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…
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
In 1912, a St. Louis, Missouri housewife named Pearl Lenore Curran had a good friend and writer named Emily Grant Hutchings over for a visit. Emily brought a Ouija board with her, because she was interested in the resurgence in “spiritualism” that had taken over America at this time (Carroll, 2015). They experimented with the Ouija board, but it wasn’t until almost a year later that Pearl received her first message from the beyond.
Pearl began to channel the writings of “Patience Worth”, a British woman from the seventeenth century. Pearl would sit at the Ouija board, her hands whipping the planchard back and forth as her husband, John, transcribed the many poems, short stories, and novels of this seventeenth century author. Patience could also take over Pearl’s mouth, engaging the many scholars who came to observe this miraculous feat in delightful conversation. She also took over her hands, as Pearl later wrote by hand with what is considered “automatic writing”. Pearl/Patience would come up with poems at the drop of a hat, given only a prompt from a skeptical onlooker. Many scholars at the time praised her work, and they didn’t know what to believe (Diliberto, 2010). Was she writing these fully composed works of fiction off the top of her head? Or was she truly channelling the spirit of a seventeenth century writer? Otto Heller, Dean of Washington University’s Graduate School said: “I still confess myself completely baffled by the experience” (Diliberto, 2010). Many books have been written about her, and some, like Edgar Lee Masters, believed wholeheartedly that she was a true medium, while others, like Harry Houdini, believed her to be a fraud (Schlueter, 2012). Continue reading “A Genuine “Ghost” Writer”→
What do you do if your library has a ghost that’s so active she’s been seen floating among the stacks by numerous people over several decades? You issue her a library card! That’s exactly what the staff at the Bernardsville Public Library in New Jersey did. Although, their ghost hasn’t checked anything out. At least, not yet…
This post is going to dissect the story of Phyllis Parker, the ghost who haunts the Bernardsville Public Library. But this is more than just any old ghost story. This is a story of true love and high intrigue that deviates slightly from your typical bodice ripper.
With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve decided to deviate from my typical library and book-related theme. Much to my delight, horror movies have been playing on some TV channels around the clock. I’ve been reading The Amityville Horror, a book which inspired a classic movie and a whole slew of lame sequels. The book, however, just so happens to be based on a true story. A lot of horror movies are based on true stories: The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, The Girl Next Door, The Conjuring… But there’s one movie that’s based on a true story that you wouldn’t expect. This is a real head scratcher. The film is the 1958 B-movie, “The Blob”.
For those of you who have never seen it, the movie is about a a strange “blob” that falls out of outer space, but it doesn’t just sit there. It oozes around, consuming people, and, of course, getting bigger. The movie stars Steve McQueen in his first leading role. This isn’t a review of the movie, so I’ll just link to this trailer for “The Blob”, and you can watch it for yourself if you’re interested, before I tell you the “true” story.
Now, how can a movie about a killer “blob” be based on a true story? Let me tell you…
What happens in the archives stays in the archives. Nothing more true can be said of the Archives in the Vatican. Built long before their official establishment in 1475, the Vatican Archives are shrouded in mystery. They are called “Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum”, which is Latin for “The Vatican’s Secret Archives”. Talk about being subtle. Almost every Roman Catholic conspiracy theory is linked back to these archives, probably because of this veil of secrecy surrounding them. Containing 53 million miles worth of books, they’re typically not open to the public, and historically only carefully vetted scholars have been allowed to enter. However, in 2010, following the release of the movie based on Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code”, there was an uprising in paranoia about the Illuminati, whether or not this secret society truly exists, and if their roots are really buried deep in the Vatican’s Secret Archives. To fend off some of these rumours, the Archives opened their doors to allow for select members of the public and journalists (Squires, 2010). But it’s safe to assume that the most sensitive areas of the Archives aren’t a part of the tour…
In addition to the Illuminati, there are many other well-known conspiracy theories surrounding the Vatican (“6 Creepy Conspiracy Theories,” 2016). These include the theory (or fact?) that these archives hold the largest pornography collection in the world, and that they contain evidence of Jesus Christ’s bloodline. Some say that the evidence proves that he was not the Messiah, which is definitely something that the church would want to keep hidden away for all of eternity. But I’m not going to talk about the conspiracy theories that have already been analyzed in excruciating detail.
In this post, I’m going to talk about a lesser known conspiracy theory. The theory that the Vatican Secret Archives holds a time machine.
An ironic ghost haunts the basement of Attic Books, an antiquarian and used bookstore in London, Ontario. I’ve decided to start BibliOccult with this story, because not only have I been to this bookstore, but I may have encountered its spirit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Built in the mid-to-late 1800s, the stunning red brick building on 240 Dundas Street was initially only one storey, with the first and second storeys being added during renovations in 1880. The gargoyle, which adds a Gothic look to the building, was only added in 1996 (1).
The building has housed many businesses over the last century and a half. The first inhabitant of note is Abraham Spry. He worked as a tailor in the building in 1875 (1). However, he only stayed there a year before moving on, transferring his business to another building on Dundas Street. It’s my understanding that he didn’t stay there long enough to grow attached to the building. He didn’t stay there long enough to die.