Happy Haunts Materialize at The Benson Hotel

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Horror Mystery and Lore

From The Shining to Psycho, many of the most iconic horror films of all time are based in hotels – and for good reason. Hundreds of people have stayed there over the decades, and each room has its own history and charm. Of course, sometimes the hauntings are a bit closer to home, such as the Benson Hotel

As one of the most iconic hotels in Portland, the Benson Hotel has hosted thousands of guests since opening in 1913 – including plenty of public figures and every U.S president since Taft. However, the most notable resident is Simon Benson, the hotel’s former owner whose ghost has been seen haunting the halls since his death in 1942.

Numerous sightings of Benson have been reported by guests and staff, with his apparition regularly being spotted descending down the grand staircase in a formal suit. He is also seen by management during meetings in the conference rooms, simply standing there and observing. Benson even likes to cause a bit of mischief with the guests, knocking over their alcoholic beverages in the main lobby. He was never much of a drinker in life, and apparently even less so in death. As the Benson Hotel was his dream come to fruition – he acquired and remodeled it in the early 1900’s – it’s no surprise that he isn’t quite ready to say goodbye to his legacy. 

The Benson Hotel is also reportedly haunted by several other friendly spirits, one of the most famous being a little boy. While it’s unclear who this boy is, there have been theories that he is one of Benson’s sons, or a guest who passed away on the premises. Frequently seen on the 9th floor, this little boy is always looking for a playmate. 

The most famous encounter with this boy came from a female guest who awoke to see him standing beside her bedside table. As a mother of a toddler herself, her first instinct was “to put him back into bed.” However, when she went to touch his arm, which felt solid for a moment, he jumped towards her while making a silly expression, trying to frighten her. The woman momentarily lifted the covers up over her head, thinking he was trying to play. He then jumped into her face again, before completely vanishing. Similar reports have been made by other guests, seeing a little boy who is trying to get their attention in harmless ways. As the little boy is said to love sweets, the hotel management will occasionally leave candy and toys out for him, hoping he’ll come out and say hello.

The hotel is also home to several other spirits, as evidenced by the guest book dedicated to spooky encounters. The apparition of a woman in a turquoise dress and red rings has been seen as a reflection in the mirror of the lobby, while a woman in white has made appearances in the hallways. Truly, do you really have a haunted place on your hands without a lady in white?

When an establishment is over a hundred years old, you’re bound to have a few spirits. The most interesting part of the Benson Hotel, however, is that it’s plagued less by tragedy and more by good ghosts. Benson harmlessly roams the halls to check that his legacy is running smoothly, while guests have reported that they felt no fear or bad vibes from the other spirits. In fact, one instance reports a disabled guest who was struggling to get into bed, when a porter arrived to give them a hand, before vanishing instantly. The employees at the Benson Hotel dedicate their lives to hospitality, and apparently the afterlife too! 

“Happy haunts materialize, and begin to vocalize!” It’s an iconic line from “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” commonly heard on The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney theme parks, but it could also be the slogan of the Benson Hotel! Not only is it one of the most gorgeous hotels in Portland, it’s also a prime spot for your first paranormal encounter. The 7th, 9th, and 12th floors are reported to have the most paranormal activity, are you brave enough to stay there? 

Hexing, Cursing, and Crossing: The Truth Behind Baneful Magic

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

In antiquity, the distinction was made between “white,” and “black,” magic (excuse the quotes, those terms are the most recognizable, although I personally reject the concept of colors in magic). In The Book of Black Magic and Pacts, we’re told that, “Esoteric Medicine, which consisted in the application of occult forces to the healing of disease in man, and included a traditional knowledge of the medicinal properties resident in some substances disregarded by ordinary pharmacy, produced in its malpractice the secret science of poisoning, and the destruction of health.” Every witch knows that it’s not always black and white—many times there are shades of gray.

Baneful magic has existed as long as magic has existed—that is to say, as long as we as a species have believed in helpful magic, we have believed in harmful magic. Hexes, curses, and crosses are but a few of the names that baneful spells within witchcraft or magic culture are referred to as. So why is there such a huge culture of misinformation surrounding baneful magic? Why do people label it as being “black” or “dark”? Well—to be quite frank, it’s simply the result of a bad reputation and possibly a little ignorance. It’s unfortunate that noted authorities like Waite are still being trusted when their beliefs and assertions are so far outdated, but they do give us a good idea of how far we’ve come.

To say his belief that, “White Ceremonial Magic is … an attempt to communicate with Good Spirits for a good … purpose. Black Magic is the attempt to communicate with Evil Spirits for an evil purpose,” would be a ridiculous oversimplification.

Traditions of Baneful Magic: What’s the Difference?

There is a common saying within the community of magic practitioners, that “a witch that cannot hex, cannot heal.” This always seems to strike a foul mood in practitioners who are adamant that magical practices can only include fluffy, happy vibes and should only exist to help people and not to interfere with free will, nor should it be used to harm anyone. The overall concept is that magic itself is not good, nor is it evil. Just like a knife is not in itself good or evil. The operator of the equipment decides how to use it—so if a construction worker decides to knock down an orphanage instead of the building set to be demolished, you’re not going to blame the wrecking ball. So, let’s explore the differences between the different types of baneful magic.

Hexing

Hexing, when it comes right down to it, is a baneful spell—this is a spell cast by a practicing witch—that is intended to cause a specific, non-beneficial result on an intended target. In metaphysical literature, it’s quite common for the word “hex” and “curse” to be used interchangeably, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll be using the word “hex”. That is to say that hexes are inherently evil, as many witches who practice baneful magic typically have a good reason for casting such spells.

An example scenario that a witch might cast such a spell for, is when a mother is fighting for custody of their children through the court system, but the father (and intended target) has a history of domestic violence, drug abuse, or worse. The mother has done everything within their power to secure the safety and future of their children, but somehow the father still has a pretty good chance at winning custody. In this circumstance, a witch could target the father’s lawyer to do poorly in his court performance, which might help turn the tables in the favor of the mother—or—the witch could target the father to have all of his lies exposed.

What is a curse to one person is a blessing to someone else. It just depends on where you happen to be sitting. That’s why the ethical lines are so blurry.

Hexing is a tool that a witch can use to interfere with free will in situations that call for it—of course, there are also individual witches out there who are just nasty people and love nothing more than to watch people suffer. Overwhelmingly, people generally fall into the good category and don’t go out of their way to ruin people’s lives. There is also the lesser-known fact that practicing baneful magic takes an incredible amount of energy and will often leave a witch feeling exhausted, irritable, or even sick. I can tell you from personal experience that the worse the intended hex is, the worse a witch will feel afterward.

Dark Witch in the Woods
Dark Witch in the Woods

Cursing

There are two schools of thought when it comes to what a curse is. Some people believe that a curse is simply, wishing bad things upon someone who has slighted you in some way. This could be as silly as, “I hope you step in water whenever you put on fresh socks,” in an effort to ensure the person is forever uncomfortable—or it could be something much more serious. As a general rule, however, curses are not actually spells—they are manifestations of intentions, with no specific ritual attached to it. Now, some witches may disagree with this definition, but I’d like to reiterate that hex and curse can be used interchangeably. Most often, the layman knows curses as they relate to the grievous incidents that surround certain objects, projects, or historic events.

Famous Curses

There are also curses that have played significant roles in history; we can look at practically any culture on earth and find a curse that is commonly believed to be true. These curses can range from the ridiculous to the significant, but one thing is certain, they get a lot of attention by those who believe in the supernatural and paranormal.

The Curse of King Tut (or the Curse of the Pharaohs)

Tutankhamun is famously known to have been a pharaoh of Egypt during the 14th century, but when the tomb at the base of his pyramid was opened in February 1923, no one could have known the tragedy that would follow. Perhaps this curse is a result of a hysteria over the death of the archaeological team’s lead sponsor just two months after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s mummy. At the time, it was believed that he had died from King Tut’s curse, when the reporters from Britain made the baseless claim—as it was found that he had actually died from an unidentified bacterial infection. However, when other members of the archaeological team died soon after, the curse was revived; ever since there have been movies inspired by the terrifying prospect of being cursed by the mummy of Tutankhamun.

The Curse of the Hope Diamond

When French gem dealer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier purchased a large diamond in the 1660s it was believed that the 112-carat monstrosity had been stolen from the head of an idol in India. The legend followed that the priests of the temple where the idol had been vandalized cursed the precious stone upon its theft. Some believe that it was Tavernier himself that had stolen the diamond from the Hindu goddess’s statue, and the legend of its curse was spread by newspapers and jewelers alike. Its original owner after Tavernier acquired it, was King Louis XVI of France, who gave it to both Princess de Lamballie and Marie Antoinette to wear. Both women along with King Louis XVI were met with the guillotine during the French Revolution and so the curse of the Hope Diamond was born.

After the first three to possess the jewel met such a gruesome death, it was believed that anyone who was unlucky enough to possess it would also die in mysterious ways. Allegedly even jewelers who kept it at their shop met this unusual fate. Henry Philip Hope came into possession of it in 1839 and died the same year, but eventually, it came into the possession of American heiress Evelyn Wash McLean in the 1910s. McLean ended up dying and ownership defaulted to a jewelry company in the U.S. that sold it to the Smithsonian in 1958. To this day, the famously cursed jewel remains on display in the United States through the Smithsonian Institution. Many who want to be more logical about so many deaths would believe that this curse was actually a product of greed, an attempt to make the jewel that much more valuable.

The Kennedy Curse

The assassination of President Kennedy was the lynchpin that marks the beginning of the curse of the Kennedys. Robert Kennedy was also assassinated five years later, Senator Ted Kennedy somehow survived a plane crash only to drive off a bridge later on. Robert Kennedy’s son died as the result of a drug overdose and his second son died in a skiing accident. Then, JFK Jr. died in a plane crash with his wife and sister, and finally the wife of RFK Jr., Mary Kennedy committed suicide. Talk about a family curse!

The Curse of Rosemary’s Baby

Often when movies like Rosemary’s Baby are said to be cursed, it’s typically as a result of a marketing strategy; a means to boost ticket sales and they’re later found to be a simple publicity stunt. There are many who believe that all the negative happenings surrounding the production of the movie wasn’t just a little bad luck.

Ira Levin Reputation Tanked

Despite the book’s adaptation into the feature film and lingering popularity over the last five decades, author Ira Levin’s reputation, career, and personal life were all but ruined. Religious institutions around the world were not pleased at what they perceived to be Levin’s attacks on organized religions, with the Catholic Church even asserting his book was blasphemous. Levin’s wife left him the same year that the film was released and as a result of his poor luck, he became more terrified and paranoid as time passed. Not just that, but due to his reputation as a blasphemer, he had to publicly denounce Satanism on a regular basis and his later attempts to salvage his career with a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby failed miserably.

The Fall of Castle

William Castle, the man who initially picked Levin’s novel up to purchase the rights to the film ended up becoming the producer for the project. Unfortunately for Castle, not only did he develop severe kidney stones, but his mental health also suffered due to the volume of hate mail he received as a direct result of being associated with the film. He later made claims that he hallucinated demonic scenes from the movie while he was under anesthesia during his surgery. His reputation never recovered.

Death, Substance Abuse, and Assault

Numerous other stories are related to the curse that is believed to have surrounded Rosemary’s Baby, one truly famous story involves the film’s composer Krzysztof Komenda, who fell into a coma after a falling accident. Some link his coma to that of Rosemary’s friend within the film, Hutch who was targeted by a witch’s curse. Like Hutch, Komeda never recovered from the coma but instead died the following year. John Lennon was another popular death associated with the curse of the film, since he was assassinated just outside of The Dakota in 1980, the building featured as Rosemary’s prison within the film. Another famous story that is linked to the curse, is the murders of Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate, as well as their unborn child. Victims of the Manson Family and their leader, Charles Manson.

Crossing

Crossing comes from a separate tradition altogether—it’s not technically considered part of the witchcraft tradition, since voodooisants, hoodoos, and folk magic practitioners don’t generally consider themselves to be “witches”. Being cursed with Zombification might not exactly be something that conjure, one wishes for, but as opposed to other ways in which folk magic practitioners practice baneful magic it might be one of the least painful ways to suffer. Crossing within folk magic cultural practices might be similar to curses and hexes in theory, but it’s wellknown that regular “black” magic doesn’t hold a candle (pun intended) to the type of crossing that is done within voodoo, conjure, hoodoo, and folk magic. This is in part due to the fact that crossing often involves personal talismans, like blood, hair, and fingernails which amp up the power of any magical working.

Final Thoughts

As in the article presented by the Scientific American, what really makes people wary of so-called “black” magic, is the “bad is black” effect. “[It] only underscores the importance of finding ways to combat the various ways that our inherent biases can influence perceptions of guilt and innocence.” This essentially submits that anything with the label of “black” is automatically associated with being bad. What should really be taken away from this article, is that hexing, cursing, and crossing are used (much of the time) in a way that vindicates the practitioner of any wrongdoing.

As a witch that practices baneful magic, I don’t often advertise the fact, I prefer to not have to debate, argue, or even calmly explain my own beliefs and practices. Nor do I feel that anyone outside of the practitioner has much of a right to know the whys or hows. I would never divulge on whom these practices might be focused! Witchcraft and any other magical practice is a very personal thing—so, if you’re the target of someone who is claiming that they’ve done black magic on you, or that they’ve cursed you, you can in most cases, discount their claims. No magical practitioner worth their salt goes around telling their targets that they’ve done work on them. You can rest assured that those who claim they’ve cursed, hexed, or crossed you simply want you to believe they have and effectively scare the shit out of you.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes…

A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest … because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.”

Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

Work Cited

Dhruv Bose, Swapnil. “Dissecting the Curse of Roman Polanski’s Horror Classic ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.” Far Out Magazine, 24 Nov. 2020.

Farnstrom, Mary. “A Voodoo Practice: Mysteries of Zombification.” Puzzle Box Horror, 2 Apr. 2020.

Farnstrom, Mary. “African American Folk Magic: Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork.” Puzzle Box Horror, 12 Feb. 2020.

Farnstrom, Mary. “Oddities of the Bayou: Religions and the Occult.” Puzzle Box Horror, 12 Feb. 2020.

Farnstrom, Mary. “Punishment for Grave Robbing Epitomized in Short Horror Film, Toe (2020).” Puzzle Box Horror, 5 Apr. 2020.

Farnstrom, Mary. “Rosemary’s Baby Review: Terror in Plain Sight.” Puzzle Box Horror, 24 Jan. 2021.

Freuler, Kate. Of Blood and Bones: Working with Shadow Magick and the Dark Moon. Llewellyn Publications, 2020.

Farnstrom, Mary. “The Utterly Wicked Truths About ‘Dark’ Magic.” Puzzle Box Horror, 11 Sept. 2020.

Grewal, Daisy. “The ‘Bad Is Black’ Effect.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 17 Jan. 2017.

“The Distinction between White and Black Magic.” The Book of Black Magic and Pacts: Including the Rites and Mysteries of goëtic Theurgy, Sorcery, and Infernal Necromancy, by Arthur Edward Waite, Weiser, 1984, pp. 13–15.

History and Haunting of The White Eagle Saloon in Portland, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore
White Eagle Saloon image from early 1900's

On Russell Street, the White Eagle Saloon has been serving drinks to the community of Portland since 1905. Today, the building stands a regular hot spot on the Eastside of Portland for musicians and travelers alike. Notably marked on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has acquired a set of ghost stories and tales that expands over a century. Polish immigrants, William Hryszko and Bronisław Sobolewski, opened the saloon with intent to help serve other Polish immigrants around them. Yet shortly after opening, the White Eagle Saloon garnished a reputation for itself that would endure a century later: as a puzzle piece of the past in the Albina district. Prostitutes, kidnappings and an opium den are some of the rumors circling what the building, possibly, could have hidden within the walls. The mysterious and mischievous past are never far behind us, and many who stay at the hotel today experience frequent paranormal activity. Stories surrounding the saloon aren’t soon to die, and neither are the spirits still roaming the grounds. 

Oregonian newspaper clipping from early 1900's about Polish Society not being anarchistic

Shortly after opening, the White Eagle Saloon made headlines regarding who occupied the building and what it stood for. Multiple publications in the Oregonian helped to circulate rumors. The Saloon was thought to be an opium den, a brothel, the headquarters for an anarchist group or possibly all three combined. In June of 1906, press surrounding the White Eagle alerted the Secret Service to investigate the happenings within the saloon, believing the Polish members were planning to assassinate President Theodore Roosevelt. Although cleared after investigation, Portland natives were wary of the White Eagle Saloon after this press, which helped secure the saloon’s reputation on the mischievous side. Later that same June, the Oregonian printed an article clarifying that the White Eagle Saloon had, “been misrepresented by enemies”. (1) The Polish immigrants were often thought of as anarchists. Perhaps other members of the community saw them as violent members, as it was reported that many disturbances, such as beatings and brawls, occurred within the property. The Polish immigrants who came to Portland created a circle where they could retain their traditions and share their faith with other Poles. Many of these disturbances were due to politics or religion, as any Pole who did not believe in the Catholic Church was considered an anarchist (1) and one of the founders, Broinslaw “Barney” Sobolewski, was also the Minister of Justice on the Polish Cabinet (7). Regardless of the disturbances within the Polish community, the Saloon stood as meeting hall and refugee for Polish immigrants (3) where, “an immense emblem, a Polish eagle with the American and Polish flags underneath, occupies a prominent place on the wall.” (1)

newspaper clipping early 1900's about a war on vices such as prostitution being planned by the US government.

The White Eagle underwent a remodel from a wooden structure to a brick building, and beginning in 1914 lodging was offered. The original intent Hryszko had to serve their Polish community proved true, as a census taken in 1920 showed that all the guests at the White Eagle were Polish men. (2) Although there is no substantial evidence to prove that the White Eagle Saloon was also a brothel along with the offered lodging, that is not to say that “working women”, or prostitutes, did not frequent the rooms available to rent on the second floor. Proof that prostitution existed in this way on the streets of Portland is shown in an Oregonian article from October of 1917. The article discusses cracking down on prostitution, and that the policy involves, “not only in eliminating regular houses of prostitution, but in checking the more or less clandestine class that walks the streets, and is apt to frequent lodging-houses and hotels”. (4) With Prohibition beginning in 1917, the saloon began to offer “soft drinks”, but it is largely eluded that regular activities were engaged in within. 

Gritty stories surrounding shanghai-ing patrons and enslaved women in the basement have circled the saloon for decades, with little truth ever found behind them. Tim Hills, a historian who researched the origin of the White Eagle, clarified that, “the opening in the basement that is usually identified as the shanghai tunnel is actually a coal chute leading to a trap door in the front sidewalk”. (2) Not only this, but Shanghai activity decreased at the turn of the century, making those dark rumors difficult to believe – thankfully. Nevertheless, rumors of spirits from the shanghai tunnels continue to proliferate even as recently as to my last visit to the bar in late 2019. When asked about the haunted hotel the staff reported that several ghosts from the tunnels have been heard over the years.

It’s natural for a destination of this notoriety to be believed to be haunted. The White Eagle Saloon was a notable location for dozens over the decades, and the idea that spirits of the dead are still attached to the building is not a unique idea. There are a couple of prominent ghosts known to haunt the grounds, with other ghosts poking fun at current hotel guests. Recounting’s of the tales vary in dates, names and other details. With something as intangible as ghosts, these differences are bound to appear. It has been reported that a prostitute named Rose met an untimely fate within the walls of the saloon. The general tale is that Rose was a favored and frequent prostitute around the area, who was often at the White Eagle. Sadly, a customer happened to fall in love with her and schemed up a plan for the two of them to run away together. Hoping to convince her to run away with him, he met up with Rose one night, pleading with her to leave her life of prostitution. Rose refused his advances and chose to remain. In desperation and anger, whether she was pushed down the stairs or stabbed to death in her room, the man then killed Rose. Guests at the hotel reported having seen an apparition of a beautiful woman, with some experiencing the feeling of being touched while in their beds. (5) While the spirits of multiple prostitutes may be tied to the saloon, guests have been reported to experience a run-in with some sort of female energy. Local staff report that most of the activity is rumored to come out of Room #2 in the hotel where she allegedly frequently stayed.

Another prominent ghost is a man rumored to be named Sam Warrick. (6) The tale surrounding Sam is that he was born on the second floor, believed to be birthed by a prostitute. Orphaned at birth, Sam grew up in the White Eagle trading his services for room and board. It is reported that he was a bartender amongst other jobs at the White Eagle. The saloon would be his final resting place, as he never moved away and eventually passed away in his room. Some of his possessions are said to still be in the guest rooms, appearing to have been moved on their own. It’s told that Sam is one of the faces you can see in the old photographs hung upon the walls on the White Eagle, keeping a dutiful eye on his forever home. 

A quick check on youtube has several paranormal investigators who have stayed at the hotel with various measurement tools. Their reports vary and some even report that room 3 has more paranormal activity than room 2. If you get the chance to walk the halls you will see why this hotel maintains such a vibrant haunted past. It is truly spooky in the hotel although it does maintain a warm vibe regardless of the low lighting, creaky stairs and stories of hauntings.

Perhaps it’s the spirits of Bronislaw Szelaszkewiez and William Hryszko that roam the halls, as their spirits are no doubt also tied to the White Eagle Saloon. Regardless of the truth, which many may never truly know, these tales that come from the White Eagle Saloon is an honor itself to the significance the building has had in Portland. The White Eagle Saloon has seen over a century of happenings occur within its brick walls, fluctuating between a safe haven for immigrants or a final meeting place for some souls. Spirits are still welcoming new guests, so feel free to book one of the original boarding rooms any night of the week and test it yourself. If you are brave enough perhaps add the Stanley hotel and Crescent hotel to your list as well, those are certainly on mine!

Oregon has several other haunted hotels also worth investigating including Hood River, Oregon’s Hood River Hotel and The Gorge Hotel.

Index 

  1. Article: The Oregonian, June 25, 1906 “Polish Society Not Anarchists”
  2. Article: Hills, Tim. “Oregon Places: Myths and Anarchists: Sorting out the History of Portland’s White Eagle Saloon.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 101, no. 4, 2000, pp. 520–529. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20615097.
  3. Article: The Oregonian, “White Eagles True Story”, Sep 27,2001 
  4. Article: The Oregonian, Oct 13, 1917, “Vice War Planned” 
  5. Ghost Hunting Oregon by Donna Stewart 
  6. Ghost Hunters Guide to Portland the Oregon Coast by Jeff Dwyer 
  7. Article: “Journal of the American-Polish Chamber or Commerce and Industry June/July 1921” 
Atlas of Lore #1

History of Demons, Possessions, Exorcisms, and the Films They Inspire

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

History of Possession and the Church

On the topic of possessions, it is widely believed that a person’s mind and soul can be possessed by spirits, whether by man, demon, or god. Prior to the biblical explanation of possession, in ancient Greece, the pagans put an emphasis on the belief that the gods would interfere with their daily lives. Their idea of possession was when a God would cause them to act in a certain manner, or simply inhabit their body to achieve an end of their own. Buddhist and Hindu beliefs considered possessive interference by gods and demons to be everyday occurrences; African tribal religions and their respective offshoots consider possession the way that their gods and secondary deities show favor and proof of their power. Christianity over the centuries has been very vocal in regards to possession, declaring that true possession was only ever the work of, “unclean spirits,” either a minion of hell or the Devil himself. There are rare references to possessions by the divine spirit, just as Jesus Christ’s disciples were reportedly overcome with the Holy Spirit after his crucifixion. Alternative theories of this suggest, however, that possession by the divine spirit is actually just the Devil in disguise, in an attempt to fool the vulnerable. Early theologians denied there was ever an instance of possession being anything but the Devil’s handiwork.

St. Francis of Borgia Exorcising a Demon
St. Francis of Borgia – Exorcism by Goya

The Christian culture continues to dominate when it comes to popular theories of demons—any average person is going to associate demons with the Devil and his origin in Christianity—this can be troublesome to those deeply immersed in the religion, as it is still an incredibly popular topic in possession movies. Popular demon culture is the driving force for how we continue to see them in books and films and is what is most concerning to people with respect to horror culture. After all, there’s nothing more terrifying than the thought that a malicious spirit or demon has complete control of your body and mind—that you are what goes bump in the night—and showing signs of unusual behavior or expressing radically different ideals that what was common for the day would essentially damn an individual to being accused of possession. Luckily in the modern era, individuals are given more leeway to change up their perspectives, and essentially change the way their lives are going without being considered to be under demonic possession. Surprisingly, an aspect of possession theory that is not fully explored is exactly how the Devil or his minions claim their victims in the first place. There are two popular explanations within possession lore, that the spirit can pass directly into a person’s mind and soul or by using a witch to curse the victim. Of course, the Church’s position on the method of possession was that the Devil preferred to enlist the help of the evil individuals to do his dirty work—so witches would transmit the demons to the vulnerable through charm, potion, amulet, and most frequently food. The food of choice is the infamous apple—not just the symbol of the fall of man, when Eve took a bite of the apple of Eden, but also a popular symbol elsewhere in folklore, such as the original Germanic tale of Snow White. The only formal rite of exorcism is practiced by the Catholic church, which to this day recognizes clairvoyance, abnormal physical strength, blasphemy, and levitation as proof of demonic possession—the only salvation from possession is a formal exorcism.

The Spiritualist Movement

Many practices began gaining momentum with the spiritualist movements, including the act of psychic mediums inviting possession in order to speak to the dead—the belief is that the possession is temporary and controlled by the medium and their spirit guides. These possessions typically would take place within a séance, in conjunction with other practices such as the use of Ouija boards, or automatic writing.

The Exorcism of Roland Doe

Horror culture classic The Exorcist (1973) was actually inspired by a true story; a thirteen-year-old grief-stricken boy, under the pseudonym of Roland Doe, had recently lost his spiritualist Aunt Harriet a woman who had taught Roland how to use Ouija Boards, as well as many other taboo practices.  Directly following his Aunt’s death, in January of 1949, Roland began to experience troubling things—scratching and other inexplicable sounds echoed from the floors and walls of his room, and his bed would jerk around suddenly. Psychiatrists and their local church were of no help to Roland’s family, but they still sought the help of a local Catholic priest who received permission to perform an exorcism which ended in the priest being slashed by the boy. Roland was still in trouble, scratches appeared on his skin, at night after going to sleep for the night, the boy would scream out, trash about his bed wildly, and speak in tongues. After many failed exorcism attempts, he was finally moved to a hospital where the boy underwent one final attempt, during which he screamed that Satan was with him until the priests called upon St. Michael to rid the boy of his demons. From that day forward, Roland no longer experienced any strange happenings and went on to live a normal life.

Exorcism Movies and TV Shows that you need to see!

Do you have any movies or tv shows about demonic possession and exorcisms you’d like to see on our list? Let us know about them in the comments!

History of Ghost Ships and the Haunted Maritime World

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore
Ghost ship on land
Photography by Massimiliano Morosinotto

What is a ghost ship exactly? Well, within lore it’s a ship that is considered to be haunted by a ghost crew, which brings it into the realm of the paranormal, but really what it is when talking in mixed company that might not all enjoy the odd theory of the paranormal or supernatural occurrences within their safe, normal world, it’s actually just a vessel with no living crew aboard. Phantom ships, as they are also known can be haunted vessels within folklore and fictional sources such as the ghost ship Jenny, but in the realm of the factually supported tales there are often derelict, abandoned, and at-risk vessels floating in the abundant and ever-changing waters of our world.

The Science Behind Ghost Ships

The oceans are a vast wilderness, full of more unknowns than knowns, where the veil between life and death is at its thinnest.

The wild torrents of the oceans hold the most unknown aspects of the entire world, without a vast improvement in technology we can’t hope to learn about every nook and cranny of our own planet. There is literally no shortage of eerie and unexpected tales that reach us from the dark depths of the sea. When there is no one but the crew to witness what occurs in the close-quarters of the most remote regions of the planet, there is an unlimited potential of overwhelming horror that can follow. Only 5% of the world’s oceans have been discovered, explored, and charted–much of which is what lies under the surface–and considering how much of the earth is covered by water (approximately 71%) it’s not difficult to see just how easy it can be a scary place for plenty of people around the world. There is a long history of humanity’s horrors that will continue to haunt the world, despite the more plausible scientific explanations.

True Tales of Mysterious Ghost Ship and Their Legends

The Mary Celeste

The circumstances of the Mary Celeste were never truly understood, but the last entry in the ship’s log had the vessel passing the Santa Maria Island in the Azores on November 25, 1872. When this merchant ship was found on December 4, 1872, it was completely empty of any crew, but still intact and sailing towards the Strait of Gibraltar. The lifeboats were missing, yet the ship was in good condition with a large number of provisions still in the hold and the crew was never found.

The Ourang Medan

February 1948 brought a distressing hail from the Ourang Medan when an S.O.S. was sent through morse code as American ships were passing through the Strait of Malacca along the southern shore of Malaysia. Both the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star responded to the following distress call. “S.O.S from Ourang Medan. We float. All officers including the captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead.” At that point there was garbled code before the last words, “I die,” came through after which, no more communication followed.

Rescuers found a gruesome sight upon reaching the ship, with corpses littering the deck, on their back with their faces twisted in wide-eyed fear and even the crew’s pet dog looked as if it had died from fear. Before the ship could be towed into port, a fire had started within the hold and rapidly spread to the point of the rescuers having to flee and watch from the distance as the ship was engulfed in flames. Although this story in the context of how it has been told seems to point fully towards paranormal events, this ship has little record of having ever existed, but World War II had ended not too long before this story broke. This fact plays into the theory that there were a large amount of deadly chemical compounds that were being sold on the black market–nitro glycerin’s reaction to saltwater in the hold would have produced a mixture of toxic gasses which would have inevitably killed the crew and resulted in an explosion which would have destroyed the vessel.

The Joyita

Another merchant ship who met a tragic end, the Joyita left the harbor of Apia in Samoa on October 3, 1955 with a course for the Tokelau Islands. When the vessel was finally found five weeks later, all twenty-five of the passengers were missing; the radio was broken, but it was clear that a distress signal was being attempted. All of the lifeboats were missing, as was the captain’s log, navigational equipment, and firearms that were kept on the ship. The investigation into it brought no true determination as to the fate of the passengers and crew.

The Baychimo

For twenty years, the Baychimo sailed the seas, but in 1931 it became trapped in the encroaching ice of the arctic ocean. As the ice surrounded the ship, it began to squeeze and crush the hull. A majority of the crew were rescued after two weeks of surviving the elements, the rest of the crew, including the captain, stayed behind in an effort to salvage what they could. These remaining crew members moved off of the boat and camped on the ice, but the weather took a turn for the worse and for nearly two months they experienced an unceasing blizzard. When the snow eventually cleared, the boat was gone, believed to be lost to the depths of the Arctic Sea.

A little over thirty years later, in 1962 Inuit hunters in kayaks caught sight of the Baychimo on its side from a distance; while they were unable to get close enough to gather any information about the ship, they reported the encounter when they returned to shore in Barrow, Alaska. This abandoned ship matched the Baychimo, and after being adrift for over thirty years at sea it was still being sighted and reported until 1969. An Alaskan government search party was launched in 2006, but there has still been no trace since it was last sighted in 1969.

The Resolute

A vessel of the British Royal Navy, the Resolute was abandoned in 1854 after being trapped in ice in Viscount Melville Sound, Canada while on a search expedition to find John Franklin who happened to be a British explorer who had gotten lost in the Arctic. The ship drifted 1,200 miles before being found a year later off of the coast of Baffin Island, Canada having been freed from the ice. Fun fact, the wood Resolute was used to construct the desk that now sits in the Oval Office of the current Presidential Mansion, the White House.

The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is one of the most famous ghost ships, it has made it into the field of legend and has inspired books, movies, and operas. Sailors know this particular vessel, as it has gained some infamy through the tale in which it hovers above the water. It is said that it has been seen to fly even over landmasses. Another part of the legend suggests that it is known to appear inverted upon the horizon, with its derelict masts pointing downward to the sea, a sign which is taken as an omen of misfortune to come.

Others know this to be an optical illusion–this one, in particular, is known as the Fata Morgana, a mirage created by a thermal inversion over the ocean. The Fata Morgana happens when a layer of warm air sits above the layer of cold air and light waves are carried in an atmospheric duct, then curves downwards in a more severe angle than the curvature of the earth. When our brains attempt to make sense of the visual information it is processing, our eyes perceive the light as a straight line. That is not to say that there is no ship, just that the atmospheric reflection is the result of the thermal inversion and not necessarily The Flying Dutchman. This is the same optical illusion that has explained the visual phenomenon of phantom islands and floating castles.

Tales of the Black Freighter (2009)

Althought Watchmen (2009) isn’t exactly a horror movie–unless you account for the horror of complete world annihilation by nuclear war–but the Director’s Cut with Tales of the Black Freighter allowed us to engage with some good ol’ comic book horror. Tales of the Black Freighter isn’t even a paranormal horror in the sense of a ghost ship, but there is a hint at something supernatural occurring within the context of this story. Truly horrific within its own rights, it deserves an open-minded view to really understand the depths of tragedy and fear that lie in the human soul.

Tales of the Black Freighter (2009)

Movies & Films

While not all of these deal with haunted ships, all of them deal with ships and our beloved paranormal and supernatural addictions.

Television Series

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of the ghost ships that are historically known to haunt the waters of the world, it just goes to show how uncertain we are of this enormous portion of this planet. Do you know anything more on ghost ships that we haven’t addressed in this article? Leave us a comment!