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Bone and Sickle

Al Ridenour

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817
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Bone and Sickle
Bone and Sickle

Bone and Sickle

Al Ridenour

57
Followers
817
Plays
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A bountiful harvest of horror and folklore

Latest Episodes

Drowned in Blood: Butcher Lore

Our seasonal look at butcher lore begins with the slaughter of an immense ram as related in the centuries-old English song, “The Derby Ram” (AKA “The Darby Ram”). In the lyric, a butcher and his boy assistant are “washed away in the blood,” giving us our episode’s title. The song is roughly enacted inan old Christmas folk play from Derbyshire, “Old Tup” (an old local word for “ram.”) We hear a montage of snippets of the song from The Kossoy Sisters, John Kirkpatrick,John Roberts, and Matt Williams. While the 19th-century trend among folklorist to view mummer’s plays like this as vestiges of ancient pagan rites is no longer accepted, the notion does suggest our next topic: a Germanic emphasis on sacrifice during the month of November, which the Anglo-Saxons called Blod-monath (“month of sacrifice.”) We look at the Scandinavianyuleblót marking the beginning of Winter and its connection to Freyr and his sister Freyja, both symbolized by boars or swine sacrificed in this ...

43 MIN3 d ago
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Drowned in Blood: Butcher Lore

All of Them Witches

This Halloween we have five stories of witches from all the way back to around 1125AD to the 1960s.Some of them are actualhistoric personage, some seem more purely folkloric. It’s a somewhat longer episode for which I”ll provide somewhat shorter show notes here. So, I won’t going into the details of each story, but just give a sketch of who we’ll be talking about. Aside from all being witches, you’ll see another common thread; four of the five kept avian familiars: roosters, blackbirds, and jackdaws. The first a 19th-century witch who’s become a part of Connecticut folklore — Hannah Cranna. Though there are stories of her cursing neighbors from her life, the most interesting part of her tale begins with the details of her burial details, with which she was particularly obsessed. The segment begins with a snippet of Mark Fry’s bit of folk-psychedelia “The Witch” — only because it happens to dovetail nicely with a story of Hannah told on an urban legends web page. Our second witch was also very particular about her burial, but with a more clear-cut rationale: she wanted to prevent the Devil from claiming her soul (and body, it seems) upon her death. This is the so-called “Witch of Berkeley,” who story was first told by English chronicler William of Malmesbury all the way back in 1125. It’s in his Chronicle of the Kings of England(as a sort of digression). Our third witch, Molly Leigh, is also from England — North Staffordshire, where she died in 1746. Though she fit the witchy archetype of having both aquarrelsome personality and undesirable physiognomy, she was never tried or executed for witchcraft, despite some rumors of minor mischief, such as bewitching beers down at the pub. Her story, like Hannah Cranna’s, focuses more on her afterlife exploits. We play a snippet of a recent horror movie Molly Crows, which uses Leigh’s story as a springboard. The fourth witch is our most modern:Sibyl Leek, who appeared on the scene in the 1960s during a wave of pop-culture. While she claimed to be a descendant of Molly Leigh, her life seems to have been much more pleasant, centering primarily upon how to best position herself in the media spotlight. Our final story is is quite an oddity. The story of the self-confessed 17th-century witch, Major Thomas Weir, who became a fixture in legends of old Edinburgh. This is our longest segment, and I’ll leave the rest for you to enjoy as Mrs. Karswell’s reads from our sources, ad the details as are suitably shocking. Facebook Twitter

44 MIN3 w ago
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All of Them Witches

Vintage Halloween

Here’s a short bonus show celebrating Halloween. It’s a bit different format. Whereas most of our shows look at folklore and incidents happening centuries ago in Europe or further afield, in this one we’re staying in the United States looking at how Halloween was celebrated, for better or worse, from the turn of the last century up into the early 1930s. We’ll do so by reading excerpts from various stories from newspaper archives of the period. Hope you enjoy! Facebook Twitter

23 MINOCT 22
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Vintage Halloween

The Goblins Will Get You!

Goblin lore from old folk tales, literature, ancient and modern legends is our topic this time around. We begin with the poem from which we take our episode title, James Whitcomb Riley’s“Little Orphant Annie” in which the poet remembers his childhood nanny and her “witch tales” and threats about goblins coming. Next, we take a quick look at the word “goblin” itself, and how it relates via the goblin-like“boggart” or “boggle” ofthe Northern England and Scotland to our word, “bogeyman” (hearing a snippet along the way ofHenry Hall’s 1932 rendering of the song, “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes The Bogeyman.”) The word “goblin” seems to have made its way into English from Normandy. A12th-century tale that from that region employs a latinzed version of the word, “Gobelinus,” to name a creature that menaces the 6th-century saint Taurinus inOrderic Vitalis’sHistoria Ecclesiastica. The creature’s hapeshifting between abear, a lion, and a buffalo is a trait we’ll see late...

47 MINOCT 19
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The Goblins Will Get You!

Ghosts from Purgatory

Hear how notions of Purgatory influenced medieval ghost stories, the tradition of All Souls’ Day, and a Neapolitan “cult of skulls.” We set the scene with a clip from “The Lyke Wake Dirge,” a 14th–century British song sung or chanted as a sort of charm over the body of the deceased in the night before burial. It describes theperils confronted by the soul during its journey into the afterlife, describing a “thorny moor,” and “Bridge of Doom,” which must be traversed to arrive in a none-too-friendly Purgatory. We take a moment to review the historical Catholic concept of Purgatory, one usually associated with fire and torment, albeit of a temporary rather than everlasting nature and geared toward the further purification of the soul bound for Heaven. Gregory the Great, the 6th-century pope, is one of the earliest influences on the notion of Purgatory offering as evidence a ghost story of a wicked bishop condemmed to haunt the baths. We also hear of a grisly apparition of Gregory’s dead mother that supposedly appeared in a church where, legend has it, Gregory was saying mass. From the 8th-century English chronicler Bede, we hear of a man named Drythelm who is granted a vision of Hell, that is “not the Hell you imagine,” (i.e., Purgatory instead) and of the Irish saint. Fursey, who was flown by an angel over purgatorial fires, where a surprising encounter with a demon provides him a curious souvenir. St. Patrick went one better than ghost stories, at least according to legend. With a tap of his bishop’s crook, he’s said to have cracked open the earth to reveal a gateway to Purgatory itself, all in an effort to convert those stubborn pagans who wanted something a bit more concrete to validate the gospel. A variety of medieval legends chronicle adventures through this underworld, and the site (though not the cave itself) is still open to visitors to a tiny Irish island in Loch Dergh (“the lake of the cave.”) Though it’s not specifically Purgatory, descriptions of hellish torments identical to those that might be experienced there are particularly plentiful in the 12th-century Irish textThe Vision of Tondal. Mrs. Karswell reads for us all the best passages. Following a snippet ofa late medieval ballad from Norway,Draumkvedet*or “The Dream Poem,” which relates its own story of a visionary journey into the afterlife, we discuss the relationship between All Souls’ Day, prayers for the dead, the cult of the Anima Sola (“lonely soul” suffering in purgatory), and the strange Neapolitans “cult of skulls,” including that of “Princess Lucia,” a legendary lovesick suicide. Next we hear some stories of frustrated demons and a graveyard full of grumbling corpses from Jacobus da Varagine,1260 compilation of saint stories, Legende Aurea,orThe Golden Legend, followed by the utterly bizarre ghost stories written on some spare pages of a manuscript collection by a 13th-century Cisterian monk from the abbey of Byland in Yorkshire, or “The Byland Ghost Stories.” From 14th-century France, we hear astory known in modern English asThe Ghost of Guy, describing a series of ghostly visitations by a soul condemned to Purgatory — and the surprisingly colorful reason they were necessary! Our last ghost story comes from The Adventures of Arthur, a story from northern England, probably set down in the late 14thcentury. It tells of a particularly loathsome manifestation of Queen Guinevere’s mother that rises from within a lake with some pious advice for her daughter. We end with two more modern efforts to provide evidence of souls suffering...

44 MINSEP 26
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Ghosts from Purgatory

Vampires, Shroud-Eaters, and the White Plague

This episode explores the connection between vampires and disease, beginning in 19th-century New England with a strange graveyard ritual involving the exhumation of the bodies of Mercy Brown and family members in 1892. The gruesomely ritualistic destruction of Mercy’s body parts was spurred by a belief that those who succumbed to tuberculosis might live on in the grave and infest loved ones with the disease. Mercy’s case is the last and best known of cases like this beginning in the late 1700s and occurringthroughout the area, particularly in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont. Accounts of several more cases involving cursed vines growing from corpses and a shockingly macabre and bloody ritual occurring on an idyllic village green in the town of Woodstock, Vermont, are read by Mrs. Karswell. (We even hear a clip of a little tourism spot for Woodstock, though surely not in the context it was imagined when produced.) The association of vampiric entities with times of plagues and epidemics came to New England from Europe, and might be compared to the German belief in the Nachzehrer, an undead creature known to appear in times of pestilence to spread disease. A defining attribute of the Nachzehrer is its tendency to feed upon its shroud and even its own body, a repast providing the creature the nourishment necessary to then rise and continue feasting on the living. Another interesting term for the Nachzehrerderiving from the noises that it produced in its grave would be schmatzende Totenor “smacking dead.” We hear a number of accounts of such creatures from German/Latin texts dating to the 1400s, including the definitive work on the topic, the1679 volume by theologian Philippus Rohr, called in Latin, “The Masticating Dead.” Moving even further back to the Middle Ages, we examine some stories of plague-spreading vampires from England, includinga 12th-century account from William of Newburgh, which includes the grisly destruction of a corpse swollen with blood, and an account from 1135 by Geoffrey of Burton, featuring an evil spirit in the form of a crow arising from the monster’s burning heart. Both stories associate the vampire particularly with the spread of disease. We also have a quick look at archeological evidence for the type of vampire rituals discussed — disordered graves identifiedas “deviant burials,” or “therapeutic burials” in which bodies believed to be undead may be mutilated, staked into the grave, or — in cases like those we are focusing on — have rocks or other objects stuffed into their mouths to stop the creature from feeding on its shroud, or worse, the blood or vitality of those above the earth. Also discussed is the use of plague imagery in German versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu, both Director F.W. Murnau 1922 version and Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Whether Bram Stoker may have been influenced by reports of the New England tuberculosis vampires of the 1800s is addressed, and we have a deeper look at how romantic 19th-century ideas about tuberculosis influenced not only his portrayal of vampirism, but the work of other literary artists, painters, and composers. Among the artists mentioned are Lord Byron,Alexander Dumas, Claude Monet, John Keats, and Edgar Allan Poe. We also hear some clips of musical deaths by tuberculosis from the operas La Traviata and La Boheme. We conclude the show, as we began, with another musical composition played at graveside, and a story of heart removed and preserved in cognac, that of Frédéric Chopin, another victim of “the white plague.” Facebook Twitter

42 MINSEP 4
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Vampires, Shroud-Eaters, and the White Plague

The Baba Yaga

This episode explores the Russian witch, the Baba Yaga, tales in which she appears, possible origins, and regional variations on the character. We begin by retelling one of the skazi (folk tales) in which she’s particularly well-definined, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” a version recorded in the mid-1800s by the folklorist Alexander Afanasyev, Russia’s answer to the Brothers Grimm, . Without spoiling the story, I can say that it bears some parallels to “Cinderella,” with a wicked stepmother and step-sisters grievously imposing on the young Vasilisa and sending her into an encounter with the Baba Yaga. She is aided in the tale by a magic doll bequeathed her by her dying mother. Like nearly all Baba Yaga stories, this tale features the witch’s famous house perched atop two immense chicken legs on which it turns to reveal it’s entrance if the proper spell is spoken. Around the house, in this story as in most others, is a fence made of human bones and topped by skulls. The witch herself is not much described in the text of “Vasilisa,” but in the folklore of the Eastern Slavs, she is generally imagined as an hunchbacked old crone, usually large, and with a large nose, sometimes said to be of iron, as are her teeth sometimes. She’s also occasionally described as an ogress because of her nasty habit of eating visitors, especially children, or those who fail her when she puts them to work (what she often does with visitors). “Vasilisa” like nearly every other tale featuring the character, describes the witch flying through the skies in mortar, which she steers with the pestle, an instrument sometimes also used as a club or magic wand. Like western witches, she is often depicted with a cat, but the Baba Yaga may also command a pack of dogs, flock of geese or swans, or even be served by pairs of disembodied hands. “Baba Yaga” is not quite a proper noun, i.e., her “name,” at least not quite. It’s a class or type of character,and certain stories feature multiple Baba Yagas. For this reason too, she may be killed off in a particular story — and often is — only to reappear as presumably different witch in another. Though she’s most often portrayed as malevolent and dangerous, some tales make her more ambivalent, or occasionally even helpful. We have a look at the best known examples of this, “The Frog Tzarina” (a story offering a sort of reversal on the “Frog Prince” theme) . Of the tales that feature the Baba Yaga in a more menacing role, one of the better known is called “Princess Marya” or “The Death of Koschei the Deathless,” and it features the witch as a character somewhat peripheral to another important character of Russian folklore, Koschei. He’s a sorcerer, usually represented as a crowned skeletal figure and known for hiding his soul in the form of a needle within an egg within a duck. We also hear a bit of another tale featuring a malevolent Baba Yaga,“Little Bear’s-Son,” in which the witch lives in an underworld and battles the titlular character and a trio of giants. Our quick look at a few examples of the Baba Yaga in music and films includes a piece from ModestMussorgsky’s 1874 suite Pictures at an Exhibition called “The Baba yaga” or “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” (Here is the Baba Yaga inspired clock design by Victor Hartmann that inspired the piece.) We hear a bit from that and a snippet of “Baba Yaga,” a 1965 garage-rock number by a Minnesota band called The Pagans. Speaking of music, our show, opened with a clip from a 1997 track “

42 MINAUG 13
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The Baba Yaga

Loup-Garou, Werewolves in France

The werewolf (Fr: loup-garou) epidemic of 16th-century France forms the core of our show, but we also include some medieval French werewolf tales as well as the legend of a figure connected to both werewolves and Bluebeard. In our last episode on Bluebeard, I promised to recount a legend that may have inspired Charles Perrault’s story. This would be the story of Count Conomor, or “Conomor the Accursed,” a 6th-century ruler of Brittany. Here the role of Bluebeard’s new wife is played by Trephine, the daughter of a rival count. Through her forbearance, shecame to be regarded in local traditions as a saint (therefore the chapel depiction below). Her adventures include interaction with the helpful ghosts of Conomor’s slain wives, decapitation by Conomor (with miraculous cure) and a magic ring The curse upon this wicked count continues into the afterlife, during which he is condemned to roam the countryside in the form of a werewolf. Our next segment looks at some medieval werewolf stories, including the12-century poem by a Marie de France, “Bisclavret,” in which the werewolf plays a surprisingly sympathetic role, the tale of Sir Hugues de Camp-d’Avesnes, condemned to an afterlife as a werewolf for burning a town in the 1131,and that of the knight Raimbaud de Pulet, who in a fit of despondent madness becomes a werewolf. The French werewolf epidemic, which between 1520 and 1630, resulted in the execution of more than 30,000 individuals was the result of a link forged between the werewolf and anew, more aggressive attitude toward witchcraft arising in ecclesiastic councils taking place in Basel Switzerland in the 1430s. The first regions in France to begin prosecutions were therefore naturally those adjacent to Switzerland. Many there were overseen byHenry Bouguet, a judge who tried approximately 600 witchcraft cases in the locality. Most of the stories recounted in this episode come from his writings on the subject, while others come from the The Werewolf by highly eccentric English scholar Montague Summers, who was discussed in Episode 1. The first of Bouget’s cases examined is that of Michel Verdun, who shortly after a wolf attack in which the beast is wounded is discovered treating a matching wound on his arm. Verdun’s testimony implicated two other men likewise said to transform themselves into wolves, Philibert Montot, and Pierre Bourgot, who provides a lurid testimony including accounts of bloody crimes committed in wolf form, attendance at a witches’ sabbath andbeing initiated into his wicked ways byablack rider he meets in the forest. The next case discussed (and judged by Bouget) is that of Gilles Garnier, who also spoke of a forest meeting with a diabolical figure who presented him the magic ointment necessary for transformation. Garnier’s case is interesting in that he brought home human flesh from his werewolf attacks for his wife to enjoy. Another case in this same area mentioned by Boguet is that of the Gandillons, a whole family of alleged werewolves. It begins with a female werewolf, Perrenette Gandillon, who attacks a brother and sister and is then killed by a mob. Her sister, Antoinette confesses to also being a werewolf and attending a witches sabbath, as do her father and brother. Wilkinson reads for us a colorful description of the wolf-like behavior of the male Gandillons in their prison cells. Outside of Bouget’s jurisdiction, we find the case of the Werewolf of Chalons, a tailor discovered abducting children and butchering them in his shop. We also hear the story of Jean Grenier from Bordeaux (see the comic below).

39 MINJUL 22
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Loup-Garou, Werewolves in France

The Bloody Chamber

Bluebeard and his bloody chamber full of murderous secrets is widely known as one of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, but it’s part of a larger family of folk tales and ballads we examine in this episode. Our show begins with a brief summary of this tale in which a young woman is courted by the mysterious and strangely whiskered nobleman, Bluebeard. After lavishly entertaining the woman and her family in his castle, it’s agreed they should marry. Soon thereafter, Bluebeard departs on a journey leaving his bride keys to all the rooms of his estate, all of which to which may use — but one. Curiosity, however, getting the better of her, she unlocks the forbidden door and must face Bluebeard’s murderous rage at her disobedience. Perrault’s 1697 story, which draws upon older folk tales, is primarily known thanks to its inclusion in collections of fairy tales intended for children. Today, however, you’re unlikely to find the gruesome yarn anthologized for younger readers. If included at all, it may be sanitized, as it was in the 1970 children’s record from which we excerpted a clip at the show’s open. Along with fairy tale collections and cheaply printed chapbooks, the Bluebeard story was largely preserved through theatrical representation. We look at a number of productions from the late 18th and early 19th century that treated the story in a semi-comic or melodramatic fashion, often combining elements of the Italian Commedia dell’arte, such as Harlequin and his antics. Wilkinson provides of some readings of the comedic dialogue as well as stage directions which often made the “bloody chamber” a lavishly designed and spooky centerpiece of the production. Particularly important to how were think of Bluebeard today is the 1798 productionBlue Beard, or Female Curiosity!, which moved the story to Turkey in order to exploit a growing fascination with the East. This image of Bluebeard and indeed its importance in the English-languagerepertoire is suggested by the inclusion of the play in the 1993 Jane Campion film, The Piano, a story set during this period. The theatrical tradition of representing Bluebeard’s wives as bloody heads severed from their bodies is demonstrated in this scene as well as many 19th-century photographs of such stagings. Also discussed is 1 1903Christmas staging of Mr. Bluebeard in Chicago, famous not so much for its musical numbers (such as the song “Raving,” which we hear excerpted) but more for alandmark fire, which claimed the lives of 602 theater-goers. While there have been dozens of films that play with the theme of women marrying men with mysteriously deceased wives, only a few have directly addressed the tale. We very briefly discuss the 1944 Bluebeard with John Carradine, the 1972 Bluebeard with Richard Burton, and the 2009 French film, Barbe-Bleue (Bluebeard), which is the most traditional of the lot. In the next part of our show, we look at related folktales including the Grimm’s story “Fitcher’s Bird,” which features bloody chambers that must not be opened, a skull dressed as a bride, a woman rolling in honey and feathers, and a wedding that’s diverted into an execution party. We also look at the English tale“Mr. Fox,” in which a woman spying on her bridegroom discovers his habit The Grimms also gave us “The Robber Bridegroom,” in which a bride-to-be visits her intendedR...

43 MINJUL 2
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The Bloody Chamber

Gog, Magog, and the Bones of Giants

This time we look at the myths of British giants Gog and Magog, and a belief in biblical giants seemingly confirmed by giant bones dug from the earth. We begin with a 1953 newsreel welcoming reconstructed figures of Gog and Magog back to the London Guildhall after the Nazi bombing of the city destroyed the originals. While Londoners may know the figures as those paraded in the Lord Mayor’s show each November, we also look at a more American perspective on Gog and Magog as figures representing nations allied with the Antichrist from the biblical book of Revelation. Our next stop in the Bible is a verse from Genesis Chapter 6, speaking of “giants in the earth in those days,” (before the Flood). The word “giant,” we learn, was chosen to translate the Hebrew “Nephilim.” Our Genesis passage suggests the Nephilim are the offspring of angels mating with human women, and this notion is reinforced byapocryphal texts, such as the Book of Enoch, which dubs these fallen angels “Watchers.” We hear a snippet featuring kindly Watchers from Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 film, Noah, which whitewashes the traditional understandings of the Watchers. The word, “Nephilim,” we learn, literally means “fallen ones,” (“fallen” as in divine beings tainted by human hybridization.) The suggestion that they are physically large comes from another Genesis story in which Moses sends spies to the land of Canaan in preparation for a Hebrew invasion and receives a report on “Nephilim” who in size compare to men as men do to grasshoppers. We also hear some amusing stories of the biblical King Og, whose 13-foot bed is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy. Next follows a quick survey of the bones of prehistoric animals mistaken for the bones of biblical Nephilim (or St. Christopher, who was also believed to be a giant from the land of Canaan). Bones of mastodons figures prominently as do the teeth of St. Christopher, though holy relics produces from beached whales and deceased hippopotami are also mentioned. We also learn of the patron saint of hares, St. Melangell (also somehow gifted with oversized bones) a dinosaur named after the human scrotum, and a prehistoric species of giant salamander mistaken for one of the Nephilim by 18th century naturalist Jakob Scheuchzeri, who figures into the early science fiction novel War of the Newts (represented with a snippet from a 2005 BBC radio drama).The hoaxed 12th-century discovery of a gigantic skeleton of King Arthur at Glastonbury is also discussed. We learn that Arthur turns out to be connected to the Cornish folktale of that murderous scamp “Jack the Giant Killer.” Referring to an 18th-century text, we run through the grisly episodes of this story (including a long-forgotten one including a female follower of Lucifer). Not only does the original tale see Jack inducted to Arthur’s Round Table, but it seems the Cornish story is a retelling of a similar Arthurian story of the king slaying a giant on Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. A strangely mirrored version of this site, St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall also was said to be home to a giantnamed Corineus, a figure that seems to be related to Cormoran, the first giant killed in “Jack the Giant Killer.” Along the way, Wilkinson provides us some richly detailed passages regarding Arthur’s encounter with the giant of Normandy from the 15th-century telling inThe Alliterative Morte Arthure. On the border between Cornwall and Devon is a site known as “Giant’s Leap,” where another mythic Corineus was said to have killed a giant in the Geoffrey of Monmouth,

42 MINJUN 13
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Gog, Magog, and the Bones of Giants

Latest Episodes

Drowned in Blood: Butcher Lore

Our seasonal look at butcher lore begins with the slaughter of an immense ram as related in the centuries-old English song, “The Derby Ram” (AKA “The Darby Ram”). In the lyric, a butcher and his boy assistant are “washed away in the blood,” giving us our episode’s title. The song is roughly enacted inan old Christmas folk play from Derbyshire, “Old Tup” (an old local word for “ram.”) We hear a montage of snippets of the song from The Kossoy Sisters, John Kirkpatrick,John Roberts, and Matt Williams. While the 19th-century trend among folklorist to view mummer’s plays like this as vestiges of ancient pagan rites is no longer accepted, the notion does suggest our next topic: a Germanic emphasis on sacrifice during the month of November, which the Anglo-Saxons called Blod-monath (“month of sacrifice.”) We look at the Scandinavianyuleblót marking the beginning of Winter and its connection to Freyr and his sister Freyja, both symbolized by boars or swine sacrificed in this ...

43 MIN3 d ago
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Drowned in Blood: Butcher Lore

All of Them Witches

This Halloween we have five stories of witches from all the way back to around 1125AD to the 1960s.Some of them are actualhistoric personage, some seem more purely folkloric. It’s a somewhat longer episode for which I”ll provide somewhat shorter show notes here. So, I won’t going into the details of each story, but just give a sketch of who we’ll be talking about. Aside from all being witches, you’ll see another common thread; four of the five kept avian familiars: roosters, blackbirds, and jackdaws. The first a 19th-century witch who’s become a part of Connecticut folklore — Hannah Cranna. Though there are stories of her cursing neighbors from her life, the most interesting part of her tale begins with the details of her burial details, with which she was particularly obsessed. The segment begins with a snippet of Mark Fry’s bit of folk-psychedelia “The Witch” — only because it happens to dovetail nicely with a story of Hannah told on an urban legends web page. Our second witch was also very particular about her burial, but with a more clear-cut rationale: she wanted to prevent the Devil from claiming her soul (and body, it seems) upon her death. This is the so-called “Witch of Berkeley,” who story was first told by English chronicler William of Malmesbury all the way back in 1125. It’s in his Chronicle of the Kings of England(as a sort of digression). Our third witch, Molly Leigh, is also from England — North Staffordshire, where she died in 1746. Though she fit the witchy archetype of having both aquarrelsome personality and undesirable physiognomy, she was never tried or executed for witchcraft, despite some rumors of minor mischief, such as bewitching beers down at the pub. Her story, like Hannah Cranna’s, focuses more on her afterlife exploits. We play a snippet of a recent horror movie Molly Crows, which uses Leigh’s story as a springboard. The fourth witch is our most modern:Sibyl Leek, who appeared on the scene in the 1960s during a wave of pop-culture. While she claimed to be a descendant of Molly Leigh, her life seems to have been much more pleasant, centering primarily upon how to best position herself in the media spotlight. Our final story is is quite an oddity. The story of the self-confessed 17th-century witch, Major Thomas Weir, who became a fixture in legends of old Edinburgh. This is our longest segment, and I’ll leave the rest for you to enjoy as Mrs. Karswell’s reads from our sources, ad the details as are suitably shocking. Facebook Twitter

44 MIN3 w ago
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All of Them Witches

Vintage Halloween

Here’s a short bonus show celebrating Halloween. It’s a bit different format. Whereas most of our shows look at folklore and incidents happening centuries ago in Europe or further afield, in this one we’re staying in the United States looking at how Halloween was celebrated, for better or worse, from the turn of the last century up into the early 1930s. We’ll do so by reading excerpts from various stories from newspaper archives of the period. Hope you enjoy! Facebook Twitter

23 MINOCT 22
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Vintage Halloween

The Goblins Will Get You!

Goblin lore from old folk tales, literature, ancient and modern legends is our topic this time around. We begin with the poem from which we take our episode title, James Whitcomb Riley’s“Little Orphant Annie” in which the poet remembers his childhood nanny and her “witch tales” and threats about goblins coming. Next, we take a quick look at the word “goblin” itself, and how it relates via the goblin-like“boggart” or “boggle” ofthe Northern England and Scotland to our word, “bogeyman” (hearing a snippet along the way ofHenry Hall’s 1932 rendering of the song, “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes The Bogeyman.”) The word “goblin” seems to have made its way into English from Normandy. A12th-century tale that from that region employs a latinzed version of the word, “Gobelinus,” to name a creature that menaces the 6th-century saint Taurinus inOrderic Vitalis’sHistoria Ecclesiastica. The creature’s hapeshifting between abear, a lion, and a buffalo is a trait we’ll see late...

47 MINOCT 19
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The Goblins Will Get You!

Ghosts from Purgatory

Hear how notions of Purgatory influenced medieval ghost stories, the tradition of All Souls’ Day, and a Neapolitan “cult of skulls.” We set the scene with a clip from “The Lyke Wake Dirge,” a 14th–century British song sung or chanted as a sort of charm over the body of the deceased in the night before burial. It describes theperils confronted by the soul during its journey into the afterlife, describing a “thorny moor,” and “Bridge of Doom,” which must be traversed to arrive in a none-too-friendly Purgatory. We take a moment to review the historical Catholic concept of Purgatory, one usually associated with fire and torment, albeit of a temporary rather than everlasting nature and geared toward the further purification of the soul bound for Heaven. Gregory the Great, the 6th-century pope, is one of the earliest influences on the notion of Purgatory offering as evidence a ghost story of a wicked bishop condemmed to haunt the baths. We also hear of a grisly apparition of Gregory’s dead mother that supposedly appeared in a church where, legend has it, Gregory was saying mass. From the 8th-century English chronicler Bede, we hear of a man named Drythelm who is granted a vision of Hell, that is “not the Hell you imagine,” (i.e., Purgatory instead) and of the Irish saint. Fursey, who was flown by an angel over purgatorial fires, where a surprising encounter with a demon provides him a curious souvenir. St. Patrick went one better than ghost stories, at least according to legend. With a tap of his bishop’s crook, he’s said to have cracked open the earth to reveal a gateway to Purgatory itself, all in an effort to convert those stubborn pagans who wanted something a bit more concrete to validate the gospel. A variety of medieval legends chronicle adventures through this underworld, and the site (though not the cave itself) is still open to visitors to a tiny Irish island in Loch Dergh (“the lake of the cave.”) Though it’s not specifically Purgatory, descriptions of hellish torments identical to those that might be experienced there are particularly plentiful in the 12th-century Irish textThe Vision of Tondal. Mrs. Karswell reads for us all the best passages. Following a snippet ofa late medieval ballad from Norway,Draumkvedet*or “The Dream Poem,” which relates its own story of a visionary journey into the afterlife, we discuss the relationship between All Souls’ Day, prayers for the dead, the cult of the Anima Sola (“lonely soul” suffering in purgatory), and the strange Neapolitans “cult of skulls,” including that of “Princess Lucia,” a legendary lovesick suicide. Next we hear some stories of frustrated demons and a graveyard full of grumbling corpses from Jacobus da Varagine,1260 compilation of saint stories, Legende Aurea,orThe Golden Legend, followed by the utterly bizarre ghost stories written on some spare pages of a manuscript collection by a 13th-century Cisterian monk from the abbey of Byland in Yorkshire, or “The Byland Ghost Stories.” From 14th-century France, we hear astory known in modern English asThe Ghost of Guy, describing a series of ghostly visitations by a soul condemned to Purgatory — and the surprisingly colorful reason they were necessary! Our last ghost story comes from The Adventures of Arthur, a story from northern England, probably set down in the late 14thcentury. It tells of a particularly loathsome manifestation of Queen Guinevere’s mother that rises from within a lake with some pious advice for her daughter. We end with two more modern efforts to provide evidence of souls suffering...

44 MINSEP 26
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Ghosts from Purgatory

Vampires, Shroud-Eaters, and the White Plague

This episode explores the connection between vampires and disease, beginning in 19th-century New England with a strange graveyard ritual involving the exhumation of the bodies of Mercy Brown and family members in 1892. The gruesomely ritualistic destruction of Mercy’s body parts was spurred by a belief that those who succumbed to tuberculosis might live on in the grave and infest loved ones with the disease. Mercy’s case is the last and best known of cases like this beginning in the late 1700s and occurringthroughout the area, particularly in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont. Accounts of several more cases involving cursed vines growing from corpses and a shockingly macabre and bloody ritual occurring on an idyllic village green in the town of Woodstock, Vermont, are read by Mrs. Karswell. (We even hear a clip of a little tourism spot for Woodstock, though surely not in the context it was imagined when produced.) The association of vampiric entities with times of plagues and epidemics came to New England from Europe, and might be compared to the German belief in the Nachzehrer, an undead creature known to appear in times of pestilence to spread disease. A defining attribute of the Nachzehrer is its tendency to feed upon its shroud and even its own body, a repast providing the creature the nourishment necessary to then rise and continue feasting on the living. Another interesting term for the Nachzehrerderiving from the noises that it produced in its grave would be schmatzende Totenor “smacking dead.” We hear a number of accounts of such creatures from German/Latin texts dating to the 1400s, including the definitive work on the topic, the1679 volume by theologian Philippus Rohr, called in Latin, “The Masticating Dead.” Moving even further back to the Middle Ages, we examine some stories of plague-spreading vampires from England, includinga 12th-century account from William of Newburgh, which includes the grisly destruction of a corpse swollen with blood, and an account from 1135 by Geoffrey of Burton, featuring an evil spirit in the form of a crow arising from the monster’s burning heart. Both stories associate the vampire particularly with the spread of disease. We also have a quick look at archeological evidence for the type of vampire rituals discussed — disordered graves identifiedas “deviant burials,” or “therapeutic burials” in which bodies believed to be undead may be mutilated, staked into the grave, or — in cases like those we are focusing on — have rocks or other objects stuffed into their mouths to stop the creature from feeding on its shroud, or worse, the blood or vitality of those above the earth. Also discussed is the use of plague imagery in German versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu, both Director F.W. Murnau 1922 version and Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Whether Bram Stoker may have been influenced by reports of the New England tuberculosis vampires of the 1800s is addressed, and we have a deeper look at how romantic 19th-century ideas about tuberculosis influenced not only his portrayal of vampirism, but the work of other literary artists, painters, and composers. Among the artists mentioned are Lord Byron,Alexander Dumas, Claude Monet, John Keats, and Edgar Allan Poe. We also hear some clips of musical deaths by tuberculosis from the operas La Traviata and La Boheme. We conclude the show, as we began, with another musical composition played at graveside, and a story of heart removed and preserved in cognac, that of Frédéric Chopin, another victim of “the white plague.” Facebook Twitter

42 MINSEP 4
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Vampires, Shroud-Eaters, and the White Plague

The Baba Yaga

This episode explores the Russian witch, the Baba Yaga, tales in which she appears, possible origins, and regional variations on the character. We begin by retelling one of the skazi (folk tales) in which she’s particularly well-definined, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” a version recorded in the mid-1800s by the folklorist Alexander Afanasyev, Russia’s answer to the Brothers Grimm, . Without spoiling the story, I can say that it bears some parallels to “Cinderella,” with a wicked stepmother and step-sisters grievously imposing on the young Vasilisa and sending her into an encounter with the Baba Yaga. She is aided in the tale by a magic doll bequeathed her by her dying mother. Like nearly all Baba Yaga stories, this tale features the witch’s famous house perched atop two immense chicken legs on which it turns to reveal it’s entrance if the proper spell is spoken. Around the house, in this story as in most others, is a fence made of human bones and topped by skulls. The witch herself is not much described in the text of “Vasilisa,” but in the folklore of the Eastern Slavs, she is generally imagined as an hunchbacked old crone, usually large, and with a large nose, sometimes said to be of iron, as are her teeth sometimes. She’s also occasionally described as an ogress because of her nasty habit of eating visitors, especially children, or those who fail her when she puts them to work (what she often does with visitors). “Vasilisa” like nearly every other tale featuring the character, describes the witch flying through the skies in mortar, which she steers with the pestle, an instrument sometimes also used as a club or magic wand. Like western witches, she is often depicted with a cat, but the Baba Yaga may also command a pack of dogs, flock of geese or swans, or even be served by pairs of disembodied hands. “Baba Yaga” is not quite a proper noun, i.e., her “name,” at least not quite. It’s a class or type of character,and certain stories feature multiple Baba Yagas. For this reason too, she may be killed off in a particular story — and often is — only to reappear as presumably different witch in another. Though she’s most often portrayed as malevolent and dangerous, some tales make her more ambivalent, or occasionally even helpful. We have a look at the best known examples of this, “The Frog Tzarina” (a story offering a sort of reversal on the “Frog Prince” theme) . Of the tales that feature the Baba Yaga in a more menacing role, one of the better known is called “Princess Marya” or “The Death of Koschei the Deathless,” and it features the witch as a character somewhat peripheral to another important character of Russian folklore, Koschei. He’s a sorcerer, usually represented as a crowned skeletal figure and known for hiding his soul in the form of a needle within an egg within a duck. We also hear a bit of another tale featuring a malevolent Baba Yaga,“Little Bear’s-Son,” in which the witch lives in an underworld and battles the titlular character and a trio of giants. Our quick look at a few examples of the Baba Yaga in music and films includes a piece from ModestMussorgsky’s 1874 suite Pictures at an Exhibition called “The Baba yaga” or “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” (Here is the Baba Yaga inspired clock design by Victor Hartmann that inspired the piece.) We hear a bit from that and a snippet of “Baba Yaga,” a 1965 garage-rock number by a Minnesota band called The Pagans. Speaking of music, our show, opened with a clip from a 1997 track “

42 MINAUG 13
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The Baba Yaga

Loup-Garou, Werewolves in France

The werewolf (Fr: loup-garou) epidemic of 16th-century France forms the core of our show, but we also include some medieval French werewolf tales as well as the legend of a figure connected to both werewolves and Bluebeard. In our last episode on Bluebeard, I promised to recount a legend that may have inspired Charles Perrault’s story. This would be the story of Count Conomor, or “Conomor the Accursed,” a 6th-century ruler of Brittany. Here the role of Bluebeard’s new wife is played by Trephine, the daughter of a rival count. Through her forbearance, shecame to be regarded in local traditions as a saint (therefore the chapel depiction below). Her adventures include interaction with the helpful ghosts of Conomor’s slain wives, decapitation by Conomor (with miraculous cure) and a magic ring The curse upon this wicked count continues into the afterlife, during which he is condemned to roam the countryside in the form of a werewolf. Our next segment looks at some medieval werewolf stories, including the12-century poem by a Marie de France, “Bisclavret,” in which the werewolf plays a surprisingly sympathetic role, the tale of Sir Hugues de Camp-d’Avesnes, condemned to an afterlife as a werewolf for burning a town in the 1131,and that of the knight Raimbaud de Pulet, who in a fit of despondent madness becomes a werewolf. The French werewolf epidemic, which between 1520 and 1630, resulted in the execution of more than 30,000 individuals was the result of a link forged between the werewolf and anew, more aggressive attitude toward witchcraft arising in ecclesiastic councils taking place in Basel Switzerland in the 1430s. The first regions in France to begin prosecutions were therefore naturally those adjacent to Switzerland. Many there were overseen byHenry Bouguet, a judge who tried approximately 600 witchcraft cases in the locality. Most of the stories recounted in this episode come from his writings on the subject, while others come from the The Werewolf by highly eccentric English scholar Montague Summers, who was discussed in Episode 1. The first of Bouget’s cases examined is that of Michel Verdun, who shortly after a wolf attack in which the beast is wounded is discovered treating a matching wound on his arm. Verdun’s testimony implicated two other men likewise said to transform themselves into wolves, Philibert Montot, and Pierre Bourgot, who provides a lurid testimony including accounts of bloody crimes committed in wolf form, attendance at a witches’ sabbath andbeing initiated into his wicked ways byablack rider he meets in the forest. The next case discussed (and judged by Bouget) is that of Gilles Garnier, who also spoke of a forest meeting with a diabolical figure who presented him the magic ointment necessary for transformation. Garnier’s case is interesting in that he brought home human flesh from his werewolf attacks for his wife to enjoy. Another case in this same area mentioned by Boguet is that of the Gandillons, a whole family of alleged werewolves. It begins with a female werewolf, Perrenette Gandillon, who attacks a brother and sister and is then killed by a mob. Her sister, Antoinette confesses to also being a werewolf and attending a witches sabbath, as do her father and brother. Wilkinson reads for us a colorful description of the wolf-like behavior of the male Gandillons in their prison cells. Outside of Bouget’s jurisdiction, we find the case of the Werewolf of Chalons, a tailor discovered abducting children and butchering them in his shop. We also hear the story of Jean Grenier from Bordeaux (see the comic below).

39 MINJUL 22
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Loup-Garou, Werewolves in France

The Bloody Chamber

Bluebeard and his bloody chamber full of murderous secrets is widely known as one of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, but it’s part of a larger family of folk tales and ballads we examine in this episode. Our show begins with a brief summary of this tale in which a young woman is courted by the mysterious and strangely whiskered nobleman, Bluebeard. After lavishly entertaining the woman and her family in his castle, it’s agreed they should marry. Soon thereafter, Bluebeard departs on a journey leaving his bride keys to all the rooms of his estate, all of which to which may use — but one. Curiosity, however, getting the better of her, she unlocks the forbidden door and must face Bluebeard’s murderous rage at her disobedience. Perrault’s 1697 story, which draws upon older folk tales, is primarily known thanks to its inclusion in collections of fairy tales intended for children. Today, however, you’re unlikely to find the gruesome yarn anthologized for younger readers. If included at all, it may be sanitized, as it was in the 1970 children’s record from which we excerpted a clip at the show’s open. Along with fairy tale collections and cheaply printed chapbooks, the Bluebeard story was largely preserved through theatrical representation. We look at a number of productions from the late 18th and early 19th century that treated the story in a semi-comic or melodramatic fashion, often combining elements of the Italian Commedia dell’arte, such as Harlequin and his antics. Wilkinson provides of some readings of the comedic dialogue as well as stage directions which often made the “bloody chamber” a lavishly designed and spooky centerpiece of the production. Particularly important to how were think of Bluebeard today is the 1798 productionBlue Beard, or Female Curiosity!, which moved the story to Turkey in order to exploit a growing fascination with the East. This image of Bluebeard and indeed its importance in the English-languagerepertoire is suggested by the inclusion of the play in the 1993 Jane Campion film, The Piano, a story set during this period. The theatrical tradition of representing Bluebeard’s wives as bloody heads severed from their bodies is demonstrated in this scene as well as many 19th-century photographs of such stagings. Also discussed is 1 1903Christmas staging of Mr. Bluebeard in Chicago, famous not so much for its musical numbers (such as the song “Raving,” which we hear excerpted) but more for alandmark fire, which claimed the lives of 602 theater-goers. While there have been dozens of films that play with the theme of women marrying men with mysteriously deceased wives, only a few have directly addressed the tale. We very briefly discuss the 1944 Bluebeard with John Carradine, the 1972 Bluebeard with Richard Burton, and the 2009 French film, Barbe-Bleue (Bluebeard), which is the most traditional of the lot. In the next part of our show, we look at related folktales including the Grimm’s story “Fitcher’s Bird,” which features bloody chambers that must not be opened, a skull dressed as a bride, a woman rolling in honey and feathers, and a wedding that’s diverted into an execution party. We also look at the English tale“Mr. Fox,” in which a woman spying on her bridegroom discovers his habit The Grimms also gave us “The Robber Bridegroom,” in which a bride-to-be visits her intendedR...

43 MINJUL 2
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The Bloody Chamber

Gog, Magog, and the Bones of Giants

This time we look at the myths of British giants Gog and Magog, and a belief in biblical giants seemingly confirmed by giant bones dug from the earth. We begin with a 1953 newsreel welcoming reconstructed figures of Gog and Magog back to the London Guildhall after the Nazi bombing of the city destroyed the originals. While Londoners may know the figures as those paraded in the Lord Mayor’s show each November, we also look at a more American perspective on Gog and Magog as figures representing nations allied with the Antichrist from the biblical book of Revelation. Our next stop in the Bible is a verse from Genesis Chapter 6, speaking of “giants in the earth in those days,” (before the Flood). The word “giant,” we learn, was chosen to translate the Hebrew “Nephilim.” Our Genesis passage suggests the Nephilim are the offspring of angels mating with human women, and this notion is reinforced byapocryphal texts, such as the Book of Enoch, which dubs these fallen angels “Watchers.” We hear a snippet featuring kindly Watchers from Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 film, Noah, which whitewashes the traditional understandings of the Watchers. The word, “Nephilim,” we learn, literally means “fallen ones,” (“fallen” as in divine beings tainted by human hybridization.) The suggestion that they are physically large comes from another Genesis story in which Moses sends spies to the land of Canaan in preparation for a Hebrew invasion and receives a report on “Nephilim” who in size compare to men as men do to grasshoppers. We also hear some amusing stories of the biblical King Og, whose 13-foot bed is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy. Next follows a quick survey of the bones of prehistoric animals mistaken for the bones of biblical Nephilim (or St. Christopher, who was also believed to be a giant from the land of Canaan). Bones of mastodons figures prominently as do the teeth of St. Christopher, though holy relics produces from beached whales and deceased hippopotami are also mentioned. We also learn of the patron saint of hares, St. Melangell (also somehow gifted with oversized bones) a dinosaur named after the human scrotum, and a prehistoric species of giant salamander mistaken for one of the Nephilim by 18th century naturalist Jakob Scheuchzeri, who figures into the early science fiction novel War of the Newts (represented with a snippet from a 2005 BBC radio drama).The hoaxed 12th-century discovery of a gigantic skeleton of King Arthur at Glastonbury is also discussed. We learn that Arthur turns out to be connected to the Cornish folktale of that murderous scamp “Jack the Giant Killer.” Referring to an 18th-century text, we run through the grisly episodes of this story (including a long-forgotten one including a female follower of Lucifer). Not only does the original tale see Jack inducted to Arthur’s Round Table, but it seems the Cornish story is a retelling of a similar Arthurian story of the king slaying a giant on Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. A strangely mirrored version of this site, St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall also was said to be home to a giantnamed Corineus, a figure that seems to be related to Cormoran, the first giant killed in “Jack the Giant Killer.” Along the way, Wilkinson provides us some richly detailed passages regarding Arthur’s encounter with the giant of Normandy from the 15th-century telling inThe Alliterative Morte Arthure. On the border between Cornwall and Devon is a site known as “Giant’s Leap,” where another mythic Corineus was said to have killed a giant in the Geoffrey of Monmouth,

42 MINJUN 13
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Gog, Magog, and the Bones of Giants

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