Posts Tagged ‘Plague’

A wonderful thing about being in England is there is a lot to see and do, from Nottinghamshire it’s a fairly short journey into the Peak District. One of the places on my list was Eyam Village, the plague village as it is also referred to.

Eyam village would have been quite isolated during the period of the plague and our journey by car was very far removed from the foot/horse travel of the day. It is however beautiful and part of the Peak Pilgrimage, its also a working village where people see us tourists coming through every day.

In 1665 Mary Cooper lived with her two sons and a lodger called George Viccars, who was a travelling tailor. She was a widow and was living fairly comfortably. Around march 1665 she had re-married to Alexander Hadfield and his will shows that he was also a tailor. She is also referred to as Mary Hadfeld in his will. Tradition holds it that a box came from London and arrived August/September containing clothes, her husband was away at this period and it seems likely he stayed with non-infected family for the year as he came back and died 12 months later. The box was opened and found to have wet cloth in it, so Viccars hung them to dry and within the week. It is thought that perhaps a flea was in the clothing and this bit him, within another two weeks Mary’s youngest son, Edward, had also died.

It was the start of the outbreak of the plague in Eyam, in more modern studies some suggestions were put forwards such as typhus, anthrax or measles. Anna Seward was the daughter of the village rector saying that in 1757 men of the village had dug up rotten linen materials and three of the men succumbed to a putrid fever, another several villagers also died. Does this support the idea of anthrax? However, it is a generally accepted event of plague that has been given to this time period.

As records show the wealthier people left the village early on, some of the poor also tried. It wasn’t possible for everyone to simply lock up and leave, often their arrival to other places was met with hostility. It’s not solely an Eyam experience but if villagers/townsfolk herd where people were coming from they may well have been driven out too. Sheffield people created barriers and had guards there to stop strangers from entering and possibly bringing infection. This also led to some villagers taking to living in the fields and caves around Eyam Moor, creating makeshift homes to avoid contracting the plague.

October that year gave another 23 listed victims, it included Jonathan Cooper (Mary’s eldest son) and by April 1666 there were 73 deaths, some would have been natural but there was a definite spike to their numbers on the records. A lull in May would have presented a sense of hope and then in June it began again.

The rector, William Mompesson and his wife had sent both their children away, his wife Catherine begged them to go too but William felt a strong sense of duty to remain. William remained there and Catherine stuck by him, this choice came at the cost of her early demise. He was a young rector at 28 years old and his position was also taken up during the point of a fairly tumultuous religious period. Thomas Stanley had returned to the village after his and Shoreland Adams had been forced to leave down to Puritan pressure. Stanley had come back and he was liked in the village, both of them had differing religious views but the one thing they did work on together was what they could do about the plague.

It is known that during the plague period people were forbidden from crossing a stream to go to the local Bakewell market, they would leave their money in the local waters and trade from a distance. This was already in place by the time they had got the stages next taken. The villagers consented to three decisions to try and stop the plague from spreading and to bring it under control.

The first was that they would have no more organised funerals and church burials, the demand was too high and so people were advised to bury their own dead. It meant the clergy could do all the other work surrounding the death and it must have been hard for all involved not to have their dead buried on consecrated grounds, it prevented the highly religious people of the time from meeting their relatives on Judgement Day. Bodies had to be buried fast and they had to be wrapped and under the ground as it was thought it would help to stop the spread too.

A second decision was made to lock up the church until the epidemic was over, services would be held in the open air. How the plague spread seemed confusing and unclear. Contact needed to be kept to a minimum, whilst they wanted to unite and keep to their services the villagers also understood this was necessary. A rock, The Delph, and the open area near it was chosen as the rock could act like a pulpit and to this day an annual Thanksgiving is held there on the last Sunday in August.

The third decision was quarantine, it was to try and stop the spread of disease beyond the village boundaries. It is speculated that the people of Eyam had little choice and viewed as forced heroism but it would only have taken one person to ignore that and get away with the disease for it to have become worse so it seems that they all agreed and kept to it.

The Earl of Devonshire lived in Chatsworth House, he was their chief benefactor and arranged for good and medical supplies to be left at the southern border of Eyam. Any requests for specific items could be left at the boundary stone and paid for there too. Cynically this kept the Earl away from the infection but without him they would have had nothing to sustain them so he was doing something to help the local population. Money was placed in running water or wells, or was sterilised by placing it in holes made in the boundary stones were the money was put into vinegar.

The villagers were isolated but the disease did not spread, all they had to do now was wait and pray. The last death was recorded in either October or 1st November 1666. 1664 showed the consensus with around 160 households (800 population) and by the end an estimated 430 people. The Hearth tax return for 1670 suggests 350 taxed households but does not list exemptions and another suggestion of only 83 survivors seems more plausibly to be 83 households. It would be hard to exact numbers for those who died to the plague too, as an example Jane Hadfield had a baby that died only 2 days after birth, not listed down to plague but not ascertained if it contributed either.

In December 1666 the Christmas period was one of recovery, slowly life was returning to the stricken village and in the summer of 1667 they held a ‘great burning’ to remove all objects etc that might carry any remnants of the plague seed.

There are still recorded outbreaks of the plague today, in 1994 there was an outbreak in India and there have been pockets of cases reported in the USA – be wary of the chipmunks and prairie dogs in some of the larger national parks. The latest listed case on WHO is in Madagascar as of 2017.

If you want a lovely day out in the Peaks and want to learn more you can visit and see a museum as well as all the sign posts around the village. It was, for me anyway, a wonderful day out with a lot to take in

Sources:
Eyam Plague Village 1665-1666 by John Clifford
The Village Museum and boards around the village.
The National Trust
World Health Organisation 

In 2005 the ever popular World or Warcraft MMO introduced a new raid to the game, it was Zul’Gurub (now a dungeon instance) that has been cited as a model for real world epidemic study. The games mechanics introduced a damaging effect called ‘Corrupted Blood’ from the last ‘boss’, Hakkar, that came off the players when they either died or the boss was killed. It could however be on the pets that players brought along and when they left the instance it continued to stay on the pets.

Consequently some players inadvertently spread this to others as it leapt from the pets to the players, this incident primarily occurred in Ironforge, the Dwarven City. Some players indeed found this quite amusing and deliberately brought it to the city as well.

Discussion forums at the time discussed the sight of bodies in the streets of the city, and it seems that at least three of the multiple servers were affected. The towns and major cities were abandoned by those not affected as they went into the countryside. The urban areas were then graveyards with the white bones of the dead.

It was interesting to see that players that had an ability to help did so, they directed the lower level characters away from the area and where they could remove the disease from others they did but other players deliberately brought the contagion to others.

Blizzard then attempted quarantine, the idea being that those affected would stay in a contained area but vindictive players (or those not taking it seriously as it was a game) brought that to those areas, praying on the weak and the fact it was a confined area. Some players ensured that the pets that caught it were then ‘un-summoned’ to remove the issue but ultimately Blizzard had to hard reset all the servers and reprogram the glitch.

After the outbreak the next even in 2008 was intentional. Blizzard released a zombie plague week in order to promote the new release of the expansion ‘Wrath of the Lich King’. This one was seemed more true-to-life as it was a small risk of transmission and encountering a lone zombie was not as dangerous as a large number of the infected. It was met with both praise and criticism, and from my side, mostly praise as it was an interesting adaptation to the game for a short period of time.

The epidemic of the Corrupted Blood was compared to real life breakouts, the CDC did ask for information about the statistics but Blizzard found they could not provide them as it was a computer glitch. It was also fascinating to see that it was carried from a remote area into a larger one, that people and animals could contract it, much like Avian Flu, and that people in larger areas were more at risk.

However there were differences from the real world too that negate parts of the study, such as it did not affect the non-playable characters because they did not transmit it. Alongside this there were no visible signs of the disease, such as pustules or other effects, but there was one thing that made it feel realistic – the rush of journalists wanting to cover the story and then get back out of it.

There was a discussion about using the platform for further study with the players however it never really came to fruition. It was felt that it was not really going to be indicative of a real world situation. There was not enough realistic data because players regenerate and with that meant there was little threat on the infection if all the player precautions could be set up, it would really be more for entertainment…

It was also discussed that WOW could be used in terms of how terrorists form collaborations and cells, this again would only be used for entertainment as a model could not be formed from the game. It did however give interesting light when someone pointed out that people quickly got smart in the game about how to do the biggest damage to the most amount of people and how. And lets not forget that it is a game and the very worst that can happen, unlike real life, is you can re-spawn and get back to doing what you like, so it really does not mirror real life.

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A strange tale of a vampiric encounter comes from the 1100’s, once the lord of the estate it lived underneath it and at night it would emerge to attack villagers.

It was also an area with an outbreak of plague at the time, so it could be that the legend could partly be attributed to the rise of the creature in the face of the deaths.

The result of this was the villagers dug up the monster, taking it from its shallow grave and burning it to end its curse. This was also a site used for the filming of the ever popular Harry Potter.

Recently I went on a trip with friends out to Italy, more specifically Venice. We stayed around the Lido area which is around three kilometres away from the abandoned island of Poveglia. In the port at San Marco we saw a ship called Poveglia and we took it upon ourselves to ask them if the boat did indeed go there… blank faces. This was a similar event when we asked the local police too, seems it was not a well heard of place.

The island itself is not on the main routes, and there are no tourists being guided around. I had hoped we’d find out a way to get there but sadly not. However this hasn’t deterred me from recounting this curiosity. I am sure someone may be able to correct me where I go wrong. (Hope so anyway).

The Island seems to have a lengthy history attached to it, records suggest that in the 9th Century it was fairly well populated but had suffered plenty of wars and attacks. In 1379 Venice came under conflict and the people from Poveglia were moved to the Giudecca. The Venetian government built a permanent fortification on the Island; the Octagon there is still visible today. It remained uninhabited until it was offered to the Camaldolese monks in 1527, they refused to take it. In 1661 descendants were then offered the Island but again it was refused. It was still left empty and abandoned.

1777 saw the Island being used by the Public Health Office who used it as a check point for goods and people as they came and went through Venice. 1793 saw the plague changing the island once more, several cases of the plague on two ships meant that it was a temporary confinement place for the ill. It was a place made permanent in 1805, and the church of San Vitale there was destroyed, the old bell tower was then converted into a lighthouse. It was closed down in 1814.

The 20th Century was used as a quarantine station once more, and then in 1922 the buildings that were left had been converted to a hospital for the mentally-ill and for long-term care. This was the case until 1968 when the hospital was closed, the island was used for a while after that but now is closed off.

So on to the creepy bits? That’s what we’re here for right?

The mental asylum doctor was no doubt given his tyrannical legend like so many others of the time, due to practising lobotomy and other, now, barbaric practises. He was tortured by his patients, went “mad” and then jumped to his death from the bell tower. However the story says that he survived and was then strangled by a mist from the ground.

Other sources say that so many people were buried and burnt during the time of the plague that the ground is half human-remains. The local fishermen will give it a wide berth to ensure they will not fish up the bones of ancestors and a stay overnight would most like produce interesting tales, Ghost Adventure’s went that way themselves and discovered this to be much the case. The locals are either unaware of this place, or will feign disinterest leaving only the more curious and grizzly minded wanting to go there.

A rather good first account from someone that has visited can be located here: MENTAL FLOSS

Poveglia Googled

York, England, has a lot of tales, one of which is 5 College Street where it is said that there is the ghost of  a young girl who has been both seen and heard on the upper floor.

In the middles ages plague hit the city, the family in the house at the time were sufferers and like many others, when people became infected, locals sealed up the houses in an attempt to stop the spread. The parents suffered the horrific decline into death and their young daughter did not. She was immune but the locals were so fearful of the plague that they never let her out.

A fate as hellish as any she was instead sealed up with her rotting parents and left to starve to death. If there was a reason for a young lady to haunt an area perhaps this really is one.