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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legend: Pukwudgies

Bristol County lies in the southeastern corner of Massachusetts, and is known by locals as the single most haunted place in New England. A short stay at Bristol Country is likely to expose you to some of the strangest urban legends around; tales of malevolent energies that lay dormant around the area, awakening only to play the culprit to the county’s many weird occurrences.

Spectral armies traversing the night, haunted schools, strings of unexplained suicides, murders and disappearances rank among the oddities, along with a bestiary of mythical creatures commonly sighted in the dense forestry around the county. These sightings include huge, monstrous versions of animals such as bears and snakes, and other more legendary and widespread entities such as Bigfoot and the Thunderbird.

Like something from a HP Lovecraft story, the place is also a hotbed for cult activity. For over forty years, police in Bristol County have been puzzled by the bizarre and usually criminal activity involving congregations of Satanic cults from all over the US. All that being said, the most dreaded of the many horrors inhabiting Bristol County is not ghostly, or animalistic, or even masses of Satanic cultists, but in fact a two-foot demon called the Pukwudgie.

What is a Pukwidgie?

A Pukwudgie is essentially a New England Ewok. According to historic folklore dating back long before Europeans had even set foot in the US, Pukwudgies are the spirits of the forest, inhabiting swampy and densely wooded areas. They vaguely resemble humans, except they are around two-to-three feet tall and boast cartoonishly large ears and noses as well as eerily long fingers. They have been compared to goblins and trolls and are said to have smooth, grey skin.

Also known as bagwajinini, which translates to “person of the wilderness,” Native American tribes say that Pukwudgies once lived alongside humans in the wilderness around North America, though they turned against them when members of the Wampanoag tribe evicted the then-helpful Pukwudgies from the area in a rather brutal way. Natives from a wide array of tribes all feature Pukwudgies heavily in their folklore, from the Wampanoag tribes of Massachusetts and Southern New England to the Algonquian tribes of the Great Lakes region. According to many of these tribes, the creatures were best left alone. 

But that’s not to say that all Pukwudgies were deadly. In fact, they exhibited a wide range of characteristics; friendly and helpful in some areas, mischievous in others, and downright murderous in some. The detail which is possibly the most frightening is that Pukwudgies had power, and possibly even control, over the spirits of their victims. It is said that should one annoy a Pukwudgie, the beast would stalk them and either play one of their many insidious tricks or, if the offense was great enough, advance with murderous intent. 

Pukwudgies in Pop Culture

Hagrid from Harry Potter

Pukwudgies have been popularized in modern culture largely thanks to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, in which they are described as follows: “The Pukwudgie is also native to America: a short, grey-faced, large-eared creature distantly related to the European goblin. Fiercely independent, tricky and not over-fond of humankind (whether magical or mundane), it possesses its own powerful magic. Pukwudgies hunt with deadly, poisonous arrows and enjoy playing tricks on humans.”

This was not the first use of the Pukwudgie in the arts, however. In 1855, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” which mentions the critters as the “mischievous Puk-Wudjies” who killed the giant Kwasind by pelting him with pine cones.

“Far and wide among the nations

Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;

No man dared to strive with Kwasind,

No man could compete with Kwasind.

But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,

They the envious Little People,

They the fairies and the pygmies,

Plotted and conspired against him.”


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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legend: The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is a creature of legend and innumerable descriptions amongst Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia folklore. A flying, hoofed biped that has been described part kangaroo or part horse, with the wings of some huge malformed bat and the forked tail of Beelzebub himself. Like an equestrian chimera inhabiting South Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the Jersey Devil is said to move very fast, some say in great leaps like a hare, and known to emit a scream like grinding machinery. Not only elusive in appearance, the Jersey Devil also has a rich history of occultism, witchcraft and – oddly enough – politics to explore.

By the early 1900s, South Jersey was abuzz with reports of the Devil. Every man and his dog claimed to have seen or even caught the mysterious mishmash of animals. Commonly described as a combination of kangaroo, bat, and pony, several museums professed to have caught it, each offering their own false promises and disappointing hoaxes. Some said the thing was white, others said brown; some said it leapt, others said it flew. By this point the Jersey Devil was becoming one of the more widespread yet confusing urban legends in Pennsylvania.

Daniel Leeds House 1600's

Originally it was known as the Leeds Devil, a name traced back to a young quaker from the late 1600s, named Daniel Leeds, who emigrated to the US. Overestimating his political prowess, Leeds became involved in government and began writing an almanac. Overestimated still were his expectations on how his peers and neighbors would react to what they described as “Pagan” ideas on astrology and magic, or how they would respond to his allegiance to the royal governor of the colony, or the British in general. Local Quakers were quick to brand him as evil for his strange outlook and even wrote pamphlets labelling him “Satan’s Harbinger”.

In 1859 a reporter’s account of stories they had heard in the Barrens was published in the Atlantic. The tales told of Mother Leeds and her practice of witchcraft, devil worshipping, and appearances from the Devil himself. So the tale goes, in 1735 Mother Leeds found herself to be pregnant, the child she bore being her thirteenth. Mother Leeds, dwelling deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, said “Let this one be the devil,” and according to the most popular lore that child was born with horns, hooves, wings, and a tail. The devil flew from the dwelling immediately and into the surrounding darkness.

The legend was helped along by a few noteworthy figures, one of which being Joseph Bonapart, older brother of Napoleon, who in 1812 claimed to have spotted the beast while hunting near his Bordentown estate. From this point it seems every animal attack and odd footprint was blamed on the Devil. One key event cementing the Devil’s legend happened in 1909. In the month of January that year around a thousand reported sightings came in from around South Jersey. Navy Commander Stephen Decatur reportedly saw the creature while testing cannonballs at Hanover Mills Works and, despite blowing a hole through the thing with one of those shells, was not able to kill it.

The Jersey Devil legend has had its peaks and valleys in terms of popularity (one peak being when it was the center of an X-Files episode), though alleged sightings have not stopped to this day. All things considered, the sound of the Devil’s screech as it flies through the Pine Barrens is an experience I would like to miss out on.

https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2016/10/13_places_the_jersey_devil_has_been_spotted_in_the.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jersey_Devil_(The_X-Files)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Devil

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/17/jersey-devil-new-jersey-myth-photo-origin-story

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legend: Louisiana Vampires

Vampires have been one of the most beloved and obsessed-over monsters in popular culture ever since F.W. Murnau’s highly influential silent horror film, Nosferatu (1922). The dark-dwelling bloodsuckers appear frequently to this day, from mainstream titles such as Resident Evil: Village and Twilight to lesser-known works like Stakeland and What We Do In The Shadows. In fact, vampires have existed long before these in many aspects of human culture, fantasized about in folklore and depicted in a myriad of mystical and horrifying tales throughout history. Widely reported from Eastern Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries, some surmise that the vampire was born from paranoia of widespread illness, though certain figures have been particularly convincing in the existence of these nocturnal immortals.

New Orleans 19th Century

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Cut to 19th Century New Orleans, one of the most prominent places in regards to hauntings, vampire sightings, and cult speculation. Tuberculosis, consumption, and syphilis are running rampant. In a city so accustomed to suffering, fear quickly becomes paranoia, which in turn rapidly morphs into superstition and comprehensive folklore. Among these, and strangely enough confirmed by the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, is the account of real vampires living in New Orleans.

Louisiana Vampires

The city was the inspiration for many of Anne Rice’s gothic novels, most notably 1976’s Interview With The Vampire, whose story was also based there. Many locals would take the tale further, claiming that multiple real vampires reside in their city. Some would reference the brothers John and Wayne Carter, who in the 1930s were arrested following a string of peculiar murders. The brothers, it was found, drained the blood of over a dozen victims using some unknown method, and were only caught out when a blood-soaked woman managed to escape their New Orleans apartment. When the brother’s corpses disappeared entirely from their family’s funeral vault, suspicion and surmise only grew as to their true nature, and their true species. Reports of sightings of the brothers occur to this very day.

While New Orleans is by no means the first place to encounter the Louisiana vampire legend, (some instances go as far back as ancient Greek Mythology!), it is definitely holds prominence as the home of the most infamous documented vampire existence in the world. To explore this we must dive back to 1700s France where a man, if he can so be called, by the name of Comte St. Germain came into the public eye. While this was the first solid evidence of his existence, figures from around the globe such as French historian and philosopher Voltaire, King Louis XV, and Italian writer and adventurer Casanova all professed to have met the timeless individual. He was said to have been an alchemist, one who knew all and never died, who grew diamonds and created beautiful jewels from stones. The alchemist attending the execution of Marie Antoinette was apparently trained by Comte St. Germain, and claimed to have sighted him at the deadly proceedings, long after he was known to have died.

Skip ahead two hundred years to when a French immigrant known as Jacques St. Germain interloped to the US, settling into a place on Royal Street, New Orleans. Coincidence, no? Any right-minded historian would no doubt agree. However, stranger still was the man’s wit, charm and charisma, his seemingly ageless appearance and the painstaking detail in the tales he told of hundreds of years past. He threw parties that would roll Gatsby’s eyes, all while never consuming a single bite of the food he offered his guests. A few tales surround Jacques St. Germain in this period, including guests claiming he tried to bite their necks, bottles of red wine in his house that later were found to be human blood, and the fact that he didn’t own a single utensil. By the time baffled police made these discoveries in his home, Jacques St. Germain was gone, never to return.


These days, according to a survey by the Atlanta Vampire Alliance, there are over five thousand people in the US today who identify as a vampire. Over fifty of these live in New Orleans alone, past superstitions making the place a veritable hotspot for dwellers of the dark, immortal or not.

References

https://uk.hotels.com/go/usa/creepy-new-orleans
https://pelicanstateofmind.com/louisiana-love/jacques-st-germain-louisiana-vampire/

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Goatman of Pope Lick – Urban Legend

A quietly picturesque scene can be found beneath the old railroad trestle over Pope Lick Creek, in the Fisherville neighborhood of Louisville in eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky. The place is calm and arguably rather beautiful, with nothing that might suggest danger, mystery, and even death. 

Such monstrous things, however, can be found in abundance here. 

Goatman of Pope Lick Legend

There is an urban legend that has haunted Pope Lick Creek since the late 1940s, deterring sensible townsfolk while drawing hundreds of daring youths and out-of-town legend trippers to its location. Folk say that it is part man, part goat, and some say even part sheep. In the beginning it was said to have been responsible for mass killings of livestock in surrounding farms. Since then it has been said to lure passersby onto the trestle to meet their demise before the next passing train, while other tales tell of the creature leaping from the trestle onto unsuspecting cars. Some even say that the very sight of the fiend wielding a blood-stained axe is enough to cause people to jump from the 90 foot bridge, scattering them on the ground below. This particular entity of darkness is known as the infamous Goatman of Pope Lick.

While Bigfoot is still by far the best known wildman of the United States, sightings of Goat Men have circled the country for decades, particularly in the southeast in places such as Virginia and North Carolina. One tale, as described by Author David Domine, explained, “The goatman arose as a tale of a local farmer back in the day. Tortured a herd of goats for Satan and signed a contract with him and forfeited his soul. In the process he was converted into this terrible creature that was sent to live under the trestle seeking revenge on people!”

The Legend Variation

Old Train Bridge

Another popular legend Domine shared claims, “A circus train was crossing the trestle one day and it derailed and in one of the cars there was a kind of circus freak.” The freak was said to have been mistreated by the circus and, after escaping the crash with its life, took revenge on any folk unfortunate to cross its path. Some say the Goatman only wants to be left alone; one story telling of how a group of Boy Scouts were chased from their nearby camp by a screaming beast who threw rocks at them. One particularly chilling detail that perseveres through Goatman legends is that his screech is an imitation of the whistle of the train which passes through his territory. 

Adding weight to this legend is the bleak and tragic history of the trestle itself. Extending over 700 feet long and 90 feet high, the rickety old train bridge is not one of the more advisable places to cross. However, it has been a popular dare to do just that for decades now, probably far more frequently since the birth of the Goatman legend. Many think the trestle is unused in this day and age, whereas in reality trains pass over the spot every single day. Due to the odd acoustics of the place, trains can be nigh-on impossible to see or hear coming until they are on the trestle itself. With no walkways, railings or ledges to cling to, daredevils finding themselves near the centre of the trestle at this point will have little hope of survival. 

A gruesome myth with enough real deaths to back it up, The Goatman has the potential to bring a shudder to even the more hardened legend tripper. We can only hope it deters anyone else from crossing the deadly trestle, a location seemingly as dangerous as the legends surrounding it. 

https://everything2.com/title/Pope+Lick+goat+man#:~:text=The%20Pope%20Lick%20goat%20man%20is%20an%20urban,monster%2C%20haunts%20the%20area%20around%20the%20trestle%20.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Lick_Monster

https://www.wattpad.com/640260275-urban-legends-haunted-places-etc-the-goat-man-of

https://www.wave3.com/story/25479436/numerous-urban-legends-tell-of-louisvilles-goat-man/

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

5 Great Horror Movies Based On Urban Legends

Horror movies are always more effective when reminiscent of, or straight up depicting, real world fears. What better way to terrify the masses than by visually portraying urban legends, some of the most widespread of superstitions and irrational paranoias? Many of these folk horror films are tackled by smaller directors looking to kickstart, though some bigger budget gems have been known to shine through. 

Triangle 2009

Triangle Folk Horror movie poster with girl holding axe on a boat with a bloody reflection

Triangle is a twisting, turning, chilling British horror/thriller from Christopher Smith, director of Severance (2006) and Black Death (2010). A potent hybrid of old school slasher à la Friday 13th (1980) and mind-bending science fiction in the vein of Predestination (2014) and Coherence (2013), this unsettling nautical romp is certain to please fans of both. When Jess, a single mother, embarks on a boating trip with her friends, a storm forces them to abandon their vessel for a seemingly deserted cruise liner. Once aboard, the group are faced with a deranged killer, along with waves of psychological mayhem and headache-inducing time loops. 

As the name may suggest, Triangle is centred around the infamous Bermuda Triangle, a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. The region is said to have played setting to, and been the culprit of, a great number of obscure sightings and disappearances leading back to 1492. It was then that Christopher Columbus and the crew of the Santa Maria sailed through the triangle to arrive at Guanahani, though not before reportedly seeing a strange and unknown light in the sea fog. Since then a great deal of boats and aeroplanes have disappeared in the sinister sea-region, from the USS Wasp in 1814 to Turkish Airlines flight TK183 in 2017, some carrying upwards of a hundred passengers at the time of disappearance. 

Triangle does great justice to the eerie and unexplainable legend of the Bermuda Triangle, it’s warping story leaving viewers guessing and re-guessing until its bleak and poignant closing scene. Weight is added through Smith’s use of bloody violence and tense horror, creating a soft hybrid of a film which remains as entertaining and thought provoking now as it ever was. 

Bermuda is not the only area that has a mysterious triangle. The Alaska Triangle has similar tales albeit over land.

The Blair Witch Project 1999

Blair Witch Project 1999 Movie poster with scared face and text

This pioneer of the found-footage subgenre shocked audiences in 1999 with a claustrophobic and wholly believable portrayal of young adults falling victim to the legend of the mysterious Blair Witch. After setting off into rural Maryland to document and hopefully capture some evidence of the insidious figure, including interviewing locals and camping in some questionable spots, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams (playing themselves) soon become lost in the vast wilderness. Seemingly stalked and tormented by the very myth they sought to invoke, the three encounter dread and distress enough to make any viewer think twice about their next camping trip.

Of course, the legend of the Blair Witch is just that, a legend. That being said, it had more of an interesting start than most. Writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez fabricated an entire urban legend regarding the town of Burkittsville, Maryland, plastering missing-person posters around the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and claiming their footage was real. Sundance legally had to confirm the film as a work of fiction, though this did not lessen the impact the marketing ploy had. The rise of a $60,000 indie flick to $248,000,000 blockbuster is staggering, as is the influence the film has had on the horror scene long after its release. 

The Blair Witch Project relied on a strong cast utilising a lot of improvisation to help its desired effect come to life. Not just for the claims of authenticity (though it did help those) but for the raw and genuine atmosphere running through the flick. The actors camped for ten days in the Maryland wilderness while cremembers posed as their antagonist, leaving stick figures and bloody packages at camp, shaking their tents in the early hours. Only Heather, of the three, was given any information about the witch to ensure the others gave authentic reactions and asked plenty of questions. 

While this type of filmmaking can come with complications, such as the actors’ parents being sent sympathy cards over their children’s fictional deaths to this day, it shows a complete commitment from cast and crew. To make something with this impact, small sacrifices must sometimes be made, though we’ll leave it up to the creators to decide whether it was worth it.

Willow Creek 2013

Willow Creek Folk Horror Movie poster with a big foot imprint and red background

When Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) and Jim (Bryce Johnson) travel into Humboldt County, California on a camping trip to find the famous wildman, Bigfoot, their faith and will to survive are tested in equal measure. 

If Willow Creek isn’t a tribute to The Blair Witch Project then it’s at least a loving nod. Effectively sparse and utilising tireless and detailed acting from what is effectively a cast of two, prolific writer/director/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait’s directorial foray into tense horror is a potent one. It shares Blair Witch’s theme and structure almost to a tee, other than replacing Myrick and Sánchez’ fictitious urban legend with one very much known in the real world.

Bigfoot, also referred to as Sasquatch in Canadian and American folklore, is an ape-like wildman of worldwide legend and innumerable alleged sightings. While all accounts of the Bigfoot are anecdotal, or highly disputable video footage or photographs, it manages to retain one of the highest cult followings of any urban legend, with followers deeply entrenched in the culture of searching out and worshipping the elusive ape-man. 

Bigfoot has been a figurehead in popular culture for years, appearing on television, in films and countless pieces of merchandise. A few horror films such as Exists (2014) and Evidence (2012) have included the towering hair-covered phenomenon as an antagonist, though none quite so efficaciously as this one.

Ringu 1998 / The Ring 2002

The Ring Horror Movie poster showing a glowing supernatural ring

This Japanese frightfest and its American counterpart are a perfect example of a western adaptation done right. Japan has always had a distinct and dynamic take on horror as a genre, favouring dark spaces, pale ghosts with jet black hair and some truly unsettling signature sounds. One may think that a western attempt would completely miss the mark (or, as they tend to, miss the point completely) on such an unmistakable style, though Ringu’s remake The Ring proved to be as good if not a more accessible way to deliver its story to a wider audience. 

When journalist Rachael (Naomi Watts) comes across a videotape that allegedly kills people seven days after watching, she must act quickly to decipher the meaning behind the object before it claims her own life. Featuring a solid performance from Naomi Watts along with a morbidly bleak atmosphere and some horrendously chilling imagery, The Ring managed to take an age-old Japanese urban legend and present it in a way certain to scare the worldwide masses. As if Ringu wasn’t unnerving enough.

The story itself is, as you may have guessed, based on an old Japanese legend dating as far back as the 12th century. Somewhere between 1333 and 1346 a fort now known as Himeji Castle was erected on Himeyama hill in western Japan. A samurai named Tessan Aoyama was said to have taken a particular fancy to a young servant of his named Okiku, so much of a fancy in fact that he vowed to take her away and marry her. When she refused his advances, the samurai hid one of the ten priceless golden plates Okiku was charged with looking after. He told her that if she did not agree to marry him he would openly blame her for the plate’s disappearance, an accusation that would undoubtedly lead to her being tortured and executed. In full knowledge of her predicament, Okiku was said to have committed suicide by throwing herself into a well in the castle grounds. Each night, so the tale goes, she would crawl back out of the well, appearing to Aoyama on a nightly basis until he went mad from her haunts. She was regularly heard counting the plates she had sworn to protect, throwing a destructive tantrum whenever she realised that number ten was still missing. 

Ringu proves that a terrifying story does not have to be wholly original; sometimes a rework of an ancient tale will do just nicely. 

Candyman 1992

Candyman Urban Legend Horror Movie Poster with a bee in an eye

Candyman is the quintessential urban legend brought to life. Based on a 1985 Clive Barker short story entitled The Forbidden, the film shares a few similarities. The infamous Candyman, with his aura of bees and hook for a hand, will appear to anyone who either uses his name in vain or flat out refuses to believe in him. Say his name five times in a mirror (yep, that’s where that came from) and he’ll appear behind you, ready to drive his deadly hook into your tender form. That’s if you’re brave or stupid enough to even bother.

A graduate student named Helen comes across the Candyman legend while researching her thesis paper. Her examination into the insidious entity brings his attention right back on her, and soon she finds herself fighting for her life against an age-old evil that apparently only she didn’t know not to mess with.

Candyman has taken his share of inspiration from several sources, most notable of which being the Hookman legend. In the story, a young couple are getting steamy in a parked car when an emergency radio bulletin says that a mental patient with a hook for a hand has escaped the nearby asylum. The girl becomes terrified when she hears something scraping along the car, convincing the boy to drive off. When he does, neither of them notice the metal hook hanging from the door handle. While the similarities here are purely aesthetic, the Hookman appearance is unmistakable in any form.

The other clear inspiration for this 1992 classic is one of the many manifestations of the ‘say their name five times in a mirror’ dare, Bloody Mary. One of the most widely known tales to date, Bloody Mary is said to have been a witch who was burned for practicing black magic, though more modern retellings say that she was a young woman who died in a car crash. Every kid’s first sleepover isn’t complete without a game of Bloody Mary, making her one of the first spirits many of us will have encountered.

Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bermuda_Triangle_incidents

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1187064/

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185937/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/blair-witch-project-true-story-burkittsville-maryland

https://www.mirror.co.uk/film/blair-witch-real-truth-behind-8844017

https://www.vice.com/en/article/8xzy4p/blair-witch-project-oral-history-20th-anniversary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle

https://screenrant.com/candyman-movie-real-urban-legends-inspiration-tony-todd/

https://www.popsugar.co.uk/entertainment/where-does-candyman-legend-come-from-47313482