Posts Tagged ‘British’

Duncan is best known for being the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act, 1735. She was born November 25th, 1897 and died December 6th, 1956. At school she was known to have alarmed fellow pupils with prophecies of doom and displaying hysterical behaviour.

She married Henry Duncan in 1916 who supported her talents and in 1926 she went from clairvoyant to medium, offering séances to summon recently deceased spirits via emitting ectoplasm. She worked part time in a bleach factory and was a mother of six, a pretty busy lady.

In 1928 photography showed her tricks via dolls and old sheets as drapes. In 1931 the ectoplasm was supposedly cheesecloth, paper mixed with egg-white and toilet paper. In 1933 a trick to summon ‘Peggy’ a spirit was investigated and she was fined £10 for fraud, Harry Price concluded it was all fake and so why am I reporting on her? Well… here goes.

November 1941, WWII, she held a seance in Portsmouth and laid down the claim that a sailor spirit told her the HMS Barham had been sunk. An official announcement for the sinking came months later in February 1942. Due to this the Navy took interest in her claims. There was scepticism about her claims of the spirit telling her this because close family members of the victims had been informed about it. It was summarised that she might has known as around 861 families at the time could have been discussing it with the links they had, and she may well have over heard the news.

Duncan’s claims were taken seriously enough that they arrested her on a minor other issue, but then found the clause of witchcraft. She had a mock-up of an old HMS Barham hat band but after 1939 they hadn’t been worn. There seemed to be concerns that she would leak more confidential information, whatever her source, and that she was exploiting the recently bereaved. Seances did not come cheap, incidentally they don’t these days either…

She was found guilty on one count, and she was imprisoned for nine months. Winston Churchill seemed unimpressed by what seemed to be a waste of time and resources on “obsolete tomfoolery”. In 1945 she was released and promised to stop, which clearly wasn’t the case as she was arrested again in 1956. There was no sign of anything odd about her death after though, she had been suffering ill-health from around 1944 and was an obese woman who would move slowly due to heart trouble.

All too often when the media talks about these events it is with a very sceptical approach. Replications of their so-called trickery has been given as the reason not to trust mediums etc. Helen Duncan was unfortunate in the media enough times I’d question why folks even continued to see her, but the grief of a lost one is hard and people may well have given her more benefit over doubt due to this.

In the case of HMS Barnham, she was in Portsmouth, a naval town in a time where it was already considered a badly kept secret. Sailors of the living variety may have been talking and she overheard it. Perhaps she truly was told by a spirit but I hate to admit full poo-poo on the situation however I would say the only S involved here was media speculation and sensation.

Helen-duncan-cheesecloth

The first known report of the ‘abominable snowman’ came from Europe in 1832. A British official in Napal described an unknown hairy creature walking erect on two-legs. In the high and often inaccessible peaks of the Himalaya’s the wild man was now being brought to the attention of the media.

In 1921 the Yeti was given the name ‘abominable snowman’ by Western climbers, they were striving to conquer the mountain peaks when they became enthralled by local tales about the Yeti, also called Minka or Kang-Admi.

In 1948 a Norwegian claimed he had been attacked by two of them in Sikkim. In 1951 a British climber called Eric Shipton was in the Gauri Sankar range, he took photo’s of what he believed to be the Yeti. Many experts conclude that they could have been bear prints, distorted by the thawing snow.

The local Sherpa’s were happy to recount tales, and monks in a Himalayan Monastery, they showed off bones, skins and scalps of the creatures. In 1993 both Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay saw strange footprints in the snow during the first ascent of Everest. In 1960 a further expedition was launched by Hilary but they were unable to find any further evidence of the Yeti.

The search carries on.

Oh yes he’s probably one of the most famous killers in history and there is no way I could do this justice in one post but I have decided to at least get a little down on paper for now.

1888 London, Whitechapel was by no means a nice place. In fact a hovel of debauchery, poverty and crime the one thing it has done is raise the profile of how awful it was to be poor during the period. With lavish inventions, curious contraptions and plays that sparkle in the eyes of the rich, just like many cities London was not exempt of the darker side. Indeed London’s underground scenes and rough streets make some of the most lucrative aspects of art and film in the modern ages. Not least of those subjects is Jack the Ripper, depicted by many famous parties in film, games and literature… the serial killers past is so clouded with mystery and intrigue that it’s hard to pass him by.

The name comes from a letter, widely regarded as a hoax, which was signed Jack the Ripper admitting to the hideous crimes but another name for Jack is Leather Apron. Both of which relate to the crimes of prostitutes that were viciously attacked and murdered with abdominal mutilations being the part that really sticks out as his signature. He has never been identified as a specific person and so the theories continue to be debated, perhaps this is the true essence of why he is so fascinating, we truly have the opportunity to play armchair detectives as there’s plenty of theories to test.

Whitechapel itself leads to a brilliant backdrop for the crime and it’s subsequent mystery of exactly who Jack the Ripper is, after all with an estimated 1200 prostitutes and 62 brothels in the area Jackie-boy had a brilliant selection and plenty of opportunities to plan his escapades. And there wasn’t just a problem with the ladies of the night, there was a terrible element of racism, class division and those of higher station merely regarded it all as immorality.

Five of many victims of the time are listed as his canon murders, due to the way in which they were found and mutilated though the true number could be far more and there are at least seven listed as part of the Whitechapel murders. Those considered canon (canonical) are Mary Ann Nichols, Anne Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. I’ll be focusing on them in other posts as they really deserve more focus than a summary paragraph in my view.

What is interesting about each one is that whilst there was no identified sexual assault in terms of the murder being met with rape he had penetrated them with the knife and left them on display, suggesting the act perpetrated on females was still perhaps sexual in nature. It’s hard to disagree with it having some form of sexual motivation when considering their professions.

There have been numerous adaptations of this theme but I am going to comment on the ones I enjoy most. Certainly I enjoyed “From Hell” the name of which was a letter received by George Lusk at the time, the letter was signed From Hell. Johnny Depp plays the aspiring detective Aberline and it is dark enough to be interesting without turning into a terrible slasher like so many seem too. Another take comes from Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) a manga which has been adapted into anime, in which the murderer is a grim reaper working on behalf of a woman who can no longer bear children. A modern retelling came to the British TV in the form of a mini-series, a Jack the Ripper in the modern night replicating the details of the murders is hunted down.

Okay so if you have never heard of this, or are not British the humour might well mean little to you but! I loved it when it was on TV.  Father Lionel Fanthorpe presented the show and if he had been my local church representative I would have gone every day.

The Fortean Times magazine is still one of the best magazines around for me. I adored the tales and I loved to read their takes on things.

There are some lovely quirky English tales but they also cover them from around the world.  Some of the video’s are wonderfully amusing, they just seem to cheesy but at the same time the stories are great so I found myself avidly watching them anyway, perhaps because it is so tongue in cheek.

I leave you with a sample.