You are currently browsing articles tagged ghosts.

Just a reminder – the essay contest ends this Friday….at midnight! That comes off much scarier if you read it with a Boris Karloff accent. And speaking of horror:

A dive into the fascinating pre-history of cinema (or rather, as that grouping seems unfair, several disparate inventions that when lumped together chronologically sort of point the way to what would eventually become cinema) led to the phantasmagoria, a macabre performance incorporating special effects and gruesome projections by way of some form of magic lantern. Several popular phantasmagoria were even staged in tombs, though as they were abandoned Capuchin tombs I doubt the good monks minded much.

image from the Magic Lantern Society

One standout show was put on by Johann Georg Schröpfer, a coffee-shop owner-turned-necromancer/illusionist. He claimed he summoned spirits during his performances, and even held a seance for Prince Charles of Saxony. Unfortunately for Schröpfer, he believed his own hype and committed what appeared to be suicide, shooting himself in the head after telling a small group he would resurrect himself soon. Most sources repeat the same small bits about him, though this account goes a bit deeper.

Historically the phantasmagoria’s been wildly popular in lands rife with fear and uncertainty, including post-revolutionary Paris and America. Considering the current climate, perhaps it’s time for a revival.

Below are some magic lantern images, courtesy of Early Visual Media Archaeology

Tags: , , , ,

It’s the doldrums of January; what better time for the third and final installment of a Halloween trip to Salem? Sure, it could be that I forgot this post in the ‘drafts’ section for over a month, or it might just be that the dour and morbid magic of Halloween has no more appropriate time to shine than the quickly-darkening, post-holiday days of winter.

If Jim looks confused, he’s trying to figure out why, despite involvement of platform boots, he’s a foot taller than Frankenstein.

Any chassis serving fried food’s classy enough for me.

No. No. This is just wrong. The only thing worse would be one of those equally disturbing trucks with fake balls on the back parked right behind it.

What would the belated conclusion of our trip to Salem be without one more disturbing mannequin-filled basement museum? This time it’s the Witch Dungeon, which also included a live reenactment of a Genuine Witch Trial. The zealous young lady playing the accusor ran around the room shrieking a yellow bird pecked at her, could we not SEE IT? We could not, but if we even came close to making eye contact with each other we risked cackling loudly.

Zombie Puritans!

Giles Corey’s story is an excellent case study in a full history being far more interesting than the soundbite passed along. Most people know him as the guy whose last words as he was being pressed to death were the impressively antagonistic ‘MORE WEIGHT.’ That’s only part of it; Giles was pressed to death because he refused to enter a plea once accused. Corey was aware of an interesting loophole in Puritanical law- entering a plea of any kind meant you would be tried, and guilty or not your lands were forfeit. Not entering any plea meant they technically couldn’t try you, or get your land. Pressing was intended to dissuade people from ‘exploiting’ the loophole, but Corey endured being slowly pressed to death over 3 days before finally dying. The only words he spoke the entire time were ‘More weight!’


Of all the museums this had the freakiest faces least resembling actual humans.

Hangin’ around.

Outside the museum, just behind stocks you and your accused pals could pose in, was a wee diorama of Gallows Hill in full hangin’ mode. So teeny and adorably horrifying!

“The secret ingredient is…ME? NOOOOO!”

Finally, a walking tour for the germo/xenophobe.

Mall listings are usually entertaining no matter where you are; it’s a compendium of all the bad puns each store owner thought up individually. Witch City really takes it to the next level though:

Rita’s Water Ice seems painfully normal here. Also, somewhere in Salem exists Turtle Alley Chocolates I.

So many spelling and grammar issues here.  At first I thought I read ‘East Gate’ and ‘West Gate’ Christian Fellowships and thought one church had split into two warring mall factions. That they’re actually the same church is slightly weirder.


Thank you a million times for letting me badger you into taking this picture, Thomas. You are a very, very good sport.

Sparkle kitties! At this point we’re fairly abstracted from the horrors of history.

But deep in the horrors of corny tourism.

Ow popcorn!

Fun? Safe?! Do you want to make Danzig cry blood tears? Halloween’s supposed to be about HORROR AND DEATH! We decided on our last day in Salem we were going to find Gallows Hill come hell or high water and get some real historical creepiness in. Armed only with the knowledge it’s currently the location of a Dunkin’ Donuts and storage facility, and a hill, probably, we drove off towards present-day Danvers.

I’ll spare you the suspense: WE FOUND IT! GALLOWS HILL!

Here be the Hanging Dunkin Donuts.

It’s hard to tell from these photos but the locals ordering up their coffee and donuts inside eyed us with increasing suspicion as we mugged and fake-hung ourselves in the parking lot.

Tags: , , ,

After spending half a day in Witch City without encountering anything CLOSE to the sort of witches we came to see, we made it over to the Witch History Musem. Finally! Pointy hats and evil cats ahoy!


Oh, this is just the atrium? The real deal’s inside? Alright, witches!


As we sat in church pews staring at a stage empty save for the ‘Indians’, it dawned on us they were clearly modified from skiing mannequins. Especially the guy on the far right, they didn’t even try and change his stance.

Eventually a doughy young man in historical garb stepped out and gave us a brief history of the Salem Witch Trials, occasionally pointing to blown-up photos of historical landmarks framed around the room. Groups were taken down to the basement by another historically garbed young lady while the rest of us continued sitting there.

Sensing the general unrest the young man made the mistake of saying if we had any questions, we could feel free to ask. While everyone else sat around staring at tiny glowing rectangles I plied him for information he did not have about the debunking of the rye poisoning theory, the validity of psychosomatic group illnesses similar to the German Laughing Sickness of the Middle Ages, why the hell there were Indian mannequins on stage at a Witch History Museum, and if anyone knew the exact current location of Gallows Hill, where the actual hangings took place.

Answers: It probably wasn’t rye poisoning, group hysteria was a possibility but there was also the angle of nabbing a neighbor’s property or getting revenge, the Indian mannequins were there as a reminder of the gross stereotyping and sensationalizing of Native Peoples in the past (oh, irony, considering what we were about to tour), and while no one knew the EXACT location of Gallows Hill the land it once stood on was now a Dunkin Donuts and storage center.

Tour time!

Girls of the Puritan era didn’t have the same freedoms ladies today take for granted, like wearing zebra headbands out in public. They were treated like little hellbound adults, which led to all sorts of fear and repression, some of which may have been responsible for the madness of the witch trials. Here we see the girls wilding; just out of shot, an extremely creepy mannequin of a guy staring at them. Seriously.

All tableaus were accompanied by audio piped from hidden speakers; here the girls wailed and moaned as the adults around them tried to figure out the cause. We were trying to figure out, what, aside from a general lack of anatomial correctness and poor aging/maintenance, made these mannequins look so damn creepy.

Angry Jim realized whoever painted the faces rimmed all orifices in a bright pink-red, especially the eyes, and most of the eyes were painted a few shades too light, giving the impression everyone had just been maced.

Here we see the house of Samuel Parrish, where house servant Tituba and literally-named husband John Indian entertain the girls with stories. Little did they know how badly this would come back to bite them in the ass.

IT’S A DEMON!!! Oh wait, it’s supposed to be Samuel Parrish, the preacher confounded by his ward and her friends suddenly going bonkers for no apparent physical reason.


AAAAAH! AAAAH! DEEEEMON! Oh wait, no, this melting face belongs to William Griggs, the doctor who, after closely inspecting all three girls declared no earthly cause afflicted them, and the church should be turned to. That turned out well!

What is a Conquistador doing here? They had their own witches to deal with. Fun fact: there IS a reason the witches of Salem were HANGED and NOT BURNED. The Puritans had moved to the godforsaken no-man’s-land that was America to literally as well as figuratively distance themselves from what they saw as the decadence of the Catholic (and pretty much every other) church. No reason why this shouldn’t apply to dealing with witchery as well! While the Catholic Inquisition labeled practicing witchcraft as a heresy,  punishable by burning at the stake, the Puritans made afflicting someone by witchcraft an offense against the state, and therefore punishable by hanging.

Puritan Andrew W.K. protects his family.

In the midst of numerous families crying and being rent apart- a wee tiny boy and his wee tiny horse. I cannot explain, just enjoy.

Not all Puritans went quietly into that good night; I forget his name but this fellow took out most of the men sent to arrest him and broke the chains they attempted to bind him in. Check out this ACTION SHOT! See kids? History is just as bloody and violent as your favorite video games.  He looks a lot like Charlie Gazin here.

Uhh…huh.  I see we improvised the mannequin representing a servant testifying against her mistress. We were told she’s holding a doll of cheese and grass…I honestly wasn’t listening why as I was too distracted by the blackface. Featuring guest judge Robert DeNiro…

and Harrison Ford as Guy In The Background!

And here all pretense of education gives way to sheer witchsploitation. The cat seems mildly bored.

“Haaay guyys, there’s a tiny hanging going on over herrre!”

Insert Misfits lyrics here.

The further we went into the museum the more the mannequins looked like Lon Cheney in ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

Issac Newton measures a skull.

Back on the streets of Salem we took in the sights:

But further horror awaited us at…THE WITCHES’ DUNGEON…

Tags: , , , ,