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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These festivities are not isolated to Germany but are held through northern Europe.
Walpurgisnacht is not May Day (May 1st) or Beltane. Those are separate holidays.
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.
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.
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.
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?
≈ Comments Off on 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.”
On July 6, at approximately 4 a.m., a bomb exploded destroying the Swahili/Hindi slab of granite of the Georgia Guidestones. Also known as America’s Stonehenge or Georgia’s Stonehenge, the 19’ 3” monument was a popular tourist attraction outside Elberton, Georgia, on Highway 77. The monument was deemed unsafe and was demolished later that day. Many questions still surround the structure.
In June 1979, a well-appointed man calling himself Robert C. Christian commissioned the structure from Joe Findley of the Elberton Granite Finishing Company. The construction costs are unknown; however, Findley reportedly exaggerated the estimate in hopes to dissuade Christian from building. It was to no avail.
The 20-year vision was to become a reality. A 5-acre plot was purchased on October 1, 1979, from Wayne Mullenix. The monument was unveiled on March 22, 1980. Four stones surrounded a capstone. Ten “guidelines” contained messages written in twelve different languages to instruct humans after some unknown catastrophic event, possibly nuclear war. The messages were controversial, even if intended for future generations. A legend was erected with reference to a possible time capsule buried underneath.
Many have theorized and postulated the origins of the “small group of loyal Americans who believed in God,” as the messages were not exclusively Christian. Slightly troubling was the admission that none of the members actually resided in Georgia. Mr. Christian claimed to have a great grandmother who did; however, this is unsubstantiated. According to local tales, only the manager of the local bank knew Mr. Christian’s true identity, and he never disclosed.
Ownership passed to Elberton County, which publicized the roadside attraction. The website Explore Georgia removed all mention of the monument on July 7, 2022.
The documentary film The Georgia Guidestones Movie was released in 2012. The film can be viewed on YouTube from http://guidestonesmovie.net/.
The guidestones are not without criticism. Online conspiracy theorists have attempted to link the messages to Satan, claiming them to be the ten commandments of the antichrist. Some have even speculated some New World Order involvement. It is doubtful that either are true.
What remains factual is that vandals have targeted the monument in the past. Graffiti was spray painted onto the slabs in 2008 and 2014. Security cameras were erected and caught the latest criminals. Video footage shows a silver sedan leaving the area shortly after the blast. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) are investigating. It is unfortunate that someone took it upon himself/herself to ruin an attraction that brought 20,000 annually to this rural community. The economic impact will be felt. It has not been reported if the structure will be replaced since it is probably cost prohibited. And that’s a shame.
Historic Designation for Jack Kerouac’s St. Petersburg Home
Beat pioneer Jack Kerouac lived in the Disston Heights home less than 2 years before he died. Located at 5169 10th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida, the home passed down via Probate to Kerouac’s third wife Stella’s brother’s son, John Sampas, Jr. It was quite the journey! William Kennedy (Ken) and Gina Burchenal purchased the 1750’ home for $360,000 in 2020. They prepared the application for historic designation, which was approved this month.
American literary writer Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (simply called Jack) was an enigmatic traveler whose estate was valued at $91 when he died at the age of 47 from cirrhosis of the liver. His paralyzed mother, Gabrielle, remained in the home, along with Stella. When Gabrielle died, she left her estate to Stella, who died in 1990. Stella’s brother Sebastian was a lifelong friend of Jack’s. Her other brother John inherited her estate. Since then, Kerouac’s estate has only grown—upwards of $10 million dollars.
The Kerouacs initially resided in the home next door, 5155 10th Avenue N but bought the #5169 home, situated on a corner lot, in 1968. It’s a modest home. However, the architectural features were enough for the St. Pete City Council to vote 6-0 (with 2 members absent) to approve the application.
Although Jack and Stella did not have any children, Jack did have a daughter, Janet Michelle “Jan” Kerouac (1952-1996), for whom he had only seen twice. In fact, it wasn’t until Jan was 10 years old that Jack learned and tested as her biological father. This did not stop Jan from contesting Gabrielle’s will in an attempt to collect on the fortune. Her attempts failed when she also died at a young age.
The Burchenals do not reside at the home. It has been preserved and is open for special events by the operating non-profit 5169 10th Ave, LLC. Another non-profit, The Friends of Jack Kerouac, previously hosted events to help support the home. They no longer support the home, but they do sponsor an annual Tour de Kerouac bike tour, along with the self-walking and self-driving tours. The tours include Haslam’s Bookstore, a favorite haunt of Jack’s.
Local legend is that Jack does in fact haunt the bookstore. Unfortunately, Haslam’s closed shortly into the pandemic and has not reopened—nor is it likely to.
One aspect of Jack’s life falls to the sideline. He was arrested as a material witness in a murder case. On August 13, 1944, Jack and fellow Beat Generation member Lucian Carr attempted to sail to France. They were kicked off the ship prior to its departure. They proceeded to spend the evening drinking, with Jack heading home before Carr. On his way, Jack met up with David Kammerer, an older man who had a complicated relationship with Carr. There is much speculation about the nature of the relationship, but what remains clear is that Kammerer followed Carr across the nation in a stalking manner. On that night, Carr and Kammerer ending up walking to Riverside Park in Manhattan. Something happened (Carr testified that Kammerer attempted to sexually assault him), and Carr stabbed Kammerer with his Boy Scout knife. Carr disposed of the bound body in the Hudson River. He ran to his Beat friends for help, and Jack obliged. After Carr confessed, both were arrested. Jack’s family refused to post bond. He spent 2 days in jail until his then girlfriend Edie Parker’s family posted bond on condition that they marry. The marriage was annulled a few years later. Carr spent 2 years in jail before being released. Kerouac turned the tragedy into two fictional stories. In total, Jack penned 15 novels and 4 short stories/novellas, with On the Road (1957) as his most famous.
If in St. Pete, take the Jack Kerouac driving tour. Even though Haslam’s is closed, park and walk around. It is a reminder that bookstores, and reading, are still popular. Who knows? Maybe Jack’s ghost will pull at the paper coverings on the extra-large windows. Let me know if he does.
During the 16th century, a new, transparent paint pigment hit the market. Called Mummy Brown (Caput Mortuum or Egyptian Brown), the pigment quickly became a favorite amongst artists who used it for shadows and flesh tones. The source of the paint wasn’t a real concern. See, the pigment was made from ground up Egyptian mummies—human and feline. If unavailable, corpses of slaves and criminals were ground up.
Roberson & Co. of London made the pigment and sold it in tubes. White pitch and myrrh were combined with the ground up Egyptian mummies. Since the mummies were embalmed, they also contained trace elements of ammonia and fat. Scholars state that the color fell between burnt umber and raw umber on the color scale. Over time, however, the paint cracked and faded. Further, the ammonia and fat affected other pigments. This was a restoration nightmare. You know, in addition to the obvious.
The 19th century Pre Raphaelite artists favored it. Some who were to have purchased a tube included Sir William Beechly, Edward Burne-Jones, and Eugene Delacroix. Once word of the ingredients surfaced some artists discarded. Famed author and nephew of Burne-Jones, Rudyard Kipling retold the story of when Burnes-Jones found out about the ingredients. He supposedly ceremoniously buried his tube in his garden.
It is difficult to assess whether any of them actually used the paint. Experts believe Mummy Brown was used in L’Interieur d’une Cuisine, (Interior of a Kitchen, 1815) by Martin Drolling. Researchers speculate that Delacroix used Mummy Brown in La Liberté quidant le people (Liberty Leading the People, 1830) and Salone de la Paix at the Hotel de Ville (1854). As for Burne-Jones, researchers believe Temperantia (1872) and The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon (1881-1898) were painted with Mummy Brown.
Production ceased in the 1920-1930s with the last tubes selling in 1964. By that time, Roberson’s stated that interest in using the pigment had wain so much that one mummy could supply 20 years’ worth of tubes. The Egyptian mummy supply had dried up, as well.
There are better substitutes to Mummy Brown. For instance, Daniel Smith sells Bauxite Mummy.
Tulane University hosted 3 Super Bowl games: IV in 1970, VI in 1972, and IX in 1975. The crowds of 80,000+ people never knew that underneath the bleachers tucked in a storage room were two Egyptian mummies. Theirs was a lurid story.
George Robbins Gliddon (1809-1857) was the former US vice consul in Egypt. He fashioned himself an Egyptologist and assembled the “Gliddon’s Transparent Panorama of the Nile” exhibit that traveled the United States in the mid-1800s. The panorama was a beautifully illustrated painting that measured 900 feet long and 9 feet high. Gliddon was a master salesman and signed up subscribers who funded his traveling show. These subscribers attended mummy unwrapping parties, where Gliddon unwrapped a mummy and displayed any funerary items contained within the coffins.
While in Boston, Gliddon, who prided himself on his ability to translate hieroglyphics, misidentified one of the mummies. He claimed that the mummy contained in the case was a female of noble lineage. He claimed she was a high priestess or of that level. Unfortunately, upon the reveal, the mummy was most certainly a male. His erect penis had been carefully wrapped. Gliddon talked himself out of this uncomfortable situation and planned his exit from the field. He shortened his traveling itinerary, making New Orleans his final stop.
Gliddon arrived in March of 1852. He opened his show at Tulane University. He unwrapped the second mummy, that of a female, at what is now Gallier Hall. When the show closed, Gliddon donated the mummies to Tulane. He attempted to sell the vast panorama, even suggesting it be divided into 50-foot sections; however, it probably didn’t sell. There aren’t any records as to its fate. Thanks to Tulane’s football stadium’s demolition, we now know what happened to the two mummies.
Tulane’s former stadium was a popular venue. The Third Tulane Stadium, as it was known, was built in 1926 with a capacity of 35,000. Four expansions followed with capacity reaching 80,985 in 1955. On July 17, 1976, ZZ Top performed to a raucous audience which led to the university banning all concerts inside the stadium. (The ban remains in effect) The stadium became known as the Sugar Bowl, based on its form as resembling a sugar bowl lid, and the Queen of Southern Stadiums. Professional and college football teams played there up until 1979.
Sections of the stadium were declared unsafe, and demolition commenced on November 18, 1979. Demolition finished in June of 1980. It was during the early stages of demolition that the mummies were discovered ensconced in glass cases sitting above their coffins.
The mummies were displayed initially in a museum at the university’s medical school. Next stop was the museum of natural history in Gibson Hall. That museum closed in 1955, and the mummies were placed into storage, underneath the stadium. Somehow, they ended up at a Charity Hospital museum and then to a physician’s home. (Not sure I would take them home) They were then placed back in storage until their discovery. They were kept in the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library basement until 1979, when they relocated to their final resting place: Dinwiddie Hall in the Department of Anthropology.
University professors, along with graduate students, have learned a lot about the mummies. The male’s case had his name inscribed. It is often written as Djed-Thoth-iu-ef-ankh or “Thoth says that he will live.” He was a priest and “overseer of artisans” at the Temple of Amun in Thebes. He suffered from dental decay and spinal issues. He was around 50 when he died and was embalmed.
Initially, Gibbons, among others, believed that the female was Djed-Mut-iu-es-ankh; however, her skull is housed at Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania. At some unknown time, this 13.5-15.5-year-old female was placed inside the other’s case. Even though she is better preserved, little is known about her.
More has been discovered about George Gliddon. Some Edgar Allan Poe scholars have theorized that Gliddon was the inspiration for Doctor Ponnonner in Poe’s satirical short story “Some Words with a Mummy,” first published in April 1945. The main character procured a mummy and plans to unwrap it at his home in front a of few friends in the name of “scientific discovery.” The inept doctor instead revives the mummy they christen Allamistakeo. The story centers around Egyptian mummy mania that captured the imaginations of people in Europe and the United States.
Tragedy did not escape Gliddon in real life. He abandoned his research in Egyptology and shifted, instead, to proving polygenism, the belief that each race came from a distinct, individual source. (It is racist conjecture and shunned by science and scientific communities) Gliddon was in Panama in 1857 where he contracted Yellow Fever. He died before reaching the age of 50.
Ultimately, the Tulane mummies are more interesting. While visiting the university, I will attempt to visit them. I’ll post images if I am successful.
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