Happy Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht)



Walpurgisnacht is a German night of the witches. Here are 9 facts about the Second Halloween holiday and the English nun who helped transform the holiday:

  1. The pagans welcomed spring and fertility rights at the end of April. They held ceremonial festivities to celebrate the end of winter. In Germany, these locations were remote to avoid detection.
  2. Mount Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz Mountains where the Witches’ Sabbath took place. In medieval times, a wild party was held to celebrate the devil Wotan’s marriage to Freya.
  3. An English nun named Walpurgis (sometimes spelt Walburgis or Walpurga) moved to Germany to rid the people of pests, illnesses, and witchcraft. Born in Devon, England in 710 A.D., Abbess Walpurgis died on February 25, 777/779. She was buried beside her brother, Saint Willibald, at the church in Heidenheim where it fell into ruin. She was canonized on May 1, 870 A.D. When workers accidently desecrated her tomb, Walpurgis appeared to Bishop Otkar in ghostly form and threatened him. By September, her remains were removed and reinterred in Eichstatt.
  4. In 893, Otkar’s successor Bishop Erchanbold opened the tomb to collect some relics when he observed Walpurgis’ body immersed in an oily dew. The oil is bottled in small vials and sold as having healing attributes even though chemical testing shows it is composed of water.
  5. Saint Walpurgis is credited with ending paganism in Germany. This did not last. Many pagans celebrate Walpurgisnacht annually. Initially, people would dress up, make loud noises, hang sprigs, and leave out Ankenschnitt (bread with butter and honey) out for the phantom hounds.
  6. Today, the celebration is more inclusive and incorporates fireworks and bonfires. The holiday begins on the night of April 30 and runs through the next day, May 1.
  7. Walpurgisnacht is similar to Halloween as both evolved from pagan practices linked to the changes of the seasons. That is why Walpurgisnacht is considered the Second Halloween.
  8. These festivities are not isolated to Germany but are held through northern Europe.
  9. Walpurgisnacht is not May Day (May 1st) or Beltane. Those are separate holidays.

Spook Hill: A Primer in Marketing



Postcard Collection

Spook Hill became a tourist attraction in the 1950s when Barney’s Restaurant in Lake Wales, Florida published a leaflet describing the “facts” associated with the gravity hill. A gravity hill is an optical illusion whereby someone places a car in neutral on an undetectable downhill slope and the vehicle rolls uphill. In reality, the vehicle is rolling downhill, but the occupants don’t realize this because they do not have a true horizon line to focus on. Instead, they feel like they are being pulled uphill. Gravity hills are also called magnetic hills, for some believe there is a magnetic pull causing the vehicle to move. Spook Hill is the only documented gravity hill in Florida, and early marketing agents quickly seized upon it.

Department of Commerce Collection

Back in the 1800s, men rode horses to deliver mail along postal mail roads. These roads were well used and ran across the nation. Florida was no exception. However, the horses were spooked along the road running along this hill. The horses would pull and tug when crossing this portion of the trail. Hence, the name Spook Hill was christened.

This strange phenomenon was marketed as having three folktales attached.

The first legend claims that a 16th century pirate, Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla, retired from his life of plundering on the high seas to live as a “gentleman” in the Lake Wales area in 1511. He sought the retired life of a whaling fisherman. (Honest. This was actually printed. Hint: There aren’t any whales in the interior of Florida.) Joining Captain Gimme was his aid Teniente Vincento Alfredo Nieto Isidoro Lima Llano Alvarez. Vanilla for short. (A few versions have Captain Gimme being a distant cousin to Jose Gaspar, also known as Gasparilla; however, this is not possible for at least 2 reasons: there are 200 years between their lives, which makes them distant, distant—really distant—cousins and also because there is not any evidence that any of these people actually existed.)

The story continues that Teniente died and was buried at the foot of a hill. Gimme’s remains are at the bottom on North Lake Wales, the smaller lake in the town close to Spook Hill. When automobile travel became affordable, in the 1950s, an urban legend was formed. Claiming that a car parked at the foot of the hill totaled 16 men in weight, Teniente’s skeletal chest was being crushed by the weight. His spirit called to Gimme whose spirit pushed the car uphill. Some Internet stories (and the Barney’s leaflet) claim the basis for this as “16 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest.” This, of course, is mistaken. The phrase is “15 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest,” a fictional pirate sea song created by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island. Note that Treasure Island was written in 1883, much later than Captain Gimme’s lifetime.

The second story involves a Native American tribe located in central Florida. This may have involved a few tribes; therefore, it is difficult to identify which tribe this could be, although the Barney’s leaflet stated it was the Seminole tribe. Chief Culcowellax battled a mighty alligator that was terrorizing the reservation. One or both did not survive the event, with one or both supposedly pulling a vehicle backwards. Supposedly, the chieftain was buried on the north side of the hill. (Note: There are not any records online for Chief Culcowellax.)

The third version involves an unsuspecting Black man who parked his “jalopy” at the foot of the hill to go fishing prior to 1956. Instead of placing the car in “park,” he put it in “neutral” and watched as his car went up the hill 75-100 feet. He exclaimed: “Them’s spooks” or “Dem’s spooks” or simply “Spooks.” He fainted afterwards. (There are so many issues with this version starting with the use of the word “jalopy.” It’s an insult for an old, beat-up car. Language warning on additional words used if looking at old images of this story.)

Lake Wales was surveyed in 1879 by Sidney Irving Wailes, who renamed the larger lake after himself. Later, four businessmen changed the spelling to Wales and began development.

Spook Hill Elementary School opened in the fall of 1956. Two years later, the school adopted Casper, the Friendly Ghost, as the official mascot. Alfred Harvey, president of Harvey Comics, was happy to grant permission for the use.

Postcard Collection

The strangest story published about Spook Hill comes from a 1958 newspaper article. In a spin on Groundhog Day, the story states that if a car in neutral travels farther uphill on Halloween night, then the axle grease is warm, signaling that the winter months will be warmer than normal.

Much of the lore regarding Spook Hill was created by Barney’s Tavern. They collectively attempted to rewrite the history of the area to drum up business. Two slogans used were “famous for food” and “where fastidious people get superior service at moderate cost.” Established in 1936, the restaurant sold postcards and printed a menu that could be folded to mail. In a pre-theme park era, Barney’s capitalized on the uniqueness of the scenic highlands of Florida where tourists could experience strange phenomena and observe wildlife.

While Spook Hill is an explainable gravity hill optical illusion, it is still a thrilling sensation. On April 5, 2019, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, showing that locations, even those without buildings, are significant to the American experience. Even if the experience is a trick of the mind.

The Lilliputian Coffins of Arthur’s Seat


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Edinburgh, Scotland is home of many paranormal anomalies and stories. One emerged on July 16, 1836, regarding 17 miniature coffins found tucked into a gap near Arthur’s Seat, one of 4 hills within Holyrood Park. The story goes…

On June 25, 1836, “a number of boys” (later evolving into 2-5) were hunting rabbits and searching for burrows. The lot of them spied 3 slatestones (or was it that one boy fell through a crag?) discovering 17 miniature coffins complete with little figures tucked inside.

Measuring no more than 4 inches in length, the Scot pine wooden coffins held male figures wrapped in fabric. The tale states that there were 3 tiers of coffins, two with 8 and the top one with 1, in all. The boys collected the coffins and decided to play toss, destroying all but 8.

The brief entry in The Scotsman proclaimed the figures the work of a “satanic spell-manufactory” whereby witches cast “spells of death by entombing the likeness of those they wish to destroy.”

Supposedly, at some point, the boys gave the relics to Mr. Ferguson, their headmaster, who was also a member of the local archaeological society. Imagine their great fortune! The headmaster passed the figurines to Robert Frazier, a South Andrews Street jeweler, who had his own private museum. The collection was auctioned off in 1845, after his retirement/death, for £4. Ultimately, the 8 remaining dolls ended up with Christina Couper of Dumfriesshire, who donated them to the National Museum of Scotland in 1901.

The story is a bit sketchy. However, there is much mystery still surrounding the figures.

Little was published about the find in Scotland. It didn’t garner any media in the US. In 1994, researchers Allen Simpson and Samuel Menefee examined the figures and coffins and published their findings.

On October 31, 2018, the museum tweeted out various images of the figures and provided some context.

Simpson and Menefee believed that one person was responsible for carving the male figures. They argued that up to 2 people could have made the coffins. They surmised that the figures were toy soldiers, most notably because corpses don’t have their eyes open. They theorized that the artist(s) were not skilled woodcarvers as they lacked the tools to refine the carvings. After examining the accompanying decorations, Simpson and Menefee felt that the figures were created/assembled by a shoemaker or a cobbler.

Simpson and Menefee dated the figures to between 1800-1830. Recent researchers have narrowed the window to 1830, based on the fabric clothing adorning each male.

No one knows why the figures were created. However, several theories have been pursued. The initial one published in The Scotsman of witchcraft was quickly dismissed. Scholars and practitioners pointed out that tiny figures were never part of ritualistic magic.

Next was the possibility put forth by the Caledonian Mercury, that this was a memorial to deceased sailors. The theory only holds if there was a single tragedy that claimed the lives of 17 men. No such incident has ever been discovered.

The Edinburgh Evening Post printed that this was an “ancient custom…burying in effigy departed friends who…died in a distant land.” There would be many, many more found if this was the case.

The most rousing theory centered on Burke and Hare, 2 infamous body snatchers who were tried for killing 16 people in order to sell their corpses to area doctors for anatomical experimentation. (Read my blog here, https://thehauntedlibrarian.com/2020/10/27/resurrection-men-body-snatching-in-the-victorian-era/.) There are several flaws in this theory. First, the figures are all male. Burke and Hare were accused of killing at least 10 females. Next, there is a dispute as to the true number of victims. Was it 16? 17? Or even more? Seems convenient that there were 17 tiny coffins which may have matched the number of victims.

The most fantastical story was again published in The Scotsman in 1906. A woman claimed that her father, a Mr. B., owned a business where a “daft” man visited holding a drawing of 3 similarly styled coffins with the dates 1837, 1838, and 1840 written underneath. After giving Mr. B. a glare, the man disappeared. Some renditions claim that the man attended the funerals of Mr. B.’s relatives who died in those years.

Solving the mystery continues. In April of 2018, amateur historian Jeff Nisbet penned an article where he proffered his theory, linking the effigies to the Radical war of 1820. He believed that the 17 coffins symbolized the local members of this political movement and the “flames of rebellion lit” from the event.

How many tiny coffins were there? In published stories, which have several facts contradicting each other, the number of coffins sits at 17. However, how do we know? The boys were never identified or interviewed. The stories claim that the boys damaged some of the coffins/figures. Who knows for sure how many that is?

Stories continue to fill news feeds as the coffins capture our imaginations. In December of 2014, the museum received a replica coffin with a label quoting a portion of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher” (1884). (Link to the story can be found here: https://robert-louis-stevenson.org/?works_post_type=the-body-snatcher-1884.)

None of this should diminish the significance of the relics. Maybe one day we will know what it all means.

British Urban Explorers Capture Disembodied Noise



Urban exploration has become a popular recreational activity where people explore abandoned manmade structures. There are many considerations for such activity; visit the various websites for FAQs and safety tips. One popular group in Britain is lead by Danial Sims, known online as “Bearded Reality.” His group may have caught disembodied footsteps in one of the current adventures.

William Rigby resided near Lancashire, England. When he died, his house became abandoned and a prime location for exploration. It has been abandoned over 20 years! The house is a time capsule holding many family photographs and memorabilia. A staged photograph shows Rigby’s National Fire Service uniform dated to the 1960s. An unverified rumor is that William died in the home, which has also been ransacked and used to shelter people over the years.

Sims captures my feeling when watching the video: “It’s a proper pity” that the memorabilia was left behind.

When watching the video, pay close attention at the 10:18 mark. Here, you will see Sims stop and ask about the noise. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STq6-HQEZkE.

A lot of evidence is unintentionally recorded. That’s why it is important to analyze photographs, video, and audio. You never know what you have captured!

Branch Davidian David Koresh’s ’68 Chevrolet Camaro SS For Sale

Ghost Adventures’ Zak Bagans purchased the car in 2018 for $61,995. He housed it in his Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seeking to rotate his collection of oddities, he has offered up the car for sale. No, it’s not haunted.

David Koresh was the head Branch Davidian zealot who battled the FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) in a 51-day standoff in 1993 in Waco, Texas. On April 19th, the government initiated a raid resulting in 4 ATF deaths and 79 Branch Davidians. Of the 79, 25 were children. Only nine members of the cult survived.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram called the Camaro “Armageddon’s Relic.” It was “very close to [Koresh’s] heart.” It has been theorized that Koresh intended it to be his getaway car. He had the V8 engine block engraved with “DAVIDES 427 GO GOD.” The etching was moved in a prior sale but has reportedly been restored. The car was trashed during the raid but has been resurrected into a classic—sans the evil (but not haunted) provenance.

The car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) is 124378L302009 and comes with a Texas car title showing Koresh’s ownership. Previously sold as-is in 2004 for $37,000 to Donald Feldpausch, the car was restored “as an investment.”

If interested, contact Vegas Auto Gallery for more information, https://www.vegasautogallery.com/used-vehicle-1968-chevrolet-camaro-ss-427-coupe-c-2201/. Again, it’s not haunted.



Cartomancy was an early form of fortune telling using a deck of playing
cards and is still used today.

No one knows for certain who or when playing cards were created. Scholars
believe playing cards originated in China, and by trading routes through the
Mamluk Empire (1250-1517) in Egypt, they turned up in Europe by the 1370s. Each
European country used their own unique images representing the four suites. For
instance, German cards used acorns, bells, hearts, and leaves. The French
simplified the suites to shapes, and the English continued with this as a
standard with clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades.

The image in the upper left corner is a picture from
the oldest surviving deck that the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased for $143,000
in 1983. The 52-card deck was originally thought to be a tarot deck; however, an
Amsterdam antiques dealer who paid $2,800 for the deck in the 70s did a great
deal of research. The cards were hand-drawn and painted. The Central Laboratory
for Objects of Arts and Science (Amsterdam) dated the paint alone to circa
1470-1480. The clothing further confirmed the dates to 1465-1480.

In the early 15th century, the Germans
crafted wood carvings for block printing to replicate the drawings and make the
decks more accessible. Artists still hand-painted the individual cards, though.

Image 3 shows how the French used stencils to create
the cards even faster by the 1480s.

Image 4 depicts Mademoiselle Marie Anne Abigail
Lenormand, sometimes written as Le Normand.

Images 5 and 6 relate to Mlles’s Lenormand legacy.

Mlle. Lenormand transformed the industry of cartomancy. Born on May 27,
1772, she and her sister and brother were orphaned by the time she was 5 years
old. First her father died. Her mother remarried but soon died, leaving the
step-father with a family he may not have wanted. He sent the children away.
Marie Anne spent time in several convents until she reached the age of 14, when
she moved to Paris to work in a milliner’s shop.

Marie Anne was a quick learner and expanded her studies to include prophecy.
She showed early signs with the nuns and was able to transform her
circumstances to become a wealthy woman.

Marie Anne ran her business from No. 5, Rue de Tournon, where she posted the
occupation as French Bookseller. She did not sell books. Instead, the title
legitimized her business for clients and the government. Described as short,
fat, and having ruddy complexion, Marie Anne was sought out by the wealthy and

Marie Anne never married—she didn’t see the need; however, her sister did,
leaving two young children when she died. Marie Anne adopted, whether it was
literally or figuratively is unknown. The girl died of consumption; the boy
joined the military. Marie Anne’s brother also served in the military and died
before she did. Marie Anne’s nephew inherited the vast estate, which included
500,000 Francs and a massive library on the occult, when Marie Anne died on
June 25, 1843, at the age of 71. He burned the occult items, but took the cash.

After Marie Anne’s death, a 36-card deck called the Petit Lenormand (Lenormand
deck) was issued. These cards continued her legacy by encouraging others to use
for divination. Image 5 is from Black Cat cigarettes produced by the House of
Carreras. A single card was tucked inside each pack of cigarettes. The Carreras
Fortune Telling Cards were published in 1926. Eventually, the brand went away.

Playing cards are an easy way to practice divination. Shuffle the deck and
ask a question. Decipher the results as:

3 reds

Definitely yes

2 reds

Qualified yes

2 blacks

Qualified no

3 blacks

Definitely no

Try it. You may find it suits your needs.