: Agatha Christie. Psychology Today wrote an article summarizing the events of her 11-day disappearance into another life, but there are a number of sources that cover it should you find your curiosity piqued.

Sleep Paralysis

Last but by no means least on my list today is sleep paralysis. I couldn’t make a list of creepy medical conditions without including this, because I suffer from it myself and know first-hand how scary it can be.

Sleep paralysis is a disturbance that occurs just as you’re falling asleep or just as you’re waking up, when R.E.M sleep occurs while you’re still awake. It’s not terribly common, but there are still a number of people who experience it.

Photo Courtesy of Africa Studio via Shutterstock

Photo Courtesy of Africa Studio via Shutterstock

Sleep paralysis is characterized by the inability to move your body. Some people find that they can’t even open their eyes. Another symptom - which really only serves to escalate the panic while experiencing sleep paralysis - is an inhibited ability to breathe, almost as though something is pressing on your chest. I don’t personally feel like anything is pressing on me, but I do find it extremely difficult to draw breath, and my breathing feels very shallow.

A large majority of people who have experienced sleep paralysis also claim to feel or see a presence in the room with them, that feels malevolent. Others report audio hallucinations as well, such as growling and other loud noises in their ears. This is just a trick of the mind brought on by the sleep paralysis, but it doesn’t make it any less scary in the moment. I haven’t personally experienced the visual hallucinations, thankfully, but I do know of a couple people who have. I do, however, on very rare occasions, hear a loud noise in my ears, not unlike the sound of a train rushing by in the distance.

If you’d like to know more about sleep paralysis, whether you suffer from it or simply out of curiosity, feel free to conduct your own research. But before I go, I’d like to assure you that it cannot harm you. It only lasts for a few minutes at most, and if you focus on taking deep breaths, it will all be over soon.


These are the five creepy medical conditions I’ll leave you with today, but please remember that I am a writer, not a medical professional. I cannot diagnose you or offer you any kind of medical advice. If you think you suffer from any of the above mentioned conditions, please seek proper medical assistance.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Why Women Read Thrillers

One of the first media depictions of a woman victimized into insanity was the 1940s film Gaslight. In it, a husband manipulates his wife into thinking that she was slipping into mental instability. Perhaps this is what has sparked our interest in the role of a woman in the thriller genre.

In modern society, women are taught to lock their car doors and to avoid roaming the streets at night. They learn to make weapons of their keys, held tight between fingers and into claws like something from a Wolverine comic. The media reminds women to be skeptical of their drinks at bars and to be careful of hemlines. They are taught to value running shoes over stilettos in running from their attackers, and are trained to have 911 ready on their phones.

The thriller genre, known for exciting plots and chilling suspense, allows women to be confronted with the perpetual danger of their existence. Girls do wind up dead in the ravines and the woods. Their bodies spark national inquiries, directing attention to their lifestyles and relationships. They appear murdered on isolated beaches and inside their homes. The cold reality of women is that once they die, they lose their status as a person, and instead shift into a puzzle.

What makes the thriller genre so wildly compelling for women is that it confronts them with a cold reality. They are either victims, terrorized and stalked, or they become the villain. Take Amy from Gone Girl. Leaving a string of calculated false clues, she manages to gaslight not just her spouse, but an entire audience suddenly invested in her life. An original twist to the concept of toxic relationships, she compels the world of journalism and law enforcement into believing that she is a victim, and her husband is holding a smoking gun. She is powerful in her ability to bamboozle detectives, stringing her relationships along until she has created the perfect trap.

In comparison, The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train present narrators caught up in proving a murder did occur, risking their own lives to get answers. In reality, women are constantly dismissed for a myriad of reasons. They are emotionally volatile, distressed with mental instability, or a lone voice opposing the many. Both narrators suffer from extreme gaslighting that makes them slowly unravel, convinced that they have begun to descend into crazed paranoia and insanity.

Women like plunging into the depths of thrillers, exploring the dangers behind their lives. Average internet privacy concerns are examined critically in You, allowing the reader to watch the victim slowly become cornered. In Rebecca, the idea of the victim is constantly altered, switching between the dead wife and the protagonist. Which woman can endure in the story? Which woman can survive, living in toxic relationships and surrounded by menacing figures?

Thrillers are the modern take to fairy tales. Children are taught the value of avoiding strangers in Snow White. They learn that danger exists in the dark corners, and the thriller genre helps to give women their own voices. These are authentic experiences wrapped up in a fictional package. Thrillers tell stories about women; they are mothers and daughters, artists and lovers, as well as complex characters in their own right.

Women want to survive. They want to defy the statistics. Perhaps that is what draws their attention to the dark corners of the bookstore, honing in on the dark covers and gloomy movie posters. Thrillers promise to examine toxic relationships and gaslighting, letting readers identify the signs in their own relationships. The books come to terms with living with anxiety and PTSD, which allow for readers to connect with their own personal experiences.

In reality, dead women act as props. Media can cross-examine their relationships and scream foul when they are exposed with skeletons in their closets. Under close scrutiny, any woman can carry an abundance of flaws that can outlive their lives. The thriller genre, as a whole, restores a woman’s identity and allows them to exist as complex creatures, be it villain or victim.

Photo by Roman Kraft.

Photo by Roman Kraft.


Interested in some great reads? Check out Alice Bolin’s series of essays in her book Dead Girls or plunge into Woman in the Window before it hits the big screen in 2019.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Waverly Hills and All Its Ghosts

One of the most haunted places on Earth started off as one of the most innocent. But then, I suppose that’s the way all the best ghost stories begin.

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society

In 1883, Major Thomas H. Hays bought the plot of land in Louisville, Kentucky that is now known as Waverly Hills. It was an idyllic, peaceful plot of land, and it was there that Major Hays decided to build a school for his daughters to attend. One of the teachers that he hired for the school was a woman named Lizzie Lee Harris. She was the one who, however unwittingly, gave the fated location its name. She was a fan of a series of books titled “Waverley”, and so she named the school “Waverley School”. Major Hays liked the name so much that he elected to name the entire property “Waverley Hills”. (It’s worth noting that the loss of the second ‘e’ is not a typo, but simply happened to Waverly Hills over the years.)

At the time, tuberculosis had reached epidemic levels in several places. It was a particularly big problem in Kentucky because of the swampy areas which provided the perfect place for bacteria to grow. Because of this, in 1908, the decision to build the sanatorium was made. The other places in the area that had already been treating TB victims were far too small.

At the time, doctors were struggling to combat TB while faced with limited knowledge and no cure. They wanted to treat both the physical and mental health problems patients suffered because of TB, so they made an effort to keep patients’ morale up, and to make them as comfortable as possible. Some of the more pleasant treatments involved lots of fresh air, exposure to ultraviolet light, and access to sunlamps.

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society.

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society.

Unfortunately, there were also many more horrifying treatments that would not be acceptable when compared to modern standards. Some procedures were conducted by inserting balloons into patients’ lungs and blowing them up, and operations were done to remove two to three ribs from a patient in order to give their lungs more room to expand. These procedures were excruciating, and, more often than not, resulted in death.

Fortunately, a proper treatment was discovered for TB by the 1930s, and the sanatorium closed due to lack of need.

Between 1962 and 1982, the sanatorium was converted into “Woodhaven Geriatric Center”. It was eventually closed down due to not enough staff and far too many patients. There were also many reports of patient neglect and rumours of experiments being conducted on patients.

There have been many other proposals for conversions of the building over the years, ranging from a prison to a statue of Christ the Redeemer and  then to a set of apartment buildings. All were rejected or shut down due to lack of funding or public outcry.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium is currently privately owned by Charlie and Tina Mattingly, who are attempting to restore the building from its current state of disrepair. They allow paranormal investigators in and tours for the general public, and the money from these goes towards the repair fund.

Charlie Mattingly was originally a skeptic when he bought the place, but has now admitted to his own encounters with various ghosts that are believed by many to haunt the place.

Photo Courtesy of Joe Therasakdhi via Shutterstock

Photo Courtesy of Joe Therasakdhi via Shutterstock

From small children who roam the halls, nurses that have killed themselves, and elderly patients who walk around crying, there is no limit to the dead who just can’t seem to leave this place. For more information on the supernatural residents that exist forever within these walls, I encourage you to check out articles such as “Waverly Hills Haunted Sanitarium” and “Kentucky’s Hospital of the Damned”. I also encourage you to do your own research on the place, but here are a few of the ghosts that have been known to hang around:

Timmy

Timmy is a young boy who roams the halls of the old hospital, looking for something to play with. Some guests have been said to bring him balls, and those balls are then seen floating in the air or rolling down the hall on their own. Sometimes Timmy already has his own ball to play with.

No one is quite sure what his story is, whether he was the child of a patient, or a patient himself, but either way, he now haunts the place. He’s one of the more friendly spirits that exist within Waverly Hills’ walls.

Room 502

Room 502 was a patient room that was linked to a couple of suicides while the hospital was still running. The first was a young nurse who was said to have been pregnant and unmarried, and, unhappy with her life, she hung herself in the room.

Photo Courtesy of Jon Butterworth via Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Jon Butterworth via Unsplash

Another victim, also a nurse, apparently threw herself from the roof one night, though nobody knows why. She also worked in room 502 while she was still alive.

Some tourists that visit the place while pregnant have reported feeling very uncomfortable in the vicinity of room 502, and a number of other tourists have been filled with the desire to jump off the room while up there looking around, and have had to be talked down.

Woman in Chains

Not a lot is known about the woman in chains except that she looks older, perhaps having been a patient while the hospital was a geriatric center. She walks around the halls with chains around bleeding wrists, and cries out for help. But whenever someone actually moves towards her, she runs away screaming.

The Creeper

The creeper is apparently one of the rarer presences among Waverly Hills’ residents. Like the woman in chains, not a whole lot is known about him beyond the feeling of dread that washes over anyone who gets near him.

He’s rumoured to crawl around on the floor, up the walls, and on the ceilings, and no one really know his past or what his intentions are. Some speculate that he was one of the horribly mistreated patients, and that his trauma in life has warped in death.

These are just a few examples of the apparitions that haunt Waverly Hills, but the current owners plan to turn the building into a hotel that targets those interested in the paranormal. Look out for that in years to come, and for those of you interested in a tour now, check out the Waverly Hills website for more information.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

What To Watch On Netflix: February 2019

Starting today, Voices In The Attic will be recommending films and shows from Netflix, Prime, and Shudder, so we can spread the good news about the haunting and horrific stuff we’ve been watching. And this is our very first one! So let us begin the rundown of incredible Netflix content!

  1. Train To Busan [2016]

5fc4dfe39a3c623da11e7ba56022243b-train-to-busan-1473631486.jpg

I couldn't write about content on Netflix without mentioning South Korean zombie movie, Train to Busan, directed Yeon Sang-ho. This one premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 to some great reviews from both critics and audience members alike, which rarely happens. The plot goes like this: Fund manager Seok-woo boards a train with his young daughter, Su-an, at Seoul Station. The train is heading to the city of Busan, where they intend to visit Su-an’s mother. Unfortunately, as the train leaves, an attendant discovers a woman collapsed by the doors.

The attendant radio’s for help, crucially turning her back to the unresponsive passenger. At that point, the passenger rises from the floor and sets upon the attendant, biting her and transferring a pretty horrifying virus. From that point on, as you would expect, it’s absolute chaos on the train, with survivors separated by cars full of zombies. I almost expected Samuel L. Jackson to show up and yell: “I’ve had it with these motherf#%king zombies on this motherf#%king train!”.


In all seriousness, it’s an incredible movie, with realistic special effects and characters that you can’t help but get invested in. I should also mention that Gong-yoo’s performance as Seok-woo brought me to tears, which is pretty hard to do.

2. The VVitch [2016]

The VVitch, when it came out in 2015, was not just one of the best horror movies to come out that year, but perhaps amongst the greatest horror films of the decade. Not only was The VVitch a box office success, but it also earned critical acclaim for its historic detail, subtle details, and thought-provoking subject matter. The story begins in New England in the 1630s, at which time the British colonies in America are gripped by Puritan fantasticism and witch hysteria. After being banished from the Plymouth colony over a ‘religious dispute’, the family of William and Katherine settle on the edge of a remote forest with their five children: Thomasin, Caleb, Mercy, Jonas, and newborn Samuel. Thomasin goes out to play peekaboo with Samuel, only to have him vanish into thin air while her hands are over her eyes. And they never find him, which causes Katherine to become stricken with grief. William insists that Samuel was taken by a wolf, when in fact it was a horrifying witch.

Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a spell-binding (pun intended) performance as Thomasin, as she bears the brunt of the hysteria from the rest of her family. One can understand why a woman might choose to be a witch in such a tense and oppressive environment, where a family member can turn upon a family member, and women are persecuted without proof. If you love atmospheric, mature horror movies, The VVitch is for you.

3. Errementari: The Blacksmith and The Devil [2017]

In late 2017, one of my personal favourite historical horror films came out, and now that it’s on Netflix, you can watch it too! The film is Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil, directed by Paul Urkijo. It’s an adaption of an old Basque folk-tale, about a Blacksmith who keeps a demon, named Sartael, in a cage to avoid paying a debt to Hell. The blacksmith has the situation under control until an orphan girl shows up.

I won’t spoil the rest of the film for you, however, I will say that it’s a perfect combination of horror and fantasy, with some comedy and wonderful redemption stories. And don’t even get me started on the phenomenal artistry that clearly went into the make-up in this film. I would recommend this film to anyone.

4. The Alienist [2018]

One of my favourite television shows to run in 2018 has got to be The Alienist, originally broadcast on the TNT network before being added to Netflix. It’s an adaption of author Caleb Carr’s crime novel The Alienist, the first book of a series. The series is billed as a psychological thriller, set in 1896, New York City. Newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt commissions criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and newspaper illustrator John Moore to investigate the grisly murders of boy prostitutes. They are joined by Sara Howard, Roosevelt’s secretary and the first woman employed by the NYPD. Over the ten gripping episodes of season one, the trio wade through the dark secrets of New York, inching ever closer to the murderer.

I enjoyed this show from start to finish, and I am eagerly anticipating the return of Dakota Fanning as Sara Howard in the second season and sequel, The Angel of Darkness.

5. The Ritual [2017]

Netflix Original The Ritual came out in 2017, and I was quick to watch it the moment it appeared on the site.  As the banner suggests, the premise of this film is a hiking trip in Sweden, undertaken by four woefully under-equipped friends, who are doing the trip in honour of their late best friend, Rob. They embark upon their trip in the Sarek National Park, and all is going well, until Hutch leads them off on a shortcut and they get lost. And then it gets worse, as it often does on hiking trips. The group soon begin to find runes carved on trees, and savaged animals hanging from branches. There is quite a bit of gore in this one, so don’t go into it if you have a weak stomach, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

6. Diablero [2018]

diablero.png

Here’s another excellent Netflix original, Diablero, an 8-episode Mexican horror series based on the book El Diablo me obligó by Francisco Haghenbeck. The series follows Father Ramiro Ventura, brother and sister demon hunter duo Elvis and Keta Infante, and Nancy Gama, who can become possessed by demons at will. These four make quite the superhero team. And if you are looking for some awesome female main characters, Diablero certainly outdoes CW’s Supernatural, because none of them die. Wow! What a concept! So press the play button and binge the whole thing in one night.


Tell us what spooky and strange stuff you’ve enjoyed on Netflix, or better yet, recommend us movies and shows to review next time!


20181225_162803erwe.png

Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

A Whale of a Tale

Only men would become actual cannibals in order to avoid encountering hypothetical cannibals.

The Essex was not the only whaling ship in history to be demolished by a whale. It was, however, the inspiration for Moby Dick, a classic ocean tale of the perils of whales. The Essex was also the true story of three crew members vanishing to Australia, a Captain with a pocket of bones, and a berzerk sperm whale.

Arguably, the entire crew suffered from limited brain capacity. In 1820, after facing serious damage to the ship during their time at sea, they managed to settle upon Charles Island to repair The Essex and hunt plenty of tortoises to stock their food supplies. While they were on the island, they also managed to set the island on fire, due to the dry season. With the entire place burning away in a mass of black smoke, they took off eagerly for their good fortunes to be found hunting whales.

They cemented their reputation of becoming the alleged reason for the extinction of the Floreana Tortoise and the Floreana Mockingbird due to their inability to control a singular fire.  

Perhaps it was foreshadowing that their travels would suffer from extremities. The island was still burning away in their shadows, a dark omen for their collective futures.

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Kelley

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Kelley

They managed to maintain their course, relying on navigation equipment and seasoned crew members to guide the ship to whale hunting grounds. The Essex, like other whaling ships at the time, was a large ship with smaller whaleboats that could be attached. These boats would allow crew members to hunt the whales from a smaller vessel, harpooning the creatures with far more ease.

The worst luck to have been experienced by this boat was an unprovoked sperm whale becoming visible to crew members. Despite no direct confrontation from the crew, it attacked the boat, ramming into it hard. As the boat began to take on water while crew members floundered, struggling to stall the damages, the whale returned, charging the ship at a faster pace.

Devastated, the boat began taking on water far quicker as supplies were being directed to the whaleboats. Navigation equipment was split between two boats, leaving the third one void of any guiding materials. Limited food and water rations were supplied, making dehydration a nasty force to combat as many crew members would find themselves reliant on drinking salt water or their own urine.

With The Essex rendered hopeless, they began sorting out their options. Stranded on the ocean with limited supplies, they felt it unwise to set off for the nearest land, which happened to be the Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands, due to the rumors of wild cannibals populating those areas. Instead, the better decision appeared to be setting off for South America, which would require travelling a far greater distance.

However, they soon learned that the whaling boats were not meant for vigorous use. They began struggling from the water intake and would often be obliged to bail water out. This distance was massive, and upon sighting a barren island, three men found it better to abandon the boats and settle upon the island.

Photo Courtesy of Rod Long

Photo Courtesy of Rod Long

No longer the hunters, the dwindling crew had become victims of their game. After one crew member died, the surviving members settled upon his body, becoming what they each had so greatly feared: cannibals.

As their numbers continued to decline, the men found themselves sucking marrow from the bones of deceased crew members. Eventually, the rate of death was not fast enough and they began a lottery to propose who would be the next meal, which was a rather popular custom for seamen. No longer were they able to wait for their rations, but now they found themselves obliged to hurry the process.

The three boats, during their long voyage, eventually drifted apart. One of the boats had sunk, leaving no survivors. The second boat, manned by a crew member named Chase, was able to flag down an English ship that they had come across. The other surviving boat that contained the Captain was found full of bones. The Captain himself was discovered delusional and stuffing bones in his pockets, terrified of the men that were rescuing him.

The three men who had fled the gloom of the whaleboats in favour of a seemingly barren island managed to survive on bird eggs for four months, before an Australian ship happened across them.

The moral of this story is that hunting large creatures with men capable of setting islands on fire is rarely a great idea.

If you’re interested in learning more about aggression in sperm whales and possible reasons for the behaviour of the whale that attacked The Essex, check out this link, or take a look at this article by Gilbert King to learn more about the ship.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Rehmeyer's Hollow

Braucherei is a combination of religion and folk magic, and was seen as a kind of “faith healing” and a form of witchcraft. Many German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania between the late 1600s and 1800s were practitioners of braucherei. They followed the guidelines of the Bible and the Long Lost Friend—a book of spells, rituals, and remedies. Each practitioner had their own copy, and users of the book were called braucher, or powwowers (“pow-wow” being another name for the Long Lost Friend). Many of them had settled in York County, Pennsylvania, where even those who didn’t practice braucherei themselves held a strong belief in its power.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Notter via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Notter via Flickr.

John Blymire was born into a family of respected powwowers in 1896. However, he became extremely ill as a boy and suffered rapid weight loss. His family, unable to cure him, believed that he had been hexed. They sought out Nelson Rehmeyer, a well-known powwower who frequently used his practice to help others in need. After examining the boy, Rehmeyer gave his family these instructions: boil an egg in John’s urine, poke three holes in the shell and place it on an anthill for the ants to consume.

Skeptics, feel free to comment, but in the Blymires’ eyes, this prescription seemed to have cured the boy of all illness. John quickly gained back all of the weight he had lost and was healthier than before. Inspired by his healing, John began to learn the art of powwowing himself.

When he became an adult, he moved to York, where he married a young woman named Lily. Their marriage didn’t last though; all of the symptoms from his childhood illness came back, and John believed that he had once again been hexed. Thanks to the words of a dark powwower named Andrew C. Lenhart—that his hex had been caused by someone he was close to—John began to suspect Lily was his hexer. His suspicion was amplified when he realized that he had lost his power to heal, and Lily divorced him for his accusations.

Desperate for a cure, John sought out the witch Nellie Noll, who told him the face of his hexer would appear on his palm if he looked at a $1 bill. Rehmeyer’s face appeared, and while initially torn about the outcome, John did not question it: his faith had never failed him before.

Photo Courtesy of Randy Roberts via Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Randy Roberts via Flickr

Noll offered him two solutions: he could either steal a lock of Rehmeyer’s hair, and bury it 6-feet under the ground, or steal his copy of the Long Lost Friend and burn it. John chose to go after the book.

Knowing he would not be able to convince Rehmeyer to hand over his book, John enlisted the help of teenagers John Curry and Wilbur Hess. Together, they broke into Rehmeyer’s house in the middle of the night. Instead of simply stealing it, however, they tied Rehmeyer to a kitchen chair and beat him, hoping he would surrender the Long Lost Friend. He didn’t.

Just as none of them thought to just take a clipping of his hair and leave, none of them had thought to disguise themselves or even be quiet in their assault. And since Rehmeyer knew who his assailants were, they couldn’t just leave. They strangled him to death and set the house ablaze after retrieving Rehmeyer’s Long Lost Friend. All of this unnecessary violence didn’t reward John: nothing got better for him.

Photo courtesy of Sherrie via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Sherrie via Flickr

It turned out that the fire failed to burn Rehmeyer’s house down, and the three men were quickly connected to the crime. They were put on trial and sentenced to prison. And John’s hex still consumed him. When he finished his sentence and was released from jail, he died. Tale of the “York County Hex Murder” spread like wildfire. Thanks to the negative exposure from Rehmeyer’s death, powwowing lost followers and faded away as a practice (at least in North America).

Nowadays, people have often sighted smoke rising from the abandoned house, and claim that Nelson’s spirit haunts the place. But was Rehmeyer actually responsible for hexing John? Nellie Noll was well-known herself as the Marietta River Witch, so many speculate that John’s hex was a trick created by Noll to eliminate her competition.

If you want to hear more about John Blymire’s tragic tale, I highly recommend you check out Lore’s telling in their episode “Desperate Measures”. Click this link to be transported post-haste!


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

Destination Turn Back

In the last week of January 1959, a group of ten college students from Ural Polytechnical Institute in Russia began their hiking trip into the Ural Mountains. Their goal was to reach a mountain named “Otorten”. However, they never made it. With the exception of one hiker, who turned back at the beginning after getting sick, the entire group died.

The group had told friends back home that they expected to return from their journey around February 12th, and that when they did return, they would send a telegram. By February 20th, when the telegram still had not been received, search parties were sent to find the group. What they found instead were five bodies scattered throughout the snow, all in various states of undress and apparently having died of hypothermia.

The problem with this is that everyone in the group was an experienced hiker and were very familiar with what needed to be done to survive in the wilderness on such an excursion. Citing hypothermia as the cause of death made sense considering the frigid temperatures and their lack of clothing, but why were they without clothing outside in the first place? And where were the other four members of the group? These were the questions so many people asked in the wake of what they found.

Dyatlov Group Campsite; Photo taken by Soviet authorities.

Dyatlov Group Campsite; Photo taken by Soviet authorities.

Another detail worth noting is the state of the campsite. The tent had been cut open from the inside, and all of their shoes and coats and proper clothing had been left behind. The first two bodies, Yuri Krivoshenko and Yuri Doroshenko, were found a ways away, by the remains of what had apparently been a fire pit. They were dressed only in their underwear, and there were scratches on their hands that indicated that they’d tried desperately to climb the nearby trees.

The other three bodies, those of Igor Dyatlov,—the leader of the group, who later became the namesake of the pass—Zinaida Kolmogorova, and Rustem Slobodin, were found scattered across the snow. They too were wearing next to nothing, and from the pattern that their bodies were found in, it appeared that they had been running back to the tent. Aside from a few small injuries, and a head fracture on Rustem Slobodin that was discovered not to have been fatal, these five group members appeared more or less uninjured. This led to the conclusion of hypothermia as the cause of death.

But the story, unfortunately, did not end there, and those five were just the beginning of what would become a decades-long mystery that remains to this day unsolved.

Bodies of Dubinina and Thibeaux-Brignolle; Photo taken by Soviet authorities.

Bodies of Dubinina and Thibeaux-Brignolle; Photo taken by Soviet authorities.

About two months later, the last four bodies, Semyon Zolotaryov, Lyudmila Dubinina, Aleksander Kolevatov, and Nikolay Thibeaux-Brignolle, were found, at the bottom of a ravine, covered in snow, partially dressed, and with horrific, seemingly impossible injuries.

Unlike the previous five group members that had been found, these four were still clothed. But the clothes they were wearing were not their own. Instead, they were dressed in each other’s clothes, including the clothes of the group members who had already been discovered. It was as though they had grabbed whatever they could in their haste to get away.

Bodies of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko; Photo taken by Soviet authorities.

Bodies of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko; Photo taken by Soviet authorities.

Also unlike the others, they didn’t die from hypothermia. They were all covered in injuries so extensive it only provided more questions as to what happened, instead of answers. What’s more, medical examiners said that they didn’t have many external injuries; instead, all their injuries were internal. These were very extensive internal injuries, similar to that of a car crash or some other extremely high-pressure impact. It was not a force that could have been caused by another human, or even most animals.

On top of these injuries, one of the victims, Lyudmilla Dubinina, was apparently also missing both of her eyes, her tongue, and parts of her lip.

A great many theories surfaced over the years as to what happened to these nine hikers. They ranged from nearby military testing and subsequent government cover-up, all the way to alien interference. Unfortunately, no satisfactory conclusion was ever reached beyond ‘natural deaths’, because the investigation was ordered to an end. To this day, nobody really knows what happened.

The theories are seemingly infinite, and a number of books and research papers have been written on the matter over the years. For a more complete look into the theories of what happened, and a detailed account of the incident itself, check out dyatlovpass.com.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.