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  • Beachcombed 37 July 1, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed , trackback


    July 1 2013

    Dear Readers, Today lots of writing to do, starting with the correction of a long article on migration in the post Soviet space (wth!!! tears his little remaining hair). So with no more ado a huge thanks to those who have brought such excellent copy forward and who are included in the 12,000 words below. Best offsite reads of the month included this unusual pdf on skulls; this who-the-hell-are-you story; EsoterX (that we’ve just started exploring); this piece on international witchery and lynching; derelict London; the blank war memorial; mythology and social networks; this fascinating piece on Seti; a page full of great articles on sex (look out for the line ‘because it makes you uncomfortable); 21 revenge photographs; 33 teachers ahead photos; 24 amazing parent photos; and most important of all the Count’s weird music collection 1 and 2 [you have been warned!!!].

    Here, meanwhile, are the best history reads. Thanks again to all those who wrote in and who wasted their time so that we could waste ours.

    Walking Upside Down: Southern Man writes in: Beach I remember your post about witches walking upside down. What about this quotation from More Anecdotes of Bench and Bar (1915), 163. There is an amusing anecdote of Mr Justice Powell, who was a judge in the reigns of James II., William III., and Queen Anne, from which it appears that he dealt more sensibly than most of the judges with some persons who were tried before him on a charge of witchcraft. To show that a woman tried before him was a witch, she was charged with being able to fly. ‘Ay,’ said the judge, ‘and is this true? Do you say you can fly?’ ‘Yes, I can,’ she said. ‘So you may, if you will, then, ‘replied the judge.’ I have no law against it!’ There is another story about Powell involving witches: the original? 270 Mr Justice Powell, in 1752, tried Jane Wenham, the Witch of Walkerne, in Hertfordshire, the court being full of fine ladies, he very gallantly told the jury that they must not look out for witches amongst the old women, but amongst the young.’ Thanks Southern Man!

    Decapitation: Open Sesame, an old friend of the blog, has been reading The Faithful Executioner by Harrington (2013) and came across this reference from the executioner’s diary. The executioner has decapitated Georg Praun ‘when his head turned several times [on the stone] as if he wanted to look about it, the tongue moved and the mouth opened as if he wanted to speak, for a good quarter of an hour. I have never seen the likes of this.’ The best evidence yet? Thanks OS!

    Running Naked: Louis writes: And then the writer(s), who, undoubtedly, had a “classical” education, went home to their Homer, and Herodotus, and other assorted greek texts, and read about running in the nude during the Olympic (and other) Games, which was of course perfectly all right, as those were Classical Greeks….. That the naked running on the moor might have a similar tradition (warriors\young men showing off, and keeping fit for battle and other manly activities)  seems to be forgotten.’ Thanks Louis

    Bangor Brownies: Richard H writes: Bangor-on-Dee is and always was a small village, “children in hundreds”  would have been an impossibility in 1909.  Even today when the local school is attended by children from more villages than would have been the case in 1909 I suspect that the total number is not as much as one hundred. In addition to the above, the only graveyard in the village is the one that surrounds the church, it is still in use to this day. It is overlooked by two pubs and several houses, any unusual activity would most definitely have been be noticed. Thanks Richard!

    Greatest Marine: Tacitus from Detritus sends this in, quoting from POW Baseball in World War Two.  What a title! There was a Japanese engineering officer who was assigned to bridge repair work in the Phillipines soon after their conquest.  He needed laborers.  So he took a detachment of 150 American POWs from the worst of the camps, O’Donnell, and treated them as junior level employees.  The darnedest thing was, he got away with it. Oh, he had to be careful, but when locals just “happened” to have food fall off their carts where the Americans were, all concerned just smiled… The most remarkable events were two occasions were, with a sort of wink and nudge from the locals, the Japanese were “invited” to local festivals.  Of course it was expected that the American laborers would come too.  A day off was declared. There was a light lunch, then attending Mass.  Next up was a baseball game in which Japanese and Americans both played.  The Japanese commander, a Captain Wakamori, actually pitched.  Then, at a time when most US POWs in Japanese camps were being beaten and starved, all concerned sat down for the main meal of the day including suckling pig, roast chicken and fresh fruits. This happened at a place called Caluan. They moved to another town next, but the doctor from Caluan came over to look after the Americans.  Another attempt to have a local fiesta there fell a bit flat when some higher up brass arrived and got very unhappy with how well the Americans were being treated. It was a brief, civilized interlude.  Then the Americans were sent back to the camps at the end of the work detail, enduring all the horrors of same. Captain Wakamori was said to have graduated from an elite Japanese University and to have had good command of english.  I have wondered more than once just what happened to this man.  He did not save hundreds of lives, but given the dismal, hellish world of the Pacific War, his conduct stands so high above the general conduct that he deserves recognition.’ Tacitus and I wonder if there is anyway to identify Captain Wakamori? Then KMH reminds us of Sergeant York in WW1. Thanks Tacitus and KHM!!

    Spiritualist Fakes: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes ‘A quick note on Spiritualist fraud. This reminded me of the recent incident where ‘psychic’ Sylvia Browne told the parents of the missing Amanda Berry that she was dead. She was, of course, found alive and released from that house of horrors in Cleveland. Browne also told the parents of Shawn Hornbeck that he also was dead; he was found alive with his abductor. Here is 19 century equivalent FLIMSY SPOOK It Deceives a Sorrowing Mother for a Long Time. A Missing Son Comes Home. He Declares That the Ghost Which Had Passed Itself as His Immaterial Segment is a Fraud—The Mediums Must Have Made a Mistake This Time—John Declares He Was Never Dead. Columbus, Nov. 25 Spiritualistic circles are considerably agitated and scoffers at that belief are in high feather because of the unexpected return of a long lost son, who had been mourned as dead. Twenty years ago Johnny Gault, then fifteen years of age, suddenly disappeared from his home in this city. Nothing was heard of him and his parents mourned him as dead. Of late his sorrowing mother has sought the consolation of Spiritualist mediums, through whose supernatural powers, she said, she was enabled to converse with her son. The mediums apparently did not have any trouble in calling up the son’s spirit and the mother’s grief was greatly assuaged by the frequent conversations through the instrumentality of a medium.  A few days ago a stranger called at the Gault residence and was soon identified by the family as the long lost son. John insists that he has never been dead at all, the Spiritualistic mediums to the contrary notwithstanding. Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 26 November 1894: p. 1 The Count meanwhile has strong feelings: Fraudulent mediums? It’s much, much quicker to list the ones who weren’t fakes! Let’s see now: Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886), still cited as the greatest medium of all time because, despite questionable behavior (such as marrying a dotty old lady for her money), he was never unequivocally caught cheating. And, er… actually, of the well-known mediums, that’s it! Oh, and one time he levitated out of a high window and in through another one in front of three witnesses. They were all friends of his, the light was bad, they didn’t actually see him levitating at any point, and there was a 19-inch ledge connecting the two windows onto which he had climbed a couple of days earlier from sheer bravado, but this is still frequently discussed (with varying degrees of accuracy) as the most awesome and best-attested feat a medium ever achieved! In other words, it’s a total crock. See also Kate and Margaret Fox, the two teenage girls who in 1841 invented “spirit rapping”. They much later admitted that it was a prank which got out of hand, and demonstrated how it was done (cracking the joints of their big toes, mostly), though they subsequently recanted the confession. And Eusapia Palladino, who fooled a great many very intelligent people, including Pierre Curie, but when properly supervised was caught cheating time and time again. And the sad tale of Sir William Crookes, cathode ray tube pioneer, discoverer of thallium, and all-round incredibly smart but incredibly gullible guy, who was taken in over an extended period by the rather pretty medium Florence Cook (who may have been his mistress). Her claim to fame was materialising a surprisingly solid “spirit” called Katie King, who, needless to say, only manifested herself when Florence was hidden from sight in a special cabinet, and as far as anyone could tell in the very dim light, looked surprisingly like Florence Cook draped in a sheet. And of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who, as a result of multiple bereavements over a very short space of time, turned to Spiritualism as an escape from deep depression, and came to believe the most ludicrous things, many of which are described in his later books, some of which had to be self-published and dented his fortune severely (you can read some of this stuff here). He famously fell out with Harry Houdini over his absolute refusal to accept that arch-skeptic Houdini wasn’t an exceptionally powerful medium who achieved his tricks by using actual magic but wouldn’t admit it. Houdini was an interesting chap. His bitter hatred of fake mediums came about when his beloved mother died, and Spiritualism being all the rage, he tried to get in touch with her. The thing was, most people assumed that he was an American, and by default a Christian, whose name really was Houdini. Whereas in actual fact he was a Hungariam Jew called Erik Weisz. So when the medium relayed a message from his mother revealing that she was happy to be with Jesus, and moreover, she had suddenly learned to speak English, but had forgotten all the languages she actually spoke in life – the Houdini family conversed amongst themselves in a mixture of German, Hungarian and Yiddish that would have been impossible to fake even if the medium had known she was meant to – he was deeply hurt and outraged by this cruel imposture. So there you go – Houdini had a motive that we can all understand. I have never heard the slightest whisper of a motive of this nature or any other for the obsessive activities of The Appalling Randi – presumably he just likes being right. And let’s not forget Helen Duncan, defendant in one of the silliest Old Bailey trials ever (she lost, by the way). I leave you with Robert Browning’s 1864 poem about a certain “Mister Sludge”, actually D. D. Home, in whom his wife was a great believer. Browning was, as you can see, of a more skeptical bent… Thanks Count and Chris!

    Unusual Suicides: Bast sends in this mysterious sucide story from Isdal in Norway. It is fascinating. This is part of the relevant Wikipedia article: On 29 November 1970 at approximately 13:15, while hiking in the foothills of mount Ulrikens north face, in an area known as Isdalen valley, a university professor and his two young daughters came across the partially charred remains of a naked woman hidden among some rocks at a remote hiking trail. Present at the scene were large amounts of sleeping pills, and bottles of petrol. A full scale murder investigation was immediately initiated and the case has since evolved to become the most comprehensive criminal case by the Bergen police.[2] Police traced the woman to two suitcases that were found in an NSB train station in Bergen. Police also found that the labels had been removed from every piece of clothing she wore, and that her fingerprintshad been sanded away. In addition, police discovered a prescription for a lotion, but both the doctor’s name and date had been removed. Within the lining on one suitcase police discovered 500 German marks. Partial fingerprints were found on a few pieces of broken glass. They were insufficient for an identification, but police suspected that they belonged to the dead woman. The police were able to make composite sketches on the basis of witness descriptions and analysis made from the body; these sketches were published in the media and disseminated via INTERPOL in a number of countries.Police eventually found out that the woman had travelled around Norway and Europe with nine different identities: Jenevive Lancia, Claudia Tjelt, Vera Schlosseneck, Claudia Nielsen, Alexia Zarna-Merchez, Vera Jarle, Finella Lorck and Elizabeth Leen Hoywfer. All of these identities were false. According to witness sightings the woman used various wigs, and in the trunk there were found several cryptic diary entries. The codes were later deciphered by police who concluded that they were coded dates and places the woman had previously visited.[3] The woman’s teeth were thoroughly checked during the autopsy, and the way the dental work was performed indicated that the woman had been to a dentist in Latin America. Witnesses reported that the woman had spoken several languages: French, German, English and Dutch. The woman had stayed at several hotels in Bergen. She had repeatedly changed rooms after checking in, when she wanted a room that had a balcony. In the papers she signed the check specified that she was a travelling saleswoman and an antiquities collector. The woman was fond of porridge with milk, as this order was left at several of the hotels where the woman had stayed.After the woman’s suitcases were found, police sought the help of the city’s most prominent textile retailers to identify her dress. It was concluded that the woman had a somewhat challenging style, which was marked by Italian taste. Early in the investigation police contacted an Italian photographer who had given the woman a lift and had dinner with her at Hotel Alexandra in Loen. The Italian had previously been questioned in connection with a rape case, though those charges were dismissed. One of the Italian’s postcards that were sold in Norway was also found in the woman’s luggage. The photographer claimed the woman had told him that she came from a small town north of Johannesburg in South Africa, and that she had six months to see the most beautiful places in Norway. This line of inquiry did not lead to any new information about the woman’s identity.Thanks Bast!

    Fewest Casualties: Here are some other potential cases. First up, Tacitus from Detritus writes in with the suggestion of the German invasion of Luxembourg 10 May 1940. No German soldier seems to have been killed and one Luxembourgian gendarme was seriously injured. Beach’s only quibble with this is the question of whether the Luxembourg army in the field reached 1000, particularly as most of said army seemed to have been understandably confined to barracks as the Wehrmacht crushed one of Europe’s smaller countries with three Panzer divisions, ouch. Second, Michael R refers to the Ecuador Peru border wars that ‘raged’ from c1820-c1980. Michael writes, in fact: There were a series of  ‘wars’ battles etc. fought in this border dispute over a century and a half all of which were financially expensive for the combatants but appear to have had relatively few combatant casualties.  Its hard to get any accurate figures.’ Third, Michael C-J writes in with an accidental war between the Scilly Isles and the Netherlands. Again Beach doubts that the Scillians had an army of ten never mind 1000 men but it is an exceptional instance. John G. has come up with a couple of golds: ‘The Ten Day War or Slovenian War of Independence‘ seems to tick all the boxes. Then during a bout of insomnia I remembered a bizarre footnote to our Imperial history, the invasion of Abyssinia in 1867 to free a handful of missionaries and a couple of Imperial representatives. Abyssinian casualties at estimated 700 dead might be on the high side for your criteria, but only 2 dead on the British side redresses the balance.’ For the record Beach didn’t even look at Balkan wars, he thought that no Balkan war could possibly have ended with less than 10 percent of the civilian population in shallow graves.  Mike Dash writes in: I wrote recently on Shakushain’s Revolt, which saw 30,000 Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, rebel against Japanese encroachment on their island and, equipped only with stone age weapons, take on an army of samurai armed with the latest muskets back in 1669. The number of combatants on the Japanese side was just under 1000; on the Ainu side several times more: perhaps 2,500 or 3,000. There were, it’s true, numerous Japanese civilian casualties in the run up to the actual fighting, but as to the war itself: the result of the solitary skirmish that took place was probably a couple of hundred Ainu dead (the numbers were never formally established) and a solitary, ridiculously unfortunate Japanese. Then Nils writes: You may be interested in the Aroostook War between the US (really the state of Maine) and British Canada over placement of the US/Canadian border between 1838 and 1839. According to Wikipedia, the US militias fielded 6,000-15,000 men, while the Canadians fielded a similar number. There were zero combat casualties (though 38 in non-combat situations). Don’t know if this fits your criteria, but it’s a weird military footnote in North American history. Bjorn writes: ‘It may be mentioned that in the so called “Theater War” (or Tyttebærkrigen (The Cowberry war) as it is called in Norway as the forces had to eat wild berries to survive) where Denmark-Norway invaded Sweden in 1788, the Danish–Norwegian force only lost eight men through acts of war. However the total casualties were higher due to hunger and disease, about 1,500-3,000 men. ’ Thanks Nils, Bjorn, John and the three Mike’s and Tacitus!!

    French Body Magic: The Count writes in: Blood On Satan’s Claw is a bad example, because the witchcraft in that film is real and utterly evil, and the witch-hunting judge, though arrogant and ruthless, is neither wicked nor deluded. And the magic involving body-parts is quite different from what you describe – individual members or patches of skin are possessed by a demon which is physically reincarnating itself piecemeal, and severed from the living bodies of (mostly) willing cultists. Though it does show in alarming detail what happens to pre-feminism Doctor Who’s helpless girly assistants (they weren’t called “companions” back then) when they encounter Bad Weirdness and the Doctor isn’t around to save them – poor Wendy Padbury! Here’s a link to a photo of the last remaining Hand Of Glory. And here’s another link, to the grimoireLe Petit Albert. Unfortunately I can’t find an unexpurgated English text, but if you can read French, this may be of use to you. Human fat is certainly necessary for the manufacture of the candle held by the Hand, and perhaps other purposes too (my French isn’t good enough to struggle through large lumps of archaic text). Since the hand itself had to come from an executed felon, possibly the anonymous magician in your example obtained such a hand from a body in a very dessicated condition, and had to look elsewhere for the fat? Here, unfortunately, is an example of modern practices of a similar nature, except that the body-parts are obtained from donors who aren’t actually dead yet (though obviously they become so during the process). Many of the current magical beliefs that hold sway in rural Africa are surprisingly similar to what Europeans believed several centuries ago, but this goes way beyond anything even the most demented European peasant got up to! It’s probably politically incorrect to point out that many Africans are still this barbaric, but the fact is that they are. There’s something to be said for doing away with “traditional beliefs” when they lead to horrors like this, as opposed to the picturesque dancing and chanting beloved of New Age bubbleheads! I mean, does anybody miss the Aztecs?’ Thanks Count!

    Dreams of Murder: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books has excelled herself here: On dreams of murder. Of course there is the Perceval case and the Red Barn/Maria Marten murder (where there is some doubt about the “dreams” claimed by Marten’s step-mother, which led to the discovery of the remains, as there can sometimes be in cases where one wonders if the dream is just a cover for real knowledge.)  In the US, probably the most famous “murder dream” isn’t exactly a dream, but a waking vision. It is the story of the Greenbrier Ghost, where a young woman appeared to her mother four times, telling her she had been murdered by her  husband. (A book on the case is The Man Who Wanted Seven Wives, Katie Letcher Lyle.) And here are three other US examples: A recent writer narrates the following significant dream, relative to the Dr. Parkman murder, and which, in all its unpleasant details, was dreamed twice over: Dr. Webster, Professor of Chemistry in Harvard College, was convicted of the murder of his acquaintance—we can hardly say his friend— Dr. Parkman. A lady, well known in the literary world, and then residing in London, had, some years previously, paid  a long visit to the United States, during which she became intimately acquainted with Dr. Webster and his family, who showed her much kindness and attention. After her return to England, she continued to correspond with the family; and one day, in the early autumn of 1848, a gentleman related to Dr. Parkman called upon her with an introduction from Professor Webster. On that night she went to bed at her usual hour, but soon experienced a horrible dream. She fancied that she was being urged by Dr. Webster to assist him in concealing aset of human bones in a wooden box; and she distinctly recollected that there was a thigh-bone which, after failing to break it in pieces, they vainly attempted to insert, but it was too long. While they were trying to hide the box—as she fancied, under her bed—she woke in a state of terror and cold perspiration. She instantly struck a light, and tried to dispel the recollection of her horrible vision by reading. After a lapse of two hours, during which she had determinedly fixed her attention on the book, she put out the light, and soon fell asleep. The same dream again occurred; after which she did not dare—although a woman of singular moral and physical courage — to attempt to sleep any more that night. Early on the following morning she called upon the writer, and told him of her fearful experiences of the past night. Nothing more at the time was thought of these dreams; but shortly afterwards the news reached England that Dr. Parkman was missing; that the last time he was seen alive he was entering the college gates; and that the janitor was suspected of having murdered him. On the writer mentioning this to the lady, she at once exclaimed, “Oh, my dreams! Dr. Webster must be the murderer!” The next mail but one brought the news that the true murderer had been detected; and that, at the very time when the lady’s dreams occurred, Dr. Webster must have been actually struggling to get the bones—the flesh having been previously burned—into a wooden box such as she had seen; and that, after attempting in vain to break the thigh-bones, he had hidden them elsewhere. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 22 February 1875: p. 2 DREAMED Three Nights That a Child Had Been Murdered The Body Found in a Well Columbus, Ohio. February 15. That a murder had been committed has been developed through a dream, and Mrs. Oldham, near Reynoldsburg, this county, is the dreamer. For three successive nights she claims she dreamed that the dead body of a child was buried in an old abandoned well on a farm owned by James Ross, of this city. Each night she dreamed that the body of the child had been wrapped in an old piece of muslin, weighted down and thrown into the well. She told her husband of the dream, he related it to others and soon it was the topic of the neighborhood. A party was formed, the well searched and the body found, with the neck broken and every indication of murder. Coroner Birmingham was called and examined the body, but is not able to come to any definite conclusion. The usual tests applied to the lungs of the dead little one showed that it had lived and breathed before death cut short its career at the outset. The case is shrouded in mystery and will be placed in the hands of the Columbus police tomorrow. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 27 October 1889: p. 20  DREAMED OF THE MURDER Bellefontaine, Ohio, August 19. One night early this summer Mrs. Frances Ayres, wife of the Milan Ayres, engineer at the city water works pumping station, dreamed that Mr. and Mrs. Detrick had been murdered, and in a manner almost identical to that in which they were killed. [their skulls were crushed with an ax. Murder was apparently the motive.] John Harmon, of Degraff, says he was the adopted son of Mr. and Mrs. Detrick, and will endeavor to prove his claim and secure one fourth of the estate. The children of the murdered couple say they never learned of his adoption. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 20 August 1897: p. 1 Thanks Chris!!!

    Magonia 4: NHR writes in: Although  Plato’s “Phaedo” was almost certainly not directly available in the C8 West, perhaps some Latin paraphrase of it was, or some quotations were preserved by a Church Father. Phaedo 109ff describes  the earth as the bottom of the air-sea, and in  111 says “There are also men … some [dwelling] on the shores of the air as we of the ocean, and others in islands encircled by the air … what to us the water and the sea is in regard to our use, that the air is there.” Then Radko: Just a quick note to the above post. Perhaps there could be a connection to the biblical firmament which separates the waters above from the waters below. Yes, christians used to believe it and I’m sure there are some kooks that believe it to this day. 🙂 I’m not sure how would the anchor rope got through it but considering that it would be attached to a ship in the sky I think it’s just a minor problem. Thanks NHR and Radko!

    9 Historical Mysteries: Here is a mystery from JB: As a resident of California and a former resident of Portugal I am fascinated by the conquistador Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. (Or was it Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho?) He is credited with being the first European to explore the California coast. There is a fierce debate as to whether or not he was a Spaniard or Portuguese. His alleged home town in Portugal has a high incidence of Inquisition persecution of crypto-Jews. I would love to spend a few minutes asking him about his childhood. Americans seem to think he was a Spaniard but the Spanish government says he was Portuguese. Then Stephen has an opinion on Baldwin: Tempted to  think the explanation for his astonishing victory may lie in something noted by Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimah: quoting from memory, and I can’t remember from which translation: ‘For the core of any army you must have reliable, disciplined troops, used to fighting in close formation, who will stand their ground when attacked, and advance against the enemy when ordered to do so. For this reason, all the Muslim states of North Africa employ Christian European mercenaries, who are theologically objectionable but who can be trusted to stand and fight where Arabs would run away.” But not sure this applies to Montgisard: (a) many of Saladin’s troops Turks and Kurds (b) counter-example of Hattin. The Count on some mysteries: Of your historical mysteries, I think the most interesting has to be Jesus Christ. Though since he probably wasn’t feeling very talkative while being crucified, I’d choose to have a chat with him somewhat earlier. I think I’m correct in saying that, while the passage in which Flavius Josephus discusses Jesus is almost certainly a later interpolation, his mention of James the Just, brother of Jesus, is authentic, strongly implying that Jesus also existed, and founded the religion which his brother ran, along with Peter and John, for about 10 times longer than Jesus ever did, before being eclipsed by a totally fictional version of his own brother by Saul of Tarsus, who sounds like a very unpleasant man indeed, and quite possibly mad. It would be interesting to know what the real man was like. The departure of the Romans from Britain in 410 AD doesn’t strike me as all that mysterious. Since the Britons had for several centuries entrusted their entire infrastructure, including the army, to the Romans, the sudden loss of everyone who could run the place properly or fight at all well was a horrendous calamity, resulting in the ill-advised importation of foreign mercenaries to fight off opportunistic attacks by the Celts still holding out in Ireland and Scotland. Which of course turned out to be a dreadful idea, because the Anglo-Saxons & Co. decided to stick around and take over the entire country, and there was no way of stopping them! These do not sound like people who had recently thrown off the yoke of Roman imperialism by force of arms, do they? However, since I live in Edinburgh, at the extreme Northern limit of the Roman Empire, it would be fascinating to pop back in time while staying in the same place. This used to be to all intents and purposes the Wild West, with savage unconquered Picts a few miles away, and settlers who had been given large financial incentives to live in the hazardous land between Hadrian’s very effective wall and the far less successful Antonine earthwork. You’re quite right not to bother with the boring old Mary Celeste. In case you missed it, a totally plausible and almost certainly correct explanation has been advanced – since there was of course an official inquiry, extremely detailed records exist which sensational writers usually ignore. A small proportion of the ship’s cargo of industrial alcohol had accidentally been put in barrels made of the wrong wood, and had seeped out, filling the hold with alcohol fumes. This could very plausibly have ignited, causing a loud explosion powerful enough to blow off the hatch-cover, which was indeed missing. Fearing that the entire cargo was about to explode, the captain immediately ordered everyone into the longboat, pausing only to grab a few essentials, and let the ship tow them at the end of the longest available rope for a few hours until it either blew up or didn’t. One poorly-tied knot would have stranded them in mid-ocean with inadequate supplies while the ship went merrily on its way… Since the longboat and that particular rope were missing, along with the compass and one or two other things a captain might grab if he was leaving in a great hurry, that’s by a very long way the best explanation. A lot of the hype came from a sensational and not terribly accurate semi-fictionalized version called The Statement Of J. Habbakuk Jephson, notable mainly for being the first published story of one Arthur Conan Doyle. However, the Fortean event I’d most like to witness is Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting of the very first “flying saucers” (actually they were banana-shaped). There’s little doubt that Arnold, an extremely reputable man trained to observe aircraft who had no reasons whatsoever to make up a load of rubbish about something that wasn’t even fashionable yet, was telling what he thought was the truth. The question is, what did he see? Since large white birds seen through some type of mirage effect could very well look like silver boomerangs flying in a V-formation, that’s very likely what he saw. But it would be nice to have a photo, since, unlike Nessie, it seems much more likely than not that the witness did in fact see something he couldn’t explain. And look at the effect it had on popular culture! Oh, and I wouldn’t mind eavesdropping on Adolf Hitler’s private screening of The Great Dictator. Maybe I should apply to be the next Doctor Who? You never know, it might all be true!’ Then Norm K: On mysteries: where did the legend of white bearded gods come from that prevailed in the Americas before the Spanish started rooting around. A seventh century viking slaving voyage off the west coast of Africa, gone astray  might make for a book. The good doctor has the background for that one and as far as I know, it has not been done.  Thanks Count and Norm, Stephen and JB!

    Fairy Classics: Beach wants himself to add a couple of books to this list, books that have been reviewed here and that deal with rather different aspects of fairy belief. The first is Dennis Gaffin’s examination of the modern fairy faith as he found it in Ireland; the second is Emma Wilby’s Cunning Folk that look at the interplay between fairies and witches. Both need to be on any serious modern fairy shelf.

    Magonia 6: Wojciech writes: As a follower of your blog I was intrigued by your post of 12 June about Charles Leland’s writings on Magonia. I have read Leland’s writings before but  never correlated them with the “płaneniki” of Slavic mythology, a subject with which I am also familiar. This is a description of the płnetniki taken from the Wikipedia article:    and translated from the original Polish. “Płanetnik (other names:  chmurnik, obłocznik) – a character in Slavic beliefs, demonic or semi-demonic, embodying the essence of atmospheric phenomena. It was believed that the płanetniks directed clouds to send down storms and hail. The name “płanetnik” comes from the Latin word for a planet and is relatively recent, in contrast to the likely original forms of “chmurnik” and “obłocznik”. The Southern Slavs identified płanetniks with snakes. The souls of those who died suddenly and suicides (mostly hanged and drowned) became płanetniks. They were imagined as tall old men in broad hats or as small creatures. Depending on the circumstances, płanetniks could be friendly or hostile. Platnetiks’ goodwill could be gained by throwing flour into the wind or onto a fire. Friendly płanetnikscame down to earth and warned people before storms and protected them against drought. The word płanetniks was also used to describe certain chosen men, endowed with the power to control the weather. Just before a storm, they were drawn into the sky (or therainbow) and engaged in air combat with dragons.” Clearly, the same beings are being described in both texts. PS. The letter”ł” is pronouned kie “w” in English. Thanks, Wojciech! 

    Swiss Zulus: Ruththeunstoppablycurious and Fred point out the Boxer rising in China with their bullet proof amulets. Thanks Ruth and Fred!

    Magonia 7: Prof Mayor writes (in response to an email) I haven’t heard of this incident. There are some plants that are toxic to some animals but not others. But I would assume the powder was sprinkled on the cattle’s food or  water source and was thought to specifically kill cows. The Count writes: ‘Your story of very early alleged chemical warfare is interesting. Agobard is correct in saying that the amount of any poison he would have known about that you’d have to distribute to kill all the cattle over a wide area would be ridiculously large – people would have noticed! And of course every creature that ate grass would die, not just cattle. But let’s suppose that Duke Grimaldus (what a great name for a bad guy!) did in fact send his agents to carry out this dastardly but not really very useful plan. Why would they freely admit that they’d done it, and stubbornly continue to do so, even under torture, when they knew that this would result in their deaths, whereas recanting, or saying nothing in the first place, would have gotten them off the hook? And we’re not just talking about one person like Isobel Gowdie, Major Weir, or Theiss the Holy Werewolf who, due to some mental health issue, spontaneously confessed to doing something which they clearly couldn’t have because it was impossible, but which at the time would have gotten them into a lot of trouble (we don’t actually know what became of Isobel Gowdie, but it didn’t end too well for Theiss, and Major Weir was strangled and burnt). Allegedly quite a number of people came forward and said: “Hello, we poisoned your cattle because Duke Grimaldus told us to. Feel free to kill us.” Why would they do that??? This story stinks! Agobard, who of course believed in the Devil, assumed that they’d been diabolically compelled to lie. But if you don’t accept this convenient supernatural explanation, what are the chances that multiple persons would lie en masse in this bizarre and fatal manner? We aren’t told how closely Agobard himself was involved in these events, but I’m guessing he wasn’t actually present during the examination of any of these unfortunates. What probably happened was that the locals, whipped into hysteria by the rumors of non-existent poisoners, decided that certain individuals were probably guilty using the same kind of “logic” as witch-hunters, tortured them into confessing, and killed them. Then, after they’d calmed down and had time to think about what they’d done, the official account was doctored to make the victims into clearly guilty parties who freely confessed, and couldn’t be persuaded to recant. Some legal finangling may have been involved here. “Freely confessing without torture” depends on what you think constitutes torture. Under English law during the Civil War period, evidence obtained through torture was inadmissible, but keeping a person awake for days on end, forcibly running them back and forth until they’re utterly exhausted, leaving them in stress positions for hours at a time, and all the while remorselessly interrogating them, did not constitute torture (the USA has recently made almost exactly the same claim concerning certain of their activities in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay). Thus self-appointed Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins could claim that the witches he hanged “confessed freely without torture”, and legally he wasn’t lying. Just by every other definition. Somebody subjected to this kind of treatment will almost certainly confess to pretty much anything sooner or later, especially if they know that if they hold out for too long, their interrogators will get impatient and use real torture. Then if that real torture is applied to them after they’ve confessed to check whether or not they meant it (a very common practice in early times),  they’re hardly likely to recant. The problem with torture as a means of obtaining accurate information is that it forces you to tell your torturer what you think they want to hear, whether or not it’s true. If they’ve already bullied you into confessing, and now you’re being tortured to test your sincerity, of course you’ll stick to your original confession, even if it’s a lie. Trying to backtrack at this stage is clearly “being difficult”, and will result in even more torture until you’re back with the program – might as well get it over as soon as possible, since you’re doomed anyway. But if your interrogator writes in his official report: “the accused freely admitted his guilt, and, when tortured to confirm the truth of what he said, continued to maintain that he was guilty”, that’s a legally accurate account of what just happened. Well, it was in those days. As for where the idea of these mystery poison-distributors came from? Actually it was surprisingly common for a very long time. The concepts of poison, disease and magic were often freely interchangeable. Numerous witch-trials speak of mysterious powder obtained from the Devil which could be used to inflict death or illness on various living creatures, including whole herds of livestock. And there was of course the vile medieval superstition that epidemics were caused by Jews putting poison in the wells because they hated all Christians, resulting in numerous massacres. The idea that all the cattle had suddenly died because some arbitrary person or persons was strewing toxic substances about for some curiously thin reason seems to have been firmly rooted in our mindset for a very long time. Indeed, we still have it today –  are you familiar with “chemtrails”?’ Lehmansterms, instead, writes: This reminds me of a (so far as I am aware) still unresolved question about a substance which was observed on several occasions to have falen from the sky over significant areas of Viet Nam and adjacent territories towards the end of the unpleasantness there. It irritated the eyes and skin of some. Some otherwise healthy adults, it appeared to have made sick. Some of the weak young and elderly, it appeared to have killed, although this yellowish substance was never formally linked to these illnesses or deaths. Most assumed it was some sort of military weapon. And US forces certainly rained chemical (and probably biological) poisons galore upon Southeast Asia.  The military, however, disavowed it. They denied having had any hand in it or even knowing what it was (for whatever that denial may be worth – I can’t help but be reminded of an old Chinese proverb: “Believe no rumor until it has been officially denied.”). Someone in the military/diplomatic bloc eventually officially opined that this odd precipitation was a sort of bee excreta and was perfectly common and correct for the season during which it was observed.  No scientific proof or support was ever offered to support this somewhat fanciful sounding explanation and it is relatively difficult to believe that the populations of the subsistence farming communities of rural Viet Nam would not have been fully aware of a normal and natural seasonal occurrence like this phenomenon if it actually was of the sort the official flacs claimed it had been. That, so far as I am aware, was all the further the investigation went. There were far bigger fish to fry on the news front at the time.  It reminds me (whatever you personally may make of another controversial phonomenon) of the official denials that there is any substance whatsoever to observations of UFO’s, even when accompanied by multiple radar records and eyewitness accounts from normally and presumably reliable professional sources all concurring that something of substance had been observed. I know this is all pretty thin stuff to use even as a suggestion of a basis for research, but I wonder if the so-called chemical warfare referred to in your blog entry’s quotations might not have been something like (if not exactly the same as) the “bee poop” phenomenon reported from Southeast Asia. Borky writes: Beach I did an Environmental Science degree in the mid Nineties more to get at the research facilties than anything else [because I hadn’t yet so much as touched a pc never mind accessed the internet] and old reports like these suddenly started making sense to me if you allowed for the possibility the malefactors concerned had a grasp of germ warfare albeit couched in the technical language and understandings of the day. The powder if I’m correct would’ve been something akin to the powdered corpses of scrapies sheep which led to cattle consuming it in pellet form eventually developing mad cow disease and in fact I did track down a lot of data suggestive of this possibility some of which I now discover can be found in this Wikipedia and time piece   and here [apologies if that’s an egg suddenly in y’gob!]. But what these accounts lack’s a grasp of the nocebo component of such warfare hence the point of leaving highly visible powder trails rather than carefully hiding such contaminants from sight. I’ve long suspected the main point of all those reports of unmarked aircraft leaving highly visibile but mysterious trails across the sky’s to induce nocebo neurosis in the general population making the masses worry if every little ache or pain’s the start of something more serious and therefore nervously wear us out while distracting us from the real hankypanky as well as setting us up for a nocebo induced fast tracking to senility cancer or Parkinsons and anything else they happen to hypnotize us into contracting. Thanks Lehmansterms, Count, Borky and Professor Mayor!

    Transvestite Rebellion: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books shares an interest here and has put together this little collection of offerings. They don’t give any definite solution but they certainly bring us closer. ‘I do see this smoking petticoat: “In McParlan’s initial report to Allan Pinkerton, the leader of the Molly Maguires [in Pennsylvania] wore “a suit of women’s clothing to represent the Irish mother begging bread for her children.” But, again, a far from impartial source. The most plausible explanation of the name “Molly Maguires” is that the men who engaged in the violence disguised themselves as women. “These ‘Molly Maguires,’” as W. Steuart Trench observed, “were generally stout active young men, dressed up in women’s clothes, with faces blackened or otherwise disguised; sometimes they wore crape over their countenances, sometimes they smeared themselves sin the most fantastic manner with burnt cork about their eyes, mouths and cheeks.” [Trench, Realities of Irish Life, 30.] Similar practices were common to nearly all Irish agrarian societies in the period 1760 to 1850. The Whiteboys (na Buachailli Bana), for example, were so named because they wore white linen frocks over their clothes and white bands or handkerchiefs around their hats. At the same time they apparently pledged allegiance to a mythical woman, Sieve Oultagh (from the Irish Sadhbh Amhaltach, or Ghostly Sally), whom they designated as their queen. The Molly Maguires appear to have done much the same thing. Disguised as women when they went out at night, they dedicated themselves to a mythical woman who symbolized their struggle against injustice, whether sectarian, nationalist, or economic. The clothing was not just a means of disguise; it also served to endow the agrarian agitator with legitimacy, investing him with “the character of the disinterested agent of a higher authority,” the “son” or “daughter” of Molly Maguire. [Donnelly, “The Whiteboy Movement, 176-1-65,” 26-29 Quote from Knott, “Land, Kinship, and Identity,” 107] One possible cultural source for the costumes of the Molly Maguires is the practice of mummery imported to Ireland by English and Scottish settlers in the seventeenth century. Mummery was strongest in the North, and in the predominantly Catholic borderlands of Ulster and Leinster it was soon assimilated into the indigenous culture. On festive days, like midsummers or New Years’s, the mummers travelled from door to door demanding food, money, or drink in exchange for a performance. There was often a somewhat ominous undertone to their festivities; they threatened retribution if they were spurned, and the threat was not always made in jest. They dressed in straw costumes, white shirts, or brightly colored women’s clothing, and their faces were usually blackened. The Moly Maguires dressed in very similar costumes, perhaps to signal that they too were acting on behalf of their community, upholding an alternative social order against external authorities. Rather than being an aberration, the Mollys were very much an outgrowth of the cultural world that surrounded them. Moving quickly from taunts and threats to outright violence, they presented themselves at the custodians of their community.’ In Ireland, as one of the leading historians of early modern Europe has observed, “we have the most extensive example of disturbances led by men disguised as women.” [ Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford, 1975), 149. ‘The “Threshers,” for example dressed in white sheets before going out a night to enforce “Captain Thresher’s Laws.” The “Peep o’Day Boys,” the “Lady Rocks,” and the “Lady Clares” all disguised themselves, often quite elaborately, in women’s clothing. [Beames, Peasants and Power, passim.] How is this pattern of gender inversion to be explained? Given the preliterate character of Gaelic culture, no written evidence on this point has survived. But it is clear that allegiance to a mythical woman was a common theme in nineteenth-century Irish culture, not just among agrarian rebels. In parishes and villages the residents were “children of the one mother”’ in the nation at large, to the extent that a concept of it existed, they were “children of the Gael.” Ireland was typically symbolized by a beautiful woman in the aisling  poetry of the eighteenth century. And the members of agrarian secret societies were “children” of “Sieve,” or “Molly Magruie,” or “Terry’s Mother.” In McParlan’s initial report to Allan Pinkerton, the leader of the Molly Maguires wore “a suit of women’s clothing to represent the Irish mother begging bread for her children.” [Miller, Emigrants and Exiles , HML, A 1520, B 979, F, “Memoranda and Papers,” report of JMCP to AP, October 10, 1873.]’ ‘As for the motif of cross-dressing, it was characteristic of most communal societies in the Irish countryside, not just those that had recourse to violence. Indeed, the violent societies appear to have been an outgrowth of nonviolent ones, representing the transformation of cultural play into social protest….Disguise, transvestism, and overt sexual games also characterized one of the most distinctively Irish cultural forms of the time, boisterous and often sacrilegious wakes for the dead.’ [Connolly, Priests and People in Pre-famine Ireland, 148-58]… The impulse behind disguise and cross-dressing was not, of course, some collective confusion over sexual identity. But if sex was not being questioned, gender and other forms of social hierarchy were. In societies where the word “woman” often signified the passionate, the disorderly, the violent and chaotic side of human nature, temporary assumption of women’s identity by men was fraught with significance. Recent historians have detected in the practice of carnival, for example, not just a social safety valve, but real alternatives to the prevailing social order, particularly in terms of gender.[Davis,Society and Culture in Early Modern France, 123; cf. Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York, 1988), chapters 1,2, on gender as a category of analysis.] The world of Mediterranean festival, social mockery, and cultural play may see ma long way from the rainswept boglands of north-central and northwest Ireland. But the social and cultural roots of the Molly Maguires apparently lay in this obscure world of ritual and protest, common to different parts of early modern Europe at different times. In general, the patterns of protest and violence in question survived longer in Ireland that elsewhere in Western Europe. And the Molly Maguires were the last of the long line of violent secret societies to emerge in the Irish countryside in the century after 1760. These then were the types of social practices and traditions that certain Irish immigrants brought with them to the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Threatening notices signed “Mollie’s Children” were being posted in the region Making Sense of the Molly Maguires By Austin Kevin Kenny Assistant Professor of History University of Texas, pp. 21-24. And this: Although some believe that the Molly Maguires, Ribbonmen, and Ancient Order of Hibernians are different names for the same organization, Kenny has cast some doubt on such linkages, describing the practice of conflating these names as a strategy which “provided an important rationale for [the Molly Maguires’] eventual destruction”. Kenny observes that most of the Ireland-based equivalents of the AOH were secret societies, some of which were violent. Kenny describes a process of leaders from north-central and northwestern Ireland “[adapting] their AOH lodges to classic ‘Ribbonite‘ purposes”.[4] Although there was a specific organization called the Society of Ribbonmen, the term Ribbonism became a catchall expression for rural violence in Ireland. The Ancient Order of Hibernians was extended to Ireland by the Ribbonmen, according to the official history of the AOH. Kenny believes, “If the AOH was a transatlantic outgrowth of Ribbonism, it was clearly a peaceful fraternal society rather than a violent conspiratorial one”. In some areas the terms Ribbonmen and Molly Maguires were used interchangeably, i.e. conflated. The main distinction between the two appears to be that the Ribbonmen were regarded as “secular, cosmopolitan, and protonationalist”, with the Molly Maguires considered “rural, local, and Gaelic“.[5]’ Borky, meanwhile, writes in transvestism as pragmatics and as magic: Beach by a curious coincidence I stumbled on two functional/magical tranvestism episodes today where I least expected to find them 1) in the aftermath of the Burke and Hare murder trial Burke’s mistress Helen McDougal was able to escape the mob surrounding the police station she was hiding out at by dressing as a man and slipping out the back 2) in this brief video about a Myanmar mystic called ‘ET’ it claims the Generals of the Burma Junta wore women’s clothes to ward off the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi presumably at this mystic’s advice.  Thanks Borky and thanks Chris!

    First Domesticated Animal: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes: You mentioned shamans. I remembered reading something about snail slimes having  hallucinogenic properties.   This link mentions South American tribes crushing and burning snail shells to add to their berserker snuff.  Apparently the slime can also be good for you.  On the other hand, snail parasites are not. There is an unappetising disease called  “Rat Lungworm,” which comes from eating contaminated snails or slime. The disease also causes hallucinations.  And then there’s this spoof article about the perils of snail licking.  Oddly enough there are a large number of videos on YouTube showing people licking snails, to judge by my search results. I’m not sure if these are there for the “gross-out” or “double-dare” factor or if these are snail shamans in training. I think I probably don’t want to know. Then Wade sends in this great link: This seems like synchronicity. An article on stone age consumption of shellfish or molluscs. Thanks Chris and Wade for this education!

    Sex Madness: Bast points out several of these are to be found on archive.org. Meanwhile, the Count has knowledge: Concerning outrageous B-movies warning teenagers not to do certain things, everyone’s heard of Reefer Madness, but the second-silliest film along those lines is The Cool And The Crazy, another outrageously daft movie which automatically assumes that cannabis is more addictive than heroin, drives you insane instantly, and is basically the most dangerous substance on Earth. A particularly notable sequence involves a stoned person attempting to drive between the headlights of what, in his befuddled state, he assumes to be two oncoming motorcycles rather than one oncoming car. Another one which I haven’t seen which is supposed to be good is the awesomely titled Marijuana – The With Roots In Hell. There’s even one, simply called Marijuana, in which John Wayne battles the evil weed! Actually, strictly speaking, he doesn’t. It was originally shot with him fighting smugglers of booze or guns or something, but in a re-dubbed foreign version, it was tweaked so that drugs were involved to make it more spicy. But for the ultimate examples you need to skip ahead a decade and watch movies about LSD. By that stage things had loosened up a great deal, but it was still usually necessary for the film to demonstrate that taking this stuff, or indeed anything illegal, would somehow or other cause you to die. Notable examples include The Trip (in which the protagonist actually survives, though there’s very little evidence that anyone involved with the script had ever dropped acid), and Psych-Out, which is quite good in a trashy kind of way. Bruce Dern’s in both of them, and Peter Fonda crops up in most such efforts, probably because they were two of the most spaced-out actors in Hollywood (along with Jack Nicholson, who co-wrote the script for Head, in which the Monkees have to pretend that the movie isn’t about drugs at all but aren’t fooling anyone – especially during the psychedelic mermaid scene, or the bit there they dress up as Victor Mature’s dandruff, or – well, the whole film, actually). Of course, returning to the initial subject, you have to include Glen Or Glenda? Tim Burton almost made the premiere of that movie the culmination of his Ed Wood biopic, because it’s so much more heartfelt than Plan Nine From Outer Space, but decided not to because he would have had to rewrite history too much, even though it would have been a more satisfying ending. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll be surprised by how good an actor Ed Wood is. He’s not great, but he’s far better than you’ll expect. And he clearly means everything very sincerely indeed. And then Bela Lugosi pops up and spouts absolute nonsense for no reason at all, accompanied by stock footage of stampeding buffaloes… Because the producer, who had a very vague idea what a transvestite was, had already printed posters advertising a film called I Changed My Sex in the belief that this movie would cash in on the recent surgery to create the world’s first transsexual, a 15-minute mini-documentary about an ambiguously-gendered person who lives as a man before having surgery to become the woman she technically is was tacked on at the end. The producer also added a lot of utterly irrelevant footage in which slightly past-it burlesque dancers are flogged by Satan to satisfy patrons expecting something sexy. No explanation whatsoever exists for who Bela Lugosi’s character is. The best guess is that God is not dead, just mad, and for some reason, Hungarian. Moving on to something tangential but not completely unrelated, here’s a name which, if you don’t know it (which you probably won’t because he’s pretty obscure), you’ll thank me for. Larry Blamire. This guy started out writing plays, one of the more successful of which was about a talentless but eternally optimistic director in the 1950s trying to raise cash to make the worst B-movie ever. It eventually occurred to him that it might be even better to make the actual movie! Which he did in 2000 – it’s called The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavera, and it’s a genuinely affectionate tribute to no-budget 1950s B-movies that is in every detail indistinguishable from a real one – there are no anachronisms, and the genuinely competent actors were instructed to pretend to be terrible actors honestly doing their best. It did very well at a handful of festivals, but poorly on general release because the trailer was so authentic that people assumed it was a joke because this movie couldn’t possibly exist in the 21stcentury. Still, it cost less than $100,000 so they got their money back, and went on to make more films. Dark And Stormy Night is a perfect recreation of a thirties Old Dark House movie, with some of the silliest dialogue ever committed to celluloid (actually Larry Blamire isn’t a pedant, and embraces the digital medium because it’s so much cheaper). They had to do a lot of retakes because the entire cast cracked up every time Mrs. Cupcuboard opened her mouth – she’s a spirit medium who is genuine, but too bonkers to be the slightest bit useful. And I still can’t believe that The Manhattan Transfer (remember them?) were persuaded to sing the theme-song for The Trail Of The Screaming Forehead. Unlike you, I don’t like Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes. To my way of thinking, there’s something not quite right about deliberately making a bad film because you have neither the money nor the talent to make a good one. But Larry Blamire takes it to the next level and creates a true homage, not a cynical parody. One of the greatest cinematic missed opportunities ever is that the Finlanders responsible forIron Sky didn’t call up Larry Blamire and say: “Hey! We’re making an outrageous B-movie pastiche about Moon Nazis, but since we’re trying to write a comedy in a language we don’t speak too well, could you possibly help us out with the script?” Thanks Count and Bast!

    Terror in the Night: Wade writes in: There is a lot of discussion among the UFO crowd, both believers and skeptics, about whether the Old Hag phenomena is the source for the majority of alien abduction claims. Sleep paralysis is terrifying. I experienced it one time years ago and I wouldn’t want it to happen again. Then EC with an honest to God experience: Not sure if this is the sort of response you’re looking for on this one, but I experienced “The Hag” when I was seventeen years old. My sister did as well. The experience was indeed terrifying: I *knew* that the (what I later came to call) “thought clusters” that were menacing me were definitely not within my mind – it’s hard to describe but they did not have the “flavor” that all my imaginings have, a “flavor” that I only realized existed when this thing from “outside” appeared and lacked it. And yes I felt paralyzed and also that I was partially leaving my body. Even knowing as I do now that the phenomenon of night terrors is common, and being generally sceptical, has not removed the secret suspicion that I was once threatened by a malevolent nonhuman intelligence.’ Thanks EC and Wade!


    Totoro: Invisible writes in: Your post mentioning Arrietty jogged my memory at how much I loved the Borrower books by Mary Norton. Those should be on the reading list–for your girls’ sake and for yours if you haven’t read them. As a miniatures collector (read “nut'”) I was always fascinated with stories about tiny things and books where doll house dolls came alive. (Rumer Godden: The Dolls’ House, Rackety Packety House by Burnett). Good times! Brian, meanwhile, writes in: Can I suggest Pan’s Labyrinth, by the Spanish director Guillermo del Toro? About children, but decidedly not for children, though. Interestingly, it’s set not long before the end of WW2, in Franco’s Spain. The insect-like fairies are truly strange. And I don’t get the Spirited Away dissing. One of my favourite films, animated or otherwise.’ Thanks Brian and Invisible: and several emails agreed with Brian about Spirited Away. I find the graphics incredible, but the plot a bit confused.

    Peter, Abraham: KMH, an old friend of the blog, writes: The evangelizing advantages of Christianity that I can think of are: 1) The horse-eating, polytheistic pagans are choosing a simplified polytheism from their point of view. The abstruse idea of the oneness of God in Christianity isn’t that important for them in daily life. 2) No requirement to learn a new language or learn to read printed text – the priests or pastors will explain everything. They can keep their holy days if they give them a new name. 3) Christian evangelists know that to convert pagans they need supplies of food, clothing, tools, medical supplies, etc. to help convince them they have the better religion.  We don’t see that with Judaism or Islam. 4) The more “controversial” the Christian evangelizers are in their denominational beliefs, the harder they will try to make converts. This started with the Arians and later continued on  with the Protestants, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  So the Christians deviating from Rome the most may be the most fanatical in  evangelizing pagans. Beyond the Urals  in 1000 AD would imply the Greek Orthodox, not differing much from Catholicism. However, another date might be more interesting. Nathaniel adds to this: Of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Christianity may be the least ethnocentric, anchored less than the others to the overall culture of its original followers. Christianity almost from the start was multi-ethnic, and I’ve even seen claims that it was one of the first “religions” in the sense of separating religious activities from other aspects of life. This may make it easier to adopt in spite of its theological complexity. And perhaps the idea of “three gods in one” makes MORE sense to a polytheist than it does to a strict monotheist — there’s argument among Jews and Muslims about whether Christianity is monotheistic at all.’ Lehmansterms, meanwhile, writes: ‘One word, slavery’. Thanks Lehman,  KMH and Nathaniel!

    Magonia 4: Doug writes: Intriguing bit there on the origin of the word “Magonia.”  A couple of other possibilities: the “Orbis Latinus” gives “Magontia” as one of the names for Mainz [[Tacitus also made this point]].  Also, “Magona” is an old Italian word (I don’t know how old) for an ironworks, and figuratively, “a place of great abundance” — probably derived from “mago,” according to my dictionary.’ Thanks Doug and Tacitus, love the idea of Magonia being German Mainz!!!

    Academic Quotations: Brett from Airminded writes What I mainly wanted to say was that I entirely sympathise with your post on quoting newspapers! I do this frequently and encounter the same difficulties in deciding how to reproduce the text. In fact, I’d make the same choices as you on points 1-7. Another problem is  how to quote multiple headlines, often in varying  type sizes and capitalisations and with dividing lines:


    I would probably render it as ‘Something important. Something less important’ or just ‘Something important’ in a citation. I did the latter in footnotes in my PhD thesis and book ms., as I agree that newspaper articles should be cited like any other. In particular, not giving page numbers is inexcusably rude! I have been blaming the author for this, but from your experience maybe it’s the editor who is to blame? Though I have to say, all my articles have cited newspapers, some extensively, and not once has any editor even quibbled over my citations. Maybe you were unlucky! Or I’ve been lucky…’ Thanks Brett!

    Jasper: Open Sesame writes: You’ve forgotten the most obvious of them all. Would anyone disagree that if the Greenland Settlements knew about the existence of lands to the west is it really possible that this information had not reached Iceland, Scandinavia, England, France, Spain…? Where to draw the line? Gus has this to add: Your interesting post on Jasper and Butternuts on the Edges of Vinland. I hadn’t appreciated that Jasper was such a specific indicator of Norse occupation. In the Scottish islands it is soapstone, used mainly for cooking utensils that is the give-away when found in sites. “Any other common sense propositions about Norse New World visits and settlements?” Have you seen or heard of the carvings of maize and cacti in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, which was built in 1446?  The story goes that the St Clair (Sinclair) who built it had gone on a trip the the New World with some Viking relatives. http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/history.php – picture 3. I have better pictures somewhere on a hard drive.  They are very obviously maize and cacti when seen first hand. Thanks Gus and Open Sesame!

    Caucasus: Cory writes in: Strange beliefs about the Circassians persisted at least into the 20th century.  My husband has posted at his webiste an account he drew from his own father’s memoirs, compressed and retold in more dramatic form but not altered in any of the details.  My father-in-law was born in Voronezh, Russia in 1901, so this description goes back about a century:  But what my father enjoyed most at Mihailovka were the nights he spent riding guard around the boundary of the estate with Ahmed. Ahmed was a Moslem — a Cherkess from a village in the northern part of the Caucasus.  He was a tall wiry catlike man who’d spent a life in the saddle.  He wore a karakul cap on his head and a silver-ornamented dagger in his belt.  Across the breast of his tunic there were loops for rifle shells, and he carried a short-handled whip called a nagaika. Local people looked on him with suspicion.  He was an infidel, a dangerous and unpredictable man.  Some thought that he had supernatural powers and could cast evil spells.  There was even talk that he’d been seen in the act of changing into the form of some strange wild beast. Old peasant women would cross themselves when they laid eyes on Ahmed and hurry away.  But there were also said to be girls in the adjacent villages with babies that didn’t look Russian. The Count meanwhile writes: That’s an interesting and little-known sorcerous skirmish you’ve just documented. However, skipping backward exactly a century, we find that slightly less colorful and more abstract but otherwise quite similar stories of equal or greater veracity were circulating in Europe. Here are the two best-known examples: Nuremberg and Basel. There seems to have been something in the air, so to speak! Thanks Cory and Count!

    Happy July!