Tag Archives: Halloween

HALLOWEEN GREETINGS

FINAL REST: PERE LACHAISE

The Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is the most visited cemetery in the world. On a recent trip, I visited this vast, interesting place. Famed for being the first garden cemetery, it opened in 1804 but there isn’t much space devoted to what we would think of as gardens. Instead, the cemetery is chock full of ornate, closely placed tombs. If you’ve visited the cemeteries of New Orleans, you’d feel right at home here. The sixty-nine thousand tombs cover a range of architectural styles, but the Gothic crypt seems to predominate in the older sections.

Although there are over one million interred in the cemetery, and there is a waiting list today, it wasn’t always a popular burial site with Parisians. Located far outside the city when it opened, and not being attached to a church, made it an undesirable final resting place. So a bit of creative marketing helped it along. First, Jean de La Fontaine (poet) and Moliere (playwright, actor, and poet) were buried there. Burying the famous in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery increased its popularity. A decade or so later, the purported remains of Abelard and Heloise (the famous lovers) were moved to the cemetery and then Parisians clamored to get in. By 1830, the cemetery had thirty-three thousand graves!

Today, people visit the Pere Lachaise to see the tombs and architecture, and the graves of the famous. Americans are probably most interested in Jim Morrison’s grave. There’s an interesting story on how he came to be interred here. He died in Paris, but cemetery officials weren’t interested in offering a musician a place. They were persuaded when they found out he was working on a novel. The cemetery has many famous writers including Balzac, Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde. The graves of composer Frederic Chopin and actress Sarah Bernhardt can also be visited.

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Oscar Wilde

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Hahnemann- father of homeopathy

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Filed under travel

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

 Continuing with JH Brennan’s, Whisperings: The Secret History of the Spirit World, I wanted to mention the research conducted by Dr. A.R. G. Owen a few years after Bacheldor’s work. A Canadian research group led by Owen wondered if they could create a ghost.

Working a lot like fictional writers, the group created “Philip” and gave him a whole history. Philip had been a Cavalier officer during the English Civil War and had resided at Diddington Hall (a real place). The story of his life was a fabrication and went like this. Although Philip was married, he had an affair with a gypsy girl which had enraged his wife. The wife managed to have the girl denounced as a witch and burned. So distraught was Philip that he threw himself off the battlements of the hall committing suicide. Poor Philip!

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

The group held séances for a year trying to contact the Cavalier with no luck. I think it’s pretty amazing they’d keep at it that long with no result. One of the group eventually read Bacheldor’s work and wondered if a lighthearted atmosphere might make a difference. Giving it the old college try, they sang and told jokes, and oddly enough, after a few more séances, things started to happen. They heard their first rap and the table slid across the floor. Success at last! Encouraged, someone asked if Philip was doing it and was answered back with a loud rap. Having contacted the entity, the group used the one knock for yes and two for no method, to go on to communicate with Philip. Phillip affirmed the basic facts of his fictional life story and went on to reveal additional details the group had not created. The séances also produced various physical phenomena. The most spectacular was recorded for a television program. A table climbed a set of steps joining the panelists being interviewed.

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

I’ll leave you to ponder the significance of the Philip research. As a fiction author, I’m already concocting plots about how the other side conspires to have a good laugh at Owen and the other sitters.

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Filed under Book Review

Time to Get Your Halloween On

whisperers

JH Brennan’s, Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World explores the powerful undercurrents flowing just beneath the surface of the history we’re taught in school. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, spirits, or faeries, is immaterial (pun intended). The fact that various phenomena have been occurring throughout pre-history right up until today is undeniable. Brennan doesn’t set out to prove the existence of ghosts as disembodied, earth-bound entities but rather he examines the effect they may have played on history.

It’s a fascinating book with lots of little surprises. I read the last two sections first and went back to the older histories later. While I love a good ghost story (and Brennan does share two personal experiences), it was some of the research into the phenomena that caught my attention.

ghost1

There have been many theories put forth to explain all manner of ghostly happenings, but none seem to fully explain everything. Indeed, although we tend to lump everything under the vast heading of the paranormal (or PSI), different phenomena may be different things entirely.

Brennan cites two studies which are fascinating. I’m going to outline the first one here and then take on the second in a follow-on piece.

In 1966, Kenneth Batcheldor (a UK psychologist) published findings in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research concerning the levitation of tables. Recall from the Victorian era, the spiritualism craze which involved spirit contact and various physical manifestations including rappings, materializations, levitation, etc.

ghost2

In 1964, Batcheldor conducted a series of 200 séances with a small group of sitters. In 120 of the sessions, no phenomena were observed but in 80 of them (40%), physical phenomena was seen. While table movement early in the trials could possibly be dismissed by involuntary muscle movement, by the 11th session, Batcheldor watched as a table rose and floated in the air. At this point he couldn’t rule out fraudulent means so he worked with an engineer to tighten his experimental controls. Once the controls were in place, the phenomena stopped- but over time, the phenomena returned. This was a pattern Batcheldor saw over and over again. Introduced slowly, the sitters appeared to acclimate to the controls and the happenings would start anew. Astonishingly enough, Batcheldor observed not only table movement and levitation, but a whole range of spirit phenomena reported by Victorian spiritualists and witnesses. Amongst the phenomena observed were rapping sounds, breezes, lights, the feeling of being touched, movement of objects including the pulling back of chairs, apports, and holding the table to the floor so it couldn’t be lifted.

levitation

The experiments seem to indicate people have the ability, through unconscious means, to produce a variety of physical phenomena. While it doesn’t definitively rule out spirit action, it does point toward interesting avenues for further research. Batcheldor theorized that early movement of the table due to muscle contractions conditioned sitters to expect phenomena and opened them up to actually producing it. This is something later PSI researchers discovered when examining other kinds of phenomena in a lab setting. Belief makes a difference, and in Batcheldor’s case, seeing the phenomena may have led to its manifestation. So here we learn nothing really about spirits, but it does indicate how little we (or science) know about the mind.

The book on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Whisperers-Secret-History-Spirit-World-ebook/dp/B00EOARZGY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395336244&sr=1-1&keywords=whisperers+the+secret+history+of+the+spirit+world

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COFFIN RACES 2014

EMMA-CRAWFORD-POSTER-

Last Saturday, my husband and I ventured into Manitou Springs for the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races. We haven’t done that for probably fifteen years and wow what a change! It has become a huge event. The town of 5000 swells to 20,000 and it’s hard to move. The atmosphere is festive and friendly, and the crowd is young with many small children.  A parade led by hearses circles the square so that all the teams can show off their creativity.  I really liked the Ghoules Verne and Steampunk teams, but there were also Pirates, assorted monsters, Bumblebees (?), Egyptians, etc.  There were over thirty teams competing on Saturday with each race run with two teams. Every team had an Emma and a suitable coffin. Years ago, actual coffins or plywood facsimiles were used. Nowadays, most teams use something that resembles a handcart- good for safety, but lacking in authenticity. A fun, free event!

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Photo: B. Marshall

Photo: B. Marshall

 

Photo: B. Marshall

Photo: B. Marshall

 

Photo: Craig Forhan

Photo: Craig Forhan

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Filed under Event, Halloween

Reaping Grimly: How to Make the Traditional Zombie

Another seasonal blast from the past.

A Real Tale for Halloween

 

Wade Davis is a Canadian anthropologist and ethnobotanist. He has written extensively about culture, botany, the environment and he has become a noted photographer. Davis has done hundreds of interviews, inspired many documentaries, and even was the source for three X-files shows. And Wade Davis has met a zombie. Not the made-up kind delighting so many Americans nowadays, but the very real kind. A poor, unschooled man who was victimized by his family.

Back in the 80s Wade Davis wrote about his experience investigating the zombification process in Haiti. His book The Serpent & the Rainbow propelled him to worldwide fame and a Hollywood movie followed in 1988.

Drawn to Haiti by legends concerning the existence of zombies, Davis wanted to investigate the botanical or chemical aspects of the phenomena. Soon he was drawn into the vodoun culture of the Haitian witchdoctor (bokor). Escape the cities of Haiti for the countryside and fear and magic play a very real role in the society. Wade Davis knew the story of Clairvius Narcisse and before long the two would meet.

In 1980, Clairvius Narcisse approached a woman in a marketplace and identified himself as her long gone, well- dead actually, brother. She was shocked to say the least, but then so is his story. Shocking. Clairvius told a tale of being drugged, buried, resurrected, and made a slave on a sugar plantation. Apparently a brother wanting Clairvius’ land sold him to a bokor. Having “died” in 1962, Clairvius escaped the plantation a couple of years later only to wander aimlessly for the next sixteen. Now having learned of his brother’s recent death, he felt safe enough to make himself known to the sister. A local doctor developed a questionnaire to establish once and for all, if the man was who he claimed to be. Clairvius answered everything correctly and the doctor along with his village accepted him as the true Clairvius. Had the curious tale of Clairvius Narcisse been isolated, maybe it could have been dismissed easily. But there are many tales of zombies in Haiti long before Clairvius and after.

Davis’ investigation into the world of vodoun and the zombie led him to advance the hypothesis that tetrodotoxin (TTX) was the chemical agent used by the bokor to induce a death-like state. A mixture of toad skin and puffer fish, either rubbed on the skin or ingested through food, seems to accomplish this. Breathing slows, the heartbeat weakens, and victim appears dead even to medical personnel. In the tropical climate of Haiti, bodies are buried quickly and the bokor likes it that way. A zombie in the ground for more than eight hours risks asphyxiation. The zombie is dug up and restored to life possibly with an antidote. Delivered to a plantation, the zombie is kept in a semi-permanent induced psychotic state by force feeding a datura paste. Datura destroys memory and wreaks havoc with gaining any sense of reality. It is also known to produce powerful hallucinations.

All of the chemicals used or potentially used are powerful enough to cause real death so the bokor has to be knowledgeable and proficient in their use to be successful. Davis also credited the culture of fear and belief that underlies the creation of the zombie. There are powerful cultural influences that must be in place to create and maintain a zombie.

Are zombies scary? Maybe not, they’re victims, but the idea that you or I could be made into one makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I try to make sure my siblings are happy with me and I’m not more valuable “dead” than alive. Happy Halloween!

 

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Filed under Books, Halloween, Spooky stuff

HALLOWEEN ODDITIES

I don’t know what it is about Halloween and fall that makes me want to go back and revisit the past but in doing that, I realized I have several pieces that really fit the need for the strange, creepy, and odd for this time of year. Here’s one in case you missed it.

THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

(A revisit to a post published a few years ago.)

A HALLOWEEN TALE

Over the past few years my husband has endured a long commute from our home to his work in Colorado Springs. To make life easier, we will relocate to a small town nearby. Now this isn’t just any town, this is QUITE a town.

 Manitou Springs got its start by catering to the tuberculosis sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. Emma Crawford and her family (practicing Spiritualists) relocated there in 1889 seeking relief for Emma through the mineral springs and mountain air. Young Emma was engaged to a railroad engineer, William Hildebrand. Legend has it that one day she hiked to the top of Red Mountain where her spirit guide appeared. She tied a red scarf to a tree and later it became her dying wish to be buried there. Emma never married William. She died on Dec.4th, 1891 at the age of nineteen.

Emma

Her fiancé and a dozen others carried Emma’s coffin to the top of Red Mountain where they buried her fulfilling Emma’s request. Emma’s grave became a popular hiking location for other Spiritualists throughout the next couple of decades. In 1912, the railroad removed her remains and re-interred her on the south side of the mountain. Heavy rains in August of 1929 unearthed her coffin and sent it careening down Red Mountain. Her bones were discovered 7200 feet down in a canyon. Emma was eventually reburied in Crystal Valley Cemetery in an unmarked grave. And that could be the end of the story, but it’s not.

coffins

Remember, I told you, Manitou is a different kind of place. Enter the quirky creativity and entrepreneurial instincts of this town’s folks.  Around Halloween each year the town celebrates The Emma Crawford Festival with a parade and coffin races. The coffin races feature a team of five (one person plays Emma and the other four act as pallbearers and push the coffin). Creativity and speed both play a role in judging the races. There are also prizes for best Emma and best coffin. It’s quite a spectacle and a great day out for family fun. Not your thing? That’s OK. There’s always the fruitcake toss early next year.

I have since learned that Emma’s Wake is held each year at Miramont Castle in the center of Manitou Springs. Rustle up some Victorian funerary garb for this event!

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Filed under Halloween, Spooky stuff

HOW TO MAKE A ZOMBIE

Another Tale for Halloween

 

Wade Davis is a Canadian anthropologist and ethnobotanist. He has written extensively about culture, botany, the environment and he has become a noted photographer. He has done hundreds of interviews, inspired many documentaries, and even was the source for three X-files shows. And Wade Davis has met a zombie. Not the made-up kind delighting so many Americans nowadays, but the very real kind. A poor, unschooled man who was victimized by his family.

Back in the 80s Wade Davis wrote about his experience investigating the zombification process in Haiti. His book The Serpent & the Rainbow propelled him to worldwide fame and a Hollywood movie followed in 1988.

Drawn to Haiti by legends concerning the existence of zombies, Davis wanted to investigate the botanical or chemical aspects of the phenomena. Soon he was drawn into the vodoun culture of the Haitian witchdoctor (bokor). Escape the cities of Haiti for the countryside and fear and magic play a very real role in the society. Wade Davis knew the story of Clairvius Narcisse and before long the two would meet.

In 1980, Clairvius Narcisse approached a woman in a marketplace and identified himself as her long gone, well- dead actually, brother. She was shocked to say the least but then so is his story. Shocking. Clairvius told a tale of being drugged, buried, resurrected, and made a slave on a sugar plantation. Apparently a brother wanting Clairvius’ land sold him to a bokor. Having “died” in 1962, Clairvius escaped the plantation a couple of years later only to wander aimlessly for the next sixteen. Now having learned of his brother’s recent death, he felt safe enough to make himself known to the sister. A local doctor developed a questionnaire to establish once and for all, if the man was who he claimed to be. Clairvius answered everything correctly and the doctor along with his village accepted him as the true Clairvius. Had the curious tale of Clairvius Narcisse been isolated, maybe it could have been dismissed easily. But there are many tales of zombies in Haiti long before Clairvius and after.

Davis’ investigation into the world of vodoun and the zombie led him to advance the hypothesis that tetrodotoxin (TTX) was the chemical agent used by the bokor to induce a death-like state. A mixture of toad skin and puffer fish, either rubbed on the skin or ingested through food, seems to accomplish this. Breathing slows, the heartbeat weakens, and victim appears dead even to medical personnel. In the tropical climate of Haiti, bodies are buried quickly and the bokor likes it that way. A zombie in the ground for more than eight hours risks asphyxiation. The zombie is dug up and restored to life possibly with an antidote. Delivered to a plantation, the zombie is kept in a semi-permanent induced psychotic state by force feeding a datura paste. Datura destroys memory and wreaks havoc with gaining any sense of reality. It is also known to produce powerful hallucinations.

All of the chemicals used or potentially used are powerful enough to cause real death so the bokor has to be knowledgeable and proficient in their use to be successful. Davis also credited the culture of fear and belief that underlies the creation of the zombie. There are powerful cultural influences that must be in place to create and maintain a zombie.

Are zombies scary? Maybe not, they’re victims, but the idea that you or I could be made into one makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I try to make sure my siblings are happy with me and I’m not more valuable “dead” than alive. Happy Halloween!

 

34 Comments

Filed under Books, Spiritual/Mysticism

THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

A HALLOWEEN TALE

Over the past few years my husband has endured a long commute from our home to his work in Colorado Springs. To make life easier, we will relocate to a small town nearby. Now this isn’t just any town, this is QUITE a town.

 Manitou Springs got its start by catering to the tuberculosis sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. Emma Crawford and her family (practicing Spiritualists) relocated there in 1889 seeking relief for Emma through the mineral springs and mountain air. Young Emma was engaged to a railroad engineer, William Hildebrand. Legend has it that one day she hiked to the top of Red Mountain where her spirit guide appeared. She tied a red scarf to a tree and later it became her dying wish to be buried there. Emma never married William. She died on Dec.4th, 1891 at the age of nineteen.

Her fiancé and a dozen others carried Emma’s coffin to the top of Red Mountain where they buried her fulfilling Emma’s request. Emma’s grave became a popular hiking location for other Spiritualists throughout the next couple of decades. In 1912, the railroad removed her remains and reinterred her on the south side of the mountain. Heavy rains in August of 1929 unearthed her coffin and sent it careening down Red Mountain. Her bones were discovered 7200 feet down in a canyon. Emma was eventually reburied in Crystal Valley Cemetery in an unmarked grave. And that could be the end of the story, but it’s not.

Remember, I told you, Manitou is a different kind of place. Enter the quirky creativity and entrepreneurial instincts of this town’s folks.  Around Halloween each year the town celebrates The Emma Crawford Festival with a parade and coffin races. The coffin races feature a team of five (one person plays Emma and the other four act as pallbearers and push the coffin). Creativity and speed both play a role in judging the races. There are also prizes for best Emma and best coffin. It’s quite a spectacle and a great day out for family fun. Not your thing? That’s OK. There’s always the fruitcake toss early next year.

 

48 Comments

Filed under Spiritual/Mysticism