There’s always talk of misadventures, especially around Halloween. None of them are humourous, all are tragic.
Such as the case for the woman in Delaware who committed suicide by hanging herself. But because she did so around Halloween, her body hung next to a busy roadway with no one thinking that it was anything more than an elaborate Halloween decoration.
Then there’s the cases of those creating haunted mansions for Halloween, and just jokingly slip the homemade noose around their necks. Many times this has happened in tragedy.
It’s a lesson that we should be careful around this time of year. I was going to do a full post on several misadventures which included something more fascinating, but decided to split it up to dedicate this post to being more cautionary. Be careful this Halloween. Not only when making decorations, but also when going to parties or going trick or treating.
Short and sweet. Just make sure that you take care this Halloween. And I promise there’ll be a more entertaining 31 Days of Ghosts later today. For now, a list of safety tips as provided by Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
- Wear makeup instead of a mask. This will allow you to see and be aware of everything going on around you while walking house to house.
- Wear reflective clothing.
- Wear sure your costume does not drag on the ground so you don’t trip.
- Wear comfortable shoes, even if they don’t go with your costume.
- It is safer to carry flexible props (e.g. magic wands, swords).
- Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
- Carry a flashlight so you can see where you are going.
- Walk, don’t run.
- Stay in familiar neighborhoods.
- Stay on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
- Do not cut across yards or driveways.
- Obey traffic signals and give traffic the right of way.
- Only approach houses that have the outside lights turned on.
- Stay away from pets you don’t know.
- Trick-or-treat in groups.
- Never enter a stranger’s home or car for a treat.
- Ensure that your child eats dinner before setting out.
- Discuss with your children what they should do to call home in case of emergency.
- Ideally, young children of any age should be accompanied by an adult.
- If your children go on their own, be sure they wear a watch, preferably one that can be read in the dark.
- If you buy a costume, look for one made of flame retardant material.
- Older children should know where to reach you and when to be home.
- Although tampering is rare, tell children to bring the candy home to be inspected before consuming anything. Look at the wrapping carefully and toss out anything that looks suspect.
- Make sure your yard is clear of such things as ladders, hoses, dog leashes and flower pots that can trip the young ones.
- Pets get frightened on Halloween; put them inside to protect them from cars or inadvertently biting a trick-or-treater.
- Battery powered Jack-O-Lantern candles are preferable to a real flame.
- Place pumpkins and decorations out of reach of children.
- Healthy food alternatives for trick-or-treaters include packages of low-fat crackers with cheese filling, single-serve boxes of cereal, packaged fruit rolls, mini boxes of raisins and single-serve packets of low-fat microwave popcorn.
- Refrain from handing out treats that contain peanuts or peanut butter, as many children are allergic.
Two days left in October, with tomorrow being the day of haunting, and I’ll end it off with two, yes two movies!
I liked both. Both were awesome movies and I can’t pick one over the other. If you have to watch just one of those two movies, buck the system and say “I’ll watch both!”. Both movies are funny, both have a lot of action, both have really interesting characters, and, of course, both have zombies.
In Zombieland, we’re introduced to Columbus, who is the narrator of the piece. He begins with his Rules of Zombieland. Of which there’s a lot. Seriously. There’s a list. Columbus eventually meets up with Tallahassee. Tallahassee, as we learn is in the zombie killing business, and “business is good”. Following the hapless pairs adventures for a while until we meet up with Wichita and Little Rock. The latter which happen to be a couple of successful con artists.
Eventually, the four join forces to fight the zombie apocalypse, and become fast friends. Yeah, the movie’s not terrifying, but it’s good fun. End of story.
Also good fun is Shaun of the Dead. Believe it or not, it’s also a romantic comedy. As the zombie apocalypse becomes worse, Shaun and his friends have to come to grips with several truths as they attempt to hole up and wait out the apocalypse inside their (at least Shaun’s) favourite watering hole.
Both movies have a great deal of zombie kills, though Zombieland scores big in that area. Both have lots of laughs, though that tip goes more to Shaun of the Dead. If you have to watch one or the other, say screw it and watch both. The only question left is which to start with.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without telling a tale about the author considered the King of Horror.
In truth, this is my own experiences being a Stephen King fan. For which from a period of 1989 to 1995 I was a complete nut about. I collected and read everything I could get my hands on written by Stephen King. That came to an end when I finally picked up the paperback release of Gerald’s Game, which was more a suspense thriller than a horror novel.
I even read the Bachman series of books (admittedly, when I was 13 I believed that Richard Bachman and Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and BTO were the same person). They were good, but decidedly a different genre than what I was used to from King. And Running Man, completely different than the movie, which brought out a whole slew of interesting twists. As far as I’m concerned the book far exceeded the movie.
My introduction to Stephen King came with Salem’s Lot, and didn’t end there. I’d even pick up periodicals that had short stories written by King, or editorials or interviews done with King (including one in Playboy which I have a hard time explaining I picked it up for the King interview).
The novels I remember with fondness from King were The Stand, Tommy Knockers, the Four Past Midnight with four short novellas, It, Cujo, Salen’s Lot, Pet Cemetery, Misery (most likely the best of the lot), and the Lawnmower Man. It was a little disappointing seeing the movie versions of each one, none of them coming up to the level I had imagined. Which is most likely the case back in the day. Books were often cut down quite a bit, thinking that the viewing audience wouldn’t sit for too long to watch a movie. After all, can you imagine if Harry Potter were done in the 80′s, what kind of a movie series we’d have?
Stephen King also wrote the series which helped inspire my own work. That being the Dark Tower series. I first read it in novel form, and now Marvel Comics has done a series of graphic novels based on that world King created. An interesting world of magic and a main character who was a gunslinger.
For me, anytime someone mentions horror, true horror fiction, the first that always comes to my mind is Stephen King.
Halloween is a time of ghosts and goblins but also for elaborate decorations.
The one common tradition which has become an artform in modern day is carving a pumpkin (or some other squash like vegetable) and transforming it into a Jack o’lantern. These intricately designed pumpkins have a long history.
While it’s not completely certain where the origin came from, it has been found that the practice was common in the British Isles. Turnips, mangelwurzel or beets were often used, and turnip lanterns often had faces carved into them. This practice was common during the Gaelic festival of Samhain, held from October 31 to November 1, in parts of Ireland and Scotland during the 19th Century. It was often believed that during this time of year sprites and faeries were most active. The lanterns may have had a threefold purpose: first, to light one’s way while outside; second, to represent spirits and other worldly beings; and third, to protect one’s self and one’s home from any ill will.
There is a folktale about these lanterns and it begins with a story of a farmer named Jack. The story is known in England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. There are two variations of the story, but in both Jack is met by the Devil, and in both cases Jack manages to trick the Devil. One has Jack running from church going villagers after he stole from them when he encounters the Devil, but convinces him to become a coin to tempt the villagers. The other has Jack convincing the Devil to climb an apple tree. In both cases, Jack uses a cross to strip the Devil of his power. After the Devil gives his word that he will not take Jack’s soul, Jack let’s the Devil go. But seeing how Jack’s life was filled with dishonesty and thievery, his soul was not allowed into Heaven and because of his deal with the Devil, it was also barred from Hell. Satan thus laughed and gave Jack a burning ember which would burn continuously so that Jack might find his way and finally find a place to rest. Jack placed the ember into a carved turnip, his favourite food, and began wandering the world. He would be known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack O’lantern.
Today, jack o’lanterns have a more mundane, yet artistic purpose, as some of the most beautiful carvings are put into pumpkins (or other types of squash) and many are put on display in rather garish festivals with prizes being awarded to some of the best carvings.
Quite possibly the most terrifying thing to put into any ghost story is the ultimate personification of death. Over the years death has appeared in many different forms. But Death shows up more than just a skeleton in a hood and carrying a scythe.
Ancient Greece believed death was inevitable, so Death’s appearance was not considered evil. As a matter of fact, Death often appeared as a bearded man with wings or a young man. Death, or Thanatos, was the end of life and appeared male, whereas Life appeared as female in ancient Greek culture.
Celtic beliefs differed depending on the region. Bretons saw death as a bearded man with a wide brim hat who pushed a wagon with a creaking axle that was piled with corpses. His head was always revolving so as to see everyone and everything as he passed by. A stop in front of a home was often a sure sign of instant death for anyone inside. The Bretons called this spectre Ankou, and the Ankou was usually the spirit of the last person who died in the community.
In Ireland, death was known as dullahan. The dullahan carried it’s own head under it’s arm, which had wide eyes and a smile that was said to go from ear to ear. It would ride a black horse or drive a carriage lead by black horses and stop in front of a home where someone was about to die and call out their name. The dullahan did not like to be watched, and if they found someone watching them, they lash their eyes with a whip made of a spine, which was a mark that the person would be the next to die. In Scotland, the spirits of the dead were taken to the afterlife by black or dark green dog known as a Cù Sìth.
Various cultures around the world have had their own version of death. And many religions have also recognized death. In Islamic tradition, death is seen as celebratory, as a person passes on from one life onto the next world. A person’s spirit would pass on to be closer to their creator and is seen as a time of joy, not one of sorrow.
Death has naturally made his (or her) appearances in popular culture, often times offering a person who is about to die a chance at life by challenging death to a game. In Ingmar Bergman‘s film, The Seventh Seal, a knight returning from the crusades challenges death to a game of chess. While death thinks the knight is attempting to win his life, the knight is in fact distracting death from other people. This is one of the more popular visuals of death in pop culture. But one that is probably the most unique was Death of the Endless, from Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman graphic novel. She was the sister of Dream and often came by to cheer up her brother. Death was not a terrifying figure in the series, but instead appeared as a simple girl who dressed in more trendy fashions, and she wasn’t a harbinger of doom, but a guide who lead souls to their afterlife. She often appeared to many who passed away from many different cultures and was said to know their practices and traditions intimately.
Death is the only thing on the face of the planet which is absolutely inevitable. I mean, after all, we’ve seen that even people can avoid taxes and use loop holes to avoid paying them, so in truth only death remains as the one true inevitable in the universe.
Because at some point, everything dies.
Enough of the nostalgia! Back to haunted places, not being haunted by memories.
Today, we head south, to the capital of Saskatchewan, Regina.
In the heart of Regina, you may think there is a football stadium that’s seen many a game since 1909, but there’s something more there. The University of Regina, which is in the middle of Wascana Park, North America’s largest urban park. The U of R boasts nine academic facilities, twenty five departments and offers bachelor, master’s and doctorate degrees. But the U of R also boasts some paranormal activity.
Being built within the first decade of the 20th Century, the university was home to many who suffered from the typhoid outbreak. There are whispers of apparitions of former nurses, doctors and patients who continue to walk the grounds to this very day. The now closed Fine Arts Building also is said to have a soldier, always seen in shadow, walking through the halls and grounds of the area. And then, there’s Francis Darke.
Francis Darke, for whom the hall that bears his name was subsequently named for, had his funeral at the hall, and is said to still wander the halls of the building.
Darke was a prominent Regina businessman, who arrived in the prairie city from Prince Edward Island where he was born. Considered one of the first citizens of Regina, he would go on to become one of the youngest mayors of Regina at the age of 35 in 1898. He would also serve as Member of Parliament for the city in 1925. Darke did not serve for very long in parliament, being elected in 1925 and stepping down in 1926 in favour of former Saskatchewan Premier Charles Avery Dunning.
Darke was instrumental in the formation of the University of Regina, as he donated $85,000 and later raised another $40,000 to the construction of the Regina College. This would eventually become the U of R. To put that in perspective in today’s value, Darke donated over 1.9 million dollars, and donated another $900,000 for the construction of the university. Darke also donated money in 1929 to establish the Darke Hall for Music and Art which housed the Regina Symphony Orchestra for 41 years.
It is said that the ghost of Francis Darke still resides in Darke Hall. There are those who have said they have seen a pleasant looking gentleman dressed in early 20th Century clothing wandering about the halls. Perhaps Francis Darke just feels at home on the grounds he helped build.
This is more nostalgia than an actual ghost story. But, it fits in with Tuesday’s theme of ghosts of the past, and in this case, those ghosts stretch back hundreds of years before my lifetime.
I’m going to show you a couple of pictures to start it all off.
That is not an authentic Native American arrow head, it’s only a replica. But a friend gave it to me, and I like it a lot, but as you can see it’s broken so I can’t wear it right now. All of that aside, this brought back a very old memory for me.
In 1977, my family moved from Saskatoon out to my grandparents farm near Outlook. Some thought it was an exchange, but we were moving from a single story, two bedroom bungalow with a finished basement into a two story, three bedroom house on a quarter section of land. So, we basically bought each other’s property. We had a lot of pasture land around the main homestead, which was surrounded by trees that my great grandfather had planted after settling there in 1906.
I had no cable television, there was satellite TV, no cellphones, the Internet as we know it today hadn’t even been fully realized nor was it offered to the public as it is now. So there wasn’t much to do for a seven year old boy out on the prairie. I had my bike with the banana seat which I’d ride into town on and get the mail from the post office/coffee shop/general store. I’d make snow mazes in the yard during winter. Don’t get excited, they really weren’t that amazing. Just me, dragging my feet in the snow and making intricate designs. We had cats, so I’d often play with the cats and the kittens (the ones that didn’t go wild, at least). We also had cattle, so it was nice to see the new born calves. And, as I said before, we had lots of pasture land.
I’d go walking out into the pasture from time to time. Some of it was set aside for hay and my dad and I (reluctantly) would swath it and bale it and then toss it on the ’49 Chev half ton flatbed and haul it to the loft of the barn. There was an area where there was a dugout, which there was a small hill and a tree growing on top of it, which made a nice area just to be lazy. Almost like a late 20th Century Tom Sawyer.
Of course, during my walks, I’d often be looking around on the ground, and quite a few times I’d find objects of interest. Like a Coke bottle cap from goodness knows what era. Or trying to find my dad’s wallet that he lost while swathing (it’s still lost, and most likely now gone forever). Even finding what looked like old Native American arrow heads.
Now, admittedly, some of those “arrow heads” were just pieces of rock that had chipped and became a shape that was recognizable as an arrow head, but from time to time I would actually find a real arrow head.
decades and even centuries before my great grandfather settled his home, centuries before anyone every heard of the Town of Outlook, the Village of Conquest or the Hamlets of Ardath and settlement of Bounty, there was a lot of activity in the area. There was no dam at Diefenbaker Lake. As a matter of fact, there was no lake. The South Saskatchewan River flowed uninhibited. There was wildlife, there were plants and there were people. Many of the people who lived in this area well before European settlers came through, were the Cree, in particular the Plains Cree. Woods Cree and Swampy Cree traditionally live east of the South Saskatchewan River into Manitoba and North Western Ontario. The Plains Cree would have had a good number of their hunting areas that followed the river, and seeing how my great grandfather’s homestead was only eighteen miles from the river, it makes sense that arrow heads, along with other old relics, might be found in pasture land.
The history of Saskatchewan, and the history of the North West Territories which Saskatchewan used to be a part of, doesn’t begin with European settlement. It doesn’t start with the rebellion at Duck Lake and Batoche, nor does it start with the settlement near Maidstone in the Eldon district. It begins much, much further back than that. Much of that is lost, though there are those who have kept some of it’s history intact. But a lot of it is becoming legend and ghost stories. In order to keep it alive, we have to make sure to keep the history alive. Teach it in schools, let future generations know what came before.
Another round of quotes as we are only a few days away from Halloween. A week, to be exact.
On Hallowe’en the thing you must do
Is pretend that nothing can frighten you
And if somethin’ scares you and you want to run
Just let on like it’s Hallowe’en fun. ~Author Unknown
Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story. ~Mason Cooley
Proof of our society’s decline is that Halloween has become a broad daylight event for many. ~Robert Kirby
Hark! Hark to the wind! ‘Tis the night, they say,
When all souls come back from the far away-
The dead, forgotten this many a day! ~Virna Sheard
I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. ~Henry David Thoreau
When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours on Halloween. ~Author Unknown
There is nothing that gives more assurance than a mask. ~Colette
Hobgoblins know the proper way to dance:
Arms akimbo, loopy legs askew,
Leaping into darkness with delight,
Lusting for the ecstasy of fright,
Open to the charm of horrors new…. ~Nicholas Gordon, poemsforfree.com
Nothing beats a haunted moonlit night on All Hallows Eve…. And on this fatal night, at this witching time, the starless sky laments black and unmoving. The somber hues of an ominous, dark forest are suddenly illuminated under the emerging face of the full moon. ~Kim Elizabeth
Look, there’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates. ~Fernando Pessoa
Forget love – I’d rather fall in chocolate! ~Attributed to Sandra J. Dykes
After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers. ~Emily Luchetti
Sometimes Halloween isn’t about scary stories or mystery, it’s about some memory that happened twenty or thirty years ago. For me, that memory sparked fully yesterday.
Yesterday, I came into work feeling a little better than I had on the weekend. On the weekend, I pretty much made my home in the bathroom, becoming best friends with the toilet, while at the same time deciding it might be a good idea to do some cleaning in there. I was in the bathroom a lot, after all, so it made a lot of sense.
But yesterday, I was sent home because I still felt that feeling like I may have to bolt for the bathroom, which is conveniently across the hall from my office. I’m not complaining, I got sent home. Better to get better than to spread my germs around. As it was, as soon as I got home, I actually felt worse. I changed into pajamas, wrapped up in my bathrobe, and settled in to watch tv while wrapped in a blanket. I even mixed up a “cure all” and had a drink. Actually, it was mostly alcohol and coffee, not really a cure all. While in my position on the coach, I faded away into dream land. Upon waking, I looked out the window and…
That’s a lotta snow. Fortunately, I could roll over and go back to sleep, with the unspoken question of “what the fuck is that white shit” never leaving my lips. Today, however, it reminds me of Octobers long past. There’s a common joke in Saskatchewan. Every kid knows that before going trick or treating, they have to make sure to get a costume together to fit over a snow suit. So there were a lot of abominable snowman costumes. The Hulk was also a go to one, because a snow suit could simulate massive muscles, and kudos to the kid who had a green one.
We’ve had it pretty lucky in this part of the world, as the past few years we’ve escaped with only a small skiff of snow and clear again by the time Halloween rolls around. This year, however, I think it’s here to stay. Admittedly, the snow was wet and heavy,m which means we might see it go away pretty fast. It did, however, bring back a flood of memories, and one bad old joke about costumes and snow suits.
For now, I’ve got an hour before work is over. And then I head home and partake in some more of my cure all, a tasty mixture of a shot of Bailey’s, a shot of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, a shot of International Delight Irish Cream, two tea spoons of brown sugar, and the equivalent of ten shots of coffee. All mixed together and gives a nice feeling during a time of year like this.
Yes, I know, not a ghost story, but it did bring about ghosts of memories.
We’ve seen ghost hunting on television before. I’m sure everyone has heard of the program Ghost Adventures with Zach Nikk and Aaron. The different famous locations across the United States (and even some in Europe) that they have explored. Including the Pennsylvania State Penn, who’s most famous inmate was Al Capone.
Naturally, ghost hunters, or rather investigators, do exist. They aren’t just something made for TV. Saskatchewan is no exception, considering the number of haunted places we have in the province. Two such individuals in Regina are Dana Hryhoriw and Wendell Kapay, and they are the Ghost Hunters Research Team (more can be read about them at this Regina Leader Post article). There’s even the Sasaktchewan Ghost Hunter’s Society. While one might think of something very glamourous when hunting ghosts, in reality, these people are much more like historians. They not only investigate paranormal happenings in and around Saskatchewan, but also try to determine why those things happen. Which means going back to the history of a place.
The history might have been tragic, it may have been a place named for a certain person or it might be something rather mundane. One thing, however, connects all of them together. No one knows why there are paranormal sightings or activities, and what is it about certain places that brings that about. Maybe it’s some deeply spiritual reason. Perhaps the location was especially dear to the departed. In the cases of those who passed on violently, maybe they are still seeking some retribution to this very day.
Whatever the case, there will always be ghost hunters and paranormal investigators that will try to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
This takes a lot of research.
First, one has to sit back and detach themselves from what we in the West have identified with what we are familiar with for haunted places. The closest we know about African or Middle Eastern ghost stories or hauntings would be lore about ancient tombs in Egypt being opened. To some extent, this could also include romanticized versions of Eastern European ghost stories that include Dracula.
The second thing one has to do is explore the culture and religion that is predominant in the Middle East. Like in the West, where the predominant religion is Christianity, it is not the only religion. And in some cases there are those who do not identify with any religion. In the Middle East, the predominant religion is Islam. Islam, naturally, is not confined to just the Middle East, as there are those in North Africa and moving into Central, South Central, and Eastern Asia who are devote followers of Islam.
In Islam, and in the Quran, there is no mention of ghosts, but there is mention of Jinn, or an alternate spelling djinn. These are described as supernatural spirits that live in the unseen dimensions of the universe beyond human sight. The jinn are mentioned quite frequently in the Quran, and the 72nd sura of the Quran is titled Sūrat al-Jinn. The Jinn, together with humans and angels, are considered to be the three sentient beings created by God.
We now have that bit of research, but I know there’s several who jumped in excitement because of the familiar “djinn”. Another spelling is in fact genies, but this is completely removed from the Disney Aladdin which is again a Western view of the Middle East. In Arabic, jinn means (loosely) “hidden from sight”, or “to hide” or “to be hidden”. The word genie comes from the Latin genius, which was believed to be a guardian spirit assigned to protect a person from birth. While jinn is referenced frequently in the Quran, the word has pre-Islamic history. Markings found in Northwestern Arabia refer to the worshiping of jinni or at least their tributary status.
In Islamic times, jinn were seen similar to humans in that they have free will. They live in communities similar to humans, but often in remote locations and even in the air. While they appear invisible to humans, humans do not appear clearly to jinn. They have customs, laws, kings and queens and even mourning rituals. The Quran says that upon the day of judgement, even the jinn will be judged and sent to live in Paradise or Hell depending upon their actions. Jinn, because they have free will, often dictate their actions either as good or evil. Some will aid humans, while others will find delight in provoking or harming them.
There are major differences between jinn as viewed in the West and in the East. Some might even say culture shock, especially as experienced in such writings as The Caliph’s House and In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah. Tahir Shah moved from London to Morocco and lived in what was described as a jinn occupied home. And just to make the distinction, In Arabian Nights has very little to do with the adventure story 1001 Arabian Nights, which is a collection of folktales from the region. Tahir Shah, by the way, born in London, is a humourist author who has also been involved politically in creating the East-West Bridge, which came about after the September 11 attacks.
Often people can create a protection against any ill will a jinn may want to cause. A talisman or tawiz as referred to among Sufi circles, will aid in the protection against spiritual evil. This includes the protection against jinn, who, as mentioned before, are considered to have free will of their own.
As far as hauntings go, there may in fact be haunted places anywhere in the Middle East. Civilizations in that region has existed for thousands of years. But as much as I could find, there is always those who point to places which are not so much haunted, but very spiritual. Those include:
- Mount Sinai (Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) – Where Moses is alleged to receive the Ten Commandments from God.
- Mount Ararat (Eastern Turkey) – Very important symbol of Armenian culture. In addition, the Bible mentions the “Mountains of Ararat” as the resting spot for Noah’s Ark.
- Mount Arafat (near Mecca, Saudi Arabia) – A very small mountain (more like a large hill) where Muhammed is supposed to have given his Farewell Sermon 72 days before his death. It remains an important part of the “Hajj” – an important Islamic pilgrimage that takes place in Mecca, which every muslim is to take at least once in their lifetime.
Much of what I did find was located in Afghanistan, which isn’t really in the Middle East, it’s actually in Central Asia. Greater Middle East, perhaps. But it’s not IN the Middle East, especially when one considers it borders Pakistan. However, there are a couple of notable instances which could be called hauntings.
Afghan – Tajikistan border – Hindu Kush mountains – The “Ail”, feminine looking entities with floating hair, pale eyes resembling milky white orbs and glacier pale skin are said to inhabit the region whenever the suns rises so high, that you cannot see your own shadow, or at twilight. Even though they normally go on about their business, it is best to treat them with respect, since the Ail are known to be quite violent and hostile. That is why you almost never see any villagers or nomads out during those times in the day.
Kabul – Kabul University - It has been told that some of the abandoned dorms and abandoned classrooms were used by the Taliban to torture and kill people whom dare defy them. While some foreign aid workers were helping out on re-building Kabul University, it was said by many that they smelled the foul scent of rotting flesh, feces and other bodily wastes. Others said they also saw the entities of the victims that were tortured to death by the Taliban or heard screaming and crying in pain, when there was no one there.
When we often think of ghosts or haunted places and even horror movies, a gothic castle or some old Victorian mansion or even a location in Eastern Europe is the first thing that springs to mind. Sometime ghost stories, at least for the Western World, are told about African locations or Asian locations (which, I’ll try to look into for future).
But rarely do we have a truly horrifying story that takes place in space. Science Fiction is often thought in the same sentence with Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or Buck Rogers. Even Flash Gordon comes to mind, which came about during an intense interest in that genre of pulp fiction. But there have been sci fi stories that have taken place in space.
The first one came in 1958. Instead of giving my own review of these, as I haven’t seen them all, I’ll use the accompanying write up about the story, found originally here.
At last, a film that might have actually inspired Alien instead of ripping it off. A space ship is sent to Mars to investigate the crash of another ship, and when the new crew rescues the lone survivor, they accidentally leave their hatch open, allowing an…”it” to climb aboard. In mid-flight, the creature begins to kill the astronauts in typically bloodless ’50s fashion. Despite the outlandish title, it’s one of the better, more serious-minded monster flicks of the decade.
While a film like this may be more akin to something that resembles the creature from the black lagoon, it still was an early attempt at horror mixing with science fiction. Horror stories don’t have to always be about ghosts. Monsters, in particular incredibly terrifying ones, really add to that scare factor.
And one of the most famous sci fi monsters came almost twenty years after It: The Terror Beyond Space premiered.
When a spaceship responds to a distress signal on a nearby planet, it unexpectedly picks up an alien life form that hides on board the ship, killing the crew one by one. The outer space horror movie that all others are measured against, Alien is one of the most influential horror movies of all time, spawning multiple rip-offs and three more space-set sequels:Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.
Alien is considered the best of the sci fi movie monsters to come out in a while, and one of the reasons was for how Ridley Scott originally presented the alien on screen. We saw very little of it, or if we did, it was in shadow with few details visible. Since then we know very well what the creature looks like, with the three sequels along with two tilts against the alien hunters the Predators. And now, we’ve seen what even came before Alien with the recent release of Prometheus.
While most of these films that take place in outer space include some terrifying alien monster, such as Critters, Dracula 3000, Doom, Creature and the Japanese film The Green Slime. But one film had Hellraiser like effectiveness. It didn’t deal with just a monster, it dealt with terror of the mind.
Oft-maligned director Paul W.S. Anderson (AKA Mr. Milla Jovovich) delivers this dark, disturbing tale of a space ship, the Event Horizon that pops up in the year 2047 after disappearing for seven years. When a rescue ship is dispatched to investigate, the crew discovers that theEvent Horizon has been to another dimension, bringing back with it an evil presence that makes people’s fears materialize.
Event Horizon was chilling. It had a jump in your seat factor that did scare the crap out of the viewer (not literally, mind you). Even when the movie came to it’s conclusion, you were sure if the nightmare was really gone or not.
Even the standard slasher movie has made it’s way into space, as we’ve seen with Jason X and Leprechaun 4: In Space. Jason X keeps it’s formula but in a new place as we learn the machete wielding undead was captured by the government, frozen and forgotten until a group of 25th Century students find him and do the one thing that you never do in that situation. They unfreeze him.
Movies aren’t the only place to find good sci fi horror fare. Books have been producing a lot of this cross genre story telling for over a century, with one of the best known being Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson‘s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. More recent is Scott Sigler’s Infected and Contagious. A complete list of user suggested sci fi horror can be found at Goodreads, though there are some which might be considered questionable to put into either the sci fi or horror genres. One such would be George Orwell’s 1984, though that could be seen more as dystopian future instead of horror or sci fi.
Even somic books have taken a stab at the sci fi horror mix, with so many titles and stories that have been about creatures from space or some alien invasion by a horrifying force. Before the Comcis Code Authority kicked in, there were some truly on the edge stories being created.
So if science fiction is more your liking, but still want to have some scary Halloween viewing, these may be of interest.
Halloween is what 31 Days of Ghosts is all about. But Halloween has a history that dates back a very long time. After doing research, I found one of the best descriptions for this holiday was found at odditiesoflife tumblr. Here’s the history of Halloween, and don’t forget to read more Oddities of Life.
Curious History: The Origins and History of All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween)
Halloween’s origins date back more than 2,000 years. On what we consider November 1, Europe’s Celtic peoples celebrated their New Year’s Day, called Samhain (SAH-win). According to Irish mythology, Samhain was a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for fairies and the dead to communicate with us; Samhain was essentially a festival for the dead.
On Samhain eve—what we know as Halloween—spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, and other creatures were also said to be abroad. It is still the custom in some areas to set a place at the Samhain feast for the souls of dead kinfolk and to tell tales of one’s forebears. However, the souls of thankful kin could return to bestow blessings just as easily as that of a murdered person could return to wreak revenge. Fairies were also thought to steal humans on Samhain and fairy mounds were to be avoided.
People stayed near to home or, if forced to walk in the darkness, turned their clothing inside-out or carried iron or salt to keep the fairies at bay. The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks was a bid to befuddle the harmful spirits or ward them off. In Scotland, young men would dress in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. They were known as ‘guisers’ and the practice was common in the 16th century in the Scottish countryside. Candle lanterns, carved from turnips, were part of the traditional festival. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and set on windowsills to ward off evil spirits.
Samhain was later transformed as Christian leaders co-opted pagan holidays. In the seventh century Pope Boniface IV decreed November 1 All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day. The night before Samhain continued to be observed with bonfires, costumes, and parades, though under a new name: All Hallows’ Eve—later “Halloween.”
Children going door to door ‘guising’ or ‘galoshin’ in costumes and masks, carrying turnip lanterns, offering entertainment of in return for food or coins, was traditional in the 19th century and continued well into the 20th century. At the time of mass transatlantic Irish and Scottish immigration, the custom of Halloween in North America began.
Bringing this one back because it stirred a lot of responses. It would seem that old sanitoriums like Fort San draw a lot of interest. Especially if there are claims that it is haunted.
I don’t know for certain if it is or not, but there are a few people who commented that they have experienced quite a few different things while visiting the old grounds (whether they were on there legally or not). As far as I know, the old grounds and the sanitorium are both condemned and were as I heard slated for destruction. I’m not sure if this is true or not, nor do I actually know if it has been demolished.
Whatever the case maybe, it’s an old story that dates back to the days when tuberculosis was an epidemic. While most ghost stories often are in some gothic location, there are quite a few that seem to reflect the age of death and disease.
Give the page a read through, and, if you’ve ever been there, share a story or two.
Changing up the quotes a bit to be more in tune with the time of year, especially since we are drawing nearer and nearer to Halloween. That spooky time of year. So here we go.
I’ll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween. ~Author Unknown
As spirits roam the neighborhoods at night,
Let loose upon the Earth till it be light… ~Nicholas Gordon, poemsforfree.com
Eat, drink and be scary. ~Author Unknown
Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite,
All are on their rounds tonight;
In the wan moon’s silver ray,
Thrives their helter-skelter play. ~Joel Benton
A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween. ~Erma Bombeck
Witch and ghost make merry on this last of dear October’s days. ~Author Unknown
Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat… ~Nicholas Gordon, poemsforfree.com
Nothing on Earth so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night. ~Steve Almond
Another movie review for this go around, and a horror flick that I saw when it first came out. The Blair Witch Project,
The Blair Witch Project was a unique film in that it attempted to create a real life situation. During the late 90s, people didn’t have cell phone cameras like they do now, so finding old video as a lost crime scene is rather interesting. It’s sort of been watered down now, especially with a sequel to Blair Witch, five Paranormal movies, and even J.J. Abrams Cloverfield which used cell phone cameras to track the movements of a group of people as New York was being ravaged by some giant monster that landed on Earth. Blair Witch might seem like old hat, but it was quite new and used the internet quite well to it’s advantage.
The movie itself was simple. Three film students go into the woods in a New England setting, carrying camera equipment with them to document the the locations and possible reports of sightings of The Blair Witch. When the film is recovered, it’s determined the three never survived. We never see what the actual thing is that kills them, nor do we actually get a sense of them dying or being killed. But, we’re given lots of evidence to that effect.
Instead of being filmed in amazing wide screen format, it’s filmed in standard television size. As I mentioned before, the film used the internet to it’s advantage, which was great considering that the internet was just getting into it’s own by the time the film came out. The promos used to promote the film, which was incredibly low budget, were set up to look like witness accounts of what happened, treating the story like it was real. The acting itself wasn’t the best, unless you take into account the three “stars” were playing the role of everyday college students.
The true downside to this movie was how much it was overhyped, being touted as having a budget around $50,000 dollars or some such low number. There was even a rumour that the entire thing was paid for with credit cards. In the end, the hype became more than what the movie was, and completely became overblown. The movie was good, it had suspense, but the hype made it seem more than what it was which was disappointing. Avoid the second movie, because it was trying to recapture the feeling of the original, even though it treated the original like a movie that the main cast had seen. Basically, one of the main characters cashed in on the hype of the original and that was the plot. Oh, and he had tours of the area with those hungry to see something and even brought his own video and audio equipment.
Since Blair Witch, the use of handheld cameras and even web cameras has been very over done (Paranormal, which is into it’s fifth movie now). While a good movie, it wouldn’t be one to end a Halloween horror fest with. Start with it, maybe. I guess there was one good thing which really came out of the Blair Witch Project. That was the parody movie, The Blair Thumb Project, which recreated the movie with a cast of thumbs. Should check that out sometime.
Most people at this time of year, really want to hear about something actually haunted. They want to find that one spot that’s filled with lore about ghosts and the supernatural. And Saskatoon has it’s share of haunted areas.
When I first did this series a few years ago, I mentioned the hauntings at the Delta Bessborough Hotel and the ghostly apparitions and the voice that calls out your name (not just any name, but your name). Here’s an update of haunted places in the Paris of the Prairies.
WOODLAWN CEMETERY – A ghost of an old woman walks..well more floats threw the cemetery at night. There is also reports of a evil presence, usually seen as an aboriginal man with a pony tail and completely BLACK eyes, or glowing green or red light in the sockets.
WESTERN DEVELOPMENT MUSEUM – Numerous hauntings reported.
PARKTOWN HOTEL – Has a total of 9 known playful ghosts.
OLD BROWNWELL SCHOOL HOUSE – Now burned down, but there were strange lights from the windows, and some people have seen the apparition of a skeleton. Although its burned down, the land seems to have a strange feeling to it.
OLD NUNNERY – Old orphanage near the RPC. Nicknamed the Bloody Mary House.
412 DEVONSHIRE CRES. – You’ll hear foot steps down the halls at night, see black flashes out of the corner of your eye, things will turn on or go missing by themselves.
THE OLD DIEFENBAKER CEMETARY (by the Exhibition grounds) – Apparently there are ghosts of pioneers roaming around and the cries of babies can be heard.
NORTHGATE HOTEL ROOM 147 – A man was murdered there, and the bed will keep moving on its own.
ST. PAUL’S HOSPITAL – Apparently there are nuns that haunt the basement area.
COLLEGE PARK SCHOOL – At the school there was a girl who died in 1982 and was 10 years old her name was Colleen H Curtis who was killed by a firewall falling on her. She was allergic to soap so when you throw it backstage she will appear and she will look like a human covered in blood and she will scream and the only one who will hear it is the one who threw the soap.
LESTER B. PEARSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – It is said that the tree by the front Preschool doors has a unexplained force if you go to the tree there for about 2 minutes by yourself you won’t be able to move. Also a ghost haunts the observatory.
MCKIM BUILDING (apartment building) – This apartment building was built in 1914, it is downtown behind the post office. A nurse haunts Suite #9 in her 30′s. She probably died in the 20′s because her uniform was that of someone in that era. She would constantly be looking for her keys. Mostly seen out of the corner of the eye. She would also, fill bathtubs, leave money (reports of finding quarters and dimes in the room all the time and pennies were always on the floor in the dining room. They even found a penny in the freezer once. She has also been known to sit at the end of the bed and play with feet.
THE MARR RESIDENCE – Located near Broadway on 11th Street East, the Marr Residence is Saskatoon’s oldest building still on its original site. It was built in 1884 by Sandy Marr. In 1885, it was used as a field hospital for Canadian soldiers during the Riel Rebellion. It is now a museum and heritage site. It is said to have three ghosts within its walls — a cranky gentleman that sulks in the basement and children that can be heard laughing in one of the bedrooms. Some people also claim to see strange figures walking through the house at night.
DIEFENBAKER PARK CEMETERY – In the oldest cemetery in the city, apparently the ghosts of pioneers can occasionally be seen wandering among the tombstones. On another creepy note, many of the graves in this cemetery are occupied by deceased children and babies.
MAPLE GROVE (also known as Leisureland) – is located upstream from the Queen Elizabeth Power Station, on the west side of the river/train bridge in Diefenbaker. It is located adjacent to Yorath Island and includes a portion of the island. Vehicular access to Maple Grove is by the road that extends south from Spadina Crescent, City of Saskatoon. The property is within the Rural Municipality of Corman Park.
Maple Grove originally did not have a channel running through it. The quarter section of which Maple Grove is part of was intact when surveyed in 1903; however, the river channel meandered into the quarter section then deposited on the west edge forming Yorath island. This natural accretion allowed the owner of Maple Grove to retain title of the remainder of the quarter section on the island (very rare). The area was originally known as Maple Grove although there is some doubt that the maples are indigenous. The area housed a number of cottages at one time, but they all burnt downed prior to the 1950s.
In the 1960s, Mr. Mike Egnatoff and his wife developed the area into an amusement park with a ferris wheel, trampolines, miniature golf, playground, train, playfields, and picnic facilities. In addition, they developed a dance hall with kitchen and concession. A campsite for trailers was developed which turned into a permanent mobile trailer park with 18 trailer units. The amusement park was known as Leisureland. It was very active for 20 years, then except for the group picnics, hall and trailer court, the area became inactive due to amusement competition in town. The Egnatoffs built a new house on the site close to the river and near the hall in the 1980s. In addition to the trailers and the one new house, there is a shack that is located south of the hall at the base of the west bank. This building is the only building site on the lower terrace that is above the 1:500 year flood line. A root cellar mini hall was built to service the catering hall near the entrance to the property. This building is currently being leased to a group of artists.
Last week, I talked about the genre of Weird Tales (which includes horror, the occult, fantasy and science fiction). That genre includes Weird West. Take the elements of westerns like any spaghetti western, and drop elements of horror and macabre into it, or even fantasy and sci fi. The result is a familiar setting with slight differences in it that make it different. Gun fighters who are magic users, or even fly space craft. There’s already a few recognizable books, movies and television programs out there that include both elements of westerns and another genre. They include Firefly/Serenity, Jonah Hex, MeiLin Miranda’s Scryer’s Gulch, and even my own Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider. Even the Daniel Craig movie, Cowboys and Aliens is considered a part of this sub genre of weird west. It could even be argued that Star Wars and Star Trek have their own western elements in the greater aspect of the story (Han didn’t shoot first).
Not all Weird West contains horror elements. But a lot of western tales do include that aspect. Even in song. Ghost Riders in the Sky, made famous by Johnny Cash (and subsequently covered over 90 times) has a story of a cowboy who comes across a posse of ghostly cowboys chasing the Devil’s herd across the sky. The ghosts give the warning to the cowboy to change his ways or he’ll soon join them.
To have a western tale include the elements of horror isn’t new. It’s been done many times before, as we’ve seen zombies, vampires, werewolves, witches and more going toe to toe with gunslingers. The movie, BloodRayne 2, which is based on the video game (great game, horrible movie franchise), depicted Billy the Kid as a vampire, and Pat Garret as one of the vampire killers that helps the half vampire Rayne in stopping the gunslinger. The role playing game Deadlands is a western horror with alternate history (and some steampunk elements) where supernatural beings called The Reckoners are unleashed on the American Mid West in an effort to drive out European settlers. As with all ideas with good intentions, it goes horribly, horribly wrong. The comic published by IDW called Desperadoes (written by Jeff Mariotte) also explores this combination of horror and the wild west. Even my own Black Mask & Pale Rider fits the bill, as the main characters of Shani and Pania (both elves) rider throughout the Union and Confederacy meeting all manner of horrifying creatures. Including a lich in Bloomington, Indiana, zombies in Shreveport, Louisiana, vampires outside of Reading, Pennsylvania and even the Ghost Rider himself in Franklin, West Virginia.
The two elements are actually the best intertwined story aspects in any subgenre. As writer G. W. Thomas of the two element “[u]nlike many other cross-genre tales, the weird Western uses both elements but with very little loss of distinction. The Western setting is decidedly ‘Western’ and the horror elements are obviously ‘horror.’” One of the first examples of this subgenre was a story in Weird Tales called the Horror on the Mound, written by Robert E. Howard and published in 1932. The first appearance of a book with the title Weird West was in 1970, when DC Comics released the monthly series Weird Western Tales.
Movies have used this device many times over, including the afforementioned Serenity, but those that included the horror genre have been prevalent as well. The Quick and the Undead (2006), Left for Dead, Ghost Rider (2007), and the afforementioned BloodRayne II: Deliverance (2007).
This Halloween, add some Weird West to your haunted reading lists. There’s a lot out there.
The first set of quotes, and some poems, for this week will be all about Halloween. And there’s a lot! All of them culled from The Quote Garden which included some poems by Nicholas Gordon from poemsforfree.com.
Stir the fire till it lowe
How like a queen comes forth the lonely Moon
From the slow opening curtains of the clouds
Walking in beauty to her midnight throne! ~George Croly
True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about but few have seen. ~Author Unknown
Backward, turn backward,
O Time, in your flight
make me a child again
just for to-night! ~Elizabeth Akers Allen
They that are born on Halloween shall see more than other folk. ~Saying of unknown origin
You wouldn’t believe
On All Hallow Eve
What lots of fun we can make,
With apples to bob,
And nuts on the hob,
And a ring-and-thimble cake. ~Carolyn Wells
Being in a band you can wear whatever you want – it’s like an excuse for Halloween everyday. ~Gwen Stefani
On Halloween, witches come true;
Wild ghosts escape from dreams.
Each monster dances in the park…. ~Nicholas Gordon, poemsforfree.com
A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night. ~J.M. Barrie
Yes, it’s that time for Zombies! Zombies have sort of transcended the aspect of horror, becoming a greater part of our pop culture thanks in part to older films like Dawn of the Dead, and even into such movies and games as Resident Evil and right on into romantic comedy with Shawn of the Dead. When an enemy becomes boring in a video game, just sprinkle with zombies and it’s brand new. After all, who doesn’t like shooting Nazi Zombies during a World War II zombie outbreak.
Zombies have infected (or more to the point, invaded) even books, with such tales as World War Z and the Zombie Chronicles by James Melzer. But where does this fear (or rather love) of the undead come from?
The first uses of the term zombie come from Haitian Creole, which describes the reanimating of a corpse for the purpose of completing menial tasks. This can also include a hypnotized person, bereft of conscious and only capable of basic motor skills and verbal abilities. No where was it mentioned that zombies would hunt the living to feast on their brains. For that, it lay almost completely in the area of fiction.
Zombies are common in Haitian lore, South African lore and in much of western African, especially in Niger. According to the tenants of Vodou, a dead person can be brought back to life (sort of) by a bokor or sorcerer. The zombie has no will of its own, and remains in the control of the bokor. In South Africa, it was believed that a person was sometimes killed and possessed as a part to become slave labour. In a zombie state, the person would no longer have a will of their own.
The fictional aspect of zombies takes into account some of what’s described above (though, what’s described above is very small compared to larger research). The first appearance of a zombie in popular culture was in the book The Magic Island by William Seabrook. Time magazine claimed the book introduced the word zombi to the English speaking world. The first film to have a zombie was in 1932 in the movie White Zombie with Bela Lugosi. The more current aspect of zombie appeared in George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead which in turn was partly inspired by Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel, I Am Legend.
Zombie fiction has become a sizable subgenre of horror, and has been seen in books (World War Z, Zombie Chronicles), television (The Walking Dead), video games (Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil) and even movies (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Army of Darkness, Shawn of the Dead, Zombieland).
Zombies have even become part of real world culture, as cities around the world have seen organized Zombie Walks where people dress as zombies and walk through an urban area (shopping district) in an orderly fashion. Many of these zombie walks have become tied to a charitable organization such as the upcoming Toronto Zombie Walk which is helping to support the Canadian Cancer Society.
Are we over saturated with the walking dead? Who’s to say, but currently the interest in zombies doesn’t look to be dying out anytime soon.
I took a two day break. Because it’s the long weekend, so I can do that.
Back to it with a movie review!
House on Haunted Hill, originally from 1959, directed by William Castle with a budget of $200,000. The movie was different for it’s time. The plot: invite several people who have no common link to a house that is rumoured to be haunted and stay the night. Anyone who survives until dawn is awarded $10,000 by the one Fredrick Lauren, an eccentric millionaire who has rented the house from Watson Pritchard. The five guests are informed this is part of a birthday party for his fourth wife, and are told of the rules of the game, and each given a fulled loaded .45 pistol to survive the night. Things go horribly wrong for each of the party guests ending with Pritchard breaking the fourth wall with the line “and they’ll come for you”.
Castle’s style of the movie involved a few special effects, but the best part wasn’t what he did to the movie, it was what he did inside the theatre. Each theatre that played the movie was rigged with pulley systems that made the seats lurched with each appointed scene. It was so successful, this “Emergo” style (basically a way to immerse the audience into the film) helped make the film a hit at the box office.
Starring Vincent Price as the eccentric millionaire, this helped to give the movie one of the big scares. Price has been known for his work in film, television and in radio plays that focused on the macabre.
The film was later remade in 1998, with a similar plot, save for the fact that the house was a former asylum, and the pay off was $1,000,000 for staying the night. Special effects technology had obviously been increased by that time, and a lot of CGI was used to create the feel of the movie. Starring Geoffrey Rush and Framke Janssen as the married couple, the remake did a really good job of creating a new update from the original.
That was, until the evil came out of the walls at the end.
All in all, this was a well done movie, both the original and the remake. And this one is one that should be on anyone’s Halloween movie list.
There is a sequel, a Return to House on Haunted Hill. I’ve never seen it, but I may have to change that. However, like many movies that include the words “Return to” in the title, I really don’t hold out much hope for it. There have been very few horror sequels the level of House on Haunted Hill that have been as successful as the original.
From Weird Tales, May, 1946
Halloween is associated with ghosts, which sometimes is associated with supernatural which can be associated with the occult. And cat have always been lumped into that unfortunate area of mysterious.
At one time, pagan religions dominated Europe. In the times before the first Christian crusades (they went north before going back south), the main Christian belief held witchcraft as evil (which was associated with paganism). Pagans held a strict belief in spirits and animals being able to aid, and this included cats. Cats, by proxy, were seen as evil by the invading Christian hordes (seriously, though, they didn’t use weapons for the most part, they used indoctrination).
Cats have this uncanny ability to sense things. They are incredible hunters and are predominantly nocturnal (though, there are many who are not). That’s cats as all encompassing, but what about black cats. Why the bad rap for the black kitty? Again, this can point toward ancient Christian beliefs. It was believed that black was evil, ill, vile. Whereas white was pure, untainted and good. Combine cats and witchcraft (already being side eyed by Christians) and now cats that are black, and the superstition arose that black cats were the ultimate in evil.
During the witch trials in the United States, black cats were often tortured and killed by puritans right along side the suspected witch Many puritans believed witches had the ability to change shape, and that shape was often in the form of a black cat.
It’s odd that black cats, and cats in general, were given such a bad name, considering many cultures around the world have a very different view. In Japan, Maneki Neko is considered good luck. In Russia, the Russian Blue is a symbol of good luck. In Latvia, black cats embody the spirit of Rungis, the god of harvests and good luck for farmers. Even in the United Kingdom, black cats have been associated with good luck for ages.