death

The Last Judgement of Kings

Previously on Voices In The Attic, I told the story of the Paris Catacombs, a great underground network of tunnels containing six million corpses, constructed in the late eighteenth century to remedy overcrowding in Paris’ cemeteries. This time, there is another story to be told concerning France in the eighteenth century. 

It is the summer of 1793, the first anniversary of the French Revolution, which overthrew and executed the reigning Bourbon monarch, King Louis XVI. The King has been dead for several months, and the Reign of Terror, led by Maximilien Robespierre, is just two months away. Yes, despite all the people who have gone under the National Razor, the worst is yet to come.

But the Revolution is more than just murder left, right and centre. It’s heinous acts of sacrilege, and destroying things—historically and culturally significant artefacts, buildings, anything and everything representing the Ancien Régime. Does this also include corpses, you ask? Well, yes, of course. This is eighteenth-century France.

So, this brings us to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, nine kilometres outside the city of Paris. It is in this cathedral that all the preceding French monarchs, save for three, are interred. This includes Clovis, first King of the Franks, who died in 511; Henry VI ‘the Great’, who died in 1610; Louis XIV ‘the Sun King’, who died in 1715; and his brother, Philippe Duc D’Orleans, founder of the royal house of Orleans.  In total, there are about thirty-six Kings, including an additional forty-six corpses belonging to former Queens, princesses, dukes and other members of the nobility. They lie beneath grand cadaver tombs, decorated by magnificent effigies of their likeness.

The Effigy of Clovis I.  Image courtesy of    Guilhem Vellut.

The Effigy of Clovis I. Image courtesy of Guilhem Vellut.

So, to the raging revolutionaries, the Basilica of Saint-Denis sounds like an excellent place to go, because they are running out of living nobles to decapitate, and the guillotine just won’t cut it anymore. With Christianity outlawed, the Basilica of Saint-Denis deconsecrated, and the Benedictine monks disbanded, the revolutionaries descend upon the royal crypt like vultures. The Convention calls this act ‘The Last Judgement of Kings’. If it sounds ominous, that’s because it is.

On August 10th, to celebrate the Festival of Reunion, they empty the tombs of the oldest dynasties—the Merovingians, the Carolingians, the Robertian, the Bosonids and the Capetians. Luckily, these bodies have had a good nine hundred years to decompose, so it’s mostly bones and ash left. Not too revolting, especially compared to everything else that has happened recently. They strip the lead lining from the coffins, so it can be recast and used elsewhere, before throwing the bones into a mass grave.

Then, in October, to celebrate the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette, the revolutionaries return to ransack the tombs belonging to the Houses of Valois and Bourbon. These ones, unlike their predecessors, contain the recent corpses, thus they are intact, they have flesh, and they smell.  The Bourbons, the house to which the last King belonged, are by far the most disgusting corpses. Onlookers describe “a malodorous black vapour that sickened workers”. This suggests to the revolutionaries that the corpses are morally tainted, as they were in life.

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Henry VI of House Valois, known to the people as “the Good King”, is, however, remarkably well preserved for a man who died two hundred years ago. He is so well preserved, in fact, that workers call it a miracle. They make a plaster cast of his face and prop his body up for display for a few days, much like a Saint.

Unfortunately, though Henry is well-liked by the workers and onlookers, that does not stop them from clipping his hair, taking his beard and pulling his teeth. One woman actually comes barrelling in, curses Henry’s corpse, then punches Henry in the face, sending the corpse crashing to the ground. So much for resting in peace, right? After that, Henry ends up in the Valois trench, alongside his infamous mother-in-law, Catherine De Medici.

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There is a bit of a mystery about Henry’s head, though, and whether it actually went into the trench with the rest of him. In 1817, an exhumation by the Bourbon Restoration finds the head missing. Another hundred years later, one Joseph Emile Bourdais buys a severed head for three francs, which he insists belongs to Henry. Exactly another hundred years later, the head resurfaces in an attic in Paris, belonging to a man who bought it in 1953. Who doesn't have a mummified head in their attic, right?

Scientists and anthropologists come to two entirely different conclusions: that it is and is not the head of Henry VI. To this day, there is something of a forensic dispute going on concerning this mysterious head. According to witnesses at the 1793 exhumations, Henry’s head is sawn open, and the brain removed, replaced with herbs.

Alexandre Lenoir testifies the following;

“The body of this prince [Henry IV] was so well preserved that the lines of his face were unchanged. He was laid down in the passage of low chapels, wrapped into his shroud, which was also preserved. Everybody could see him until Monday 14th in the morning; he was brought into the choir, at the bottom of the sanctuary’s steps, where he remained until 2 pm, and he was taken to the cemetery of de Valois, then into a large grave dug down on the right, on the North side. This cadaver, considered as a dry mummy, had a sawn skull, and contained, instead of the brain which had been removed, tow, oiled with a liquor made of herbs, which spread a strong smell, no one could stand.”

The mystery head, however, has a brain. Initial DNA testing doesn’t seem to render any definite answers either. For comparison, they use what is allegedly the blood of Henry’s great-great-great grandson, King Louis XVI, collected from the guillotine by a witness to his execution. But the samples don’t match. So the House of Bourbon arrives to help out. Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma and Prince João Maria of Orléans-Braganza add their samples, thus proving that the comparison blood does not belong to Louis XVI.

If you’d like to know more, there’s an academic article in the Journal of Forensic Research, authored by Doctor Riaud Xavier, Historian Delorme Philippe, and Lorin de la Grandmaison Geoffroy from the Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, Raymond Poincaré Hospital.

Another body to be uncovered is that of Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turrene, remembered as one of the greatest generals in modern history. By this time, he’s been dead for about a hundred years, but, like the Good King, Turrene emerges intact and without odour, despite having been killed by a direct hit from a cannonball. The revolutionaries decide that Turrene is a worthy of the title of ‘grand homme’, so he manages to avoid most of the posthumous humiliation and desecration his crypt-mates endure.

Alexandre Lenoir, the archaeologist presiding over the exhumations, does detailed drawings of both the monuments and the bodies. The drawings are of corpses belonging to Turrene, Louis XIII, Henry VI and Louis XI, including the effigies of Henry II and Catherine De Medici.

Meanwhile, workers take off with souvenirs including Henry VI’s beard, Hugh Capet’s shoulder blade, Turrene’s finger, and a multitude of teeth and tufts of hair. Then, after the bodies been plundered, they all go into the trench and the workers pour quick lime over them so that they are utterly destroyed. Turrene is the only corpse from Saint-Denis to escape the ‘obliterating trench’. 

When the deed is done, Alexandre Lenoir returns to Paris with his drawings, having saved the scapula of King Hugh Capet, the femur of Charles V, the tibia of Charles VI, the vertebrae of Charles VII, one rib belonging to Philip IV and another belonging to Louis XII, the lower jaw of Catherine de Medici, and the tibia of Cardinal Retz. A few monuments and statues survive the symbolic decapitation too. Everything goes into the new Museum of French Monuments, founded by Lenoir himself.

The Bourbon dynasty returns to the throne again in 1814, under King Louis XVIII, the brother of the executed King. They immediately dig up the trenches, but there they mostly find scattered fragments of the bodies buried thirty years prior. It is a sad fate indeed for these poor cadavers, whose bodies were supposed to be laid to rest in peace, some of them children and babies. But, they are now together in a shared ossuary, marked by the surviving monuments, their names carved in marble, unforgotten, remaining forever in memory. May they finally find peace and dignity, once again.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

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.

Dead End

The following story may contain triggering and/or sensitive material. Topics discussed include detailed and graphic descriptions of a train crash.

Image courtesy of the London Fire Brigade.

Image courtesy of the London Fire Brigade.

Image courtesy of Richard Vince.

Image courtesy of Richard Vince.

There have been some dark days in London’s history, and in the history of the London Underground, amidst bombing raids and outbreaks of the Black Death—but perhaps one of the darkest days during peacetime is what happened at Moorgate Station in 1975.

I begin this story at some point in the early 1970s, before what will come to pass three or four years into the future. Passengers and workers at Moorgate Station on the Northern Line report seeing the apparition of a man in blue overalls, sometimes in the tunnels, sometimes in the terminus. When approached, the expression on the apparition's face becomes one of absolute horror before he vanishes into the walls.

It is worth noting, for reasons that will soon become evident, that this particular station is a dead end. Trains approaching the station must slow to 15 mph and come to a complete stop, but there is a twenty metre overrun track and buffer just in case of a minor overshoot. After that, there is a solid concrete wall.

On February 28th, 1975 at 8:46 AM, a train coming from Drayton Park arrives at Moorgate station, platform 9. However, it does not slow to the aforementioned speed. The train actually accelerates into the terminus, travelling at somewhere between 30-40 miles per hour. To some witnesses, the driver, Leslie Newson, appears to be in a trance, staring straight ahead. The train goes right through the station like a bullet, into the overrun tunnel, where it slams into the wall at the end.

As the first compartment collides with the wall, it is forced upwards into the tunnel ceiling, crushing the driver's cab and the first fifteen passenger seats. Before the crash, the first compartment is sixteen metres in length, but after the crash, what remains is just six metres long. Upon impact, the second compartment collides with the first, essentially collapsing it like an accordion, and the third rides up over the second. Forty-three people, including Newson, are killed, and seventy-three people are injured.

Image courtesy of the London Fire Brigade.

Image courtesy of the London Fire Brigade.

Rescue crews begin arriving within five minutes of the crash, where they discover a scene of true horror. First responders describe all-encompassing darkness, thick dust-laden air, screams of pain, bodies heaped on top of one another and arms reaching out for help from the twisted metal. To make matters worse, the ventilation is no longer working, as air travels through the tunnels via the force of trains travelling back and forth, otherwise known as the piston effect.

With no trains running, oxygen levels drop and the temperature shoots up to 49 degrees Celsius in the tunnels. Rescuers are also unable to communicate via radio between the station and the surface, as they are separated by twenty-one metres of soil and concrete. They have to make do with runners, though messages often do not arrive on the surface as they have been given at the station.

The last survivor is removed from the mangled wreckage at 10:00 PM, eighteen hours after the crash. At that point, the rescuers cease all noise, to listen for anyone left alive, but only silence greets them. Anyone left has most certainly perished.

In the following five days, members of the Fire Brigade endure the heat and the stench of decomposition in order to remove all the bodies, detangle the compartments and then winch them out of the tunnel where they can be properly examined. The last body to be removed is that of Newson, on March the 5th. At the same time, the wreckage is taken away, and the investigation begins.

The train, one of many built in 1938, is thoroughly examined, but no technical defect or equipment fault can be found. So it seems like the only one responsible is Leslie Newson, a father of two who rarely drank, who was carrying money on him to buy his daughter a car that day.

The investigation concludes that it was Newson to blame for the crash, but they still don’t really know what happened. His blood alcohol levels were above average, but the body produces alcohol after death, especially after five days of decomposing in the heat, so investigators turn to his co-workers. They all say that Newson was behaving normally that day, and he’d been running the train for two and a half hours before the crash without fault. All of this makes the crash that much stranger.

At the moment of the crash, experts deduce that Newson was sat bolt upright, still holding the dead-mans-handle to keep the train going, making no attempt to shield his face from what was coming right towards him. What could cause a person to behave in such a way? Well, no one ever figured that out.

What we did figure out from Moorgate is that the London Underground needed multiple fail-safes to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again, and that’s exactly what happened. Three years after the crash, the ‘Moorgate Control’ was installed at all dead-end stations. Should a train approach a dead-end at a speed above 12.5 mph, the Moorgate Control automatically applies the emergency brakes, and the train will come to a stop before the hydraulic buffers, not after it hits a concrete wall. Another six years after, tracks were fitted with resistors to prevent acceleration into stations.

And now, we think back to that apparition at Moorgate, which appeared several times before the crash. Was it an omen, trying to warn us of the horrors to come? Maybe, maybe not. That’s up to you.

1,324 firefighters, 240 police officers, 80 paramedics, 16 doctors and several nurses were involved in the valiant rescue and clean-up efforts. 43 people perished in the crash, 73 people were injured. If you happen to pass by Finnsbury Square, lay some flowers at their memorial.

Image courtesy of David Holt.

Image courtesy of David Holt.


What do you think happened at Moorgate? Tell us in the comments or tweet at @atticvoices!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Many are familiar with the old rhyme about a very real set of murders that took place back in 1892. That year, on August 4th in Fall River, Massachusetts, Andrew and Abby Borden were found murdered in their home. They had been hacked to death with an axe so many times their bodies were barely recognizable. History’s favourite suspect for the murders is their daughter, Lizzie Borden

However, Lizzie was never proven guilty, and these murders remain unsolved to this day.

Lizzie Borden was the daughter of Andrew Borden and the step-daughter of Abby Borden. She was the one to discover Andrew’s body, and set off the subsequent chain of events that were later immortalized in history.

Photo courtesy of Payette Media House via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Payette Media House via Adobe Stock

Contrary to what the rhyme would suggest, it wasn’t forty strikes or an axe to each of the two murder victims, but instead, twenty-nine altogether. Nonetheless, these murders were particularly brutal. Those that saw the bodies described them as completely unrecognizable, and were quite sickening. Andrew Borden in particular had a number of blows to the face, one of which had gouged out his left eye.

The detail that really confused law enforcement, though, was the lack of blood anywhere but on the bodies, and the lack of any signs of a struggle within the homes. Andrew was found lying on the sofa, and Abby was found on the floor of her bedroom, but everything surrounding them and around the rest of the house was completely untouched.

Before Lizzie was accused, the main suspicion had fallen upon a labourer who worked for Andrew Borden. The labourer was supposedly by the house earlier that day to ask for the wages he’d earned, only to be sent away with nothing by Andrew Borden himself. It was also believed, due to certain medical evidence found on Abby’s body, that she’d been attacked by a tall male.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Despite such evidence, however, the suspicion did eventually fall on Lizzie. There were many reasons for this, including the fact that some people said that she had never gotten along with her step-mother, as well as the fact that police believed the murders had to have been committed by someone in the Borden house, and the only people home that day were Lizzie and the Bordens’ maid, Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan. There was also suspicion that Lizzie didn’t have a positive relationship with her father at all, and that many of the details she’d provided in her defence just didn’t add up.

Lizzie said she was in the barn on the property, looking for equipment for an upcoming fishing trip, at the time of her father’s murder. She insisted she was in there for about fifteen minutes, but according to further investigation into the details of that day, the barn was far too hot for someone to want to be in there for more than just a few minutes. In addition, there were no footprints in the dust where Lizzie said she’d been looking.

Another piece of evidence brought to the attention of police was a blue dress. Bridget Sullivan said that Lizzie had been wearing it on the morning of the murders, and a friend of the Bordens’ later testified in court that she’d seen Lizzie burning it. When questioned about this, Lizzie said she’d been burning it because it had old paint on it.

Nevertheless, none of the evidence found was enough to lock Lizzie away, and law enforcement concluded that she wasn’t capable of the murders anyway as she’d never done an unkind thing in her life. She was eventually cleared of the crime, and the murders were never solved.

Photo courtesy of it’s me neosiam via Pexels.com

Photo courtesy of it’s me neosiam via Pexels.com

The continued interest in the Borden murders after all this time goes beyond a simple unsolved crime, however. 92 Second Street, where the Borden house is located, is still open. In fact, now it’s the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/ Museum. As horrific as the murders were, their setting has now been turned into a place for tourists, which you too can visit, should you have the courage. And the tours that go through here don’t stop at historical facts about the Borden family or the crimes. Paranormal tours are hosted at the location as well, for anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the spirits said to still be hanging around in the house. In fact, the Borden house is actually home to significant paranormal tourism and opportunities, because anyone who joins the tour is invited to bring a Ouija board, or use one that’s provided, and are taught how to contact the spirit world.

I personally wouldn’t start off contacting the spirit world in the setting of such horrifying crimes, but there are certainly braver souls out there than me. And should you find yourself interested, feel free to follow the above link, and sign yourself up.


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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.

London Underground: Commuting with Corpses

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In 1863, the world’s first rapid transit system opened beneath the city of London, running from Farringdon to Paddington with steam locomotives and gas-lit wooden carriages. On its first day, the steam trains carried 38,000 passengers. It was a massive part of London’s industrial revolution, allowing for people living in the squalid, overcrowded slums to move further out of the city while still being able to commute to work.

However, constructing the tunnels meant engineers had to tackle a unique problem—London’s unmarked burial sites, scattered underneath the city, some so densely packed with bodies that they could not be easily tunnelled through. It was originally suggested that the rail lines curved to avoid them, but according to historians, the curvature of the lines was simply to save money. In actual fact, the construction teams tunnelled right through the burial sites, only stopping when human remains were recovered in order to have them hastily removed and reburied elsewhere.

There are many incidents recorded in newspapers and publications that tell of construction crews encountering unmarked mass graves. In 1862, a year before the line went into service, tunnelling from Paddington to Kings Cross hit remains twenty-four feet beneath the surface. The London Metropolitan railway then sent payment to the London Necropolis Company for swift removal and reburial at Brookwood.

Image courtesy of The UK National Archives.

Image courtesy of The UK National Archives.

It happened again in 1865, wherein an investigation was launched into the treatment of remains found during construction on West Street by the North London Railway. Having discovered the remains, the company didn't know what to do with them immediately so they put them into one of the railway arches until a solution was decided upon. Eventually, they did retrieve the bodies and had them reburied at Ilford. I can’t imagine the owners of the bodies were all too happy with the North London Railway though.

In more recent times, similar problems were encountered during excavations for the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line, a seventy-three mile long high-speed train from Reading to Heathrow, passing through the heart of London. But the Crossrail team were more careful than their Victorian predecessors. Before they began work at Farringdon, they conducted a preliminary forensic geophysics survey, because a previous dig nearby in the 1980s had unearthed 759 confirmed bubonic plague victims. So it should come as no surprise that, when Crossrail did a test dig, they discovered an additional twenty-five skeletons, all confirmed victims of a plague outbreak that occurred during the late medieval period.

The same thing happened again during the excavation of the Liverpool Street Station, which unearthed the Bedlam cemetery. Crossrail dug up three thousand five hundred bodies there. But forty-two of them, in cheap coffins, had been buried on the same day, stacked four deep with no earth between them. These bodies too tested positive for Yersinia Pestis, the bacteria responsible for the dreaded bubonic plague.

Image courtesy of  Crossrail .

Image courtesy of Crossrail.

All told, Crossrail did a pretty stellar job of treating the dead with the dignity that they deserved and gathering vital missing pieces of London’s history, while completing a major part of London’s infrastructure. The same cannot be said for the 2002 Eurostar extension at St. Pancras Station, where no one expected to hit the Camley Street cemetery, because it was assumed that the bodies had been cleared out during the nineteenth century. It turned out that this was not the case at all.

When they discovered just how many bodies were left, they sought and were granted an act of parliament which allowed them to remove the bodies via mechanical means. They employed the use of bulldozers and conveyor belts so they could dig out the bodies and coffins, then put them on the belts that dumped them in trucks. Two thousand bodies were desecrated in the 2002 operation, some buried there as late as 1854. They could not be identified, as the process of digging them up led to them being scattered and separated from the nameplates on their coffins.

The moral of the story here is, well, always expect corpses if you’re digging in London.


Have you heard any gruesome stories about the London Underground? Let us know in the comments, and tune in next time for more tales of the Tube!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

A Screaming Omen

Irish mythology contains a lot of twisted creatures that have, over time, been cast aside in favour of more light-hearted, Disney-like creatures. For example, when you hear the word ‘fairy’, what exactly comes to mind? A thumb-sized, blonde girl with a green dress and a magic wand? Tinkerbelle certainly had an attitude, but she isn’t exactly what I’d call dangerous.

Fairies from Irish mythology, on the other hand—the real, original fairies—are a little less “faith, trust, and pixie dust”, and a little more problematic. But Irish mythology covers quite a lot of creatures that are classified as fairies, such as banshees.

Photo courtesy of  rodjulian  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of rodjulian via Adobe Stock

The origin of banshees has been traced back to the 8th century, where they were, regardless of what you believe in, real women. They were hired to stand outside the houses of those who were close to death, or at the funerals of those who’d already died, singing mournful tunes in order to help family and friends of the dead grieve. These women were referred to as keeners, because of the sounds they made for their songs.

As time went on, however, these women and their jobs became less popular. Reality faded into legend, and the keeners were replaced by banshees—spirits that roamed the hills of Ireland, warning the living that someone around them was soon to join the land of the dead.

Contrary to what some would believe banshees aren’t actually harmful. Banshees are harbingers of death: they don’t cause it, they simply warn of it.

However, while it seems to be agreed upon that they can take several different forms, ranging from a hauntingly beautiful young woman to a wrinkly old hag, it seems that the myth has formed different iterations over time. In some instances, the banshee is an angry spirit that trails their enemies, shrieking in celebration when said enemy finally dies. In others, they’re very dedicated to their families, even in death, and they follow them around, singing songs of sorrow, or screaming a warning into the night when a family member is about to pass on.

Photo courtesy of  locrifa  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of locrifa via Adobe Stock

In the latter, the legend goes so far as to say that banshees follow very specific families. That list has grown over the years, but it originates with the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Grady’s, and the Kavanaghs. Each family was believed to have its own banshee, and as the members married and had children, the family’s banshee would continue to follow each descendant and watch over them for generation after generation.

While mostly considered to be a myth in modern-day culture, the belief in banshees was originally so strong in Ireland that it was considered blasphemous if you were someone who didn’t believe.

Nowadays, no one can really say for sure. But if you ever find yourself in Ireland, and are awoken by a piercing scream, be aware that death may be near.


What are some myths you’ve heard around the world? Feel free to leave stories in the comments below!


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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.

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.


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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.

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.


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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.

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!


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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!


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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.

Pennies from Heaven

There are a lot of things we understand about this world, and a lot of things that we just don’t. What comes afterwards is, I suppose, even more uncertain. We can all take guesses - after all, the world’s religions all have whole belief systems dedicated to trying to figure out what we have no way of confirming.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

The afterlife is a massive topic that spans many different religions and superstitions and individual minds. Christianity has their belief in Heaven, and Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation - that this life is only one of many, and that once we’re finished here, we start anew somewhere else. I don’t pretend to know much more beyond these few old lessons from World Religion in the twelfth grade, but I would certainly like to find out. This post is just the first in a series that I intend to use to explore ideas about the afterlife.

But I thought a good place to start would be with my own thoughts.

This post began with an email submission from the Nan of one of our own voices. She wanted to know if we thought that those of us still in the world of the living could communicate with those beyond it. I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not sure I know of anyone who does. I know that a lot of people have their own thoughts on the matter, and that there are certainly a great number of people who would say “yes” in terms of whether or not people can communicate with the dead. I can’t confirm or deny something I don’t know, but I can say this:

When I was ten years old, my maternal grandpa died. It was the first time I had ever encountered death, especially so immediately, and despite that being almost fourteen years ago now, I still very vividly remember my mom telling me that Grumps, as I’d always affectionately called him, had gone to be with God. I’m not particularly religious, but I grew up going to Catholic school, and so this made sense to me.

Nonetheless, it felt extremely unreal when my mom told me, and I remember feeling my little mind whirring with the lack of belief in what I was being told.

The idea that my beloved Grumps was with God was of little comfort to me, not because it wasn’t a nice idea, but because it meant that I could no longer talk to him. I would no longer hear his laugh, or his jokes, or his voice. I would never sit across from him over a plate of Chinese food on Christmas eve, or squish onto the couch with him and other family members for a photo. He was just… gone. And for me that felt so beyond unfair, I couldn’t find the words to describe it.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels.com

Photo Courtesy of Pexels.com

One thing that did eventually bring me comfort, though, was a story my grandma once told me. It’s a story my family still thinks about and believes in; we refer to it as “pennies from Heaven.” We weren’t the ones to originally come up with it, as it’s a fairly common belief as far as I’m aware, but it goes like this:

When someone you love has passed away, they leave behind signs of their continued presence, just so you know that they’ve never truly left you. My grandma told me that these signs came in the form of coins. Pennies, at the time anyway - back when we still had them in our currency here in Canada - were the most common, but it worked for any pocket change you stumbled across. I clung to this belief, because even if I never saw or spoke to him again, it was nice to think my grandpa might still be keeping watch over me from wherever he was.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been told I have an uncanny ability to find lost money - particularly in coin form. It’s something I seem to have picked up from my grandma, who finds it just as often. The thing that makes me so certain of this belief of in pennies from Heaven is the impossible places I’ve found coins in.

I was a dancer for about 12 years, and my mom and I were always meticulous with keeping my dance bag organized, especially before recitals. I checked and rechecked every costume, every hairpin, every shoe, making sure everything was in its place. I would have noticed if there was something in my shoes. So why then, when I went to put my ballet slippers on before hurrying onto the stage, did a penny fall out?

I find that in my hardest moments in life, that’s when the most of these pennies from Heaven appear. In high school, I had a really hard time with bullying and toxic friends, and I cried almost every day walking home from school. For almost an entire year straight, not a single day passed where I didn’t find a penny, or a nickel, or a dime.

Photo Courtesy of Marie Flynn via Pinterest

Photo Courtesy of Marie Flynn via Pinterest

One of my aunts says that their side of the family believes a similar story. It’s the same principle, except that instead of coins, it’s feathers. My grandpa from that side of the family died a few years back now, and ever since, my aunt has found feathers everywhere.

I think everybody can choose to believe what they want. Unfortunately, there’s not a single person in this world that can confirm anything with certainty. After all, there are some secrets that we can only know once it’s our time. But I wholeheartedly believe in pennies from Heaven, and I think it can’t hurt to believe that when you love somebody that much, the love doesn’t just go away. Not even after death.

So keep an eye out for a penny, or a feather, or whatever else it may be that’s close to your heart. Not everything unseen in this world has to be scary, and we don’t have to know anything with absolute certainty to believe it.


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.

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