Archive for October, 2012

This is also known as All Saints’ Eve and Samhain, the celebration is observed around the world on October 31st. It is on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows but some scholars believe that this is part of the older festivals of the dead such as the Celtic Samhain, some say it developed independently.

Samhain itself is mentioned in Irish mythology as it marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or ‘darker half’ of the year. The stock-taking and preparing for the winter ahead, cattle were brought in from the pasture and the livestock slaughtered. In the Gaelic world they would light bonfires and enjoy the rituals involving them, the rituals hint that they might once indicated human sacrifice.

It was considered to be the door to the “otherworld” and opened enough for the souls of the dead to come into the home world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their old homes, and feasts were held with places of honour for the dead. It is also thought that the idea of wearing a costume came from the idea of of disguising themselves amongst the spirits and fairies. It might also be an extension to the Ireland custom from the 19th Century whewre a man dressed as a white man would lead youths door to door to collect food; by giving them the food the household could expect the good fortune from the Muck Olla.

There are lots of customs and rituals, historical citations about Halloween but this festival also migrated over to North America where it has become a national celebration with some very large parties and the tradition of trick or treat.

There are games and movies galore that incorporate or centralise on the Halloween theme, for instance Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas which was brought into the games series of Kingdom Hearts and saw the hero of the games fighting various troubles there. Halloween the film was an original blockbuster horror that has seen a revival and remake thanks to Rob Zombie. There are so many that I could mention but I could spend an age on it when really right now it’s time to go and stuff myself sick with candy, look at zombie nurses and drink a couple of Bloody Mary’s!

Enjoy your festive season all.

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The area is located in a forest near the Harper’s Crossroads, Bennett, North Carolina. It has been subject to various legends and lore, perhaps really more lots of old urban legends passed down but it now said that the Devil haunts/possesses a barren circle of land within which nothing is said to grow. It is a circle in these woods, around 40ft diameter and the only grass that grows there is a wild wire type.

The local stories include objects left inside the ring overnight that have disappeared, dogs yipping and howling whilst refusing to go near it. Some that have tried to stay  overnight have reported that it has strange vibes and it’s said that this is the area where the devil can raise himself from the fiery pits of hell and bring evil into the world. Local legend has it that in the dark of the night he sometimes walks around, tramping the circle bare as he plots and plans. Come the morning he then turns into a crow or other animal and sets off on a mission to carry out the plans he came up with the night before.

In an attempt to disprove various theories the North Caroline Department of Agriculture took a sample of soil, they determined that the area is sterile. This has however really not done anything to assist the legends.

Locals (old and young) are quite happy to tell people that they have left objects inside the circle and came back the next evening to find them laying around just outside. As of 1949 in a report there had been nothing about anyone managing to stay in the area for a whole night, however I am sure someone will be able to correct me by now. If so and if it’s you let me know!

For a few pounds on an old postcards site I have been able to get a picture of the Newstead Sanatorium, sadly this amazing building has been torn down and a housing estate now stands on the location. It was shut down in 1992 and demolished shortly afterwards, a friend of mine was able to point me to the area where it was once stood as he remembered it.

The postcard was sent from “Billy” to a French correspondent. It’s not very easy for me to make the handwriting out but basically they are apologising for not writing sooner, they provide the address for their new residence and they mention the hospital. It is post marked for the month of November but I cannot get the year, which is a shame as I would like to have known. The postage to France for this little card cost them 4d.

Here is what I can find but if anyone can clarify the details or give me more I would love to hear it.

The first mention I found of it was for 1938, but it appears it was opened in 1942 by the Duchess of Portland, for the City of Nottingham.  It sat in a valley around five minutes from Newstead Abbey (Famous for Byron) and visitors would come by double decker bus each Thursday and Sunday afternoon, they were able to  have two hour visits.

The approximation of beds seems to be between 240-300 beds for patients and was for the Nottingham residents only. It seems that the main area had rooms for one, two or four beds and the doors were rarely shut during it’s time as a tuberculosis hospital as it was felt that natural fresh air was the way to help cure it, until the later introduction of drugs.

I did find this reference to the place that might be of interest to someone investigating this:

 The British Journal of Nursing, April 1944

APPOINTMENTS. – MATRON.

Newstead Sanatorium, Nottingham. – Miss Hilda I. Richards, S.R.N., S.C.M., has been appointed Matron. She was trained at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital; at the David Lewis Northern Hospital, Liverpool ; and at the City of London Maternity Hospital. Miss %chards has been Ward Sister at the David Lewis Northern Hospital, Liverpool ; Night Sister, Home and Stores Sister, and Assistant Matron at the City Sanatorium, Birmingham. She also took the Housekeeping Course of the Leicester Royal Infirmary; and holds Honours of the Tuberculosis Association

Also I found a note from 17th December 1963 stating that they would be removing the 30 miles per hour limit for the road. Objections to this change had to be made by the 14th January 1964.

Elizabeth Siddal died 11th February 1862, she was an English artists’ model, a poet and painted herself. She was the model for Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s early paintings of women.
“Lizzie” was born into a family that were not poverty stricken, and after the moved from Hatton Garden to Southwark in Southern London, she soon given more siblings and was very close to them. All in all it seems that the family were rather close and despite there being no record of her attending school she was able to read and write. She had a love for poetry even from a young age.
For the time in which she lived Elizabeth lived a very positive life and was a strong woman for the society in which she lived. Women were still pretty much viewed as objects and possessions much like American Black Slaves were.
She was engaged to the artist Rossetti and began to study with him, in contrast to his idealized paintings hers were quite harsh but she was also given to writing poetry. Dante Gabriel Rossetti completed his peace “Beata Beatrix” one year after her death. A rather beautiful memorial to her after her death, with the way in which she is painted she seems to have an almost keen awareness of her impending death. The true love of Rossetti for his wife also deepens the meaning of the painting and because of this it is praised for the emotion depicted in it.
As Siddal had come from a working-class family Rossetti feared the day he bought her home to his parents. She was the victim of harsh criticism from his sisters and his family’s disapproval seems to have postponed the initial marriage. It also meant that Siddal worried he would replace her for a younger muse, which added to later depression and illness. At the wedding she was so ill she had to be carried to the church and down the isle, after however, once she was well enough they went to their honeymoon in France.
The ten year engagement was broken off several times and he was known to have affairs. This was likely no help to her at all. She was riddled with depression and sickness but in 1861 she was overjoyed to learn she was pregnant. She was then sadly gifted with the tragedy of a stillborn daughter, in 1862 she overdosed on laudanum shortly after becoming pregnant for a second time.
Rossetti found her unconscious and dying in bed, it was a death ruled accidental but there were rumours about a suicide note he had found. He was consumed with grief, it is suggested that he took the note and had it destroyed as at the time suicide was still considered both illegal and immoral. It would have been a scandal and prevented her from a Christian burial.
Why have I picked her for my blog? Well really I suppose it’s more about Dante. He buried poetry of hers with her in a small journal, many were the only copies he had of her poetry. He slid the book into her hair and she was interred at Highgate Cemetery (yes I should really blog about the splendid place). By 1869 Rossetti was addicted to drugs and alcohol, he was convinced he was going blind and could no longer pain so he began to write poetry once more.
For some reason before publishing his newer works he became obsessed with retrieving the ones he had put into his wife’s hair. He applied for an exhumation and it was done in the dead of night, Rossetti himself was not present. Charles Augustus Howell, the Home Secretary, handed them to her and noted that her corpse was remarkably well preserved and her beauty in tact. A worm had however gone through the book making some of them difficult to read, Rossetti then published the older ones. It is said that he was haunted by the exhumation for the rest of his life.

(Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, ca. 203 – 11 March 222) The reason I have picked him as a subject for a post is because in all honesty I do rather love the whacky people! He was also known as Heliogabalus and in his youth before becoming Emperor he served as a priest of the god Elagabal (Elagabalus) a name he was to be given after his death, but before he was emperor he was most likely known as Sextus Varius Avitus as a citizen.

Thanks to the complicated and crazy politics he was made emperor by the age of 14 and the reign of sexual scandal and religious controversy began. The hostile records of his enemies paint the picture of a very rebellious man, he replaced the head of the Roman Pantheon, Jupiter, with the diety of which he had been priest. (This is hardly shocking when you consider Henry VIII gave us the Church of England).

He was married as many as five times, he also gave favours to male courtiers who were thought to have been his lovers and had a penchant for employing whoopee cushions at dinner parties. It was also reported he had prostituted himself in the Imperial Palace!

Four years later the eccentric was assassinated and replaced by his cousin, Alexander Severus on 11th March 222. Of course most of the claims about his decadent life are likely very exaggerated but this only leads to more interest about a young man who seemingly enjoyed four years of opulence and orgies.

The political ramifications of the crazy emperor stretched out far more importantly than just who he was sleeping with in general. He managed to devalue the Roman currency and tried to have his own presumed lover, charioteer Hierocles, declared Caesar and another alledged lover to be appointed to the non-administrative but still influential role of Master of the Chamber. At first his mother and grandmother were a strong part of the relationship, they were both on the senate, but this didn’t stop Elagabalus from going on his own independent course.

Another big controversy for the time was that he married a Vestal Virgin, Aquilla Severa, claiming this marriage would produce “god-like children”. It was a breach of tradition and Roman Law, as it stated that any vestal virgin found engaging in sexual activity was to be buried alive but had already remarried a year later.

Perhaps the part that stood out for me is that he was most likely trapped as a female in a man’s body, this seems to be the root cause of the issues he faces. In a time and place where such things were a controversy, even with the acceptance of homosexuality, the young man was out of the society norms. He had even offered vast sums of money to physicians who could equip him with female genitalia; he simply wanted to be a woman not a man.

Images of Elagabalus (2008; republished as The Crimes of Elagabalus in 2012) re-evaluates his life, the previous historical accounts are most likely gravely over exaggerated or just down right erroneous, after his death moves were made to remove him from the annals of history. However in this book it is suggested that the religious affronts were far more the reason for his grandmother arranging his death, it had little to do with him sleeping around with men.

As a spin off for this lovely character there is a Japanese Manga called Vassalord, Johnny Rayflo is a vampire who is described as the “confined Elagabalus” and judging by the eccentricities it certainly seems to fit his personality. Here goes with a random sketch of mine for Rayflo.