Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Halloween Special 2023

It's Halloween! Welcome to our CarnEvil! Step right up and test your degree of coulrophobia - fear of clowns. Clowning is an ancient performing art dating back to the 24th century BC. Every culture whether it is a tribe of indigenous people, a medieval kingdom or a modern day circus has had some version of clowning. Clowns have played significant roles in society, bringing humor and laughter, but also bringing fear. It's that last piece that makes clowns the perfect subject for a Halloween episode. Join us as we explore the history and creeps of clowning! 

The beginning formulation of the clown took place, as best as historians can guess, sometime during the 24th century BC in Egypt. Throughout the centuries, people have taken on the role of the court jester, public jokester and entertaining mime. Clowns have been able to use their humor to hit at off-limits subjects like the monarchy, politics, religion and such. The clowns of yore have become the comedians of the comedy clubs today. But beneath all the fun lies sadness and terror. French literary critic Edmond de Congourt wrote of clowns in 1876, "The clown's art is now rather terrifying and full of anxiety and apprehension, their suicidal feats, their monstrous gesticulations and frenzied mimicry reminding one of the courtyard of a lunatic asylum.” It is no wonder that clowns have become a popular horror theme. So let's look at a brief history of clowns, working our way from early performers to the terrifying clowns of cinema that haunt our dreams today.


Pierrot (pee uh row) is a clown character of French origin. The standard look was a large white blouse with large buttons and wide white pantaloons. The face was mainly painted white and facial features were sad. His first appearances were in the 1600s, but it wouldn't be until the early 18th century that he would come into his own. Through the years, many societal movements have used him as a representation of their cause. David Bowie himself once said, "I'm Pierrot. I'm everyman." Jean-Gaspard Deburau (John gezpard Debayrew) was the most famous Pierrot. He took on the character in a small Paris theater in 1816 and performed him as a Bohemian-French mime. He performed as the clown until his death in 1846. Deburau would become our first killer clown. In 1836, a young boy taunted him on the streets and Deburau hit him with his cane and killed him. He was later acquitted.

Joseph Grimaldi

Joseph Grimaldi is the godfather of clowning as he is the one to have created the rendition of the clown we all know. Grimaldi was born in 1778 to Italian parents and spent his life entertaining people, starting at the age of two. He was one of the most popular actors at the Drury Lane Theater and Sadler's Wells. In 1806, Grimaldi created the classic clown we know today with painted on eyebrows, red lips and cheeks and he wore oversized and colorful clothes. He was declared the "King of Clowns" and perfected the pantomime clown. Grimaldi retired in 1823 due to declining health and quickly fell into debt and began drinking heavily before he passed in 1837.  

Tom Belling

Tom Belling was an American acrobat who developed what is known as the red clown or Auguste clown in 1870. Auguste clowns were more playful then earlier clowns with more expressive make-up. This is when the big red nose came into play. Each clown would choose their own look and in more modern times, their look is registered.

Dan Rice

During the mid-1800s, Dan Rice was the circus' most famous clown. Rice had joined the circus in the 1840s and his comedic performances earned him the title of "The Great American Humorist." He did not employ much physical comedy, which is what clowns later become known for, but his sexual allusions, jokes and ad-libs had audiences in stitches.  The costume he wore was a red and white striped suit with a top hat and then he had chin whiskers, but no clown make-up. He called himself "Uncle Sam" and yes, that is where the idea for Uncle Sam came from. Rice eventually died in obscurity in 1900, even though he had once been so famous and was also more than likely the model for Mark Twain's clown in the book "Huckleberry Finn." 


One of the most highly paid entertainers in Europe was once a Swiss clown named Grock. Grock was born as Charles Adrien Wettach in 1880. He ran away with a traveling circus and eventually after creating Grock, moved his act into music halls. His acts became a mixture of pantomime and musical blunders and he eventually performed throughout Europe and the United States. Grock wore the make-up of an Auguste clown and oversized clothes. He died in Italy in 1959 at the age of 79.

Emmett Kelly

Emmett Kelly was the Hobo Clown and known by the name Weary Willie. He played a sad clown with a big bulbous nose and face paint that gave him a mournful mouth surrounded by a five o'clock shadow. He wore tattered clothes and floppy shoes. He didn't start out as a clown and Weary Willie actually started as a cartoon character he drew. His work with the circus started as a trapeze artist and then in 1923, he brought Weary Willie to life as a clown act. One of his favorite things to do was to sweep the spotlight away and then get surprised when it appeared again. He worked for numerous circuses. He joined Ringling Bros. in 1942 and stayed with them until the late 1950s. He would star in a couple of films. He died in 1979 of a heart attack while taking out the garbage and I'm sure he could have found great comic use for that. Kelly was a hero. He helped to save people during the Hartford Circus Fire and was featured in a picture in Life magazine about the tragedy as he was running with a bucket of water. This was one of the few times people saw him cry.

Lou Jacobs

Lou Jacobs was probably the most famous clown to work with Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey and is the one our listeners are probably most familiar with as he was used in lots of marketing and appeared on a 1966 U.S. postage stamp. Jacobs was a German immigrant. He played the part of a clown for 62 years and 60 of them were spent with the Ringling circus. His parents had a song and dance act and he got into gymnastics as a child, which lead him into barrel-jumping and contortionism. Jacobs came to America in 1923 and he found work as an acrobat. He started working for The Greatest Show On Earth in 1925 and it was there that he moved into clowning. He modeled his clown make-up on Europe's greatest circus stars, the Fratellinis - three brothers who worked mostly in France from the 1900s to the 1920s. Rather than white-face, they used a flesh-colored base. Jacobs had many gags including not only his 2'x3' small car, but also a self-propelled bathtub and a couple of little dogs. He wore a costume that was a pink and lavender checked suit with 12 inch collars and his shoes were really big. He married Ringling showgirl Jean Rockwell and they had two daughters, Lou Ann and Dolly. Jacobs retired in 1985 when he was 82 years old, although he continued to teach at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. In 1987, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He died of heart failure on September 13, 1992, in Sarasota, Florida at the age of eighty-nine.

Bozo the Clown

Alan W. Livingston created Bozo the Clown in 1946 as part of storytelling record album for children. Bozo soon was so popular that he became the mascot for Capitol Records. He got his first TV show in 1949 and was portrayed by Pinto Colvig. Bozo wore a blue and red costume, oversized red hair that stuck out on the sides of his bald head and whiteface clown make-up with the standard large eyebrows and red lips and the big red nose. The hair was actually yak hair that was heavily lacquered. Rather than being a syndicated show, Bozo was a franchise, so different markets had their own portrayal of Bozo. Williard Scott was Washington D.C.'s Bozo for 3 years. Other TV clowns were inspired by Bozo like the one Diane grew up with in Denver, Colorado, Blinky the Clown. Blinky was portrayed by Russell Scott who has the distinction of holding the record as longest-running television clown in history, performing as Blinky for 41 years. Blinky was more of a tramp clown. He lived a long life and died at the age of 91 in 2012. Ronald McDonald was also inspired by Bozo and he made his first appearance in 1963.

Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses

Captain Spaulding was portrayed by the incomparable Sid Haig. This character was the owner of a gas station and roadside haunted attraction. The role was reprised in Zombie's sequels “The Devil’s Rejects” and "3 From Hell." Spaulding wears smeared grease paint on his face with white face paint, red cheeks, blue eyeshadow and black lips. He also had a beard and moustache.

The Joker

The Joker is a supervillain in the DC Comic universe with his main foe being Batman. He made his first appearance in 1940 and was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson. The most common backstory for the Joker is that he fell into a tank of chemical waste and this bleached his skin white and turned his hair green and his lips bright red. Thus his appearance is that of a clown and this drove him insane, leaving him with a sadistic sense of humor and he becomes a psychopathic killer. The design of the Joker was inspired by Conrad Veidt's character Gwynplaine in the 1928 movie The Man Who Laughs. The character jumped from the comic book pages to television and the movies with Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix both giving iconic portrayals of the character, performances that earned each Oscars.


Pennywise is the villain in Stephen King's 1986 horror novel It. Pennywise is a shapeshifter with his main presentation being a clown, which is the way he lures children into his traps. It's unclear what Pennywise really is, but whatever he is, its something ancient and evil. He wears white face paint with a red nose and red lips. Tim Curry portrayed him in a colorful outfit with bright red hair around a skullcap in the television adaptation of the novel. The 2017 and 2019 films featured Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard playing Pennywise and he wore a white outfit with very distinct face paint, which was mostly white broken by red lips with the corners of the mouth continuing up the face all the way to the forehead, bisecting the eyes. His eyes are a creepy translucent yellow. Pennywise has been deemed one of the scariest clowns in film and pop culture and The Atlantic wrote of him, "The scariest thing about Pennywise, though, is how he preys on children's deepest fears, manifesting the monsters they're most petrified by."

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

This is a cult classic and a fun movie. Diane happened upon it one day while switching through channels and the costumes immediately caught her attention. They were as outlandish as the movie title. And these clowns weren't humans dressed up in clown costumes, these were aliens! They crashed to Earth during Halley's comet and ravage a nearby town, killing people and drinking their blood for sustenance. The movie was written, produced and directed by the Chiodo brothers and came out in 1988. The macabre humor and circus-theming make this a definite must-see and the clowns look creepy as hell. It was wildly successful, costing $1.8 million to make and earning $43 million at the box office.

Poltergeist Clown

For Diane, the clown in the 1986 Poltergeist movie was the scariest. This clown doll went from just being your typical child's toy to a sinister strangling machine with arms and legs that grew in length and the pleasant countenance morphed into a maniacal grin and scowl. The doll from the movie just sold in June of 2023 for $650,000! 

Billy - Saw Movie Clown

Billy is technically a mechanical ventriloquist puppet, but he has all the markings of a clown with the white face paint, red lips, red spirals painted on his cheeks and a skull cap with messy hair. Billy was used by John Kramer, the Jigsaw Killer, to inform the victims of his deadly games about the rules and instructions they had to follow in order to survive.

Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story: Freak Show

Twisty started off as a Pierrot clown who took great joy in entertaining children and then something just snapped for him and he became delusional, committing atrocities without much awareness for what he was doing. The backstory for him had his mother dropping him on his head which couldn't have helped matters. Twisty's appearance is quite hideous because he tried to commit suicide with a gun and ended up disfiguring his face. Now he wears a partial mask that seems to have become part of his face and features a broad grin. There are also scars all over his face and he wears a skull cap that seems to have come from one of his victims. He wears a dirty clown suit and carries a sack that holds his juggling pins.

Art the Clown from Terrifier Franchise

It's fitting to have Art on this list for Halloween not only because he is a terrifying clown, but because his feature film debut was in the 2013 movie All Hallows' Eve. The clown first appeared in a couple of short films before launching into four Terrifier films and was created by writer/director Damien Leone. Art wears white face with arched and thin eyebrows and overdrawn black lips. He is bald and his costume is black and white. Art is always covered in blood as he is a mass murderer who likes to use weapons like a hacksaw, cleaver and cat o'nine tails. This clown is a thoroughly unpleasant one.

Pogo/John Wayne Gacy 

The fictional clowns are bad enough, so imagine having a real clown that is a serial killer. Most of you listeners are probably pretty familiar with Pogo the Clown who was a character created by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. John Wayne Gacy was born in 1942 and was thought of by many people to be a friendly man. He seemed to love children and would frequently dress-up as a clown he named Pogo and host parties for his entire neighborhood. Pogo wore white face paint and had overly large red lips and blue paint around his eyes. He wore a standard clown costume that was red on one half and red and white striped on the other. He also wore a pointed hat with several large puff balls on it. The first chinks in Gacy's reputation came in 1964 when he was found guilty of sodomizing two young boys and spent 18 months in prison. His wife divorced him and he relocated to Chicago where he founded a construction business. This became a way for him to recruit young men to come help him. Gacy remarried, but it was more than likely a cover for his predilection for young men. In July of 1975, one of the young men who worked for him disappeared and his parents asked the police to investigate Gacy. The pleas were not heeded. Gacy and his second wife divorced and this set him on a reckless course of murder. He would invite young men to his house and then pretend that he was going to show them a magic trick using handcuffs. The trick was that he was going to lock the boy to the bed and rape and sodomize him before strangling him. The bodies were then buried in the crawlspace of Gacy's home. One young man escaped from Gacy in 1977 and went to the police, but they didn't follow up on the report. The police did finally investigate Gacy after a 15-year-old boy who had gone to Gacy's home looking to get hired, disappeared. The investigation found a class ring and clothes that wouldn't fit Gacy. A witness came forward and said that Gacy had admitted that he had killed 30 boys. The police found 29 bodies at Gacy's house, but it is believed that he killed at least 33 people. Gacy was arrested and tried to plead insanity, but he was found guilty and sentenced to die, which occurred on May 10, 1994, via lethal injection.

2016 Mass Clown Sightings

Many of you may remember that in 2016 there was a spate of clown sightings in various places around the world. Sightings began as early as 2013 in Northhampton, England with the sighting of a creepy clown in the months of September and October. It was eventually found that three filmmakers named Alex Powell, Elliot Simpson, and Luke Ubanski were behind the clown and they had used it to drive traffic to their Facebook page. But something had been started. A YouTuber started dressing as an evil clown in 2014 and pranking people and then he posted the videos, which got millions of views. That same year, the Wasco Clown started showing up in Wasco, California. In 2015, a clown was videoed at night in the Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. 

A proliferation of videos started making the rounds, which increased in 2016. These clown sightings were in lots of different locations. Some were in forests, while others were in city areas. A mass hysteria started to develop as sightings were reported in many cities in the United States, in nine Canadian provinces and 18 other countries like Britain and Australia. Reports out of Green Bay, Wisconsin turned out to be a marketing ploy for a horror movie. While this kind of sighting could be fun, stories coming out of South Carolina were scary. These seemed to be clowns trying to lure children into the woods by offering money. A clown in Winston-Salem, North Carolina offered candy to children and ran when police showed up. A 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Pennsylvania by what was at first reported as someone wearing a clown mask, but later it was found that the victim was wearing the mask. Over time, twelve arrests were made and even McDonald's decided to pull back Ronald McDonald for awhile. That Halloween in 2016 had some Floridians packing heat while trick-or-treating. Several countries started pulling clown costumes from store shelves and Target stores pulled clown masks from its website and stores. 

News outlets started warning people in October of 2016 of alleged attacks by clowns on Halloween that year. The reports said that these were going to be Purge like attacks. There was only one attack that actually materialized on Halloween in Florida when a family was attacked by a group of approximately 20 people in clown masks. Nobody was arrested. The 2016 incidents came to be known as the Great Clown Panic of 2016 and were chalked up to mass hysteria.

Clowns are meant to be fun, but there is always that piece of them that exudes mischief. That side of mischief causes some to think of clowns as impish. Add in real-life stories of homicidal clowns and then a dash of the fictional malevolent clown and you have a recipe for clown fear. Are clowns really something to fear? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

HGB Ep. 510 - Legend of the Grim Reaper

Moment in Oddity - Soldier Carries Eyeball

During World War II there was a skirmish on Mount Croce, in central Italy. The temperatures were freezing but the Winter Line of German Field Marshal Albrect Kesselring was to be held at all costs. But in November of 1943, U.S. paratroopers forced the Germans off the mountain top. The Germans brought an onslaught of weaponry against the American Infantry with almost a constant barrage of bullets, mortar and artillery shells exploding all around them. The American troops held their ground  with small firearms. The conditions were terrible with frozen rations and shallow trenches lined with ice. Many wounded would not make it out alive and the wounded who could travel had to make it down the steep mountain to medical aid. One such wounded was Sergeant Robert Akers. The man had a flurry of shrapnel hit him in his face. One piece had popped his eye out which he retrieved and was carrying in his hand. The eye was intact and still attached to its cords. The journey down Mount Croce was precarious at best, slipping and sliding down the nearly perpendicular incline traveling where even goats would slip and fall. Akers did in fact make it to the base of the mountain and to medical aide. He was rushed to a field hospital where his eye was popped back into the socket and reattached to the cords. Incredibly, the Sergeant would regain 100% of his sight and he returned to active duty before the end of the war and that certainly is odd.

This Month in History - The Gateway Arch

In the month of October, on the 28th in 1965, the last piece of the Gateway Arch was fitted into place in St Louis, Missouri. The Arch was founded by the National Park Service in 1935 to celebrate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental United States. However, it wasn't until 1948 that a nationwide competition took place to determine what the shape of the memorial would be. Then in 1963 construction began on the stainless steel arch, designed by architect Eero Saarinen (Eh-row Sah-ruh-nuhn). The expansive arch stretches from the Old Courthouse in Downtown St Louis to the riverfront steps of the Mississippi River. 2022 saw 1.6 million tourists visit the Gateway Arch and a tram ride can take ticket holders for an incredible journey to the top of the arch for an amazing city view. The St Louis Gateway Arch stands as a symbol of the national westward expansion of the United States, as well as an engineering triumph and example mid-century modern design.

Legend of the Grim Reaper

There is a pretty standard description of the Grim Reaper. Generally speaking, people envision a cloaked skeleton carrying a scythe. But there is so much more to this figure that has become the personification of death. On this episode, we are going to explore the centuries of mythology around the embodiment of death and explore whether this is an actual entity. And is this someone or something that we should fear?

A computer scientist named Randy Pausch was dying from pancreatic cancer when he wrote a book entitled The Last Lecture and in it he said, "We don’t beat the Grim Reaper by living longer, we beat the Reaper by living well and living fully, for the Reaper will come for all of us. The question is what we do between the time we are born and the time he shows up. It’s too late to do all things that you’re gonna kinda get around to." The listeners have probably also heard the sentiment expressed about the dash line on a gravestone between the birth and death dates: It's what you do with the dash that matters. Blue Oyster Cult in their song (Don't Fear) The Reaper sing, "All our times have come, Here but now they're gone, Seasons don't fear the reaper, Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, We can be like they are." Death is a complicated thing and something we all face. Perhaps that is why humans have created stories around death and the various figures that legends claim come to us to guide us through. There is some comfort in the notion that after death we will be accompanied by someone who knows the ropes.

The entity that was named "The Grim Reaper" popped up sometime in the 15th century, but clearly, cultures throughout the centuries have personified death. Humans seek ways to make the transition from life to death easier. We'll never know what the earliest people thought about death because there was no written form of language, but surely they shared verbal stories. The Greeks were some of the first to write down death mythology. The term "psychopomp" comes from them. A psychopomp is a guide whose primary function is to escort souls to the afterlife, but they can also serve as guides through the various transitions of life. The term originates from the Greek words pompos (conductor or guide) and psyche (breath, life, soul, or mind). Every culture has their own version of psychopomps. In many mythologies, Death is personified in male form, while in others, Death is perceived as female. Since we get psychopomp from the Greeks, let's begin with them.


In Ancient Greece, Death was portrayed several different ways, sometimes as a bearded and winged man and others as a young boy. They gave Death the name Thanatos and he was thought to be cruel and carried a sword. He was the son of Nyx, the goddess of night. Thanatos had a twin named Hypnos who was the god of sleep. Thanatos guided the dead to the underworld until they reached Charon who was a boatman that would take them over the River Styx to the underworld. Charon expected payment for the trip and if he didn't receive it, he would dump the person on the shores of the Styx where they would wallow for a hundred years. Thanatos had sisters as well who were called the Keres and they appeared as these females who had fangs and talons and they always wore bloody garments. Probably because they feed on the bodies of the dead  brought into the underworld, particularly those who died violent deaths. The god Hermes was also given the role of psychopomp. He was not only a messenger, but he was a god of border-crossings and he would also guide the dead to Charon.


The god Mercury is the Roman equivalent of Hermes, so he too is a psychopomp. There is a crater lake in Italy called Lake Avernus and one of Mercury's duties was to guide souls there because it was thought to be the entrance to the underworld. Roman writers used Avernus and Hades interchangeably. Virgil writes about it in his Aeneid and Odysseus also ventures to the underworld from here. One of the people Mercury guided to the underworld was a beautiful nymph named Larunda. He fell in love with her and sired two children with her along the way. So clearly, this was a bit of a long trip.


The Etruscans were from ancient Italy and had a significant influence on the Romans who eventually defeated the Etruscans at the end of the 3rd century BC. Their death figure was named Charun and was known as the "Demon of Death." Charun would come upon a person who was set to die and beat them over the head with a hammer until they died. he would then be joined by the goddess of the underworld, Vanth, and they would take the soul to the underworld. There, Charun would administer punishment to those who were evil in life.


The Celts had a creepy form of the Reaper in the Breton region and they called it Ankou. Ankou appeared as a tall, haggard figure with long white hair. It wore a wide hat and drove a cart with a creaking axle that was piled high with corpses. Ankou generally appeared in the form of a skeleton and its head swiveled so it could see everyone, everywhere. If Ankou and his cart stopped outside of a house, it meant instant death for someone inside. The Irish had a creature known as a dullahan that tucked its head under its arm. This creepy creature had large eyes and a broad smile that reached to the ears. The dullahan would ride a black horse or a carriage pulled by black horses making stops at houses and calling out the name of the person who was going to die. The person would die the moment the name hit the air. Now, don't go looking for the dullahan because it doesn't like to be watched and will use a whip made from a spine to lash out your eyes. Or it could throw a basin full of blood at you and that means that you are the next to die. The Irish also have the Banshee, which is a female spirit who serves as an omen of death by wailing outside the home of someone who is going to die. If you hear the wailing it means she is coming for you shortly. References to the Banshee began in the 14th century, slightly before the Grim Reaper showed up in mythology. She usually wears a black cloak. The Scottish had a dog as their psychopomp. They called it Cù Sìth and it could be black, white or dark green in color. This dog would take dying souls to the afterlife. The Scottish also have Bean Nighe, which is an ugly entity with one nostril, one big protruding tooth and webbed feet. She usually wears a green dress and is found near deserted streams where she toils away at removing the blood from the clothes of people who are going to die.


The Polish have a figure that is similar to the Grim Reaper that they call Śmierć. This figure is actually a woman though who is skeletal and rather than wearing a black robe, she wears a white one. 


Norse mythology's goddess of death was Hel and she ruled over hell where she received a portion of the dead. The Norse also had Pesta who was known as the "plague hag" and she was depicted as an old woman who wore a black hood and carried either a rake or broom. People wanted to see her carrying a rake because that meant some people would survive the plague, but if she brought a broom, everybody was going to die. There were also the Valkyries who were flying females that chose which soldiers would live or die in battle. Men chosen to die would be carried by the Valkyries to Valhalla, where they’d await the epic battle of Ragnorak. 


The Hindu word for death is Mrityu and the lord of death in Hindu is called Yama, or Yamaraja. Yamaraja is depicted riding a black buffalo and he carries a rope lasso to capture souls so that he can bring them to Naraka or Yamaloka, the place of the dead or Hell. Yama is also the King of Dharma or justice, so punishment is dished out in Hell by him. And the decision where a soul will reside in the next life due to reincarnation is also decided by Yama. An entity named Chitragupta keeps track of a soul's good and bad deeds.

East Asian 

The Chinese have Yanluo as their god of death and he is the ruler of Di Yu, which is the underworld. Yanluo derives from the Hindu Yama and Yama actually spread into all Asian countries. The Chinese version wears a Chinese judge’s cap and traditional Chinese robes. Korean mythology has the Netherworld Emissary who works for Great King Yŏmna. This is a stern figure who escorts all people whether they were good or evil to the netherworld. Japanese mythology has the goddess Izanami as the goddess of death. She didn't start out this way. She died while giving birth to the fire god Hinokagutsuchi and goes to the perpetual night realm called Yomi-no-kuni, which is the underworld. Her husband attempts to rescue her and they have this big argument, which leaves Izanami promising that she will take a thousand lives every day. This, of course, makes her the goddess of death then. The Japanese also have  death gods called shinigami, which are similar to the Grim Reaper. They are called monsters and creatures of darkness. Buddhists refer to one of the shinigami as Mara, which is a demonic entity responsible for suicide ideation. Shinigami can also be oni, which are demons that are ox-headed or horse-faced. Buddhism also has Jizo who greets people after they die and guides them into the afterlife. Jizo especially looks after children since they are too young to understand the teachings of the Buddha and this could mean they would become stuck on the banks of the river Sai.

Latin America

Let's start back with the Aztecs. The Aztec underworld was called Mictlan and the god of lightning and death was named Xolotl. He appears as a man with a dog's head, but also sometimes is just a skeleton. He carries the dead to the underworld with his most famous transportee was the sun, which he protected when it ventured into the underworld at night. The Aztecs also had Mictecacihuatl as Queen of Mictlan and Mictlantecuhtli as King of Mictlan and they watched over the bones of the dead and presided over ancient festivals of the dead. The Queen had a defleshed body and her jaw was agape so she could swallow the stars during the day. In South American countries like Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, there is San La Muerte, which appears as a skeletal figure holding a scythe. Mexico has the similar figure of La Santa Muerte, which is a feminine skeletal folk saint. Both of these figures have been blended into a type of Folk Catholicism. Mexico also has La Calavera Catrina, which means the "skull of Catrina." She is a representation of death that is supposed to be less threatening than the Reaper, so she wears bright colors and usually is seen smiling and dancing.


The Aboriginal people of Australia had Barnumbirr, also known as Banumbirr or Morning Star. In the Yolngu culture, she was a creator spirit who brought humans to Australia, but she also had a strong association with death. She showed the way across the waters to the distant Island of the Dead.Dolphins were also thought of as psychopomps guiding the dead to the underworld.


The Egyptian underworld is Duat and the jackal-headed god Anubis guided the dead there, specifically dead kings. Anubis was the son of Osiris and Nephthys and he would place the hearts of kings on the scales of judgement before his father Osiris. A feather would be placed on the other side of the scale. The result would decide whether the king could enter the afterworld. Ammit was a demon who would devour the heart if the king was found lacking.


The Canaanites of the Ancient Near East had a god of death named Mot. They believed that Mot was one of the sons of El, who was the creator god and above all gods. He was the favorite son of the god El, and the most prominent enemy of the god Baal, a god of springs, sky, and fertility. Mot was the god of sterility and the master of all barren places. Traditionally, Mot and Baal were perpetually engaged in a seasonal struggle in which Baal, like many similar harvest deities, was annually vanquished and slain. Mot, however, was also annually killed by Baal’s sister Anath, who thus aided Baal’s resurrection.


Azrael is the angel of death in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. While he plays a role in the latter two, Islam gives Azrael a significant place as a psychopomp. He guides each and every soul directly to Allah. His appearance depends on the person’s life. If they were good they would see a beautiful being, but if they were evil they would see a horrific monster. In Talmudic lore, the Angel of the Abyss is named Abaddon, which literally means "The Destroyer." There is also an archangel named Samael who is said to be both good and bad, but he works as a seducer and accuser and is nicknamed "The Venom of God" and is the executioner of death sentences decreed by God, so that doesn't sound good. Some traditions have the archangel Michael as a good angel of death. The Bible also uses the term memitim, which means destroyer to identify destroying angels. Proverbs 16:14 uses the term "mal’ake ha-mavet" for destroying angels. For most Christians, tradition holds that an angel comes to guide the dead to the afterlife. This could be an angel of death or a guardian angel.  

One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse show up in the Bible in Revelation 6 and the fourth is the one representing Death. Verses 7 and 8 read, "When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, 'Come!' And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth." The pale horse could signify illness, but we've also heard that the word has been mistranslated and actually means green. There is a crossover here with Greek mythology in that it is believed that this is Thanatos. Weapons carried by Thanatos include the sword, hunger, death and beasts. Or it could be another entity entirely since this one seems to be more of a figure bringing death, rather than just guiding the dead.

The Grim Reaper

And this brings us to the star of this episode, The Grim Reaper. This figure usually appears skeletal and shrouded in a dark, hooded robe with a scythe to help him "reap" human souls. The name fits perfectly as the term "grim" describes someone who is ghastly and sinister in appearance and character and has a stern disposition. And reaping is gathering together. There is a lot of symbolism around the depiction of the Grim Reaper. The skeletal figure represents the decay of the body and what is left when the flesh is gone. Many people not only feared death, but the obliteration it brought. The skeleton is that obliteration. The black cloak that is worn not only represents the clergy who officiated wakes, but black was long associated with death and mourning. The cloak gives the Reaper an air of mystery and menace too. The scythe wasn't what the Grim Reaper originally carried. He first held arrows, darts, spears or crossbows and these were used to cut down his victims. The weapons were traded in for the scythe, which was a farmer's tool for cutting down and gathering grain and this better depicted the job of the Grim Reaper. The scythe fit better with an agrarian society who were focused more on the harvest, rather than war. Many times an hourglass is depicted with the Reaper and this symbolized that the days of humans are numbered. When the sand runs out, our time is up.

The Grim Reaper showed up during the Black Death in the 14th century. One third of Europe's entire population perished during the Plague, so death was at the forefront of people's minds. Artists struggled for a way to depict all the death around them. The Grim Reaper fit the bill and the entity started showing up in sculptures and paintings, usually looking as though it were waiting in the wings to take people away. The naked skeleton eventually hid away in the black cloak in artistic renderings. Artwork shows the Reaper to be both a travel companion to the afterlife and the bringer of death, which is sometimes depicted as a skeletal finger reaching out to kill a person with a single touch. Lore that went along with the Reaper claimed that if a person could provide a good enough reason to be allowed to live, the Reaper would leave them be. Other stories claimed that the Reaper could be tricked and a person could then live longer. 

And this brings us to stories of people encountering the Grim Reaper and living to tell about it. There are many stories set in hospitals. Nurses have reported seeing what they described as a figure in a long cloak. One nurse reported in 1997, "I was running down the hall to my patient’s room so I could relieve the nurse in charge. I ran past this room, across from the central floor nurses’ station and had run past five rooms before it registered what I saw. I did not believe it! I went back down the hall and stopped at the room. I glanced into it. On the bed was a little gray-haired lady dressed in lace, propped up with pillows. Beside the bed stood this tall figure dressed in a monk’s robe with its head covered. It looked up at me when I appeared in the door. His face was a skull with tiny red fires for eyes. His hands, skeletal, were patiently folded over each other inside the dark sleeves. My impression was he was just patiently waiting."

A man named Ralph claimed to have an encounter with the Grim Reaper after having a heart attack and being admitted to the hospital. He was lying in bed and had a sudden chill come over him that felt below freezing. Then, a figure appeared at the foot of his hospital bed. Ralph described it as being a dark, gray, cloaked stranger with no face. When asked how he knew it was the Grim Reaper, Ralph replied, "I don’t know. I just knew. The other thing I knew was I wasn’t bad enough or sick enough to go with him."

Username itsaboutpeople wrote on Reddit in 2021, "Last night I was having a bad night, tossing and turning. I woke up, fully able to move (so I'm guessing no sleep paralysis) and looked around the room. The light in the hallway was on and I looked at the doorway. I saw what I can only describe the Grim Reaper looking at me. He had a gold Scythe and what is strange a gold/yellow skull or face. It was blurry but I would say more that it was his skull. He was in his dark black robe. I looked around a bit scared but he didn't come towards me. After a minute or so he disappeared. It took me an entire day to get over this feeling. I don't think he was evil or there to take me."

Rosie wrote in 2019, "I knew in September of 2016 that my mother was close to death. She was 85 years old and had been chronically ill for over 30 years. The last 15 years of her life, she lived with my husband and I. It was about a month away from her 86th birthday and I came home from work one day and the whole atmosphere of my home felt different. The house felt gloomy, depressing and sad. I didn't figure out exactly what it was that had changed until my husband said that he caught glimpses of a dark, hooded figure going into my mothers room. I knew instantly that death had come for my mother. I would find a quiet place in the house and address it verbally. I'd say things like, "I know you're here and I know why you're here. If you've come for my mother all I ask is that you take her as quickly and painlessly as possible. If you could take her in her sleep, that would be even better because I don't want her to be afraid." Over the holidays, we made several trips to the emergency room and a couple of weeks of hospital stay. When they released her from the hospital the last week of January, 2017, they told me they were going to send her home on hospice care. Every day she was home after that I'd hug her, I'd sing to her and took extra special care to let her know how much I loved her. At 11:53 P.M. on February 7, 2017, my mother drew her last breath. She'd been sedated so she would sleep through the night but around 11:30, the night nurse woke me up to let me know she was breathing her last. If she had passed 7 minutes later, she would have died on my 56th birthday. At the moment she passed, I felt death leave my home. My husband had seen it and I had felt it. When she passed, the heavy depressing, sad feeling seemed instantly lifted."

Theoreo wrote in 2014, "I am psychic, I see people on the other side, I have lived past lives. I remember them all, especially the years leading up to my death or how I died. So here I am, I have had a lot of crazy things happen to me lately. Has anyone ever seen the Grim Reaper before? Because I have on multiple occasions before someone dies. The first time it happened was years ago, just before my cousin died. I saw the Grim Reaper standing in my grandparents bedroom, he woke me up during the night and there he stood. A dark cloaked figure, in the corner of the room. He held what I believed was a scythe in his hand and since I was young I buried under the sheets to hide. I swore the room temperature dropped and then after a few minutes of rocking under the sheets I looked up to see the Grim Reaper to be gone. It repeated over the years in several episodes where he would come see me and someone would die. One such episode happened in September of this year when I was at this play. I felt the chills and I looked to my right to see the Grim Reaper standing over a man. I was at the end of the aisle and this man was sitting in the aisle across from me. The man went into a seizure and the Grim Reaper looked up at me and brought his dark finger up to his lips or face if it were there as if saying "hush." People around me began screaming and rushing to help the man who had gone into a seizure. I was frozen stiff because I was horrified, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Anyways the man was unconscious from what I believe after his seizure, but after the mans spasming stopped the Grim Reaper or whatever the hell he was vanished. And paramedics took the man away. Now I feel like the progression has gotten worse, I can now sense when death is close for someone. I have predicted before and both had happened in this past year."

Is the Grim Reaper just an escort who takes the departed from this world to the next or does this figure bring death? Are these legends and myths merely a way that people have tried to comfort themselves when it comes to death? Or could some of these entities be real? We guess none of us will really know for sure what will greet us on the other side. The answer to that question is for you to decide!

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A History of the Addams Family

The Addams Family has been with us for 85 years. What began as a cartoon created by American cartoonist Charles Addams has grown into so much more. They've been adapted into every form of media available and have managed to stay popular regardless of the decade with Netflix's Wednesday series becoming a pop culture phenomenon in 2022. Join us on this special bonus episode as we share the history of The Addams Family!

They're creepy and they're kookey.
Mysterious and spookey.
They're altogether together ookey.
The Addams Family.

The house is a museum.
When people come to see'em.
They really are a scre-am.
The Addams Family.

Neat, Sweet, Petite

So get a witch's shawl on.
A broomstick you can crawl on.
We're going to pay a call on.
The Addams Family.

The Addams Family was an innovative idea and a bit of a risk. Would people identify with and embrace a family that was all about death and the creepy and morbid side of life? It was a risk worth taking because we adore the Addams Family and we're betting most of you do too. This family was the creation of its namesake: Charles Addams who was born in New Jersey on January 7, 1912. Like many of us, he was a little different as a child with a twisted sense of humor and a love for visiting cemeteries. He went by the nickname Chas for most of his life. He had an artistic ability that his father encouraged. He attended and graduated from Westfield High School and contributed cartoons for the student literary magazine. He went on to Colgate University and then the University of Pennsylvania, which has a fine-arts building named for him and sculptures of his Addams Family characters.

Chas sold his first sketch to the New Yorker Magazine in 1932. His first art job was working for True Detective Magazine in 1933, touching up crime photos, so that they were less gruesome, but he was not satisfied with those duties because he felt the corpses in the pictures were far more interesting left as they were. In 1937, he started drawing cartoons regularly for The New Yorker and this would be the beginning of his series about a strange family he would eventually name The Addams Family. He freelanced for the magazine for fifty years. And while the Addams Family is very popular, it only actually appeared in fifty illustrations.

Chas loved the ladies and had no problem with finding dates. He would accompany the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, Greta Garbo and Joan Fontaine. In 1942, he met his first wife Barbara Jean Day. They remained married for eight years, but finally divorced because Chas hated children and Barbara wanted to adopt a child. He married his second wife in 1954, Estelle Barbara Barb. This was not a good match and she would later wind up with the rights to the Addams Family television and film franchises. After she tried to get him to take out a life insurance policy for $100,000, Chas consulted a lawyer who basically told him that if he took out the policy, he better watch his back. The marriage ended in divorce in 1956. He married his third wife in a pet cemetery on Long Island. Her name was Marilyn Miller, but she went by the nickname Tee, and she wore a long black dress for the wedding. Chas died in 1988 from a heart attack. He had been sitting in his car outside his apartment when he had the attack. He was taken to St. Clare's Hospital and Health Center in New York City where he died in the emergency room. He was only 76 and was buried in the pet cemetery of his estate that he had dubbed "The Swamp." His wife Tee died in 2002.

There were homes in Chas' childhood neighborhood that people claim are the inspiration for the Addams Family House. One of them he actually broke into and was arrested for doing that. When he created his Addams Family, he was looking to jab at the traditional aristocratic American family and the characters were Gomez and Morticia Addams, their children Pugsley and Wednesday, Grandmama, Uncle Fester, their butler Lurch, Thing, which was a disembodied hand and Cousin Itt.

It is hard to believe that the Addams Family television series ran for only two seasons with 64 episodes. David Levy was a television producer and he approached Chas to ask if he would be interested in a television series. The first episode debuted on ABC in 1964. The show starred John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia. Interestingly, the editor of the New Yorker, William Shawn, would not publish any Addams Family cartoons as long as the series was on television. He felt it was low brow and he didn't want the cartoon associated with it. The Munsters debuted the same year and the two series are often compared although they were very different. The family made a guest appearance on Scooby Doo and this lead to them getting their own animated series from 1973 to 1975. Fun Fact: Jodie Foster did the voice of Pugsley in this.

In 1977, there was a television movie featuring the family called "Halloween with the New Addams Family." The next big incarnation of the family was in the 1990s with two movies, The Addams Family in 1991 and Addams Family Values  in 1993. Both movies were a huge hit and received nominations for Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Hugo Awards. The films starred Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez, Christina Ricci as Wednesday, Christopher Lloyd as Fester and Joan Cusack as Fester's wife, Debbie Jellinsky, in the sequel. All of them received nominations for various awards.

Another animated series began in 1992 and ran until 1993 with John Astin voicing Gomez. A direct-to-video film dropped in 1998 starring Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah, followed by a spin-off live-action television series that only lasted for the one season. The Addams Family Musical has music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The musical opened on Broadway in April 2010 with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. That production closed on December 31, 2011. Had this run continued, it was probable that Cassandra Peterson would have taken over the role of Morticia. There was a national tour of America that started in 2011 and another started in 2013. The show returned to Chicago in 2015 for a brief run. Other runs of the musical have gone international.

A new animated Addams Family movie debuted in 2019. The film was directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, and starred Oscar Isaac voicing Gomez, Charlize Theron voicing Morticia, Chloë Grace Moretz voicing Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard voicing Pugsley, Nick Kroll voicing Uncle Fester, Snoop Dogg voicing Cousin Itt, Bette Midler voicing Grandmama, Conrad Vernon voicing Lurch and Allison Janney voicing a greedy reality TV show host. The project actually started in 2010 and was supposed to be a stop-motion film directed by Tim Burton. A sequel to this animated movie dropped in 2021.

Wednesday Addams got her very own live-action TV series that was announced in 2021 with a debut in November of 2022 on Netflix. This stars Jenna Ortega as Wednesday with Luis Guzmán as Gomez, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia, Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester, George Burcea as Lurch, Victor Dorobantu as Thing, and Isaac Ordonez as Pugsley. And Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 1990s movies, takes on a role as a series regular. Director Tim Burton  directed several episodes as his first foray into directing for television. The premise of the series follows Wednesday as she gets expelled from regular school and is sent off to Nevermore Academy where she solves mysteries using her psychic ability. One of those mysteries involves her family. We really love it and look forward to Season 2.

It almost feels like the Addams Family cannot go wrong. Nearly everything that they inspire does really well, from cartoons to movies to merchandise and more. So much was inspired by the family. Who could look at Vampira or Elvira and not see a version of Morticia? The Goth subculture seems to have been inspired by the quirkiness and darkness of the Addams. Time Magazine has said of the Addams that they had a "relevance and cultural reach" comparable to the Kennedys and Roosevelts and were "so much a part of the American landscape that it's difficult to discuss the country's history [...] without mentioning them." And we would concur with all of these thoughts. We love the Addams Family and hope they continue to pop up in pop culture for decades to come!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

HGB Ep. 509 - The Witch Farm

Moment in Oddity - The Muffin Man

We are all familiar with the brothers Grimm fairy tales which can be fairly dark in nature. Many nursery rhymes and childhood songs can have dark connotations as well. For instance, Ring-around-the-rosy has been said to be about the circular red rash which was an indicator of the bubonic plague. While a pocket full of posie was related to the flowers kept in plague doctors pockets to lessen the stench of dead or dying people. Similarly, The Muffin Man song has a lesser known dark reference as well. 

"Do you know the muffin man? The muffin man, the muffin man. Do you know the muffin man who lives on Drury Lane?"

Now, this rhyme has SOME historical truth behind it because during the Victorian era there were indeed 'muffin men' who would deliver fresh baked goods right to people's doors. But some tales tell terrifying tragic stories meant to warn children about a 'Muffin man' by the name of Frederick Thomas Lynwood. Urban legends said that Frederick was a 16th century baker turned serial killer. He was told to have used mouth watering muffins that he tied by string to lure children into his clutches where he proceeded to kill them. The full moniker linked to this myth was "The Drury Lane Dicer". Although there is no documented truth to be found for the story, a childhood rhyme with a Hansel and Gretel spin, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - The Tuxedo Created

In the month of October, on the 10th in 1886, Griswold Lorillard of Tuxedo Park, NY created the first tuxedo. Lorillard came from a family of wealthy tobacco magnates who lived just outside of New York City. Because of their wealth, they belonged to the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo park. This particular October, a formal debutantes ball was being held. Lorillard didn't care much for the jackets men wore because the tails were hard to sit and dance with, so in frustration he cut the tails off his coat. His friends liked it and decided they wanted the same. They also all chose scarlet satin vests to wear under their tailless dress coats. When the group entered the ballroom, they drew gasps from onlookers. They definitely ruffled the feathers of the older society with one quipping that the boys looked like royal footmen who ought to have been put in strait-jackets long ago. However, the new style caught on and was dubbed the tuxedo after Tuxedo Park where it was first introduced.

The Witch Farm

One of Britain's most haunted homes was nicknamed The Witch Farm. A young family experienced seven years of haunting activity while living there. This was meant to be their dream home, but it became a nightmare. Some people believed that ley lines of dark energy ran under the property. There are some who thought that the family who lived there were perhaps having mental health issues. Many people witnessed or experienced unexplained things at this property to lend credence to the stories. And the history of the land certainly has fuel to spark paranormal activity. Join us as we share the compelling haunting of The Witch Farm!

The Brecon Beacons is a mountainous region in Wales that is now a national park that gets four-and-a-half million visitors every year. The name was derived from a Welsh term for peaks and the name of a medieval kingdom that was once in the area. There are numerous burial cairns throughout the hills and dozens of hillforts dot the landscape. The area of the Brecon Beacons where the haunting we are going to discuss is set, has long been associated with mysticism and the occult. People claim that witchcraft and sorcery were practiced here for years and many landmarks are even named after witches. Celtic myths go back hundreds of years and many claim there are curses connected to the land. It was here, in the shadow of this mountain range, that a young couple would start a family together on a rural farm. A farm known by some as The Witch Farm. 

The official name of the farmstead is Heol Fanog (He Ail Van Og) The couple were Bill and Liz Rich and the year was 1989. Liz was Welsh and three months pregnant when they moved in and Bill's son from a previous marriage, fourteen-year-old Laurence, joined them on the farm too. Bill was English and during this time in Wales, English people were not real welcome. So some of the neighbors weren't keen on having Bill here. Other then that, everything seemed fine at the farm. That was until the Riches received their first electric bill. That electric bill was huge, 750 pounds, which is equivalent to 2,000 pounds today. Something was causing a large drain on the power in the house. The Riches asked the electric company to come out and check the meter because clearly it was measuring wrong. The company checked everything and they could find nothing wrong with the meter. The breaker box was checked and there were no shorts. The company was perplexed, but still insisted on being paid. The Riches didn't have that kind of money, so this became a bit of a fight back and forth with more high electric bills and no one being able to figure out what the issue behind the drain could be. Liz and Bill were frustrated, but they certainly didn't think there was anything paranormal about the issue. That thought didn't cross their minds until they heard the sound of disembodied footsteps running through the house. That was unnerving enough and then Liz heard the door slam even though the door never moved.

Shortly after those two incidents, the couple caught the scent of sulfur. They couldn't figure out where it was coming from and then the scent changed to an incense smell. Bill decided to ask a neighbor if he had heard about any weird stuff happening at the house. This neighbor told him that there were ruins of the former manor house on the property. There had also been a cemetery and stones were taken from both of these sites to build the house that Liz and Bill were renting. Weird occurrences continued to happen in the house. There would be times when the heat in the house would be unbearable and other times it would be freezing cold. It was as if polar opposites were fighting in the house and as we continue to share the crazy things that happened here, that will become more apparent. 

The Riches had a pig on the farm that was very tame and sweet. They named her Lucinda. One day she suddenly seemed to lose her mind and got crazy and wild. It seemed as though she was possessed and the tame pig became violent. It got so bad that they had to euthanize her. Whatever happened to Lucinda seemed to carry on in the other animals on the property. Eventually they all had either gone crazy or run away. This included two cats, a guinea pig, a dog and a herd of goats. The next odd occurrence happened in the bathroom. The toilet had actually pushed itself up and gone cockeyed, so they called out a plumber. The plumber went into the bathroom and couldn't figure out what the issue was because the toilet was sitting the way it was supposed to. The plumber leaves and the toilet does the same thing. The plumber returns and fixes the toilet and then tells the Riches that he had been to the house before. He had installed central heating for a previous owner and was called back to the house after all the radiators had pulled themselves off the walls. He fixed them all and left. The plumber was called back again because the radiators had pulled free again. The way he was able to stop this from happening again was using screws that had crosses on them. The radiators never pulled away again. 

Liz then saw her first apparition at the house. She had been at the store and was coming back into the house when she saw an elderly woman standing in the window, wearing modern clothing. Liz sees this apparition again later. This time, the ghost is sitting in a chair near the baby's crib and she looked sad. The spirit seemed to be a good presence in the house. Later, Liz was talking with the landlord of Heol Fanog and she saw a photo of his mother. She realized that was the woman she was seeing in the house. Her name was Marion Holborn and she died at the age of 95 in 1980. An armchair that she loved had actually come with the house and that was the chair that Liz had seen the ghost sitting upon. The sounds of both booted and slippered footsteps continued to be heard in the house and the electric bills continued to be high. Liz became pregnant again. Liz had given birth to Ben the year before and this second child born in 1990 was a girl they named Becca. Even though Becca was very young when she lived in the house, she still remembers many experiences. One of those was a dream she had over and over where she was being pushed down the stairs, but she always woke up right before she hit the bottom of the stairs. An interesting connection to this is that the Riches would hear the footsteps going down the stairs and they always stopped before reaching the bottom.

There were moments when the energy in the house seemed clear, but the claustrophobic and oppressive times became more prevalent. The family was desperate for help so they brought in a trance medium named Larry Harry. He brought a team with him that included two Dutch mediums. The group decided to conduct a seance and during that, Larry brought forward four spirits that he described as an old woman, a mischievous young man, another young man and something ancient and dark. Bill's teen-aged son, Laurence, had been having some issues in the house and he was becoming angry and hard to deal with. Larry the medium felt that Laurence may have brought something into the house, so Bill decided to send Laurence away to see if this would get rid of the dark entity. That didn't work and while it seems harsh that Laurence was sent away, he later told his dad that he was thankful to have been sent away from the house because he knew it was doing something to him. 

The Riches start sharing a room at night to sleep because the kids are scared. Sometimes Becca's dreams would get so bad that Liz would rush her over to her grandparents house to stay. Becca saw the old woman's spirit and she described her as being gray. She literally saw her as black and white colored. The spirit would watch her and her brother play, but she felt that it wasn't in a nice way. She would scowl at them. Larry Harry returned to the house and conducted an exorcism and things felt lighter for awhile. The feeling of being watched went away and the electricity normalized. Bill got back into his painting and started painting lots of eyes in the pictures. It was as if he was reliving the feeling of being watched all the time. A neighbor came over and asked Bill to paint a portrait of his horse. He left Bill with a picture of the horse in the field. After Bill finished the painting, the horse died right there in the field, in the spot where the picture was taken. That neighbor stopped talking to Bill and blamed him for the death of the horse. Could this be related to the haunting or just a weird coincidence?

Bill and Liz started having the same dream, which featured the couple trying to escape the house but they always ended up back at the house. Bill started getting cracks in his hands as though his hands had been cut several times. This issue lasted for months and doctors couldn't find a good treatment for it. Some believed it was a form of eczema from stress. A reporter came to the house to cover the story of the fight the Riches were having with the electric company. The bills were going up again. The reporter met the cameraman outside and they both joked about the stories of haunting activity rumored to be happening in the house. After going inside and sitting down at the table, the reporter heard what she described as a primal growl. The cameraman whipped off his headphones and asked, "What was that?" Liz responded, "Apparently, it isn't happy that you are here." Nothing else happened after that, but it left the reporter and cameraman unnerved to the point that the reporter remembered it 30 years later.

Liz contacted a local historian to see if she could dig up a history about Heol Fanog. She found an old map that showed the barn from the farm and three other farmsteads. All the way back to the 19th century, people on these properties had nothing but bad luck. This was in regards to finances, disputes and other things. The historian said that the land was said to be cursed and she referred to it as Wales' Bermuda Triangle. Shortly after this revelation, Liz and the kids saw another apparition in the house. They had a passageway in the house that always felt creepy and the whole family hated walking down it. The kids wouldn't go unless Liz carried them and one day she was doing just that when she saw a very tall figure that was dark that seemed to come through the wall. It felt menacing, but Liz couldn't see a face on it. She told the kids to repeat over and over that they didn't believe in ghosts and the figure seemed to go away, but then one of the kids yelled that the shadow man was behind them. He then went away.

People wondered why the Riches wouldn't just leave the house that was terrorizing them. As is the case with so many people stuck in a haunted house, finances prevented them from moving. All their money had been wrapped up in the house, especially with the large electric bills. Bill was getting little work. The couple went to the housing commission for help and were turned away. They finally ran away to Liz's mom's house, but they felt they were followed. They heard voices coming across the baby monitor. Bill went to check on the kids and Liz heard him go into the room, but the voices never stopped. Bill saw nothing. He eventually returned back to the farm and took up his painting again. His pictures became more and more disturbing and he started drinking heavily. After Liz returned with the kids, she noticed that Bill would rarely come out of his studio and she finally went in and became angry with him, demanding that he start being a father again. 

The Riches were going to need more help and even though Liz wasn't a religious woman, she went to talk to a vicar. His name was Reverend David Holmwood and he had conducted numerous exorcisms and considered himself an expert in the paranormal. He agreed to help the Riches, but told them he would need time to prepare, which ended up taking months. Everything was set to get underway in June of 1991. The Riches met up with the Reverend and drive up to the farm with him. Holmwood has also brought along a woman named Anita who was a reformed Satanist. As the group approached the farm, a large owl flew straight into the windshield, cracking it and forcing the car off the road. They were unnerved, but pressed forward. After arriving at the house, they split into two groups. Bill and the Reverend went to his studio, while the women decided to go to the kitchen and start praying. About mid-prayer, Anita yelled for Holmwood. Liz had become possessed. Her face was distorted and she laughed weirdly. The possession lasted for a very short time and Liz claimed that she felt violated by this entity that entered her without permission.

Reverend Holmwood would carry on exorcisms for months, bringing some relief for bits of time. The local historian visited Liz and announced she had found more information on the history of the property. During Victorian times there was a farm down the road from Heol Fanog named Comegoody Farm. In 1848, there was a really bloody and nasty murder. The victim was Thomas Edwards who was a farm hand at Comegoody. His friend and fellow farm worker, James Griffis, was thought to be the perpetrator. He hit Edwards in the back of the head with an axe and stole what little money he had. Griffis then hid the body in a manure pile. The police found it because when they kicked the pile, a large pool of blood flowed out. The police didn't think the murder took place at Comegoody and there was a theory that it took place at Heol Fanog.  

The Reverend told Bill that he needs to burn a bulk of his paintings because they are feeding the spirit or being used by the spirit at the farm. This really crushes Bill's spirit and one day when Liz arrives home from shopping, she finds Bill on the floor in the kitchen. He is weeping and tells her that he came into the kitchen and found a knife out on the table. He at first was angry because he thought Liz had left it out, which would be dangerous for the kids. After grabbing the knife to put it away, Bill felt an overwhelming desire to kill himself with the knife. He put the knife in the drawer and turned away. When he turned back, the knife was back out on the counter. 

Despite the trouble the Riches had with animals on the property, they decide to bring home a Doberman. It doesn't take long before the dog isn't doing well, so Liz takes it to the vet. During the visit, Liz tentatively tells the vet what has been going on at the house because she is sure the woman will think she is crazy. The vet stops what she is doing and asked where Liz lived. After hearing Heol Fanog, the vet explains that she knew the place well and had known the previous owner. While that woman never said she had any issues at the farm, the vet sure did. She would go and care for the animals when the woman was out of town and she always felt dread at the house and she heard the disembodied footsteps many times. She said that she felt pure hate at the house. 

On March 13, 1995, a man named Eddie Burks arrived at the farm. He was a ghost hunter who was introduced to the couple by a friend of Bill's because he had garnered a bit of celebrity in 1993 when he helped with a haunting at a bank. (Read excerpt) So basically Burks thought of himself as a psychic therapist. When the Riches ask if he is there to do a seance, he says no, he just wants to listen. Burks immediately picks up on two boys and decides to focus on one of them first. This boy is named Thomas and Eddie sees through his eyes. The time is the Victorian era and Thomas is in the woods where seems something horrific happening to a woman. He rushes back to the farm where he lives and tells his friend James what he saw. This is James Griffis.

Then Thomas got blind drunk at a pub and started talking about what he saw. This was stupid because it got back to the group of men who had done this thing and they were going to shut him up. These men forced James to do it or they would kill his family. Eddie says he's going to let Thomas go and talk to the other boy. This spirit says he is James and that he didn't speak up at his trial because he thought the group of men would save him. That didn't happen and James was hanged. James tells Eddie that what Thomas saw was the master of the manor house and some of his cronies violating the woman. So they died to protect that man and this is why they still haunt this area.

After Eddie leaves, it seems that he left open a portal he had opened for the boys to pass through. Heol Fanog seems to become a transit center for ghosts. Liz claims they started seeing dozens of spirits. One of those spirits that Liz saw was a boy missing half of his face. Possibly Thomas? The next electric bill was normal, but this was short lived. The meter went crazy again and Liz wants to ask Eddie to come back. Bill says he thinks something else is the issue. Something he got involved in years before. He tells Liz that he was a witch. It seems that a man named Alex Sanders was house sitting the flat below Bill's right after he graduated college. Alex Sanders was called the King of the Witches by tabloid newspapers. He conducted rituals for the rich and the famous in the 60s. The men became friends and Alex said he would help Bill become a witch and this would in turn give him success with his art. Bill saw the power in Alex and he wanted that. He participated in a ritual. About halfway through the ritual, Bill said he wanted to stop, but the door was already opened. This was very dangerous because the energy had already been raised. The gateway was open and quite possibly could have affected him later. The BBC Witch Farm show interviewed Maxine, Alex's wife and she recalled Bill being the only initiate that had ever stopped a ritual before. She definitely felt that could be the issue.

Eddie did return to the house and conduct a final exorcism that seemed to help a bit. He at least closed the portal. In 1996, Liz's grandfather died and she inherited enough money that the couple were able to buy a house in a nearby village. The darkness never left Bill. Liz felt he was destroyed physically, spiritually and mentally after they left the farm. He deteriorated quickly, losing his license after drunk driving. Becca remembers her dad drinking a lot. Liz and Bill separated and Bill was eventually found in a bad state by his landlady. He was hospitalized and put on life support and died three days later. The drink killed him, but could have Heol Fanog made things worse for him?

There are many theories as to what was causing the haunting at Heol Fanog. Some people thought that local farmers were upset that they had an Englishman living on a Welsh farm and that they may have done something to the animals. And that perhaps they told stories of curses and other things to scare the family away. Other people thought that the animals were affected by illness, possibly ergot poisoning from grains that caused hallucinations and death. And perhaps the family was even ill and seeing things from the same kind of thing. These seem far fetched, but one very real possibility are ley lines. Ley line experts visited the property and detected ley lines running below the property. These seemed to be streams of dark energy and one was below the electricity meter, which may have been the cause of the power surges. One douser who came to the house found what he called black streams. These are ley lines from radiation and apparently two black streams crossed under the barn. And then, of course, there was the murder.

Liz told Wales Online, "I know people will just think we're weird people and we're making it up all but you'd have to have one hell of an imagination to make all this up. It felt dangerous in that house. The kids always slept with me, I wouldn't let them sleep on their own. I definitely felt very threatened there. When you've met evil, you know it. Ghosts don't scare me now because I've come up against such evil in my life. That's the truth."

Mark Chadbourn wrote the book "Testimony" in 1996 about Heol Fanog and in it he writes, "A dozen people of varying degrees of credulity, differing ages, sex and religious persuasion are convinced something beyond the bounds of reason happened at Heol Fanog between November 1989 and June 1995. Something supernatural. Something Evil. This wasn’t a simple haunting. This was human lives pushed to the limit by a malignant force which exhibited a terrifying sentience. A battle not only for the sanity of Heol Fanog’s bewildered, increasingly distressed residents, but ultimately for their very souls. I was drawn to the story of the Rich family by an article which appeared in The Independent, a newspaper not renowned for fantastic supposition. It told of a house where strange things happened. Where electricity was drained from the system for no reason. It also hinted at other, darker things which it decided, in its wisdom, to leave well alone. I, not being particularly wise, wanted to know more. I rang the Richs and chatted to them about their experiences, ostensibly to write an article for a magazine, but also because my curiosity was piqued. You see, I’ve always wanted to know if there was something more. As a journalist, talking to people all the time, you realise most folk are inherently truthful when talking about their experiences; they don’t fabricate. So on a human level you come to realise that all those who claim a brush with the supernatural can’t be lying. There must be something there. Why aren’t there more investigations? As Bill Rich and I talked, I realised The Independent had only scratched the surface of what had happened in that house. There was an interesting story to tell on many levels, if I could cope with the chills that were crawling all over my skin. A story not just of the supernatural, but of raw human emotions as ordinary people struggled to cope in the face of madness. Of how lives can be unbalanced by the real world and those who claim to be spiritual saviours. And I was angered by how these two people could be treated by the arrogance of those who refused to believe – called liars or fools because they dared to talk about an experience at odds with the scientific rationale."

The people that live at the farm now have been there for 25 years and never experienced anything out of the ordinary. The story of Heol Fanog is an incredible story, practically unbelievable. And yet there were many witnesses and something clearly changed the lives of several people. Is The Witch Farm haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, October 12, 2023

HGB Ep. 508 - Haunted Cemeteries 27

Moment in Oddity - Dancing on a Grave Memorial (Suggested by: Lorie McDavid)

Joseph Grimaldi Park is located near Regent's Canal by Angel, London. St. James' Anglican Chapel had stood here starting in the 18th century, but was eventually demolished in 1980. The grounds were turned into a park in the 19th century. Since a chapel had been here, there was - of course - a churchyard and some burials remain. One burial that remains is for the namesake of the park: pantomime clown Joseph Grimaldi. He was buried here in 1837. He was born in 1778 to Italian parents and spent his life entertaining people, starting at the age of two. Grimaldi was one of the most popular actors at the Drury Lane Theater and Sadler's Wells. In 1806, Grimaldi created the classic clown we know today with painted on eyebrows, red lips and cheeks and oversized clothes. He was declared the "King of Clowns" and perfected the pantomime clown. Grimaldi retired in 1823 due to declining health and quickly fell into debt and began drinking heavily before he passed in 1837. It wouldn't be until 2010 that the clown would be memorialized in a very unique way. Artist Henry Krokatsis was assigned the task of creating a new memorial for Grimaldi and his employer, Charles Dibdin, who ran the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. The memorial is two coffin-shaped graves made from bronze tiles that chime musical notes when people step on them. The installation was called "An Invitation To Dance On The Grave." Creating a memorial with the specific intention of inviting people to dance upon a grave, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Person to Survive Going Over Niagara Falls

In the month of October, on the 24th, in 1901, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel occurred. 63 year old Annie Edson Taylor was a school teacher who lost her husband in the Civil War. When Annie came upon hard times she decided to throw caution to the wind, (or rushing water). She began planning her Niagara Falls stunt in the hopes that it would earn her money and fame. The 24th of October was Annie's birthday and she deemed it the perfect date to take the perilous plunge. The feisty female told everyone she was 40 years old whereas genealogical records showed she was actually 63. Annie's design of her mode of transportation was excellent, with a leather harness mounted inside a custom made wooden pickle barrel with the sides lined with cushions to protect her from much of the impact. She was towed by a boat into the rapids which led to the falls. The rapids were reported to be what pummeled Annie the most. She arrived at the shore some 20 minutes after her journey began. Unfortunately after the initial photo ops and interviews the hype quickly wore off. Sadly, the stunt did not result in the monetary windfall that Annie Taylor was hoping for. Today, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, regardless of the technique.

Haunted Cemeteries 27 

Sit here on the park bench for just a moment, and listen. Perhaps you hear a light breeze rattling the autumn leaves across one another. There is a bird or two singing. First a sparrow and then a cardinal, and finally a crow calling from the distance. Water dripping from a nearby mausoleum tap, taps on the ground. Where you happen to be in the world while sitting in this cemetery, determines the unique characteristics of the sounds you will hear. These first few sounds are common, but if you are in Alabama, the rustling of Spanish Moss and the chirping of frogs might be heard. In Portugal, the sounds of a busy city-scape just outside the graveyard gates might interrupt the peace. The hissing and screeching of a corpse train pulling through the London Necropolis may travel through the ether of a bygone era. Or perhaps the echoing refrain of "The British are coming" can be heard in a Boston burying ground as though the warning were locked in time. And the strum of a guitar accompanied by the sweet melodic singing of a fellow Spooktacular Crew member might be heard in a Tennessee cemetery. Join us for the history and haunts of four cemeteries from these locales!

Brookwood Cemetery/London Necropolis (Suggested by: Jimmy Tucker)

The population of dead in London during the Victorian era was increasing and the city found itself in dire need of a new burial ground. The London Necropolis Company was founded by an Act of Parliament in 1852 to help with the growing crisis. The company was tasked with creating a single, large cemetery for all of London's future burials. As part of this task, the company sought ways to bring in the deceased from farther out areas and they looked to the recently invented technology of the railroad to help. The London Necropolis Company, LNC, bought a large tract of land in Brookwood, Surrey and established the Brookwood Cemetery in 1854. They then formed the London Necropolis Railway to transport bodies and prepared for an anticipated 10,000 to 50,000 burials a year. The goal was big, but never came to fruition as smaller cemeteries closer to London started opening. The LNC found itself on the verge of bankruptcy shortly after opening, but eventually found ways to keep itself solvent.

By 1854, Brookwood was the largest cemetery in the world. That is no longer the case, but it is the largest cemetery in the United Kingdom. The cemetery had two main sections, each with its own railway station in the center. One section was marked "Nonconformist" and the other "Anglican." The trains had cars that were separated by class and this included the cars carrying coffins. Mourners would get round trip tickets, while the coffins would get one-way tickets. After the trains arrived at their station, horse-drawn carriages would transport the coffins and mourners. Funerals were offered in three classes. Third class funerals were for paupers with the stipulation that no mass graves could be used. So the poor were given their own plot, but no right to erect a permanent memorial was given. A family could upgrade later, but this rarely happened. A second class burial had more options for where a body could be buried and the right to erect a permanent memorial was given. A first class funeral had no restrictions and the family could choose any grave site, anywhere in the cemetery. Permanent memorials were allowed and expected. These burials would cost around 250 pounds in today's money.   

The very first burials at Brookwood were for Mr. and Mrs. Hore's stillborn twins. None of the first two dozen burials had permanent markers. Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Goldfinch was the first person to have a memorial. The only Zoroastrian burial ground in Europe is here. A section was set aside for the Ancient Order of Foresters and the Corps of Commissionaires. Burials were relocated here from other cemeteries as well. Burials have continued from that time until today with approximately 235,000. Some of the notable burials are for Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, John Singer Sargent and Edith Thompson who was executed in Holloway prison in 1923 at the age of 29 after she was convicted of killing her husband.

Cremation became legal in Britain in 1884. The LNC sold the Cremation Society of Great Britain a plot of land in 1878 and they built Woking Crematorium, which was the first crematorium in Britain. The Brookwood Columbarium opened in 1910 and wasn't used much until the 1940s when cremation became more popular. Today, the cemetery features beautiful mausoleums, giant redwood trees, long and winding pathways and scattered headstones that leave many open areas as 80% of the graves here are unmarked. The cemetery is very diverse with people of all religions, stations in life, those who died in a cholera epidemic and war dead, who have several special memorials. 

Parts of the tracks from the corpse trains still exist and perhaps those tracks still bring in a ghost train or two. People claim to hear strange sounds in the cemetery. A distant cry is sometimes heard - one of which we heard on a YouTube video about the cemetery. Several people have claimed to hear the sobbing of a woman or the crying of a baby when no women or children are around. Green and white shapes have been reported as well as mists that hang over specific graves. Sometimes the mist weaves throughout the trees. Ghostly figures have been reported throughout the cemetery. There are also reports of Pagan ceremonies being held.

The main train station for the London Necropolis was built in 1900 on Lambeth Road near the Waterloo Station and was partially destroyed by a German bomb during World War II. Today, that building has been restored and converted into flats that are known as Westminster Bridge House. This is a gorgeous building with Doulton terracotta decoration on the facade! We have to wonder if renters have experienced any kind of paranormal activity there. After all, countless coffins stopped here on their way to burial at the Necropolis.

The Cemetery of Pleasures

The Cemetery of Pleasures is known as Prazeres Cemetery in Portugal and is one of the largest cemeteries in Lisbon. The cemetery is named after the former parish of Prazeres, which is now Estrela. The burial ground was founded in 1833 after an outbreak of cholera and was originally named Cemitério Ocidental de Lisboa or Western Cemetery of Lisbon. It's not only beautiful and world famous, but very unique in that it is almost entirely made up of mausoleums. As a matter of fact, the largest mausoleum in all of Europe is here and belongs to the Dukes of Palmela. This mausoleum looks like a pyramid that is fronted by part of a Classical Greek building with four Ionic columns. The top of the pyramid is flat with the statue of a woman holding a cross whom some claim is the Angel of Death, while others say she is one of the Seven Virtues. It was designed by Giuseppe Cinatti who was a freemason and built between 1846 and 1849. The tomb also features a gate and between that and the tomb is an area of black and white stones forming 12 lozenges. There are claims that the mausoleum holds 200 bodies. 

Many notable people are buried here including author Ramalho Ortigão, painters Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro and Roque Gameiro, pianist Alexandre Rey Colaço, composer João Domingos Bomtempo, Prime Ministers and many from the Portuguese nobility. An imposing sculpted tomb is dedicated to the city's firefighters. A sculpture of a tree trunk marks the grave of a young man lost too young. Many of the burials are accompanied by QR codes, so people can find more information on who is buried in a tomb. A museum was opened on the grounds in 2001. This is thought to be one of the more haunted places in Portugal. People claim to feel an eerie energy and shadowy figures have been spotted winding between the mausoleums.

King's Chapel Burying Ground

King's Chapel was an Anglican Church in Boston, Massachusetts that is now home to a Unitarian Universalist congregation and right next to it is a churchyard, which dates back to 1630. The church houses the oldest pulpit to still be in active use. The bell, which is also still in use, was recast by Paul Revere. The cemetery was Boston proper's first burying ground. The original owner of the land was Isaac Johnson and he was the first burial here. A really cool headstone here can be found at the front of the burying ground and was made for Joseph Tapping and features a skeleton and Father Time battling over the eventuality of death. There are only around 500 headstones and 78 tombs in this small cemetery. Most of the tombs are tabletop. Notable burials include Plymouth Pilgrim Mary Chilton. She was the first European woman to step ashore New England. She died in 1679. Chilton was present at the first Thanksgiving and married John Winslow with whom she had ten children. The Bushes are her descendants as is Howard Dean who had been a presidential candidate. 

Many Puritan theologians are here like John Oxenbridge, John Cotton and John Davenport. Founder of the Tudor Ice Company, Frederic Tudor is buried here. He was known as Boston's Ice king. He sent ice as far as India and Hong Kong and lived to be 8o, dying in 1864. There is a grave for Ralph Waldo Emerson's dad, William, as well. The first bookseller and publisher in the British colonies was Hezekiah Usher and his final resting spot is here. This cemetery is the one Nathaniel Hawthorne writes about in "The Scarlet Letter." People compare the real grave of Elizabeth Pain to Hester Prynne's and claim that the engraved escutcheon or shield looks like it has the letter A in the middle of it and that this inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's a really cool headstone with a death's head at the top.

Legend claims they did something here that was just asking to get spirits riled up. In 1810, it was decided that the burying ground would look better if the headstones were moved more towards the center and placed in straight rows. The ghosts got confused as to where their spots were located and they've been roaming the grounds ever since. Another issue is that the burying ground was here before the church. So those Puritan theologians were buried here before the church was built - the church in Britain that they fled. So maybe they aren't happy about that either. Captain Kidd was arrested tried and hanged in Boston and some people claim that his grave is in the back of King's Chapel and that his apparition has been seen near the grave. Electronic devices are said not to work well at night - Diane had no problem snapping pictures during the day on her phone - and video footage will reveal that nothing was recorded.

Pine Hill Cemetery in Auburn

Pine Hill was established in 1837 and is the oldest cemetery in Auburn, Alabama. The land set aside for burials was donated by Judge John J. Harper who was the town of Auburn's founder. This was a mixed cemetery for both white settlers and the people they enslaved. The oldest marker dates to 1838. There are around 1500 burials that include Confederate soldiers, Confederate Brigadier General James Henry Lane, Congressman James Ferguson Dowdell and past presidents of Auburn University. There are a couple of interesting stories behind graves. The most decorated veteran in the cemetery is a woman! This is Army Major Frances Dumas who was a registered nurse. She served during World War II and was captured at Corregidor in 1942 and held as a POW for three years. She managed to survive the Bataan Death March in which she walked 65 miles with no food or water. She served for 15 more years after being released and retired to Auburn. She received the Bronze Star, Oak Leaf Cluster and a Purple Heart. 

Charles Stodgill Miles was only eight-years-old when he was buried here. He had an allergic reaction to a bee sting. His grave is crowned by an Italian marble statue that features a boy holding a lizard on a plate. John William Drake really loved his wife Volecia Volney Drake. Their elaborate gravestone features a large cloased urn that is draped on top of a marble pedestal inscribed with two lengthly love poems he wrote for her. Virginia Howe has her second burial here. She was only fifteen when she married the much older newspaper editor William Howe. She died the following year and he had her buried in the frontyard of their home. Shortly thereafter, he married Virginia's older sister and she insisted that Virginia be moved and so here she is at Pine Hill. One of the tallest monuments here belongs to Jethro Walker. Jethro threatened to whip his son from his third wife and the young lad was scared enough that it is thought that he grabbed a gun and put a bullet in Jethro's head while he was reading his Bible in the parlor of the house. The case has remained unsolved, but it was interesting that the son left quickly for Cuba after his father's death. Two of his wives are buried next to him in what they call English fashion. One is on top of the other.  

Baptist minister William "Billy" Mitchell wanted to be buried in his bed when he died, so he was buried above ground in a brick crypt in his feather bed with his shoes placed beneath him. Pine Hill Cemetery was placed on the Alabama Historic Register in 1978. Today, it is owned and maintained by the City of Auburn and is open for visitation from sunup to sundown. People have reported seeing inexplicable hovering lights over graves and an unsettling feeling, particularly as though being watched.

Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis

A beautiful decorated arch announces that one is entering Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, which is the final resting place of over 78,000 people and is the oldest active cemetery in Memphis. This is a rural Victorian cemetery with a creek that visitors use a bridge to cross to gain entry to the burial ground. On the right of the entrance is a Victorian chapel designed in the Late Gothic Revival style and a Victorian Carpenter Gothic cottage houses the cemetery's office. The grounds remind one of an English garden full of old trees, flower beds and walkways and has been honored as a Tennessee Department of Forestry Level 3 Arboretum. There are three formal gardens named the McCallum Garden, the Miller Garden, and the Butterfly Garden. Elmwood was founded on 40 acres in 1852 by 50 wealthy businessmen who each contributed $500. The acreage would be expanded by another 40 acres after the Civil War. The name was chosen by drawing it out of a hat. Samuel Phillips was the first sextant and the cottage was his home as he was on-call 24 hours a day. The first burial was for Mrs. R.B. Berry who was laid to rest on July 15, 1853.

A streetcar line was built out to the cemetery to make it easier for people to visit. In 1903, the cottage was renovated with a walk-in vault being added as well as a social parlor. There are three mass graves here. One is for those who died during a Yellow Fever epidemic, the other is for Confederate soldiers and another for enslaved people who probably died during an epidemic. Each has its own monument. Veterans from every war starting with the Revolutionary War and up through the Vietnam War are buried here. There are many notable burials as well. Napoleon Hill has his final resting place here and no this isn't the guy who wrote "Think and Grow Rich." Hill was a businessman who inherited great wealth from his father, but also made his own riches during the California Gold Rush. He moved back to Tennessee and settled in Memphis in 1857 where his contemporaries referred to him as the "Merchant Prince of Memphis." He built his grand mansion in 1881 in the French Renaissance style, which was unfortunately razed in 1930 to make way for an office building. Hill and his wife Mary often made the society pages in the newspaper for their lavish social events. He died in 1909 with the largest estate in Tennessee at that time.

Our listener Tara Taylor has some pictures on Instagram from the cemetery and there was this tombstone that reads, "I'm Ma Rainey #2, Mother of Beale Street. I'm 78 years old. Ain't never had enough of nothing and it's too damn late now!" Ma Rainey was Lillie Mae Glover who was born in September 1906 in Columbia, Tennessee and became an American country blues singer. When she was just 13-years-old, she ran away with a traveling medicine show because she wanted to sing the blues, but her preacher father forbade it because he thought of that as dirty music. Many people did at the time in Nashville and she didn't want to bring disgrace on her family who had relocated there. Imagine a time in Nashville when singing the blues was thought to be disgraceful?! Mae traveled with a variety of shows: the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, the Bronze Mannequins, the Vampin' Baby Show, the Georgia Minstrels, Harlem in Havana, and Nina Benson's Medicine Show. She eventually married and settled in Memphis where she performed so much, she earned the nickname of "Mother of Beale Street." She died in 1985 at the age of 76 and was given an elaborate send off with a horse-drawn carriage carrying her casket to the funeral with a Memphis blues band leading the way.

Henry A. Montgomery has a cool memorial featuring a statue of him giving a speech with a bale of cotton at his feet. Henry started and owned seven cotton compresses in Memphis. He gave many public speeches and it was during his final one that he died of a heart attack, right there on the podium. The man who created the Hadden's Horn, David Park Hadden, is buried here. The Hadden Horn was a bell-shaped device used to shake dice and insured that no one could cheat. Hadden also served as mayor of Memphis for a time.

There is an awful story behind the grave of Alice Mitchell. Alice was born in 1872 and she wasn't like the other girls around her. She liked to play sports like football and baseball and she was more interested in catching the eye of a girl, rather than a boy. And she found one such girl who shared her passion and that was Freda Ward. They met at the Higbee School for Young Ladies and not many of their classmates thought anything of their affection towards each other because girls carried on friendships like this all the time. Now, although Freda did care for Alice, her feelings weren't as strong and she started seeing a couple of men. Alice decided to make a bold move and she asked Freda to marry her and the couple planned to run away in 1892 to St. Louis to elope. Alice was going to disguise herself as a man, but the plan was crushed when Freda's older sister Josephine found love letters the girls had sent to each other and forbade Freda from seeing Alice. Alice fell into a deep depression. One day, she grabbed her father's straight razor and followed Freda who was with her sister and another friend down to the river where they were going to board a steamboat. Alice whipped out the razor and slashed Freda across the face. Freda's sister started hitting Alice with an umbrella and ended up with her collarbone sliced. Then Alice jumped on the disoriented Freda and cut her throat, killing the woman she had loved. Alice was tried and found to be insane and sent to Western State Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee where she died in 1898. Some stories claim she died by drowning herself in the hospital's cistern. She was brought back to Elmwood and buried in the family plot.

Elmwood Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 2002. The cemetery is open every day from 8 am to 4:30 pm and burials still continue to be performed. There are many stories of paranormal manifestations at Elmwood. Murry Hargrove was caretaker in 1982 when he experienced something he couldn't explain. It was around dusk and he was locking things up when he noticed a group of four men standing on the tallest hill in Elmwood known as Lenow Circle. The men were cloaked in white and wearing tuxedos and top hats. The men didn't seem to notice him as he approached and they just simply glided away and disappeared.  The four men were believed to be Napoleon Hill, Archibald Wright, Henry Montgomery and David Hadden who were all friends in life that used to gather at a street corner to talk politics and business with each other. These meetings were actually commemorated in a painting that now hangs in the Woodruff-Fontaine Mansion in the Victorian Village. People claim the four men continue to meet nearly every night at midnight in the cemetery at Lenow Circle, which is in the center of a square formed by their four graves.

The cottage is haunted by a spirit who likes to turn on and off the water. Some think this is Samuel Phillips, the first caretaker. A staff member was working late one evening when she heard a loud whistle right outside the door. She looked outside and saw no one. Disembodied footsteps are also heard in the cottage. And Alice Mitchell's spirit has been seen wandering the graveyard. Perhaps she is looking for Freda who is buried here as well. The disembodied sound of moaning is heard. Sometimes a mist envelopes Alice's headstone.

We love cemeteries, regardless of whether spirits still walk about inside of them or not. They are all full of stories. Some tragic, some peaceful, but all connected to the finality of death. Or is it final? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!