Friday, September 30, 2016

Supernatural Friday: Legend of Stringy Jack

Come now, friends and fiends, and enjoy the following  tale behind the jack-o-lantern. Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world. Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns”—the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack—originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities. 

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who loved playing tricks on anyone and everyone. One dark, Halloween night, Jack ran into the Devil himself in a local public house. Jack tricked the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil quickly turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack immediately snatched the coin and deposited it into his pocket, next to a silver cross that he was carrying. Thus, the Devil could not change himself back and Jack refused to allow the Devil to go free until the Devil had promised not to claim Jack's soul for ten years.

The Devil agreed, and ten years later Jack again came across the Devil while out walking on a country road. The Devil tried collecting what he was due, but Jack thinking quickly, said, "I'll go, but before I do, will you get me an apple from that tree?"

The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped up into the tree to retrieve an apple. As soon as he did, Jack placed crosses all around the trunk of the tree, thus trapping the Devil once again. This time, Jack made the Devil promise that he would not take his soul when he finally died. Seeing no way around his predicament, the Devil grudgingly agreed.

When Stingy Jack eventually passed away several years later, he went to down to Hell to see the Devil, but the Devil kept the promise that had been made to Jack years earlier, and would not let him enter. 

Thinking, Ah, Heaven will surely let me in then!, he wandered up to the Gates of Heaven, but was refused entrance because of his life of drinking and because he had been so tight-fisted and deceitful. 
Jack went back to Hell to see the Devil.

"Where can I go?" asked Jack.

"Back to where you came from!" sneered the Devil. "You doomed yourself to roam the earth, a restless soul who can find no rest ever." Lucifer tossed him a turnip and a ember straight from the fires of Hell itself. "Here, hollow out this turnip and place this ember inside. Use its light to find your way through eternity." 

And to this day, Jack wanders, never stopping in one place, a hauntingly lost soul, who learned you never ever really beat the Devil at his own game.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Supernatural Friday: Ghosts Haunt Among Us

They haunt right alongside us, around us, and in places you never think would be haunted. They can be where the least you expect them. And spirits are not “trick ponies,” they will not perform on cue every night or day, so invisible, they might still be there, leaving you a feeling of being watched or even dread. Though the dread may be unintentional, as the phantom may not be evil (though there are times a bad one may be there), but your own psychic attention may give you that.

What are spirits? Where did the words come from?

In traditional belief, a ghost is the soul of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestations, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely: The mode of manifestation in photos or seen by the living’s eyes can range from an invisible presence, shadow people, translucent or wispy shapes, and orbs, to realistic, life-like visions—solids. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as a séance. Paranormal investigators use equipment to find proof of paranormal activity and to make contact with phantoms.

In many tales, ghosts were often thought to be deceased people looking for vengeance, or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. The appearance of a ghost has often been regarded as an omen or portent of death. Seeing one's own ghostly double or "fetch" is a related omen of death.

Another widespread belief concerning apparitions are that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Early beliefs were that ghosts were the person within the person (the person's spirit), most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of "breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin spiritus and the Greek pneuma, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible, God is depicted as animating Adam with a breath.

Ghosts are also termed spook, spirits, phantoms, fetch, haint (a common feature of southern oral and literary tradition), wraith, revenant, apparition, spectre, shade, and entity. Poltergeist, German for a “noisy spirit,” is for a spirit said to manifest itself by invisibly moving and influencing objects. The Bell Witch was considered a poltergeist. 

Most times, a poltergeist is just mischievous, though there instances of it being sinister, not unlike the Bell Witch. Was the Bell Witch a poltergeist or more along demonic lines? Good question. It was an entity that tormented a pioneer family that lived in what was then Red River, Tennessee in 1817-1827 ( Red River is now known as Adams, Tennessee). It was substantiated by eyewitness accounts (other than the family), affidavits, and manuscripts written by those who witness the phenomenon. More about this interesting tale can be found in author Pat Fitzhugh, The Bell Witch: The Full Account.

Besides the poltergeist phenomena, there are three other types of hauntings. First are residual ones. These are a recorded playback of what happened in the past. Maybe it could even be a time warp (one idea of mine, though I can’t prove this, but who knows, a feasible one like any other theory). There is no interaction with the living -- the ghost does not see or hear you because the ghost is not actually there. Only his/her energy remains, it is a remnant of his living form that you are seeing, just like when you watch a video. This cycle continues in the same place at usually the same time of day or year indefinitely until the energy is exhausted or diminishes to a low enough level that it is undetectable by human perception. One account of residuals are the Union soldiers marching into Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg, Virginia every year at certain time on January 24th. An interesting fact about the steps the soldiers march up is that they are not even the original staircase from the Civil War era, but new ones put in by Charles Davis. And yet, like clockwork, the soldiers march up those steps at the same time each January 24th.  None died, but after the fall of Petersburg, Centre Hill became occupied by Union troops, led by General George L. Hartsuff. President Abraham Lincoln visited Centre Hill on April 3, 1865 to go over the local situation with General Hartsuff. This meeting took place only eleven days before Lincoln’s assassination.  

Traditional, or intelligent, hauntings are the second. Whether actual human spirits that had not crossed over into heaven and had some unfinished business with a living person, or a message they wanted to deliver before they could move on, or even those that just want to stay in a place they lived in life or be on our plane of existence (more and more, I suspect they can travel back and forth between here and the “other side.” These ghosts will unlock doors and open windows, run the faucets and even interact with you directly because they are an "intelligent" presence, the personality of a person who was once alive but has stayed behind rather than passing over.

The third type of haunting, and undoubtedly the most frightening, is a demonic, or inhuman, haunting. To me personally, I think when a human was evil in life, they too would be considered under demonic. There have been stories of where priests have gone in to exorcise a possessed person, and instead of a inhuman demon, this one claims to be the parent or someone alive once, tormenting the person. 

The entity is similar to a traditional haunting because the spirit is intelligent and are existing in the present moment with you. These spirits are malevolent and hostile, suffering from psychological instability or distress stemming from an unresolved conflict with the people who are being subjected to the demonic activity. Demonic presences tend to be ‘unleashed' in order for them to manifest. This is one reason why the use of an Ouija Board is customarily discouraged among many ghost hunters. So if you find one in the game section of the store, don’t buy one. Not understanding and without protection, one can open up a portal, letting in things they can not handle and most times, demonic in nature.

With October almost here and Halloween at the tail end of the month, ghosts are more so on people’s minds. When you step out into the night for that Halloween party or that haunt attraction, don't be unnerved if you see shadows move in the darkness. It might be just shadow people. Spirits roam Halloween as it has been said that the opening from the “Other Side” is more so on certain days of the years then the rest. All Hallows Eve is one of those days. And the dead want to party just like the living—right?

Again, it may be your imagination, least, you tell yourself that. Then again. . . wait. . .are those shadows closer than before? Watch out—

Friday, September 16, 2016

Supernatural Friday: The Iroquois Legend of The Great Bear Changing Leaves Color at Autumn

In this version of a popular Iroquois legend, we learn how the autumn leaves get their color.

A hunter found the tracks of a great bear. Not long afterwards, more tracks of this bear were discovered, surrounding the village.  Other animals, many hunted by the tribe for food, began to disappear. The hunters determined that the great bear was responsible for their loss.

Hungry due to their main source of food depleted, a party of warriors set out to kill the bear. After following the tracks for many days, they came upon the bear. They shot arrows at the animal, but to no avail. The bear’s skin was too thick for the arrows to pierce it. And instead, the assault angered the bear, and he turned on the warriors, killing most of them.

The surviving warriors returned to the village to tell their tale. Party after party of warriors went out to try to slay the great bear, and failed. The people were starving and afraid to leave their village, which the great bear would circle each night.

One night three brothers had the same dream that recurred for three nights. In the dream, they saw a vision of themselves tracking and killing the monster. Thinking it held the truth, they went to track and kill the bear.

They followed the bear’s tracks for many days until they came to the end of the earth. The monstrous bear bounded from the earth into the heavens. The brothers pursued it into the sky. To this day, the three hunters are still visible, chasing the bear in the winter nights’ sky.

In the fall, as the bear readies for its winter’s sleep, the three hunters are able to draw near enough to shoot their arrows into the bear’s body. His blood drips from the skies onto the autumn leaves, painting them red and yellow.

The arrows never kill the great bear; and he always escapes. His wounds cause him to become invisible for a time, but eventually, he reappears in the skies as the Big Dipper, the three brothers still chasing him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Strangely Funny II Anthology Kindle on Sale for 99 Cents

A humorous paranormal anthology I have a story, "Weregoat" included,has its Kindle edition marked down to 99 cents. Strangely Funny II.  Not sure how long this will be on sale. 

Strangely Funny II by [Shipley, Jonathan, Ahern, Edward, Kinney, Pamela K., Dixon, Paul, Taborska, Anna, Sorondo, Marc, Bondoni, Gustavo]

Friday, September 02, 2016

Supernatural Friday: Don't Open That Cursed Box!

Today’s Supernatural Friday is about cursed boxes. It is said that curse boxes are locked, wooden containers with sigils on the exterior. They are designed to contain magic, evil spirits, or cursed objects to prevent them from causing harm. Cursed objects are created by magic, and can kill their owners. The idea for the curse box may have come from the legend of Pandora's Box, a box that holds all the evil and all the diseases in the world, until - once opened - it released all this evil upon the world, leaving only Hope behind.


In the fictional world of television, one show, Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchesters' father, John Winchester, had curse boxes made for him by Bobby Singer. He kept these at his secret storage space in New York. One of his curse boxes was stolen by thieves working for Bela, who worked for those who paid to get their hands on supernatural objects, and when they opened it, they found a cursed rabbit's foot inside.

One now well-known cursed box, thanks to an episode of Paranormal Witness about four years ago, and a movie, The Possession, that came out in September, dybbuk box, or dibbuk box. It is a wine cabinet which is said to be haunted by a dybbuk. In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a restless, usually malicious, spirit believed to be able to haunt and even possess the living. The cabinet has the Shema carved into the side of it. Its dimensions are 12.5" × 7.5" × 16.25”. Shema are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and are the title of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.

The term "Dibbuk Box" was first used by Kevin Mannis to describe the box in the item information for an eBay auction to describe it as the subject of an original story (not the story for the film) describing supposedly true events which he considered to be related to the box. Mannis, a writer and creative professional by trade, owned a small antiques and furniture refinishing business in Portland, Oregon at the time. According to Mannis' story, he purportedly bought the box at an estate sale in 2003. It had belonged to a German Holocaust survivor named Havela, who had escaped to Spain and purchased it there before her immigration to the United States. Havela's granddaughter told Mannis that the box had been bought in Spain after the Holocaust. Upon hearing that the box was a family heirloom, Mannis offered to give the box back to the family, but the granddaughter insisted that he take it.

She said, "We don't want it."

The box had been kept in her grandmother's sewing room and never opened because a dybbuk live inside it. Upon opening the box, Mannis found that it contained two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with cord, a lock of black/brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word "Shalom", a small, golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs; all items supposedly used in Jewish folklore to exorcise demons.

Numerous owners of the box have reported that strange phenomena accompany it. In his story, Mannis claimed he experienced a series of horrific nightmares shared with other people while they were in possession of the box or when they stayed at his home while he had it. His mother suffered a stroke on the same day he gave her the box as a birthday present — October 28. Every owner of the box has reported smells of cat urine or jasmine flowers, plus nightmares involving an old hag accompany the box.

Iosif Neitzke, a Missouri student at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and the last person to auction the box on eBay, claimed that the box caused lights to burn out in his house and his hair to fall out. Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, had been following Neitzke's blogs regarding the box, and when he was ready to be rid of the box, Neitzke sold it to Haxton.

Haxton wrote The Dibbuk Box, and claimed that he subsequently developed strange health problems, including hives, coughing up blood, and "head-to-toe welts" Haxton consulted with Rabbis (Jewish religious leaders) to try to figure out a way to seal the dybbuk in the box again. Apparently successful, he took the freshly resealed box and hid it at a secret location, which he will not reveal.

Skeptic Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths' College, told an interviewer he believed that the box's owners were "already primed to be looking out for bad stuff.  In other words, if one is primed to believe they’ve cursed. Bad stuff that happens is what you perceive to be the cause. 

Another cursed box is used in the film, Silent Hill. I can’t tell you for sure if it was used in the video game, as only a gamer that has played it, can testify to that.

Of course, the most famous cursed “box” is Pandora’s. The original Greek word was 'pithos', which is a large jar, sometimes as large as a small person (Diogenes of Sinope was said to have once slept in one), mostly used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying. In the case of Pandora, this jar may have been made of clay for use as storage as in the usual sense, or of bronze metal as an unbreakable prison. The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated Hesiod's tale of Pandora into Latin. Erasmus renderedpithos as the Greek pyxis, meaning "box". The phrase "Pandora's box" has endured ever since.

I will end this article with the Greek myth, “Pandora’s Box.”

Once up a time, a long time ago, Zeus ordered Hephaestus (Aphrodite's husband) to make him a daughter. It was the first woman made out of clay. Hephaestus made a beautiful woman and named her Pandora. 
Zeus sent his new daughter, Pandora, down to earth so that she could marry Epimetheus, who was a gentle but lonely man. 
Zeus was not being kind. He was getting even. Epimetheus and Prometheus were brothers. Zeus was mad at one of the brothers, Prometheus, for giving people fire without asking Zeus first.  
Zeus gave Pandora a little box with a big heavy lock on it. He made her promise never to open the box. He gave the key to Pandora’s husband and told him to never open the box. Zeus was sure that Epimetheus' curiosity would get the better of him, and that either Epimetheus or his brother would open the box. 
Pandora was very curious. She wanted to see what was inside the box, but Epimetheus said no. Better not. "You know your father," Epimetheus sighed, referring to Zeus. "He’s a tricky one."
One day, when Epimetheus lay sleeping, Pandora stole the key and opened the box.
Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late. All the bad things were already out of the box. They flew away, out into the world.
Epimetheus woke up at the sound of her sobbing. “I opened the box and all these ugly things flew out,” she cried. “I tried to catch them, but they all got out.” Pandora opened the box to show him how empty it was. But the box was not quite empty. One tiny bug flew quickly out before Pandora could slam the lid shut again.

“Hello, Pandora,” said the bug, hovering just out of reach. “My name is Hope.” With a nod of thanks for being set free, Hope flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.