Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 15: Is Tutankhamun’s Tomb Really Cursed?

One of the biggest discoveries of the twentieth century also turned into one of its biggest mysteries. Did Tutankhamun’s tomb really curse all who entered it? Let’s explore this bizarre history, starting with the life story of the boy king himself.

The Story of King Tut

Tutankhamun was born around 1342 BC and thought to be the son of King Akhenaten, a controversial leader. Akhenaten made radical, and mostly unpopular, religious changes. Stepping away from polytheism, Akhenaten instead made Egypt’s official religion Atenism, which centred solely on the cult of Aten. The records are foggy when it comes to the exact identity of Akhenaten’s successor but what is certain is that Tutankhamun became king not long after his father.

Tutankhamun was a pharaoh of Egypt from 1334 – 1325 BC, taking the throne when he was only eight or nine years old. He had a short reign but sought to restore the land to polytheism. Ultimately he died young at the age of roughly eighteen. Scientists believe he may have had several ailments and illnesses, including possible malaria, bone necrosis, scoliosis and epilepsy. Despite this, there is no confirmed cause of death and his passing seems to have been quite sudden to ancient Egyptians. Theories about his death vary widely, from murder by a blow to the head to a chariot accident to his ill health.

During antiquity, Tutankhamun’s tomb was robbed twice. Nearly all the tombs in the Valley of the Kings are thought to have been ransacked in the Twentieth Dynasty but what makes Tutankhamun’s tomb unique is the scale of what was left behind. Even though a lot of riches were taken away nearly 3,000 years before Howard Carter’s excavation, there was still so much for Carter and his team to discover. The reason for this is because King Tut was almost completely removed from historic records. Fury over Akhenaten’s religious reform led to those after him aiming to destroy any reference or monument to him or those associated with him, including any mention of his son. Tutankhamun’s anonymity may have protected his tomb from further damage before the 1900s because the robbers simply didn’t know it was there.

That Infamous Excavation

So, speeding ahead 3,000 years we get to 1914 when George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon financed a project exploring the Valley of Kings. He put Howard Carter in charge of the excavations and waited to hear for news. Years went by with few interesting discoveries and he decided that 1922 would be the last year he would provide funding for a project that was reaping little of what he sowed. It was in November of that very year that Carter’s water boy accidentally discovered the top of a staircase leading to a doorway. Word was sent to Carnarvon and Carter, the Earl and his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, were the first to enter the tomb.

Upon realising just what they had discovered, help was drafted in to begin cataloguing the many artifacts. On the 16th February 1923, Carter entered the burial chamber of King Tut. Just seven weeks later, Canarvon died of blood poisoning. He is thought to be the first victim of the King Tut’s curse.

The Curse?

Ok, so context aside, here is where the spooky bit comes in… as if talk of tombs and ancient mummies wasn’t spooky enough as it is. There are a lot of (probably fabricated) details when it comes to the supposed curse and considering the excavation and the curse itself became big news stories back in England, it’s not hard to imagine the most extreme were probably made up by the media.

But, here we go, these are just a few of the people related to Tutankhamun’s tomb who died in mysterious circumstances or had strange things happen to them:

  • Sir Bruce Ingham – Carter gave Ingham a mummified hand to use as a paperweight (main question here being why?) then Ingham’s house burnt down.
  • Financier George Jay Gould – died of pneumonia after visiting the tomb.
  • Hugh Evelyn-White – took his own life two years after working on the excavation.
  • Carter’s secretary Richard Bethell – found dead in his bed in Mayfair after being smothered.

The list goes on a bit however one key person in all this who got off scot-free is Howard Carter himself. Carter lived a full life, as did many people who worked on the excavation. There is definitely something spooky about the idea of a mummy’s curse but there is no evidence of it aside from some strange coincidences. No curses have been found written on the walls of the tomb itself and neither have archaeologists or scientists found any substance in the tomb that would cause death to those who enter. This is a bit of a non-point considering the variety in causes of death anyway.

I personally think the idea of a curse and the reason the story flooded the media is because there is something just wrong about the idea of exploring a burial site. Even when that tomb is thousands of years old and definitely a place a historical interest, there’s still this feeling that where someone is put to rest is where they should stay. King Tut might have been young but he was a king and there was a reason he was given the lavish burial he was. I’m not saying I think excavations themselves are wrong. If that excavation had never happened, Tutankhamun may have ended up being a name lost to history. Disturbing the final resting place of the dead is incredibly spooky and maybe the ultimate risk you take isn’t a curse, it’s learning to live with your decision to explore that grave in the first place.

Hmm… that got a bit deep. Anyway, point is I don’t think the curse is real but it’s an excuse to chat about some Ancient Egyptian history. Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 14: 40 Songs for Your Halloween Playlist

Nothing gets me in the mood for Halloween like some good spooky songs and if you’re still putting your favourite ghoulish hits together, these are just a few songs every Halloween 2020 playlist needs.

A Nightmare On My Street – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Bad Blood – Bastille

bad guy – Billie Eilish

Black Magic – Little Mix

Bad Moon Rising – Creedance Clearwater Revivial

Better the Devil You Know – Kylie Minogue

Can’t Fight the Moonlight – LeAnn Rimes

Cirque Dans La Rue – Plain White T’s

Disturbia – Rihanna

E.T. – Katy Perry

Genie in a Bottle – Christina Aguilera

Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.

Ghost – Ella Henderson

Haunted – Beyonce

Haunted – Taylor Swift

Heads Will Roll – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

Howl – Florence & The Machine

Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran

I Put a Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

I Want Candy – Row Wow Wow

Living Dead – Marina

Livin’ la Vida Loca – Ricky Martin

Love Potion No. 9 – The Searchers

Maneater – Daryl Hall & John Oates

Maneater – Nelly Furtado

Men In Black – Will Smith

Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

She Wolf – Shakira

The Addams Family Theme

Things That Go Bump in the Night – allSTARS

Thriller – Michael Jackson

Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Show

Toxic – Britney Spears

What’s New, Scooby-Doo? – Octopus Montage

Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon

Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

(You’re The) Devil In Disguise – Elvis Presley

Zombie – The Cranberries

Let me know if there are any songs I’ve missed in the comments!

Posted in Blogtober, TV

Blogtober Day 13: The Haunting of Bly Manor Review and Discussion ***Spoilers***

I’ve just finished watching The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix and I have thoughts. Having watched The Haunting of Hill House about a year and a half ago I thought I knew what to expect with Bly Manor but it had a very different feel. Ultimately, I really enjoyed Bly Manor, partially because I was surprised about how different it was from Hill House.

The ending summarises the core difference between the two shows quite nicely. Whereas Hill House is a ghost story, Bly Manor is a love story. And a pretty damn sad one at that. Whereas Hill House preys on your fear by filling each episode with jump scares, Bly Manor takes a very different approach in its storytelling. Yes, there are still ghosts. Yes, there’s still a creepy old house. But, the characters that populate the show take centre stage over the ghosts in this story.

Despite the dream hopping which made all episodes from 5 onwards a bit twisted, I found Bly Manor easier to follow than Hill House. I think it had the right amount of characters, even if there were a couple of missed opportunities. For me, Uncle Henry was a character that I wanted to learn more about, his Mr Hyde figure was a fascinating edition to the story but felt a bit disconnected to everything else going on. I wish we got to understand a little more about where, when and how his split self came into his world.

Speaking of the characters though, I really enjoyed getting to know this group of people. I found each of their stories compelling and linked in seamlessly with the show’s central themes, from Owen dealing with watching his mother slip further into her dementia to Hannah’s big secret. Also, I can’t write a review of this show without saying how amazing the cast is, especially the young cast. Flora and Miles are genuinely likeable kids and it’s heartbreaking when you see how far Peter is willing to go to manipulate them into letting him and Rebecca possess them.

It’s the possession and the idea of being tucked away into memories that was really interesting for me as a viewer. There’s something unsettling about that idea of being lost in your own head and seeing both Hannah and Peter get stuck in the same memories repeatedly was the kind of psychological torment that creates a whole new level of fear. It’s not jump scares but it’s that claustrophobic feeling of not being able to leave your own mind. It’s such an fascinating concept to explore under the umbrella of horror and I thought the show did a great job with it.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this show was the throwback episode where we got a full backstory of the principle ghost of Bly Manor, Viola, and got an understanding of why she haunts in the way she does. There is true tragedy in her story and, dodgy English accent aside, I thought it was handled brilliantly. It’s not easy to pull off kind of that stepping-away-from-the-central-action-for-an-entire-episode thing but something about Viola’s story and how it filled in the mysteries still left wide open in the story was captivating for me.

The last thing I want to talk about with this show was the ending. I have to say, the ending wasn’t my favourite thing about the show. Although I liked how we discovered that Jamie was telling an adult Flora the story of how Dani saved her life without her realising it, I did think there was going to be a bigger twist. I found myself feeling really sad for Jamie and Dani’s ending even though it seemed as though there wasn’t any other conclusion left for Dani. I guess that’s just what the show is though, a much more emotional watch than Hill House because these shows, to me, are more like cousins than siblings. Trying to replicate the success of Hill House by following the same format wouldn’t have been nearly as original as Bly Manor turned out to be and I’m glad the team behind it took this approach.

What did you think of The Haunting of Bly Manor? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 12: Top 5 Cryptids

Stepping outside of the realm of ghosts, ghouls, vampires and werewolves for a second, let’s talk about some monsters today. I’m sharing five of the best-known cryptids with you. If you don’t know what that means, allow me to borrow a definition from my copy of Cryptozoology A to Z (yes, I do really own a copy of this tome). Cryptozoology is formed of three Greek words: “kryptos” meaning “hidden”, “zoon” meaning “animal” and “logia” meaning “study”. So, essentially this means that cryptozoology is the study of hidden or unconfirmed animals, these are called cryptids and here are a few examples.

1. Bigfoot and Yeti

Bigfoot or Sasquatch seems to be North America’s favourite cryptid. The name comes from a plaster cast of one… well… big foot found in the 1950s, this was eventually discovered to be a hoax but the name stuck. Similarities have been drawn between Bigfoot and snow-dwelling but equally hairy Yeti. There hasn’t been any conclusive evidence for the existence of either of these creatures but that doesn’t stop Bigfoot and Yeti enthusiasts from searching.

2. Loch Ness Monster

On the more aquatic side of cryptozoology, we find the Loch Ness Monster, named after one of the largest and deepest lochs in Scotland where it has been allegedly spotted. There have been countless photos of the monster, nearly all of which have been hoaxes. However, something surprising about this story is that the ever mention of a monster in the Ness River goes back to 565 AD as The Life of Saint Columba includes the tale of a swimmer who was dragged below the water’s surface by a sea monster. Could it be Nessie?

3. ABCs

Who’d have thought that the town of Bodmin would get two shout-outs in Blogtober but here we go again. Alien Big Cats, or ABCs, are big cats that have been spotted in places they don’t usually belong. One of the best-known ABCs is the Beast of Bodmin Moor, often thought to be a leopard or puma and believed to have been prowling around in Cornwall in the 1990s. The story became so big that the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stepped in and investigated the possibility of a big cat being the cause of recently killed livestock. Ultimately, the Ministry concluded that the deaths could have been caused by animals native to the UK but that they couldn’t absolutely rule out the existence of the Beast either… so there.

4. Mothman

We’re heading back to the USA to discuss one of the weirdest cryptids on this list, the Mothman. There were multiple reported sightings of this winged humanoid with glowing red eyes in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966-7. Scientists, however, have come up with various explanations for the creature, from large birds known in the region to car headlights reflected on eyes causing the glowing red effect. This hasn’t stopped speculation about the validity of the Mothman though and there’s even 2002 a movie about the creature starring Richard Gere.

5. Kraken

Lastly we have the Kraken, the gigantic sea monster of Nordic folklore. The Kraken was thought to be an octopus or squid-type creature that would attack ships. In the 1800s, a friend and correspondent of Charles Darwin, the Danish zoologist Japetus Steenstrup, seemed to finally put the mystery surrounding this mythological figure to (sea)bed after formally identifying the giant squid species. However, after the discovery of colossal squids in 1925, it well may be that the Kraken is part of a family of squids that can reach up to 14m in length and 700kg in weight.

Aside from the Kraken just being a really big squid, I don’t hold much faith in any of these creatures being real but it’s still fascinating to read about them. Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 11: It’s All in the Origins: Vampires

This is the second in my It’s All in the Origins series where I examine the history and origins of a famous being associated with Halloween. First up was werewolves and now we’re sinking our teeth into vampire lore.

What is a Vampire?

Here’s the problem with exploring the origins of vampire lore, defining what a vampire is can be surprisingly complicated. Vampire characteristics vary greatly depending on who you ask. A lot of traits we see repeated in vampire fiction today e.g. having an aversion to sunlight, not having a reflection, needing to be invited into a property, turning into bats, not liking garlic and so on come from various pieces of modern fiction. Most notably of all for several of these would be Bram Stoker’s Dracula which we’ll revisit a bit later on.

In European folklore, the general consensus is that a vampire is a usually undead being that preys on the living by consuming their blood (or some other type of life force). That’s a very simple definition though, let’s venture into the history of vampire folklore and fiction.

Folklore and Famous Cases

Perhaps because of the vague and ever-changing definition of what a vampire is, it’s not surprising there is some kind of vampiric creature in nearly every culture around the world. And, much like werewolves, vampire lore dates way back to the ancient times.

In some strands of Judaism there is a possible interpretation that Lilith, the first wife of Adam, is the original vampire. She is often depicted in art as the snake that tempts Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and is sometimes thought to be a kind of demon. There is even one strand of belief that she would steal children and suck their blood, however this is a story that is more commonly attributed to Lamia of ancient Greek mythology.

It could be these figures of religion and mythology that bled into hysteria over vampire attacks. Archaeologists have discovered skeletons of individuals given a vampire’s burial (i.e. with a stake through the heart or a stone in the mouth) across Europe and from several different centuries. But, there are two particular bouts of vampire mass hysteria that I want to mention here:

  • The 18th Century Vampire Controversy

Despite the dawn of the Age of the Enlightenment, mass hysteria gripped Europe after reports began in Prussia of a string of vampire attacks in the early 1720s. Bodies were dug up across the continent and stakes were driven through the hearts of these supposed vampires to ensure the dead would never leave their final resting places.

  • The New England Vampire Panic

In the 1700s and 1800s, tuberculosis, known then as “consumption”, was spreading quickly amongst families in New England. Making sense of the illness and how it was infecting whole families in the days before science had a full understanding of TB led to the sufferers looking to folklore for answers. Some believed that consumption was spread by one infected family member draining the life forms of those around them, even beyond the grave. In order to cure consumption, families would dig up their dead relatives and examine them for decomposition. If the bodies looked fresh and were found to have still blood in their hearts, they would remove and burn several organs and the ashes would be fed to any remaining living sick relatives. Of the multiple New England “vampire” cases, Mercy Brown is the best-known. She died in January 1892 and her body was exhumed two months later after her father suspected she was causing her brother’s consumption. He died not long after drinking a tonic of her ashes. This case is thought be one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published just five years later.

From Dracula to Lestat

Although Dracula is thought to be the definitive work of vampire fiction, it wasn’t the first. There are several precursors to Stoker’s classic novel. These include Varney the Vampire (1840s), a long-standing penny dreadful, Carmilla (1872), Sheridan Le Fou’s novella which began the lesbian vampire trope and The Vampyre (1819), a short story by John William Polidori which features vampire Lord Ruthven, often thought to be inspired by Polidori’s friend Lord Byron and the closest of these three in similarity to Dracula himself.

This brings us to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. The antagonist is thought to be inspired by Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad Dracula, the ruler of Wallachia in the 1400s. He has become a historical figure both feared for his cruelty and revered for his status as a national hero in Romania. What he has to do with vampirism is, on the surface, very little. Modern scholars now believe that Stoker didn’t actually know a whole lot about Vlad the Impaler and what he did know came from one biased history book. However, one key aspect of the former ruler’s life has become synonymous with our contemporary understanding of what a vampire is.

Nowadays, there is a belief that Vlad Dracula might have had a condition call porphyria, this causes the body to not produce enough haem, a substance found in haemoglobin. Porphyria can cause paleness, an aversion to sunlight, pronounced fangs and even avoidance of garlic as it can worsen the symptoms. All of these vampiric qualities are found in Dracula and reoccur countless times in vampire fiction, from Lestat to Edward Cullen.

There are various theories as to why Dracula made such a mark on literature and how vampire myth has managed to endure for so long. One thing is for certain though, interest in these bloodsuckers is truly immortal.

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 10: Top Ten Haunted Locations in the UK

The UK is filled to brim with spooky spectres and tales of haunted houses, castles, pubs and more. Here are my top ten haunted locations in the UK, some of these I’ve been to already and some I’ve got on my bucket list of places to visit.

1. Hampton Court Palace, London

This is one of my all-time favourite haunts. This is because it’s a beautiful building with an extensive history… and a thriving ghost population. There’s a Grey Lady who’s been spotted on a staircase, phantom screaming along the Haunted Gallery and who can forget the chilling CCTV footage of a hooded spectre opening and closing two huge fire doors?!

2. The City of Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city bubbling over with history and hauntings so I decided to wrap the whole city up as one spooky location. At Edinburgh Castle, there are reports going of a headless drummer boy. In Mary King’s Close, there is a whole stack of toys left for Annie, the ghost of a little girl said to be just one of the ghosts that haunt the abandoned streets beneath the city. And, most sinister of all might just be the spirit George Mackenzie, a persecutor of Covenanters, who has been known to attack those who venture to his “Black Mausoleum” in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

3. 30 East Drive, West Yorkshire

Unlike most of the other spooky sites on this list, 30 East Drive looks just like your average family home. It’s the terrifying reports of the Black Monk that put this house on the map. Some of the activity seemed quite innocent, from puddles of water appearing in random places and odd things being moved around. At his worst though, the Black Monk was said to have slashed photographs and even dragged a young girl who lived in the house up the stairs by just her hair. Despite exorcism attempts, spooky goings on are still reported to this day.

4. Chillingham Castle, Northumberland

Considered England’s most haunted castle, Chillingham has quite a few stories to tell. One of the most famous comes from a spirit known as the Blue Boy. This particular ghost was said to been seen as orbs and even full-body apparitions until renovation work on the castle uncovered the body of a little boy in a blue outfit concealed in a wall. After this discovery the Blue Boy’s spirit seemed to have found peace. However, more recent reports suggest he’s back to his old ghostly ways once again.

5. The Village of Pluckley, Kent

With at least 12 ghost cases alone, Pluckley was given the title “most haunted village in Britain” by the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. There’s a Red Lady who haunts the local graveyard, a highwayman who hides in the trees and phantom horses are sometimes seen riding by.

6. Tower of London

This brutal site of imprisonment and execution spanning centuries of British history undoubtably has a spooky aura. Two of the most compelling ghost sightings are the Princes in the Tower, likely murdered by their ambitious uncle Richard III in 1483, who have been seen to walk through the walls and former queen of England, Anne Boleyn. Anne has been spotted in multiple places by various witnesses walking headless in the grounds.

7. Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Pendle Hill has been considered a creepy location ever since it became the epicentre of one of England’s most infamous witch trails way back in 1612. The testimony of nine-year-old Jennet Device led to the guilty verdicts of ten people accused of consorting with the Devil. This included her own mother, sister and brother. After her entire family were executed, Jennet’s name pops up in the record books once more. She herself was tried and executed in 1634 on the grounds of witchcraft.

8. Aston Hall, Birmingham

The ghosts of Aston Hall date back to its first ever owner, Sir Thomas Holte in the seventeenth century. Holte was a cruel man who locked his daughter in her room for 16 years for wanting to marry a man he thought below their social standing. Her soul is said to still be trapped in the house to this day, along with that of Holte’s housekeeper and houseboy.

9. Bodmin Jail, Cornwall

This is an incredibly spooky building with a gruesome history. A formerly overcrowded prison and public hanging site, Bodmin Jail is a place of sadness and fury. Not all who were locked up here where thought to be guilty though. After Charlotte Dymond was murdered on Bodmin Moor, local boy Matthew Weeks was found guilty for the crime despite no evidence. Charlotte is believed to still roam the moors, possibly because her true murderer was never convicted.

10. The Town of Tenby, Wales

Tenby in Wales is a beautiful seaside town but it does have quite restless history of paranormal stories. From witches to fairies, a ghost walk in Tenby is truly fascinating. One of the most frightening stories might just be the ghost ship that was stopped by Tenby residents one spooky evening.

Thanks for reading! Have I missed any great ones? After all this talk of haunted houses, I think I’m in the mood for a good Halloween movie so bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, TV

Blogtober Day 9: Halloween TV Shows

In honour of The Haunting of Bly Manor dropping on Netflix today, I thought I’d revisit some spooky TV shows I’ve enjoyed and share some from my to watch list.

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

The OG (Original Ghost) show when it comes to The Haunting series. This show spooked me well and good. I don’t think I’ve ever jumped so much at a TV show and though I’m terrified to start Bly Manor, I’m also so excited because Hill House is that good. Part of the joy of this show is finding out the deeper meanings and things you missed in the background. As soon as you know there are loads of extra ghosts in the hidden in certain shots it gets to the point where you’re not even scared when you seen them, you’re proud you managed to finally spot one. And, I’m not talking about the Break-Neck Lady here, she’s definitely an in-yer-face kind of spirit.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

This is one of my all-time favourite shows despite not having a clue what’s happening half the time. Look, the science goes beyond me but Stranger Things is such a smart show and it’s filled with fun 80s references. It also has just the right blend of edge-of-your-seat scary scenes and heartwarming and hilarious moments. I love the whole show except for season 2, episode 7. Let’s just pretend there isn’t a season 2, episode 7, ok?

Being Human (UK version)

Being Human

Another one of my long-time faves. Being Human is a horror, comedy and drama all at once and it is glorious. The story follows a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who all co-habit in a houseshare. There’s a little more to it than that, of course, there’s a group of vampires intent on world domination and Annie has to learn to face the man who murdered her. There’s a lot going on and it’s so addictively watchable.

Scream Queens

Scream Queens

To be honest, this is one of those shows where the first season was brilliant but it really should have ended there. If we’re just focusing on the first season though, it’s filled with horror movie references as this slasher sees a college campus deal with the murder spree of the Red Devil. It’s a show that will keep you guessing and constantly changing your mind about the identity of the killer until the final reveal and the way to the end is filled with dark humour and tense moments. It’s a must-see if you need a Halloween binge.

Ghosts

Ghosts

This BBC comedy is the perfect anti-horror Halloween watch. It’s about a couple, Alison and Mike, who inherit a stately home only for the Alison to develop the ability to see ghosts. After years of history, the house is home to several spooks from across the centuries who all have quite a lot to say about Alison and Mike’s plans for their new home.

Shows On My To Watch List (and where I’ll be watching them):

Ratched (Netflix)

Always A Witch (Netflix)

American Horror Story (Netflix)

Truth Seekers (Amazon Prime)

La Révolution (Netflix)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Amazon Prime)

What Halloween shows would you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 8 : The Spooky Mystery of Shakespeare’s Missing Skull

For today’s Halloween-themed Blogtober post I thought I’d share one of my favourite spooky mysteries with you. This is the story of Shakespeare’s missing skull.

William Shakespeare’s body is buried in Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon. However, an archaeologist investigation for a 2016 Channel 4 documentary using ground-penetrating radar suggests that his skull is not.

Rumours started circulating that the grave was missing a head after an 1879 magazine report claimed his skull had been removed by trophy hunters nearly a full century beforehand. But, other than some obvious disturbance and repair work on the stone itself, there was no clear evidence to back this report up.

That was until the documentary, however. The archaeologists discovered that beneath the ledger stones of the Shakespeare family were several shallow graves and at the head-end of the Bard himself’s resting place, it seems as though the grave had been filled in to support the weight of the stone. This suggested the grave really is missing the head after all and the team concluded that the grave had indeed been disturbed.

One of the most unnerving details about this whole situation is that, despite having died nearly 180 years before the magazine article claims the skull was taken, his epitaph seems to have seen the grave robbing coming:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones.

There have been attempts to reunite the skull with the grave but the problem is that the location of the skull is still a mystery to this day. There are multiple theories are to where the skull might be but these have all led nowhere so far. The biggest dead end came from a mystery skull in St Leonard’s Church in Beoley. Allegedly another old magazine article claimed the Bard’s skull had ended up in Beoley after the grave robbers who stole it were unable to sell it. When this lead was followed up by the documentary, it turned out the skull was that of a 70-year old woman and not Shakespeare at all.

One much more wild theory was that the skull was stolen by Dr Frank Chambers and sold to Whig politician and Gothic author, Horace Walpole. Walpole is perhaps best-known now for Strawberry Hill, a “Gothic castle” he designed to house his collections of art, miniatures, ceramics and more. Could it be that Shakespeare’s skull was another one of his collector’s pieces, the phrenological answer to literary genius? It’s probably just a far-fetched story but it is a compelling one.

Considering how far science has come, it would now be possible to get a DNA match on Shakespeare’s real skull so maybe it will turn up one day. As for the identities of those who stole it in the first place, I don’t think we’ll ever discover who they were. It would be fascinating to know if the curse England’s most renowned writer placed upon them ever came back to haunt them though… after all, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dream of in our unique philosophy.

Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, theatre

Blogtober Day 7: Musicals to Stream This Halloween

It’s no secret on this blog that I enjoy a good musical. The diverse range of shows we’ve been blessed with in recent years means there are a good selection of spooky shows that are the perfect shows to listen to this Halloween. All the shows on this list are available to stream on Spotify now. Saying that, I want to give The Addams Family some recognition. It would have earned a place on this list if only there was a cast recording was on Spotify (why isn’t there an album on Spotify?!).

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors

Florist Seymour tackles a mysterious, wish-granting, blood-guzzling Venus flytrap in this hilarious Halloween classic. It’s got that campy take on horror that musicals do so well and the film version is an absolute Halloween classic. I nearly put it on my list of Halloween movies but I wanted to put this musical on here instead.

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds

Ok, this isn’t really a traditional musical, it’s more like a concept album that was turned into an arena spectacle but I’m counting it as a Halloween musical because it’s got aliens in it. Martians, to be exact. Also the sound effects of the Martians communicating in the 2012 recording really do make me shudder.

Carrie

Despite an exceptionally short initial Broadway run, horrific reviews and… ergh I hate to type this… a Riverdale episode themed around it, Carrie has risen up from the ashes and is now considered to be a surprisingly good musical. Parts of it are genuinely quite creepy. I wonder if Carrie’s more recent success will introduce more Stephen King stories to the stage… It: The Musical maybe?!

Sweeney Todd

The Tim Burton film is a decent take on Stephen Sondheim’s show but, for me, listening to the original Broadway cast recording is way more sinister, especially as the film cuts out The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, arguably one of the creepiest songs in the whole show. The film’s good but the stage version is better!

Bat Out of Hell

The story itself isn’t massively Halloween-y and the songs existed before they were given the stage show treatment but there’s something about Bat Out of Hell that I just love and the title alone gives it a reason to be here. The story is a loose retelling of Peter Pan but set in a post-apocalyptic society and features songs written by Jim Steinman for the Bat Out of Hell albums.

Beetlejuice

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve not yet listened to Beetlejuice all the way through but I’ve heard enough to know I like it. Also, this show is incredibly popular right now and definitely has strong Halloween vibes so it deserved a mention. Since it’s been so big on Broadway (pre-Music Man situation anyway!) I’m hoping it might come to London soon.

The Rocky Horror Show

Speaking of shows I haven’t properly listened to but deserved a place on the list, let me also throw in this one. Look, I’ve seen the Glee episode and have heard the Time Warp plenty of times, I think that’s enough to put it here. I am determined to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show soon because it’s been on my list of films to watch for far too long. Strong Halloween vibes though, am I right?

Buried

This is a show about two people who meet speed dating and fall in love. The twist is that they’re both serial killers. There really aren’t enough shows out there that truly capture dark British humour and this show does just that. There’s also folk-sy sounding music in this one that’s different from the other shows on this list.

Bat Boy (TW: sexual assault reference)

This is one of those shows where the origin story of the show is nearly as weird as the plot itself. Bat Boy is a character created for a fake news tabloid and now he has his own spin-off musical. Bat Boy, or Edgar as he’s called in the show, goes on a quest of love, self-discovery and… well… blood in this darkly comedic musical.

Zombie Prom (TW: suicide theme)

I only just listened to this show and honestly, I’m not totally sure what I make of it yet but it’s definitely Halloween-y enough to be here and it pretty funny in places. After Toffee’s boyfriend comes back from the dead she must decide whether or not she still wants to be with him after he vows to clean up his bad boy ways in the afterlife.

Heathers (TW: suicide theme)

This is another show that is so popular it needs a mention even though I don’t think there are many musical fans that haven’t listened to this show yet. Based on the cult classic movie, this satiric musical features Veronica trying to put a stop to her boyfriend’s killing spree whilst turning her high school’s hierarchy upside down.

Honourable mentions: Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera

Both of these shows are musical theatre classics and have been running in the West End and on Broadway for ways (although whether or not Phantom is actually going to continue to run after the West End reopens is still a bit of an unanswered question right now!) but they both have some spooky themes so I wanted to include them too.

I hope you’ve now got some spooky tunes to carry you through the month. Let me know if I’ve missed any great Halloween musicals in the comments. Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 6: Thoughts on Ouija Boards

If you type “Ouija Board” into YouTube, you’ll find countless clickbaity videos of groups of friends who claim to have summoned a demon or had a spooky experience with a spirit board. Although I highly doubt the validity of most of these videos, Ouija Boards have managed to capture the minds of horror fans and ghost hunters for well over a century. Blogtober got me wondering where Ouija Boards came from and how they came to be so big so here’s what I found out.

The Origins

Ouija Boards as we know them today are a direct product of the rise of spiritualism and the growing interest in mediumship in the nineteenth century. A Baltimorean businessman called Elijah Bond got the patent for Ouija Boards way back in 1891, though talking boards were already popular at this time. There isn’t really much more to say about Elijah other than this fairly creepy detail, his gravestone has an Ouija Board engraved onto the back of it.

William Fuld is the next person of note in the mass-production of Ouija Boards as he oversaw the manufacture for Elijah. Eventually he became so invested in the product that he and his brother leased the Ouija Board name and set up a business together making them to supply the increasing demand. A feud drew the brothers apart though and resulted in William suing his brother for selling talking boards that were near replicas of the official Ouija Boards. William was making so much on Ouija Boards he even started creating Ouija-themed jewellery!

These days, the rights to Ouija Boards are owned by Hasbro, a toy and board game company.

The Scientific View

Aside from the whole, it can easily be faked explanation, scientists think there is another, more psychological theory as it how Ouija Boards work. This is the ideomotor phenomenon. Now, I’m no scientist but the basic gist is that the ideomotor phenomenon can explain how our unconscious mind can make our bodies move without our conscious mind recognising it. An example of our unconscious taking the reigns would be reacting when something is thrown at you without having to consciously think about it.

Our brains are so complicated and most psychologists and neurologists agree that there is so much we don’t know about them. What is known is that the power of suggestion is mighty. Most of the time, if someone attempts an Ouija Board session they are a believer in the paranormal and they probably want the planchette to move. This means their unconscious mind could respond by telling their hand to move it without them even being consciously aware of their movement.

My Verdict

All this brings me back to the start of this post, Ouija Boards make a great YouTube video. Watching that planchette move and spell out some message allegedly from the other side is undeniably spooky. But, for me, at least most of the time, a faked video is possibly all it is. Here’s the thing. I believe in ghosts and in cases of poltergeist activity, I do think it’s possible for ghosts to move things. Therefore, I think it’s plausible that a ghost could be moving that planchette but as for unlocking some portal to a ghost realm or this inanimate object being a hub of demonic activity, I don’t really buy it.

Slightly weird disclaimer before I go but I just want to say that although I don’t think Ouija Boards are demonic, just in case are, I wouldn’t recommend trying one because… well, you never know.

What do you make of Ouija Boards? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be back tomorrow for Blogtober Day 7.