Friday, March 29, 2013

Supernatural Friday: The Easter Bunny Is Gonna Get You!

Easter is almost here and let's talk about scary Easter legends, or at the very least, symbols of Easter that can be scary.

Rabbits.  Cute, fluffy, in colors of white, gray, brown, black, even more than one color. Nothing wrong with bunnies. Well, you’re wrong!

One such frightening bunny is the Bunnyman of the Bunnyman Bridge, a concrete tunnel of a Southern Railway overpass on Colchester Road in Clifton, Virginia (in Northern Virginia). You heard of the urban legend of the serial killer with a hook haunting lover’s lanes? Well, how about a giant rabbit threatening those with an axe? Any story involving a figure dressed in a white bunny suit armed with an ax, threatening children or vandalizing property is memorable. When the details get juicy—mutilated animals, murdered children, bodies hanging from bridges—well, you have a unique urban legend. 

The story of the Bunnyman, which circulated in Northern Virginia and Maryland since the seventies, may have been kept mostly alive by teens and college students. The story is that if you go to the bridge on Halloween, the Bunnyman’s ghost will appear and kill you at midnight. Teenagers go in groups, or a few, to party as they wait, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. 

The Bunnyman’s fame doesn’t stop there. This unusual ax wielding killer dressed in a bunny costume became the subject of a segment on Scariest Places on Earth on the Fox Channel. The segment, “Terror on Bunnyman’s Bridge,” broadcasted in 2001. The Bunnyman went from local legend to national, maybe even worldwide, status, alongside the legends of Bloody Mary and the hatchet murderers of Lover’s Lane.  

There are even films on him on YouTube. One is the Legend of the Bunnyman, a short film at

There’s even a horror movie that’s a cult film: Donnie Darko. Did the Bunnyman legend inspire this film? There are claims that it did. The movie takes place in the town of Middlesex, Virginia, and features Frank, an ominous character, dressed in a bunny suit. If you’ve never seen this movie, you can purchase it at, or various other places where DVDs for sale. Could be a good way to spend the evening before Easter! Just don’t let the kids see it if you have any—it would be like watching a film where Santa Claus is an axe-wielding psychopath—beloved holiday characters should never be warped for children.
The next on Bunnyman is taken from my book, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales:

The myth first popped up in 1976. The first story has the Bunnyman responsible for the deaths of two children in Clifton. Rumors of the disappearance of other children, plus the horrible mutilations of animals, circulated during the telling of the story that year. No one dared go out at night, at least not near the bridge where this psycho is said to be seen hanging around. 

In 1992, more had been added to the legend, this time telling of murdered children hung from a covered bridge, the supposed killer, an inmate escapee dressed in a bunny suit. The Bunnyman earned his nickname because he nourished himself on rabbits while perused by the police; while other variations of the tale had him hunting rabbits and using their pelts to make clothing for himself.

Years later, when people began using the Internet, this terrifying legend was reborn. Like all urban legends, it rose to new heights. One widely circulated version on the Net has inmates from an insane asylum escaped in 1904 while being transferred to Lorton prison. One of the inmates was named Douglas J. Grifon. He murdered fellow inmate Marcus Wallster and then became the Bunnyman. One of the inmates was named Douglas J. Grifon. He murdered fellow inmate Marcus Wallster and then became the Bunnyman. The location, plus the names of several victims Grifon killed as the Bunnyman and dates of their murders are mentioned. It even adds that anyone could check the Clifton Town Library to verify these facts. It even adds that anyone could check the Clifton Town Library to verify these facts.

Of course, it’s been proven false. There has never been an insane asylum in Fairfax County. Lorton Prison never came to be until 1910. And when it did, it was part of the District of Columbia corrections system, not Virginia’s. Adding to the falsifications, neither Wallster nor Grifon appeared in any court records. Pounding the final nail into this story, no Clifton Town Library exists, either. Is it possible that this story is a fictional account with the makings of a great horror story? Could be. . .

Another Web site, Urban Legends and Superstitions at posted the same story, adding that a note left on the inmate, Marcus, who supposedly was found hanging from the tunnel entrance beneath Bunnyman Bridge. The words on that piece of paper were, "You'll never find me no matter how hard you try! Signed, The Bunnyman." The Web site goes on to say that if you walk all the way down the tunnel at around midnight, the Bunnyman will grab you and hang you from the entrance of the bridge. There’s a story set in 2001 that a guide and six local students (no mention if they were in high school or college) had found mutilated rabbit parts, heard noises, and thought they saw figures moving in the woods. Frightened, they left the area.

There are many stories told by young people about Bunnyman. I mentioned a couple of sites on the Web with some stories, but there are others on the Internet, a great breeding ground for the Bunnyman legend.  Enjoy some of the variations of the Bunnyman legend that I discovered. These are the more up-to-date ones, showing that Bunnyman is alive and well, and still scaring people.

In Reston, Virginia, there used to be a dirt road leading off of Sunset Hills Road, just before it intersected with Reston Avenue. The kids in town knew that it led to the Bunnyman’s house. Supposedly, one Halloween night he dressed up in a bunny costume, shot his wife and kids, then opened the door to trick-or-treaters all night with the corpses of his family still in the house.

Another tale has a guy in a bunny costume standing in the middle of the road at the bottom of a hill in Clifton. As cars came down the hill, he would throw an ax at the vehicle and somehow, he always killed the person or persons inside.

There’s the tale of a mental patient that escaped from a bus transporting patients when it crashed in the woods near the bridge. The authorities were called in, but when they searched for the man, they never found him. Later, carcasses of rabbits began to be found, scattered around the bridge. It seems that the mental patient was living in the woods, surviving off of the meat of the rabbits. But when they discovered some teenagers gutted and hanging from the bridge, the local authorities put out a manhunt for "the Bunnyman,” as the local children called him. The story goes that they eventually caught up with him. Just as they were about to apprehend the Bunnyman, though, he jumped in front of a train roaring down the tracks. Since then, it is said that the Bunnyman’s spirit haunts the bridge, and that on Halloween at midnight, his spirit becomes visible right over the bridge that bears his name. Drunken teenagers can always be found at the base of the bridge at midnight on Halloween, waiting to see if the spirit of Bunnyman will appear.

 Another take on the legend has a young man from Clifton, Virginia who came upon the bridge while traveling. Later, he killed his parents and dragged their bodies into the woods to hang them from the bridge, and then committed suicide. In 1943, three teenagers, two men and a young woman, went to the Bunnyman Bridge on Halloween night. The next morning they were found dead, hung from the bridge, their bodies slashed open. Notes were found attached to their feet, with the words written," You'll never catch the Bunnyman!"

One witness had his own personal experiences with Bunnyman Bridge. He has been out there about a dozen times, since it’s about fifteen minutes from his house. Most of the time, he and his friends would hang out there, waiting to see if anything would happen. Nothing happened, but they got this feeling that someone or something was watching them. Even though the bridge is located about twenty-five miles from Washington D.C., it is still in the middle of nowhere. Only a few houses nestle within the woods that surround the bridge and railroad tracks.

The last time he and his buddies went out there, they heard voices that came from the woods, whispers that sounded as if they originated twenty feet from where the young men stood. Frightened, they bolted.

Was Bunnyman ever real? Many legends may begin with a kernel of truth somewhere in their murky pasts. Brian A. Conley, a historian-archivist
at the Fairfax County Public Library, haunted by this ‘rascally rabbit,’ pursued extensive research if see if there had ever really been a real Bunnyman. 

And another myth that tells you never trust that rascally rabbit! The Native American tale of “How the Rabbit Fooled the Alligator.”

When the animals talked with each other just like people do today, a very handsome alligator lay sunning himself luxuriously on a log in which we now call the Florida Everglades. Then along came Rabbit, who said to him, "Alligator, have you ever seen the Evil Spirit?"

"No, Rabbit, but I am not afraid of the Evil Spirit. Are you?" replied Alligator.

"Well now, Mr. A., I did see the Evil Spirit. Do you know what he said about you?" asked Rabbit.

"Now, just what did the Evil Spirit have to say about me?" Alligator replied.

"The Evil Spirit said that you are afraid of him," said Rabbit. "Besides, he said you would not even look at him."

"Rubbish," said Alligator. "I know that I am not afraid of the Evil Spirit and I am not afraid to look at him. Please tell him so for me the next time you see him."

"I do not think you are willing to crawl up the hill the day after tomorrow and allow me to introduce you to the Evil Spirit himself," said Rabbit.

"Oh, yes, I am willing and ready to go with you," replied Alligator. "Let us go tomorrow."

"That is just fine with me," replied Rabbit. "But Mr. A., when you see some smoke rising somewhere, do not be afraid. It is a sign that the Evil Spirit is moving about and will soon be on his way."

"You do not have to worry about me," said Alligator. "I told you I am not afraid of the Evil Spirit."

"When you see the friendly birds flying about, and the deer running at a gallop, do not be afraid," said Rabbit.

"Don't you be concerned, because I will not be afraid," repeated Alligator.

"If you hear some fire crackling and its comes closer to you, do not be scared," said Rabbit. "If the grasses near you begin to smoke, do not be scared. The Evil Spirit is only wandering about. Then is the time for you to get a good look at him when the heat is hottest."

After Rabbit's final words of wisdom, he left Alligator sunning himself.

Next day, Rabbit returned and asked Alligator to crawl up the hill, following him. Rabbit led him to the very top and directed him to lie in the tallest grass. Then Rabbit left Alligator, laughing to himself all the way down the hill, because he had led Alligator to the farthest place away from his home in the water.

On his way, Rabbit came to a smoldering stump. He picked up a piece, carrying it back to the high grass, where he made a fire so the wind blew it toward Alligator.

Soon the fire surrounded the place, burning closer and closer to Alligator. Rabbit then ran to a sandy knoll and sat down to watch the fun, chuckling over the trick he had played on Alligator.

Only a short time passed when the smoke rose in thick spirals, and the birds flew upward and away. Other animals ran for their lives across the field.

Alligator cried out, "Oh, Rabbit, where are you?"

"You just lie there quietly," replied Rabbit. "It's only the Evil Spirit prowling about."

The fire began to roar and spread rapidly. "Oh, Rabbit, what is that I hear?" asked Alligator.

"That's just the Evil Spirit breathing hard," replied Rabbit. "Do not be scared. You will see him soon!"

Rabbit became so amused that he rolled and rolled on the sandy knoll and kicked his heels up in the air with glee.

Soon the grass surrounding Alligator caught fire and began to burn beneath him. Alligator rolled and twisted with pain from his burns.

"Do not be afraid now, Alligator," called Rabbit. "Just be quiet for a little while longer, and the Evil Spirit will be there for you to get a firsthand look at him."

Alligator could not stand any more toasting! He started to crawl as fast as he could down the hillside toward the water. He wriggled through the burning grass, snapping his jaws, rolling in pain, and choking from the smoke.

Rabbit, upon his sandy knoll, laughed and laughed, jumping up and down with delight at the trick he had played on Alligator.

"Wait a minute, Alligator. Don't be in such a hurry. You said you were not afraid of the Evil Spirit," called Rabbit.

By that time Alligator had reached his home in the water, tumbling in to stop the pain of his roasted skin.

Never again did Handsome Alligator trust that trickster, Rabbit, or any of his family, ever!

Some films concerning creepy rabbits for that freaked-out Easter viewing:

Donnie Darko: Donnie Darko doesn't get along too well with his family, his teachers and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him. He has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank - a large bunny which only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie's escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. Donnie's mental illness, if such it is, may never allow him to find out for sure.

Night of the Lepus: A 1972 horror film about giant monstrous rabbits terrorizing the Southwest. Janet Leigh (Psycho (1960) and The Fog (1980)), Stuart Whitman, and DeForest Kelley (Star Trek)  are among others starring in the horror movie. The storyline has Cole Hillman's Arizona ranch plagued with 'mongrel' rabbits, and he wants to employ an ecologically sound control method. As a favor to college benefactor Hillman, college president Elgin Clark calls in zoologist Roy Bennett to help. Bennett immediately begins injecting rabbits with hormones and genetically mutated blood in an effort to develop a method of disrupting rabbit reproduction. One of the test subjects escapes, resulting in a race of bloodthirsty, wolf-sized, man-, horse-, and cow-eating bunnies. Eventually the National Guard is called in for a final showdown with the terrorizing rabbits.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail:. The movie starts out with Arthur, King of the Britons, looking for knights to sit with him at Camelot. He finds many knights including Sir Galahad the pure, Sir Lancelot the brave, the quiet Sir Bedevere, and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir Lancelot. They do not travel on horses, but pretend they do and have their servants bang coconuts to make the sound of horse's hooves. Through satire of certain events in history (witch trials, the black plague) they find Camelot, but after literally a quick song and dance they decide that they do not want to go there. While walking away, God (who seems to be grumpy) come to them from a cloud and tells them to find the Holy Grail. They agree and begin their search. While they search for the Grail, scenes of the knight's tales appear and why they have the name they have. Throughout their search they meet interesting people and knights along the way. Most of the characters die; some through a killer rabbit.

And a good film you can watch with the kids: Harvey (1950—there is a later TV movie of it, starring James Stewart too): The classic stage hit gets the Hollywood treatment in the story of Elwood P. Dowd who makes friends with a spirit taking the form of a human-sized rabbit named Harvey that only he sees (and a few privileged others on occasion also.) After his sister tries to commit him to a mental institution, a comedy of errors ensues. Elwood and Harvey become the catalysts for a family mending its wounds and for romance blossoming in unexpected places.

So when you grab that chocolate bunny Easter morning, take another look at that candy bunny. After all, he just might be looking back, revealing a mouth full of fangs so instead of you biting his ears off, he just might beat you to it and bite yours off!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Got a Short Story of Mine Accepted for an Anthology

I am happy to report that my short horror story, "Devil in the Details" was accepted for an anthology, Harboring Secrets: Tales & Reflections from the Chesapeake Bay Writers. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Spring Showers Brings Hades' Lost Love

Spring is here. Well, technically anyway. Winter still seems to have a claw-hold. Spring would be represented by Persephone, just as winter could be Hades. Persephone was the goddess queen of the underworld, wife of the god Hades. She was also the goddess of spring growth, worshiped alongside her mother Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries. 

The story goes that she was in a flowery meadow with her Nymph companions. For a while Hades had been watching her, desiring her.  She was seized by Hades and carried off to the underworld as his bride. Her mother Demeter despaired at the loss of her daughter. She searched for her the all over the world, accompanied by the goddess Hekate. When she learned that Zeus had conspired in her daughter's abduction she grew furious. She refused to let the earth fruit until Persephone was returned to her. Zeus consented. Except the girl tasted a handful of pomegranate seeds while in Hades’ realm. This meant she had to spend a part of the year with her husband in the underworld. Her annual return to the earth in spring was marked by the flowering of the meadows and sudden growth of the new grain. Her return to the underworld in winter caused plants dying, trees losing their leaves, and the halting of growth.

Persephone is usually depicted as a young goddess holding sheaves of grain and a flaming torch. Other times, she is in the company of her mother Demeter. While others, she appears enthroned beside Hades.

Another myth concerns those who say that on the spring equinox the length of day is exactly equal to the length of night, but don’t be fooled by that old rumor. True days of day-night equality always fall before the spring equinox and after the autumnal, or fall, equinox. When it happens depends on where you are located on the surface of the Earth. By the time the center of the sun passes over the Equator—the official definition of equinox—the day will be slightly longer than the night everywhere on Earth. The difference is a matter of geometry, atmosphere, and language.

Whether warm or cold, length of days or not, spring is here, with Easter not far behind. Time to get outdoors and enjoy the days before summer's blazing temperatures hit. As you see plants popping up their leafy heads, trees budding and hear birds singing, think of  Persephone dancing in a meadow, before running to her mother's arms.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Myths of St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is this Sunday. What do you know about it?
You say I will be wearin' o' the green that day because that is right. But once upon a time, did you know blue was the color to wear? Because blue was the color of Ireland's flag. It was changed to green due to the color of Ireland's shamrock, no doubt.
St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. Except that would be hard, as there never been snakes in Ireland. Spearheaded from England and the Continent thousands of years ago, Ireland emerged from the Ice Age snake-free.
And forget that cute little guy on the Lucky Charms cereal box. Leprechauns are not cute or nice. Like many fairies, They were brutish and nasty, besdies being short too. They were the grumpy, insufferable , alcoholic elves in employ of other fairies. They made shows for the fairies (why they're called cobblers) and guarded their treasure vigorously. Unfortunately to their eternal frustration, their treasure was revealed by rainbows. Next time you watch that horror film, Leprechaun, the actor plays the true fey being.
No matter if myth or truth, enjoy the day and dance a jig. Just don't overdo the green beer and Irish food.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Ghost Pets

I’ve blogged about human spirits before, but what about beloved pets who passed away? Do they come back in spectral form and haunt the homes and lands of where they lived and roamed?

Sometimes we still feel their muzzles touching our arms, hear their little footsteps in the hall, rubbing against our legs, or the jingling tags on collars. Sometimes we see them. Hear them.

One former owner was author Dusty Rainbolt of Lewisville, Texas. She never believed in apparitions, actually thought that those who did, had “one too many mind-altering experiences in the 1960’s.” Then she had her own ghostly experience with one of her own cats named Maynard. A month after Maynard died, Rainbolt lay in bed when something invisible jump up on to the covers, padded across the bed and settled down at her feet. She felt sure her pet had come back to say goodbye.

Another ghost cat I had heard stories about concerned the one that haunts Ferry Plantation in Virginia Beach, Virginia, along with eleven human phantoms. For too many years beyond a feline’s even nine lives, a cat has been seen and heard in this historical house. When I was there with a paranormal group led by Ghost Eyes, I caught a cat’s meow in the kitchen, where the head docent, , was telling us some of the ghost stories about the place. Like it was at her feet, demanding to be picked up and petted, or fed. And no, there was no cat seen there at the time.

I had a male cat, Ra, that we had to put to sleep, when we lived in El Cajon, California. A friend called me a week later, saying she saw him lying in the kitchen window. "I thought you were taking him to the vet's to be put to sleep due to his condition?" I said, "Kathy, he's been dead a week." Silence. That freaked my friend out. A few times, when I lay on top of the bed, something I could never see would jumped up onto the mattress, walk up to me and lie down. Ra had never left us. I never mind, not like the human spirit that also haunted our place and was one of very few that scared me, along with others who been to visit me and my husband.Another cat, other than one I shared from a chapter in my new nonfiction ghost book later in this blog post, was a cat meowing in the auditorium in the Byrd Theater in Richmond, Virginia, which runs second-run movies.

Dozens of hotels around the country have ghost cats. Some of the more famous ones include The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Ark., where an orange tabby named Morris (because he looked similar to the spokes cat for the 9 Lives Cat Food) lived in the '70s and '80s. Morris used to greet guests from his favorite chair in the lobby. When he died, the hotel staff buried him in the hotel’s rose garden, but visitors over the years say he still sits in his favorite chair from time to time and has also been seen wandering around the rose garden. In San Antonio, Texas, visitors to the Marriott Plaza San Antonio Hotel claim to have seen a woman wearing a white dress strolling through the upper levels of the hotel with a cat in her arms.

The Los Angeles Pet Cemetery known as L.A. Pet Memorial Park on Old Scandia Lane in Calabasas, California is the final resting place for many of Hollywood’s famous animal actors including cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy’s horse Topper and Petey the pitbull who starred in the movie Little Rascals. It is at this graveyard that Rudolph Valentino’s Great Dane, Kabar is said to still walk through this hillside cemetery and playfully lick people who stop at his grave around Halloween. The dog died in 1929, three years after his owner's passing.
In another cemetery—a human one—in Richmond, Virginia is the tomb of famous author Ellen Glasgow. After she passed away, there was a stipulation in her will that her two pet dogs that preceded her in death be dug up from the backyard of her home and buried with her. There are those who claim to hear these two dogs running around and whining at the graveside, late at night. Is Ellen tossing them sticks to fetch?

The ghost of a small dog has also been seen coming and going from a
bedroom at the Whaley House in San Diego, California, as well as outside the house in the yard. In Maryland, there’s a ghostly canine that snarls at travelers on certain roads in this state. 

The Pony Express hasn’t been used for delivering mail since mid-1800s, but hoof beats of ghost horses are hears galloping pass the Hollenberg Station in Kansas. There’s a cliff in Texas—called Stampede Mesa nowadays—where cattle stampeded over it and perished back in the 1800s. Today, there are those who claim they hear hooves of steers still stampeding.

A bull terrier called Sally was a Union Army mascot at Gettysburg. There are those who say they still hear her growls as if standing over fallen soldiers, protecting them.

There’s a legend about a cat called D.C. that stalks the United States Capitol. It is described as having glowing eyes and appears from shadows at people. It is supposedly always appears before major national disasters. It had been seen before the stock market of 1929 and before President Kennedy’s assassination in ’63.  Haven’t heard if it had been seen before September 11, 2001, or other terrible things since or before. Be interesting to find out.

In Blacksburg, Virginia, there once lived an African-American who helped his community by hunting and bringing back game to share with the hungry. Every morning he would go out with his beagle. The dog helped with tracking and scared off larger animals such as bear and wildcat. But one day, the old man did not return. When the community went out to search for him, they found both his body and his dog’s. Apparently, both had been murdered by someone, though no one had ever been caught or convicted. The man and his dog were buried together in a Blacksburg cemetery on top of a nearby hill. 

The legend goes on to say that on the anniversary of the hunter’s murder, a dog can be heard barking—sounding exactly like a beagle. Then the dog’s barking switches to a long howl as if mourning both their unsolved deaths. 

The Black Dog is a common occurrence in many hauntings. Most of the tales come from Great Britain. Stories such as this are surprisingly common and some of them notably ancient. Sightings of such creatures are in a class of their own in the ghost world. Ghostly black dogs have been seen throughout Britain with few counties being left unaffected, though the form and identity of the beast may differ.
Apparitions of this sort may be distinguished from normal flesh and blood black canines by features such as large or glowing eyes—sometimes only one—their ability to appear or disappear out of thin air or into and out of the ground, no head, two heads; or the ability to change their size or appearance.
The Black Dogs go under many names depending which county you are in. In the north of England in counties such as Yorkshire and Lancashire, you will hear names such as Guytrash, Shriker, or Barguest; in East Anglia and Norfolk you will hear Black Shuck, Skeff, or Moddey Dhoo; and in the south of England you will hear names like Yeth or Wish Hounds. The origin of the word Guytrash is unknown, but Shuck can be traced back to the Old English Scucca, meaning Demon while Barguest may come from the German 'Bargeist' meaning “spirit of the (funeral) bier.” The demon association is sometimes emphasized by the title ‘’Devil Dog.” In the south, Yeth means Heath, while Wish, in a similar vein, is an old Sussex word for marsh. This name for the hounds is widely used in Sussex, but the origin also seems linked to the term Witch Hounds, which is also common. Whether there is any connection between the two is unknown. The names may only be referring to the fact that these dogs are often seen in wild country places. In many places, the dogs are seen as omens of death. To see one means either a portent of your own death or the death of a family member.
But you don’t have to go to the British Isles to see one. There have been some of these beasts reported in Virginia. There’s a legend of one that has been seen in Goochland, big as a young calf as it roamed the county. Sightings of it have always been reported to be near the State Farm, at the entrance to Thorncliff, and also at Chestnut Hill Bottom. Unlike Black Shuck in England, this one has never portended the death of anyone. There have been no tales of this animal seen since 1900 though.
Often, like the traditional Black Dogs seen in Britain, it would appear out of nowhere, trot alongside someone on foot or horseback or in a buggy. Even though it looked fearsome and was very big, it didn’t harm anyone. Some, though, didn’t want the dog accompanying them and would shoot at the animal. The bullets would just pass through its body, frightening the shooters, while the dog just kept trotting beside them.
A lawyer named P. A. L. Smith, Sr. used to walk from his house to the State Farm, where he caught a train into Richmond. On many evenings when he returned he would find the black dog beside him as he headed home.
A woman who lived near the State Farm claimed that the dog entered her house by opening the screen door. She said that it walked over to her old-fashioned icebox, unfastened the door, took out some food, and then shut the door and left the house. An interesting side note about this woman’s house was that other strange phenomena also happened there. Many would come to see the windows and doors of her house rock and rattle for no obvious cause, so when she told of the food-stealing Black Dog many believed her.
Another Black Dog story is set in southwest Virginia, in the Saltville area. In the past, the roads became black and dusty, packed down with cinders from a factory there. Travelers on some of these roads swore they heard footsteps behind them, or saw dust clouds rising, but no horse or wagon would be visible. There would be reports of a dog, black as pitch, encountered on these roads too. It would keep pace with the frightened person and lope through ditches alongside the road, leap fences or pass through them, and go through water, no splashes seen. Some would say that the beast would jump up right behind them as they rode their horse down the road, spooking their horse and them.
A man named Tom Hurt reported an encounter with the Black Dog in the 1900s. When his shift ended at the Mathieson screening plant he walked home. The dog appeared and followed him for a quarter of a mile. Tom decided to test it, so he threw several rocks at it, aiming for the white mark on its head. Instead of hitting the animal, the rocks apparently passed through and left it unharmed. Tom shot five lead balls from his gun into it, but once again, the dog was unhurt. Frightened, Tom felt he had to destroy it. But as they neared British Row, the dog bolted ahead and vanished at a large bridge on the road. Just then, Tom heard a woman’s panicked voice, screaming. Worried that the dog could be attacking someone else, Tom got a neighbor from a nearby house to help him search for the woman. It didn’t matter. Even with lanterns, they could find neither the woman nor the dog.
Though other residents of Saltville say they have seen it from time to time, its mystery remains unsolved.
In Mathews County, there is a legend of two black, headless ones seen running in the woods of Old House Woods.
Then there’s the spectral hound of Blue Ridge.
According to the tale, this massive black hound was seen along Skyline Drive during the late seventeenth century. At that time, there was a pass traveled by people going from Botetourt County to Bedford County and also used by visitors accessing the mineral springs. Just at sunset, along the wildest section of this pass, the black dog would appear. It would pace in a listening attitude for 200 feet and then return back the way it came. It did this each night, starting at sunset and dissipating at the crack of dawn. The animal’s legend grew from one end of the commonwealth to the other. Some believed it was sent by some master to watch, others thought it was a witch dog. No matter what they thought, all were frightened by this apparition.
During one night with a full moon, a party decided to arm themselves and make it through the pass, dog or not dog. As they approached, they saw a dog bigger than any dog they had ever seen before. They urged their steeds on. But the horses snorted with fear, and in spite of whip, spur, and rein, would not go near the dog. The dog kept pacing as if no one was near. The men were unable to make the pass by horseback until daylight. Their comrades laughed at them when they told the tale.
So they decided to wait in ambush with guns, kill the animal, and bring in its hide. As the last light of day faded away the dog appeared and began his march as usual. They fired at him, over and over. Not one bullet appeared to hit it. Frightened, the hunters fled back to civilization.
And so, the dog continued to do this each night for the next seven years until one day a beautiful woman came over from Europe, searching for her missing husband. Eight years before, he had come over to make her a home in the new land. She had traced him to Bedford County, but at that point it was if he vanished off the face of the earth. There seemed to be nothing more she could do, until she heard of the tale of the great black dog that night after night kept vigil on the pass. She begged to be taken there, wondering if it was her husband’s dog. When the dog saw her he came over to her. He laid his head in her lap, then stood up and walked a short way, pausing to look back as if making sure she followed him. He led her to a large rock and with a whine, began to dig at the ground. Suddenly, with a low wail, he vanished.
The woman told the others to dig at that spot, but at the time they had brought her there, no one thought to bring digging implements. Someone galloped off on horseback to get some. When he came back with the tools, they dug until they found the skeletons of a man and a dog. The man’s bony hand had a seal ring circle one finger. He also had heraldic embroidery in silk that the woman recognized as something she had made for him. They removed the bones for proper burial and she returned home. According to the legend, after that day, the dog was never seen again.
Another spectral canine is a headless one that some say they have seen in the Northern Neck area of Virginia, east of Fredericksburg. It appears in creek bottoms when mists often rose above marshes. This headless beast is said to wander for the most part, in the lower section of the Neck—mostly alone, though there are occasions that he is joined by a companion. This companion is not always one shape, but three different ones— a white mule, a headless man, or another dog, this one with a head with glaring red eyes. Though not black as the other spectral dogs seen in Virginia, it is brown and large as a calf. It wears a chain around its neck that drags on the ground and rattles as it moves. The legend goes on to say that it is seen at night, between Cockrell’s Neck and Heathsville, and only after or before a local resident’s death.
There is a belief that the Devil pays visits to people in the form of a dog. Most of these visits are to men who lead notorious, wicked lives. Like the story of an old rich man who owned a lot of slaves and led a wicked life. He had been married four or five times, each wife would become ill and die, or be found dead for no apparent reason. With their deaths, he inherited a lot of money. When his slaves died, he wouldn’t let anyone come help bury them. It was thought he killed them.
As he lay dying, the neighbors came to sit with him. It was midnight and everyone expected him to die at any time. There came a noise at the door. Someone got up and opened it. A large black dog with eyes as big as saucers and glowing like balls of fire stood there. It entered and walked up to the bed. It reared up to place its front paws on mattress at the foot of the bed and stared at the old man. The old man screamed that the Devil had come for him. He tried to escape by getting out of bed, but fell back and died.
As for the dog, without a sound, it turned around and went back out the door, never to be seen again.
The last spectral dog spooky story is set in the Eastern Shore, in the Seymour House in Accomac. An elderly aunt was visiting the house and grew ill while there. A strange black dog no one knew or seen before appeared mysteriously on the stairway. No reason had been given why, but one of the household shot at it on the fourth step as it began to climb the stairs. The animal dissipated, and when they searched, they couldn’t find it. The aunt passed away four days later. Had this creature about to steal her soul? Or was this a foretelling of her death? Whatever the reason, no one ever saw it again.

“Ghost Cat” from Haunted Richmond II:

We have a third cat and it’s not even a living one. When I first saw it, it was back in January 2011. I had walked into our laundry room to take some wash out of the washer and put into the dryer. Now, our laundry room is not big. I looked down at the open maw of our dryer and saw the upper gray body and tail of a small cat turning around. Naturally, I thought it was our older cat, Ripley, as she is small and gray, but when I flipped on the light switch by me, there was no cat to be seen anywhere! There was no way for her to have dashed out the door, as I stood in it and she would have smacked my legs.

I turned around and stepped out. Our other younger black cat, Bast, had this wide-eyed freaked out look and she sat there tensed. I walked into the living room, looking for Ripley, and found her asleep on the floor.  That whole night, as I sat on the couch, I would look toward the doorway that led into the kitchen and where you could see the doorway of the laundry room, watching Bast stalk slowly to the laundry room and peek in as if looking for something. Even when she lay down on the floor outside of the laundry room she kept staring at it.

The next time I had an encounter with the ghostly gray kitty was when I came home one morning a couple of weeks later from exercising at Curves. With the door open, sunlight filtered in, and I caught a gray cat rearing up on its forelegs to peer into the top hole of Bast’s kitty-condo. Then it dissipated right before my eyes! I stepped over there and saw Bast in the living room, body tensed and looking freaked out. Again, I found Ripley asleep on top of the couch.

My adult son, Chris, was next to see the feline spirit. He rushed into the office/sewing room, yelling, “I saw the ghost cat!”

Bill and I looked at him. He blurted out, “I saw it standing in the doorway leading into the kitchen. It disappeared.”

Ripley was in the office at that time, as Bill was in there and whenever Bill is home, you can be sure to find his gray shadow. Even Bast was, too.

Who is this phantom feline? Chris thought it was our past cat, Samhain, who passed away from a heart murmur some years ago at the age of thirteen. He thought the cat was black, but I know the color gray when I see it and know it was not Sam that I saw. Whatever it is, it doesn’t bother me. Now I can say I have another cat... It’s just not alive.

So, with so many stories of beloved animals coming back from the dead to visit us is it any wonder that many search for proof beyond death. Not just for humans, but for animals, too.  Have you had a pet return to you, or do you know a story of one? Leave a comment, telling about it.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Myths of Wind

It's March 1st and sometimes March comes in like a lion, with heavy winds. Of course, it still being winter, understandable. But are there myths or legends about wind? Well. . . yes, there are.

The Kamaitachi—Japanese wind spirit—was traditionally classified as a wind yokai ("monster"). It is often associated with a trio of weasels with sharp claws, rides on a gust of wind and cuts peoples' skin on the legs. There are times that the three are described as brothers. Other times, as triplets. Yes, triplets can be brothers, but again, a female can be born among them, or all tree can be sisters.

A person walking in the mountains will be beset by a ferocious wind, and later discovered with deep but painless gashes in their skin as if by some very sharp instrument. The myth goes on to say that the first weasel knocked the unsuspecting victim down, the second cut the victim's flesh and the third applied medication to the wounds. By the time the victim realized what had happened, he/she were left only with painful wounds that weren't bleeding.

Now, Ysätters-Kajsa is a female wind-troll. People in the Swedish province of Närke used to believe in this creature. She was probably the only one of her kind in Scandinavia.

In Slavic mythology, the Raróg, sometimes also known as Zhar Ptitsa or Żar Ptak, is a hawk, falcon, or fiery dwarf, turning himself into a whirlwind. While in Lusatia and the Urals it is believe to throw a knife into a whirlwind, in order to kill the demon that resides inside it. Bulgarians, Russians, and Pommeranians cast themselves face down before a whirlwind, hoping to ward off misfortune and illness. As for Russians, they would shout "a belt around your neck!" in order to strangle the demon.

Shenlong literally "spirit dragon." This is a spiritual dragon from Chinese mythology that controls wind and rain. These giants floated across the sky and due to their blue color that changed constantly, made it difficult to see clearly. Shenlong governed the wind, clouds and rain on which all agrarian life depended. The Chinese took great care to avoid offending them. If the Shenlong grew angry or felt neglected, the result was bad weather, drought, flood or thunderstorms.

There was an Egyptian mother goddess, called the "Hidden One". She is the personification of the life-bringing northern wind, and often portrayed as a snake or a snake-head on which the crown of Lower Egypt rests.

The Anemoi were wind gods in Greek mythology. Each were ascribed a cardinal direction, from which their respective winds came, and were each associated with various seasons and weather conditions. They were sometimes represented as mere gusts of wind, at other times were personified as winged men, and at still other times were depicted as horses kept in the stables of the storm god Aeolus, who provided Odysseus with the Anemoi in the Odyssey. Astraeus, the astrological deity sometimes associated with Aeolus, and Eos, the goddess of the dawn, were the parents of the Anemoi, according to the Greek poet Hesiod.

Of the four chief Anemoi, Boreas was the north wind and bringer of cold winter air, Notus was the south wind and bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn, and Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes; Eurus, the east wind, was not associated with any of the three Greek seasons, and is the only one of these four Anemoi not mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony or in the Orphic Hymns. Additionally, four lesser Anemoi were sometimes referenced, representing the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest winds.

The first peoples of North America considered the wind to be a living force in and of itself. The wind to them is a god - a power that is capable of communicating a larger-than-life language to those who would hear it. Those who were certifiably authorized to interpret these cosmic messages were shamans, medicine men, and the wise and spiritual leaders among tribes.

The Inuit Indians had an Air Spirit among the ranks of their Sila (a term that means Wisdom and Weather). Their Air Spirit controls the seas, skies and wind. Although considered a kind and beneficial spirit, it strikes wrath against liars, beggars and theives in the form of illnesses. It is also blamed for bad weather and poor hunting.

Among the Micmac (a tribe belonging to the Wabanaki Confederacy native to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They also migrated to Maine, US) there is a story of a hero named (in English) Strong Wind who turned evil people (specifically the nefarious sisters of his beloved) into aspen trees, and to this day he makes them tremble in fear when he comes near the aspen forest.

Outside of the US, the Aztec wind-god, Ehecatle (a facet of Quetzalcoatl), was believed to blow the moon and sun into orbit.

The legendary Thunderbird in North American indigenous peoples' history and culture is considered a "supernatural" bird of power and strength. The Thunderbird's name comes from that common belief that the beating of its enormous wings caused thunder and stirred the wind.

From a Native perspective, the wind seems to be personified as divine messenger, able to manipulate unseen energy.

Next time, bad weather hits your area, or a strong wind passes through, think of how many people long ago thought of these as gods, monsters and spirits.  Maybe a little appeasement on your part might not hurt?