Archive for November, 2012

Mudd was an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate US President Abraham Lincoln. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869 but despite repeated attempts by family members to have this expunged his conviction has never been overturned.

He grew up on a tobacco plantation to the southeast of downtown Washington D.C. which was worked on by 89 slaves, he went to boarding school in Maryland and then to Georgetown College in Washington. Mudd studied medicine, then married Sarah Frances Dyer Mudd a year later, Mudd’s father gave them 218 acres of farmland as a present and whilst the new house was under construction they lived with his brother Jeremiah.

They had nine children, four before his arrest and five after he left prison. Mudd believed that slavery was divinely ordained and with the advent of the American Civil War in 1861 the slavery economy began to rapidly collapse. The Union Army established Camp Stanton in 1863, it sat 1o miles away from Mudd’s farm and enlisted black freedmen and run-away slaves. With all of this Mudd said considered selling up, he was then introduced to the actor John Wilkes Booth.

It seems that this interest was a cover story on Booth’s part as he wanted to use it to plan an escape route as part of his kidnap plot. Mudd met him and Booth stayed the night on the farm, the next day he brought a horse from Mudd’s neighbour and returned to Washington. There are suggestions that this is where Booth enlisted Mudd but others say
this seems to be an absurd suggestion. However co-conspirator George Atzerodt suggested says that Mudd knew abut the plan in advance.

After Booth shot the president he broke his left leg fleeing the Ford’s  theatre and along with David Herold they made for Virginia, stopping at Mudd’s house. Mudd set, splinted and bandaged the broken left then arranged for a carpenter to make crutches. It is not clear if Mudd had been aware of the murder at this point.

When Mudd went to Bryantown April 15th he most certainly would have  known from the news there. He came home that evening and it is unclear if the two left or if he met them leaving. Mudd did not however contact  the authorities immediately and when questioned said he would not want to leave his family alone with them unprotected and risk more troubles. He waited until Mass the following day and asked his cousin to notify the 13th New York Cavalry in Bryantown, the delay caused suspicion.

There was a lengthy trial and Mudd escaped the death penalty by one  vote, the other four with charges were hanged. Despite an attempt at breaking out he was finally given a reprieve. Mudd took over during a spate of Yellow Fever in 1867 in the prison; he took over as prison doctor when the other died. The soldiers in the fort wrote a petition about his assistance.

Mudd was 49 years old when he died of pneumonia on January 10th 1883; he is buried at the cemetery, St Mary’s Catholic Church in Bryantown. Mudd’s house is now a museum and it is said that Mudd is still walking around trying to clear his name. Voices in the house have been reported, some says that it might even be the voices of David Herold or even John Wilkes Booth. TAPS went into investigate and produced their findings on a show, I wonder if anyone has any real life stories for us here…

Here to enjoy a little cheese? Check out Ghost Lab

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Scotland’s famous city houses the vaults also know as South Bridge Vaults. They are formed in the 19 arches of the South Bridge which was completed in 1788 and  for around 30 years they were used as taverns, cobblers, trading, and storage for illicit materials and (if you believe the rumours) were used for storing the bodies of the notorious Burke and Hare. The area however rapidly deteriorated and by around 1820 they were pretty much left abandoned. They were then rediscovered in 1985 during an excavation.

It seems that it didn’t take long for the problems to arise, the bridge had been rushed and flooding started to occur as early as 1795. They were slowly abandoned by  business users and that’s when the new users adapted them. The area was turning into a slum and the vaults took on the night-life associated with them, prostitutes operated in the Vault’s rooms used as brothels and there were pubs there too, the cities poor moved in and the living conditions were no doubt appalling.

The rooms were small, damp and had no light with poor air circulation, no running fresh water and no sanitation it’s not surprise that with families of ten plus in some of these rooms the rates of crime, robbery an murder soon escalated. Burke and Hare sold corpses to medical schools and were rumoured to have hunted for victims around the Vaults as well. All in all the descriptions sound like the back end of hell and though it seems that there is no clear date for the final leavers to the vaults it could be anything from the 1830’s-70’s, the lack of records is most likely due to the fact that ever little is recorded about the vaults as a whole.

The vaults were found by Norriw Rowan, he found a tunnel leading to them in the 1980’s and from this tunnel helped a Romanian Rugby player escape the Romanian secret police and seek political asylum. The tonnes of rubble were then moved by hand and the slums of Edinburgh were slowly given back to the modern world.

The vaults on the North Side of the Cowgate arch are pretty much used for ghost tours, and this is after all the bit I am interested in. There have been frequent enough visits during various paranormal tours. Most Haunted featured the place on their live show in Halloween 2006 (had I been haunting the place I’d likely have hidden on purpose).

Ghost Adventures covered this in one of their overseas trips and this is where I learnt the tale of the entertaining fellow Mr Boots. Visitors that feel threatened are  often told it could be due to this fellow. He’s even been given a fairly surly rap appearance wise. Mr Boots has knee-length boots, rough pants, dirty ruffled white shirt and he is unshaven with halitosis that is so strong people report it on their visits. Mr Boots has been seen towards the back of tour groups and is said to push people and to whisper obscenities in visitor’s ears.

In January 2010 I watched a show on the BBC that should you get chance to watch I would urge to say is pretty darned good! The BBC published the show Joe Swash Believes In Ghosts that was filmed during 2009. Swash spent a night in the vaults, he came out a believer.

Swash heard a voice that was believed to be that of a Catholic Priest performing the Last Rites, now if that is the case I can assure you if I heard it I’d be darned  worried! Swash was the only person in the Vaults that night, the voices recorded were not heard by him and the sound engineers initially thought that it might have been due to voices drifting around the tunnels from the above nightclubs but it was found to be unlikely due to the time and the nature of the voices.

The voices they recorded went on for some twenty minutes, some sounded like children yelling and all in all they were intriguing to say the least. It’s not often I find  myself replaying back the program and listening again so I suppose from the perspective I was highly entertained and got a good dose of what could have been a residual haunting from more sinister times, perhaps one of those voices was Mr Boots or even a victim of Burke and Hare!

 

Gordon Frederick Cummins, is not really as memorable as Blackout Killer or Blackout Ripper. He murdered for women in London, 1942, and was a leading aircraftman in the RAF, he also claimd to be of noble heritage.

9th February 1942, 40 year old pharmacist Evelyn Hamilton was found strangled and her handbag stolen.

10th February, 35 year old Evelyn Oatley was found naked in her flat. She had been strangled, her throat cut and she had been sexually mutilated with a can opener.

11th Febuary, 43 year old Margaret Lowe was murdered in her flat. She had been strangled by a silk-stocking and her body mutilated by a variety of implements that included a razor, knife and candlestick.

12th February, 32 year old Doris Jouannet was murdered in the lfat she shared with her husband. She was strangled with a scarf and her naked body mutilated. The Blackout Ripper was named due to the similarity of mutilations like Jack the Ripper.

Greta Hayward had a luckier escape on Valentines Day, the attacker was disrupted by a delivery boy on his rounds. On the same day not long afterwards Mrs Mulcahy was attacked. She managed to fight off her attacker, who gave her an extra £5 before running away, leaving his belt behind.

Cummkins had left behind his Gas Mask after the interrupted attack on Greta. The gas mask had the service number 525987 on the side, it identified the possessor as Cummins.

He had no history of violence, but when his quarters were searched February 16th, the belongings of the victims were found. Fingerprints were matched at two flats of the killings and on the can opener. The trial took one day and the Jury took 35 minutes to find him guilty. He was hanged 25th June 1942 at Wandsworth Prison, during an air raid.

Ghosts of the ancient Roman’s are quite often referred to as Shades, and were honoured by festivals throughout the year; a little like our Halloween or Day of the Dead in modern culture.

Umbrella (Umbrae) was the ghosts species, and there were several types listed in the texts.

Manes – benevolent, they harassed the souls of the dead in the Underworld. These may (according to Pliny) have been the souls of those who died prematurely, violently or both.

The days for propitiating the dead were done with beans. One celebration for the shades was said to come from Remina, a festival brought about by Romulus to appease the shade of his murdered brother Remus.

So for a Halloween treat I decided to hire a random film from On Demand. Flicking through I spotted it, expecting the usual cheesy rubber monster or bad CGI but at least it was going to be something new to waste some time on.

I didn’t really have a clue about what the plot was, I’ll try not to spoil anything in this review but I apologise if I inadvertently should. Basically the premise is that a bunch of
teens end up taking a somewhat dodgy tour around Pripyat, the nuclear plant explosion is well known so a quick youtube search will give you amply footage (or check my previous blog for more details about it).

For one reason or another, the tourists and their guide go via an alternative entrance to the area. They find themselves bypassing a rather freaky looking fish on the side of the contaminated river and then land in the town. The history the guide gives is brief but pretty much a quick bite size low-down to tell you how it ended up abandoned. Pripyat footage is stunning in this; I thought the location was a great one including a scene where the Reactor in the background is pointed out from a window in a block of flats. There was a little jumpy bit at the river with the fish but it’s not until things start to go wrong that it kicks into real “life” suspense.

Now I know a lot of people love to give massive criticism to the influx of these types of horrors but firstly, it’s not done in that overused Blair Witch/Cloverfield style.  Personally however I have to say I liked Cloverfield too, but the camera angles are mixed and the lighting used in what I thought was a clever approach of claustrophobia and strange noises. To begin with it looked like it was nature fighting back, dogs in the area scavenging a rather fun section with a bear and then it started to kick into live going very wrong for everyone involved.

My plus points on the film? Okay the fact you don’t see stupidly created models that make it all too fake, no arbitrary bloody scenes of gore that meant nothing in the face of the fears they were supposed to be enacting. The scenes with the dark lighting and the confusion from their actors when they are without a guide and the slow decline of health of the party all made it feel very scary. (I was alone with the lights out too, go me!)

The downsides? Well I guess some parts of the acting weren’t too strong as I didn’t really get too attached to the characters or their stories. The dark shots got a bit annoying at times as they were pretty dark, I am sure I could adjust the settings on my TV but that would have made the other scenes too bright. The ending felt a little bit rushed but I guess the counter argument to that would be that it was meant to be that way due to the events of the story.

Overall I think I’d watch it again if it came up and I wouldn’t put this down as a bad movie, and yes I have seen some terrible ones. I think if you like that type of film you’ll probably enjoy it like I did but if you are already looking at it from a downside you’ll just pick holes and flaws with it. My opinion for a mark out of 5 would be 4/5 purely because when I watched it on my own I did jump a couple of times and the things chasing them were far more realistic than a rubber costumed robot.