The Bizarre Tales of Four Lesser Known English Mermaids

The Bizarre Tales of Four Lesser Known English Mermaids

For thousands of years, shanty tales of half-human, half-marine beings called mermaids , selkies, and finfolk have drifted ashore with sea beaten sailors. They stitch together the mythologies of northern Europe, the Near East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Famously, Christopher Columbus claimed to have spotted one during his exploration of the Caribbean. Since then, mermaid tales have become popular subjects of art and literature, such as in Hans Christian Andersen's well-known fairy tale "The Little Mermaid" (1836). They have subsequently been depicted in operas, paintings, films, books, and comics.

‘A Mermaid’ ( 1900) by John Williams Waterhouse. Royal Academy of Arts. ( Public Domain )

The Earliest Mermaid Tales

The earliest mermaid tales emerged in ancient Assyria, in which the shamed goddess Arargatis transformed herself into a mermaid for accidentally killing her human lover. The male equivalent of the mermaid was the merman and both sexes had a habit for falling in love with humans - relationships which generally ended up in tears.

Many of the emotional and psychological attributes of the earliest mermaids were projected into the Sirens of Greek mythology , but these magic oceanic creatures were also associated with powerful natural events such as storms, floods, shipwrecks, and drownings at sea.

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Lesser Known English Mermaid Tales From Exeter and Exmouth

While the northern Scottish islands of Shetland and Orkney could be called centers of European Mermaid folklore, in 1737 AD a bizarre event occurred in the southern English waters near Exeter. It would haunt eight fishermen for their entire lives.

On Thursday November 10th, 1737, at a fishing ground called Topsham Bar, a group of eight fishermen had been trawling all morning. When they hauled their nets onboard they were “startled to discover a creature of a human shape, having two legs.” All eight witnesses were interviewed independently and to the word they all stated that the creature “leaped out of the net and ran away” and while this seems difficult enough to believe in itself, the fishermen added that once they caught up with the “mysterious being” they found it dying and “groaning like a human.” One of the fishermen told police: “Its feet were webbed like a duck’s, and it had eyes, nose, and mouth resembling those of a man.” He added it had a “tail like a salmon and it was around four feet high.”

Derceto, from Athanasius Kircher, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, 1652. ( Public Domain )

This creature did not fit classic, or archetypal descriptions of mermaids , in which the creatures where generally humans who wore seal skins, which transformed them into half-human half-marine type creatures. This ‘Exeter incident’ was curiously different and the description of the creature was corroborated by all of the eight fishermen; “two legs placed below the waist with hints of animalistic features,” like webbing and scaling around the lower legs.

Then, in 1812 AD, in Exmouth near Exeter, a fisherman called Mr. Toupin and his crew claimed “to have heard music which appeared to be coming from a creature which was human-like, with a fish tail.” This is more in line with the classic mermaid tales, which were called ‘sirens' after their legendary singing at fishermen, often luring them to their watery graves.

The Fisherman and the Syren ’ (1856-1858) by Frederic Leighton. ( Public Domain )

Mr. Toupin’s account said they were “drawn to a singular noise, impossible to describe fully but comparable to a wild, tinkling harpsichord melody.” Mr. Toupin described the creature as having; “Two arms which it had used to great agility, which terminated in four webbed fingers on each hand.” He further detailed its characteristics as: “a long, oval face, seal-like, but more agreeable, and hair seemed to crown its upper and back head.” In length, according to Toupin, “it was about five-and-a-half feet, and it appeared to be cavorting playfully near the vessel before, after three quick plunges, it swam rapidly away and was lost to sight.” Attempting to lure the beast closer to their fishing boat they threw “boiling fish into the water.”

Exmouth seafront taken from Dawlish Warren, the scene of the Mermaid incident in 1812. ( Public Domain )

Only 11 years later in 1823, again in Exeter, a spate of mermaid sightings were reported in the River Ex, including witnesses who testified to having seen a creature which, just like the 1737 report, had “two legs placed below the waist” with “animalistic features.” Another report described a creature which “bore from the waist downwards a resemblance to a salmon” and that it ”ran from the bemused onlookers till it was knocked down and killed,” according to a report in the Devon Times .

The Haunting Stories of the Mermaid’s Pool and Black Mere Pool

At the northern end of England, in the Peak District, we find two mermaid legends. The first is said to occupy the Mermaid’s Pool , situated just below Kinder Scout in the High Peaks. This salty lake is a peculiarity, being situated so far inland. This natural environmental property probably offers reason as to why it was associated with a generally ocean bound mermaid.

Mermaid’s Pool near Kinder Scout in Derbyshire. (Dave Dunford/ CC BY SA 2.0 )

The Mermaid’s Pool was associated with healing powers for “those brave enough to bathe in it,” and if one did so at midnight on Easter, the Mermaid was said “to appear offering eternal life,” if she looked upon you fondly that is. If not, you were going down to the depths, never to be seen again.

‘The Mermaid’ (1910) by Howard Pyle. ( Public Domain )

The second mermaid tale is said to take place at Black Mere Pool (Blakemere Pond, Mermaid’s Pond) on the south-western tip of the Staffordshire Peak District; a small, almost circular natural lake about 50 yards (45.72 meters) across, situated six miles (9.66 km) north-west of Leek. Said to be bottomless, one legend states the mermaid came here “hundreds of years ago by a sailor from the nearby town of Thorncliff.”

In this rendition of a classic Greek love story between water nymph and seafarer, after the sailor’s death the mermaid grew angry. But she was unable to return to the sea, so she haunted the lake - seeking revenge for her lover’s death. This legend might have been inspired by a real life event in 1679 AD, when a woman peddler was dumped in the pool by a local serial killer.

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Attempting to separate fact from fiction, in 2013, a Mr. Philip Davis of Stoke-on-Trent, a member of the committee of the North Staffordshire branch of the British Sub-aqua club, adorned a frogman’s suit and determined that this lake was not actually bottomless, and “at its deepest point the pool is no more than seven feet and it has a muddy bottom.”

Blakemere Pond is a small, natural lake in Staffordshire, England. (Graham Richter/ CC BY SA 3.0 ) The pond is the subject of an enduring legend that claims that the water is haunted by the ghost of a mermaid.

Another darker mermaid tale surrounding this lake tells of a local man named Joshua Linnet, who was rejected by a beautiful young woman. Unable to deal with his pain, he accused the woman of being a witch. He managed to convince the local people to drown her in Black Mere Pond and as she was drowning, the young woman cursed Joshua.

Three days later his body was found floating in the pool with “his face covered with claw marks” believed to have been caused by the “demon mermaid.” This malevolent spirit is believed by many to still haunt the Black Mere Pool today. Attempting to rationalize with this, it might be the case that the poor woman was a "mere-maid" - rather than a mermaid.


Weird West

Weird West is a subgenre that combines elements of the Western with another genre, [1] usually horror, occult, fantasy, or science fiction.

DC's Weird Western Tales appeared in the early 1970s, and the weird Western was further popularized by Joe R. Lansdale, who is perhaps best known for his tales mixing splatterpunk with alternate history Western.


10 Christopher Columbus


In 1492, Christopher Columbus set off to find a new trade route to Asia and famously &ldquodiscovered&rdquo the &ldquoNew World&rdquo of the Americas by mistake. Not only did he find a new continent, but he also observed a few mythological creatures. He recorded in his journal that he was sailing in waters close to the Dominican Republic when he saw three mermaids, which he described as &ldquonot half as beautiful as they are painted&rdquo and as having &ldquosome masculine traits.&rdquo [1]

It is now generally accepted that what Columbus actually saw was likely a manatee or dugong. Both creatures are able to do &ldquotail stands,&rdquo which would lift their heads and torsos out of the water. Their forelimbs look vaguely like arms, and they are able to turn their heads from side to side. So, in the dusk, after having been at sea for six months and possibly having had too much rum, it is perhaps understandable that an experienced sailor would mistake a sea cow for a Siren. Though it must have been pretty strong rum.

Columbus wasn&rsquot alone, however. The supposed skeleton of a mermaid was presented to the Portsmouth Philosophical Society in 1826, but it turned out to be a dugong, which was no doubt disappointing, as a mermaid would have livened up their meetings considerably.


Myths, Folklore and the World of Mermaids

The word, “mermaid,” is derived from a combination of “mere,” an old English word meaning “sea,” and “maid,” as in “woman.” According to old sea-faring legends, mermaids would often deliberately sing to sailors to try and enchant them, with the secret and malevolent intent of distracting them from their work and causing their ships to run disastrously aground. Other ancient tales tell of mermaids inadvertently squeezing the last breaths out of drowning men while attempting to rescue them. They are also said to particularly enjoy taking humans to their underwater lairs. In Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, for example, it is said that mermaids often forget that humans cannot breathe underwater, while other legends suggest the sinister she-creatures deliberately drown men – out of sheer, venomous spite, no less. The fabled Sirens of Greek mythology are sometimes portrayed in folklore as being mermaid-like in nature and appearance. Other related types of mythical, legendary creatures that fall into this category include water-nymphs and selkies, animals that can allegedly transform themselves from seals into human beings – and vice-versa, too.

Mermaids were noted in British folklore as being distinctly unlucky omens – occasionally foretelling disaster and sometimes even maliciously provoking it, too. As evidence of this, several variations on the ballad, Sir Patrick Spens, depict a mermaid speaking to the doomed ships. In some, she tells the crews they will never see land again, and in others she claims they are near the shore, which the men are wise and astute enough to know means that deep, malevolent deception is at work. The ballad itself is of Scottish origins, and may possibly refer to an actual event namely, the bringing home of the Scottish Queen Margaret, Maid of Norway, across the North Sea in 1290. There is, however, some speculation that the ballad may actually relate to a voyage by the princess’ mother in 1281. But, regardless of the specific truth behind the ballad itself, its words are prime evidence of both the knowledge and the deep fear of mermaids that has existed in the British Isles for an untold number of centuries.

One such account tells of a deadly mermaid inhabiting a small pool in the pleasant little village of Childs Ercall, England. In 1893, the writer Robert Charles Hope described the story as follows: “…there was a mermaid seen there once. It was a good while ago, before my time. I dare say it might be a hundred years ago. There were two men going to work early one morning, and they had got as far as the side of the pond in [a] field, and they saw something on the top of the water which scared them not a little. They thought it was going to take them straight off to the Old Lad himself! I can’t say exactly what it was like, I wasn’t there, you know but it was a mermaid, the same as you read of in the papers.

“The fellows had almost run away at first, they were so frightened, but as soon as the mermaid had spoken to them, they thought no more of that. Her voice was so sweet and pleasant, that they fell in love with her there and then, both of them. Well, she told them there was a treasure hidden at the bottom of the pond – lumps of gold, and no one knows what. And she would give them as much as ever they liked if they would come to her in the water and take it out of her hands.

“So they went in, though it was almost up to their chins, and she dived into the water and brought up a lump of gold almost as big as a man s head. And the men were just going to take it, when one of them said: ‘Eh!’ he said (and swore, you know), ‘if this isn’t a bit of luck!’ And, my word, if the mermaid didn’t take it away from them again, and gave a scream, and dived down into the pond, and they saw no more of her, and got none of her gold. And nobody has ever seen her since then. No doubt the story once ran that the oath which scared the uncanny creature involved the mention of the Holy Name.”

Moving on, there is the story of Mermaid’s Pool (also known as Blakemere Pool), which can be found at the Staffordshire, England village of Thorncliffe, on the Staffordshire Moorlands, which are dominated by forests, lakes, rolling hills, and crags. It’s a story that dates back approximately 1,000 years. Lisa Dowley is someone who has spent a great deal of time and effort pursuing the story and sorting fact from legend. She says: “The story transpires that this particular mermaid was once a maiden of fair beauty, and it came to pass – for reasons that are unclear – that she was persecuted, and accused of various crimes, by a gentleman named Joshua Linnet. It is not clear whether these accusations included being a witch, or whether he may have had his amorous advances rejected.

“The said Mr. Linnet had this woman bound up, and thrown into the bottomless Blakemere Pool. As she fought for her breath and life, the woman screamed vengeance on her accuser, Joshua Linnet, and that her spirit would haunt the pool from that moment hence, and swore that one day she would drag her accuser and executioner deep down beneath the dark depths of the Blakemere Pool to his own death. It is a recorded fact that three days later, Joshua Linnet was found face down, dead in the Blakemere Pool. When his body was dragged out and turned over by the locals, to their horror, what greeted them was that what was once his face, but was now nothing more than tattered shreds of skin, the injuries seemingly caused by sharp claws or talons.”

Moving on, situated barely a stone’s throw from the Shropshire, England town of Newport and just over the border from rural Staffordshire, Aqualate Mere – at 1.5 kilometers long and 0.5 kilometers wide – is the largest natural lake in the Midlands yet it is very shallow, extending down to little more than a uniform three-feet. Legend has it that one day many years ago, when the Mere was being cleaned, a mermaid violently rose out of the water – quite naturally scaring the living daylights out of the work-men – while simultaneously making shrieking, disturbing and damning threats to utterly destroy the town of Newport if any attempt was ever made to empty Aqualate Mere of its precious waters. Very wisely, perhaps, the Mere was not – and, to date, never has been – drained.


10 bizarre mythical monsters you should know about by Halloween

Illustration by arif.aly (ZBrush Central)

Posted By: Dattatreya Mandal October 26, 2017

Over the years, we have been entranced, baffled, tantalized and even shocked by the monsters of well-known mythologies, be it the ubiquitous dragon, the gargantuan Kraken or the boisterous Minotaur. Fortunately, the list of legendary beasts and creatures hasn’t run out of potential candidates, even after numerous of the ilk having ‘identified’ starring roles in various cinematic blockbusters from around the world. So, as an ode to the forthcoming Halloween, let us talk about ten mythical monsters that have still not been able to take the center stage in pop-culture, in spite of their frightfully ‘monstrous’ credentials.

1) Amarok (from Inuit mythology) –

Illustration by Vinodrams

A fantastical giant wolf from the barren lands of the Arctic, the Amarok is said to hunt alone in contrast to the pack tendencies of its much smaller brethren. Many believe the legend of this lone wolf actually comes from real-time ecological periods when the untraveled deep woods were indeed populated by larger varieties of wolves (like the better known dire wolves). Some also draw parallels of this beast with the Waheela giant wolves that supposedly inhabited the northern parts of Canada. Illustration by Indigohx (DeviantArt)

Interestingly, according to famous Danish geologist Dr. Hinrich Johannes Rink, the term Amarok pertains to only a ‘fabulous’ monster for the Greenlanders, while other Arctic inhabitants believed the Amarok to be a monstrous wolf greater in size than a human being.

2) Aqrabuamelu (from Mesopotamian mythology) –

Illustration by Larkin Art (DeviantArt)

The Aqrabuamelu or the Scorpion Men are mentioned in many myths written in the Akkadian language, with the most famous descriptions being in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. They were said to be guardians of the sun god Shamash and were found around his abode at the Mashu mountains.

In terms of portrayal, the Aqrabuamelu are described to have astronomical proportions, with their heads supposedly touching the sky and their mere glances resulting in death. However, they were also depicted as nominally benevolent beings who warned travelers of any danger in their future journeys.

3) Camazotz (from Mayan mythology) –

Illustration by Tom Kelly (DeviantArt)

In terms of conventional zoology, all of the three known species of vampire bats are actually native to the New World. So, it really doesn’t come as a surprise that it is Mayan mythology that brings forth the legend of a mythical vampire creature. But the fascinating part is – the Camazotz’s legend does have many similarities to the well-known vampire stories of the later eras. For example, the Camazotz has been described as a purely evil entity with the sole aim to cause terror.

In fact, the legends pertain to the folkloric narrative when the Mayan Gods deliberately let loose the monster from its prison so as to destroy the entire race of Mayans – which would have made way for a new order of humans. This was supposedly done as a punishment to the existing civilization when the people revolted against the bloodthirsty divine will that demanded human sacrifices in return for protection.

4) Erymanthian Boar (from Greek mythology) –

Greek Mythological traditions have brought us a host of exalted creatures, including Kraken, Cyclops, Minotaur, Manticore, and Fury. But the enormous one-ton Erymanthian Boar has seemed to elude pop-cultural references for quite some time now. Residing in the vicinity of Mount Erymanthus, the boar was fabled because of its sharp yet strong canine teeth that were used to gore and impale unfortunate victims who had mistakenly wandered to the ominous location.

Oddly enough, the Erymanthian Boar was considered to be a repugnant form of the Greek god Apollo, who had changed himself into a monster to punish Adonis. But unfortunately for the ginormous creature, the demi-god Hercules successfully captured the boar – as outlined by one of his twelve heroic labors.

5) Ghatotkacha (from Indian mythology) –

Going against the grain of ‘evil’ monsters portrayed in various mythologies, the giant Ghatotkacha was described as a humble and loyal character in the world’s longest known epic poem Mahabharata. He was the son of Bhima, who was one of the heroes of this Sanskrit mythological work, and the giantess (rakshasa) Hidimbi.

Having the blood of the rakshasa endowed Ghatotkacha with many magical powers, including the ability to glide and the capacity to turn into a monstrous giant. Incidentally, he met his tragic death in his very giant form at the climactic Battle of Kurukshetra. According to the legend, when he fell down upon the adjacent soldiers, his massive body simultaneously buried 109,350 men and 21,870 elephants!

6) Gogmagog (from Anglican/Celtic mythology) –

Source: Mythical-Creatures Wiki (link)

The other G in our entries, Gogmagog was a muscular humanoid giant from the island of Albion (the ancient name for Britain). Sometimes described as more than 14 ft tall, the monster’s kind was said to have descended from demons. The folklore maintains Gogmagog himself was hideously repulsive in nature, and even draped himself in various animal skins to keep up his unpleasant and intimidating appearance.

Unfortunately for the giant, despite having the strength of 20 men, he was not really known for his tactical abilities. And that proved to the death knell when he was unceremoniously pushed off a steep cliff by the warrior Coineus in a melee combat duel.

7) Hecatoncheires (from Greek mythology) –

The Hecatoncheires was the collective name given to three monsters (Briareus, Cottus and Gyges) who were the children of Gaia and Uranus. And, they were not only known for their frightful enormity, but also for their ghastly arrangement of hundred arms and fifty heads. Even Uranus was so taken back by their ugliness that he decided to push them back into their mother’s womb. On failing to do so, they were subsequently banished to the underworld of Tartarus. Illustration by Silent Kitty (DeviantArt)

However, the Hecatoncheires more than made up for their revolting appearance when they helped the Greek gods in their fight against the Titans, who were also the offspring of Gaia and Uranus. As legend has it, the multi-limbed monsters had the better of their siblings partly aided by their capacity to launch a multitude of rocks at their opponents.

8) Kludde (from Belgian folklore) –

Illustration by ChameleonTech (DeviantArt)

A malicious spirit from the desolated parts of the Flemish countryside, the Kludde is said to have the ability to generally take the form of a winged black dog with a blue flame flickering around its macabre visage. Its wolfish nature had led many myth enthusiasts to define the Kludde as a werewolf or even a manifestation of the Devil himself.

Interestingly enough, the original spirit has been slated to be amorphous in nature, and hence the Kludde can take a myriad of forms – including that of a cat, a snake, a frog, a horse and even as a tree or a shrub. And, as every respectable monster, the supernatural being also has the power of speech and speed – both of which helps in ‘catching up’ with its victims.

9) Ogopogo (from Native American mythology) –

Finally, we have a marine-based monster in the form of the Ogopogo, a water serpent with seemingly affable flippers along its flanks and ominous horns along its head. An exceptional part of the folkloric traditions around the Okanagan Lake (presently in British Columbia, Canada), the native tribes even offered dead fishes and live cattle as sacrificial ‘presents’ to the cavernous behemoth.

Did we say cavernous? Well, the serpent supposedly resides inside the dark caverns underneath the deep lake, while the bones of its victims is said to be scattered around the shores of the ‘Monster Island’ on the lake. Some baleful descriptions even frightened the usually adventurous ferry commuters from the early part of the 20th century – so much so that they armed themselves in a daily fashion to defend against the monster during every crossing.

10) Sleipnir (from Norse mythology) –

Illustration by Lady Mischief (DeviantArt)

Sleipnir is possibly the ‘fastest monster’ in the world, courtesy of its eight-legs that carried the enchanted gigantic horse across the land, sea and even air. Of course, all of that speed was not just for bragging. Sleipnir is described as Odin’s personal mount, and so it helped the Allfather to travel in a blistering speed between Asgard and Earth.

Quite oddly, all of the super-exhilarating strength and elan are touted to come from Sleipnir’s magical marking on its teeth. And in an interesting note, archaeologists have found numerous depictions of an eight-legged horse from a few 8th-century figure stones etched on the island of Gotland, Sweden.

And in case we have not attributed or misattributed any image, artwork or photograph, we apologize in advance. Please let us know via the ‘Contact Us’ link, provided both above the top bar and at the bottom bar of the page.


Contents

A widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists link this idea to early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person (the person's spirit), most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. [3] Belief in ghosts is found in all cultures around the world, and thus ghost stories may be passed down orally or in written form. [1]

The campfire story, a form of oral storytelling, often involves recounting ghost stories, or other scary stories. [4] Some of the stories are decades old, with varying versions across multiple cultures. [5] Many schools and educational institutions encourage ghost storytelling as part of literature. [6]

In 1929, five key features of the English ghost story were identified in "Some Remarks on Ghost Stories" by M. R. James. As summarized by Frank Coffman for a course in popular imaginative literature, they were: [7]

  • The pretense of truth
  • "A pleasing terror"
  • No gratuitous bloodshed or sex
  • No "explanation of the machinery"
  • Setting: "those of the writer's (and reader's) own day"

The introduction of pulp magazines in the early 1900s created new avenues for ghost stories to be published, and they also began to appear in publications such as Good Housekeeping and The New Yorker. [8]

Early examples Edit

Ghosts in the classical world often appeared in the form of vapor or smoke, but at other times they were described as being substantial, appearing as they had been at the time of death, complete with the wounds that killed them. [9] Spirits of the dead appear in literature as early as Homer's Odyssey, which features a journey to the underworld and the hero encountering the ghosts of the dead, [1] as well as the Old Testament in which the Witch of Endor calls the spirit of the prophet Samuel. [1]

The play Mostellaria, by the Roman playwright Plautus, is the earliest known work to feature a haunted dwelling, and is sometimes translated as The Haunted House. [10] Another early account of a haunted place comes from an account by Pliny the Younger (c. 50 AD). [11] Pliny describes the haunting of a house in Athens by a ghost bound in chains, an archetype that would become familiar in later literature. [1]

Ghosts often appeared in the tragedies of the Roman writer Seneca, who would later influence the revival of tragedy on the Renaissance stage, particularly Thomas Kyd and Shakespeare. [12]

The One Thousand and One Nights, sometimes known as Arabian Nights, contains a number of ghost stories, often involving jinn (also spelled as djinn), ghouls and corpses. [13] [14] In particular, the tale of "Ali the Cairene and the Haunted House in Baghdad" revolves around a house haunted by jinns. [13] Other medieval Arabic literature, such as the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity, also contain ghost stories. [15]

The 11th century Japanese work The Tale of Genji contains ghost stories, and includes characters being possessed by spirits. [16]

English Renaissance Theatre Edit

In the mid-16th century, the works of Seneca were rediscovered by Italian humanists, and they became the models for the revival of tragedy. Seneca's influence is particularly evident in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare's Hamlet, both of which share a revenge theme, a corpse-strewn climax, and ghosts among the cast. The ghosts in Richard III also resemble the Senecan model, while the ghost in Hamlet plays a more complex role. [1] The shade of Hamlet's murdered father in Hamlet has become one of the more recognizable ghosts in English literature. In another of Shakespeare's works, Macbeth, the murdered Banquo returns as a ghost to the dismay of the title character. [17]

In English Renaissance theatre, ghosts were often depicted in the garb of the living and even in armour. Armour, being out-of-date by the time of the Renaissance, gave the stage ghost a sense of antiquity. [18] The sheeted ghost began to gain ground on stage in the 1800s because an armoured ghost had to be moved about by complicated pulley systems or lifts, and eventually became clichéd stage elements and objects of ridicule. Ann Jones and Peter Stallybrass, in Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory, point out, "In fact, it is as laughter increasingly threatens the Ghost that he starts to be staged not in armor but in some form of 'spirit drapery'." An interesting observation by Jones and Stallybrass is that "at the historical point at which ghosts themselves become increasingly implausible, at least to an educated elite, to believe in them at all it seems to be necessary to assert their immateriality, their invisibility. [. ] The drapery of ghosts must now, indeed, be as spiritual as the ghosts themselves. This is a striking departure both from the ghosts of the Renaissance stage and from the Greek and Roman theatrical ghosts upon which that stage drew. The most prominent feature of Renaissance ghosts is precisely their gross materiality. They appear to us conspicuously clothed." [18]

Border ballads Edit

Ghosts figured prominently in traditional British ballads of the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly the “Border Ballads” of the turbulent border country between England and Scotland. Ballads of this type include The Unquiet Grave, The Wife of Usher's Well, and Sweet William's Ghost, which feature the recurring theme of returning dead lovers or children. In the ballad King Henry, a particularly ravenous ghost devours the king's horse and hounds before forcing the king into bed. The king then awakens to find the ghost transformed into a beautiful woman. [19]

Romantic era Edit

One of the key early appearances by ghosts was The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole in 1764, considered to be the first gothic novel. [20] However, although the ghost story shares the use of the supernatural with the Gothic novel, the two forms differ. Ghost stories, unlike Gothic fiction, usually take place in a time and location near to the audience of the story.

The modern short story emerged in Germany in the early decades of the 19th century. Kleist's The Beggar Woman of Locarno, published in 1810, and several other works from the period lay claim to being the first ghost short stories of a modern type. E. T. A. Hoffmann's ghost stories include "The Elementary Spirit" and "The Mines of Falun". [21]

The Russian equivalent of the ghost story is the bylichka. [22] Notables examples of the genre from the 1830s include Gogol's Viy and Pushkin's The Queen of Spades, although there were scores of other stories from lesser known writers, produced primarily as Christmas fiction. The Vosges mountain range is the setting for most ghost stories by the French writing team of Erckmann-Chatrian.

One of the earliest writers of ghost stories in English was Sir Walter Scott. His ghost stories, "Wandering Willie's Tale" (1824, first published as part of Redgauntlet) and The Tapestried Chamber (1828) eschewed the "Gothic" style of writing and helped set an example for later writers in the genre.

"Golden Age of the Ghost Story" Edit

Historian of the ghost story Jack Sullivan has noted that many literary critics argue a "Golden Age of the Ghost Story" existed between the decline of the Gothic novel in the 1830s and the start of the First World War. [23] Sullivan argues that the work of Edgar Allan Poe and Sheridan Le Fanu inaugurated this "Golden Age". [23]

Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu was one of the most influential writers of ghost stories.. Le Fanu's collections, such as In a Glass Darkly (1872) and The Purcell Papers (1880), helped popularise the short story as a medium for ghost fiction. [24] Charlotte Riddell, who wrote fiction as Mrs. J. H. Riddell, created ghost stories which were noted for adept use of the haunted house theme. [25]

The "classic" ghost story arose during the Victorian period, and included authors such as M. R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Violet Hunt, and Henry James. Classic ghost stories were influenced by the gothic fiction tradition, and contain elements of folklore and psychology. M. R. James summed up the essential elements of a ghost story as, “Malevolence and terror, the glare of evil faces, ‘the stony grin of unearthly malice', pursuing forms in darkness, and 'long-drawn, distant screams', are all in place, and so is a modicum of blood, shed with deliberation and carefully husbanded. ”. [26]

Famous literary apparitions from the Victorian period are the ghosts of A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge is helped to see the error of his ways by the ghost of his former colleague Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. In a precursor to A Christmas Carol Dickens published "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton". [27] Dickens also wrote "The Signal-Man", another work featuring a ghost.

Jamesian style Edit

David Langford has described British author M. R. James as writing "the 20th century's most influential canon of ghost stories". [28] James perfected a method of story-telling which has since become known as Jamesian, which involved abandoning many of the traditional Gothic elements of his predecessors. The classic Jamesian tale usually includes the following elements:

  1. a characterful setting in an English village, seaside town or country estate an ancient town in France, Denmark or Sweden or a venerable abbey or university.
  2. a nondescript and rather naïve gentleman-scholar as protagonist (often of a reserved nature).
  3. the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that somehow unlocks, calls down the wrath, or at least attracts the unwelcome attention of a supernatural menace, usually from beyond the grave.

According to James, the story must "put the reader into the position of saying to himself, 'If I'm not very careful, something of this kind may happen to me!'" [29] He also perfected the technique of narrating supernatural events through implication and suggestion, letting his reader fill in the blanks, and focusing on the mundane details of his settings and characters in order to throw the horrific and bizarre elements into greater relief. He summed up his approach in his foreword to the anthology Ghosts and Marvels (Oxford, 1924): "Two ingredients most valuable in the concocting of a ghost story are, to me, the atmosphere and the nicely managed crescendo. . Let us, then, be introduced to the actors in a placid way let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage."

He also noted: "Another requisite, in my opinion, is that the ghost should be malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales or in local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story." [29]

Despite his suggestion (in the essay "Stories I Have Tried to Write") that writers employ reticence in their work, many of James's tales depict scenes and images of savage and often disturbing violence. [30]

19th-century American writers Edit

Influenced by British and German examples, American writers began to produce their own ghost stories. Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), based on an earlier German folktale, features a Headless Horseman. It has been adapted for film and television many times, such as Sleepy Hollow, a successful 1999 feature film. [31] Irving also wrote "The Adventure of the German Student" [21] and Edgar Allan Poe wrote some stories which contain ghosts, such as "The Masque of the Red Death" and "Morella". [21]

In the later 19th century, mainstream American writers such as Edith Wharton, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman [32] and F. Marion Crawford [33] all wrote ghost fiction. Henry James also wrote ghost stories, including the famous The Turn of the Screw. [1] The Turn of the Screw has also appeared in a number of adaptations, notably the film The Innocents and Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw.

The introduction of pulp magazines in the early 1900s created new avenues for ghost stories to be published, and they also began to appear in publications such as Good Housekeeping and The New Yorker. [8]

Comedies and operas Edit

Oscar Telgmann's opera Leo, the Royal Cadet (1885) includes Judge's Song about a ghost at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. [34]

Oscar Wilde's comic short story "The Canterville Ghost" (1887) has been adapted for film and television on several occasions.

In the United States, prior to and during the First World War, folklorists Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp collected ballads from the people of the Appalachian Mountains, which included ghostly themes such as "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter", "The Suffolk Miracle", "The Unquiet Grave" and "The Wife of Usher's Well". The theme of these ballads was often the return of a dead lover. These songs were variants of traditional British ballads handed down by generations of mountaineers descended from the people of the Anglo-Scottish border region. [35]

Psychological horror Edit

In the Edwardian era, Algernon Blackwood (who combined the ghost story with nature mysticism), [23] Oliver Onions (whose ghost stories drew on psychological horror), [23] and William Hope Hodgson (whose ghost tales also contained elements of the sea story and science fiction) helped move the ghost story in new directions. [23]

Kaidan Edit

Kaidan (怪談), which literally means “supernatural tale” [36] or "weird tale", [37] is a form of Japanese ghost story. [36] Kaidan entered the vernacular when a game called Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai became popular in the Edo period. The popularity of the game, as well as the acquisition of a printing press, led to the creation of a literary genre called Kaidanshu. Kaidan are not always horror stories, they can "be funny, or strange, or just telling about an odd thing that happened one time". [37]

Lafcadio Hearn published Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things in 1904 as a collection of Japanese ghost stories collected by Lafcadio Hearn, and later made into a film. [38] The book "is seen as the first introduction of Japanese superstition to European and American audiences." [36]

Modern era (1920 onward) Edit

Ghost Stories magazine, which contained almost nothing but ghost stories, was published from 1926 to 1932.

Beginning in the 1940s, Fritz Leiber wrote ghost tales set in modern industrial settings, such as "Smoke Ghost" (1941) and "A Bit of the Dark World" (1962). [39] Shirley Jackson made an important contribution to ghost fiction with her novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959). [1] [40]

A noted modern British writer of ghost fiction is Ramsey Campbell. [41] Susan Hill also produced The Woman in Black (1983), a ghost novel that has been adapted for stage, television and film. [2]

Noël Coward's play Blithe Spirit, later made into a 1945 film, places a more humorous slant on the phenomenon of haunting of individuals and specific locations.

During the late 1890s the depiction of ghost and supernatural events appear in films. With the advent of motion pictures and television, screen depictions of ghosts became common, and spanned a variety of genres. The works of Shakespeare, Dickens and Wilde have all been made into cinematic versions, as well as adaptations of other playwrights and novelists. One of the well known short films was Haunted Castle directed by Georges Méliès in 1896. It is also considered as the first silent short film depicting ghost and supernatural events. [42]

In 1926 the novel Topper by Thorne Smith was published, which created the modern American ghost. When the novel was adapted into the 1937 movie Topper, it initiated a new film genre and would also influence television. [43] After the second World War, sentimental depictions of ghosts had become more popular in cinema than horror, and include the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was later adapted to television with a successful 1968–70 TV series. [20] Genuine psychological horror films from this period include 1944's The Uninvited, and 1945's Dead of Night. The film Blithe Spirit, based on a play by Noël Coward, was also produced in this period. [44] 1963 saw one of the first major adaptations of a ghost novel, The Haunting, based on the well known novel The Haunting of Hill House. [20]

The 1970s saw screen depictions of ghosts diverge into distinct genres of the romantic and horror. A common theme in the romantic genre from this period is the ghost as a benign guide or messenger, often with unfinished business, such as 1989's Field of Dreams, the 1990 film Ghost, and the 1993 comedy Heart and Souls. [45] In the horror genre, 1980's The Fog, and the A Nightmare on Elm Street series of films from the 1980s and 1990s are notable examples of the trend for the merging of ghost stories with scenes of physical violence. [20] The 1990s saw a return to classic "gothic" ghosts, whose dangers were more psychological than physical. Examples of films are comedy and mystery from this period include 1984's “Ghostbusters”, 1999's The Sixth Sense and The Others. The 1990s also saw a lighthearted adaptation of the children's character Casper the Friendly Ghost, originally popular in cartoon form in the 1950s and early 1960s, in the feature film Casper.

Asian cinema has also produced horror films about ghosts, such as the 1998 Japanese film Ringu (remade in the US as The Ring in 2002), and the Pang brothers' 2002 film The Eye. [46] Indian ghost movies are popular not just in India, but in the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia and other parts of the world. Some Indian ghost movies such as the comedy / horror film Manichitrathazhu have been commercial successes, dubbed into several languages. [47] Generally the films are based on the experiences of modern people who are unexpectedly exposed to ghosts, and usually draw on traditional Indian literature or folklore. In some cases the Indian films are remakes of western films, such as Anjaane, based on Alejandro Amenábar's ghost story The Others. [48]

In fictional television programming, ghosts have been explored in series such as Ghost Whisperer, Medium, Supernatural, the television series adaptation of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). In animated fictional television programming, ghosts have served as the central element in series such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Danny Phantom, and Scooby-Doo, as well as minor roles in various other television shows. [ which? ]

Popularized in part by the 1984 comedy franchise Ghostbusters, ghost hunting has been popularized as a hobby wherein reportedly haunted places are explored. The ghost hunting theme has been featured in paranormal reality television series, such as A Haunting, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Ghost Lab, and Most Haunted. It is also represented in children's television by such programs as The Ghost Hunter based on the book series of the same name and Ghost Trackers. [49]

The Indian television series, Aahat, featured ghost and supernatural stories written by B. P. Singh. It was first aired on 5 October 1995 and ran for more than a decade, ending on 25 November 2010 with more than 450 episodes. [50]


Early Ghost Sightings

In the first century A.D., the great Roman author and statesman Pliny the Younger recorded one of the first notable ghost stories in his letters, which became famous for their vivid account of life during the heyday of the Roman Empire. Pliny reported that the specter of an old man with a long beard, rattling chains, was haunting his house in Athens. The Greek writer Lucian and Pliny’s fellow Roman Plautus also wrote memorable ghost stories.

Centuries later, in 856 A.D., the first poltergeist𠄺 ghost that causes physical disturbances such as loud noises or objects falling or being thrown around–was reported at a farmhouse in Germany. The poltergeist tormented the family living there by throwing stones and starting fires, among other things.


9 Fairy Tales For Adults That Are WAY Better Than Disney

Whether you read fairy tales as a child or whether you're simply aware of them because you are a person who is alive and does not live under a rock, fairy tales have played a role in your reading experience.

Unfortunately, when Disney sunk his claws into them, he did a disservice that lasted for decades: Most of our perceptions have been colored by his saccharine, censored interpretations. Because of him, the words "fairy tales" invoke images of childhood and whimsy and musical numbers that are too catchy for their own good.

Contrary to what Disney's cultural stronghold would have you believe, the idea that fairy tales are for children is a relatively recent phenomenon. They used to function much in the way that adult books do: They were escapist, but they were also strange and often startlingly gory or sexual (for example, if your only exposure has been Disney, than you might not know that in the real "Little Mermaid," the prince marries another woman and the mermaid almost murders him but instead succumbs to a weird watery suicide. As for the real "Sleeping Beauty". trust me, you don't want to know. Unless you are a fan of necrophilia, in which case, go ahead and read that and also please get some therapy).

As all good books do, fairy tales explored the dark and primal aspects of human nature--the deep corners of our psyches that we shy away from. That is the true reason they have lasted in the cultural imagination for hundreds of years beneath their simplicity lies a world of social commentary and compelling darkness. Disney may have taken them away from the adult world, but there are plenty of modern authors who have taken them back.

So, here is a list of some of the best fairy tales for adults. Some are direct adaptations some simply take fairy-tale elements for their own. (Disclaimer: this list is meant to be just a sample. And, I intentionally skipped the big shots like Tolkien and Angela Carter and Gregory Maguire in favor of hopefully spreading the word of some lesser-known titles).


1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The one sentence description: The Prestige with teenagers instead of Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.

The longer description: One of the most cinematic, atmospheric books of the last few years, the reader is transplanted directly into the strange and mysterious circus that appears without warning, only by night, and leaves town with the same suddenness. This book perfectly captures the dreamlike quality of fairy tales, complete with magic that is never quite explained. In most books, this might be annoying and I'd want an explanation, but Morgenstern makes the air of mystery work.


2. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

The one sentence description: a fairy tale that is less on the whimsical side and more on the historical side, it is a haunting rendition of "Sleeping Beauty" in which the "sleep" is induced by gas from concentration camps and the "dark forest" is a place of refuge from Nazis.

The longer description: This books jumps from past to present as the modern-day protagonist seeks to uncover her dead grandmother's startling past. It is never overly moralistic or saccharine, but rather paints a harsh, tragic slice of history. It also covers an under-explored area of the holocaust: the persecution of homosexuals as well as Jews. Although the book is not exactly "light," it is avoids being bleak. It is an utterly captivating, clever spin on an old story. Expect this one to stay with you long after you read it.


3. The Great Night by Chris Adrian

The one-sentence description: a modern day spin on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream but the four lovers have been condensed into three, it occurs in a park in San Francisco, Puck is terrifying, and the language is modern prose (although somehow Adrian manages to make it just as beautiful as Shakespeare).

The longer description: This book flawlessly moves between being funny, moving, heartbreaking, vulgar, sensual, and strange. The fairy characters are the only ones that share similarities with Shakespeare the rest are Adrian's own creations. The three protagonists ground and humanize the story, and Adrian's writing may make you want to laugh and cry at the same time (laugh that writing is capable of being that good cry because yours will probably never attain that level). I don't want to be biased and say this book is the best one on this list--because all of them are truly great--but, well, this book may be the best one on this list.


4, 5. Practical Magic and The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

I was hesitant to include Alice Hoffman on this list for two reasons. The first is that she has many adult fairy-tale books so it is difficult to chose just one. The second is that her books are very hit-or-miss: they're either great and beautiful or maudlin and overwrought.

Practical Magic and The Probable Future are two of her best, and they both contain all the best parts of adult fairy tales: magical realism, curses that past through generations, and murder and mayhem.


6, 7. Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Like Hoffman, it was hard to pick one Gaiman book so I kind of cheated and picked two. These are two of his best, or at least two that would be good to start with if you've never read him before, and it's impossible to write a list of adult fairy tales without including Neil Gaiman.
If you are unfamiliar with him, a one-sentence introduction to Neil Gaiman: the Tim Burton of the written word, both in terms of dark whimsical style and in terms of appearance-- if you look at pictures of the two men, they definitely share the same hairdresser. And that hairdresser may be Edward Scissorhands.


8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

It may seems strange to include this book on the list because I said I wanted to avoid the big-shots in favor of giving some exposure to lesser-known titles-- and everyone and their mother has seen the movie. But, the book's audience is far less expansive than the film's. The book is the rarest of rare gems: It is entirely different from the movie and yet they are equally good. My only explanation for this is that the author wrote the screenplay as well. The book contains all of the movie's humor, sardonic wit, creativity, and genuine charm, with some added twists and clever angles that I will be annoyingly vague about, because it's best if you just read it.


9. Bone Game by Louis Owens

The one-sentence description: This is more steeped in Native American folklore than the Grimms or Hans Christen Anderson--yet it contains many familiar motifs, which only goes to show how fairy tales resonate across cultures.

The longer description: Don't be daunted by this book's obscurity. It has only eight reviews on Amazon while Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane has over a thousand. This book is no less worthy, and its lyricism will sweep you along for the ride in the tale of its anti-hero, an alcoholic professor who is trying to bury the past. We all know how these things work--nothing interesting happens if the past stays buried.

I wanted to keep the list short, but if you are interested in more, here are some honorary mentions of authors to check out: Daphne du Maurier, Tanith Lee, Angela Carter, Charles de Lint, Laura Whitcomb, Kristen Cashore, George R.R. Martin, Philip Pullman, Emma Donoghue.

Ultimately, between authors who resemble Edward Scissorhands and authors who resemble Santa (looking at you, George R.R Martin), the moral of the story seems to be that if you want to write an adult fairy tale, the key to success is looking like you crawled out of one. (At least, it can't hurt). What also can't hurt is that, between the Grimms, Anderson, and more, they all have a history to draw their stories from--a history that is far richer, stranger, and more compelling than anything that Disney could conjure.


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The Very Short, Entirely True History of Mermaids: Laskow

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The Very Short, Entirely True History of Mermaids Hardcover – Illustrated, March 3, 2020 by Sarah Laskow (Author), Reimena Yee (Illustrator) 4.9 out of 5 stars 20 ratings

The Shocking True Story of How Mermaids Changed My Life

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  • My studies of mermaids had really brought home to me how their message and history is fiercely political and fiercely feminist, and how you just can’t separate them from that message
  • They are free, powerful, independent feminine beings wielding the …

People From History Who Claimed To Have Encountered Mermaids

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  • In the first century, Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote a book called Natural History that would shape European science for centuries
  • In Natural History, Pliny wrote about half-human, half-fish creatures that he called nereids.Even though these mermaids were part human, Pliny said “the portion of the body that resembles the human figure is still rough all over with scales.”

Myths, Folklore and the World of Mermaids Mysterious

Myths, Folklore and the World of Mermaids Nick Redfern September 19, 2019 The word, “mermaid,” is derived from a combination of “mere,” an old …

Mermaid Facts: From History to Pop Culture, Now You Know!

  • Mermaid Symbolism Throughout History
  • In the Middle Ages, this view evolved to more of a symbol of sin and seduction
  • The medieval church used mermaids and sirens to teach Christians about sin, salvation, and promiscuity
  • It was also told that seeing a mermaid was a bad omen and warned of a storm approaching with an inevitable sinking ship and

Are mermaids real, or just fake or sort of demonic

Even if mermaids do exist and are of God’s creation, it is possible that they might have their own set of their messiah who will save among the mermaids but so far, in the history of theology, there isn’t such record, and so in my own opinions, mermaids don’t exist at all—they are simply a fabled creatures just for fairy tales in


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