Upon doing some research into Eastern European folklore and paganism I came across Vlach Magic which is still practiced in small villages in Serbia. Similar to Voodoo, its a blend of beliefs from the Orthodox Church and ancient pagan traditions. It’s a very secretive and ostracized practice which has been passed down from witch to witch within families. Black Weddings (marriages at funerals between the living and dead), blood, animal sacrifice, black and white magick are an integral part of the Vlach narrative. Vice did and interesting piece on this below.
On this Memorial Day weekend, Americans take time to remember the fallen men and women who died fighting for our country. With great sacrifice, pain, and toil, one can understand why some historical locations are teaming with residual or active hauntings. One of the most infamous of these commemorated places is Gettysburg, PA.
Having lived in Pennsylvania for roughly 4 years out of my life, its no surprise to me that every corner of this state seems to be teaming with stories of the paranormal. New Hope, the Pennhurst Asylum, to Gettysburg, every location has such a rich history. And with such a rich history, also comes tales of sorrow and loss.
Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle during the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over the course of 3 days in 1863. It’s considered a turning point in the war after General George Meade was able to halt General Robert E Lee’s army, preventing the Confederate army from pushing further North. The battle was hard fought and resulted in over 51,000 casualties from both armies. Some of the bloodiest battles occurred during the second day of battle at Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Wheatfield, and Peach Orchard. The Wheatfield, which earned the nicknamed “Bloody Wheatfield”, is a tempting location to focus on. It’s said that when it rains, blood still surfaces on it’s ground. It’s soil being so saturated with the blood of the fallen. But the real area of interest for me is Devil’s Den, the reportedly most haunted location on the battlefield.
Devil’s Den has quite the sinister name and with good reason. It was here that both armies clashed in a spectacular wave amongst the maze of boulders on the ridge. Photographers at the scene purportedly had to move numerous bodies in order to get a clear short of the battlefield. The Devil’s Den was a slaughterhouse, bodies filling crooks and cavities within the rock formation. Every corner and opportunity for surprise attack. After the second day of battle, the Confederates held Devil’s Dean and forced the Union army into retreat. They wouldn’t return until after the war was won. Upon their return, they found a gruesome sight.
Days later, the Federals would return to the Devil’s Den, this time triumphant as the battle had come to an end with a Confederate defeat. As men approached, they were stunned by the scene which greeted them. The hills and boulders were covered in blood and carnage and the dead lay scattered about in every direction. One of the first soldiers to enter the area recalled that some of the dead men “had torn and twisted leaves and grass in their agonies and their mouths filled with soil… they had literally bitten the dust.” – Spirits of the Civil War
Many of the soldiers found at the ridge were not even given a burial. Instead, they were left in the crevices of the rock formations in piles. Thus began the history of Devil’s Den’s paranormal haunted history…or so many think.
A history of hauntings
Prior to the Battle of Gettysburg the area was already home to many supernatural and ghostly tales. The area of land, once inhabited by Native Americans, was the location of “The Battle of Crows”, where many lost their lives.
A Gettysburg writer named Emmanuel Bushman wrote in an 1880 article of the “many unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds” that were reported in the area of the Round Tops and what he called the Indian Fields. He wrote that the early settlers had told stories of ghosts that had been seen there and that Indian “war-whoops” could still be heard on certain nights. In addition, he reported that strange Indian ceremonies also took place here. – Spirits of the Civil War
Apparitions of Devil’s Den
Multiple apparitions have been seen in this areas including a man who helped two lost hunters find their way home after losing their way in the woods, only to vanish. Another visitor to the park reported stopping to take a photo and was surprised to see a man standing next to her when lowering her camera. He said to her, pointed to an area behind them, “What you’re looking for is there.” He disappeared moments later. This apparition has been seen many times after this incident, including by park rangers. The man, with an unkempt appearance and no shoes, is thought to be a Texan Confederate solider. Texans held the majority of Devil’s Den and being so far from home often didn’t receive the same care packages of their comrades. For this reason, the Texas troops were know to look dirty and wild…often having missing shoes.
A Personal Paranormal Gettysburg Experience
The Farnsworth House Inn
One of my own paranormal experiences happened in Gettysburg at the Farnsworth House Inn. During the war it acted as a hospital and eventual resting place for wounded Confederate soldiers. The home even sustained some fire during the war, which is evidenced by the 135 bullet holes which still riddle the side of the brick structure. Now it functions as a bed and breakfast, so of course during my trip to Gettysburg I was determined to stay there.
The McFarlane Room
For our stay I chose the McFarlane room in the original portion of the house, built in 1810. In addition to the Sarah Black room, the McFarlane room is reported to be one of the most active rooms in the house. Upon arriving front reception remarked, “Jeez, why’d you choose that room? I wouldn’t stay there.” And so began our weird adventure. Once we got to the room, I was both excited and terrified since the room decor made it look like a literal coffin. It’s incredibly accurate to the time period and also incredibly dark, even during the day. We settled in and began unpacking.
So it began…
Things seemed normal at first, despite the eerie vibe the room gave off. I went to go use the bathroom. I finished up and washed my hands in the sink, looking in the mirror half expecting someone to be standing behind me, looking back. This did not happen at any point in the stay. However, after going back to the main room, sitting on the floor, and continuing to unpack. I faced the bathroom with it’s door partially closed and heard water running. At first I thought it might be the toilet continuing the run since it was an old fashioned high tank toilet with a pull chain to flush. It seemed a bit louder than that, though.
I looked at my boyfriend at the time and said, “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?”, he replied.
“It sounds like water running.”
We both locked eyes and looked very nervous and confused. Even though I love a good ghost story probably way more than the next person, I was not going to walk into that dark bathroom to see what was up. I made my boyfriend investigate and as he opened the bathroom door he said, “The faucets were turned on.”
A Sleepless Night
Needless to say we both were pretty creeped out, yet excited about our experience. Feeling very uncomfortable in the room, we made our way outside the inn and made our way over to Gettysburg National Cemetery under the cover of night to explore. After walking around a bit, we walked down to a pub in the main square and spent as much time there as possible until we had to make our way back to the room to “sleep”.
After making our way back, we headed to our room and began to settle in. First off, I refused to shut the bathroom door again while using it. I also made my boyfriend turn on the light for me. I knew I was in trouble when we got into bed and my boyfriend’s ability to basically fall into a coma in 5 minutes reminded me I would be alone in the room, and awake…for a long, long time. It was hard to close my eyes without feeling like someone would be staring at me from the end of the bed or directly in front of my face when I opened my eyes. I did fall asleep eventually, with all the lights in the room on.
In the morning we woke up and started getting ready for the day when we realized the door was ajar. We opened it an saw that the old deadlock was still turned to a locked position. Something had come into our room at night. We were happy to be leaving that morning.
Haunted History of the McFarlane Room
Most interesting are the stories found about the room after we left. Here’s some from Hunters of the Unknown.
The claims from the McFarlane room include water turning on in the bathroom by itself, footsteps overhead, the room being extraordinarily hot or cold, a baby crying (no children can stay at the inn), and a creepy feeling to the room.
…The man staying in the McFarlane room was trying to sleep when he heard what sounded like drunks in the hallway so he goes to check it out but finds nobody in the hallway. He returns to bed and his bed started shaking. He looked at bottom of bed and found two shadow figures of men standing at the end of bed. One man said what should we do about the Yankee sleeping in my bed? The other replied we should slit his throat. The man jumped out of bed and fled out the door.
…A guest in the Eisenhower room, across the hall from the McFarlane room, heard what sounded like someone being murdered in the room across the hall. He went to check it out and saw a man burst through the McFarlane room and passed out in hallway from fright. When he woke he told the man he couldn’t stay there, left his luggage, and moved to the Holiday Inn. His luggage had to be brought to him the next day.
Luckily we didn’t have any encounters with the confederate soldiers in the room, but we did have a few good stories to tell when we got back home. Have you had a paranormal experience? Visited Gettysburg? Both? Tell me your story below.
While walking in New Orleans it’s easy to miss the large brick building with the bright red door at the corner of Ursuline and Royal street. In 1902, it would be home to one of the most infamous vampires in the world outside of the Vlad the Impaler. One could even argue Saint Germain far surpassed Vlad in his thirst for blood. In the dark streets of New Orleans, Germain hid in plain sight as an opulent member of the city elite. Jacques had a mysterious and colored past which he conveniently left behind before his voyage to the recently settled New Orleans which would allow him to lure many a soul into his home to their own peril.
While Germain moved into the New Orleans mansion in 1902, oddly enough he was rumored to had been born sometime late in the 17th century. Jacques Saint Germain claimed he was a descendant from Comte (Count) de Saint Germain. Details point to Comte being a prolific alchemist during the 1600s (far before his supposed birth). During the time, society became enamored with alchemy. Alchemy was the sibling to modern day chemistry and involved transforming matter into various materials, specifically base metals into gold. Another goal of the alchemist was the search for the Philosopher’s Stone; a stone that grants the wielder immortality. Many believed Comte was the holder of this stone. Supporting this theory, Jacques looked hauntingly familiar to his supposed ancestor.
The Undying Time Traveler
But if Saint Germaine was born in the late 17th century, why did people believe he was immortal? Well, sightings of the Count can be traced all the way back to the wedding at Cana during the time of Jesus Christ. Imagine being a witness to infamous water turned to wine transmutation! He may have also been present for the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D..
Regardless of rumored history, a handful of notable historical figures spoke regularly about a character eerily similar to the Count; these included Voltaire, Casanova, King Louis XV, Catherine the Great, and Franz Anton Mesmer, the father of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. To add to the err of mystery, New Orleans residents commented on the uncanny resemblance between the two and even started believing that Jacques could be Comte himself, ageless and immortal (an accusation Jacques would neither confirm nor deny).
The first record of his suspected immortality was at a party at the manor of Madame de Pompadour, then mistress of King Louis XV of France. The year was 1760 and a confused Countess von Gregory approached the man, thinking it was the son of the man she knew in 1710, whom she knew to be the Count de Saint-Germain also. On approach she discovered it was the same man who didn’t seem to have aged a day in the fifty years that had passed. It is noted that the Comte didn’t even deny that it was him, or play himself off as the son. It is even said that he joked with the Countess that he was indeed over 100 years old. – Mardi Gras: Celebrate New Orleans with Vampires, Parajunkee
There is a record of Comte’s death in 1784, however, he continued to be sighted across Europe. Each sighting he was reported to never appear a day over 45 years old, despite pushing at least a century and a half.
The Mysterious Stranger of Royal St
Why Saint Germain traveled to New Orleans is anyone’s guess, but when he arrived, he arrived with a bang. Upon moving into the home at Ursulines and Royal street, he threw a lavish party to essentially announce his arrival. Jacques had a mysterious past but it didn’t matter to the local elite since he was one of the wealthiest and cultured people in the city. He was charismatic, spoke numerous languages, and told engrossing tall tales of adventure. These parties became a regular occurrence for the new debutant. Despite never eating any of the food provided, and only drinking what appeared to be red wine, the public took to the charismatic new character of the French Quarter. But Jacques’ time in the Big Easy would be short lived.
A Bloody Turn
It wouldn’t be the rumors of his past history that would plagued Saint Germain in the end. Instead, it only took one jarring incident to truly immortalize the vampire of New Orleans.
During one of his extravagant parties, a young woman somehow coerced into a secluded area of the mansion, found herself exploring the luxe room. With her back to Saint Germaine, she was unaware of his intentions. She spun around to see him charge at her with alarming speed and ferocity. Upon pinning her to the wall he began biting into her neck, drawing blood.
Party goers looking to find their host ventured to the room and began pounding on the door, coaxing Jacques to come out and join the rest of the party. This startled Jacques and allowed for the woman to get away. Not seeing any other mode of escaping her attacker, she eyed a window leading out to a balcony, which she threw herself out of. Upon hitting the street she had broken bones in her feet and legs and cried out for help. Police arrived and the woman taken to the hospital. The explanation from Jacques? She was just drunk.
The police, not taking this justification at face value, told Saint Germain they would need him at the station first thing in the morning. Because all criminals should be allowed to get a good night’s rest, right? Morning came and Saint Germain was not at the station. The police immediately went to his home only to find that not only was Jacques Saint Germain no longer in the residence, neither were any of his belongings. Out of some of the trivial trinkets left behind police found no food, utensils to eat with, or any evidence of someone who consumed any sort of food. There was one macabre memento left behind; Saint Germain’s many bottles of red wine which upon taste were found to be partially mixed with blood. Upon further inspection police found rooms covered in blood stains, each seemingly having occurred at different points in time.
A bloody and violent history left behind, no one could ever track down the vampire of New Orleans, Jacques Saint Germain.
Over the centuries, the folklore surrounding The Hand of Glory was passed down between generations as an extremely powerful token. The Hand of Glory, or main de gloire, is a severed human hand from the body of a hanged man. Carrying mystical powers, stories tell of it being a prized possession of thieves and criminals for it’s potent powers. Accounts vary surrounding it’s actual capabilities and ways to absolve yourself of it’s wrath, but it remains one of the most intriguing stories of the magical and the macabre.
Crafting the Occult
The process for crafting a Hand of Glory was very precise and doesn’t vary too much across folklore. It was either the left hand or the hand which committed a nefarious act they were found guilty of. The left hand was often viewed as the unlucky or evil hand. Sinistra, the Latin word, originally for “left”, took on darker connotations and soon became used to describe sinister acts. Sorry all you lefties! Ideally it was removed during a lunar eclipse or at least during the night.
The hand was dried and pickled once the body was cut down from the gallows. Pickling consisted of first draining the hand of all blood then positioning the fingers. Most imagery depicts the hand as standing vertical in a natural pose but there were instances where the palm was laid flat and the fingers bent back at a 90 degree angle to be used as candles. It was then treated with a pickling solution, wrapped, and set to cure for 2 weeks. Once unwrapped it would be allowed to dry then the wax added to the fingers. Often the wax was made from the fat of the hanged man, along with wicks made of their hair. These were placed at the tips of the fingers to be lit.
Roots of the Mandrogore
The history of the hand dates back to medieval times and can be seen as early as the 16th century in texts. In general, we can see a similar thread woven throughout the folklore – the hand of a deadman has always had mystical powers.
The hand’s roots, no pun intended, can be traced back to the French phrase Main de Glorie; a moniker for the Mandrake root. The word mandrogore, the French version of mandrake, bares a striking resemblance to Main de Glorie. It’s no stretch of the imagination to see how closely the two are related. Also contributing to the lore surrounding the hand was the belief that the plant grew from the seeds of a hanged man below the gallows and would even emit a glow during the night. They also looked eerily like human hands.
Earliest references to the legend of the mandrogore were present during the 15th century but the story seems to have transitioned to the hand sometime between then and the 16th century.
Swiss Army Knife of the Supernatural
Where this story varies greatly are the actual perceived powers of the Hand of Glory. Some of the more common stories told of the hand involve it’s ability to render anyone in it’s presence immobile or to fall into a deep sleep. It can also unlock any door encountered as well as glow bright when near treasure. It’s flames are nearly impossible to extinguish once lit in some stories. The most gruesome source of this everlasting light is from German folklore which refer to the hands as “thief’s lights”. When the fingers are procured from a pregnant hanged thief’s unborn child, cut off with the hangman’s axe it becomes almost invincible.
Gall of the Black Cat
As I mentioned above, some versions of the hand were seemingly inextinguishable; but there are some methods rumored to render the hand ineffective.
The only known way to extinguish the flames was with sterilized milk. An easier solution was to prevent even encountering the hand by preventing it from even entering your home. Simply rub your doors and windows with the gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hen, and the blood of a screech owl. All simple things to find, right? The door must be anointed during what’s referred to as the dog days of summer. This is a period from July 3rd to August 11th during with the dog star, Sirius, ascends to the sky.
A lot of people wonder if these legends were reality. Would people really go to such lengths to have such rumored power? The simple answer is yes. Up to recently the last physical Hand of Glory could be seen in the Whitby Museum. Perhaps we doubt the hand’s power since it’s too macabre of a concept to dare to attempt. What do you think would happen if you lit those fingers?
Relevant quiz from the always on point Reductress. You know, I’ve always wondered…