Article: Where Do We Go When We Die?

angelsIt is one of our oldest questions: Where do we go when we die – or does death simply mean oblivion?

The ancient Egyptians believed that the soul went on to the kingdom of the dead, known as the Duat. To get there, it faced demons and fierce animals, finally arriving at the Hall of Two Truths, where its heart was weighed against the feather of truth and justice. If the heart was heavier, the soul was devoured by the crocodile-headed goddess Ammut. If it was lighter, it would travel on to rejoin loved ones, live in a comfortable house, have plenty to eat and drink, and enjoy constant sun and a cool breeze.

For the ancient Greeks, the afterlife was not so rosy. Greek souls ended up either in Hades, a cold, damp and dark realm guarded by the three-headed hound Cerberus, or Tartarus, where monsters and wicked humans were imprisoned for eternity. On the other hand, the Elysian Fields were a paradise reserved only for very good or distinguished people.

The Jewish people of Old Testament times believed that the dead went to an underworld

called Sheol where they slept forever, knowing neither pleasure and reward, nor pain and punishment. This view eventually changed. The Book of Enoch, a religious text dated to the 2nd century BPE, describes Sheol as being divided into four sections:

–                     One where the saints await judgement day.

–                     One where moderately good people await their reward.

–                     A third where the wicked are punished and also await judgement day.

–                     A last, where the wicked are tormented for eternity.

According to the Buddhists’ Tibetan Book of the Dead,  souls wander for up to 100 days in an intermediary bardo state, after which they either go on to the ultimate peace of Nirvana, or are reborn to new earthly lives through the process of reincarnation.

The Roman Catholic Church indoctrinated the concepts of a heavenly paradise, a fiery hell, and purgatory, a temporary resting place where souls undergo remedial punishment for minor sins before being admitted to heaven.

With the advances in modern medical care, the near-death experience has complicated the subject of life after death. Dr. Raymond A. Moody Jr., author of the ground-breaking 1975 book, Life After Life, and like-minded researchers have found that people revived after clinical death often describe several of the following events:

–                     The sensation of floating, seeing and hearing everything going on around their body.

–                     Passing through a dark tunnel where the sound of wind or even music may be heard.

–                     Ascending toward a light at the end of the darkness.

–                     Being greeted by deceased loved ones, a guide, religious figure or being of light.

–                     Being shown a life review.

–                     Experiencing a pleasant, heaven-like place or – rarely – a fearful, hell-like place.

–                     An increased interest in the meaning of life, and a loss of their fear of death.

If you have had a near-death experience, Halloween Forevermore would love to hear from you!

Article: STORIES OF WOMEN IN HORROR

February is Women in Horror month, a concept designed to celebrate and assist female creators in the horror genre in gaining opportunities and exposure. Yes, there is a long history of talented women horror writers.

Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born in London, England, in 1797. She married poet Percy Shelley in 1816, becoming Mary Shelley. Her iconic novel, Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus came about after a contest was proposed by the couple’s friend Lord Byron as to who could write the better horror story. The novel was anonymously published in 1818 as it was believed that no-one would buy a book written by a woman. Mary Shelley’s name appeared on the second edition printed five years later. Although she wrote several more novels, Shelley is forever remembered for Frankenstein.

           

Daphne Du Maurier
Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier was born in 1907, also in London, the grand-daughter of the famous Anglo-French writer, George L. Du Maurier. Du Maurier published her first short story in 1928. She published her terrifying story, The Birds in 1952; Alfred Hitchcock would direct the memorable film adaptation in 1963. For her life of service to literature, Daphne Du Maurier was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (the female equivalent of a knight) in 1969.

Shirely Jackson  Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco in1916. She entered Syracuse University in 1937, where she published her first story.Jackson later began writing for The New Yorker, which published her disturbing story, The Lottery, in 1948. The story generated the largest volume of mail ever received by the magazine – most of it hateful. The Lottery has since been published in numerous languages and is still required reading in U.S. high schools. In 1959 Shirley Jackson published The Haunting of Hill House, a finalist for the National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories of the 20th century.

Anne Rice must be the most prolific female horror writer, with over 30 novels to her name. Born and raised in New Orleans, Rice holds a Master of Arts Degree in English and Creative Writing from San Francisco University. Her first book, Interview with the Vampire, began as a short story but was published as a novel in 1976. Rice has since created a rich cast of bloodsuckers in her best-selling Vampire Chronicles, witches in her Lives of the Mayfair Witches, werewolves in her Wolf Gift Chronicles, and even a mummy and a ghost or two.Anne Rice smaler

Born in Helena, Arkansas, multi-talented Mary Lambert is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design who began her career directing music videos for artists such as Madonna and Janet Jackson. She is best known for directing the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary in 1989, and its sequel, Pet Sematary II three years later. In 2005, Lambert directed the film Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, and in 2008, she wrote and directed seven episodes of the television series The Dark Path Chronicles.

Last but certainly not least, Philadelphia born Linda Addison is the eldest of nine children whose love of story-telling grew from listening to her mother tell bed-time tales to her family. In 1997, Addison published Animated Objects, her debut collection of short stories, journal entries, and poetry. In 2001, she became the first African-American author to win the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for her collection of poetry entitled, Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Gray Ashes. She has subsequently won the prestigious award three more times, most recently in 2013 for the collaborative work, Four Elements.

To commemorate Women in Horror Month, Examiner.com has published a list of 93 up-and-coming female horror writers. (Google 93 Horror Authors You Need to Read Right Now – Examiner.com to find it.) Truly, the future of horror is in women’s hands.

Article: THE NOT-SO-SWEET HISTORY OF VALENTINE’S DAY

ghost valentineRomantic greeting cards, chocolate hearts, red roses, and wine come quickly to mind when we think of Valentine’s Day. Sadly, February 14 has a long and not-so-sweet history dating back over 2000 years.

The ancient Romans celebrated the fertility festival of Lupercalia annually from February 13 – 15. In a sacred grotto in Rome’s Palatine Hill, priests known as Luperci sacrificed two goats and a dog to the god of agriculture and shepherds, Lupercus (“he who wards off the wolf”). The priests’ foreheads were touched with blood, then wiped clean with wool dipped in milk. The men proceeded to run through the streets whipping women and crops with thongs made from the hides of the goats to promote fertility. This continued until approximately 498 C.E., when Pope Galesius I finally supressed the pagan ritual, turning February 14 into a Christian feast day in honor of Saint Valentine.

According to Catholic tradition, there were three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine, all of whom were martyred on February 14 in various years. The most famous of these was a priest who lived in 3rd century Rome, and attracted the disfavor of the current Roman emperor, Claudius II. Saint Valentine – although of course not yet a saint – was holding secret marriage ceremonies for young lovers, in opposition to the emperor’s decree prohibiting marriage for young men (he believed that marriage made soldiers weak). Valentine was arrested, beaten, stoned, and condemned to death. Legend has it that while awaiting execution, Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailor, Asterius. Before his death, Valentine wrote a farewell letter to Asterius’ daughter, to whom he had become somewhat attached, signing it, “From Your Valentine.” It is believed that Valentine was executed on February 14, in the year 270 C.E. His flower-crowned skull now resides in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.

More recently, February 14 became infamous for Chicago’s 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. A gang war between Al Capone and Bugs Moran ended violently with Capone’s men lining up and shooting seven of Moran’s men. On the seven year anniversary of the massacre Jack McGurn, one of Capone’s hit men, was killed by machine gun fire in a Chicago bowling alley.
Allied Air Forces dropped more than 3900 tons of high explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the German city of Dresden between February 13 – 15, 1945, killing an estimated 22,000 – 25,000 people. On that very February 14, the U.S. Army Air Force carpet-bombed the city of Prague, apparently by mistake (they were supposed to be aiming for Dresden). Many homes and historical sites were destroyed. Over 700 people were killed, nearly 2000 injured. All of the casualties were civilians.

As for the romantic Valentine’s Day greeting card? One of the earliest on record was written in 1415 C.E. by Charles, Duke of Orléans, to his wife, Bonne of Armagnac, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. She died before they could be reunited.

The Creation of the Golem

The Golem (1920)According to Jewish tradition, the golem is a human-like creature created from clay and animated by magic. (The word golem means ‘unformed’ or ‘shapeless mass’.)  Its usual purpose was to protect the Jewish community from outside threats. While typically male in form and stronger than the average human, it was generally not given a name, and it could not speak.

Various versions differ in detail, but most golem creation stories go something like this: A rabbi or initiate forms the creature out of water and virgin soil. He then walks or dances around the figure reciting the activation words. These may be the letters of the sacred name of God, the Tetragrammaton (one of the names of God used in the Torah), or other sacred words or phrases such as adam (the first man), or emet (truth). Bereshit (Genesis) 2:7 works as well: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” According to some legends, the sacred letters, words or name of God should be written on a parchment, and placed in the golem’s mouth. To stop or deactivate the golem, the parchment need only be removed.

The most famous story of the golem is connected to Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal of Prague (c. 1525 – 1609). The good rabbi created his golem out of clay from the VltavaRiver to protect the city’s Jewish ghetto from those who would threaten it, and to help out with physical labor. Exceptionally, the golem was named Josef (but for some reason known as Yossele). According to one version of the story, one night Rabbi Loew neglected to take the magical parchment from Josef’s mouth and the creature ran amok, unfortunately injuring or killing several innocent people. Loew eventually managed to deactivate the golem and put the body or remains thereof in the attic of Prague’s Old-New Synagogue.

A Prague reproduction of the golem
A Prague reproduction of the golem

Fast-forward a few hundred years. It is rumored that Nazi soldiers broke into the synagogue during World War II and Rabbi Loew’s golem ripped them limb from limb, although there is no proof of this. Today, the synagogue receives dozens of requests every year for visits to the golem’s attic lair – visits which are politely declined as the attic is closed to the general public.

A note to the GolemLike other creatures of legend, the golem has found a place in modern literature and film. Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 novel, Der Golem, was inspired by the tales of Rabbi Loew’s golem. In 1958, the celebrated Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges published a poem entitled, The Golem, again referring to Rabbi Loew’s creature. In 1983, best-selling author Elie Wiesel wrote a beautiful children’s book based on the legend and entitled – what else? – The Golem. The golem had a main role in Paul Wegener’s silent film, The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920), and in the Czech movie, The Emperor and the Golem (1951). On television, the golem has appeared in a number of series, including The X-Files, Extreme Ghostbusters, R. L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series, and Supernatural.

Article: The Birth of the Zombie

 

Clairvius Narcisse
Clairvius Narcisse

Who hasn’t heard of the zombie, living-dead antagonist of both television and the silver screen for the past decade?

Actually, the notion of the zombie as a dead person who has been brought back to life – so to speak – has its origins in West African tribal religions and their New World counterpart, vodoun, more commonly known as voodoo.

According to voodoo folklore, a sorcerer, called a bokor, gives his victim a poison derived from various toxic plants and animals including white tree frogs, bouga toads, tarantulas, and puffer fish. (The puffer fish contains tetrodotoxin, one of the deadliest poisons known to man.)

The ill-fated victim begins to suffer dizziness and a prickling feeling in the fingers and toes which soon leads to complete numbness. Next come headache, weakness, a drop in body temperature, rapid pulse, vomiting and diarrhea. Within 30 – 45 minutes, decreased pulse and respiration occur, and the lips turn blue. This is followed by complete paralysis, and the victim is declared dead. Unfortunately the person is completely conscious for the entire ordeal. Even more unfortunately, he or she remains conscious during burial!

A day or two after burial, the bokor retrieves the victim from the grave and revives the person with a potion of hallucinogenic plants. The zombie, disoriented, traumatized and mentally damaged by the experience, can then be made by the bokor to do the sorcerer’s bidding.

One of the best documented cases of alleged zombification is that of a Haitian man named Clairvius Narcisse. On April 30, 1962, Narcisse checked into the American-run Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelle, Haiti, basically complaining of the very symptoms mentioned above.

White Zombie poster
White Zombie poster

His condition rapidly deteriorated and on May 2, doctors declared him dead. He was identified by his sister, Marie-Claire, and buried the next day. Eighteen years later, Narcisse appeared to another one of his sisters, Angelina, with an incredible tale to tell: Narcisse claimed he had been poisoned, raised from his coffin and revived, beaten into submission and forced to work sunup to sunset on a plantation. He escaped after two years, only to wander the countryside for the next sixteen years. In 1982, researchers from Haiti’s Centre de Psychologie et Neurologie Mars-Kline investigated the case, examining and questioning the man, and finally determined that he was, in fact, Clairvius Narcisse. The rest of Narcisse’s story could not be substantiated, but it seems that family and townsfolk believed it to be true

 

Night of the Living Dead lobby card
Night of the Living Dead lobby card

The first zombie movie, White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi (1932), followed the voodoo-master-zombie-slave scenario. In modern zombie lore, however, the living dead are most often not a sorcerer’s slaves, but victims of a pandemic who mindlessly roam the streets hunting surviving humans, and eating any living thing they can catch. This is the premise for the cult classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Brad Pitt’s recent venture into the horror genre, World War Z (2013), as well as the popular television series, The Walking Dead and Z Nation. There is, of course, no historical record of a zombie epidemic having ever happened. At least not yet.

Legends of the Wolf-Man

vintage werewolfLoup garou. Lycanthrope. Hombre lobo. Werewolf. No matter what you call it, it’s someone who physically changes – willingly or not – into a vicious wolf-like creature with an appetite for human flesh. The concept dates back to the classical Greek and Roman eras. In his novel Satyricon, Roman writer Gaius Petronius (27 – 66 A.D.) tells the story of a soldier who turns into a wolf that attacks a flock of sheep. The wolf is wounded and later, the soldier is found with the identical injury; while the story is fiction, it indicates familiarity with the legend of the wolf-man.

According to various legends, you can become a werewolf by being bitten by one; inheriting the condition from a parent or being born with a birthmark; using a magic potion or ointment containing such ingredients as deadly nightshade (a poisonous plant), bat’s blood and opium; wearing a magic belt; being cursed by a witch; eating the flesh or heart of a wolf; or eating human flesh. A full moon may or may not be required.

You can protect yourself from werewolves by wearing garlic or a silver cross (and you’ll be safe from vampires, too); carrying holy water; having silver bullets in your gun; or wearing wolfsbane (another plant). To kill a werewolf you must shoot it with a silver bullet or arrow; stab it with a silver knife; make it ingest wolfsbane; or cut off its head or rip out its heart.

Medieval Europe took the werewolf very seriously. Numerous people were accused and convicted in court of being werewolves. One famous documented case involved Peter Stubbe, a man from Bedberg, Germany, who was arrested in 1589 after villagers allegedly witnessed him changing from a wolf into his human self. Stubbe confessed to having made a pact with the Devil, who had given him a magical belt that could change him into a wolf. He admitted to killing and eating at least 16 people while in his wolf form. He was convicted of murder, tortured and executed.

Lon Chaney Jr as The WolfmanAnother historical case was that of Jean Grenier, a thirteen-year-old boy arrested in 1603 after a girl claimed she was attacked by a large, wolf-like creature in the Gascony region of southern France. Grenier said he had become a werewolf after being given an ointment and wolf skin by a demonic being he called the Lord of the Forest. He confessed to killing and eating several people. He was tried for murder, proclaimed insane, and imprisoned in a monastery where he died in 1610.

More recently and closer to home, huge wolf-like beasts have been reported near Delavan, in southern Wisconsin. In 1936, a certain Mark Schackelman allegedly encountered a human-like creature covered with dark hair. It had a muzzle, prominent fangs, and pointed ears on the top of its head. A number of subsequent witnesses have described the same creature as recently as 1999.  It has become known as the Bray Road Beast and so far remains unexplained . . .

Things that go Bump in the Night by Donna Marie West

Things that go Bump in the Night by Donna Marie West
Things that go Bump in the Night by Donna Marie West

From the time Gramm died eight months ago, my dream of contacting her grew daily until I could resist no longer.

My parents had bought a Ouija board for a long ago party, then Mom stashed it away in a cupboard from fear of calling up, as she put it, things that go bump in the night. Now I pulled the thin wooden board and heart-shaped plastic planchette from the box and told my best friend Emily what I wanted to do.

“Seriously, Steph?” she asked, her eyes wide, like she thought I’d lost my mind.

“It’s Halloween, when the veil between worlds is thinnest. If I’m going to reach Gramm, tonight’s the night.”

Fifteen minutes later, we’d created ambiance with some candles and incense, and curtains drawn across the windows.

We sat on the floor, our knees touching, the board balanced between us and our fingertips resting lightly on the planchette.

Almost giddy with anticipation, I began calling the spirits. “I’m looking for my grandmother, Mary May Smith . . . Gramm, are you there?”

Emily giggled nervously, a silly sound.

For the longest couple of minutes nothing happened, then the planchette slowly slid toward the upper left corner of the board. “YES.”

I thought the candles flickered and put it down to my overcharged imagination. “I miss you so much,” I whispered. “Do you miss us?”

Although I wasn’t sure this was actually happening, I fervently hoped the planchette would move back to “YES.” Instead, it meandered around the alphabet, slowly at first, then more decisively, spewing out letters that might have been words in some language, but made no sense to me.

“Stop it!” I snapped at Emily. “I can feel you moving it!”

“I’m not,” she replied. As proof, she lifted her fingers from the planchette, which continued until parking on the letter ‘e’. “It’s you, you’re doing it!”

“No, I’m not,” I objected. But what if I was, through the sheer power of wishful thinking? “Are you really my Gramm?” I asked.

As the planchette zigzagged toward the upper right corner of the board. I looked at Emily and nodded, and she understood.

Simultaneously, we released the planchette. As it made its own merry way to “NO,” the proverbial chill ran up my spine.

Emily screamed and shot to her feet, sending the board and planchette clattering to the floor.

With trembling hands I collected the game, shoved it back into its box, and flung it to the depths of the cupboard.

“What was that?” Emily’s voice penetrated the drumming of blood in my ears.

“I don’t know,” I replied, my own voice a terrified squeak. “But we’re finished with it. No harm done.”

“Right, whatever,” Emily said as she headed for the door. “If you decide to try that again, don’t call me.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I promised her. But it was already too late.

The bumps and moans started at midnight, and that was only the beginning.

Article: The Modern Vampire

David Bowie in The Hunger
David Bowie in The Hunger

Prevalent in European folklore for centuries, the personage of the vampire has unsurprisingly found a place in modern culture.

John William Polidori published the first vampire novel, The Vampyre, in 1819. Bram Stoker’s Dracula appeared in 1897, inspiring a plethora of vampire-as-villain novels, including Stephen King’s 1975 Salem’s Lot. A year later, Anne Rice brought us an early vampire-as-hero story with her Interview with the Vampire, the first of her iconic Vampire Chronicles. In David Talbot’s 1982 novel, The Delicate Dependency, ageless vampires guard the secrets of science and history, and the answers to the mysteries of life and death. More recently, James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell put a new spin on the old theme in their Blood Gospel.

The vampire made its appearance on the silver screen early in the 20th century, with director F. W. Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu (1922) being the most famous. More recent efforts include the most watched television movie to that time, The Night Stalker, starring Darren McGavin (1972); The Hunger, starring David Bowie (1983); and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, starring Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder (1992). 21st century teens flocked to the movie theatre to see the Twilight films.

Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula
Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula

We are not immune in our homes, either, with vampire-themed television shows such as Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971); Angel (1999 – 2004); True Blood (2008 – 2014); and The Vampire Diaries (2009 – who knows?) earning huge ratings every week.

Most sane, educated people today do not believe in the 400-year-old vampire who sleeps in a coffin and bursts into flames in sunlight. There have been a number of flesh-and-blood vampire-type serial killers, however:

–         Fritz Haarman, the “vampire of Hanover,” lured at least 20 men to his home in Germany, bit out their throats, and drank their blood. He was arrested and sentenced to death in 1925.

–         London’s John George Haigh killed 8 people during the 1940’s, drinking a glass of their blood before disposing of their bodies in a tub of acid. He was caught, convicted and hanged.

–         Richard Trenton Chase, the “vampire of Sacramento,” killed 8 people in California, drinking their blood and mutilating their bodies. He was arrested in 1979 and committed suicide in prison.

Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire
Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire

 

Luckily, most so-called modern vampires are anything but violent killers. Members of a particular Goth culture born of vampire legends and the romanticized modern image read vampire literature, dress in black or Gothic clothing, and meet with like-minded people online or in vampire social clubs, sometimes called havens. Blood may or may not be consumed – from informed and consenting adult donors, of course!

Extravagant events known as Endless Night Vampire Balls are held each year on or around Halloween in cities such as New Orleans, New York, and Berlin, Germany, for patrons in full dress costume. These balls are meant to be harmless and fun – perhaps more enjoyable than being a real vampire . . .

“Never since I was a human being had I felt such mental pain . . . And in my pain, I asked irrationally, like a child, could I not return? Could I not be human again?” – Louis, Interview with the Vampire

Article: The Historical Vampire

From 1897, a copy of Philip Burne-Jones' painting, THE VAMPIRE
From 1897, a copy of Philip Burne-Jones’ painting, THE VAMPIRE

We may think of vampires as hypnotic, blood-thirsty villains (or heroes) of the modern horror genre, yet vampires have been part of western culture for 1000 years.

 

English historian William of Newburgh (1136 – 1198 A.D.) wrote of revenants – the word ‘vampire’ only appeared in the English language in 1734 – in his History of English Affairs. One account related how a man of ‘evil conduct’ died and was buried, only to rise and wander from house to house at night, killing townspeople. A group of men removed the corpse from its grave, cut out its heart and burnt it on a funeral pyre.

 

Five decades later, vampire hysteria began in Moravia (today’s Czech Republic), to spread over the next 500 years westward to France and Germany, and eastward to Russia.

 

Although not your stereotypical vampire, Count Dracula was just as blood-thirsty. Born in 1431 in Schassburg, Transylvania, young Vlad became known as Vlad Dracula (son of Dracul) after his father joined the Order of the Dragon (Dracul), a Christian organization dedicated to fighting the Muslim Turks. When Vlad took the throne in the Romanian province of Wallachia, he became one of the most brutal rulers in history, responsible for the torture and death of over 40,000 people. His penchant for impaling his enemies on stakes, beneath which he dined on bread dipped in their blood, earned him the nickname ‘Vlad the Impaler’. Vlad was assassinated by the Turks in 1476, his head allegedly taken as a trophy.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory
Countess Elizabeth Bathory

The Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory played an equally horrible role in furthering the belief in vampires. Born in 1560, the ‘Blood Countess’ believed she could retain her youth and beauty by bathing in the blood of young girls. She tortured and ex-sanguinated hundreds of girls, the discovery of whose bloodless bodies around the countryside led to rumors of vampires among the peasants. Countess Bathory was arrested in 1610 and imprisoned for life in her castle.

 

Greek theologian Leo Allatius (1586 – 1669) undertook the first methodical treatment of vampires in his work, On Certain Modern Opinions Among the Greeks. Other writers followed, recording the folk beliefs that circulated about vampires: You could become a vampire by being bit by one; drinking the blood of a vampire; inheriting the condition from your parents; committing suicide or suffering a violent death. You could protect yourself from vampires by wearing a string of garlic, a rosary or a crucifix around your neck, or by draping garlic around the windows and doors of your home. If bitten, you could break the spell by burning the vampire’s heart and consuming it.A suspected vampire could be stopped from rising by stuffing its mouth with garlic and spreading garlic, thorns and poppy seeds in and around the coffin. To destroy a vampire, you had to drive a stake of aspen, maple, hawthorn or whitethorn wood into its heart, behead it, remove its heart and burn it, or simply burn the entire creature in fire or sunlight.

 

Vlad Dracula, the most famous vampire of all who was actually just a man.
Vlad Dracula, the most famous vampire of all who was actually just a man.

As time passed, the vampire wound its way into mainstream culture, where it now enjoys fortune, fame and infamy on screen and in literature.

Article: The Séance Experience

A séance generally requires sitters and a medium
Dr. John Dee, noted occultist
Dr. John Dee, noted occultist

A séance might be the perfect way to round out your Halloween party, but it’s no modern parlor game.

References to séance communications date back to the 3rd century Greeks. The earliest known recorded séance is attributed to England’s Dr. John Dee, in the 16th century. Three centuries later, séances had gained such popularity that in 1854, Illinois senator James Shields presented a petition signed by 15,000 people asking the U.S. Congress for a scientific commission to investigate the paranormal phenomena many of them had witnessed. Unsurprisingly, Congress declined, but that didn’t stop President Abraham Lincoln himself from hosting a séance in the Crimson Room of the White House in 1863!

The traditional séance is held in a darkened or candlelit room. Ideally, no more than eight participants, often called sitters, sit around a table or in a circle on the floor in a quiet room where they will not be disturbed.  They place their hands flat on the table, fingers touching, sometimes holding hands, and are encouraged to relax by closing their eyes and taking long, deep breaths.

A séance requires sitters and a medium
A séance requires sitters and a medium

The medium (the person who contacts the other side) may pray or ask spirit guides for protection before calling on any spirits present to make themselves known. The medium will direct the other sitters, and each should get a chance to speak to at least one spirit if they so desire.

The spirits may acknowledge their presence in any number of ways:

-Table rapping: sitters hear loud knocks; the medium may ask spirits to communicate by knocking once for “yes” and twice for “no” or something to that effect.

-Table tilting: the séance table moves of its own accord, despite being held by the sitters.

-Levitation: the table or other objects in the room levitate.

-Changes in temperature: sitters feel cold breezes or drops in temperature.

-Odors: sitters smell perfume, cigars or home cooking.

-Ghostly sounds: sitters hear disembodied voices or music.

-Luminous phenomena: stars, balls of fire, strange lights or other luminous objects appear in the room.

-Apports: small portable objects, sometimes coming from miles away, appear in the room.

-Ectoplasm: this grayish, viscous psychic substance emanates from the medium’s body, occasionally forming into the shape of human limbs or even complete spirit entities.

Not all spirits can or will come when called. On the other hand, some who do may not be a sitter’s dearly departed, but an animal (generally someone’s pet), a spirit guide or even a wandering spirit who speaks a foreign language!

Some spirits are funny, and some are sad. If, however, a negative, angry, or malevolent spirit manifests, it should be told to leave, and the séance should immediately be stopped. Otherwise, the séance can be closed by kindly bidding the spirits farewell, thanking them for coming, and asking them to return to the other side.