Lore

Vampires Exist

Vampires Exist

Interestingly enough, there are diseases and physical conditions that can cause people to have “vampiric” traits. Given the lack of medical knowledge and understanding, as well as cultures based in superstition, it’s not surprising that vampire sightings have occurred throughout history. Add to that the later practice of grave robbing for money, jewelry and scientific research and it just adds to the hysteria and mystery of vampires. The conditions we can identify now surely existed then. Any odd behavior associated with them would definitely have caused suspicion and fear. These are the main medical possibilites that might explain why people have always believed vampires exist:

Porphyria
Anemia
Rabies
Catalepsy

Porphyria is a disease of the blood and it has numerous, unfortunate symptoms. Depending upon the specific “strain” of the disease, people afflicted are extremely sensitive to sunlight – to the point of not being able to walk past a sunny window without blistering and peeling their skin. Because the red blood cells don’t live as long in people with porphyria, there is a tendency towards anemia.

Anemia causes individuals to become extremely pale and lose most of the coloring around their lips, eyelids, gums and even hands and palms. It also makes the skin feel very cold. Anemia is a far more common condition and associated with many more things than something as rare as porphyria.

Recent studies have been published that discuss the symptoms of rabies in humans and linking them to vampirism. Interestingly, rabies tends to increase saliva (causing drooling), cause hypersensitivity to light and sound, biting and a strange fear of water (holy water??). There were several massive European outbreaks of rabies among animals in the 1700s (probably before and after, too) and no doubt people were also attacked and infected. Imagine meeting a rabid man, frothing at the mouth and having strange aversions to seemingly normal things. It would terrify the village and create an irrational fear that a vampire was on the loose. Excellent!

Lastly, catalepsy is similar to being in a trance – and having no muscle control or reaction to stimuli. Catalepsy can be caused by mental disorders such as Schizophrenia or diseases like Parkinson’s. We’re foolish if we don’t think people have always suffered from mental delusions – far earlier than we could ever know, understand, name or diagnose.

Being Socreepy, I don’t ever want to burst the horror bubble. Of COURSE vampires exist! I just wanted to point out why vampires seem to have such specific behaviors associated with them.

The History of the Catacombs

The History of the Catacombs

What are the origins of the Catacombs? The history of the catacombs begins in the first century. Christians in Rome were persecuted – not free to outwardly worship and certainly not free to bury their dead in the name of religion. At the time, the practice was for anyone that owned land to simply bury their dead on their property. However, most people ended up in cemeteries that were shared by all, including those considered pagans.

It wasn’t until the second century that the Christians began burying their dead underground – but in exclusivity to Christianity. If you were practicing something else, you weren’t allowed there. Over time, the religion came to the forefront, if you will, and burials began to happen above ground in Christian cemeteries.

Between looting, attacks, natural disasters and the change in burial customs, many of the catacombs were simply abandoned over time. For hundreds of years, no one knew of their existence. It was only centuries later, beginning in 1575, that the discovery and examination of the catacombs began.

The catacombs consist of miles and miles of connected underground tunnels. Within the walls of these tunnels are shallow graves and the corpses and bones of millions of people. In Paris alone, the count underground is between three and six million dead bodies. In 1786, Paris no longer had room to bury the dead above ground, so once again, the catacombs served a very useful purpose. All the bodies from the Cemetary of the Innocents were taken to the catacombs. Bones were grouped together and arranged, as you can see in the picture.

There are no longer any burials there and no remains have been transferred since the late 1800s. Today, there are as many people visiting the Catacombs as those eternally sleeping below. Many claim to hear voices and feel the chill as they are surrounded by the city of the dead. After all, there is a warning outside of the Catacombs. It says in French “Stop! This is the empire of death.”

Just so you know, this was socreepy’s abbreviated version. There is much more to learn about the history of the catacombs.

(Photos courtesy of Mike & Trish Pflantz)

Catacombs 3Catacombs 2Catacombs

The Brief History Carnival and Circus Freaks

There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable, and certainly profitable, to put humans on exhibit. For a period of about 100 years (generally agreed as 1840-1940), museums, carnivals and circuses featured many human “oddities”- also referred to as sideshows or “freak” shows.

In the mid-to-late 1800s, museums of science popped up in the bigger cities. At the time, Americans didn’t have many of the entertainment venues we have today – movies, computers, arena sports, etc. – so the museum was an attractive adventure. A minor part of most museums was to feature people with deformities, basically putting those people on display in the name of science. Eventually, the museum proprietors realized the crowds were there to see the freaks. However, many of the scientific owners also thought it was beneath them that people wanted to see this type of thing instead of actual science and technological progress. Phineas Taylor Barnum wasn’t that kind of guy.

You’ve no doubt heard of P.T. Barnum, of the “Greatest Show On Earth” fame – Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey (by the way, socreepy HATES circuses – and clowns). Before that, though, he was a marketing genius that owned The American Museum in New York City. He was part showman, part fraud, part salesman and damn smart. He had a knack for finding people born with physical abnormalities, putting them on display and charging 25 cents for admission. People visited the museum in droves. He also would make up completely absurd histories about where these so-called “freaks” came from, and it was often about as exotic as Kansas City. The American Museum burned down in 1868, but it started an acceptable movement (if you can believe it) of the American fascination with humans that appeared different from the rest of us. Eventually, the sideshow made it to your town by way of travelling circus or carnival. It was much easier to travel and rake in the dough than stay in one place where the interest may wane. Eventually, it did wane and somewhere along the line people realized this type of exploitation was simply wrong – at least in the case of the “born freaks”.

Made freaks are a different story and they’re all over the place today. Ever heard of Jim Rose? Ever see Marilyn Manson? What I’m talking about are the oddities such as modern primitives (tattooed and pierced in places my doctor has never even seen), fire eaters, contortionists, those who sculpt their face with surgical techniques. The list goes on, but you get the idea. People just LOVE to stare at the weirdos – particularly here in the Midwest, where an eyebrow ring still can raise an eyebrow. Perhaps our fascination with the different will never quite leave us.

Now I can’t talk about this subject without also mentioning Coney Island. I think the thing that strikes me the most about Coney’s history is that they actually built an entire functioning city – complete with government, fire department and beach – for “midgets”. It was located within the theme park Dreamland and it was referred to as “Lilliputia”. It was home to over 300 little people who made their living entertaining visitors to Coney Island.

Another thing that needs to be mentioned is Tod Browning’s 1932 classic “Freaks”. It’s really an amazing piece of film that isn’t necessarily disturbing because of the visuals of the actors. After all, the stars suffer physical abnormalities – not something to be frightened of. I think the real terror of the movie lies in what happens to “nice” people when they’ve finally had their fill of abuse, cruelty and bullshit by others. Kinda brings out the monster in all of us. Also of note, Tod Browning directed the original “Dracula” prior to “Freaks”. The movie was banned for decades. That should tell you something. Go out and rent it RIGHT NOW!

Recommended reading:
Freak Show – Robert Bogdan
This is an impeccably researched “academic” book – it also happens to be immensely enjoyable to read. It covers the 100 year period of sideshows and human oddities for profit. It’s loaded with pictures, anecdotes and fascinating tidbits. It documents a true piece of Americana without judging in any way.

Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
Simply one of my favorite books. It’s totally f*cked up beyond belief and utterly fascinating and memorable at the same time. The author’s story is of interest as well, but that’s for another time. Imagine peeking into the lives of one of the world’s great freak families (fictional). The carny freak parents believed the best gift in the world they could give their children was a natural gift – to be deformed. Being deformed meant the kids could always make a living at the carnivals or the circus – and they’d never lack for much. However, to give them the gift, it was necessary to ingest chemicals, pesticides and other nastiness. But that’s really only the beginning of the book. Seriously, this book is a fascinating study of human interaction – socially and at the family level. Plus, a little lust, love, jealousy and hate thrown in for good measure. A MUST have.

Savannah Ghost Tour

Savannah Ghost Tour

I recently went on vacation to Savannah, Georgia. I’ve been there a bunch of times, but never at night, since I always return to the tourist hell known as Hilton Head. I think Savannah is wonderfully freaky and creepy during the day, so I took advantage of the graveyards, haunted stories and moss hanging from the OLD live oaks and went on a late night ghost tour. Savannah’s a very Southern gothic town with a ton of history including murder, piracy, ghosts, hauntings and voodoo. If I could figure out how to make a living there, I’d fit right in with all the resident weirdos.

Big thumbs up on the ghost tour. It was actually recommended to me by Bob Hunnicutt who is the Director of The Georgia Ghost Society (and a friend of socreepy). The tour we took was this one. I especially enjoyed the stories about all the citizens of Savannah that died, and kinda died, of yellow fever. Apparently there were at least thirty cases of people being buried alive. Apparently, we were standing right over them as she told the story. Apparently, I pissed my pants (just kidding).

If you ever make it to that part of the country, check out the old civil war cemetaries and be sure to take an after-dark ghost tour. My friend was sure she was poked by a ghost. Hey, at least someone was getting some action.

Savannah Graveyard

Savannah Graveyard

Wicca – The Craft

WICCA

Wicca, witchcraft or the craft is a very simple, completely natural religion. Witches believe that all living, organic things have a spirit. Our spirits are all inter-connected and divine.

Witches are not devil worshippers. They are not satanists, practitioners of black magic or otherwise “evil”. witches do no harm. Like many religions including buddhism, wicca believes that there are spiritual implications to our behaviors. Using herbs, magic and ritual, witches are able to tune in and transform the energies of themselves and others for the benefit of the greater good. They worship the cycles of nature and the earth.

Wiccans have eight festivals throughout the year, beginning with Samhain or Halloween – the time when the living and dead cross over and share the night. Yule falls on December 21 (the winter solstice) and symbolizes when the dark half of the year gives over to the light half.

February 2 is Imbolc, a time of blessing and the beginning of spring. Ostara, the vernal equinox, is celebrated on March 21 as day and night are equal – it is considered a time rich in growth. Beltane on April 30th is sometimes called May Day. Traditionally, it’s a time of sexual romping and playing as couples spend the night in the woods and dance around the May-Pole the next morning in a celebration of life and fertility.

The summer solstice, Litha, happens on June 21. It’s the opposite Yule and the darkness begins to take over from the light. Lammas, the time of letting go and accepting changes, happens on July 31. Mabon is the name for the Autumnal Equinox on September 21. It’s the end of the year and time to pay thanks for the abundant harvest and prepare for winter.

Frightening Fact:
Ouija Board is the top-selling board game in America, outselling Monopoly, Yahtzee and Scrabble.

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