North-America

Memento Mori

Acceptance—and grief—has many forms. 

When a loved one dies, we don’t want to imagine what our life will be like without them.

We grasp for whatever we can in order to hold on to them. We cut a lock of their hair, carry photos of them, wear their favorite accessory or article of clothing to feel as though they are still with us. Anything connected to a memory of them we can cling to.

Funerals are a common way for us to gather around and share memories of our loved ones when they pass on, yet they are usually seen as dreary, solemn rites that are a mandatory part of mourning. Our loved ones are colorful and unique individuals who should be celebrated, even as we grieve our loss. So why not send them off in a similar fashion?

Here are some interesting funerary rites for you, your friends, and family members to consider being remembered by.

If you’re interested in helping sustain the environment even after you're gone, there are plenty of ways for you to do so. 

Photo courtesy of ckohtala via Flickr

Photo courtesy of ckohtala via Flickr

Capsula Mundi are egg-shaped pods that encapsulate one’s remains and buried under the ground with a sapling of your choice. The sapling grows from the nutrients provided by the remains and flourishes into a tree. The pods themselves are biodegradable and assist in the sapling’s growth.

But if becoming a tree doesn’t interest you, then how about a coral reef?

Photo courtesy of Richard Lindley via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Richard Lindley via Flickr

In the United States, a company called Eternal Reefs will attach your remains to a reef, helping to stabilize the ecosystem. When you pass, your remains are compressed into a Reef Ball. Reef balls are constructed habitats that prevent ocean hazards from displacing the remains or destroying the coral reefs. This establishes a safe environment for oceanic wildlife to thrive.

Many people have heard of turning corpses into diamonds, but what about something as simple as beads?

In South Korea, many families have their loved ones compressed into an array of colourful beads. These beads are then displayed at home as a reassuring reminder that they are always around. Having such a dense population, South Korea doesn’t have the capacity to bury its dead anymore. As such, a law was established in 2000 that a body can only be buried for 60 years, and then the family has to dig up the remains and find something else to do with them. This is one of the main reasons why South Koreans simply choose to have their loved ones transformed into something more meaningful than just leaving them to rot to begin with.

I’ll admit, the term “fantasy coffin” sounds a little...strange.

But I also have to admit that these bad boys are pretty cool.

In Ghana, these “fantasy coffins” have kicked your standard wooden boxes to the curb. I mean, why get buried in any old casket when you can get one specially designed to look like that 1969 Ford Mustang you’ve always wanted?

Photo courtesy of Regula Tschumi via Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Regula Tschumi via Wikimedia Commons

“Fantasy coffin” maker Joseph Ashong has had all sorts of requests, from seashells to animals to tributes to the deceased’s idol. The purpose of these coffins is to represent something that was important in that person’s life. I personally think it’d be bad-ass to be buried in a pirate ship. For specific communities in Ghana, however, these coffins are extra-special as they believe these are what will take them to their next life, which is why it’s so important to have something that represents them.

Funerals don’t have to be dark and depressing. 

In New Orleans, funeral progressions are often accompanied by a jazz band, filling the streets with music and enticing everyone to dance. These progressions are honestly more like parades celebrating the life of the loved one. In the past, they could last for as long as an entire week.

Personally, I’d like to be cremated or planted with a tree. And while I hope none of you have to prepare for a funeral anytime soon, I hope you found these rites interesting and unique, and that this article reminds you to keep your loved ones close. Never miss a chance to let them know how much you cherish them.


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 Apparitions of William Mumler

Engraving of Mumler published in Harper's Magazine, May 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Engraving of Mumler published in Harper's Magazine, May 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Picking up a camera out of personal interest, the Boston jewellery engraver probably never imagined that any fame he’d garner would be for capturing the spirits of the dead.

This was the golden age of modern spiritualism; much of what we consider today as superstition was held as steadfast belief for many.  Spiritualists clung to anything that validated their beliefs, so when word got around that William Mumler was capable of producing photos of the dead, everyone flocked to him.

People sat poised in the hopes of seeing their loved ones, and many of them proclaimed Mumler’s legitimacy as the images of long-dead family members emerged from the negatives. Most of his clients had lost relatives in the Civil War and sought closure from his services. And while he advertised his work as a balm for the grieving heart, charging $5-10 for his compassion afforded him a rather comfortable lifestyle for that era.

Mumler welcomed numerous skeptics to investigate his process and catch where he was at fault; they all found nothing. His developing methods were standard, as was his equipment, and no one detected any possible sleight of hand. Every theory they prepared was not given a shred of solid, credible proof. It truly seemed that he was the real deal, and his fame spread with each attempt at debunking him.

It didn’t last. His business in spiritual photography soon declined in Boston, however, when even other mediums and spiritualists began denouncing his reputation. Mumler packed up shop and headed for New York, but he still wasn’t clear of accusations.

Mumler was charged with fraudulency and put under criminal investigation. At a hearing, multiple photographers voiced all of the potential ways trickery could produce a spectral figure, the most likely explanation being double exposure. But there were also many professional photographers who stood by Mumler, giving his case credibility in the courtroom.

Unknown woman with a spectral child, taken by Mumler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unknown woman with a spectral child, taken by Mumler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s worth mentioning that Mumler never guaranteed his photos would produce any spirits. In his personal advertisements, he declared that his main object was to bring families comfort in their mourning.

Mumler’s defense team also arranged for a number of his clients to take the stand, and they all testified that the images were legitimate and provided the comfort they sought. In turn, the prosecution called upon Phineas Taylor Barnum (P.T. Barnum).

A well known showman and hoax artist, Barnum was known for revealing the truth of phony acts created to deceive people into forking over their dollars. He himself had lined his with pockets with money made from deceptions, his most famous being the “Feejee Mermaid”.

Barnum swore before the judge that he had, in the past, purchased some of Mumler’s photographs for his museum, and that Mumler himself admitted that they were all fake. But since Barnum was unable to provide the condemning letters, this part of his testimony held no weight in the courtroom.

However, Barnum was able to provide some key evidence against Mumler. He hired professional photographer Abraham Bogardus to take a photo of him and use it to recreate Mumler’s famed spirit photos. Bogardus easily duplicated a ghostly image of Abraham Lincoln into the background. But this was the only solid piece of evidence presented in the courtroom, and since duplication was still presented as only a potential method of deception, witnesses were divided amongst themselves.

In the end, the judge ended up dropping the charges due to the lack of substantial evidence against him, even though he also believed Mumler was a fraud. Mumler was free to leave the courtroom and continue conducting his business. 

However, his reputation had once again been dragged through the mud, and this time it was stained. 

Although the evidence brought before the judge was not enough to put Mumler behind bars, it was more than enough to turn away potential customers. The technical explanations professional photographers presented outweighed the lack of evidence in their minds. No one wanted to place their money on a scam. 

His works have since been discredited as acts of double-exposure since Mumler potentially had access to already existing photos of the deceased to develop over, thus creating the illusion of their spirit. As for how he would have accessed these photos, or how more professionally trained photographers were unable to catch any proof of fraudulency, one can’t say for sure.

In any case, Mumler destroyed all of his negatives before he died, so there is no longer any way to examine them further with today’s technology.

The only notable commission he received after his hearing would be from Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Aware of Mumler’s negative reputation, she was nonetheless still pleased with the results and found great comfort in the photograph for the rest of her days.

Eventually, his photography career would pick back up again, as he stopped taking commissions for spirit photos and only produced legitimate photos of living persons. His success would never reach its former heights, though.

But what about the people who swore the phantom figures held the likeness of their loved ones?

Most of Mumler’s photographs were not extremely detailed—most of the alleged spirits showed up as a blur or an outline. So the most logical explanation is that their loved ones appeared simply because they were desperate to see them again. Their minds made the likenesses out of the obscure lines just to once again have something tangible to cling to.

Perhaps the true deceptor was in their own minds.

The photo taken of Mary Todd Lincoln, found on Wikimedia Commons.

The photo taken of Mary Todd Lincoln, found on Wikimedia Commons.

The only notable commission he received after his hearing would be from Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Aware of Mumler’s negative reputation, she was nonetheless still pleased with the results and found great comfort in the photograph for the rest of her days.

Eventually, his photography career would pick back up again, as he stopped taking commissions for spirit photos and only produced legitimate photos of living persons. His success would never reach its former heights, though.

But what about the people who swore the phantom figures held the likeness of their loved ones?

Most of Mumler’s photographs were not extremely detailed—most of the alleged spirits showed up as a blur or an outline. So the most logical explanation is that their loved ones appeared simply because they were desperate to see them again. Their minds made the likenesses out of the obscure lines just to once again have something tangible to cling to.

Perhaps the true deceiver was in their own minds.


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 Ghost of Watson's Mill

When I was a kid, my grandma told me my first ghost story. Maybe this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but my grandma doesn’t like ghost stories. She doesn’t believe in them, she doesn’t tell them, they just “aren’t her cup of tea” as she’d tell me.

But she told me this one. So, without further ado, here’s a story this Voice has been meaning to tell from the beginning:

On the way out of Ottawa, Canada, there is a small suburb called Manotick. I’ve been there myself countless times growing up. It was where the best dancewear store was, so my mom would take me to buy all of my clothes and shoes. It’s where my mom rushed me to practice from school every day for the two years I was in the Nutcracker. It’s where my mom took me and my grandma for Sunday afternoon lunches when I was a kid.

Photo courtesy of  emkaplin  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of emkaplin via Adobe Stock

It’s a peaceful, sleepy little town, with cute shops and beautiful scenery, The Rideau River runs right through.

But in the very heart of this peaceful, sleepy little suburb, it’s also where Watson’s Mill stands.

Watson’s Mill is not in itself a problem. It was opened in 1860, by Joseph Merrill Currier and Moss Kent Dickinson. They had obtained the water rights to the property just a year previous, and in fact, it’s Dickinson who’s said to have named Manotick in the first place, after the Ojibwa word for ‘long island’ or ‘island in the water’.

It was a powerful mill; according to Rideau-info.com, it “was capable of producing 100 barrels of flour a day and the sawmill could cut up to two million board feet per year.” The problem in this story was a combination of things.

In 1861, on the one year anniversary of the mill’s opening, Joseph Currier brought his new bride, Anne Crosby Currier, in for a tour. They made it all the way up to the attic, while Joseph pointed out all the machinery and inner-workings of the mill to his beloved bride. On their way back down, however, tragedy struck.

Photo courtesy of  bonciutoma  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of bonciutoma via Adobe Stock

Anne was dressed in a flowing dress with a hooped skirt that allowed the dress to drag behind her. It was no doubt a beautiful dress, but an unfortunately disastrous choice to wear inside the mill.

On their way back down from the attic, between the third and second floor, a part of Anne’s dress got caught in one of the Mill’s rotating shafts. The rotating shafts moved too quickly for her to realize in time to pull herself free, and she was yanked against a pillar, dying on impact.

Joseph was so heartbroken that when he left the mill that day, he never looked back. He sold his shares to his partner, and never again returned. Anne, on the other hand, never left.

Over the years, many have reported seeing and hearing things that had no explanation while wandering in and around the Mill. Some reported seeing a woman peering out of a second-floor window, while others swore they heard light footsteps creaking across the upstairs floorboards, even when there was no one up there to make them. What’s more, some visitors to the Mill even report being grabbed or shoved while walking around the upper floors. Many believe it to be Anne, likely trying to warn them away from the same fate she suffered.


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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.

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.

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