I’m Dreaming of a Fright Christmas

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Once upon a time good old Saint Nick wasn’t so free with the doling out of presents to everyone, in fact he was more well known for beating the tar out of little children who couldn’t answer his Bible questions (an adult dressed as the blessed saint and sternly listened to children answer his theological queries, giving small gifts to the ones who got it right and a swift beating to the ones who messed up). Not only was the jolly one rather a buzzkill, but he kept some rather unsavory company.

Santa had a variety of questionable sidekicks in various countries, but one that hasn’t faded into complete obscurity and who is downright horrifying is Krampus, a devil creature with a tongue that could be accused of looking more than a little obscene. See, Krampus didn’t just spank naughty children, he literally stuffed them in a basket and hauled them off to hell. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.

Krampus has seen a slight resurgence in popularity recently, possibly because his iconography is too bizarre to ignore. December 6 is Krampusnacht and there are reports that it’s becoming more popular in Europe. Santa’s darker half originally seemed to serve as the “bad guy” to separate Santa from some of his less crowd pleasing severe qualities that were originally associated with the saint. Part devil, part pagan symbolism, Krampus is a frightening reminder of when celebrations were a little wilder and less family friendly.

Read more about Santa and his rougher, rowdier friends in Bad Santas: and Other Creepy Christmas Characters by Paul Hawkins

References:

Who is Krampus

Christmas Santa Devil

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A Tale With Teeth

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Little Red Riding Hood is possibly one of the most recognizable fairy tales in the world, which may seem a little strange considering how gruesome the story is. Depending on your version a grandmother, a wolf, Red Riding Hood, or any combination of all three characters end up dead in the end all because a young girl gets a bit chatty with the wildlife. There have been plenty of interpretations of the tale, from focusing on the morality of keeping on the straight and narrow to some more disturbing interpretations about awaking sexuality (older versions of the story have Red Riding Hood hopping in bed with the wolf after doing a strip tease…all things that you might have trouble explaining to your preschool after reading THAT version to them).

So what’s the deal? Why does a story about a girl talking to a wolf have so many different versions? Why is this theme so universal (there are 58 different versions of the story from around the world, some much older than the Grimm version)? Maybe the appeal is the ultimate truth that people and situations are often not what they appear to be and one needs to be cautious before dealing with (or hopping in bed with) a slick tongued stranger. No matter how hard we try we’re more than likely going to come across a wolf at some point and a bit of discretion should be applied lest we end up as lunch. Perhaps that is the message that humans anywhere can relate to. We’ve sanitized it and made it more palatable to our children in modern times, but the urgency of the warning remains. Be careful who you trust.

For a recent spin on Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales, try Elizabeth Paulson’s Dead Upon a Time, a book that reinserts a bit of the nastiness of the original fairy tales it borrows from.

References:

http://www.lonely-moon.net/lrrh/interpretations.html

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-are-58-versions-of-little-red-riding-hood-some-1000-years-older-than-the-brothers-grimms-180947704/?no-ist

An American Haunting

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There are plenty of houses in America that claim to be the “most haunted”. It’s a fairly nebulous title to claim considering all you have to do is declare your home one of Satan’s beach houses and suddenly lower tier cable network reality shows will be knocking down your door attempting to hear words in EVPs that sound like random static. That being said, there are some homes that have a legitimate claim on having a less than peaceful history. Here’s a quick rundown of some houses that have VIP status in the world of the otherworldly.

  1. The LaLaurie Mansion- New Orleans

When American Horror Story includes its owner in a season, you’re probably dealing with a house that was less than happy. Madame LaLaurie was once known for having lavish parties and being a New Orleans socialite, now she’s more remembered for being evil incarnate as she built a real chamber of horrors to torture slaves and is documented has having carried out some truly sadistic actions that would have given Caligula pause. The house is said to be haunted particularly by young female slaves. Of course the documentation recently is a little more sketchy considering the home is now owned by investors after actor Nicholas Cage lost it in foreclosure after he purchased it.

2. Farnsworth House- Gettysburg

Fourteen ghosts are said to haunt the premise of a home that had the misfortune to end up in the middle of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War. Used as a hospital and housing Confederate sharpshooters at one point, the house is now a B & B that boasts many a spirit visitor, including a midwife who likes sitting on patrons’ beds.

3. Boone Hall Plantation- Charleston

Another home haunted by unfortunate slaves, Boone Hall once boasted a massive brickyard that utilized 225 slaves to operate. The place is said to be haunted by those with the misfortune to get killed in the very dangerous kilns. All of the hauntings at this house have occurred in close proximity to the kiln. Unlike most of the other haunted houses, Boone Hall seems a bit more reticent to claim haunted house status as there is little mention of any hauntings on their official site.

4. Villisca Ax Murder House- Villisca, Iowa

The murder of six children and two adults in this house has never solved, but that hasn’t stopped the home from becoming a tourist spot for those with a macabre sense of adventure. You can spend the night in this house and paranormal investigators and novices alike have noted doors slamming, children crying, ladders moving and other paranormal activity.

5. Winchester House- San Jose

More famous for the bizarre tale of its owner who was haunted by the souls of those her husband’s guns killed, the Winchester House is a monument to paranoia as Mrs. Winchester constantly had construction going with strange blueprints to confuse the spirits. Halls lead to nowhere, doors open to nothing, and the whole building is made something like a funhouse. That didn’t seem to deter the spirits as the home is considered officially haunted by the state of California.

6. Lizzie Borden Home- Fall River, Masssachusetts

Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks…And no one has apparently rested easy since then. Possibly the most famous American axe murder, the home is now a B & B haunted by the murder victims.

7. Myrtles Plantation- St. Francisville, Lousiana

The story behind this haunting is truly melodramatic and tragic. The tale goes that one of the house slaves, Chloe, had been a lover of the master of the house. Jealous of the Woodruff family (or maybe more accurately and less romantically angry about her captivity) Chloe laced a birthday cake for one of the children with poisonous oleander. The entire family except her arrant lover died. The other slaves, angered at the atrocity, killed Chloe. Her ghost supposedly still haunts the garden (fitting) and images of the children have been seen in mirrors. This home is also now a B & B.

8. Franklin Castle- Cleveland

Owned by Hannes Tiedemann, a man rumored to have been responsible for the murder of several babies, this home is creepy enough on its own, with gargoyles, turrets and imposing stonework. It was also a B & B until fire damaged it. Here’s a great site of some of the strange history of the house.

9. Chambers Mansion- San Francisco

Home to unexplained events since 1977, this house was the property of two nieces of the original owner. One of the nieces was found dead in what was referred to as a “farming implement accident” (a particularly bad one considering she was cut almost in half), but recent research into the case has claimed that the niece was actually murdered by a deranged member of the family. The home is now a hotel.

10. Sprague Mansion- Cranston, Rhode Island

Two more unfortunate recipients of a mansion were the sons of textile mill owner William Sprague. One son went on to become governor, the other was murdered on the road between the mansion and the textile mill. A man was hanged for the crime, but later found to be innocent. The actual murderer was never found. The murder victim, a butler and other ghosts are said to haunt the house.

For a book about a truly wicked haunted house, try M. Verano’s Diary of a Haunting, a novel for lovers of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.