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.
Occult Legends of Grigori Rasputin
Mind control, secret cults, prophecy, and murder all surround the infamous advisor to Czar Nicholas II, Grigori Rasputin. The story of Rasputin’s life and gruesome end is murky, but as time progresses more and more details reveal themselves about the true extent of his influence of the Russian aristocracy.
A humble beginning
Grigori Rasputin was born into meager means in Pokrovskoye, Siberia in 1869. His family were peasants surviving through farming and his father’s employment as a government courier. Surprising to most is that Grigori most likely was illiterate up until his later years. Peasant families often were not formally educated. As he grew, Grigori was no stranger to petty crime and known to be a mischievous young man with a checkered past. Much is unknown about his formative years, which has lead to many rumors about his wrong doings which were seemingly precursors to his blasphemes behavior as an adult in the court of the Czar.
Grigori’s transformation came after he was motivated to go on a spiritual pilgrimage at age 28. The pilgrimage was to St. Nicholas Monastery in Verkhoturye, a roughly 421 mile trip. He studied closely with staret Makary and subsequently learned to read and write. Grigori’s time spent at the monastery lasted several months. After returning home, looking disheveled and unkempt, he was a different man without vices. He traveled as a Strannik, or a “holy wanderer”, for years, gathering a small group of dedicated followers.
While still living at home with his parents even in his later years, Rasputin coopted his family’s basement and converted it to a makeshift church. His acolytes would gather here in prayer, sing unfamiliar strange hymns, and even engaged in sexual acts and orgies. One rumor was that Rasputin has begun following the fringe sect of the Russian Orthodox Church, Khlysty.
Khlysty’s root origin comes from the work “Khlyst” which translated to “whip” in Russian. Khlysts believed that instead of worshipping and communicating with the Holy Spirit through priests and holy texts, people could communicate directly with a higher power. One man and women, physical representations of both “Christ” and the “Mother of God”, lead each Khlysty Ark (or group). Ark’s regularly practiced self flagellation and the attainment of divine grace through sinful means, such as sexual orgies. This group was often persecuted and largely disavowed by church officials.
Later in life Rasputin seemingly continued the practices from this group with his followers and even his wife. Attempting to obtain redemption in the eyes of the Holy Spirit through sin, he was accused by many women of rape and assault.
At one time Rasputin had been caught violently beating his wife while she held on to his manhood, shouting: “I am your ewe, and you are Christ.” It had also been reported that the virgins that he had laid with had locks of their hair cut off. Evidence of hair was found in 1977 when authorities uncovered boxes containing hair in his garden. – Rasputin: Satanic Interpretations Versus Modern Interpretations by Simran Singh
Some of Rasputin’s occult aura may have derived from his abuse of Tantra. Tantra is a sexual energy used to align with the divine which can be misused if combined with desire. If this occurs, a devil resides in the person causing a split personality one of which would harm others. Could this be where he gained his power?
Rise to power
Rasputin’s true infamy and power came through his charisma and influence. In the early 1900s, Grigori Rasputin became well known in monastic circles as a holy man with great powers. This eventually lead to his journey to St Petersburg, during which time he befriended many in the Russian court and aristocracy. This lead him to the Czar in 1905. Rasputin’s influence over the royal family only grew from there. His acted as spiritual guide, healer, and even political advisor to Nicholas II and the Czarina, Alexandra.
One instance that solidified Rasputin’s close bond with the Czarina was the healing of her sick son, Alexei. Alexei was ailed with hemophelia, an affliction which leaves the sufferer with thin blood and the inability for it to clot. In this case, Rasputin was asked to aid in the healing of Alexei after an internal hemorrhage, which could possibly prove fatal. As a known faith healer, Alexandra desperately wrote to Rasputin for guidance.
Rasputin wrote back quickly, telling the Tsarina that “God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Do not grieve. The Little One will not die. Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.” – Nicholas and Alexandra: The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty by Robert Massie
Two days later, Alexei made a full recovery, allowing Rasputin full influence over Alexandra.
The slow descent
But the elite in the Russian court soon grew tired of Rasputin. Referred to as “The Mad Monk”, they viewed him as meddling and immoral. He was even subjected to surveillance, revealed in the “staircase notes”, which detail his many debaucherous behaviors with women, drink, and bribery. These were published widely in newspapers which only fueled the opposition against him.
This tension came to a head during the first World War. While Rasputin was staunchly against war, he did advise the Czar that if he did not personally take charge of the troops and their actions Russia would certainly face military defeat. Bolstered by his advisors words, Nicholas overtook control from his generals and went to the front lines with little experience. Rasputin’s advice provide disastrous.
During the Czar’s time away at war, Rasputin saw an opportunity to gain full control over the aristocracy and government. With Alexandra fully dedicated to Rasputin’s cause, his influence grew to it’s fullest potential. He soon was able to appoint handpicked officials which aligned with his views. Because of these actions, respect for the royal family declined. Alexandra, who was of Anglo-German descent, was even accused of being a German spy. Rasputin’s impact on Russia as a whole was earning him many enemies whose goal was to remove him of power.
One of these enemies was Pyotr Stolypin, the prime minister, who actively appealed to the royal family to remove Rasputin from the court. Once, while engaged in a heated argument, he later stated that Rasputin’s “satanic eyes” had quelled the argument. This was one of the many instances of Rasputin being accused of using hypnosis to bend others’ will towards his own. Stolypin was ironically assassinated soon after.
The final act
In turn, multiple assassination attempts were made against Rasputin’s life, however, the fatal encounter would take place in Moika Palace. Moika Palace was the home of Prince Felix Yusupov. Yusupov, the Grand Duke of Pavlovich, and the politician Vladimir Purishkevich. They would all participate in the final attempt.
Rasputin was lured by the prince to his home and ushered into the basement where he was presented with cakes and wine. Yusupov had laced each with potassium cyanide. After eating some of the cakes, Rasputin seemed unaffected. He then drank the wine. Still, no effect. Frustrated and incredulous to this, Yusupov finally took the Duke’s revolver and shot Rasputin square in the chest multiple times. While laying on the floor, the men took his clothes and one of them put them on and drove to Rasputin’s apartment. This was to give the perception that he had travelled home that night after their meeting.
This devil who was dying of poison, who had a bullet in his heart, must have been raised from the dead by the powers of evil. There was something appalling and monstrous in his diabolical refusal to die. – Memoir of Felix Yusupov
Upon returning to Moika Palace, the men returned to the basement to make sure Rasputin was dead. When bending down to take a closer look, Rasputin leapt up and charged the men. He managed to escape upstairs and outside until he was shot in the back and collapsed into a snowbank in the courtyard. He was bundled up, put in the car, and driven to a bridge overlooking the Malaya Nevka river. His body was thrown into the river and later found. His autopsy was rumored to show water in the lungs which could mean he actually died from drowning…not from the numerous attacks against him.
Eerily, Rasputin had previously sent this letter to the Czar shortly before his death.
I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st.
I wish to make known to the Russian people, to Papa, to the Russian Mother and to the children, to the land of Russia, what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins, and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you, Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, remain on your throne and govern, and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia. But if I am murdered by boyars, nobles, and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood, for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia.
Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other and hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no nobles in the country. Tsar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death then no one of your family, that is to say, none of your children or relations will remain alive for more than two years. They will be killed by the Russian people…I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living.
Pray, pray, be strong, think of your blessed family.
Ghosts of Gettysburg
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.
The Hand of Glory: A Thief’s Best Friend
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?