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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

1408 (2007) and the Nine Circles of Hell

Although not a critically acclaimed horror movie, 1408 (2007) was actually an incredibly enlightening horror movie; this movie, for a lot of people, may have come across as a simple ghost story narrative in a haunted hotel room, when in reality the story was a lot deeper than that. Adapted from a short story written by Stephen King, 1408 is actually a modern-day narrative that parallels Dante’s journey into the depths of hell in Dante’s Inferno (1427).

1408 (1999) A Short Story by Stephen King

1408 by Stephen King – Audiobook Part 01
1408 by Stephen King – Audiobook Part 02
1408 by Stephen King – Audiobook Part 03

1408 (1999) is a short story that was penned by Stephen King, it was released as the third story in an audiobook collection titled Blood and Smoke. In 2002, it was collected in written form as part of a twelve-part collection of Stephen King’s short stories under the titled Everything’s Eventual.

In the Introduction, King tells us that 1408 is really just his version of the “ghostly room at the inn,” this was his way of describing the theme of a haunted hotel or motel room within the horror genre of fiction.

The Plot of 1408

Stephen King spins the tale of a non-fiction writer named Mike Enslin–he writes about the paranormal and his goal is to find evidence that ghosts exist. Although Enslin privately does not believe in the paranormal or ghosts for that matter, he feels guilt that stems from his books being best-sellers.

Enter the Dolphin Hotel on 61st Street in New York City–a hotel that has one room with a sinister reputation and Enslin plans on staying there as part of the research for his next book, “Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Hotel Rooms.” Before being given his key to the room, the hotel’s manager, Mr. Olin, gives Enslin the details of the morbid history of it; room 1408 has been responsible for 42 deaths, including 12 suicides over the span of 68 years. Olin insists that Enslin not stay in the room, because he believes there is something evil that resides within, even if he himself does not believe in the paranormal.

One interesting detail that Olin provides is that the Dolphin Hotel doesn’t have a recognized 13th floor, so even though room 1408 is labeled as the 14th floor, it’s really on the 13th. What’s worse, is if you follow the rules of numerology, the room’s numbers even add up to the number 13 (1+4+0+8=13).

The Great Poet Dante Alighieri, and His Famous Inferno (1427)

Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy, the first part of which was the famous Inferno (1427), a poem told from the perspective of the narrator, who happens to be lost in a dark wood wherein he is attacked by three beasts from which he cannot escape. Virgil, the Roman poet having been sent by Beatrice, rescues him from these beasts and together they begin the journey into the Nine Circles of Hell.

Dante's Inferno
Dante Alighieri’s Inferno by Gustave Doré

First Circle: Limbo

The First Circle of Hell is inhabited by virtuous non-Christians and unbaptized pagans–here they are to endure a punishment which is an eternity within a subpar form of Heaven. Those in Limbo live in a castle that has seven gates which are there to symbolize the seven virtues–it is here that Dante recognizes many prominent non-Christian people from classical antiquity like the author Homer, the philosophers Socrates and Aristotle, the statesman Cicero, the physician Hippocrates, as well as the infamous Roman consul, Julius Caesar.

Second Circle: Lust

The Second Circle of Hell is the level at which Dante and Virgil find people who in their lives were overcome by lust. Their punishment is to endure an eternity of being blown violently back and forth by tumultuous winds which prevent them from finding any peace in their afterlife. The winds symbolize the ferocity with which a person pursues the object of lust and the restlessness they find by being led by their desires for the carnal knowledge of their object of lust. Once again Dante sees many historical and mythological people of note–Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra, the Cornish Knight Tristan, Helen of Troy and many others who were adulterous or let their lust control their path in life.

Third Circle: Gluttony

Upon entering the Third Circle of Hell, Dante and his companion see the souls of gluttons who guarded by a worm-monster Cerberus. The sinners in this particular circle of Hell are forced to lay in a vile slush that is caused by an constant sleet. The slush that lay in symbolizes the personal degradation of those who overindulge in food, drink, and other worldly pleasures. Even though there are others laying beside them in the slush, they have an inability to see each other, which represents the sinner’s selfishness and coldness.

Fourth Circle: Greed

The Fourth Circle of Hell, they find the souls of people who committed the sin of greed; this circle is divided into two factions of sinners, those who hoarded worldly possessions and those who spent it on unnecessarily lavish things. These two separate groups are meant to fight each other for all eternity, using enormous weights that they must push with their chest to symbolize their selfish desire of fortune within their lifetime. The damned within this circle is watched over by Pluto–likely due to his ancient Greek origin as the god of the underworld. In Dante’s narrative, he claims to see many clergymen including greedy cardinals and popes.

Fifth Circle: Anger

The Fifth Circle of Hell is reserved for the wrathful and the sullen; while being transported via boat by Phlegyas over the river Styx, Dante and Virgil witness the wrathful fighting on the surface and the sullen drowning below the surface. This punishment symbolizes their sins in life, where the wrathful show their anger on the surface and the sullen drown in their own turmoil.

Sixth Circle: Heresy

The Sixth Circle of Hell is where Dante and Virgil see the heretics that have been condemned to an eternity entombed within their flaming crypts.

Seventh Circle: Violence

In the Seventh Circle of Hell, the two companions see that it is divided into three rings–the outermost ring houses murderers, as well as those who were violent to other people and property in general, wherein they are sinking into a river of boiling blood. The middle ring houses those who have committed violence upon themselves and have ended up within this circle by taking their own lives–these people have been changed into trees and bushes where they are fed upon by harpies. Within the middle ring Dante also sees profligates as they are chased and ripped to shreds by rabid dogs. The innermost ring is reserved for blasphemers and sodomites, who are doomed to inhabit a desert of burning sand as a burning rain falls from the sky.

Eighth Circle: Fraud

Those who are fraudulent are meant for the Eighth Circle of Hell–they are watched over by Geryon, a flying monster with different natures, just as the fraudulent have ever-changing natures. This circle is divided into ten bolgias, or “evil ditches” that have bridges between them. The first is for panderers and seducers, the second is for flatterers, the third is for those guilty of simony (such as those who sold tickets to heaven, or a heavenly pardon to those already passed). The fourth ditch was for sorcerers and false prophets, the fifth for corrupt politicians, the six for hypocrites. The remaining four ditches were reserved for thieves, evil counselors and advisers, divisive individuals, and in the last various falsifiers, like alchemists, perjurers, and counterfeits.

Ninth Circle: Treachery

The Ninth and final Circle of Hell is divided into four different rings and who is housed within them is in accordance to the seriousness of the sin. While all of the inhabitants are frozen in an icy lake, the more severe the sin, the deeper within the ice they are. The first ring is named Caina, after Cain who killed his brother Abel. The second ring is named Antenora, for Anthenor of Troy the primary counselor for Priam during the Trojan War. The Third ring is named Ptolomaea, after Ptolemy, and the fourth ring is named Judecca, in honor of Judas Iscariot, the famous apostle who betrayed Jesus.

1408: The Philosophical Depths That Horror Can Reach

Real Dimensional Pictures on Youtube does a great job making this Philosophical argument that can made when the movie 1408 (2007), or Stephen King’s short story 1408 (1999) are put in juxtaposition with Dante’s Inferno (1427).

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Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle

Ghost Stories Thrive in a World of Skepticism

Within the paranormal community, there are always going to be skeptics, but some of those skeptics actually err on the side of disbelievers—this is a good thing, it’s always better to have a healthy level of doubt in order to pursue evidence without any bias. There have been numerous theories to explain the paranormal phenomena that affect certain people, including but not limited to the natural phenomenon of sleep paralysis, sleep deprivation, drug use, temporal lobe epilepsy, and a psychotic state. This explanation states that ghosts are simply the result of hallucinations or illusions that are produced by the brain when it’s not in a fully alert state. So, what does this mean for the whopping 45% of Americans who believe in ghosts and other supernatural beings?

Evidence Collection in Paranormal Investigation

Something that is considered part of a range of scientific data collection and regularly used among those who are seeking to find evidence of the existence of ghosts, is the EVP, or electronic voice phenomena. EVPs utilize audio recordings to capture ambient sounds during an investigation, then are later reviewed for messages from the beyond. The general consensus is that these audio recordings can register sounds that are inaudible to the human ear, with the understanding that any voices or brief sounds being captured would be ghostly in nature. To believers, EVP recordings seem like incontrovertible evidence of communications from beyond. The problem with this is that, given the opportunity for bias, the content of a recording can be highly suggestive. Without any suggestion from peers, research shows that people cannot agree to what they hear in “conclusive” EVP recordings. This brings down the ability to rely upon recordings as evidence since there can be no clear consensus upon what it is really evidence of aside from pareidolia—the tendency to perceive human characteristics in meaningless perceptual patterns. Combining the illusory quality of EVPs, as well as the misuse of other scientific equipment to investigate ghosts, it’s not difficult to see how scientists can easily debunk any evidence that has been provided by amateur and professional paranormal investigators alike.

Hunting ghosts in the dark
Photography by LuckyLouie

Considering all of the scientific data to back the assertion that ghosts don’t exist, there are substantial numbers of people who still believe in them worldwide. The beginning of televised paranormal investigations has broadened that number significantly and opened up the ability to talk about paranormal subjects without too much blowback from skeptics. There are, however, tendencies to overdramatize events and investigations by some televised paranormal investigative teams—such people seem to be more oriented in the publicity and making events more fantastical than they truly are, which ends up leading to more skepticism instead of belief in the tangible evidence. What does this mean for the believability factor of investigative teams that are supposedly attempting to gather evidence while staying unbiased in the end result? It really means that any factual evidence that may be provided to give any credibility to the existence of ghosts or spirits. Unfortunately, some shows that continue to air are clearly for entertainment purposes only, such as Ghost Adventures, where any evidence being collected is presented with positive bias in favor of those who collected it. The problem with these shows is that they present themselves as true investigative paranormal teams but go to lengths to overdramatize everything they do. This is not to say that they don’t have their own basic value as entertainment alone, they just don’t possess merit as a source of proof when their evidence is bias-skewed EVP recordings.

Telling ghost stories around the bonfire
Photography by Kevin Wolf

So, if ghosts aren’t real, then why do ghost stories seem so common? Well—there are justifiable explanations for ghost stories, whether or not you believe in ghosts it’s pretty much the same answer. Ghost stories exist because people have always needed the ability to relate their real-life experiences. Whether the reports of ghosts have been a result of scientifically explained phenomena, or they’re actual occurrences, these experiences can be incredibly emotional. Were the original tellers of the tale communicating their experiences due to an incredibly heart-warming reunion with their beloved late spouse, or was it a frightening confrontation with a ghostly predator? These are stories that people ache to tell others as if to get a weight off of their chest, or to stop feeling so alone in their experiences. Human connection drives ghost stories and it doesn’t hurt that they’re an amazing source of entertainment.

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: Don’t Take What Belongs to the Dead

While attending college in the Interior of Alaska, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Yup’ik—a Central Alaska Native language—on Halloween of my second year, my professor deemed it appropriate to tell us Alaska Native ghost stories. Hearing these stories in Yup’ik gave unique perspective on the particular experience of growing up in such a harsh environment, his soothing rhythm and melodious speech gave it all an otherworldly feeling. It’s important to keep in mind that while this story is told as a folktale, but all folktales begin as oral stories and all of them have honest beginnings.

The Ghost’s Tea Kettle

Snow covered graveyard
Photography by Joy Real

There once was a Yup’ik man and a white man who were traveling from one city to another, during one cold January, by dogsled. The two men came upon an abandoned fishcamp alongside the river, and wishing to avoid the harsh cold of the evening, they made camp in one of the houses for the night. They had forgotten to bring a teakettle, but longed for hot tea to provide relief from the chill of the night—the white man recalled having passed a graveyard near the fishcamp, in which there were several teakettles sitting beside some grave markers. Upon hearing the idea, the Yup’ik man told the white man that it was dangerous to take something out of the graveyard, but this advice fell upon deaf ears.

Once the white man had gotten back from retrieving a kettle from the graveyard, he began to boil snow for their tea, but the Yup’ik man refused to drink any. The two companions began to ready themselves for bed when they heard a snapping sound, the house began to shake, and fog began to drift in through every crack in the house. The white man panicked, he didn’t know what was happening, but the Yup’ik man explained to him that a ghost was trying to get into the house.

Rusty old tea kettle
Photography by Jørgen Håland

Suddenly, the door burst open violently, the ghost seeped into the house like a dense white mist, and the door slammed with a bang behind it. The white man screamed and attempted to run in fear, but his escape route had been sealed off by the ghost and he was trapped. The Yup’ik man approached the ghost without fear and put his hand on the ghost’s head—the ghost was so cold, his hand went numb, but he refused to remove it, knowing what he had to do. He gently applied pressure on the ghost’s head and the ghost began to sink slowly into the ground, but soon he grew anxious and tried to push the ghost down faster, this didn’t work to the Yup’ik man’s benefit and the ghost started to come back up.

The Yup’ik man steadied himself, took a breath, slowed down and pushed down once more with a steady and firm hand, until the ghost slowly disappeared into the ground entirely. Unable to stay in the house any longer, the two men packed up all of their belongings, the Yup’ik man told the white man to return the tea kettle to the grave from which it had been taken. They believed that returning the kettle that it would give them freedom from the ghost, but it continued to follow them as a glowing red orb—the Yup’ik man stopped and made markings in the snow, these prevented the ghost from following them, but ended with them becoming incredibly sick. Once they got to the next village, the Yup’ik man had them roll in garbage to throw the ghost off of their scent and then according to traditional practice when dealing with ghosts, they both urinated around their house to keep the ghost away. Eventually they recovered from their illness and left them with the experience that would help teach others to not take what belonged to the dead.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Frozen Spectre

Haunted Boardwalk
Haunted Boardwalk

One Halloween night, as the sun slipped beneath the horizon, the young children were coming back from their rounds through the little Yup’ik village on the tundra in Southwest Alaska. The teenagers had waited their turn and eagerly squeezed out of their home, as their mother told them they were allowed to leave. They raced through to each of the small houses that dotted the dark, decrepit, and narrow boardwalks that snaked through the village. Not all of them donned costumes and there was still not yet a flake of snow on the ground, a rare occurrence for such a chilly autumnal night. The tall grass line the boardwalk like two moving walls that whispered with the winds that rushed through the spaces between the houses. They grabbed candy within the first house, then came back out and started back off; at each of the doors, they held their plastic grocery sacks aloft, and they became more heavily laden with candies and treats.

After coming out of the fourth house they spotted something strange emerging from the tall grasses onto the boardwalk behind them—it was a traditional Yup’ik parka, the hood was up and the ruff obscured the view of the face within. It wouldn’t have been strange except for the fact that it had no visible feet or hands. The teenagers sprinted to the next house, scared to death and unsure of what the seemingly floating parka had really been, but they were unwilling to say anything about what they had seen to the adults that were now handing them candy.

Ghost Parka
Photography by Joe Leahy

Between each and every stop for candy, the teens stepped outside and the floating parka had appeared again, as if it was just waiting to scare them. They had all grown up hearing the traditional stories of ghosts and ghouls—all meant to teach them to be cautious in one way or another, as a way to keep them safe in their unforgiving lands. They had a sense that they were being pranked—as if to test their knowledge and preparedness, but not a single one of them could muster up the courage to approach the floating apparition or to try to figure out who was toying with them.

The far north side of the village is where the last batch of houses resided—the travel between where the teenagers were and where their last glimpse of the prized sweets laid was a lengthy weaving, dismally unlit sprawling boardwalk. This path took them directly past the hauntingly abandoned teacher’s quarters that the entire village regularly avoided being near and even speaking about in passing. They made their way down the boardwalk towards this last remaining treasure trove of candy, when the little parka appeared behind them once again. One of the teens looked behind them as they crawled into the artic entry of one of the houses and saw its silhouette looming alone between the spirit-infested teacher’s quarters and the house they entered, blocking their dark and dreadful passage home.

The teenagers reappeared cautiously from the house, but the little parka was nowhere to be seen–each house they exited they huddled together in fear that the ghostly figure would leap out of the shadows and attack them from the front or back, but it didn’t. Then one of the teens gasped and pointed, there it was in the darkness beneath a building, huddled behind one of the steel posts that propped it up from the permafrost–it sat upright, waiting for them. All at once, it sprang up toward them with a hideous scream and chased the teenagers down the boardwalk, growls emanated from the unending abyss of the hood. As the spirit overcame them, they recognized the dead black eyes that sat deep in his sunken frostbitten features; it was the village boy whose snow machine had broken through the ice on the river. The boy had then managed to climb out from what would have been a certain death only to succumb to the elements before anyone could find him, only a year prior.

Broken Ice
Photography by Eberhard Gross-Gasteiger
Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Red Skeleton

Like many other folktales of the arctic region, Yup’ik folklore emphasized keeping children safe from the elements and the dangers of being alone and ill-prepared. This folktale is no different, but it definitely gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it over an early-winter bonfire.

Red skull wall
Photography by Jayberrytech

A very long time ago, in the Cape Prince of Wales, in a village off the shore, there once lived a poor orphaned boy with no one to look after him—because he had no one to care for him, he often found himself being forced to do the bidding of all the other villagers. Every single villager treated him cruelly, especially when they all gathered in the kashim—the men’s communal building where they gathered to stay warm, eat, and keep company during the cold winter months. One particularly blustery night, while the snow was falling harshly upon the village, the other villagers told him to leave the kashim to see if the weather was getting any worse. Due to the fact that he was an orphan, he had no one to make him skin boots or warm clothes, so he objected. It was too cold and the boy did not wish to go outside but was driven out of the kashim anyway. Upon returning inside, he told the others that it had stopped snowing, but the weather had gotten even colder. Every so often, the men would drive him back out into the elements, just to torture the poor boy.

Finally, the boy came in, stating that he had seen a ball of fire that looked like the moon coming over the hill to the north, but the men simply laughed at him. They accused him of seeing things and told him to go back out and to look again, that he might see a whale coming over the hill instead. When the boy quickly returned inside, he looked scared and reported that the red ball had come nearer to the kashim and that it was right outside of the house. Once again, his words were met with laughter, but the boy was truly frightened and hid within the kashim. As the men were still laughing, a large fiery figure appeared on the gut-skin covering over the vent in the ceiling and it appeared to be dancing. The men were both scared and captivated by the figure and did not notice the figure creeping through the passage into the room on its elbows and knees. The figure was a frightful sight—a human skeleton that with a brief wave of its hand somehow caused all of the men in the room to follow it, as it crawled through of the passage to the outdoors. Under the spell of the skeleton, the men followed it to the edge of the village until every last one of them had died of the elements, at which point it vanished.

 Other villagers returned from fishing to find the rest of the men of the village had died, bodies scattered over the snowy landscape. They entered the kashim finally, finding the orphan boy who recounted the entire story and how the men had died—investigating where the tracks of the skeleton had come from, they followed the tracks through the snow, up the side of the mountain. The tracks ended when they came upon an ancient gravesite—it was the grave of the boy’s father.