Archive for the Around the World Category

Odd Monsters

Posted in Around the World, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by ranranami

Bored with the bogeyman? Not finding the clown thing too funny anymore? Are vampires in your nightmares just sucking you dry? Well, not to worry, there’s plenty of ‘wonderful’ creatures out there to ensure that your psyche stays freshly traumatized for years to come. Keeping the Japanese one to just one, because their mythology is so broad with yokai and spirits, that you can’t possibly cover them all in one go.

 

kayawaguruma

Katawaguruma/Katawa Guruma

Origin: Japanese

The female counterpart to the Wa nyūdō, this creature appears in the shape of a woman (usually naked) burning in eternal torment with the lower portions, or attached to, an ox cart wheel. The causes bad luck, ill fortune, and misery to those who encounter her, what’s more…the bad luck doesn’t just stop at one person, it can spread through the entire community associated with anyone who has met her. She also harvests the souls of the ‘impure’, the cruel, the sinful, etcetera, etcetera.

 

likho

Likhoradka/Tryasavitsa

Origin: Slavic

Embodying a tall woman with black, messy hair, Likhoradka will spread  horrible calamities and plague wherever she goes, and to whomever she encounters. She can also possess anyone she chooses.

 

black_annis

Black Annis/Agnes

Origin: British

Save your jokes, this lady is not someone you want to mess with. Absolutely hideous creature, a wizened crone with gnarly black claws, sharp teeth, one eye, and mottled blue skin. Some say her claws are made of iron, some say they’re just…particularly strong, I suppose. Residing around Leicestershire, Agnes spends most of her free time tearing travelers to pieces, redecorating her cave with the flayed skin of small children, and generally just being a terrible neighbor. Meg Mucklebones, anyone?

 

kanon

Kanontsistonties

Origin: Iriquois

Say what you will about Native American mythology, it seems to me that they really take the cake for the creepiest monsters out there. As much as I adore the Windigo, I felt like maybe delving into something a little less popular. Varying in size from miniscule to massive, the Kanontsistonties are essentially flying skulls with bat wings and a desperate craving for…you guessed it…human flesh. They are the product of two possibilities, victims of murder by beheading, or…they used to be cannibals in life, and decided they just couldn’t kick the habit in death either. They can’t stop, as they have no stomachs, so they’re pretty much doomed to eternal hunger.

 

horse

Cheval Mallet

Origin: French

Horses. You can’t trust them. I had a horse step on my foot once. I didn’t like it. So when I learned of the Cheval Mallet, it came as no surprise that it turned out to be an evil horse. Well, that and the fact that I took French in high school, so the connection wasn’t too hard to make. Essentially, it appears at night as a beautiful horse, tricks you into riding it…and that’s it, for the rest of your life (and onwards), you’re trapped for eternity riding a beautiful horse. A beautiful evil horse. Or it drowns you. They like doing that, too.

Ghost-Proof Your House

Posted in Around the World, Halloween Junk, Media with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2015 by ranranami

As Halloween draws near, I know I can’t be the only person concerned about unwanted spirits trying to snatch candy from my doorstep pretending to be children. Or worse, trying to snatch my soul while I’m sleeping, possibly even curse my family for generations. So it’s probably a good idea for us to explore our options to ensure a spook-free spooky day. That won’t be too hard, thanks to these tips from around the world. Now you can practice prevention, and save yourself countless legal and/or religious fees when you have to get your dog exorcised.

 

numbers
Unlucky Math

Now, I’m sure you all know the number one fear of ghosts and spirits all around the planet. Yes, that’s right. NUMBERS. They can’t stand certain numbers. It probably has something to do with traumatic afterlife math exams, and seeing the wrong numbers can either send them flying into a destructive rage, leaving your house dripping with ectoplasm…or drive them away. Now, in places like Japan, it’s a safe bet to avoid the number ‘4’. So skip out on the addresses with ‘4’ in them, the floors with 4 on them, the hospital wings with ‘4’ around them…in fact, just to be certain, you’d better start jumping from 3 to 5 when you count. Now that I think about it, do the same thing with ’13’ as well. And any math equation with ’13’ and ‘4’ involved in the same formula…well, that’s just downright begging for trouble.

SacredSmudgeWeb

Sage

Thanks to modern technology, and the magic of spray bottles, we can condense just about anything into a spritz-friendly form. No longer will you have to cleanse your home and set off the smoke detector at the same time. As we all know, spirits hate cooking. More than cooking, they hate sage…it leaves an awful taste in the mouths of the damned and the wondering souls tormented already by modern interior decorating choices. With the aid of burnt sage, or a useful spray as the one above, you can simply waft those pesky spooks out the door. You probably shouldn’t spray this on your food, though…

mirrorevil

Mirrors

Use your mirrors responsibly. If someone is ill or preparing to shuffle off their mortal coil, keep mirrors out of the room at all costs. As we all know, people are highly susceptible to having their souls sucked out of them in weakened states, due to the powerful nature of science and maths, refraction and light…something like that…basically mirrors bad. Also, avoid looking in them at night or by candle-light, or you’re just inviting trouble. If your loved one refuses to part with their vanity table during their final hours, try and at least point the mirror in the other direction, because not only are they risking being trapped in that mirror…but also becoming a vampire. Apparently. It’s also a good idea to avoid sleeping in front of a mirror, and just keep that baby moving around the house. You never know when evil spirits might be sneaking around, and they just love looking at themselves.

external-analysis-of-house

Feng Shui

As I’m sure you can infer from the above highly-detailed chart, Feng Shui is essential in ensuring that your life does not fall to pieces in a horrible raging fire thanks to your poor decisions and choices when it comes to picking both your furniture and the exact location of said furniture. What most people neglect to mention is the most important fact of all about Feng Shui: it guards your house from unwanted ghost guests. That’s right, spirits can’t stand a well-put-together interior decorating plan. They hate brightness, holy objects, clean homes, and bathrooms without windows. They do like houses packed with yin, however. So keep in mind that sometimes a feminine (yin) touch may not be so great when you’re looking to keep spirits away. If you want to make sure to keep the yin low, stay away from cemeteries and churches, make sure you’ve got a lotta wang energy coming in through your front door, and do NOT forget this…under no circumstances should you plant willows or banana trees in your yard. Witches love bananas.

Spring-Heeled Jack

Posted in Around the World, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2014 by ranranami

jack1

Ah, England. The land of Shakespeare, the land of fish and chips, and the land of Spring-Heeled Jack…who I’m sure you’ve heard of. You know the guy. Black cloak, glowing red eyes, point ears, claws like iron, breathed fire?

Spring-Heeled Jack is one of those urban legends I don’t quite understand. Kind of like the Chupacrabra. I don’t get the Chupacabra. I don’t get Big Foot either, come to think of it.

He wasn’t a super-villain in some comic book, believe it or not. He was a supposedly real figure who terrorized small towns throughout the early 19th century, until he made his debut in London. That was when the stories really began to pick up. It became an almost weekly event for some sort of mention of him in one newspaper or another.

jack2

It’s believed that Spring-Heeled Jack could jump great heights, leaping in bounds over buildings with ease. Some witnesses described him as a cloaked man with springs in his boots. I suppose the idea was so convincing, Germany tried to implement the idea in WWII on their paratroopers. Unfortunately for them, the only results were badly broken ankles.

Spring-Heeled Jack’s favorite past-times were tearing women’s clothing, and slapping men on the face. Sometimes he’d even blind the occasional victim with his fire breath. He gave an original meaning to the term ‘Halitosis’, in that regard.

His most infamous sighting was in 1904, when he was spotted by over 100 witnesses in Liverpool. This was also the final time he would be seen in England for 70 years. Kind of sad when you think about it, as if everyone banded together to give their kinky bogey man a good send-off before retiring.

jack3

It’s widely believed Spring-Heeled Jack was actually a young nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford, who didn’t really get on well with police or women. He may very well have been the first Spring-Heeled Jack, having taken a bet with several friends. I suppose the bet was something along the lines of ‘run about the city making an ass of yourself with slinkies in your shoes’, or something along those lines. Regardless, sightings continued after the Marquess had married, and even after he died in 1859.

He would be spotted several more times in the 1970s and 80s, but the story had lost most of it’s punch. Or slap. Spring-Heeled Jack was a good example of an era monster, defined by the culture he originated from.

Grim History: Torture Devices

Posted in Around the World with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by ranranami

So skimming through ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ this morning, I thought to myself about all of the grim torture equipment out there; I’m referring to the ones that aren’t for exercising, of course. Man’s greatest enemy has always been himself, as I’m sure you all know. Anyway, here’s a few that really give me some serious goose bumps…

 

Thumbscrew

I first read about this little sucker in 5th grade. I recall the book describing it as a method of torturing slaves, or extracting information. Let’s be honest…those are usually the only two reasons beyond pure sadism, when it comes to torture…no matter the device. The idea behind a thumbscrew is pretty much self-explanatory. The thumbs are forcibly inserted between the bars…then the screw on top is slowly twisted, applying pressure to the digits, and ultimately cracking them. Not unlike pecans. Maybe it isn’t going to kill you, beyond the likely development of gangrene, but the pain could only be excruciating. What’s more, there’s really no recovering from pancake thumbs. If this isn’t bad enough, picture the pilliwinks…which really did look like nutcrackers. Those? Those were applied to ALL of the fingers.

 

Punishing Shoes

Moving on, let’s talk about footwear. Have you ever heard the story of the 12 dancing princesses? They go to bed every evening and wake up to find their dancing shoes destroyed. There’s more to it, of course, but I think if their father had simply given them a pair of these babies: punishing shoes. If you heard horses screaming in terror after reading that, you’re either watching Young Frankenstein, or you know just how these were used. They’ve got spikes inside the heel portion, and you’d have to stand in place wearing them, usually with something really heavy on your head. Maybe a matching hat…either you become the world’s greatest ballet dancer in the process, or you end up crippled for life. Now doesn’t that sound fun?

 

wooden horse

Sometimes when I’m having trouble sleeping, I’m haunted by two thoughts: a knife coming up through my mattress and impaling me for no reason, and riding an infinitely long metal slide that slowly narrows until it’s just a razor blade. This is that second vision made as real as it could be, and this is also why I wear pants to bed. It’s called the ‘Wooden Horse’ or ‘The Spanish Donkey’, oddly enough, and if they were mixed drinks I think I might take a pass.

 

Now that I’ve thoroughly spoiled your holiday season, or at least made you question buying a rocking horse for your niece this year…I think I’m going to just look at pictures of cute kittens to floss my brain.

Dark Faerie Tales and Nursery Rhymes

Posted in Around the World, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2013 by ranranami

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m a huge Grimm fan. The third season is premiering Oct. 25, and it got me to thinking about faerie tales. When you look at Disney’s interpretations of the classics, like Cinderella and Snow white, you pretty much know that they’re mixing a crap-load of vanilla into the story, but somehow…they both remain incredibly dark, Snow White especially. I’ll be honest; the scene in the forest freaked me out as a kid, and still gets me today.

 

A lot of parents don’t let their kids watch scary movies, even some of the tamer classic varieties, because they don’t want their children getting nightmares. That’s fine. Yet many of them will still reach for their trusty Mother Goose or Grimm collection at night to read for bedtime. Let’s be honest here, very few faerie tales and nursery rhymes are light-hearted fancies. Most of them involve poison, curses, spells, deception, murder, resurrection of the dead (or in some cases their talking bones), being eaten alive, or terrible things happening to people whether they’re good or bad.

 

A good faerie tale or nursery rhyme has a lesson. A lesson rarely comes without a consequence if it isn’t heeded. You don’t let a stranger inside your house when you’re alone, and you certainly don’t trust their food. If your stepmother likes to box your ears on a regular basis, then asks you to stick your head somewhere dangerous, don’t be surprised if she accidentally lops your head off. When you’ve been warned for seventeen years of your life not to do something and you do it anyway? Yeah, that’ll probably turn out bad.

 

The following are five particularly nasty little faerie tales and nursery rhymes to avoid, if you somehow can’t stomach a good dose of salt with your children’s books. But if you really want a story with a bit of bite, definitely look into them.

 

 

1.The Juniper Tree

 juniper tree

This one used to give me the shivers when I paged through it as a kid. I guess that’s why it’s my favorite. There’s always an element of an evil stepmother in a good faerie tale, illustrating that the most evil people in your life can also be some of the closest. It makes sense, when you consider that so often the case with a missing or murdered child usually involves someone in the family. The stepmother kills her stepson, and makes it look like her beloved daughter did it. The little girl is of course emotionally scarred when she thinks she killed her own brother, and it doesn’t help when the stepmother butchers him and serves the boy to his father when he comes home. The lesson though, lies in the boy’s spirit when he comes back as a bird to seek revenge.

 

 

 

2.Goosy Goosy Gander

 goosy

Goosy Goosy Gander,

wither do you wander?

Upstairs and downstairs,

in my lady’s chamber.

There I saw an old man

who would not say his prayers,

I took him by the left leg

and threw him down the stairs.

 

I’m pretty sure he breaks his neck, too. Lesson here? No matter how old you are, you’d better be a good Christian, or your mistress’s pet bird is going to break your neck. It doesn’t get much darker than that.

 

 

3.Blue Beard

 bluebeard-cranew-two-page-l

There’s a French film about this story with absolutely beautiful cinematography, and it employs something a lot of us can’t seem to stomach. A young girl marrying an old man. In the story, she’s not always a child, but very likely is. This guy practices witchcraft, forces women to marry him, and then lies in wait until they do what he tells them expressly not to do: open one door in his castle with a key he gives them. Of course, this is what he really wants, because he’s a sadistic jerk. Whenever it invariably happens, he butchers them and throws their body parts into the forbidden room. The only lesson I find here is that if you’re going to do what you shouldn’t, either get better at lying, or think on your feet. The nice thing about this story, is that the main character isn’t a brave hero, but a young woman with a brain. That’s pretty rare in your classic stories. Too bad there are a thousand different versions, because in half of them she usually isn’t that bright, and gets saved through the deus ex machina method.

 

 

4.Allerleirauh

 allerleirauh

Not the one most of us are more acquainted with, but the one with the incest in particular is the version of this story that gets me. A king loves his wife, and she makes him promise to marry no woman after her death unless the woman is as beautiful as her. So when his daughter grows up and looks exactly like his wife, what do you think that king decides? Obviously his daughter isn’t too hot about the idea, so she flees in a coat of furs. Then she’s found, and nobody knows who she really is. I guess being a servant doesn’t sit too well with her, so she decides it’s way better to do the do with her own dad. The lesson here…well this lesson, I’m going to have to politely disagree with. I do think manual labor is better than incest, sorry.

 

 

5.The Death of the Little Hen

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The story of the chicken talking about the sky falling always gets me. Why does nobody ever talk about THIS chicken? It’s basically the same concept, but instead of spreading fear through a misunderstanding, it’s one death that turns into a dozen. A chicken chokes on a kernel she tried to greedily eat by herself, and so a procession is gradually made for her. Then everybody drowns. This could be interpreted a thousand different ways. Don’t mourn for those who don’t deserve it, don’t let yourself forget logical thinking when you lose those closest to you, or don’t be a greedy bugger because it’ll only end up destroying yourself and everyone around you.

 

To Trick or to Treat: Where Did it Come From?

Posted in Around the World, Halloween Junk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by ranranami

For those of us who’ve had the greedy joy of snatching candy at multiple houses from kindly adults in the name of a holiday, Halloween was one of the greatest days of the year. Not to mention the costumes and tv specials.

 ghostbusters

 

For the last century, ‘Trick or Treating’ has been a popular thing for American children. If you trace it back far enough, this past time can be traced to something called ‘Souling’. I’d be a fool not to mention Samhain here, the famously dramatic celebration of the Celts that served to ring in the dead part of the year. You know…the cold bit.

 

So first, let’s look at the apparent origins, Samhain. It’s October 31st/November 1st, as if that wasn’t obvious, at the basic practices were what you’d expect. Dealing with crops, moving livestock, and doing the hard bits anyone in an agricultural community would have to consider when preparing for winter. The fun bit was the festival, you know…the actual Samhain bit. By the way, it’s pronounced Sah-ween. Thank you, whoever decided to spell it that way. You made me look like an idiot for the last decade on the rare occasion I ever decided to mention Samhain to my grandmother. Anyway, much like the AWESOME ‘Dia De Los Muertos’, the Celts thought Samhain was the day when it was a crap-load easier for the dead to speak with them. Or chat. Or hang out. However you want to look at it, they’d be doing the opposite of what you generally expect dead people to do, which is rot and stay quiet 6 feet under the rest of the 364 days of the year. Of course you’ll all remember the main thing we’ve carried over into the modern day, lighting candles inside carved-out turnips, or even pumpkins for you dirty non-traditionalists, but they also made gigantic fires and sacrificed animals in honor of the dead, and to kind of keep them from getting ticked off at the living. They’d also sacrifice fruits and nuts, which I consider a terribly cruel thing to do, but it couldn’t be helped.

 

turnip

 

It’s the Middle Ages. Now we’re onto All Soul’s Day/All Hallow’s Eve, which was basically Samhain altered to be more Catholic. That’s cool with me, because it’s better than getting rid of the day all together. The church took a lot of pagan and non-Christian holidays that were popular to the extreme, and adapted them so they weren’t eliminated altogether. Oh, they tried, but you can’t keep a dead man down (oh, no.) So the church took holy celebrations, and made them basically take place on the days that Pagan holidays might have occurred. Pagan gods and spirits were classified as evil, and let’s not even mention the old ones (ia, ia, Cthulhu fhtagn.) All Soul’s Day was officially on Nov. 2, and people still did a lot of what they’d do on Samhain. Instead of honoring the death of the year and the dead, though, they simply honored the dead. Costumes, fires, all that stuff stuck around. Yet, now people in Europe and primarily England were going from door to door asking for goodies (like pastries and meat pies, but hopefully the type without human flesh in them) in exchange for praying for the souls of the departed. Remember that Souling thing I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that’s what this basically was. Eventually this changed to envelop more types of treats, like drink and sweets. Anything people could get their grimy peasant hands on, actually.

peasants

 

This brings us to present day America, the melting pot of the world…but…mostly Europeans. Traditions, culture, all of it has been carried over here by hook and crook. A lot of people disagree on this point, but it’s a general theory that Halloween as we know it really got kicking in either the 1920s or 30s, because there are articles about it in magazines. That’s generally their source. Not newspapers or books, but magazines…which makes sense, because god knows there are always freaking miles of Halloween mags on the shelf every year, starting in July. It’s the porn of holidays, right after Christmas.

 

As you’ve probably guessed, ‘Souling’ is now ‘Trick-or-Treating’. Most normal kids don’t collect meat pies or fruits and nuts if they can help it, but instead they’re always after healthy teeth-rotting candy. That’s where tricking comes in. Actually, the day before Halloween is usually when people play the tricks, and those too by jerk teenagers who’ve god grudges to bear. That’s called ‘Devil’s Night’, ‘Hell Night’, ‘Night of the Hormonal A**holes’, whatever you want to call it. This one has fallen out of practice, but it never hurts to explain why your tree got mysteriously tp’d last night.

hall

 

SO there you have it. Kids dress up in costumes and demand candy at your doorstep every Halloween, because Pagans had a thing for dead people and seasons. The more you know.

The Myth and Mystique of Jack-O-Lanterns

Posted in Around the World, Halloween Junk with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2013 by ranranami

Have you ever heard the tale of Stingy Jack? You probably have, even if you don’t know it. There are a thousand different versions, though many of them don’t go by the same name or have the same main character. The essence of his story is always the same: a man tricks the devil, the man makes a bargain, the man either goes back on the bargain or runs out of time, the man can’t go to heaven or hell, then he’s stuck here. The main facet of the story that makes Jack so interesting, is his lantern. Given nothing to light his way back from hell but a vegetable or tuber (turnip, radish, beet, potato, rutabaga…) of some kind stuffed with a coal, he became ‘Jack O’ Lantern’. This translates to ‘Jack of the lantern’, if the old englishe was too much for you.

 

Rumor: Best version of the Stingy Jack character ever.
Rumor confirmed.

 

 

My sources tell me this was mainly an Irish story, and the Jack O’ Lantern was brought over during the potato famine. Amongst food, and equality, and complete acceptance, they also found pumpkins. The turnips, radishes, beets, potatoes, and even our poor friend the rutabaga…they were all ditched in exchange for the magnificently large and easy to carve pumpkin. By the way, the bit about equality and complete acceptance was a lie, but the pumpkins were not.

 

Awwww, he thinks he’s dead people.

 

 

Traditionally, Celts used to have large bonfires to keep the dead at bay on Sowan, the transitional day between Summer (life season) and Winter (death season), but luckily for us, it gradually turned into the Jack O’ Lantern. I can’t even imagine keeping a bonfire on my doorstep. Not to mention if the headless horseman had to tote a cart behind him with a giant fire in it…

 

From your love-able Disney company, subtly
traumatizing children since 1923.

 

I feel like I should give you a pumpkin pie recipe right now, but…maybe some other time.