michelle bonga

An Afterthought From European Travel For The Monstrous Gentlewoman

I had been excited for over a year to finally have a chance to read European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. And when it was finally in my possession, my paperback copy sat on my shelf, beckoning me to start reading as soon as I had the chance.

The members of the Athena Club—Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine—were all waiting for me to indulge in their latest adventure.

I was not disappointed. Theodora Goss has once again outdone herself.

I celebrated my birthday this year by reading this beauty.

I celebrated my birthday this year by reading this beauty.

Being twice the size of its predecessor, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, definitely means there’s twice the action. This plot is more complex but still transitions smoothly as the girls travel across the European continent in search of Lucinda Van Helsing—a young girl being subjected to experiments in biological transmutation, which is a common theme for the Athena Club. 

Our protagonists are the results of various alchemical experimentations conducted by their fathers—great scientists who believed that their work would create a higher man. You’ve heard of them before in the world of literature: the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Rappacini and his poisonous garden, the island of Moreau. And we all know of Frankenstein’s monster.

So of course the Athena Club was quick to run to the girl’s rescue and I wanted nothing more than to pack my bags and run with them.

This entire series so far brings scientific morality upfront and center—just because something can be done, should it? And to what end? 

Morality is a huge grey area for a society of prestigious scientists, the Société des Alchemistes, and the girls are intent on changing that. They know firsthand how inhumane a scientist’s methods can be in order to bring their aspirations to fruition. 

Theodora Goss sets future plot-points in motion well in advance for them to intersect naturally. And I absolutely love her method for foreshadowing. If you ever have a chance to read this series—which I highly recommend you do—pay close attention to the girls’ commentary throughout the narrative. I found myself stumbling across events that the girls had already discussed in the previous book.

My only nitpick about this novel is that Goss often relies on acts of generosity to assist the girls’ adventures, and while everything fits together seamlessly, it would have been nice to see them progress more independently like the strong women they have already proven themselves to be. 

Goss has created a lot of depth within these pages, and reading them was a very contemplative experience for me. Without realizing it, I had dived into much-needed conversations with myself that I had been completely avoiding.

So I want to bring up something important European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman addresses, and that’s how the people we know impact our lives.

Someone I used to know once told me:

“If you want to see how other people see you, look at who your friends are.”

Everyone you meet can create a change in you, and the company you keep reflects on who you are as an individual.

The girls of the Athena Club certainly learned a multitude of life lessons from their encounters, such as the lovely and feisty Irene Norton, snake-charming Zora, and the bold Carmilla Karnstein. And their interactions certainly presented character growth.

But what about the people you have no choice in knowing, such as your parents?

A significant part of the girls’ character arcs revolves around their fathers. Being the results of their experimentation, it is difficult for them to maintain normal lives. 

Books contain the most exciting adventures.

Books contain the most exciting adventures.

Beatrice cannot have direct physical contact without poisoning her loved ones, in fact, no one can be in the same room as her for any lengthy period of time. Justine has clear signs of PTSD as she struggles to adjust to her new life outside of solitude. Catherine was once a wild animal—a puma taken from the Andes—and although she was physically transformed into a human being, she still has much to learn about actually being human.

I think it’s safe to say that Diana is doing just fine, the little hellion that she is, although a little slip of foreshadowing on Goss’s part may herald a turning point for her.

But Mary, as our true window into the narrative, whose father left her at a young age and has strongly opposed to the girls calling themselves monsters, had believed that she was the sole member who had not been physically affected by alchemy. 

But the creeping thought would still sneak up on her:

What if there’s something I don’t know?

Spoiler Alert: her suspicion is correct. 

Mary’s mother, wanting a child more than anything, was barren. Dr. Jekyll, wanting to make his wife happy, slipped a concoction he designed into her tea that enabled her to conceive Mary. 

What exactly this concoction is and how it provided the desired result is up for speculation. Jekyll created it from his research on perfecting the human rationality, and that’s all the information the reader is given.

This concoction more than just produced Mary— it clearly had an impact on her development. She has never cried, blushed, or lashed out because she is unable to do or feel anything irrational or illogical. She was the perfect child who has now grown into Jekyll’s dream of a rational human being without her consciously doing so.

What would you think, how would you feel, to look back and realize that someone has had such an intricate impact in your development? Someone who wasn’t even there for most of your life?

Mary has taken it quite well so far, but it will be interesting to see if that holds up in the next book.

Think about your family, as well as anyone else you’ve ever known. What sort of impact have they had on you? Would you be the person you are today with or without them?


Want to join the Athena Club? You can buy The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and its sequel, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, at Chapters and other bookstores in your area.

Please support your local independent bookstores whenever possible.


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.

Welcome to the Dark Side, Nintendo

With the surprise announcement of Nintendo’s current work-in-progress, the sequel to the modern classic Switch title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the internet has been abuzz with speculations and theories. Within hours, social media platforms were flooded. 

The minute-and-a-half glimpse fans received at E3 2019 is packed with a multitude of little details that have been thoroughly picked apart and analyzed. It is dark, tense, and eerie—words that have not been used to describe a Zelda game since the Nintendo64 classic Majora’s Mask and the aesthetically haunting Twilight Princess.

Fans have been fed and are savouring the taste of anticipation, broadcasting what they speculate and hope for in the next game no matter how outlandish, far-fetched, or even credible their theories are.

However, Nintendo normally shies away from such dark themes in order to advertise content to younger audiences. Even Twilight Princess, arguably the series most mature and thematically somber release, is relatively tame in nature compared to other T-rated video games for other platforms. And it’s still a game targeted towards children despite the rating.

So for Nintendo to present a mummified corpse in a twisted and tortured fashion was quite a statement for the company of wholesome family entertainment.

What had happened to him? (screenshot taken directly from the trailer)

What had happened to him? (screenshot taken directly from the trailer)

So who is—was—this person? The body has all the trademarks of the series most prominent antagonist, Ganondorf, but producer and project manager Eiji Aonuma has yet to officially confirm this.

If the game’s development does indeed follow the theme of the trailer, this game is definitely going to be more sinister than any before in the Zelda franchise and I am here for it.

I, like many others, had grown up with The Legend of Zelda, cherishing it for its charm and sense of adventure. As a result, I had come to expect the standard, formulaic Zelda playthrough that the next storyline would be developed around. And while I still genuinely enjoy playing these titles—The Windwaker will forever be my favourite in the series—they no longer present much of a challenge. 

Perhaps this is just what happens when you play each game a hundred times over as a child. But I’m an adult now, with responsibilities and little time for such leisure. So when I sit down in front of my console, I want something that’s not only entertaining, but that’s going to stimulate my intellect.

Breath of the Wild was a welcome break from such a rigid structure and presented a huge leap for Nintendo.

Company developers have finally acknowledged that its audience does not need to be hand-held through the mechanics and presented the freedom for players to experience the game as they wished. And even though they tossed out the formula and major dungeon-progression system, it still feels like a Zelda title. 

Going back to the darker theme of the Breath of the Wild sequel trailer, what excites me is not the possibility of Nintendo creating a flagship game in the horror genre, but because it means the series is finally maturing. 

I grew up with this series, now show me how this series is going to grow and keep up with me. 

By presenting a darker Zelda possibility, it feels as though Nintendo has finally recognized that the children they created games for have grown up and can handle more mature content.

So throw me your mummified villain and all he represents, Nintendo. I am ready.


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.

Ravenser Odd

Originally a Viking community of just a few scattered fishing huts, Ravenser Odd was a small town that existed off the coast of Yorkshire, England, centuries ago. It was often confused with Ravenser, a small settlement not too far up the coast, but Ravenser Odd certainly developed a more memorable reputation.

The town was built up and officially put on the maps in the 1230s, thanks to the efforts of William de Forz. Known as a “feudal adventurer of the worst type”, the third Earl of Abermarle saw the land’s lucrative potential and laid down the town’s foundations. 

Photo courtesy of Caroline Lundberg via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Caroline Lundberg via Flickr

Being perfectly positioned as the first visible land for voyagers entering the Humber, this was where thieves, vagabonds, and even pirates flocked to. In the early days of Ravenser Odd, most of these men worked for the Earl, sharing a portion of their swindled fortunes with him. They weren’t your typical raiders—these rapscallions had a system and it worked. 

The locals of Ravenser Odd would intersect ships en route to the mainland and persuade them to dock, often by threatening them with force should they not cooperate. Voyagers forced to bring their ships in were taxed for their goods and cargo, and merchants often found that there was profit to be had for doing business here.

So how did this morally questionable establishment get away with such coercion?

In 1298, Ravenser Odd petitioned for and was granted a royal charter by King Edward I, “Hammer of the Scots”. This charter not only gave the citizens control over their own governance, but the right to charge ships for entering their territory and extract these fees as they may. And it wasn’t a completely lawless town; it had its own justice system, complete with a prison system, gallows, and had a mayor to keep things from getting too out of control. 

The King had no issue turning a blind eye, either, as Ravenser Odd was a reliable contributor to his military campaigns.

And while swindling was their favourite pastime, it wasn’t their only form of entertainment; Ravenser Odd had a lively market, was a lucrative trading hub, and hosted an annual fair. So it was basically just like any other Yorkshire town of the era—except this one was run by criminals. And despite the illegal activity, it was truly a thriving port that did well for itself.

Unfortunately, Ravenser Odd’s days of revelry vanished into the sea. 

Since the town was not set on solid land, but rather a sandy island just off the tip of Spurn Point, rising sea-levels eroded the town’s foundations, causing it to collapse into the sea. Locals were quick to grab their treasures and run, looting every village they ventured through. 

The final blow was delivered by the “Grote Mandrenke” (meaning “the great drowning of men”), a massive storm that swept in from the Atlantic Ocean and poured down upon northwestern Europe. The unusually high tides swallowed up the town for good, and thus, Ravenser Odd was no more.

Image courtesy of The British Library via Flickr

Image courtesy of The British Library via Flickr


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.

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.

Prague: In the Dark of the Night

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, November 3rd, 2018.


Looking for some prime haunted locations to get a good thrill? Then look no further than the Czech Republic’s capital city, Prague. With its twisting paths, haunting architecture, and mysterious atmosphere, it's not hard imagining that Prague is overflowing with supernatural occurrences.

Old Town in particular is a hot-spot for lingering spirits who can’t seem to find rest in their eternal slumber. While there are numerous sites and hauntings to visit, here are some of the more intriguing ones you might want to see (or avoid) on the dark streets of Prague.

Photo courtesy of David Curry on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of David Curry on Flickr.

Perhaps you’ll encounter “The Headless Templar”: a dishonoured knight beheaded for a crime long forgotten by the living. He can only be released from his ghostly wanderings if slain by a mortal person in combat. Are you brave enough?

Need a shave? “The Mad Barber” was a man who dabbled in alchemy, trying to make mountains of gold for himself despite various warnings. This plan obviously didn’t go well: he lost all of his money, his family fell apart, and he lost his mind. He eventually started slicing into everyone who crossed him with his razor, and was beaten to death when he challenged a group of soldiers. If you’re willing to let his ghastly figure shave you, you’ll find him wandering Karlova Street, waiting to be set free.

The Czech Republic has some fantastic beer. Should you overindulge, don’t be scared if you encounter a tall, skeletal man on your way back to the hotel. He only bothers the drunks on the street for money. Legend has it that he was once an unusually tall man who sold his skeleton to a doctor for a fortune. Celebrating his new found wealth, he went out to celebrate, but became overly intoxicated and bragged about his luck to the wrong people. They robbed him and stabbed him to death. His restless spirit now wanders in the hope that he can buy his skeleton back.

Everyone loves a good turkey, right? Well go to Kampa Island during the night of Good Friday and you may see one: on fire! This phantom creature gobbles around the old mill since one of the previous owners roasted and devoured it whole when he should have been fasting. The man became ill and died within a few hours. Every year since then the turkey’s flaming image appears. Please note that you must not challenge the turkey: the turkey is evil and shall prevail. You will burn.

If you’re in the area and interested in investigating these and other haunts, click this link and check out the map below. BohemianMagic has put together an interactive map for prospective ghost hunters to follow.


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.

Blood in the Attic: The LaLaurie Mansion

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, October 21st, 2018.


Leading up to 1834, the LaLauries were members of high society: hosting lavish parties and pampering their guests. Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a beautiful, charming woman who purchased the mansion in 1832 and maintained the household herself; her husband had little to do with the property and its affairs. Behind closed doors, she was known to be quick of temper and lashed out.

When a young female slave fell to her death from the roof (in order to escape being beaten after brushing a snag in the Madame’s hair), neighbours who had seen the Madame burying her in the courtyard called for law enforcement. This little girl was not the first reported death at the mansion; one man had purposefully jumped out a window to escape punishment. That window was quickly sealed with cement and remains so to this day.

Photo courtesy Luděk Maděryč via Pexels

Photo courtesy Luděk Maděryč via Pexels

As there were laws restricting the mistreatment of slaves, Madame LaLaurie was forced to give up her slaves. However, she convinced a relative to buy them back for her, and heads turned the other way. After that, rumours circulated Madame LaLaurie about her brutal treatment of her slaves, despite showing civility to them in public (and even manumitting two of her own). The LaLauries quickly lost popularity in the French Quarter, which worsened the Madame’s temper.

Suspicions were confirmed when a fire started in the kitchen in 1834: Madame LaLaurie was, in fact, torturing her slaves. Rescuers found that at least seven of her slaves had been locked in the attic and were mutilated beyond belief. Reportedly, the cook set the fire herself, either as a suicide attempt or to expose the horrors taking place. She named Madame LaLaurie responsible for the treachery in the attic. More exaggerated tales claim that these were macabre medical experiments and that Madame LaLaurie’s doctor husband aided her.

When the attic was discovered, locals flew into a rage and ransacked the mansion. The LaLauries were nowhere to be found; they had fled the scene amidst all of the commotion. Most rumours claim they left for Paris: others whisper that Madame LaLaurie returned under a new identity. However, a plaque with Madame LaLaurie’s name and death date can be found in New Orleans.

As for the rest of the LaLaurie slaves, witness accounts say that the slaves in the attic died from their wounds or were already dead when they were discovered. Some even swear they were put on display at an auction as proof of Madame LaLaurie’s brutality.

Today, the LaLaurie mansion is now privately owned and has been converted into apartments, but before then it had unoccupied. Nicolas Cage bought it in 2007, but never spent a night there and sold it a year later. It most recently came under the spotlight as a filming location in American Horror Story: Coven (according to Huffington Post).

Photo courtesy of stevesheriw via Flickr

Photo courtesy of stevesheriw via Flickr

Passersby claim the mansion itself has a spooky atmosphere about it, that ghostly screaming and the clanging of chains can be heard from within. On occasion, the little girl who fell from the roof can be seen around the place. Unfortunately, there are no tours of the interior since the mansion is privately owned, but walking tours of New Orleans usually make the detour.


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.

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.

The Beggar's Drum

We’re turning back the clocks, fair readers, to the year 1661. In the southwestern reaches of England, you’ll find a town called Tedworth (now called Tidworth), where the following tale takes place.

John Mompesson was a lover of peace, quiet, and tranquillity. When he heard of a beggar named William Drury drumming in the streets without a licence, he pressed charges against him. Drury was taken to trial and had his drum taken away by the authorities, which was kept at Mompesson’s house for safekeeping. He would not see Drury after the trial; Mompesson left on a trip to London. There would no comforts found in his home upon return.

Photo courtesy of the British Library via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of the British Library via Flickr.

Since locking Drury’s drum away, Mompesson and his family often heard the sound of men pounding around their homestead at night. Yet every time he went to confront these hooligans, the sounds stopped, and no one could be found. Eventually, nightfall began to parade in more sinister, chilling noises. These would soon escalate and join together to imitate the hollow heartbeat of a drum.

Although the rhythm carried out each night, the drumming was no longer what disturbed Mompesson and his family. A Bible had been thrown into the fireplace, and invisible forces would follow and attack his children. Beastly panting was often felt in the hallways. One of Mompesson’s servants managed to communicate with one of the forces, asking it to bring him a wooden board he needed for repairs. The force complied.

Image courtesy of  Saducismus Triumphatus  (1681)

Image courtesy of Saducismus Triumphatus (1681)

Another servant—also named John—was a favourite target of torment: his bedsheets would be ripped from him at night, and wrestling matches often ensued. A priest was brought in for a consultation, but even he could not offer any solution or comfort. Any holy interference seemed to agitate the unseen and amplify the activity. Before long, the phenomenon had grown strong enough to manifest a voice of its own, but for the most part only chanted: “A witch, a witch! I am a witch!”

Townsfolk were completely aware of the commotion: neighbours and passersby could hear the steady beat as well. None of them were personally afflicted, so this was strictly a phenomenon to torment the Mompessons. However, those staying overnight on the Mompesson property would collect experiences of their own.

Reverend Joseph Glanvill, a renowned skeptic of the supernatural, was invited to stay the night and bear witness to the events that had occurred for over a year at this point. He, too, experienced the disembodied panting, objects that moved inexplicably, and the children’s suffering (for the forces loved to torment them the most). Glanvill concluded that the household was plagued by a demon or malevolent spirit—a conclusion Mompesson himself had already come to. Glanvill would be of no use to him.

Mompesson believed that Drury had died and that his experiences were because of a curse the beggar set upon him for having his drum taken away.

Image courtesy of the British Library on Flickr.

Image courtesy of the British Library on Flickr.

Drury was not dead though; in the summer of 1663 the very much still alive Drury had escaped from jail—where he was supposed to be serving time for theft charges—and bought himself another drum. While far from being dead he did, however, place the curse on Mompesson, bragging about it wherever he went.

Mompesson once again brought Drury to trial, where Drury openly admitted to using witchcraft to hex the Mompesson family. In an attempt to barter for his freedom, Drury promised to lift the curse. But his freedom was not in Mompesson’s hands: Drury was sentenced to the colonies for other crimes he had committed.

No one knows for sure what became of him though: ship captains were reluctant to transport him due to his “supernatural capabilities”. And the legends fall short for Mompesson as well—had he finally been relieved? Or had the rest of his days been marked by the beating of the drum? There are no conclusive endings to this tale; the true ending had long been dropped from the years.


So was this a case of actual witchcraft, or simply a legend created to add colour to Tidworth? Let us know what you think in the comments, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.


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.

Toronto's Own “Hill House"

A popular tourist destination and notable landmark for the city of Toronto, Casa Loma is a maze of elegant corridors, grandiose chambers, and secret passages.

An architectural marvel of its time, Casa Loma had electricity, the latest in kitchenware, and even its own telephone system connecting to other areas of the castle. The 800-foot-long tunnel connecting the stable to the main structures is still a prominent feature to this day. The planning and construction of Casa Loma even took technological progression into consideration, and room was made within the castle’s foundations for any future upgrades it would potentially receive.

Photo courtesy of Atomazul via Adobe Stock.

Photo courtesy of Atomazul via Adobe Stock.

Casa Loma was the dream household of Sir Henry Pellatt, a wealthy financier known for bringing hydro-electricity to the people of Toronto. He hired architect E.J. Lennox to aid in his ambition, and construction started in 1911. It took three years for a team of 300 men to build.

Unfortunately, the dream didn’t last long. Sir Pellatt and his wife were forced to leave Casa Loma in 1924—only ten years after its completion—due to financial misfortune. Unable to pay the costs of castle-living, they had no choice but to move out. Since then, the castle has changed ownership numerous times.

Should you decide to visit Casa Loma, you may have a different experience than you’re anticipating.

Photo courtesy of Alan Bell via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Alan Bell via Flickr.

The hosting grounds for an elaborate and annual Halloween haunted house could actually be haunted. Guests have not only been greeted by staff on their visits, but have had encounters with the original owners as well. The apparitions of Sir and Lady Pellatt have both been spotted around the castle grounds, and it is widely believed that the only reason they haunt their former homestead is that their dream was so short-lived. They may have moved out, but it seems that they refused to move on.

While Lady Pellatt tends to have a more obscure presence, the most popular sighting of Sir Pellatt comes from a young boy who spotted a stern-looking man in a second-story window during an event held in the gardens. Staff were confused: the second floor had been locked up the entire day, and therefore was inaccessible to anyone without the key. When asked, the boy provided a  physical description that matched Sir Pellatt’s.

Another commonly seen apparition is a lady dressed all in white, said to have been a maid who used to work at Casa Loma. No one remembers her name; she is simply called The White Lady.

A mischievous spirit lurks in the underground tunnel, grabbing at the hands, hair, and sometimes clothes of passersby. Even when tourists aren’t being poked at, many claim the tunnel exudes a creepy aura and skim the sights for a quick exit.

What I find particularly interesting, however, are not the spooks and sourceless sounds.  It’s that Casa Loma once housed a secret military base in its stables during World War II.

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Zappala via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Zappala via Flickr.

Canadian engineer William Corman was tasked with finding the perfect location to produce ASDIC (Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee) devices. These devices—which were an early form of sonar—were used to detect German U-boats, and not even Toronto’s politicians knew of its existence. For the duration of the base’s operation, a section of the stables had been closed off with just a mere sign:

“Construction in progress— sorry for the inconvenience".

Perhaps—for this period of time at least—the strange noises and occurrences guests of Casa Loma experienced were the byproducts of running a secret operation a hands-breadth away from the public eye. Without any knowledge of the truth or explanation otherwise, imaginations had been locked and loaded.

But what about now? While there is no official date, the sighting in the second-story window was a fairly recent incident. And while any perceived supernatural occurrences in the stables could be blamed on the hidden base, what about the happenings in the main castle? Perhaps we should go see for ourselves.


Planning a trip to Casa Loma? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments or on social media!


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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