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Zombieland, Pennsylvania

Zombieland

Hillsville, Pennsylvania

Along the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania, in Lawrence County, just north of the small Italian immigrant populated village of Hillsville is a unsettling quiet and eerie region locals call “Zombie Land”. Mainly “urban legend” than actual historic folklore are tales of the macabre, mystical beasts, deaths, and grisly murder. There is definitely a feeling of “odd” and “something not right” when entering this several mile strip of heavily wooded spots meeting farming, transportation, and industrial works along Lawler Ford Road a.k.a. “Zombie Road” or Route 224.

The Virgin Mary:

It begins around the old St. Lawrence Catholic Church which has long been converted to a private residence and its accompanying graveyard along route 224. There is a alcove with a statue of the Virgin Mary who has a creepy air about herself. Legend has it, she will greet visitors with open arms when it is safe to enter Zombie Land, and have praying hands when it is not. In the 1990’s it was reportedly vandalized and a plexiglass (or glass) window was installed to protect the statue.

St. Lawrence Church and Graveyard:

Some say the gravestones behind this church glow at night. Others say it is at the Presbyterian graveyard down the road. We’ve been to both, and outside of solar-powered grave lights, there is no glow. Others say it is a historic stone in the older part of the graveyard behind the old Church (St. Lawrence) that has a particular shine that reflects off the full moon or light from the house (old church). We unfortunately during our night visit did not see that section, although we did explore the two graveyards – seeing no glow, but experiencing the eerie ambiance.

The Hilltown Bridge:

Just down the road from the St. Lawrence Graveyard north is the Hilltown Bridge. The original Bridge in March 1913 was swept away and has since been replaced by a new concrete monster. It was torn down again in 2007 and replaced with a modern concrete span. It is from this bridge that reports of unexplained lights moving around it and underneath, like the Will o’ Wisp has been reported. Also some say one can hear screams and gun shots from the bridge at night. It has also been reported to be a “crying bridge” with sounds of a crying baby underneath, with the urban lore that a mother tossed her child over the edge. It has reports of suicides being conducted from its rails.

The Killing Fields or “Murder Swamp”:

Just north of the Hilltown Bridge are the “Killing Fields” where at night many report hearing screams and gunshots. In the woods bordering the railway some say there are “ghost whistles” to be heard late at night. If one parks near the rails, strange things will happen to the car. It is also reputedly where a serial killer dumped more than a dozen bodies with decapitated heads in Zombie Land. From 1921-1942, between Mahoningtown and New Castle, over 15 bodies were found in the swamp and may have been the same serial killer who conducted decapitations in Cleveland around the same time. There are many stories of the Italian Immigrants who settled in the area also killing many farmers, authorities, and residents leaving them in the Killing Fields to decay. It was in 1907 when several Italian men in Hillsville, believed to be associated with the Italian mafia/mob who proclaimed that “No person in the Hillsville district, either Italian or American, will give the slightest assistence to any officer desiring the prosecution of Italian offenders.” and it was then that a Hillsville farmer allowed an officer named Sealy Houk to use his phone to effect an arrest of an Italian found to have killed his cow. It is believed that the officer was killed and dumped in the “Killing fields” of the region, discovered by a train passing by. Three days after Houk’s body was discovered, three Italian mob men went into the fields killing and pouching animals, aggrivating and attacking (murdering at least one – William Duff) farmers who tried to stand in their way.

The Mines:

There are said to be various mines in the area used by the mafia from Youngstown to dispose of bodies. While travelling through area, we only saw signs for “Limestone” mines.

Skyhill Road Bridge:
(aka Frankenstein Bridge, Hookman’s Bridge, Ghost Bridge, Graffiti Bridge)
A few more miles down into Zombie land on Skyhill Road is a small bridge that was built in 1917 crossing off the Coffee Run River. It also has been replaced in 2013 changing the eerie attraction. It became to be believed to be haunted by the “Bridge People” and the “Hook Man”. Apparently they were mutated zombie-like people who lived nearby that were bothered by people hanging around the bridge so would hunt them down to maim or kill them. It is believed that if one writes someone’s name on the bridge, the “Bridge People” or “The Hookman” would go murder them. The bridge is covered with peoples names and symbols. The Original bridge had wood railings where the graffiti would be, but now a metal railing, the graffiti is on the asphault itself. Oddly, underneath the bridge are lover’s dedications and love notes scrawled on the walls. The Hate is above, the Love below. We also saw the corpse of a dead deer lying halfway on the ground and in the water, half-wrapped in a garbage bag like an offering to the Bridge people. Someone else writing about the Bridge also stated there was a dead deer but that was back in 2016, so a different dead deer. It is said a young boy leaped from the bridge killing himself as a suicide.

The Zombie Torch:

Right around the corner from the bridge west is the Eternal Flame dedicated to the Zombies that haunt the woods. The mutant colored metal pipe protruding from the ground is just a stone’s torch from the road – it is a iron pipe venting fumes from the natural gas field below. If one lights the torch it will anger the Bridge People and the Hook Man, summoning them to cause death unto the one who lit it.

The Blood House, Bridge People, Hook Man:

Deep in the woods near the bridge and torch is the purported home of the Bridge People and/or Hook Man. It is said also to have been the home of a wicked witch named “Mary Black” who snatched and murdered children of the area, buring them in the fields. It has long been burnt down and demolished by authorities and no longer exists. Others state that the Blood House is located off of Erskin Quarry Road and had a small graveyard attached to it. Some say the Witch was a woman who went crazy and hung her children. Others say it all happened when some mental patients escaped and settled in the area. Others say the “Bridge People” were mutant-like residents of the woods who suffered from “hydrocephalus” or “water on the brain” that settled in the area along the Mahoning River to avoid being harassed for their deformities. They were also nicknamed the “Light Bulb Heads”. A escaped mental patient nicknamed “Zombie” who was a serial killer supposedly lived in the woods along this road. Some claim that his bloodied hospital gown was once found on the road and murdered local kids. Other paranormal investigators call the “Bridge People” as the infamous legendary “Shadow People” of lore. There is some belief that the “Hook Man” came from the Killing of Seely Houk written about above.

The Railroad Bridge:

Along Coffee Run, at Robinson’s Crossing, just north of the Manoning River, within Zombie Land, not too far from all the haunted locations is a Railway Bridge still in use by CSX trains was the scene of a grisley rape and murder of a 12 year old girl named Shannon Leigh Kos. Her boyfriend and two other 20 year old boys brought her there, raped her, and stabbed her to death. They attempted to burn her body, but her remains were found by the bridge three days later. The sick criminals – William George Monday (21), David Christopher Garvey (20), and Perry Sam Ricciardi II (20) were arrested and convicted. There are purported rumors that Robinson’s Crossing was once a popular “lover’s lane” but police reported many arguments and spats, domestic violence calls, etc. were popular there as well as abandoned dates they had to come to escort home. Rumors of suicides at this spot as well as the other bridges are also common.

The Glowing Green Man:
There are legends of a green man who had been burned in an industrial accident that lived in the area. Others say he was a local handyman who was electricuted and had a light green glow to his skin. According to Jim Mosley, the Green Man not only existed but was someone whom he had met on occasion through his wanderings in Zombie Land and spent many evenings drinking with him at the local pub. His real name was Raymond Robinson.

A zombie land facebook fan page exists here: https://www.facebook.com/ZombieLandHillsvillePA/ and t-shirts are sold at a local beverage shop.

Recommended Reading/Bibliography:

  • Associated Press 2000 “Accused told police of Killing”. The Associated Press. Website referenced on 11/12/18 at http://www2.sharonherald.com/localnews/recentnews/0011/ln111600f.html
  • Lawrence County Memoirs n.d. “Zombie Land – Hillsville PA” website referenced 11/12/18 at http://www.lawrencecountymemoirs.com/lcmpages/1073/zombieland-hillsville-pa
  • Reddit 2016 “Gruesome Murder of a Girl I Knew NSFW” by u/nebbles1069. Website referenced 11/12/18 at https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/462b6r/gruesome_murder_of_a_girl_i_knew_nsfw/
  • Penn Live e2016 “From Hell’s Hollow to Zombie Land: 13 western PA places with haunting legends. Website referenced 11/12/18 at https://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2016/10/haunted_western_pennsylvania.html
  • Summers, Ken 2011 “The STrange History Behind America’s Creepiest Zombie Road Legends … and How You Can find them”. Website referenced 11/12/18 at http://weekinweird.com/2011/09/26/home-zombie-roads/
  • Tinsley, M. Ferguson 2000 “This time, Zombie Land tale is true”. Post-Gazette Staff. Website referenced 11/12/18 at http://old.post-gazette.com/regionstate/20001031zombie1.asp
  • Torisk, Emmalee C. 2013 “Urban legends haunt Zombieland” : Vindy.com. Website referenced 11/12/18 at http://www.vindy.com/news/2013/oct/29/urban-legends-haunt-zombieland/
  • Warren, Louis S. unknown “The Hunters Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth Century America”. Website referenced 11/12/18 at https://books.google.com/books?id=OfeB1wAdQHwC&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=killing+fields+hillsville&source=bl&ots=GdJ2Dgjuqh&sig=A0EsgLm8cPefd44V8l6owSsq0IQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiZocuBqtDeAhUp11kKHYObBIsQ6AEwFXoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=killing%20fields%20hillsville&f=false

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Holy Wells and Sacred Springs

We have a collection of Springs and Holy Wells from around the world at www.technogypsie.com/naiads/. Please see our full collection there.

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Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Photos from visits in 2011 to Holy Wells and Sacred Springs. 8 July 2011: Giants Well at St. Michael’s Mount; Madron Well. 31 October 2011: Chalice Well and White Spring, Glastonbury, England. Well of Tara.

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The Tree Leaves Oracle & Folk Fellowship

The Tree Leaves’ Oracle and Folk Fellowship
* www.treeleavesoracle.org * 1991 – Present * Livejournal Community * Facebook Group *

Founded in 1991 as an underground Neo-Pagan newsletter, evolving into an arts and crafts wandering business, “Tree Leaves” eventually mutated into a cooperative / collective of folk enthusiasts, folklorists, artists, musicians, religionists, and culturalists who seek to preserve folk and tree lore, culture, ways, religion, art, music, and beliefs. As a cooperative, members network together, share ideas, theories, concepts, art, techniques, and lore to help one another preserve traditions, knowledge, and beliefs that have been generated in the past, present, and future. Tree Leaves sprouted from an entity known as “The Tree Leaves’ Oracle”. (The Tree Leaves’ Oracle started as a community newsletter and grew into a journal. It became an organization, a store, a company, and was reduced back to a journal offered by the Folk Fellowship to it’s membership. From 2007-2008 it became a faerie and art store in historic Manitou Springs, Colorado.)

When “The Tree Leaves’ Oracle” started out as a Tallahassee Florida publication in 1991 it very quickly shifted into a nomadic arts/crafts/oils/ and herbal sachets nomadic peddling business founded at the Saturday Market in Eugene, Oregon that same year. In 1993 a not-for-profit special-interest group was formed for the study of folklore and the offering of folk artist networking as a avenue for drum circles, talent shows, classes, and discussion groups. This special-interest group became known as “The Tree Leaves’ Folk Fellowship”. Tree Leaves soon took off on it’s own and escaped the financial support of “The Tree Leaves’ Oracle”. In fact, as the “The Tree Leaves Oracle, Inc.” collapsed as a corporation, the Folk Fellowship was still holding activities and networking several hundred enthusiasts of folk culture (and a membership base of a couple hundred). The Tree Leaves Folk Fellowship was officially born and founded as a separate entity in November of 1995 with conceptual activities sprouting in 1994. Through membership dues and support, the fellowship offered it’s collective a bi-annual journal called The “Tree Leaves’ Oracle”, a quarterly newsletter known as “Tree Talk”, an annual membership directory, a web site, and a board of Directors and volunteers who actively organized activities, events, and question/answer support for those seeking answers about folk culture. Because of difficulties with volunteer support, The Tree Leaves’ Folk Fellowship closed it’s person-to-person activities and community support on September 1st of 1998. By October 1, 1998 Tree Leaves had mutated into a internet organization that operated on a strictly cyber-basis. (although Tree Leaves’ Folk Fellowship forest groups still held activities in their local areas) The official organization stopped holding events, printing paper publications, and no longer offered telephone or person-to-person guidance & support. After careful consideration of the expenses involved in becoming a non-profit tax-exempt organization, Tree Leaves decided to remain not-for-profit and allow other organizations to donate support and funding for it’s operation and existence. The journal, website and former newsletters were shortly made available for free online. Their folk journal is sporadically still published online for free viewing by anyone with internet access. From 1998 to 2000, Tree Leaves was adopted by the research and design firm known as “Leafworks, Inc.” (a company now defunct). From the death of Leafworks, Tree Leaves operated under the wings of Wandering Leaf Designs. Reproduction of all cyber published materials was available for a nominal printing or reproduction cost through copyright held by Wandering Leaf, LLC. (now defunct)

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Vampires / Vampyres


St. Michan’s Church Crypt, Dublin, Ireland
legendary inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Vampires
A creature of lore, legend, folktale, and myth that is believed to be an undead human (human brought back from the dead) that either feeds on the blood or life force of living humans in order to survive. There is much controversy in the folkloric record on whether vampires either drank blood or just fed off the life energy of others. Some believe that “blood” is the best representation of “life essence” and is therefore what vampires need to survive. Vampires are mentioned and recorded in numerous cultures around the world, described in history as old as man him/herself. Older parallels of similar creatures in legend, such as the Old Russian “????? (Upir’)” seem to date much earlier at 1047 C.E. mentioned in a colophon in a manuscript of the Book of Psalms written by a priest who transcribed the book from Glagolitic to Cyrillic for the Novgorodian Prince Volodymyr Yaroslavovych calling him “Upir” Likhyi which translates to “Wicked or Foul Vampire”. Local and associated Pagan mythology suggests there was Pagan worship from the 11-13th centuries of “upyri”. There is mention of similar creatures throughout history in Greek mythology, Mesopotamian lore, Hebrew records, and Roman stories placing demons and spirits who fed on the life force of humans perhaps being the earliest vampires. Numerous world mythologies described demonic entities or Deities who drank blood of humans including Sekhmet, Lilith, and Kali. The Persians were the first to describe having blood drinking demons. Greek/Roman mythology spoke of the Empusae, the Lamia, the striges, the Gello, the strix, and the Goddess Hecate as demonic blood drinkers.

The documented case of Elizabeth Bathory who killed over 600 of her servants and bathed in their blood led to the reputation of her being a vampire. Same as with Vlad the Impaler of Count Dracula mythology of Transylvania who would impale his victims alive on upright stakes and would eat dinner while watching them suffer and slide down the poles in shrieks of torment. The Istrian (Croatia) 1672 legend of Giure Grando, a peasant who died in 1656, but was believed to have risen from the grave to drink the blood of the villagers and sexually harass his widow became a vampire-like legend. He was stopped by having a stake driven through his heart and then beheaded by the local village leader. Shortly after this legend, during the 18th century, a frenzy of vampire sighting in Eastern Europe went rampant including some notorious vampire hunting in Prussia (1721), Habsburg Monarchy (1725-1734), and the tales of Peter Logojowitz and Arnold Paole in Serbia.

Arnold Paole was a soldier who was attacked by a vampire. A few years later he became a farmer that died during harvest of his hay crop. He was buried and believed by the local villagers to be rising from the grave feeding off of them. The documented case of Plogojowitz, of a man who died at 62 only to return from the grave asking his son for food. Upon being turned down, the son was found dead the next day. Plogojowitz apparently had killed him as well as various neighbours by draining their blood. The Serbian tale of Sava Savanovic told of a man who lived in a local watermill that would kill the millers and drink their blood. This tale led to the creation of the 1973 Serbian horror film called “Leptirica”.

The term itself as “vampire” however was not utilized until the early 18th century during a time when vampire hysteria was rampant. The first use of the term “Vampire” came from a 1734 travelogue titled “Travels of Three English Gentlemen” published in the 1745 Harleian Miscellany according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The English term “Vampire” may have come from the french term “Vampyre” or the German term “Vampir”. These terms may have derived into the Serbian “??????/vampir”. During the early 18th century tales of vampires throughout Eastern Europe became rampant. Vampires were often associated as revenants of evil beings, suicide vicims, or witches; or from malevolent spirits possessing a corpse or being bitten by a vampire. It was during this time that the hysteria caused individuals, families, and communities to dig up the graves of suspected vampires and them mutilating the corpses, staking them, or conducting rites of exorcism. In 1718, after Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia, officials recorded local practices of exhuming bodies and “killing the undead”. Official recording of these practices from 1725 to 1732 led to widespread publicity of vampires. It was from this that led to many of the original vampire myths we have today that described vampires as either being in the form of a human, as a resurreced rotting corpse, or a demon-like creature roaming at night. Much of the hysteria was similar to the Witch Craze of the Inquisition. Neighbours would accuse the recently deceased for diseases, deaths, plagues, and tragedies that cursed the local village. Scholars at the time were steadfast that Vampires did not exist attributing the incidents to premature burials, rabies, or religion. However, the well-respected theologian and scholar Dom Augustine Calmet composed a 1746 treatise with reports claiming vampires did indeed exist. This was supported by Voltaire who claimed vampires were corpses who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomaches, after which they would return to the cemetery. This would lead the victim to wane, pale, and fall into consumption while the vampire would bloat, become fat, rosy, and become rejuvenated. They were disputed by Gerard van Swieten and the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria who passed laws prohibiting exhumation and desecration of bodies ending the vampire epidemics in Austria.

The “18th Century Vampire Controversy” or “Hysteria” gave birth to many fabricated myths and legends that lent stories about blood suckers evolving to the image we imagine of today when we think of “vampire”. Many of these images today come from writers, authors, and film. John Polidori’s 1819 novella “The Vampyre”, Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula”, and the film “Nosferatu” are the main culprits for much of today’s image of a vampire, especially the pointed teeth, the sleeping in daylight, the drinking of blood, and sensitivity to sunlight. Stoker based much of his imagery and lore from former mythology of demons, faeries, and werewolves that he fit into the fears of late Victorian patriarchy. His book gave birth to a trend of vampire fandom that has lasted for over 100 years and still flourishing.

From Europe the vampire craze spread to parts of New England in the Americas, particularly Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut. Paranoia and hysteria went rampant in the same manner as Eastern Europe’s 18th century Vampire Controversy. Documentation of cases with families accusing vampirism being the cause of the plague of consumption that devastated their communities. Families would dig up their dead to remove the hearts of suspected vampires. A very popular documented case was of the 1892 Rhode Island incident of Mercy Brown who died at age 19 of consumption, believed to be a vampire returning from the grave and feeding on her family and neighbours, was dug up by her father, had her heart cut out and burnt to ashes, only to be fed to her dying brother in attempts to save him from the rotting disease.


St. Michan’s Church Crypt, Dublin, Ireland
legendary inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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Rock Close: The Witches’ Kitchen and Stone

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The Witches’ Kitchen

Witches Kitchen
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

In the enchanted grounds of Rock Close in the fabled lands of Blarney Castle is the infamous Kitchen of the Blarney Witch. Archaeologically it is believed to have been a prehistoric dwelling potentially as old as the Neolithic (3,000-5,000 years old) if there is any connection of it to the The Rock Close Dolmen (Blarney Castle) or the Druid’s Cave and Circle. Atop her wishing steps is her kitchen. It has a chimney and fireplace within.

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The Witches’ Kitchen

Offset from the kitchen is her stone. Apparently by legend she is bound and entrapped in the rock in servitude to bestow wishes upon those who walk up and down backwards the wishing steps while thinking only of their wishes and not letting any other thoughts drift in. In exchange, the Blarney guardians provide her firewood for this very kitchen so she can continue her spell craft and crazy brews while staying warm at night for when darkness falls she is magically released from the stone she is trapped within. Some say if you arrive early enough you can still see the dying embers of the fire as she lights a fire every night. Many believe that it was the Blarney Witch who really told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone while others claim it was her who enchanted the stone as a “thank you” to McCarthy for saving her from drowning in the river. No one seems to know how she was entrapped into her rock. The Echoe Ghost Hunters investigated this area in 2010-2011 and claimed very strong EMP’s were recorded in the area of the Witches’ Kitchen. Most of the lore in this area is centered around the Witch of Blarney.

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The Witches Stone

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The Blarney Badger Cave

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Badger Cave
* Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

A feature of the Blarney Castle are the caves below the fortress called “Badger Cave”. This was the escape route used by the garrison when Cromwell’s general Lord Broghill besieged the castle and fired down from Card Hill above the lake and broke through the tower walls. He found only two trusty old retainers and the garrison gone. He was hoping to find the fabled golden plate but appeared that it was taken through the caves to escape his capture. Some say the plate was sunk in the lake. There are believed to be three passages in these caves – one that leads to Cork, another to the lake, and another to Kerry. However, no one seems to be able to find these legendary passages ….

In order to provide public access to one of the passageways in the cave archaeologists had to evaluate the passage before tourist entry. The 2007 Excavation report of Badger Cave, Site 07E0672 / CO062-177 / 16080 07531 report concluded that this main 35 meter long passage interlinked with two short connecting fissures (7 meters long and 13 meters long respectively) extending from its south-eastern wall. This main passage was excavated with a trench 23 metes long by 1 meter wide by .8 meter deep with 50% of excavated deposits wet-sieved. Within the findings were over 340 naturally occurring recent animal bones and a proximal end of a flint flake that potentially dated to the Neolithic.

There are some myths and legends about paranormal activity in the caves, castle, and grounds. The Echo Ghost hunters investigated the site from 2010-2011 and captured an image of a man in the 3rd floor window of the castle (no stairs or access to that window) and recorded strange Kll hits in the caves.

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Legend of the Blarney Stone

Legend of the Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland * Phone: 00 353 21 4385252 * http://www.blarneycastle.ie/
One of Ireland’s most valuable and mesmerizing mythical collections is the infamous Blarney Stone. Called “Cloch na Blarnan” in Irish, it is the legendary stone for the gift of gab. “Blarney” means “Clever, Flattering, or coaxing talk”. The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone that is built within the battlements of Blarney Castle, located approximately 8 kilometers from Cork, Ireland. It is believed that whoever kisses the stone is endowed with the gift of gab, great eloquence, or the skill at flattery. It allows the gifted to impart the ability to deceive without offending. Its not an easy task to kiss the stone, as one needs to be held upside down atop a drop of a tall tower to reach the kissing spot. The stone became part of the tower in 1446 and has become one of Ireland’s most notable tourist sites.

Where does the stone come from? There are many myths and legends surrounding the stone and its origins, the earliest of which involves the Goddess Clíodhna. It is believed that the Castle’s builder, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was in a lawsuit and sought out Clíodhna for her assistance. She told him to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and as he did, he gained eloquence and won the court case. Flabbergasted by this magical event he took the stone and added to the castle’s stones. The history of the land and place stretches back over two centuries before the current castle’s construction. There are remains of prehistoric sites and Druid ceremonial remains. No one knows for sure when the Blarney Stone came to the grounds, but it was believed to have arrived sometime around 1602 C.E. Many believe that it was a piece of the Stone of Scone. Others believe it to be the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Others believe it to be the stone that Jacob used as a pillow and was later brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. It is said that it then became the Lia Fail, or ‘Fatal Stone’ and was used as an oracular throne of the Irish kings. Some say its the Stone of Ezel which David hid behind on Jonathan’s advice while fleeing King Saul and brought to Ireland during the Crusades. Others believe it to be the rock pillow used by St. Columba of Iona on his death bead or his portable altar he took with him while doing missionary work in Scotland. Some believe that the stone was first presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 to recognize his support in the Battle of Bannockburn. Lore dictates that the stone was previously in Ireland then taken to Scotland and brought back to Ireland in 1314. It is also said that during the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dermot McCarthy, had been required to surrender his fortress to the Queen as proof of his loyalty. He told her he would be delighted to do so, but something always happened at the last moment to prevent his surrender such as throwing a dinner party or event for the officers charged in the takeover. Many believe this was the charm of the Blarney Stone in effect. The Queen replied to this as “Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!”

Kissing the Stone has been performed by literally ‘millions of people’ in the world, including world statesmen, literary giants, and legends of the silver screen. Kissing the stone is kissing all of these people by proxy, and by the magical law of contact – gaining the gift of gab that all these people possess. Its not an easy kiss and its important for the lips to touch the bluestone. This quest involves ascending to the castle’s peak, leaning over backwards on the parapet’s edge, entrusting a stranger (Castle guard) with your life by holding on to you. Today, safety wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars help prevent death or serious injury. Prior to these installations, the kisser was in danger of serious life risk as they were grasped by their ankles and dangled from the plummet. According to the Sherlock Holmes radio dramatization in “The Adventure of the Blarney Stone” (March 18, 1946) reported a man attempting the kiss plummeting to his death – but determined to be a murder as his boots had been greased before the attempt. The cautious and germ phoebic consider the Blarney Stone to be the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world, as ranked as such by Tripadvisor.com in 2009. It is documented that more than 300,000 visitors come to kiss the stone every year. When I attended in 2010, I watched the guards use antiseptic wipes after every kiss and had hand sanitizer on the spot. Urban legends are amiss that claim locals go up to the Blarney stone at night and piss on it. Of course, anyone who has ever been to the Blarney stone, knowing the tight and tiny ascension up the treacherous tower (that is locked after hours and guarded) that even with breaching security and risking royal criminal punishment, would have to be damn good aim to hit the Blarney stone. Much of the urban legend comes from the incident in the film “Fight Club” where the narrator urinates on the Blarney Stone during his visit to Ireland as his first act of vandalism.

    ‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses
    He never misses to grow eloquent;
    ‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber, Or become a member of Parliament.
    “A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or An out and outer to be let alone;
    Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him, For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.”

In 1825 Sir Walter Scott came to kiss the blarney stone. Father Prout in 1837 spread word of the wonders of the Blarney Stone making it even more of an attraction amongst the nobility and curious. In 1883 the future President William H. Taft of the United States came to kiss the Blarney Stone. By 1887 the new railway into Blarney afforded many travelers the opportunity to kiss the stone, including boxing legend John L Sullivan, at that time the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. In 1912 Winston Churchill came to kiss the stone. In 1984 Ronald Reagan claimed to have kissed the stone.

Many nation’s around the world have attempted to obtain the Blarney Stone. There are quite a few imposters out and about. The one and true stone is in the Blarney Castle.In 1893 during the World’s Fair in Chicago the Blarney Castle and stone was mimicked with the promoters billing that it was the real stone people were kissing, this of course was false. According to a tradition at Texas Tech University, a stone fragment on display since 1939 outside the old Electrical Engineering Building claims to be a missing piece of the Blarney Stone. In 1938 American businessmen offered the Colthurst family a million dollars to allow the stone to go on tour in the U.S. but the offer was rejected.

The Blarney Stone is just the “icing of the cake” when it comes to the magic and myths of Blarney Castle. Even the grounds in its gardens have their attractions and history, as small caves and structures in the Rock Close garden may have neolithic habitation possibilities, and potentially the home to a mythical witch that was trapped in a rock. The Blarney Witch is said to have servitude to the Castle to grant wishes for those walking up and down the Wishing Steps backwards with their eyes closed focusing on only their wish. The Close also has a Dolmen, Fairy Circle, as well as a Druid’s cave and ceremonial circle. The Martin River that runs through the estate is believed to be possessed by ghosts of salmons leaping for ghosts of flies. Enchanted cows walk from the depths of the lake to graze on the meadows below the castle. There is also a glade where Faeries are believed to be at play.

One can kiss the stone from Monday thru Saturday, 9 am to 6:30 pm in September and May, 9 am to 7 pm from June through August, and 9 am to sundown from October to April. On Sundays, kissing can commence from 9 am to 5:30 pm during the summer, and 9 am to sundown during the winter.

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Dunseverick Castle

Dunseverick Castle
* Along the Giant’s Causeway / Coastal Causeway Route, Northern Ireland *

Near the Giant’s Causeway, on an isolated rock surrounded by the sea in a small bay, is the crumbling remains of “Dunseverick Castle”. A maritime fortress of Dalriada, built by Sovaric, son of Eberic mythically in the year of the world 3668 a.m. once off the royal road from Tara, and once of the seats of the Kings of Ireland. It was stormed in 870 C.E. and then plundered again by Mave, the QUeen of Connaught at a uncertain date, starting a bloody war between Ulster and Connaught. When the castle was in the hands of Kinel Owen, in the 12th century, another disaster struck. When Turlough of Dunseverick returned from the Crusades, the castle was ransacked and massacred by Norwegian ships sparing only Lady O’Cahan, sister of Turlough. This beautiful young girl with dark hair and blue eyes, won the heart of the Norsemen, sparing her, and wedding him until the Norseman was slain by Turlough. The melee between the Norseman and Turlough caused the castle to catch fire, and the bride to plunge to her death off the cliffs resulting in the castle falling into ruins.

    “And the villagers of olden times oft heard the wailing cry
    Of the Norseman and brave young Turlough when waves were running high,
    And old Dunseveric, gaunt and bare, has no sadder tale of woe
    Recorded in its annals of the years of long ago.”

The castle was later made the family residence of the O’Cahan family who were branched from the Kinel Owens, from about 1000 C.E. until 1320, regained again by the family in the mid 16th century. Was in the family hands until the 1641 rebellion when chief Gilladuff O’Cahan was taken by General Munro and hanged at Carrickfergus years after the rebellion. Munro destroyed all the castles in the area along the coast except Dunluce where he garrisoned English soldiers for the Cromwellian army. By 1662 most of Dunseverick was demolished except a piece of wall at the entrance six feet thick which his men were unable to remove. On the north side of the castle, is a well about three yards from the edge of he cliff, over 100′ above the sea, that legendarily “Never goes dry”. It is named the “Tubber Phadrick” or “St. Patrick’s Well” and was considered one of Ireland’s holiest wells as St. Patrick visited Dunseverick on several of his travels through the North. St. Patrick used to sit on a stone located by the well, named “St. Patrick’s Rock”, but this stone was tumbled into the well by General Munro’s soldiers. Last to own and reside in the castle was Giolla Dubh O Cathain who left it in 1657. Now in ruins, only a small residential tower survived until 1978 until taken by the sea. Now just ruins of the walls remain. The castle is located in County Antrim near the small village of Dunseverick and about a mile and a half from the Giant’s Causeway. Now part of the National Trust (1962) as passed on by local farmer Jack McCurdy.

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Valerie Frances


Valérie Frances

Gallery at Trolls et Legendes Festival in Mons, Belgium: 4/11/09 – 4/12/09

www.lefantastique.net/valerie-frances/

At Trolls and Legendes, inspirational artist Valerie Frances presented her artwork and sketches of many of the heroes and legends of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Valerie was born in 1975. She got a degree in biology and science. Writing articles about great whales and sharks mixed with her fondness for Anglo-Saxon fantasy literature led her down a path of writing her own dark texts including an essay on sea monsters. She wrote a book on Eragon as well as several short stories in various fanzines and children’s books. She’s branching out into drawing, painting, and clay sculpture as well as animation. Rating: 4 stars out of 5.


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