Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Over the past few years I've visited some spooky and unusual places around the world and I've heard my fair share of ghost stories. Every culture has their own stories and it's interesting – and terrifying – to hear them. I don't claim to be an expert in the paranormal, but some people consider me their "go-to guy" for anything spooky.
Some of their stories I've heard before, like the Headless Horseman or the Terracotta Army, but some I have not. I tried to pick some lesser known ones for this article, but you may know some of them anyway. Let me know in the comments how many you knew.
The Hands Resist Him Painting
In 1972 Bill Stoneham created one of his most famous paintings, The Hands Resist Him. This painting shows a young boy and a doll standing in front of a glass panelled door. The boy, Stoneham says, is supposed to represent his childhood, while the doll – who has hollowed out eyes and a downward smile – is to represent his guardian between the worlds of fantasy and reality. Behind the figures, on the other side of the door, are several floating, disembodied hands, attempting to reach the two figures.
The painting may appear spooky, but Stoneham claims it is supposed to symbolise the barrier between reality and fantasy and life and death. The story goes that after Stoneham sold the painting, the owner, an art critic and a gallery owner who had it later all passed away within a year of purchasing the painting.
In 2000 the painting appeared on eBay with claims that not only did the previous owners die, but also that the characters in the painting moved on their own. These claims said that upon occasion the doll would threaten the boy or take him behind the glass door where the ghostly hands were able to wrap around him.
The panting's opening bid was $199 ($277 today) but eventually sold for $1,025 ($1,426). The buyer then contacted Stoneham and told him about the stories and strange interpretations. Stoneham was surprised by the claims that the figures moved but did verify that the first owner and art critic had died following their purchase of the painting.
Since creating the painting, Stoneham has created two sequels, Resistance at the Threshold and Threshold of Revelation. In 2012 he made a prequel called The Hands Invent Him, which showed the disembodied hands in the original painting belonged to himself, Bill Stoneham.
Have you ever heard of a siesta? For those who don't know, a "siesta" is a mid-afternoon nap, originating from the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. As somebody who gets tired everyday right around three in the afternoon, a siesta always sounds like a wonderful idea and is something I think more people should try doing.
But, what happens to those who don't want to have a snooze in the middle of the day? You might get a little more work done, or you might be visited by Jasy Jatere, the god of the siesta.
According to Guarani tradition in Paraguay, Jasy Jatere is one of the seven "cursed children" of their religion. Jasy Jatere appears as a young man, or even a child, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He is often invisible to adults, but frequently appears before children – especially those who have trouble falling asleep.
Some legends claim that Jasy Jatere takes these children to the forest to play and feeds them honey and fruit. Once they grow full and tired, he transports them back to bed with no memory of what happened.
Other legends say, however, that Jasy Jatere will kidnap the children and take them to the forest to imprison them. After he grows bored of them, he scoops their eyes out and releases them to find their way back home. For the very unfortunate children, Jasy Jatere scoops out their eyes and then feeds the blind children to his monstrous brother Ao Ao, a sheep-like creature with a taste for human flesh.
Of the above options, I think it safest just to have that afternoon nap.
Deer Woman (Taxti Wau)
Reported by the Sioux, Ojibwe, Ponca, Cherokee, Muskogee, Choctaw and many other First Nations people, the Deer Woman is a reported half-woman, half-deer spirit. Some reports claim she can be chased way with chanting and tobacco, while others say her spells of uncontrollable lust can be broken by looking at her cloven hooves.
Like sirens and succubus in other cultures, the Deer Woman is known to seduce men and lead them into the wild to die. Those who are strong willed and resist her urge have been said to fall in love with her, and slowly waste away as they long for her return.
In 2009 a short documentary was made sharing some of the stories of the Deer Woman by various First Nations people. Is the story true, or just a legend? I'll let you decide.
The Weeping Woman (La Llorona)
The origin story of La Llorona is lost to time, but some report it goes back before the Spanish conquest. The legend begins with a beautiful young woman named Maria that lived in a small village somewhere in Central America. One day a wealthy nobleman came travelled through the village and saw Maria. He was immediately taken back by her beauty and fell in love with her. Thrilled that a nobleman had intereste in her, Maria immediately agreed to marry him, and about a year later they gave birth to twins.
Maria's husband travelled often and wasn't home most days. When he was home, he slowly began to spend less and less time with Maria and more time with the children. Maria feared he was falling out of love with her, and one day her fears came true when he went out to work and never returned.
Years passed and one day Maria was out walking with her children and saw a familiar man, arm-in-arm with a much younger woman and their child. Realising this man was her husband and that her fears had come true, Maria filled with rage. She picked up her small children and threw them into the river, drowning them both. After realising what she had done, Maria was filled with grief and jumped into the river too, hoping to die alongside her children and end her pain.
She would die, but she was not allowed to entre paradise. As she stood at the threshold to it, she was challenged as to the location of her children. Unable to explain why they had not yet arrived in paradise, she was forbidden to enter until they were found, and was sent back to the world of the living. Upon returning, she was saddened by her lost and began crying. This earned her the name The Weeping Woman, or La Llorona.
It is said La Llorona approaches young children that play near the river and asks them for their forgiveness. Before they have a chance to respond, she then drags them into the water and drowns them, hoping they will take the place of her own children. Some say that those what hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death.
Interesting enough, this story matches very closely to the story of Isla de las Muñecas, which is in a canal system near Mexico City. The story also includes drowned children and restless spirts, so if you haven't read it, be sure to check it out.
When I was younger I wasn't a big fan of oranges. I liked orange juice, but not the texture of oranges, or those weird white strands that cover them. Instead of eating them, I would pierce them with my teeth and suck the juice out of them. Once they were white and dried up, I would move onto the next one.
El Chupacabra is kind of like this, but instead of sucking juice out of oranges, he sucks blood out of goats, and instead of leaving a pile of dried fruit, he leaves behind a pile of dried husks.
The Chupacabra was first reported in 1995 in Puerto Rico after eight sheep were found dried of their blood. Several months after the original account, a woman named Madelyne Tolentino saw the creature during a string of events in her local town. During this event, over 150 farm animals and pets were killed by this mysterious beast.
Tolentino's description of the creature claimed it to be a reptile-like in appearance, with leathery green or grey skin, and sharp spines running down its back. It is said to be about 3 to 4 feet tall and hopped around like a kangaroo.
After Tolentino's shared her story, reports began popping up throughout the Americas, ranging from the Dominican Republic to Chile to the United States and even Russia. In 2011 Tolentino's story was debunked, as her description of the creature matched the creature Sil from the television serious Species, which had come out around the same time as the attack.
But other reports continued, this time claiming the creature looked like a dog, wolf or coyote. Yet, no research has been able to determine what it might be. Biologists from the University of Michigan believe it to be a coyote infected with a parasite, while others thing they could just be malnourished wild dogs with patchy hair and grey skin.
Regardless of the truth behind the created, the Chupacabra has now become a common legend throughout South and American.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.
Cemeteries are a place of solace. All people, regardless of wealth, status, religion or creed are equals within a cemetery. It's a place of remembrance, respect and reconciliation. If you visit a cemetery, you are visiting the graves of lost loved ones. These may be children, pioneers, rebels or everyday people. Every grave has a story, and all are longing to be told.
Because of this, cemeteries are a library of knowledge. They hold the lessons of our past, and the wisdom of our future. As the leaves change and the days get shorter, cemeteries attract a much different crowd than that of just historians and family members. With autumn crisp in the air, cemeteries fill with thrill-seekers and paranormal believers. There is a fine line between what is and isn't acceptable within a cemetery and those who dabble into the affairs of the afterlife know this all too well. Few people go into cemeteries looking to disrespect the graves; instead, most are just hoping they can answer their own questions about life after death.
Not all cemeteries are haunted, but each holds their own stories. Keep this in mind while you read this article. If you end up visiting any of these sites, remember to step softly, speak quietly and respect the surrounding graves. You might not be as alone as you think.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.