Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Years Eve Special 2016

Thunder rages outside and there is a knock at the door. Through the rain slicked window, you see a dark figure standing on the front landing. There is another knock at the door and then a persistent banging. The figure will not be satisfied until you open that door. It is New Year's Eve and depending upon where you live in the world, this figure, when it finally steps into the light of a flash of lightning will reveal itself to be one of two hideous looking creatures.

In Wales, this monster standing on the stoop is Mari Lwyd. This is the grey mare. She appears as the skull of a mare, sheathed in white cloth and decorated with the accoutrements of flowers and ribbons. She is here to challenge you to a wassailing contest and she is not alone. She is accompanied by mummers. And your terror drifts away as you realize that this is Halloween on New Year's Eve! This is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and has been passed down as an oral tradition. Mari Lwyd or "Y Fari Lwyd" actually translates to "The Grey Mary," but more likely comes from the stem "mare" rather than "Mary." And mare also is part of the word nightmare and here you have a grey nightmare.

Mummers are merrymakers dressed in masks and costumes and wassailing is singing and the verses that are sung are created anew every year. Because this is an annual tradition house-holders are able to prepare in advance their response to the verses that Mari Lwyd brings to their door. The creature is carried much like a puppet. The horses skull is placed on a pole and then the puppeteer hides beneath the sackcloth or material. When the knock comes on the door, there are two options reminiscent of trick or treating: open up and present gifts of food and drinks like a treat or take up the challenge of a singing match like a trick.

Different areas carried on different variations of the custom and most were conducted strictly by men as they got pretty chaotic. Revelers carrying on the way they did a couple hundred years ago, would get them arrested today. Some villages featured itinerant singing mummer plays with a horse head as the star attraction. At another village, there may just be verbal jousting with the Mari Lwyd figure-head. And in other places, Mari Lwyd was out and out feared.

Sample verses:

First Round:

The Mari Lwyd party sing:
"Open your doors,
Let us come and play,
It's cold here in the snow.
At Christmastide

The House-holders reply
"Go away you old monkeys
Your breath stinks
And stop blathering.
It's Christmastide."

Second Round:
"Our mare is very pretty (The Mari Lwyd),
Let her come and play,
Her hair is full of ribbons
At Christmastide."

House-holders (Giving in)
Instead of freezing,
We'll lead the Mari,
Inside to amuse us
Tonight is Christmastide."

Or, alternatively

House-holders (Repelling invaders thus)
Instead of freezing,
Take the Mari home,
It's past your bedtime
Tonight is Christmastide."

Now we travel to another part of the world. In Japan, this figure standing on the front stoop is Namahage. Although this creature is a hideous demon, it apparently is bringing good luck. The legend is that the Han emperor brought five demonic ogres with him to Japan a little more than two millennia ago. These demonic ogres are called "oni"in Japanese and they reputedly stole crops and young women from the village of Oga in Japan. The villagers banded together to defeat the oni and they decided to plot a trick. They offered to give up all their young women if the demons could build a stone staircase of one thousand stairs in a single night. But, if the ogres failed to build the stairs all the way to the local temple, they would have to leave Oga forever. The challenge was accepted and the oni managed to get to stair 999. A villager crowed like a cock and the ogres though that the dawn had arrived and they fled.

And now this legend is carried on as a custom. The Namahage are imitated by young men wearing demonic masks and traditional straw garments. They go around to all the houses and burst in searching for new community members. These members could be young children or new wives. The Namahage are there to encourage good behavior like obeying parents and in-laws. A throaty scream is used to make these requests. Other household members come to rescue vouching that the child or new relative is a good person. The demon is then appeased with  sake and food.

What is New Year's Eve without some talk of bars. Molly Dawn Farquhar suggested we look at some haunted bars for this occasion. Many of you listeners are probably either going to have a few drinks or you did have a few drinks to bring in the new year. The town of Roslyn in Washington state is nestled in the Cascade Mountains. It came to fame through the television show "Northern Exposure." What many people probably do not know is that the city of Roslyn is quite the haunted little place and there are a couple bars here that back up the claim. But first, we need to look at the reason why these bars are haunted.

Roslyn was established as a coal mining town by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1886. C.P. Brosious, Walter J. Reed, and Ignatius A. Navarre discovered the coal vein in 1883. Once the town was founded, men came from all over the world to work the coal mines. By 1900, 40% of the population was foreign born. And very interestingly, many of the residents were black as well. A miner's strike over work hours caused the company to seek out black miners in other parts of America. Between 1888 and 1889, 300 black miners and their families were brought into Roslyn. After the strike, the white and black miners worked peaceably together. And the work was very dangerous.

The Roslyn Sentinal of March 1, 1895, carried the following story about Roslyn's name:
"On the far away shores of Delaware, midst the sand hills, peach orchards, and blue blooded 'skeeters', nestles the little hamlet, named Roslyn over a century ago.  The high bred people were of primitive stock.  The daughters of these householders were the special objects of the devotion of many enterprising young men in the neighborhood.  Now, in this hamlet there lived a handsome, vivacious maiden, who was particularly dear to the heart of a brave and sturdy  young man who was penetrating the wild northwest in 1886, in search of fame and fortune.  This gentleman was one of our early pioneers, and it became his lot to name this new mining camp.  After mature deliberation, he christened the town Roslyn on August 10, 1886, after the town in which his loved one lived.  The event was duly celebrated and the name was placed on a board an inscribed with a pine cone.  It was nailed to a large pine tree which stood near Patrick's business property.   Whether Mr. Bullitt later realized his hopes in love, we do not know, but if his affairs of heart were as fickle as Roslyn's fortunes, he had an interesting time."
The dangerous work led to two separate explosions. In May of 1892, an explosion killed forty-five men. Two of them were father and son, Joseph and Joe, who was not yet twenty. In October 1909, sixteen men were killed in mine number four. There was no warning and the explosion was actually two separate eruptions that blew out windows up to a half mile away from the shaft. Now it would seem that two local bars harbor some of the spirits of the victims. These bars would be the Pioneer Restaurant & Sody-licious Bar and the Brick Tavern.

 It is our understanding that the Pioneer Restaurant and Sody-licious Bar is now closed. The owner was Steve Ojurovich and he was a fourth generation resident of the town. His great-grandfather came over from Croatia to mine coal. The building had once housed the Pioneer Grocery Store and it was a Sears and Roebuck before that. The name for the Sodylicious Bar name came from the soda bottling company that once existed here and carried on some not-so-legal bottling during prohibition. Secret underground tunnels helped facilitate the liquor running. One night, it is said, a man was snooping around and ended up shot down in those tunnels. According to Steve, the ghost of this man is seen in the basement. Steve said that he first saw the ghost there on the day he bought the place. It was a full bodied apparition that he first noticed out of the corner of his eye. The spirit was a man wearing a blue plaid shirt and jeans and he had a beard. He looked like a miner or logger. When Steve saw him, he first thought it was his dad and he called out. The figure disappeared and he searched the building. He was all alone. He went back to his work and the spirit appeared again.

There are other ghosts that have been reported at this location. A woman's ghost has been seen in a second story window. She was wearing a white blouse with puffy sleeves and her hair waspulled back and braided. The owner of the grocery store was named Edna and she had died in the building. Some suspect the spirit belongs to her. One terrifying experience that happened involved a wine bottle being lifted out of a rack and thrown across the room, smashing against a wall, just missing a waitress.

The other haunted bar, The Brick Tavern, is next door. The Brick, as locals refer to it, is the oldest continuously running bar in the state. It was built in 1889. One of the unique features of this bar reminds us of our episode on Casey Moore's Oyster House. There is a running water spittoon, a vestige of the days when miners using it for spitting and for another purpose similar to the Blarney Stone restroom. People think of it as a rite of passage to spit into the spittoon. The Brick Regatta is held each March. Residents make tiny homemade boats and race them down the spittoon.

Jim Luster owned the bar from 1982 to 1997 and Lucky Najar's family bought it in 1997. Both men claim that they and their employees have had supernatural experiences. Najar said one of his bartenders was so freaked out by something that happened when he was working in the bar alone that he ran out and never came back. He also says that on one occasion he took an armful of pool cues downstairs and laid them on a table. He went upstairs, but when he came back down the cues were standing against the wall and the table.

There are three ghosts reported here. One is a cowboy looking entity, another is a little girl and the third plays the piano backstage. A bartender told author Leslie Rule that in 2003, he saw the little girl's ghost. He and a roommate shared an upstairs room where they also monitored the security cameras. One night, they saw movement on the camera even though the bar was locked up for the night. Then they saw a little girl looking at them, or rather, in the direction of the camera. She was as tall as the pool tables. His roommate ran to check the bar and the bartender watched as the little girl hid behind a pool table. She then disappeared. He gave notice about living there, but still continued on as a bartender.

Then one night, he and a co-worker had a really chilling experience. They heard the sound of chopping wood coming from the basement. When they got down there, they found a wooden chair that had been chopped to pieces by what was probably an axe. Perhaps a logger or miner's axe. Is this the same apparition as the one seen at the Pioneer Restaurant? There are jail cells in the basement as well and it is thought that this was a miner's jail.

Do these bars in Roslyn play host to ghosts in the afterlife? Are these bars haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes
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