For the next 2 posts we’re going to slightly deviate from the usual, and talk instead about some of the facts and history behind some of the most famous legends and spooky stories. What interests me is that there is almost always some truth behind a legend, even if it’s not paranormal/supernatural in nature, after all, the stories had to have some foundation to be started.
According to one source, “Celtic folklore tells the tale of a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil, but his trickery resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell after he died. Having no choice but to wander around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal that the devil had tossed him from hell.
Jack, the story goes, used the lantern to guide his lost soul; as such, the Celts believed that placing Jack-o’-lanterns outside would help guide lost spirits home when they wander the streets on Halloween.”
Other stories about the jack-o-lantern include using the scary faces that could be cut into pumpkins to scare away evil, rather than guide souls. Another famous pumpkin related story is that of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This isn’t based on a factual event but is a story by Washington Irving. Irving did hear folk stories about a German/English/Scandinavian headless rider, so that may have inspired his work, but from what history shows, tell the pumpkin was all his own. (You can learn even more here and here)
This became a scary legend because it was true too often. In the centuries before modern medicine it was often hard to tell if someone was truly dead or alive. But because they were concerned about illnesses (and no one really wants to live around a possibly dead person), they were buried when it was determined according to their limited knowledge that the person was dead. Because of how frequently this occurred there was a coffin created, the “safety coffin”, and the addition to the bell at each grave site. Unfortunately sometimes modern medicine misses stuff and very rare cases occur still today. (You can learn more here and here)
The thing about this spooky legend is that there are at least 2 legends behind this name, the foremost being Queen Mary from. She got the name because she was next in the bloodline to rule and had to produce an heir to keep the bloodline going. She unfortunately couldn’t have a baby and after several tries was killed by her sister, Elizabeth, who became ruler instead.
Another story around Bloody Mary include the legend of a woman appearing in a mirror after her name is called 3 times to the mirror. Ironically, rather than seeing death the legend of looking into a mirror was about walking backwards up stairs in a dark house gazing into a mirror to see their future husband’s face. (You can learn more here and here).
The Ouija Board started in the 1800’s, as an extension to the seances that were popular in many circles, including religious and political ones. People too often died before they reached 50 years of age, so there was a lot of questions about what came next, as well as reassurance about the children they lost too young. Stories about a ‘talking board’ appeared in 1886 and one wise business man decided to take it to the masses and give them the chance to connect with their lost loved ones. So in the 1891 the board appeared in stores, marketed as a board game and a “magical device that answers questions about past, present and future”, not to mention a little fun at the same time. While many things have changed since then, the board remains basically the same. As to whether or not the board actually works, the jury is still out on that, although some people say it’s a completely human interaction, no spooks involved.
What stories and legends are you most fascinated by?