Friday, December 4, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 87 - The Legend of Krampus

Moment in Oddity - The Dragon's Triangle
Suggested by: Spooktacular Crew Member Shelby Labrie

The Japanese call it the Ma-no Umi: the Sea of the Devil. Everybody else calls it the Dragon's Triangle. It is nearly opposite the Bermuda Triangle and often compared to it for good reason. It is the cause of many ships and planes mysteriously disappearing. Some believe that Amelia Earhart went missing because of the Dragon's Triangle. Other phenomenon have been linked to the area including ghost ships, USOs, lapses in time, and electronic equipment malfunctions. Some researchers claim that seismic events, volcanoes and other natural occurrences cause most of the "paranormal" activity within the Dragon's Triangle. It is true that the area is volcanically active and small islands seem to appear and disappear regularly, but does this really explain how ships and planes could just disappear or in most recent news reports, could this cause several large wooden ghost ships full of decaying bodies to wash up on Japanese shores? At least 12 wooden boats have been found in the Sea of Japan over the past two months carrying the decaying bodies of 22 people. The bodies were described as "partially skeletonized." One boat had only six skulls in it and another had two bodies without their heads. The bodies probably belong to people defecting from North Korea out of desperation and who could blame them. The ships are old and hard to steer. Could wandering through the Dragon's Triangle make things even worse? The triangle takes its name from the dragons that were believed to live in the area. And while these fire breathing dragons were probably volcanoes, who knows if dragons just might have dotting the landscape. No matter the explanation, the things that happen around the Dragon's Triangle certainly are odd!

This Day in History - Mary Celeste Found Abandoned
By: April and Courtland Rogers-Krick

[Transcript] On this day, December 4th, in 1872, the Mary Celeste was found abandoned off the coast of Portugal. The British brig Dei Gratia had left New York shortly after the Mary Celeste and it was her crew that discovered the ghost ship. Captain David Morehouse sent a crew off to the ship to see if it needed assistance. The crew found no one aboard, but belongings were still inside the ship. The sails were still set. Six months worth of food was still on board. The only lifeboat was missing and there was three and a half feet of water in the bottom of the ship. The Mary Celeste had a crew of seven plus the Captain, his wife and their daughter. After a thorough investigation, no one could figure out why the crew would leave the ship. It had a working pump and the water in the ship was normal for a ship left afloat with no crew. The compass was damaged and the clock was not working, but this would not call for abandonment. A sextant and the ship's log and papers were missing, but something else was missing that struck investigators as very odd. The Mary Celeste had been hauling 1700 barrels of alcohol used to fortify wine. Nine of those barrels were empty. Where had the alcohol gone? The boarding party from the Dei Gratia sailed the Mary Celeste to Gibraltar to claim a reward. The reward was less than expected and might have been less because some suspected foul play on the part of Dei Gratia. The top theory as to what happened is that the alcohol barrels were empty because they had leaked causing intense fumes. The hatches were opened, but the Captain decided to have the crew and his family get into a lifeboat that they tied onto the ship to wait for the fumes to dissipate. Somehow the lifeboat floated away leaving those aboard at the mercy of the sea. Some time later, a boat full of horribly decomposed bodies washed up on shore in Spain. Was this the crew of the Mary Celeste? We'll never know.

[Full research] On December 4, 1872 The Mary Celeste, an American merchant brigantine, was found adrift and abandon in the Atlantic Ocean near the Azores Islands, by the Canadian brigantine, Dei Gratia. She was disheveled and under partial sail but still seaworthy. No one was on board and the lifeboat was missing.
The Mary Celeste was built in Canada in 1860 and was originally christened Amazon. During her first 10 years she encountered many accidents and went under repair. After her last repair she was renamed Mary Celeste. In 1870 J.H. Winchester purchased the Mary Celeste and she gave two years of good service. In 1872 Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs purchased shares in the Mary Celeste and became her captain. The ship was then altered to accommodate the captain’s family so that they could sail with him.

Captain Briggs, his wife Sarah and their 2 year old daughter Sophia and a crew of seven men set sail from New York to Genoa on November 5, 1872. The ship carried a cargo of 1701 barrels of poisonous denatured alcohol. Do to uncertain weather conditions Captain Briggs set anchor near Staten Island for two days. On November 7, 1872 the weather eased and the Mary Celeste left harbor and set sail in the Atlantic.
On December 4, 1872 Captain David Morehouse of the Dei Gratia spotted the Mary Celeste about six miles away and headed unsteadily towards the Dei Gratia. The ships erratic movements and the set of her sails lead Captain Morehouse to suspect something was wrong.  After not receiving an answer to his signals and not seeing anyone on deck of the Mary Celeste the captain sent first mate Oliver Deveau and second mate john Wright to investigate.

Once Deveau and Wright boarded the Mary Celeste they discovered her completely deserted. The sails were still partly set but in poor condition, some were missing altogether, and much of the rigging was damaged with ropes hanging loosely over the sides.  The main hatch cover was secure, but the fore and lazarette were open, their covers beside them on the deck. The ship’s single lifeboat, a small yawl, was missing, while the binnacle housing the ship’s compass had shifted and the glass broken.  On deck a sounding rod ( a device used for measuring the amount of water in the hold) was found abandon. 3.5 feet of water was found in the hold. Although it is a significant amount of water it was not enough to effect a ship the size of the Mary Celeste.

In the mates cabin the ships daily log was found.  The last entry was dated November 25, 1872 at 8:00 am, nine days earlier.  It recorded the Mary Celeste’s position just off Santa Maria Island in the Azoles, nearly 400 nautical miles from the point where the Dei Gratia encountered her.  Deveau took note that the cabin interiors were wet and untidy from water which had entered through doorways and skylights, but otherwise in good order.  In Brigg’s cabin, Deveau found personal items scattered about, including a sheathed sword under the bed, but most of the ship’s papers, together with the captains navigational instruments were missing. Galley equipment was neatly stowed away and there were ample provisions in the stores.  Only the moldy remains of what looked like a child’s breakfast was found on the table.  There were no signs of fire or violence. The evidence indicated an orderly departure from the ship by means of the missing lifeboat.
After reporting these findings to Captain Morehouse, he agreed to transport the abandon ship to Gibraltar, 600 nautical miles away.  Under maritime law a salvager could expect a substantial share of the combined value of the ship and the cargo.  Captain Morehouse divided the Dei Gratia eight man crew between the two ships. The weather was fairly calm for the trip to Gibraltar but with each ship severally undermanned progress was slow.  On December 12, 1872 the Dei Gratia reached Gibraltar. The Mary Celeste, having encountered fog arrived the following morning.  She was immediately impounded by the vice admiralty court, preparatory to salvage hearings.

The salvage court hearings began on December 17, 1872, under Sir James Cochrane, the chief justice of Gibraltar. The hearing was conducted by Fredrick Solly Flood, Attorney General of Gibraltar, who was also Advocate-General and Proctor for the Queen in Her Office of Admiralty. Somehow the testimonies of Oliver Deveau and John Wright convinced Attorney General Flood that foul play had been committed.  He was quoted as saying “The inference is that Foul Play has been committed and that alcohol is at the bottom of it.”  On December 23 Flood order an examination of the Mary Celeste, which was carried out by John Austin, Surveyor of Shipping, with the assistance of a diver, Ricardo Portunato.

Austin noted cuts on each side of the bow, he thought caused by a sharp instrument, and found what he believed to be possible traces of blood on the captain’s sword.  His report emphasized that the ship did not appear to have been struck by heavy weather. To support his claim he cited a phial of sewing machine oil found upright in its place.  Austin did not acknowledge that the phial might have been replaced since the abandonment, nor did the court raise this point.  Portunato’s report on the hull concluded that the ship had not been involved in a collision or run aground.  A further inspection by a group of Royal Naval captains endorsed Austin’s opinion that the cuts on the bow had been caused deliberately. They also discovered stains on one of the ship’s rails that might have been blood, together with a deep mark possibly caused by an axe. These findings strengthened Flood’s suspicions’ that human wrongdoing rather that natural disaster lay behind the mystery of the abandon ship. On January 22, 1873, Flood sent the reports to the Board of Trade in London, adding his own conclusion that the crew had got at the alcohol (he ignored its non-potability) and murdered the Briggs family and the ship’s officers in a drunken frenzy. He stated they had cut the bows to simulate a collision, then fled in the yawl to suffer an unknown fate.  Flood thought that Morehouse and his men were hiding something, specifically that the Mary Celeste had been abandon in a more easterly location and that the log had been doctored.  He could not accept that the Mary Celeste could have traveled so far while unmanned.

Oh Janurary 15, James Winchester arrived in Gibraltar, to inquire when the Mary Celeste might be released to deliver its cargo.  Flood demanded a surety of $15,000, money Winchester did not have.  He became aware that flood thought he might have deliberately engaged a crew that would kill Briggs and his officers, as part of some conspiracy.  On January 29, during a series of sharp exchanges with Flood, Winchester testified to Brigg’s high character, and insisted that he would not have abandoned the ship except in extreme circumstances,  Flood’s theories of mutiny and murder received a significant setback when scientific analysis of the stains found on the sword and elsewhere on the ship showed that they were not blood. A second blow to Flood followed in a report commissioned by Howard Sprauge, the American consul in Gibraltar, from Captain Shufeldt of the US Navy, In Shufeldt’s view the marks on the bow were not man-made, but came from the natural actions of the sea on the ships timbers.

On February 25 with nothing to support his suspicions, Flood reluctantly released the Mary Celeste from the court’s jurisdiction.  Two weeks later, with a locally raised crew headed by Captain George Blatchford from Massachusetts, the Mary Celeste left Gibraltar for Genoa.  On April 8, the question of the salvage payment was decided when Cochrane announced the award of £1,700 or about one-fifth of the total value of ship and cargo.  This was far lower than the general expectation. It was thought that payment should have been two to three times that amount given the level of hazard in bringing the abandon ship into port.  Cochrane’s final words were harshly critical of Morehouse for his decision, earlier in the hearing, to  the Dei Gratia under Deveau to deliver its cargo of petroleum. Morehouse had remained in Gibraltar at the disposal of the court.
Cochrane’s tone carried an implication of wrongdoing which followed Morehouse and his crew for the rest of their lives.

135 years later a new investigation was conducted. With the use of modern investigative techniques and the finding of new evidence it has been determined the Mary Celeste and crew was not the victims of foul play.  The Mary Celeste encountered three major storms and it had taken three weeks to sail what should have taken no more than two weeks.  Captain Brigg made a major route change trying to avoid more storms.  On November 22 with no land insight Briggs realized that his navigational equipment was faulty.  On November 24 the Mary Celeste encountered more bad weather.  Rain and winds of 30 knots and higher battered the ship.  On the morning of November 25, 1872  it is believed that Captain Brigg’s was under the impression that the Mary Celeste was slowly sinking and he made the decision to abandon ship to save the lives of his family and crew.  Seeing land that he believed to be the island of Santa Maria in the Azoles about 13 miles away and a break in the weather he ordered his family and crew to abandon ship.  The Brigg’s family and crew, left all personal belongings behind and set sail in the small yawl for land.  It is believed that bad weather and waves overtook the small lifeboat.  They are not believed to have ever made it to land.

The Legend of Krampus (Research Assistant Carbon Lilies & Listener Elora)

There are Christmas trees and reindeer and candy canes, but Santa Claus is probably one of the most familiar images intertwined with Christmas. Most of us as kids were raised with the warning that you better be good, for goodness sake, or you would end up on Santa's naughty list and thus receive coal in your stocking. But as we trace back the various traditions associated with the holiday season, we come upon a character that has been around longer than good old St. Nick and the warnings that came with him, were far more dire. On this episode, we will explore the origins, history and terror that are a part of the legend of Krampus.

During the 4th century AD, Roman influence caused many Germanic tribes, such as the Goths and Vandals, to convert to Christianity. Their pagan traditions managed to survive in small villages in the Alps where the Church couldn't penetrate. One of those pagan traditions involved Krampus. The name Krampus is derived from the German word "krampen" meaning “claw." It is believed that Krampus started appearing sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries in Southern Germany and Austria (the area known as Bavaria) before spreading to Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and even the Alp villages of Italy under different names: Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel and Klaubauf to name a few. The legend is said to have originated from a German folktale. There are some who claim that Krampus is a representation of the son of Hel, ruler of the underworld in Norse mythology. This is up for debate as most Norse mythology comes from the more Northern regions of the area while Krampus was a more southernly fixture. But it was in 1250 AD that King's Mirror, a Norwegian text, featured a Wild Man character who was described as being covered in hair.

Having his roots in Germanic tradition, Krampus is the companion of St. Nicholas. He is no cutesy little elf; however, but a beast out of your worst nightmares. He is almost something like an evil twin to Santa. The difference to us would be as if you were comparing God to Satan. And the descriptions of Krampus are quite similar to the traditional ideas about Satan. Krampus rises to the height of seven feet and has long goat horns, cloven hooves, pointed ears, bulging eyes and is entirely covered with dark, matted hair. One of his most recognizable features is a huge pointed tongue protruding from between sharp fang that moves around whip-like. Not only is he terrifying to behold, but his actions make him the perfect horror movie star.

While Santa might bring coal to bad kids, Krampus brings true punishment. He carries with him bells, birch stick switches, whips and rusty chains and uses them on naughty children before throwing them in his basket and dragging them to the underworld where they would serve him until they repented or even for their whole lives or even more frightening, he may even eat them. The bells he carries are rung to warn the children that he is coming. Quite different than the bell ringing in the movie "A Wonderful Life" where such a sound was equated with an angel getting his wings, not a child getting an extreme punishment. One can imagine that this would be quite persuasive in getting children to be on their very best behavior all year long. Some believe that the chains are carried by Krampus as a carry over from Christianity. As Christianity adopted pagan traditions and altered them to fit its customs, it is believed that Krampus became a representative of Satan and thus the chains symbolized Satan being bound to the Church.

Krampus was given his own night, which is still observed today: Krampusnacht also referred to as Krampus Night, which is celebrated on December 5th. On this night, Krampus runs around making loud noises and scaring the children. It is customary to offer a drink of warm Schnapps to Krampus. This tradition has inspired Krampuslauf (Krampus Run) where intoxicated party goers dress as devils, wild-men and witches bearing torches and they run through the streets terrifying children and adults alike. The trend has caught on, spreading to other parts of Europe like France and Finland and even many American cities like Philadelphia, Portland, Rochester, Los Angeles and others. Some of these festivals can last for days.

Another tradition has Krampus joining St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve, so that he could handle Santa's naughty list. He did seem to fall by the wayside for a bit, but then Krampus started to regain acceptance and a following in the 19th century thanks in part to the Brothers Grimm. And Krampus got a quick reference in the 1835 book Deutsche Mythologie. In the early 19th century, Krampus began appearing on greeting cards and soon there was a Krampus card for every St. Nicholas card. These greeting cards depicted the creature in all his glory, a peculiar way to wish someone happy holidays. The Catholic Church has outlawed the observation of Krampus Night at various times in history. During the reign of the Third Reich, Krampus was outlawed as being a socialist but was allowed to invade the streets again when World War II came to an end. Yes, even the Nazis feared Krampus.

Although St. Nicholas has been given the job of punishing naughty kids by either not bringing them presents or leaving them coal in their stockings, Krampus is making a comeback and has become commercialized. You can find him everywhere from t-shirts to comic books and even Hollywood horror movies, which is why we picked this day to release this episode since the Krampus Movie is debuting today. Krampus has been on American Dad, Supernatural, The Colbert Report and Grimm.

When discussing a creature like Krampus, it is only fitting to discuss someone else who appears in the folklore of the Alp regions and is sometimes seen as a partner to krampus and that is Perchta. She is sometimes described as a goddess of light, but she has a dual nature and the other side is quite horrific and the one that is focused upon at Christmas time. Perchta was described as roaming the countryside in Bavaria during the winter. She would enter homes during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany and apparently she had been watching the children because she knew who had been good and who had been bad. Good kids got coins in their shoes, but woe to the bad kids because Perchta was worse than Krampus. She would just slit their bellies open then and there. She clean out their guts and stuff them with straw. I bet these kids ate their porridge after that tale! Many of the pictures we have seen of this female entity look very similar to Krampus. A match made in Hell perhaps?

Mummery is also something that has ancient folklore ties and is a European practice that takes place during the Winter Solstice or the holiday season. Mummers are people who perform in disguises that represent creatures, animals, mythic figures and the like. One of those characters would be Krampus, so basically those that dress up on Krampus Night are mummers. Mummery is believed to be the inspiration for dressing up on Halloween. Newfoundland has a Mummer's Festival every year and it is believed that Newfoundland is where mummery got its start. The practice had all but died out in 1861 when a bill was passed making it illegal for people to wear masks in public without official permission from the government after a man named Isaac Mercer was killed by a bunch of mummers. Today it is experiencing a resurgence. Philadelphia hosts the Mummer's Parade every year to bring in the New Year. It started in the 1800s and was made official in 1900. The parade features music, pageantry and unique costumes.

Is it the resurgence in pagan religions, hunger for a darker `Nightmare Before Christmas’ style holiday or possibly a world of increasingly dissatisfied and spoiled children that is the reason for the renewed interest in the “Christmas Demon?” Could Krampus be here to scare these spoiled kids straight? We know that St. Nick is based on a real person in history. Did a creature like Krampus ever exist? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Krampus Events and such:
To watch the Philly Mummer's Parade on New Years:
Book featuring the history and over 180 greeting cards: Krampus: The Devil of Christmas

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