Asia

Drowning in the Sea of Trees

The following story may contain triggering and/or sensitive material.

Topics discussed include suicide and suicidal ideologies.

The signs read:

“Your life is a precious gift from your parents.”

Aokigahara is a sprawling expanse of shadowy trees at the base of Mount Fuji. Looking at the scenery from a distance, it’s easy to see why this place is called Jukai—“The Sea of Trees”—and hard to imagine this beauty as a place of death.

It’s no secret that Japan has a high suicide rate, with males making up most of the percentage (71%). The Japanese face exceedingly high expectations in their lives—from their jobs, their families, and society. They are known for being hard and efficient workers, but these high expectations seem to come at a high cost.

I love Japan, and am absolutely fascinated by Japanese culture. I dream of the chance to go and experience it for myself one day. But my fascination does not blind me to how fundamentally wrong the existence of karoshi is.

Literally translating into “overwork death”, this term is used when someone dies from a heart attack or other health condition caused from a high stress work environment, something too common in Japan. In terms of mental health, the meaning of karoshi stretches out to those who commit suicide because they can no longer take the pressure.

When it comes to Aokigahara, the authorities no longer release the official number of deaths to the public but it’s believed that approximately 100 suicides take place each year. Determining an official count is extremely difficult, as forest wildlife often find the bodies before anyone else. Many of the bodies are never recovered—sometimes all that remains is a shoe, a note, a photograph.

Although Aokigahara has long been associated with death, it didn’t become a suicide hotspot until the 1960 publication of Seichō Matsumoto’s Tower of Waves, in which broken-hearted lovers enter the forest to commit suicide. This novel, along with a host of other popular mediums for such chilling stories, highlighted the forest as a beacon to the end.

In Japan, suicide was historically seen as an honorable way for samurai and warriors to redeem themselves when they had failed, known as seppuku. To be a warrior and turn down the chance of seppuku was considered a huge disgrace to one’s family and lord.

Even though we no longer live in such an era, did those people feel as though they failed and needed redemption when they walked into Aokigahara?

As someone who struggles with mental illness and suicidal ideation, I tend to look at such stories with a more personal perspective. But my focus isn’t their reasons for wanting to leave this world behind. Any sort of reasoning in that capacity is futile to justify. There are no definite answers no matter how desperately loved ones want them. Such a situation is too inexplicable and we will never know what the dead once thought.

So as morbid as this may sound, my focus is why they chose this specific location to pass on.

For the sake of a mere blog post, discussing this place can be as easy as dividing fact from fiction. But I want to focus on what this forest symbolizes—the loss of loved ones who were unable to accept or see what they had to live for—and that is much harder.

Mythologically speaking, Aokigahara is a place where dark spirits are said to lurk and lure poor, lost souls to untimely deaths. These souls are trapped and tormented, screaming throughout each night ever after. The eerie, chilling atmosphere and overall aesthetic of the forest make it a believable home for such entities.

I don’t believe this is the case. I believe that, in a time where supernatural beings held court over cultural morality, this was what grieving mothers, friends, and family members told themselves to ease their pain, justify their loved one's decision, and hopefully end the torment of not knowing.

“How could they have chosen this?”


“How could they leave me?”


“Was I not enough?”


“Why?”

So demons did it. Demons, hungry ghosts, evil spirits forced their loved ones to make themselves disappear. The forest and all within it consumed their souls, a belief that coated grief and made it an easier pill to swallow.

Many of the hungry ghosts within Aokigahara are rumored victims of ubasute: an old practice where families would abandon their elders in the wilderness during times of hardship, leaving them to die of starvation. Many of these unfortunate souls linger and ensnare the living so that they, too, become lost.

Since Aokigahara is the location of two other tourist sites, the Narusawa Ice Cave and the Fugaku Wind Cave, the forest is still a hotspot for tourism despite its dark reputation. Tourists are warned to prepare carefully and stay on designated paths, as it’s quite easy for wanderers to get lost. Those brave enough to venture otherwise will find navigational devices—such as compasses and cellphones—useless. Instead, those who enter Aokigahara and wish to return will pack tree markers, tape, and other items to identify their trails and make their way out.

Folklore eagerly blames this on supernatural energy and entities, but there is a more logical explanation.

Much of Aokigahara’s paranormal activity is geologically induced. The forest soil is rich in magnetic iron deposited from past volcanic activity from Mount Fuji. This iron interferes with objects and systems reliant on magnetism, and effectively prevents proper function. So cellphones will have no signal, compass needles won’t ever point north, and GPS devices can’t locate jack shit. Still, everything and anything is believable in a state of panic.

Going back to the supernatural, entering a place where evil is rumored to run between the trees doesn’t seem like a good way to spend my planned last moments. So what makes the notorious landmark an appealing final destination?

Forests are captivating places for contemplation, where memories are relived as you walk past each tree and into each ray of light, or listen as raindrops hit the leaves as they tumble to the ground. They are time capsules made of musty leaves, damp earth, and fragrant wood, easy to get lost and go unnoticed.

What I want when these thoughts creep is never death. It is obscurity, escape, rest. Perhaps these lost souls were looking for the same.

If you or a loved one need help, please reach out and contact your local crisis centre for help.

You are not alone.


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.

The Grand Falling of Bhangarh Fort

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 18th, 2018.


Built in the seventeenth century, the ruins of Bhangarh Fort are located at the edge of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, India. At its peak, Bhangarh was a thriving village and fortified stronghold.  The fort consisted of temples, various public chambers and marketplaces, and the royal palace.

Today, the ruins attract visitors from all over, but everyone is advised to leave the area before sundown. In fact, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officially banned all entry at night. Why? Because Bhangarh Fort is the most haunted place in India, and all who enter after nightfall never return.

The sign from the ASI advising people not to be on the premises after dark.  Photo courtesy of Shahnawaz Sid via Flickr.

The sign from the ASI advising people not to be on the premises after dark.

Photo courtesy of Shahnawaz Sid via Flickr.

Locals believe the ruins are cursed, and don’t even live near the fort out of fear and superstition. All who have tried have had their roofs collapse. Reported hauntings range from spectral sightings to mysterious noises, and all occur at night. No one knows what actually happens inside though: those curious enough to investigate never come back.

Visitors during the daytime feel restless, dizzy, and watched throughout their stay, and often report hearing chattering, music, and footsteps throughout its ruined halls. Perhaps these mysterious sounds are from the spirits of its former inhabitants. Perhaps they are unaware that they have passed.

There are many speculations as to why the ruins are haunted, but here are the two most popular legends. Which one seems more real to you?

Legend 1

According to the first legend, the fort was built with the permission of a local holy man, Guru Balu Nath, with the condition that the structures didn’t interfere with his homestead. He promised that ruin would befall the fort if this condition wasn’t met. While this promise was initially honoured, unfortunately future constructions were built tall enough to cast a shadow on his house, and so the fort was doomed.

Photo courtesy of Mukul More via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Mukul More via Flickr.

Legend 2

The next legend is the most popular story regarding the haunting of Bhangarh Fort, and of course, it involves a beautiful princess.

Princess Ratnavati had attracted the affections of many potential suitors, and among them was a practitioner of black magic. This magician, named Singhia, was so enamored that he tried giving her a love potion by lacing her perfume with the concoction.

The princess caught wind of his plans, threw the tainted item at a boulder, which rolled over Singhia and fatally wounded him. With his dying breath, the rejected magician placed a curse on the entire fort. Kinder tellings of the tale spare his life, but the fort was cursed all the same.

Regardless, Bhangarh Fort was ransacked shortly after Singhia cast his curse, and all of its inhabitants were killed—including Princess Ratnavati. The fort has been haunted ever since. Many who believe this legend claim that the curse will be lifted when the princess is reborn and returns to the fort, bringing its former glory with her.

If you are interested in visiting Bhangarh Fort, remember: don’t wander off, don’t wander after dark, and don’t ever believe that you are alone.


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.

Japan is Flush with Ghosts

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 8th, 2018.


Japan is known worldwide for a lot of things: culture, cuisine, anime. It’s also known for some twisted horror stories. For some reason, a lot of Japanese urban legends are set inside of public restrooms and they are quite disturbing. You might piss yourself before ever reaching the toilet should you encounter any of them.

Screenshot from  Corpse Party: Book of Shadows .  Game created by Team GrisGris.

Screenshot from Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.
Game created by Team GrisGris.

When thinking of a scary bathroom, I automatically think dirty, smelly, and dank, with dim lighting and questionable substances on the floor, not sitting on the toilet and receiving assistance for a tricky number two.

So here’s some toilet horror for you. Every one of these tales varies in each telling, but here’s the gist of things.

Aka Manto

“Aka Manto” literally translates into “Red Cape”, and this entity usually seems to haunt the fourth stall in elementary school restrooms. Should you enter its stall, you will be asked one of these questions the moment you sit down: “Red cape or blue cape?” or “Red paper or blue paper?” Regardless of the wording, answering “red” will get the skin flayed off of your back, and you will be strangled to death if you answer “blue”. The trick to this is to not answer at all. Just do your business and get the fuck out.

Photo found on wallpaperbrowse.com.  Original artist unknown.

Photo found on wallpaperbrowse.com.

Original artist unknown.

Hanako-san
Have you ever played “Bloody Mary”? This is Japan’s version. Hanako-san haunts the third stall of the third story bathroom in schools. To summon her, knock three times on the stall door and ask her if she’s in there. If she answers you, I suggest you run. Hanako-san has no qualms about dragging her summoners into the stall and killing them.

Kashima Reiko
WARNING: IF YOU HEAR THE TALE OF KASHIMA REIKO, SHE WILL APPEAR TO YOU WITHIN THE MONTH. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Kashima Reiko is the spirit of a woman whose legs were cut off by a train. Despite dying on the tracks, for some reason she chooses to haunt bathrooms. She asks every person who encounters her where her legs are. There is no right answer to this — she will cut your legs off no matter what you tell her.

The Akaname

These little creatures aren’t dangerous, but they’re pretty disgusting. Akaname are goblin-like demons that live in old bathrooms and bathhouses, surviving off of the dirt and grime these places have accumulated. Apparently, they also like to lick human feet. So don’t be alarmed if a red tongue darts across your toes. Or freak out, because who knows what their tongues have picked up.

So there you have it — four ways to die with your pants around your ankles (and a gross experience). Have fun trying to relieve yourself in Japan.




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.

Frozen in Time and Open for Visitation

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 28th, 2018.


Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the fact remains that horror is not simply limited to fiction. The debate over whether or not ghosts do exist is one that’s been argued for centuries. However, what is not up for debate is the existence of ghost towns. Perhaps you’ve seen coverage of this matter in a movie. Think Silent Hill for a popular example. But ghost towns don’t just exist in the movies. They are very real. And, ironically, considering the name, they tend to draw quite a large amount of lively tourism to them.

Have you ever wondered how many ghost towns there are, dotted throughout our world of the living? Perhaps you’ve even heard of some, like Hashima Island in Japan, or Oradour-sur-Glane in France. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of the one I intend to cover today: Pripyat.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Chernobyl Disaster, this is the breakdown: On the morning of April 26th, 1986, in Pripyat, Ukraine there was a power surge in the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl power plant. It triggered a chain reaction that ultimately led to a catastrophic nuclear disaster. Prior to this event, Pripyat, the city most directly affected by the accident, held a population of approximately 14,000 people. After the disaster, it held 0.

But the thing that makes Pripyat so fascinating is the tourism that it attracts. The reasons for the abandonment of all ghost towns in this world vary greatly, but Pripyat’s is still relevant, even now, some thirty years later. It remains to this day extremely radioactive, and experts predict that it will remain that way for hundreds of years still to come due to health risks posed from the radiation. The include various kinds of cancer, deformations, and acute radiation syndrome. In fact, many people who evacuated Pripyat in the early days following the accident developed cancer and subsequently died from it.

Despite this level of danger, Pripyat has attracted countless tourists from all over the world. Evidently radiation has died down just enough to allow tours through parts of the city, but if you ask me it’s still a very calculated risk by all those that enter. After all, every person that goes into Pripyat on a tour must be cleared by a radiation detection machine before leaving. How inviting!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

But I can understand the fascination that ghost towns such as this generate. Maybe it’s a side effect of being a writer, this unrelenting curiosity, but it’s astounding to me that a place which was once so thriving and grandiose could turn into something so haunting and left-behind. Pripyat in particular looks and feels like a place completely frozen in time. There are pictures of dolls and teddy bears left behind, old classrooms and nurseries completely as they were, but with a thick layer of dust and decay covering them now. There is even a ferris wheel that was new and completely unused at the time of the evacuation that stands in this vacant world inhabited by nothing but radiation, dust and debris, and perhaps the occasional animal.

But when I really get thinking, I have to wonder if the radiation is truly the only thing that haunts the city.

I’m not saying outright that Pripyat is a town full of ghosts. But I have a hard time believing that a town that was abandoned so quickly and so entirely by all its living inhabitants wasn’t taken back over by inhabitants of a different kind.

For a more detailed guide on the requirements of touring Pripyat, please refer to this blog written by Stephanie Craig, a woman who participated in a tour group through the city herself.


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 Year Without Summer

Before 1815, Mount Tambora, measuring at 4,300 metres tall, was one of the largest volcanoes on Earth. For comparison’s sake, Yellowstone is currently 2,805 metres tall, and Mauna Kea, the world’s current largest volcano is 4,205 metres (excluding the section below sea-level).

On April 5th, 1815, tremors began to shake Mount Tambora, a volcano located on Sumbawa Island, in present-day Indonesia. For a few days it seemed like it would be just like any other volcanic eruption. But on April 10th, a catastrophic eruption occurred, which was so massive it could be heard as far away as Sumatra Island, over 2,000 kilometres away, and its effects reached as far as Europe and North America. To this day it remains the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. It measured at a 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), a number that was last reached in 180 AD when the Lake Taupo volcano erupted.

For a more detailed look at how big the Tambora eruption and its after-effects were, Erik Klemetti gives an excellent breakdown in the article “Tambora 1815: Just How Big Was The Eruption?

Photo courtesy of  Jagoush  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Jagoush via Adobe Stock

When Tambora first erupted, approximately 10,000 people were killed immediately. It was later discovered that these were all residents of a village that had previously lived in the shadow of the volcano. The village was also called Tambora, and after the eruption it was completely buried in volcanic ash and pyroclastic flows.

Many decades later, various remains and signs of the life that had once existed there were eventually uncovered. Items such as dishes, pots, and glasses were found. In addition to these belongings, entire homes, which included the remains of people still in them, were found, buried beneath volcanic debris.

On top of this, the language that was spoken in this area was exclusive to Tambora, so when the village was wiped out, so was the language. An entire place, its culture, its language, and its residents were completely removed from the map in a matter of moments.

Those first 10,000 people, however, were unfortunately not the only victims of Mount Tambora’s volcanic wrath. Over the next couple of years, the deal toll from the aftermath totalled close to 90,000 people.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The continuously rising death toll that followed over the years was due to many different problems such as crop failures, subsequent famine, problems resulting from ash build-up in the Earth’s atmosphere, etc. In fact, there was so much ash build-up that it blocked out the sun’s rays and global temperatures dropped by an average of 1-2 degrees Celsius for the following year, which plunged the world into a volcanic winter. In North America, there was frost and snowfall throughout the months of June, July, and August. Because of this, 1816 was dubbed “The Year Without a Summer”. In fact, temperatures around the world were in flux for a few years afterwards.

Climate change wasn’t the only thing that the eruption of Mount Tambora and the subsequent “Year Without a Summer” inspired, however. Because of all the ash build-up in the atmosphere, sunsets that year were a particularly vibrant shade of orange, and despite the terrible reason behind them, they were strikingly beautiful. Painters such as J.M.W. Turner were inspired to capture the beautiful sunsets, and writers such as Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Pidoltri created works inspired by the event. In the summer of 1816, the three writers took a trip to Lake Geneva. But because temperatures were all colder than usual that year, they were stuck inside a cabin for much of their time. To keep themselves amused, they created a contest among themselves to see who could come up with the scariest story. Shelly presented Frankenstein, Byron presented his poem, “Darkness”, and Pidoltri presented Vampyre.

Art wasn’t the only thing that came out of this horrible aftermath, however. The invention of the bicycle, the discovery of Indiana and Illinois and the birth of the anti-slavery movement were also attributed to the aftermath of Mount Tambora’s eruption.

Photo courtesy of  homocosmicos  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of homocosmicos via Adobe Stock

1815 was Mount Tambora’s largest eruption, but it wasn’t the only one. Tambora remains to this day an active volcano, and it had two more eruptions after 1815, in 1880 and 1967. There was also higher seismic activity in the volcano between 2011 and 2013.

Nowadays, Tambora stands at approximately 2,851 metres high. It’s about half of what it once was, and though it’s still active, it doesn’t pose the same threat it did prior to 1815. That being said, Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, and there are plenty of other volcanoes - such as Yellowstone - that lie in wait. And if Yellowstone does decide to go, well, the effects are extremely likely to rival even those of Tambora.

We can never truly know when the next disaster will happen. All we can do is treat the Earth with respect, try to be prepared, and acknowledge that everything is a little more interlinked than we are perhaps willing to admit.


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.

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

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 “Frozen in Time and Open for Visitation”.


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.

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.

Erased from Time: The Ourang Medan

The ocean provides ample opportunity for unsolved mysteries. Bodies of water make up 71% of the Earth’s surface, and so much of it is still unexplored, leaving the perfect setting for things to just… disappear.

One of these things was the Ourang Medan, a Dutch freighter that was on its way through the Straits of Malacca in June 1947 when its entire crew, including the dog, suddenly, and quite horrifically, died.

Or so the story goes.

Photo courtesy of  Dan  via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Dan via Flickr

Disasters at sea are not, by any stretch of the imagination, uncommon. Neither are ghost ships. But what sets the Ourang Medan apart from all those other stories is the seemingly endless twists and turns the story takes, as well as the silence that follows what was supposed to have been such a terrible event in maritime history.

Allow me to start at the beginning.

In June 1947 an SOS signal was received by two nearby American ships, as well as British and Dutch listening posts. The SOS was as follows:

“All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” This was cut off by unidentifiable morse code, and finally: “I die.” Then there was nothing.

One of the American ships that had picked up the distress call was The Silver Star, and they were the ones who responded. What they found when they arrived was ghastly.

After a failed attempt to grab the crew’s attention, the crew on board The Silver Star decided to board the Ourang Medan and scope things out for themselves. What they found was the deck littered with the bodies of the crew members, all dead. Every single crew member was dead and frozen in a state of horror, arms up as though defending off an attacker, mouths and eyes wide with fear. Even the ship’s dog was discovered dead with a snarl frozen on its face.

Photo Courtesy of Alex Iby via Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Alex Iby via Unsplash

Upon further investigation, they found the body of the operator who they assumed to have sent the SOS still sitting by the telegraph machine. His fingers were still on the keys.

The decision was made to tie the Ourang Medan to The Silver Star, and tow it to shore. But just as they began their journey, smoke began spiraling up from below deck, and The Silver Star’s had just enough time to cut the ropes between them before the Ourang Medan exploded and sank beneath the waves.

Even the details above are pseudo-facts, but they’re the only parts of this whole mystery that anyone can seem to agree upon. Some argue that the ship took its journey in February of 1948, instead of June of 1947, others insist that the Ourang Medan was a steamship, not a freighter. No one even knows agrees on where exactly the ship was. While some say it was the straits of Malacca, others say it was southeast of the Marshall Islands. The confusion is endless.

But the strangest part of all: there exists no historical record of the Ourang Medan anywhere. Not in any newspaper, not in any ship registries from that or any other time, not anywhere. There is no proof that the ship ever existed.

The theories of what happened to this ship on the day its crew died, and afterwards, are seemingly infinite. Truly, I would need a lot more space than I’m given to write this post, but for a more in-depth account of what did and could have happened, please check out Rob Morphy’s article “Death Ship: The Ourang Medan Mystery”.

But allow me to summarize some of the more popular theories around this mysterious ship:

Chemical Leak (Natural and Manmade)

Many theorize that the Ourang Medan and its crew were brought down by some kind of chemical spill or gas leak. Some have suggested that methane bubbles or some such in the water itself, that brought the crew down. After all, it wouldn’t be the first maritime story of a ship being brought down from seemingly supernatural causes when there could have been a more logical explanation. But this wouldn’t necessarily account for the fiery explosion that brought the ship down.

Others site carbon monoxide poisoning as a possibility. Perhaps the ship was operating on a faulty boiler, and the ship eventually filled with carbon monoxide, eventually bringing the entire crew down. The flaw in this theory, however, is that the ship—at least above deck—was open space. The carbon monoxide would just have dissipated into the air, and the crew outside of the boiler room would have been just fine.

Unit 731

Photo Courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Photo Courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Suggestions that the Ourang Medan had ties to Unit 731 is the most detailed theory about the Ourang Medan. In short, Unit 731 was a unit in the Imperial Japanese Army that researched and developed biological and chemical warfare during World War 2. They were known for human experimentation so horrific that some claim it made the Nazis human experiments look tame in comparison.

Many believed that the Ourang Medan was actually a ship under Unit 731’s control, and that they were using it to transport dangerous chemicals. It was believed that they chose a ship over a plane or some other form of transport because it would be slower and therefore more inconspicuous.

The theory is that a bit of water got into the ship’s cargo hold and reacted with the nitroglycerine (one of the many chemicals theorized to have been aboard that ship), causing the explosion that brought the ship down.

Government Cover-up

Because of the supposed connection to such atrocious war crimes, the government eradicated all mentions of the ship from any and all possible records in history, leaving the ship to sink not only into the water, but into myth as well.

This could also explain why, despite The Silver Star being proven to have existed (at the time it was named the Santa Juana, and was later purchased and renamed by another company), no crew members ever attempted to tell their story. Perhaps they were so traumatized by what they saw, they refused to speak about it. Or perhaps they were paid off, or forced into silence. The latter keeps more with the government cover-up theory.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely anyone will ever really know what happened to the Ourang Medan, or if it was anything more than a ghost story passed around by seafarers creating some late night spooks for new recruits and gullible deckhands. Perhaps it was just an accident, a mix of unfortunate but natural circumstances that brought the ship down. Perhaps it was more nefarious than that.

Perhaps history will never know.

Photo Courtesy of Milo McDowell via Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Milo McDowell via Unsplash


Feel free to comment below with your own thoughts of what could have happened!


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.