Friday, February 27, 2009

The New Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil first started interesting me way back when the X-Files did an episode about it. Of course in that episode, it was a mostly human creature and the Devil most people talk about in the sightings of today is a totally different creature with huge wings, the head of a horse, glowing red eyes, cloven hooves of a deer and the body of a serpent. Most people claim it to be more than seven feet tall as well and it had been noted in police reports that the its weight is estimated to be 200 to 400 pounds from the footprint impressions left in the snow at one particular sighting.

It's interesting to note that although New Jersey is a very densely populated state, it has some very unpopulated and thickly forested areas. One of these is called the Pine Barrens, located in the southern part of the state.

So what is the Jersey Devil, really? Lets go back to the original myth which goes back to colonial days. Legend has it that this all started with a kind of self-imposed curse. An English woman, Mowas Leeds, had married a Pine Barren businessman and became pregnant with her thirteenth child in as many years. Finding herself sick of children and the whole child bearing process, she prayed to God "Lord, I don't want anymore children. Let this one be a devil". Perhaps it was out of an awful depression from hormones that never had a chance to return to normal with all those births so close together. Perhaps it never happened at all, but usually a folklorist or an historian will tell you no to discount oral histories as they were a closely guarded way to hand down a peoples family history.

Anyway, as the story goes, the newborn was horribly deformed. It looked at its mother with horrible eyes, spread its wings and flew up and our of the chimney to roam the Pine Barrens where it is reported to remain to this day.

People who have seen the Jersey Devil do report a feeling of fear for their lives and a sense of dread. Their adrenalin kicks in and they run from it, feeling their life is in danger. An age old response to threat. We can then assume this devil does mean harm. There have been expeditions to find it, but no one has come up with any evidence of its existence. I've been told that the TV show MONSTER QUEST did a show on it where some of the people who have seen it took polygraph tests administered by a retired NYPD polygraph expert. They passed with flying colors so it is safe to say that there is probably something out there. It bears further study. We'll keep watch on this one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ellizabeth Bathory - The Blood Countess

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614), was a Hungarian noblewoman, born into one of Hungary's most influential families. As with most European aristocratic families the Bathory family had its share of mental illness due to years of inbreeding. Elizabeth herself began having epileptic fits at approximately age of four.

Elizabeth was a very spoiled child who was raised by nannies who's only job was to to cater to her every need. Despite her odd personality, no one could deny that Elizabeth was a very intelligent young woman.

At the age of eleven , Elizabeth became engaged to Count Fernencz Nadasdy, a famous war hero whose sadistic nature would ultimately earn him the nickname of "The Black Hero of Hungary."

Since Her husband was frequently away, Elizabeth became quite bored and looked for ways to busy herself. Now in her early twenties, Elizabeth, discovered that torturing servants filled this void for her. There really is no clear reason to support why the Countess enjoyed tormenting others and taking pleasure in their pain the way she did. But once she got a taste of it, she was unstoppable. It seemed that her preferred prey was the female teenage population of her village.

She devised hideous tortures for them such as ripping their bodies apart and setting them on fire. On days when she felt kinder, she would delight in humiliating girls by forcing them to strip naked and perform their duties in front of men.
When her husband returned home from war, he often "played" with his wife and joined in with the torture, but even he with his dark reputation could not equal her brutality. As Elizabeth got older, it seems she only got worse and developed even more cruel tortures. One such was what she called her "honey torture" where she would strip a young girl and cover her complete with honey then tie her outside to leave her to be eaten by bugs and other prey. A slow and horrible death. Another such death was saved for winter months when a young girl again would be stripped naked and then buckets of water would be poured over her, over and over again until the girl eventually froze to death within her ice prison.

One day, some of her associates - witches really, known as Dracula, Helena Jo and Dorka, told her that bathing in the blood of virgins was virtually the fountain of youth, Elizabeth really flipped and a horrifying ritual began. Girls by the hundreds were kidnapped, brought to the castle, and drained of their blood. Oftentimes, Elizabeth would bite their necks and breasts herself, drinking the blood and eating the flesh from their open wounds. This is why, years later, the story of Elizabeth Bathory inspired Bram Stoker to write his famous Dracula novel.

The countess' story doesn't end there, she didn't stop until she killed somewhere around 650 young women and annihilated the peasantry and had to move to the aristocracy. At this point

she was brought to trial along with her accomplices. They were executed for their crimes but due to her noble birth, Elizabeth's life was spared execution in that form. She was ordered to live out her live in her castle, with no visitors, totally alone. She was escorted to her room and was then sealed in, with only a small hole left for the passage of food and air. She died there three years after the beginning of her sentence. The tower room where she was imprisoned is still standing as part of the ruins of Csjethe castle.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some Vampire Talk - The Sampiro

With the success of the Twilight books and movies of late, there seems to be a renewed interest in all things vampire. For my next few posts, I thought I put a few interesting things I've found while doing research, and would love it if you would comment and share what you know on the subjects so we can all learn more.

Most fans of things supernatural realize there are more than one type of vampire, but one of the more lesser known types is the Sampiro. Although it sounds frightening and I wouldn't want to run into one on a dark and foggy night, they do have a bit of a comical air to them (OK, maybe only if you have a macabre sense of humor like me!).

According to Albanian folklore, the Sampiro rises from its grave shortly after it's internment, about 3-4 hours. It rises dressed in its grave shroud, and is described in all of the folklore wearing high heels (no, I don't know where the high heels come from....and yes, the Sampiro can be female or male!) with large, bright glowing eyes (sometimes as large as headlights).

The Sampiro cannot walk too well on the high heels so "toddles" after it's victim (which in the beginning of it's "career" tends to be close family members or other loved ones) in an unbalanced kind of way. If they are lucky enough to catch their victim, then it means certain death. If their victim gets away, they have been known to stop at cottages and homes along the way and peer into windows. It is said that if the gaze of their strange glowing eyes falls on any people in that home, those people will come down with an illness, sometimes a fatal one, within days. In this way, the Sampiro is in fact more virulent than other vampires since they can make entire households fatally ill just by walking after one victim and then walking back to return to their grave site.

The Albanian people at one time believed at one time that any person with any Turkish blood in them would become a Sampiro. Another interesting note, it was said that a Sampiro was able to flush out a "real" vampire so sometimes people that were half Albanian/half Turkish made a living by being "vampire hunters", believing that after death, they would become a Sampiro. Usually they had arrangements made for decapitation special burial rites with their village priest for the time of their death to save them from this fate and ensure their way to heaven.

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