The Children Behind Anne Shirley

When you think of Canada, it doesn’t take long for your mind to wander to the red-haired girl with the famous puffed sleeves. Her books are still wildly popular in bookstores today, and she is a constant attraction for Japanese tourists.

Anne-with-an-E Shirley managed to steal the hearts of Canadians everywhere upon publication, and she grew in popularity over the decades. It was never much of a mystery as to why Canadians took to her so quickly. She was optimistic. She was thoughtful. She was loving, and in return she was so easy to love. We cherish her as part of a childhood that Canadians seem to universally share. Her book is a beloved staple.

Even during the war years, her upbeat tale managed to inspire. Poland managed to have the story translated during the war, and she snuck her way into school curriculums globally over the decades. Like the classic Cinderella story, she transformed her flaws into her most beloved attributes. Everyone fell madly in love with her charming speeches, as well as her fiery nature.

The tragic orphan had certainly managed to find her happy ending at Green Gables, while also inspiring several sequels, a beloved mini series in 1985, and even a Japanese anime, furthering her reach across the globe. Anne Shirley was such a staple that even the Canadian tourism industry capitalized off of her story, transforming Prince Edward Island into a landscape of Anne Shirley. One cannot visit the island without stopping by and exploring Green Gables, the home where the author Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up.

Canadians love talking about Anne Shirley and the impact the series had on their own lives. Traces of her can be found in the Canadian landscape. Still lakes, bright beneath the sun. Long sweeping fields of golden hay. Cherry blossoms, in particular, hold a treasured connection to the story and character.

What the country shrinks from, however, is the long legacy of home children, the inspiration behind Anne of Green Gables. Originally plucked from a newspaper advertisement, Montgomery had been inspired by the tale of a girl named Ellen, adopted by an elderly couple when they had originally sent for a boy to take up a role on their farm.

Even from this optimistic portrayal of the adoption and happy-ever-after for the girl, there is a bleakness that lingers. Fate had chosen Ellen to find her way to this home, when so many of the home children were abused and lost, left to work like slaves in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. One wonders what happened to the sought for boy and how his story turned out. Another question leads to the girl’s experiences before she arrived to Canada, safely secured in the hold of two siblings willing to let her remain in their family, despite her gender.

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The mission for Home Children brought few happy-ever-afters, and instead scattered children across the globe.

Poverty had been a common element to life in the UK. Workhouses and their legacies terrorized the lower classes, casting a long shadow of abuse. These workhouses had been designed to fix poverty. Those who could not manage on their own would be taken into the hulking buildings and reduced to numbers. Women and men were separated, and children went off to their own section. The working conditions were overwhelmingly desperate, and the prisoners of the workhouses suffered, trying to work long hours on a low-calorie diet.

Home Children was the child migration scheme that took root in 1869, directing 100,000 children towards countries like Canada and Australia. They suffered extreme hardships and had no social security network to protect them, and were overworked by the settlers of early Canada.

The original intention was to liberate children from crushing poverty and to provide brand new opportunities that they ordinarily wouldn’t find in the UK. In exchange for their labor, they would be provided with shelter and food. However, instead of being adopted into families, children often discovered that they were simply workers-in-training, and separated from the rest of the children living in the area. Tasked with work, they often suffered under the demands.

When we look at Anne of Green Gables, we often fail to see the darkness present in the text. Her comments about her past spent looking after young children and acting as the working child often slip by. She frequently experiences despair, having her own father figure die near the end of the first novel, and in later sequels watches her friend die from consumption and suffers herself a miscarriage. Grief and despair linger in the background of her bright enthusiasm, but we ignore it.

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In the most recent adaptation, Anne With An E took to Netflix and brought with it a nearly faithful adaptation. However, by layering in impressive twists to the original plot, they manage to reinvent the story. The formula is all the same— a red-haired orphan girl adopted by the elderly Cuthberts, and growing up over a string of adventures. It seems simple enough, but there is a brilliance that is added to the rehearsed formula.

The writers brought forward the darkness that loomed in the backdrop of the original source material. While Home Children and their legacy remain absent from the television adaption, flashes of previous trauma flicker across the screen, and the story introduces dangerous characters willing to inflict harm. In the second episode, viewers witness a man attempting to abduct children from the train station, and how close Anne is from being whisked away and never seen again. There is something startling in the casual aspect of the scene as audiences finally acknowledge the perils Anne finds herself engaged with.

One of the main elements to the first season was the harsh financial blow that the farm suffers, representing the dark difficulties of rural farming. The family running the farm depended on yearly success, and without it, things swiftly would go dark. This newly updated story provides insight to how crippling this devastation can be.

The only traces of Home Children can be found in the original inspiration for the novel, and that brings forward a shame. Having played a massive role in working in agricultural realms of Canada, they have been written out of history books. We fail to note our shortcomings in protecting and supporting these workers. Despite being children, they were shipped out for labour purposes only, and were lost from records over time. These children experienced limited agency and only found relief from the Home Children program during the Great Depression, when excess labour was no longer needed.

For now, their grim shadows can be found in the history behind Anne of Green Gables.

It is a fact that Canada fails to properly represent the Home Children. In 2009, the Minister of Immigration refused to apologize for the plight they underwent, and the suffering that they experienced at the hands of Canadians. Only a few token efforts were made to account for their presence, such as a plaque that can be found at the Home Children Memorial and Orphanage Building in Ottawa, a lone marker of the long history that sits in the shadows of elegant trees. A year after the Minister’s refusal to acknowledge the suffering of these labourers, the image of Home Children was printed into a postage stamp, rendered down in a plain piece of art.

As we fail to account for the labour that the country benefited from, the memory of these children suffocate under our silence.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore just to write bad poetry.

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

Don't Let Them In

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 20th, 2018.


Imagine this: you’re sitting home alone, late at night, possibly curled up on the couch with the TV on. You’re right in the middle of the best part when, all of a sudden, there’s a knock at the door. You pause your show and get up to see who’s there.

When you reach the door you switch on the porch light from the inside, which illuminates two children standing on the front porch: a boy and a girl. They’re both very pale and their light hair hangs in their faces. You can’t tell if they’re distressed or in trouble, but why else would two children this young be on your doorstep so late at night? You reach for the handle to open the door and see what’s wrong when it hits you: a sense of dread so dark and overwhelming that you yank your hand off the doorknob as though burned.

You don’t say anything, but it doesn’t matter because a child’s voice floats through the door. “We’re lost and our mother will worry. Can you please let us in to use your phone?” What would you do? Most people would want to help two children lost in the middle of the night. Surely most people would open the door.

I highly recommend that you do not. Because here’s the kicker: when the children look up at you you’ll find that their eyes are entirely pitch black.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

The Black-Eyed Children are an urban legend that dates back to 1996. A reporter named Brian Bethel wrote a post about an encounter he had with two children with completely black eyes, along with an encounter he heard about someone else having elsewhere with similar children. Since then, there have been numerous other reports of children turning up on people’s doorsteps or by their cars, asking to be let in.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

According to the legend, these children generally range from 6 to 16 years old, are very pale and often have outdated clothing, or clothing you wouldn’t expect to see on children of that age. But aside from the pitch black eyes, nothing else seems to be out of place about them.

Every encounter with these children has followed the same general patterns. They appear on the doorstep of someone’s house and ask to be let into the home, usually asking to use the phone to call their mother who is worrying about them. If they appear by your car, they usually ask for a ride home — once again, because their mother is worrying.

These children cannot come into your house or your car without your explicit permission but thus far, in all of the reported encounters, this hasn’t been a problem. There are no reports of anyone being harmed by a black-eyed child because no one has ever been known to let them into the house. This is because everyone who’s encountered a black-eyed child reports the same overwhelming sense of fear and dread that washes over them the closer they get to the child.

There is no real confirmation of any of these encounters aside from the reports posted online from those claiming to have personal experiences with these black-eyed children. It’s simply a matter of word-of-mouth, so ultimately it leaves the rest of us to believe what we choose to.

That being said: should you ever find yourself face-to-face with a black-eyed child, with nothing but your front door between you and them – do not let them in.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

RECLAIM

Check out  https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/  for more information about this stunning collection!

Check out https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/ for more information about this stunning collection!

RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry addresses the need for women to regain control and autonomy over their own bodies, and acts as a platform to represent their struggles and backgrounds. In this first part to the two-part anthology series, readers will not be disappointed with the diverse body of writers, connecting to different cultures, orientations, and races.

Published in May 2019, this anthology features forty-seven female writers, building a community within fluid poems that spread smoothly out over the pages. Engaging by how the voices promote unity in their struggles and encounters, this impressive collection will linger on in the minds of readers.

Easily shifting the balance, writers snatch at their own bodies and examine the carcasses left behind by society. This impressive literary collection features a variety of excellent work, but in particular “Training Bras” by Wanda Deglane andFat Girls on Trains” by Djamilla Mercurio demand for swift attention. Their concepts and experiences of bodies are immediately relatable, grabbing at attention. Often, women become disconnected from power and control over their bodies, and these two poems bring forward a whirlpool of emotions and experiences.

Women have spent decades struggling to find a platform for their voices. Pulling together groups of like-minded individuals, they have brought forward countless issues of gender experiences, and fought to be heard. Even with historical groups lobbying together for change, certain voices were sidelined and left unheard.

This anthology helps move forward. How we navigate our own lives is often an isolating experience, but this community of women pulls together their own experiences, and knits together an entire voyage of individual voices. Readers will certainly be enriched by this collection of poetry and group of women.


If you are looking for a host of voices that linger over the pages, do not hesitate in picking up RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry today.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

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.

A One-Star Yelp Review At Best

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 16th, 2018.


Historically, an inn has been seen as symbol of good will and hospitality. Lured in by the promise of a hot fire crackling away and hearty food, people flocked to these establishments for an opportunity to find rest and comfort. The Bender’s family Inn, however, operated an establishment of murderous intent, slitting the throats of visitors and burying the bodies in the nearby apple orchard.

1871 saw an unusual family settle down on the outskirts of Cherryvale, Illinois, right on a road that connected to two major cities in the area. The Benders were a clever family of four, taking advantage of the location and dressing their home up to entice potential visitors into staying for a night or two.

Photo courtesy of Arno Smit via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Arno Smit via Unsplash.com

The Benders helped to spice the local gossip mill, with the two men of the family both named John and the two women of the family both named Kate. Everyone had an opinion of the group, arguing if they were a family unit or two married couples. There was even a compelling argument that the women could have been witches involved in dark rituals steeped in sin and treachery. (Tragic that no one pegged the group for a bunch of murderers.)

The glory of living in the wild west was that this was the land of both opportunity and reinvention. It was also the perfect place to set up an elaborate business in killing unsuspecting visitors.

The one-star inn was small at best, located next to a flourishing apple orchard. Visitors might have been tempted by the rich smell of apple blossoms that hung from the trees in white clusters, making the inn seem harmless. Inside the inn the room had been cleverly arranged, with a front section hosting space for dining also serving as a general store. A canvas curtain divided the space, hiding the sleeping quarters behind it.

A chair was positioned directly against the curtain. It was referred to by the Benders as the best seat in the inn and they would encourage visitors to seat themselves upon it. Perhaps the visitors who took that seat were being kind and pretended that the odd stains upon the curtain were not there. They might have also been distracted by the younger Kate, who would often entertain them as they sat.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Both of the Johns would swap positions, taking turns standing behind the curtain with a hammer waiting for the chance to strike down hard the moment the guest relaxed and let their head brush against the curtain. Once the two Johns had made their move, Kate would attack, slitting their throats with a knife.

Bodies were handled with skill and dragged into a cellar. The family would wait for nightfall to bury their victims in the orchard. The elder John would often plow the soft earth of the orchard to disguise the shape of the freshly dug earth. Most bodies had been brutalized in their murder except the body of a young girl, found beneath her dead father. A fear spread quickly that she had been buried alive.

Perhaps if the internet had existed in the 1870s, reviews could have been given. Potential visitors would have been advised of the startling behaviors of their hosts or the curious sounds of moaning from beneath the floorboards.

While no one ever discovered if the Benders were biologically related, or pagan worshippers, it was quite clear that the entire family were terrible hospitality workers.

If your heart is truly set on staying at a murderous location, however, check out this link for some ‘safer’ suggestions.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Payette Media House via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Payette Media House via Adobe Stock

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Japan is Flush with Ghosts

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


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

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

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

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

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

Aka Manto

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

Photo found on wallpaperbrowse.com.  Original artist unknown.

Photo found on wallpaperbrowse.com.

Original artist unknown.

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

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

The Akaname

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

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




Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

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

Rideau McMadness

Ottawa is filled with plenty of buildings rumoured to be haunted. Visitors travel from far and wide to gaze upwards at the green roofs of Parliament, or to speculate about the supposed hauntings of some of the historic buildings downtown. Even the lengthy Rideau Canal draws tourism. In winter, it is transformed into one of the largest outdoor skating rinks. There are plenty of buildings scattered around Ottawa that attract plenty of attention, but one of the most infamous in the area is the Rideau Street McDonald’s.

Positioned by the Rideau Centre shopping mall and close to Parliament, it draws in high numbers of visitors daily. Because of low prices and having both a front and a back entrance, this particular McDonald’s location draws in steady attention.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Thompson via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Jenny Thompson via Adobe Stock

Everyone has heard of the Rideau Street McDonald’s. With perpetual visits from the police and recurring videos trending of brawls, it is legendary. One can hardly manage to complete four years attending an Ottawa university without watching the poorly filmed video of one particularly large fight, where a raccoon is pulled from a man’s jacket.

The popularity of this McDonalds location is primarily based off of its physical location. By sitting close to Parliament and other government buildings, it is also nestled close enough to the University of Ottawa, which attracts a high number of students. With student budgets, positioning in proximity to Rideau Centre and the Byward Market, this location is clearly very attractive to consumers.

You might notice, visiting the location, that classic music unexpectedly plays over the speakers. Perhaps management is attempting to psychologically tame the savage beasts with their choice of background music? Who knows. Despite this music, however, police officers visit this location daily to handle issues involving drug use and violence.

Violence is a staple of the Rideau McDonald’s experience. Dinner with a show is a key description of this location. Guests frequently verbally assault workers and begin physical brawls that are often caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube within hours. The wise visitors travel in groups, as chaos is a constant attribute to the Rideau McDonald’s location, and can quite swiftly pull any innocent bystander into the mix.

mcdonalds

Because of this aggressive reputation, the Rideau McDonald’s restaurant has changed their open 24 hours reputation and instead, has shifted into being open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Because of the constant need for police backup and numerous aggressive encounters within the store, they have also opted for hiring trained security. Safety has finally become a priority, after a lengthy history of assault and brutality on site.

Despite the alleged hauntings in nearby buildings like the Bytown museum or Chateau Laurier, the Rideau McDonald’s is somehow far more terrifying than a few ghosts. If you feel like you’ve missed out on the prime 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. experience, don’t worry. Plenty of wild incidents also occur throughout the day.


Leave us a comment if you’ve experienced a terrifying encounter at the Rideau McDonalds, or risked your life venturing into the bathroom down the hall.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

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.

Frozen in Time and Open for Visitation

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


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

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

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

The Year Without Summer

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of  Jagoush  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Jagoush via Adobe Stock

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of  homocosmicos  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of homocosmicos via Adobe Stock

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

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

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


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Salem Witchy Tourism

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 31st, 2018.


In the early 90’s Wicca, a branch of Paganism, became officially recognized as a religion despite developing activity in the 1940’s. This acceptance of a religion that actively promotes the idea of witchcraft and rituals shows that society has developed quite a bit since the time of the Salem Witch trials.

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

The Salem witch trials were a horrifying time that was founded in hysteria and paranoia that spread throughout the community, spurring people to isolate suspicious members and accuse them of treachery and consorting with the devil. These accusations were particularly devastating because torture and a biased justice system followed, and ended with a death sentence. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, with a high number of the accused being women, but only 20 overall were executed.

Present day Salem has changed quite a bit since the days of the witch trials. Nearly 1500 local women have publically announced their status as witches, and have helped establish a strong witch tourism trend in the area. Storefronts publically announce fortune readings and a variety offer spellcasting. This tourism feeds off of the deliberate atmosphere that Salem has promoted, by hosting a variety of events like ghost tours and parades celebrating the dead. These events are popularized with the intent in gaining economic revenue, and sustaining the area.

Witchcraft has gained popularity due to the change in popular culture. People have grown up with television shows like Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as books like the Harry Potter series. Typically, witches are presented as positive members of their respective societies. The shift in trends pushed witchcraft into a popular light and in turn popularized Wicca.

However, with this tourism so fixated on the promotion of witchcraft as well as theatrical performances, the question of historic sensitivity comes to light. The Salem witch trials had represented massive torment within a community, but less attention is being focused on the historical sufferings that people faced and instead being put on celebrating Halloween inspired events to promote revenue streams.

It can be argued that this is an attempt to take and transform the brutality into something positive. The witches of Salem suffered because a powerful group of men occupied positions of power in the justice system. It can be powerful, retaking a brutal narrative and turning it into something positive that celebrates women. Women in Salem today no longer need to hide their identities and are able to commemorate these differences in lifestyle.

The Puritan church leaders must be rolling in their graves as women actively participate in their community based off of witchcraft and rituals. Salem witchcraft attracts a wide variety of tourists who want to participate in the customs and traditions, and also engage with the festive events that Salem hosts.

The power of the original Salem witches clearly lives on in Salem today, as generations later they are still remembered. If you’re interested in checking out some tourism related to these events, check out the official website for Salem.

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

A Screaming Omen

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

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

Photo courtesy of  rodjulian  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of rodjulian via Adobe Stock

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of  locrifa  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of locrifa via Adobe Stock

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

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

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


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


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

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 Ghost of Watson's Mill

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of  emkaplin  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of emkaplin via Adobe Stock

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of  bonciutoma  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of bonciutoma via Adobe Stock

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

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

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

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


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

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

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