wreck of the titanic
Curses, Mysterious Books

Cursed or Coincidence? The Great Omar Book

It’s been a while since I last posted, because I’ve been busy gallivanting across Canada for work.  One of the places I went to was Halifax, which inspired this month’s blog post.

At the turn of the twentieth century, bookbinding was an art, not just an automated process to create generic, identical books to sell at dirt-cheap prices.  Books were commissioned by bookbinders, who created masterpieces that were works of art. Some were even inlaid with precious stones and various fabrics and materials.  These books  took months, even sometimes years to create. With all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making a book like this, it makes sense that the most infamous one of all of them might be cursed…

The Great Omar

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Ambrose Bierce
Conspiracies, The Unexplained, writer

Ambrose Bierce and the Crystal Skull

Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce with a not-crystal skull

Ambrose Bierce was an American short story writer and journalist at the turn of the century. According to Times Magazine, he’s most famous for his short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”.  His book “The Devil’s Dictionary” was dubbed one of the “100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature”.  He was said to have had a “morbid fascination with horror and death”. (Who here can relate?) (Time Magazine). A civil war veteran, Ambrose Bierce accomplished a lot in his 71 + years of life.  But it’s his disappearance and presumed death that has had everyone speculating and theorizing over the last hundred years.

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ghosts, Haunted Libraries

Spirits on Strike: The Hauntings of Carnegie at Homestead

From 1883 to 1929, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish businessman and philanthropist, gifted 2509 public and university libraries to cities around the world.  In the US, the third oldest of these libraries that’s still in operation today is the Carnegie Library at Homestead in Pennsylvania.  Opening in 1898, the Carnegie of Homestead features a library, a music hall, and an athletic centre.  Many have already heard of Andrew Carnegie’s infamous generosity, but did you know that this generosity may have been fueled by guilt?  Guilt that may have resulted in Andrew Carnegie choosing to haunt this library as a ghost?  And it isn’t just claims of Andrew Carnegie haunting the Library at Homestead.  There have been reports of many ghosts in this building, ghosts who just may be the spirits of those Andrew Carnegie indirectly killed.

Carnegie Library of Homestead
Carnegie Library of Homestead

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Shelf of old books
Curses, The Unexplained

Kiss Me, I’m Irish: The Good (and Bad) Luck of the Blarney Stone

Everyone knows that kissing the Blarney Stone gives you good luck. But where does all that good luck come from?  Did you know that there’s a lesser known legend surrounding the Blarney stone… and its curse? Could the “good luck” associated with kissing the Blarney stone be leached from the victims of this curse?

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Books on a desk
ghosts, haunted museums

A Gallery of Ghosts: The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Various Hauntings

Museums house artifacts of historical, artistic and cultural significance, providing visitors a unique opportunity to catch glimpses into the past.  The Cleveland Museum of Art, however, allows you to catch a literal glimpse into the past.  It stands to reason that a museum filled with treasured items would be haunted.  But the Cleveland Museum of Art has taken this to an extreme.  It is allegedly home to several spirits, and has been dubbed one of the US’s most haunted museums.

This week’s topic isn’t a library or a bookstore or directly related to books, but museums share many of the same values as libraries—primarily the preservation and sharing of information.  This information doesn’t have to come in the form of books.  Art, artifacts, memorabilia—all these items provide invaluable insights into the past, present, and even the future.

Now that I’ve justified talking about a museum, I can dive into the nitty gritty of the haunting.  Or should I say, hauntings.

If you stand in front of an artwork that was beautifully painted by an Impressionist, you might feel captivated, at a loss for words, and have an overwhelming desire to escape into that world of pastel shades and blurred reality. But what if it were possible that the subjects of these paintings could come to life?  No, I’m not describing The Night at the Museum, but what many visitors and employees claimed to have experienced while roaming the halls of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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Picture of books on Voynich
Conspiracies, Mysterious Books, The Unexplained

The Voynich Manuscript: Decrypting a Mystery

The Voynich Manuscript is one of history’s greatest mysteries.  Written in Central Europe in the 15th or early 16th century, this 240-page document is inscribed in a language or code that has not yet been deciphered, despite decades of cryptologists, historians, and mathematicians attempting to interpret it. Even the famous cryptographers from the Bletchley Park, who decoded the Nazi’s Enigma codes in WWII, have taken a crack at it, but all to no avail.Picture of books on voynich

Take a look at the Voynich Manuscript and see the strange language for yourself.

Named after Wilfrid Voynich, the Polish book dealer who purchased this manuscript back in 1912, this document is unusual in a number of ways.  First off, it appears to be a magical or scientific text, with many vivid images of herbs and plants that to this date have not all been identified.  It includes astronomical and astrological drawings, and lists of what appears to be recipes.  It even includes images of what might be alchemical processes; however, the images are original and odd and do not correlate to the scientific processes of the time this manuscript would have been created.

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Picture of books on Hammett & Hellman
ghosts, writer

They left their hearts in San Francisco: The Ghost Stories of Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman

Tony Bennett once sang “I left my heart in San Francisco”.  It looks like he wasn’t the only one…

Dashiell Hammett, author of noir classics such as The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, was an infamous womanizer during the prohibition era. It wasn’t long before he set his sights on Lillian Hellman, a lively fledgling playwright with great talent and feminine wiles.  The two had an on-again, off-again relationship that spanned over three decades.

The Thin Man movie image
The cast of “The Thin Man”. Hammett loosely based the character of Nora Charles on Hellman.

The accounts about the nature of Lillian and Dash’s relationship vary greatly. Some sources say that they were “friends with benefits”, which was rather progressive for the time (Vercillo, 2007).  Neither Dash nor Lillian wanted to be tied down, and they enjoyed their time together, but were never in a committed relationship.  Other sources say that their relationship was volatile, filled with passion and, sometimes, violence.  Dash couldn’t stay faithful, which led Lillian to cheat out of vengeance.  It is entirely possible that these accounts are false, and that Lillian was painted this way because the thought of a liberated woman was, at the time, unpalatable.  Lillian was said to proposition men half her age, but these stories aren’t told in the same way that they would be were it a man to have been the one doing the wooing.  It’s a double standard, but it reveals how history is shaped by those who tell it.  A dual biography written by Joan Hellen paints the lovers as anything but idyllic.  Dash might have even been violent towards Lillian.  While I haven’t had the chance to read the entirety of this book, it has a tabloid-like feel to it, and it can be difficult to determine just how much is based in fact, and how much true. Especially when both parties involved are now dead.

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Book shelf
ghosts, Haunted Bookstores

A Haunting Read at Rivendell Books

Rivendell Books, a used, rare, and out-of-print book store in Barrie, Ontario is home to a history buff who spends his days and nights pacing the aisle that shelves books on WWI and WWII.  He reads and obsesses about the Great War, often removing books from the shelves and sorting them into piles.  But he isn’t an employee that needs to be given direction, and he isn’t a loyal, yet irritating customer.  He’s a ghost.

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Image of a train
The Unexplained, writer

The Case of the Missing Mystery Author: How Agatha Christie Disappeared for 11 Days

Image of Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie 1890-1976

Everyone has heard of Agatha Christie.  She wrote during the golden age of detective fiction, and she’s been crowned as the Queen of the Cozy Mystery.  She’s written at least 74 books, including “Murder on the Orient Express”, “And then there were none”, and “Death on the Nile”.  But there’s one mystery that she didn’t write.  Instead, she lived it.  

On December 3, 1926, Agatha Christie went into her seven-year-old daughter Rosalind’s bedroom in their home in Berkshire, England, and she kissed her on the cheek goodnight.  Then, she got into her car and drove away.  She wouldn’t be discovered for another ten days.  Not only did she go missing for ten days, but when she was found, she claimed to have absolutely no memory of where she’d been or what she’d done.  

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ghosts, Haunted Bookstores

The Newer Haunting of the Oldest Bookstore

The oldest bookstore in America, the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has been continuously running for over 270 years. There are some solid arguments that it’s actually the longest running bookstore in all of the world (Sullivan, 2016). Of course, a place like this would pick up a few ghosts over the centuries. There are at least two spirits haunting this bookstore—if you believe the stories, of course.

Today’s blog post is a little shorter, because I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I’m writing an entire book in just thirty days. I don’t have many words to spare! I picked this story to dissect because there isn’t much evidence supporting or refuting the claims of the people who’ve seen strange things in this bookshop. But it still makes for a fascinating story…

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