Friday, July 8, 2016

HGB Ep. 135 - Tevennec Lighthouse

Moment in Oddity - The Ritualistic Burial of 12,000 Year Old Shaman

The skeleton of a woman measuring about 4 feet 9 inches tall and about 45 years old was found in a cave in Israel. The cave had served as a burial place for around 28 people and this diminutive woman seemed to be the most important figure of the group. She was more than likely a shaman and this was surmised because of the objects found buried with her. They included the bones of several animals: a wild cow tail, an eagle's wings, marten skulls, a leopard's pelvis, a boar's forearm and a human foot. Even more fascinating is the ritual that was involved with burying this woman some 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists were able to piece together the 6 step ritual based on items found in the grave. The first step entailed preparing the burial pit. An oval shape was marked out in bedrock and then the bedrock was broken up and pulled out. The floor and walls were then covered with mud. The second and third steps added on more preparation for the grave. Limestone blocks were used to line the pit along with unique artifacts like tortoise shells and gazelle horns. The artifacts were then covered with a layer of ash. The body was placed in the pit during the fourth step in a squatting position. Tortoise shells were placed under the head and pelvis. Animal bones were placed around the body. Stage five was a burial feast and the garbage from that feast was thrown into the pit, which included more animal bones and up to 86 tortoise shells. It is estimated that nearly 55 pounds of meat were eaten at the feast. The sixth and final step was sealing the pit with a triangluar shaped piece of limestone. This shaman's grave proves the theory that burials were an elaborate ceremony even several thousands of years ago. This way of paying respect to the dead is interesting and quite odd!

This Day in History - UFO Crashes in Roswell
by: April Rogers-Krick

On this day, July 8th, in 1947, a mysterious flying disc was reported to have crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico. The headline of The Roswell Daily Record read, “RAFF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.” A local rancher named Mac Brazel found a mess of metallic sticks held together with tape, chunks of plastic and foil reflectors and scraps of a heavy, glossy, paper-like material in his sheep pasture. No one was able to identify the objects. Brazel called Roswell’s sheriff. The sheriff in turn called officials at the nearby Roswell Army Air Force base. Soldiers called to the scene fanned out across the field gathering the mysterious debris and whisking it away in armored trucks. On July 9th, an Air Force official clarified the newspaper’s report. He claimed the alleged “flying saucer” was only a crashed weather balloon. But to anyone who had seen the debris or the photographs from the newspaper, it was clear that whatever this thing was, it was not a weather balloon. Some believed – and still believe – that the crashed vehicle had not come from Earth. They argued the debris must have come from an alien spaceship.

Tevennec Lighthouse (Suggested by listener Janet Sheppard, Research Assistant April Rogers-Krick)

A tiny, uninhabitable, rocky island sits off the coast of Pointe du Raz, in western Brittany, France in Raz de Sein. This island is home to Tevennec Lighthouse. Lighthouses are meant to prevent deaths by guiding ships through dangerous waters. But Tevennec has been the scene of death many times and even before the lighthouse was built, local folklore tells of a history of death and haunting on the island. Legend says that Tevennec was home to Ankou, the Breton name for Death himself. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Tevennec Lighthouse!

Brittany was known as Armorican peninsula in antiquity and its rich history is evidenced in the numerous Neolithic monuments found there. The standing stones of the region have perplexed historians for centuries.The burial chambers predate the Egyptian pyramids by a long time. These chambers are similar to the mounds we see in America and they consisted of a dolmen, or stone chamber, where the bodies were placed and then they were covered with an earthen mound called a tumulus. The strong Celtic culture that grew here was sujugated when the Romans came. Caesar ruled Brittany with an iron fist. As Roman rule faded, people immigrated here from Wales, Ireland and England and it became known as "Little Britain" or Brittany at that time. In the 17th and 18th century, the French monarchy took control of Brittany. Today, the area enjoys good relations with Great Britain.

Pointe du Raz is one of Brittany's most popular natural sites. The charming beauty of this area inspired Victor Hugo to include it in his works. Cliffs tower above perilous waters. The Baie des Trépassés or Bay of the Dead holds the remains of numerous shipwrecks that were overpowered by the currents here, which are some of the strongest in Europe. It only makes sense that this spot would need a lighthouse. But the spot chosen to build the lighthouse was remote, on a rocky outpost that was battered routinely by waves. The light was lit here for the first time in 1875. The first lighthouse had a little cottage attached to it and the first keeper, Henri Guezennec, took his post that same year. One can only imagine how difficult it would be to be stuck in a dangerous remote place with no human contact. It was that living alone on that desolate island with no outside communications for extended periods of time that lead to Guezennec going mad. He claimed to hear voices chanting “Kerz-kuit”, which is Breton for "leave her." Each subsequent keeper faced the same issues and many died.

In 1893, it was decided by the authorities that two man crews should operate the light and that keepers should only spend a maximum of one year at Tevennec. The hope was to keep these men from going nuts or killing themselves. It would seem that the keepers were never really alone before though, based on the stories of hauntings. Crucifixes were embedded into the rock on the island with the hopes of exorcising the ghosts and even a priest performed an exorcism of the island. It wasn't just that men were losing their minds and seeing things. There was a true basis in superstition. To understand those beliefs, we need to look at a terrifying creature named the Ankou.

In the Celtic folklore of Brittany, the Ankou is a death omen that collects the souls of the dead. It travels the lanes of Brittany, preying on unsuspecting individuals. This creatures reveals itself in many forms. One of the more common is for The Ankou, or King of the Dead, to inhabit the last person to die in a certain area in a calendar year. So don't die on New Year's Eve. For the following year he or she assumes the duty of calling for the dead. The other common depiction of the Ankou is as a tall, haggard figure with long white hair, usually skeletal in nature with a revolving head able to see everyone everywhere. It drives a spectral cart accompanied by two ghostly figures on foot and stops at the house of the one who is about to die. It knocks on the door – making a sound that is sometimes heard by the living – or gives out a mournful wail like the Irish Banshee. Sometimes it's reported to be seen as an apparition entering the house. It enlists the help of its two ghost companions to load the dead person onto its cart. As one can see, the Ankou is a powerful figure that dominates Breton folklore.

When Christianity arrived in Brittany, the story of the Ankou was amended, including St. Peter as a type of hero, blinding the Ankou. The story as told by the website Mysterious Britain tells it this way:
"St. Peter came down to walk beside the Ankou in his grim task. As the darkness grew, they passed by a farmer and his servant still working in the fields by the side of the lane. The creaking of the Ankou’s cart startled the farmer who fell to his knees and hid his face from sight. The servant however continued to cut the hay, singing all the time in his strong melodic voice. The Ankou stopped the cart and shouted that the servant would be dead within 8 days, but the servant kept on singing defiantly. At this challenge to authority, the Ankou’s eyes lit up like fire and he readied himself to strike down the servant, but St. Peter jumped between the Ankou and his prize, blessing the servant with long life and taking the fire from the Ankou's eyes. Thus the Ankou was left blind and less able to strike down souls in the dark leafy lanes of Brittany."
So we have the first pair of keepers taking their post in 1893. And then one of them died unexpectedly. In 1897, it was decided that lighthouse keepers could let their wives accompany them to this formidable post. This did not seem to solve the problem of death visiting the lighthouse. One keeper died, leaving his wife to salt his corpse until he could be collected. The third keeper, a man called Meliper, was found dead in his bed. The fourth, Roperts, kept the light with his elderly father. One day Roparts found his father dead. He had slit his throat with his shaving-razor. Other tales of a keeper falling on a knife and a child of a keeper dying have been shared, but unconfirmed for many years. Louis and Marie Jacquette Quemere along with their three children and a cow, spent a significant amount of time at the post. The family had no documented encounters with ghosts or deaths.

The weather has proved to be a bigger problem than the hauntings. The waves crashing against the rock here have brought many a ship to its bitter end, but they have also brought an end to the cottage on three occasions. It was rebuilt each time. Things came to a head when a horrible storm destroyed the wall of the living-room while the last lighthouse-keepers wife was in the process of giving birth. It was decided that something had to be done and the lighthouse was fully automated in 1910. And the lighthouse was basically abandoned. For over a hundred years, no keeper has resided at the lighthouse.

In 2015, on the 140th anniversary of the building of Tevennec Lighthouse, the founder of the National Society For Heritage, Marc Pointud, announced he was planning to spend two months alone at Tevennec. He wanted to raise awareness for the restoration of France’s forgotten lighthouses. Pointud's goal was to turn the lighthouse into an artist retreat. The lighthouse had no furnishings so he would have to take the bare basics with him and he said he would be living like a prisoner. He started a fund to help raise the money needed to restore the lighthouse. Pointud pointed out that he was not worried about the ghost tales because he did not believe in ghosts. And he figured he would keep madness at bay because he would have a telephone and Internet communication with the mainland, something that the early keepers were denied.

Due to bad weather, the 2015 project was delayed. Pointud is quoted as saying at that time, “ There is too much sea and we cannot dock or unload the material.” A French newspaper reported at the beginning of February 2016 that another attempt would be made on February 27. There is little information about his stay on the island, but we did confirm that he spent two months on the island with no incident of ghosts, hauntings, or otherwise.

The Tevennec Lighthouse keeps watch over the ships in the sea, but is there something else keeping watch on the craggy island? Do the spirits of shipwrecked crews haunt the island. Are the ghosts of dead keepers still doing their job in the afterlife? Does the King of the Dead reign here? Is Tevennec Lighthouse haunted? That is for you to decide!

Bel Air Cemetery at Seychelles Island by Joerg Nagorski:

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