Six Down, One to Go: the Tragic Curse of Oak Island

The mystery of Oak Island is so divinely intriguing that any soul with the tiniest sense of curiosity will be captivated by it. It’s been one of my favorite mysteries since I first read about it in junior high school. It all started one dark night back in 1795 when a teenage boy named Daniel McGinniss witnessed ethereal lights winding their way amongst the trees on a little island across the water from his family’s home in Nova Scotia, Canada. His interest aroused, he rowed out to the island the next day to try to figure out the source of the lights. He may not have not found that, but what he did find was a circular depression in the ground, about a dozen feet across. And above the depression were indications that a pulley system had been used in the trees. Daniel was excited by his find for good reason….a hundred years earlier in that very location, it was well known that pirates had used the scantily populated shores of eastern Canada to hide their illicit treasures. Continue reading

Omens of Death

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After reading some of the True Tales on About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena section, I got the idea to write something about omens.

The word’s etymology is from the Old Latin word “osmen” and came into common use in the 1580s.

While the word itself has neither negative nor positive meaning, there has usually been a negative bent with such words as ominous.

A famous example of the same omen having different meanings for different people would be the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1066 over England on the eve of the battle that would forever change English history. For King Harold, the comet’s appearance was a bad omen; for William the Conqueror, it was a good omen.

Since we’re in the season of Halloween, I am going to list some omens cultures believe in which signify death.

Animals usually bear signs of pending death, the most common omen being birds. They usually involve one or more of the following:

  • the bird flying through an open window
  • the bird flying down the chimney
  • a bird tapping on the window
  • a bird hovering above a house

Some of the types of birds associated with these omens include: cocks, crows, bitterns, pigeons, goose, eagle, jackdaw, pagpie, vulture.

Other signs of impending death:

  • A picture that falls of the wall for no apparent reason
  • A clock that stops
  • A clock that fails to chime or ring
  • A mirror that breaks while still on the wall
  • A cat that leave the home and will not re-enter it
  • An owl seen during the daytime
  • A dog that howls for no reason during the night

Some cultures even believe that an apparition of a living person is a sign that that person will soon die. In Irish folklore, a banshee’s presence signals a person’s death. In other areas of the UK, the black shuck or black dog is a sign of death. This particular omen was a feature of the Harry Potter series when his godfather – Sirius Black – made an appearance in his life, he was told of the dog’s meaning in divination.

In most cases logical explanations can be found for the seemingly unexplained, but all omens and the folklore surrounding them have roots in a time when people didn’t think about alternative explanations.

Cemetery Art

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Walking through your local cemetery is always a peaceful way to spend time. Even if there are people around, they are always so reverently quiet. But as you walk along, you might notice the standards of a tombstone:

name of deceased
date of birth and death
an epitaph

What often gets overlooked, though, are the symbols which are also typically found on a person’s tombstone. I decided to search for a listing of the meanings of various symbols found on a tombstone and share them with you so that next time you find yourself in a cemetary or graveyard and notice these symbols, you’ll be a little more enlightened about their meanings.

  • anchor/ship – hope or seafaring profession
  • arrows – mortality
  • broken column – early death, grief, loss of the head of the family
  • caterpillar – time or metamorphosis
  • column – noble life
  • dove  –  innocence, gentleness, affection, purity
  • eye – humility
  • frog – worldly pleasure, sin
  • grim reaper – inevitibility of death
  • handshakes – farewell
  • orb – faith
  • rope circle – eternity
  • shepherd’s crook – charity
  • sun setting – death
  • winged effigies – flight of the soul

The full list from which these were taken can be found at this website.

Deadly Fungi

Adding to the over-all theme of death that permeates the month of October leading to the celebration of the dead, I thought a post about various deadly fungi would be in order.

First on the list is Podostroma cornu-damae, a toxic fungus found in Japan. The symptoms include stomach pains, changes in perception, peeling skin on the face, hair loss, shrinking of the cerebellum which causes speech impediments and problems with voluntary movement. While many people have died after consuming the fruit body of this fungus, it is possible to survive if steps are taken swiftly.

Next is Amanita bisporigera, or destroying angel, found in Eastern North America and down into Mexico. Poisoning from this fungus comes in stages. The first stage, incubation, 6-12 hours after ingestion, is asymptomatic. Stage two is the gastrointestinal stage which there is onset of explosive vomiting, diarrhea for up to 24 hours leading to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and shock. The third and final stage is the cytotoxic stage where liver damage becomes evident and later, kidney failure.

Galerina marginata, commonly known as autumn’s skullcap,  is a wide-spread fungus found in many different areas of the world: North America, Europe, Japan, Iran, continental Asia and the Caucasus. The toxins found within the Galerina marginata are known as amatoxins which affect the liver primarily and can also affect kidneys. As with most poisonings, the characteristics of the autumn’s skullcap is of the classic variety: severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea lasting for 6 to 9 hours. Soon after, the liver is affected causing gastro-intestinal bleeding, coma, kidney failure and even death. All of which occurs within 7 days of consumption.

Amanita phalloides, also known as death cap, is a fungus that’s found across Europe. This particular mushroom is responsible for the majority of fatal mushroom poisonings worldwide. The reportedly pleasant taste of death caps combined with the delay in appearance of symptoms – during which time internal organs are often irreparably damaged – is part of the reason why deaths are so common from it. Two or three days after ingestion, the victim will suffer colicky abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting leading to dehydration and, in severe cases, hypotension, tachycardia and hypoglycemia. Liver failure quickly follows and if the hospitalized victim can recover enough, a liver transplant is usually required. Life threatening symptoms include intra-cranial pressure, intra-cranial hemorrhage, acute renal failure and cardiac arrest.

Lastly on this short list is Amanita verna, also known as fool’s mushroom. Like the death cap, it is one of the most poisonous mushrooms on Earth. The symptoms of a poisoning from the fool’s mushroom mirrors that of the death cap as well. In both cases, as little as 1 oz. will bring on these dire and deadly symptoms. However, death ultimately depends on the size of the individual who consumed the ‘shroom.

If any of your Halloween adventures take you into wooded areas, it’s best not to pick up anything and eat it. If a child happens to drop a piece of candy on the ground, tell them to leave it there. Some of these mushrooms’ affects can be felt just by touching them and then licking your finger.

Weird Florida: Macabre Madman of Key West

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Elena in Life

Elena Milagro de Hoyos was a beautiful young Cuban-American woman living in Key West when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1931.  Her mother brought her to the U.S. Marine Hospital for treatment, and as fate would have it, unwittingly introduced a madman into her daughter’s life…and death.

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