Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Historical Halloween Facts

1 – Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, approximately 2000 years ago. This day symbolized the end of warm weather and the beginning of winter, which was also associated with human death. It seems that in the night of October 31 ghosts returned on earth and they would cause damage. Celtics actually set places at the table for their dead relatives to celebrate this day.

2 – There are several superstitions on Halloween: avoid crossing paths with black cats, walking under ladders, avoid breaking mirrors, and stepping on cracks in the road. Their origins are probably from the Middle Ages.

3 – There are other traditions besides trick-or-treat, and a lot of the rituals on Halloween were focused on divination and seeing the future. It was a popular practice to try to see your future husband in the mirror on Halloween through different rituals and plan whether you are getting married in the next year. For example, in 18 century a matchmaking cook buried a ring in her mashed potatoes while hoping it would bring true love to the person who found it.

4 – In Scotland, fortune-tellers advised young women to name hazelnuts for each of their suitors and then toss them into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes represented the name of the future husband. Different stories show an opposite meaning, the nut that burned to ashes symbolized a love that won’t survive. Other rituals included women drinking certain concoctions that would lead them to dream their husband on Halloween night.

5 – In Ireland and Scotland people made versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving faces into turnips or potatoes. They placed them to windows or near doors hoping that they would scare away Singy Jack and other spirits.

6 – Soul cakes are served on Halloween and they represent the soul of the person that will be freed from Purgatory. This tradition has been around since the Middle Ages. The cakes are usually filled with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, and currants and marked with a cross. They are combined with wine as an offering for the dead, traditionally on All Saints Day.

7 – A game played on Halloween in the 1900s was one involving walnut shells; people wrote fortunes in milk on white paper which was placed in walnut shells after drying. When the shell was warmed, the milk turned brown and the writing appeared. Another game involved symbols being cut out of paper and placed on a platter; then somebody entered a dark room and had to put their hand on a piece of ice then lay it on the platter. The fortune (paper symbols) of the person would stick on their hand.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elizabeth Bathory - The Bloody Countess

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Báthory Erzsébet) is renowned for her atrocious crimes and has been a famous character in pop culture. However, many debate whether she was indeed a serial killer or not. 

She was born in 1560 and was engaged to Ferenc Nádasdy at age 11. Unlike most women from that time, she was highly educated and spoke four languages. Her husband trusted her with managing the estate and business while he was leading the Hungarian troops at war with the Ottomans. They both had control over a wide land and they were the most powerful union in Hungary. Unfortunately, with her husband missing for battle, she gained interest in occultism and alchemy.

A lot of her sadistic behavior has been explained by the fact that she might have been mentally ill since she was young, due to inbreeding. Also, her husband was not very far from being as cruel as her and it seems that he “educated” her in his favorite ways of punishing servants. Some tales say that they were both involved in the occult art and participated in different satanic rituals, others say that her husband had no idea of his wife’s “hobbies”. However, one thing is certain: in those times torture and punishment were common, so people even considered cruelty to be a virtue.

While her husband was away she seemed to engage in sexual activities that were seen as perverse at the time, such as: adultery, bisexuality, masochism, and sadism. But the real atrocities started when the count died in battle, leaving Elizabeth and her children alone with his mother. First she got rid of her mother-in-law. Then, she started by torturing her servant girls along with accomplices such as Helena Jo, Dorothea Szentes, and Johannes Ujvary. Her torture methods included: beating her maidservants with barbed lash and heavy cudgel, dragging them naked in the snow and dousing them with cold water until they froze to death, and putting pins underneath their fingernails, armpits and genitals; she also bathed in the young girls’ blood, made different surgeries on her victims, starved them to death, bit their flesh, and sexually abused them. 

Her accomplices testified and described certain tortures. Ficzko was very graphic about a specific torture:
“They tied the hands and arms very tightly with Viennese cord, they were beaten to death until the whole body was black as charcoal and their skin was rent and torn. One girl suffered more than two hundred blows before dying. Dorko [another accomplice and procurer] cut their fingers one by one with shears and then slit the veins with scissors.”

Ilona Joo admitted that she applied red-hot pokers in the mouth or nose of girls, stabbed them with needles and torn open their flesh with sharp pincers. She also enjoyed cutting the skin between her victim’s fingers.

A servant refused to testify against Elizabeth and her eyes were poked and her breast cut before she was executed by burning at stake.

Bathing in young girls’ blood might be just a legend. Apparently she discovered this when she slapped a young servant and when the girl’s blood touched her skin she thought it made her skin look young again. With this idea in her head, the countess started taking numerous blood baths that were supposed to reverse her aging process.  

Her downfall began with Erszi Majorova, the successor accomplice of Darvula (who died in 1609) who advised her to start killing noble people. Although the deaths of peasants were overlooked, too many nobles dying was catching people’s attention and soon the Lutheran minister Istvan Magyari complained about her publicly. She was kept under strict house arrest because she was noble and any scandal would have disgraced the noble family that ruled Transylvania at that time.  The exact number of killed girls is unknown but it has been speculated that it could be as high as 650. Some say that the number of victims was approximately 32 while others even argue that she was a victim of conspiracy (which could be a valid argument since it would be explained by Hungarian history at the time).

On 30 December 1610 she was arrested along with four of her servants. As I mentioned earlier, she was put to house arrest but her servants were not noble so they didn’t received the same treatment. Three of them Dorota Semtész, Ilona Jó, and János Újváry were tortured and executed. Katarína Benická was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Although many historians believe that bathing in blood is just a legend made to impress an audience, the story of Elizabeth Bathory still influences culture today and has inspired countless fictional characters. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

7 Random Facts - Episode 4 (special edition)

Today we have a special 7 Random Facts article because it’s Halloween Month, so everything will be...about death.

1- In one of the first stages of embalming the mouth is closed by suturing with a needle and ligature, using a wire or an adhesive. This practice is called setting the features and it is meant to keep the mouth from opening and making a more relaxed face by shaving, closing the eyes, etc.

2- Strychnine is probably the most terrible poison in the world. It is very easy to get poisoned with strychnine by inhalation, swallowing or absorbtion through eyes or mouth. It has some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms of all the toxic reactions; the worst part about it is the fact that the person remains lucid until the end. There are a few things that happen after strychnine poisoning:

- severe nausea, followed by vomiting because of its bitter taste

- because the poison is a neurotoxin, it primarily affects the motor nerves in the spinal cord which control muscle contraction. This is why convulsions affect the muscles and they begin to last longer and longer. Death occurs due to asphyxia because respiration is affected by muscle spasm.

3- Alexander Hamilton, a Scottish aristocrat wanted to be mummified after his death and he bought an Egyptian Sarcophagus. Unfortunately, after his death it seemed that there was a difference of height between the Duke and the person who was initially supposed to occupy the sarcophagus. His legs were cut off at the knees so that he could fit in the sarcophagus.

4- Did you know about the blood eagle? It was a gruesome Viking method for murder. While the victim was still alive, their ribs would be cut and opened up then the lungs were removed. The ribs of the victim were opened so that they would resemble blood-stained wings. Of course, salt was sprinkled on the wounds because the pain was not enough it seems.

5- Indian Professor Syed Abdul Gafoor kept his dead mother preserved in a glass case for 20 years, until he died.

6- The French murderer Marquise de Brinvilliers was force-fed 9 liters of water before being beheaded. She was also burn at the stake.

7- Philosopher Pliny the Elder wanted so much to see Vesuvius erupting that he actually died because of it. He ended up being killed by the volcano’s poisonous gases.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sexual Innovations, Protesters, Social Media, and Lots of Free Books

There are very few things I discovered this week. It was a crazy week and I wanted to put creepy things in my discoveries since it's Halloween Month, but I don't have enough horror discoveries.

This week we have 5 Sexual Innovations From People In Your History Text Books  and Three Types of Protesters Hurting Their Own Cause  from
This article about social media is really cool, especially for those of us who want to know more about its role in marketing. Another article is this one about writing  which definitely helps us bloggers. If you want free books you can get some from Project Gutenberg, I found a lot of philosophy books there and most classics can be found too. It's an amazing database. Here's another great article from Big Think on how the brain appreciates art.
I also found this blog, a great resource for copywriters who need to improve their work. For those of you who know the case of Sybil, apparently it was a big fraud. We don't know it for sure but it was a little bit too  unbelievable. I will make a future post about this case, since I find it fascinating. Anyway, I will leave you guys with my newest song obsession:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The legend of Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary is a very popular ghost legend from the English folklore. She appears in the mirror (sometimes on Halloween) when her name is called three times in a dark room, often as a test of bravery among young people. There are many variations to this: she may appear when her name is chanted one or three times, when the participant spins around, when they rub their eyes, or chanting her name while holding a lit candle. In other versions the person who wants to summon her must say “Bloody Mary, I killed your baby”. Apparently, if she appears she kills the people who called her, often in violent ways, or she just haunts them for the rest of their life. Other versions of the legend include a ritual where people are able to talk to deceased persons, see their future life or their future spouses.  

She is believed to be the spirit of a mother whose baby was stolen from her, making her mad and leading to her suicide. The history behind this legend is difficult to figure out as it is mostly a mix of other legends and tales. Another tale regarding Bloody Mary refers to a witch who lived over 100 years ago and was practicing black magic. She was executed and she haunts whoever calls her name. There is even a gruesome variation of the legend involving a woman who had a fatal accident and was horrible mutilated.

Other sources point out that it refers to Queen Mary I herself or involve a child murderer. There are a few speculations regarding Queen Mary’s miscarriages and some say they were induced while others believe she went mad because she lost so many pregnancies. She also had the nickname Bloody Mary due to the fact that she executed so many people for religious reasons. Other legends seem to point to Elizabeth Bathory, a queen who supposedly bathed in virgin’s blood to make herself look younger.

Some historians believe that the Bloody Mary ritual is similar to other rituals used in different cultures that mark the beginning of puberty in females. This is also supported by the fact that this is a game played by girls during sleepovers. There was an article written about this by Alan Dundes who believes that the ritual serves an important purpose of providing young women with an outlet for the fear and anxiety they feel related to body changes during pubescence. Such a ritual would develop as a method for children to cope with the scary changes in their lives.

There are different elements to this legend that point out to early myths and superstitions.
Mirrors are one of the most common objects used in divination and there are a lot of rituals involving girls using a candle in front of a mirror in order to see their future. There are also traditions that involve people covering the mirrors when a person dies to avoid the spirit from being trapped in the house. Other extremely common magic rituals include turning in circles and repeated incantations.

Whether the legend is true or not, there’s only one way to know.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

7 Dark Amazing Artists

Since this is Halloween month my posts will be concerned more with the horror side of things. I love art and I loved writing about it in the past, so I figured out I would share some of the most talented dark artists I know.  

1 - F. A. Carrión  is an artist from Houston, Texas. His art is haunting, macabre and beautiful. If you like his art you can see more on his personal page and his Facebook page

This one is definitely my favorite. 

2 - Amarilli is an artist born in Milan, who currently lives in beautiful Tuscan countryside. She works for an interior decoration company and on her own art projects. She has been interested in the artistic side from childhood and her art is inspired from folklore mythology and magic. If you like her work check out her Facebook page, her personal website and her twitter account.

3 – Rachel Graves is an artist from Portland, Oregon. She describes her art as being inspired by nightmares that have in the past amused her. I hope you agree with me that she created beautiful nightmares indeed. You can find more about her and her art on Facebook and on her blog.

4 – Amy Kollar Anderson is an incredible artist from Dayton, Ohio. According to her Deviantart page her favorite activities are painting and hanging out with her husband. She describes her art as “Pop Surreal images with a focus on narrative and color”. You can see more of her vibrant art on her Facebook page, twitter account  and her personal page

5- Mirko Sevic is an artist born on 24th of April, 1954 in Velika Kladusa. His art is inspired from events that took place before and during the war, which had a great impact on him. On his website he states that his art is trying send the message that people lost what has separated humanity from animosity. 

6- Uno Moranes has amazing, fascinating and weird tone to his work and what's even more amazing is the fact that he makes Pixel Art. I couldn’t find much information on him but you can see his beautiful artworks on his personal page, Livejournal blog, and Tumblr blog

7- Thomas Joseph Yagodinski is a horror artist that gets inspiration from stories and experiences of the paranormal kind and his fascination with the occult and witchcraft. You can see more of his work here and on his personal website

Friday, October 7, 2011

Edward Mordake - Was he truly real?

The curious case of Edward Mordake is probably unknown to most people. He was a man that lived in the 19 century and was born with an odd deformity. He had an extra face on the back of his head which was able to laugh or cry, although there isn’t any proof that it actually expressed these emotions. He committed suicide when he was 23 and lived totally isolated for most part of his life.

The face on the back of his head seemed to be that of a woman, in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine 
  we are told that I was a beautiful female face “lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil”. Apparently it smiled when he cried and the eyes followed the movements of people around him. According to some sources  it seems that the face couldn’t have been the one of a woman because parasitic twins are always the same sex, which is correct. So, it seems that this whole story about the face being a beautiful woman was just a way to make things more spectacular.

Another interesting but highly implausible thing was the fact that the face seemed to be speaking, but nothing could be heard. However, Edward could hear what it was saying and he begged the doctors to remove the face from his head because it talked to him forever about “things from hell”. But the surgeons refused to remove it because it was too risky.

He used poison to commit suicide and asked in his suicide letter that the face would be removed before burial “ lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave”.
So is the story true? That’s hard to decide, especially since there is no historical evidence. There might have been a man with a parasitic twin on the back of his head, but the fact that it spoke is definitely something that was made up to make the story seem more spectacular.

For more information on Edward Mordake and his condition, check out this cool article here. 

Further reading about deformities and anomalies: Gould, George M. & Walter L. Pyle, Anomolies and Curiosities of Medicine, New York: 1896
(ANOMALIES and CURIOSITIES of MEDICINE (Annotated)- kindle edition; Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine - paperback edition )

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Awards, German architecture, neuron control and how to annoy your teacher

Hello everybody, I'm sorry I was so slow this week but I've been a bit sick lately. This was good but I also slept for about 24 hours I think, which is never productive. Unfortunately, my google reader has 375 unread items, so I have a lot of reading and commenting to do.

First of all I would like to thank Sie for her award. You can check out her other websites: this and this. She is a really special person. Sorry for not being able to thank you sooner dear :(

Let's see what interesting internet places I can recommend you this week. The first one is this  and it's about German architecture. I'm obsessed by everything German so if you are like me, you will love it too. Also, if you are an over-thinking freak like me,  read this.

Another cool article I read a while ago was Neuron Control written by Sarang Mangi. A great article about  activating specific neurons.

If you want to read something funny here are 45 ways to annoy your teacher. Now I'm seriously thinking of riding a horse to uni. :D

Now, let's see some studies: people learn while they sleep, drinking a lot of coffee and depression , low B12 vitamin levels shrink your brain, if you were planning on taking some hallucinogenic drugs you will need to rethink that because a single dose leads to lasting personality changes, and don't forget to drink red wine to lower your breast cancer risk. 

Don't forget to check out this mind blowing article about people with schizophrenia. Apparently living in a developed country lowers your chances to recover.