natascha-wood

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

Goodbye God, I'm Going to Bodie

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 26th, 2018.


Photo courtesy of werner22brigitte via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of werner22brigitte via Pixabay.com

Hello, and welcome back to Voices in the Attic for your latest—and last—dose of the creepy and abandoned. This time, it falls upon me to tell you the story of another ghost town—Bodie, California, one of the most incredible and well-preserved examples of an nineteenth-century American boom town.

Bodie began life in 1859 as a small mining camp just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, started by a group of prospectors including W.S Bodey from Poughkeepsie. It was allegedly Bodey who discovered gold there, but he died a few months later in a blizzard, long before the town was named after him.

It took another sixteen years or so before things started picking up in Bodie, which most historians attribute to the discovery of silver in Aurora and the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia. However, by 1876 the discovery of a profitable gold deposit had transformed Bodie from an isolated camp to a growing mining town.

Three years later, Bodie’s population was anywhere between 5,000 to 7,000 people with facilities and an infrastructure to match. At its peak, Bodie boasted opium dens aplenty, breweries, hotels, four volunteer fire companies, railroads, schools, telegraph lines, a Taoist temple, a union hall, a busy red light district, a Wells Fargo bank, nine stamp mills, several daily newspapers and sixty-five saloons. It also had a large and thriving Chinese community, many of whom were employed supplying most of Bodie’s wood and coal. Newspapers at the time even recorded large Chinese New Years celebrations happening in Bodie each year.

Not surprisingly, jails and mortuaries were an absolute necessity because Bodie residents were killing each other in the street and committing crimes left, right and centre. In fact, the only thing the men of Bodie were exceptionally good at was getting violently drunk and shooting each other. It got so bad that Bodie earned itself a reputation for being lawless and depraved. Perhaps the most famous description was given in 1881 by the Reverend F.M Warrington, who described Bodie as “. . .a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.”

Photo courtesy of McRonny via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of McRonny via Pixabay.com

But eventually, the get-rich-quick prospectors moved on to greater things and families settled down while the mines were still operating at peak profitability. The relative peace and prosperity didn’t last for long though because, yes, you guessed it: the mines dried up and shut down. The Bodie boom was over, just twenty years after it started.

The city began haemorrhaging residents and money, a situation which was not at all helped by the two world wars and a massive fire in 1932 which destroyed ninety percent of Bodie’s buildings. By the 1940s Bodie was officially a ghost town, held in arrested decay the way its last residents left it. Now, Bodie is a popular tourist destination for those seeking to experience an authentic ‘Wild West’ town, but with that comes the threat of vandalism and theft.

Thankfully, park rangers came up with a preventative strategy that seemed to take on a life of its own. Rangers invented an urban legend to scare people off, or a faux curse if you will. The legend goes like this; If you take something from Bodie, you will be cursed with bad luck.

It could be a rock or the piano in the old gambling hall (which was actually stolen in the 60’s but returned.) Take anything, and expect bad things to befall you immediately. That’s all well and good. We love a good curse! But somehow, the curse became real. The rangers were soon receiving stolen items in the mail from tourists, begging for forgiveness after they took ‘souvenirs’ and began experiencing bad luck. Visitors describe sudden illnesses, car crashes, family deaths, all manner of ill-tidings, after leaving Bodie.

The following excerpt is from a letter sent to Bodie in 2002 by an anonymous sender:

"Fair warning for anyone that thinks this is just folklore—my life has never seen such turmoil. Please take my warning and do not remove even a speck of dust."

So, if you are thinking of going there, don’t take anything. Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of Bodie as well. The State Parks service also discourages tourists from testing the curse, as police reports must be filed each and every time they receive stolen artifacts in the mail. Much like the number one rule of camping: leave no trace.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

London Underground: Commuting with Corpses

Metropolitan_Underground_Railway_stations.jpg

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

Spirits in the Cotswold Hills

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 17th, 2018.


The city of Bath and its surrounding towns have been host to a wide array of different societies and peoples throughout history—Iron age Britons, Romans, Saxons and Georgians, among others. So, it’s not at all surprising that the area still bears their marks, in architecture or in stories of a more ghostly nature. And if you believe those stories, then you’ll find that most deceased residents have decided to stick around.

The first, and perhaps the most infamous of the stories around Bath, is the legend of Sally in the Woods. So the legend says, Sally was a little girl who was locked in Brown’s Folly, the tall tower standing alone in the woods, and she died there.  Since then, people have reported seeing the apparition of a girl in the roadway, which is pitch black at night without lamps or moonlight coming through the trees overhead. Cars often swerve to evade the phantom and crash into the dark forest. As such, the legend lives on and residents continue to avoid that road at night, for fear that Sally will emerge in their headlights.

Photo courtesy of London Illustrated News. [Theatre Royal, 1888]

Photo courtesy of London Illustrated News. [Theatre Royal, 1888]

Another story, which has made the rounds in the past century, involves the Bath Theatre Royal on Sawclose, built in 1805, and still the most incredible work of Georgian architecture. I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the following stories, as I did not see or feel or smell anything during my many visits as a child. However, others who have gone to see performances do experience some rather strange phenomena attributed to different spirits.

One of the spirits people report seeing is known to all as ‘the Grey Lady’. She sits in the top left box during shows, leaving behind the distinct smell of jasmine and a terrible depression that affects show-goers for days after. The Grey Lady is said to be an unnamed Victorian actress, who hung herself in the Garrick’s Head Pub next-door to the Theatre when she discovered her husband had murdered her lover.

Of course, we cannot speak about Bath without mentioning the outer towns. And this time, it’s Bradford-on-Avon, the quaint town built on a once thriving textile industry and the site of a few grizzly happenings. Where, in 1532, a local man was burned at the stake for heresy, now there is a zebra-crossing, or a crosswalk for those of you who are of a more North American persuasion. The road crossing is between a pharmacy and a charity shop. Residents and tourists pass over it daily, most without knowing what transpired there five hundred years ago.

Thomas Tropenell, the above mentioned Bradford resident, was arrested for denying the doctrine of transubstantiation—the belief that bread and wine given at the eucharist were quite literally the blood and body of Christ. For doing so, he was burned at the stake upon that very crossing. And sometimes it feels like the fires are still burning. People who cross the road often experience a sudden change in temperature, a sudden unexplainable heat on an otherwise cold winter day. Those who do feel it don’t know what to attribute the heat to, but author Jasper Bark theorizes that the execution of Thomas Tropenell left a permanent mark that can still be felt today.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Voices Recommend: Short Horror Films

Recently I have been watching some pretty cool short films on youtube, because I, unfortunately, exhausted my supply of feature films. Most of them, on average, are about fifteen minutes long. But the great thing about short films is that they aren’t spread thin like longer feature films, which means greater attention to detail. Short films also offer more creative freedom and they give talented filmmakers the chance to show their work. So let’s dig in!

1.) The IMom

Directed by Ariel Martin, The IMom is a dark science fiction film that tells of a future in which the work of a mother is done instead by a robot, called the IMom. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, the immediate result is a detached and lazy biological mother,  who is more interested in her phone than she is her own children. Meanwhile, the eldest son, Sam, is not particularly fond of his real mother or the IMom, even though the IMom is the one cooking for him and helping him memorize the Bible as part of his homework.

Fortunately, the IMom has the Gospel of Matthew installed, so she recites the verses for him:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

There’s a power cut, and IMom seems to glitch for a few moments, before recovering and returning to normal. Then she shares a heartwarming moment with Sam. They talk about the sheep and the wolf again. Sam asks her, which one are you? You look like me, so you must be a sheep like me.

But IMom is neither.  Brace yourself for a horrible twisty ending.

2.) The Top of the Stairs: Agatha

This one is a neat little period piece, but it’s not like Downton Abbey or Poldark.  Agatha, directed by Timothy Vandenberg, is more reminiscent of  2012’s The Woman in Black, and I loved every second of it. We begin in an old house, probably around the early 20th century. A little girl stands in the hallway, where she is asked by a stern-sounding lady if she has come alone, as requested. The lady instructs her that her job is to take food up to the attic, place the food on the table, then leave. She must never, ever walk past the table.

So the little girls goes up into the dark attic with a plate of raw chicken. There’s a figure lying on the bed, who makes this horrible wheezing sound—not reassuring, right? But she manages to put the plate down without incident, then she gets paid for doing so. The little girl does this several more times. The second time the figure is nowhere to be seen, the third time it’s sitting by the window. You’ll have to find out what happens next.  I recommend this one for the sheer creepiness factor and the incredible makeup work. It sent shivers up my spine.

3. And They Watched

Inspired by the reinstatement of the electric chair in Tennessee, Toronto-based director Vivian Lin dives into the topic of capital punishment her gruesome yet thought-provoking film, And They Watched.

A prison janitor goes about his job, numb to the dreadful realities of the place where he works. He cleans the windows that separate the electric chair from its audience, paying no mind to the lives that have been lost there. He’s so divorced from reality that he doesn’t even notice the grisly apparitions following him around. However, the deceased prisoners want retribution.

4.) Dédalo

If you are a fan of the Alien franchise, then Dédalo, directed Jerónimo Rocha, is certainly something to watch. It’s a dark and grimy science fiction horror that takes place aboard a space freighter, which has been overrun by alien creatures. Siena, the main character, must survive in the maze of machinery while avoiding the creatures, who are eating her crewmates.

5.) The Exorcism

This one isn’t so much a horror film, but more of a comedic homage to the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. So, if you have a dark sense of humour, this will give you the giggles at the very least. The Exorcism, by Adam Bolt, explores the surprisingly endearing relationship that has developed over the years between the demon Valak and Jacob, the exorcist on call.  Together they recount all the times they’ve met, telling stories to the bewildered and markedly unimpressed sister of the possessed woman. It’s a wild ride, let me tell you, and absolutely worth a watch.


That’s all we have for now! Let us know what you think about these spooky films in the comments, or give us a shout on twitter @atticvoices!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Weird: A Review

In February, we here at Voices In The Attic did indeed leave our dark hovel for a night out at the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, where we watched a performance of Weird: The Witches of Macbeth.

Weird is the flagship show of Theatre Articus, a performance company based in Kitchener-Waterloo. You might recognize this show from the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival, where it was the recipient of the Cutting Edge Award. The Ottawa Fringe Festival also gave Weird a glowing review, and awarded it the Best of Fest in 2015. So we knew we were in for a pretty great show.

As the name suggests, Weird is based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. It combines both the famous verses from the original play, and new verses in Iambic pentameter by writer and director Phillip Psutka. However, Macbeth is just an invisible character on the sidelines of this play, because the Weird Sisters are centre stage, as they rightfully should be.

The Witches of Macbeth are iconic characters in both theatre and literature. To many modern women, they are a symbol of female power. However, at the time of their conception, post-Elizabethan Britain had descended into a hundred-year witch panic. Dissident women were put to trial, burned or taken to the gallows for something as small as a birthmark. So, naturally, the original Weird Sisters were supposed to represent evil and spiritual treachery.

That’s not the case in this play though. Philip Psutka and co-creator Lindsay Bellaire masterfully present the witches as multi-dimensional characters, who are anything but evil. Instead, they are servants to nature. The three sisters—played by Lindsay Bellaire, Lauren Fields and Emily Hughes—are incredibly compelling women.

All in all, Weird truly is a unique composition of aerial acrobatics on crimson silks, imaginative storytelling, fantastic acting, and expert use of Shakespearean language and rhythm. And we didn’t even need a translation book to understand it! I would absolutely recommend this show to anyone looking for innovative Canadian theatre. If you see it around, go see it!

I will leave you with a particularly potent (and some might say relevant) line from Weird: “The earth doth rot, when power is had and reason is not,”


Check out Theatre Articus’ website for more information.


Do you love the Witches of Macbeth as much as we do, because we really love the Witches of Macbeth. Talk to us in the comments!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

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

More Tales from Jail

Welcome back to the Attic.

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

1:26 → Distant scream.

6:34 → A long breath.

7:30 → A low ‘Ooooo’ sound.

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

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

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

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

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

The message read like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beam in the gallows stairwell.

The beam in the gallows stairwell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Voices Go to Jail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick J. Whelan  / Archives of Montreal.

Patrick J. Whelan / Archives of Montreal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we are going to spend the night with them.


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


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

What To Watch On Netflix: February 2019

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

  1. Train To Busan [2016]

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

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


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

2. The VVitch [2016]

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Alienist [2018]

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

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

5. The Ritual [2017]

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

6. Diablero [2018]

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


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


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Empire of the Dead

I will preface this story with a short disclaimer, for those of you with weak stomachs, about the grizzly and grim details contained within. For my story today is about the Catacombs beneath Paris, and how they came to be.

We begin in the mid-eighteenth century, at which time Paris is the second largest city in Europe. Louis XV, described by historian Jerome Blum as “a perpetual adolescent called to do a man's job”, rules from his great-grandfather’s 300 billion dollar palace, Versailles, twelve miles away from the cramped quarters of the city and the seething ranks of poor Parisians. His reign is marked by extravagant spending, incompetent management, and a widening rift between the monarchy and the common people, especially those living in Paris.

Cimetière des Innocents  (1550) engraving by   F. Hoffbauer, courtesy of  Getty images .

Cimetière des Innocents (1550) engraving by F. Hoffbauer, courtesy of Getty images.

Thus, the State ignores the needs of its people until problems become severe, and let me tell you, the problems that necessitate the Catacombs are severe. At some point, Paris runs out of space for its half a million living residents and the six million deceased, specifically in Cimetière des Innocents.

Now, Cimetière des Innocents opened in the twelfth century as a small burial site consisting of individual burials. But as time and several plague outbreaks pass, the cemetery gets bigger, and individual burials turn into mass graves twenty feet deep, each containing about fifteen hundred corpses. Most of the burial pits are barely covered too, so it’s not uncommon to see dead bodies sticking out of the mud.


What is it like for the people unlucky enough to live nearby? Well, it’s enough to make even the most mild-mannered peasant want to guillotine the King. The stench of decomposing flesh is overwhelming, the water is poisoned, and the air is so impure that even candles won’t light. And people are actually falling into burial pits.

And you thought your commute to work was bad.

Photo courtesy of Nathanael Burton via  flickr.

Photo courtesy of Nathanael Burton via flickr.

Finally, after a particularly bad rain storm, a burial pit bursts through the wall of a private home, filling some poor family’s living room with corpses in various stages of decomposition. That is when the State intervenes.

King Louis XIV issues an edict in 1780 to finally halt burials at Cimetière des Innocents, and all other cemeteries within Paris. Sounds like common sense, but it's not for these people.  Fortunately, Paris has a disused limestone quarry waiting in the wings. So the work begins!

The task of moving the six million corpses happens only at night, in carts covered by black shrouds, accompanied by chanting priests and a lot of incense. They then have to be taken down to the tunnels, which are about five stories underground, and stacked in rooms called ossuaries. Additionally, the city must maintain fires to purify the air, and resourceful citizens collect the large deposits of adipocere left behind, otherwise known as ‘corpse wax’, to make candles. (When life gives you corpses, make corpse candles).

Photo taken in 1861 by  Felix Nadar .

Photo taken in 1861 by Felix Nadar.

Twelve years later, the cemeteries are empty, Cimetière Des Innocents is raised to the ground for the health and sanity of all, and spoiler: the King is dead, he lost his head. After the revolution, bodies go straight into the catacombs—including that of revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre, who shoots himself in the face and then gets guillotined by his former comrades during the “Reign of Terror”. It’s a really bad day for Max.

The catacombs remain in use for another twenty years—by which time the decapitating has slowed down—until Louis-Étienne François Héricart de Thury renovates the catacombs and transforms them into the work of macabre beauty they are today.

The whole complex finishes up at about two hundred and two kilometres of tunnels and ossuaries, only two of which are open to the public. Above the entrance reads the infamous inscription; “Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la mort.” It’s a warning that should be heeded by all who enter.

That brings our story to an end, for now. However, should you choose to visit, always be respectful, and don’t get lost.


Have you been to the Catacombs? Share your experiences below, or tweet at us.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch