Thursday, October 30, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 30 ~ Terrible Tortures, Part 5

And finally, we've reached the end of our exhaustive, quite extensive lists of torture methods and devices.
What are you waiting for...... Here we go.

45) TORTURE CHAIR (a.k.a. JUDAS CHAIR, IRON CHAIR) - One of the most evil-looking forms of torture was a chair covered in spikes in which a prisoner would be forced to sit.  The torturer would then tighten the restraints in order to push the sharp points into flesh.  Worse yet, they were often made to endure an even worse fate when the chair would be placed over hot coals or a fire and the victim would slow-roast to death.

46) THE BRAZEN BULL - Invented in Ancient Greece, this device was a life-sized statue of a bull which was hollow to hold a prisoner/victim.  They would then be locked in and the bull would have a roaring fire lit underneath it, causing the victim to burn alive.  Even more creative was when a series of hollow tubes were added so that the screams of the dying victim would sound like an angry bull. 

47) STONING - Dating back to Ancient Greece, stoning has long been a form of capital punishment the world over and remains in use to this day. It is rather self-explanatory: victims have stones thrown at them until they die. In similar fashion, Giles Corey was pressed to death during the Salem witch trials of 1692. His accusers laid heavy stones on top of his chest and kept adding to try to force a confession of witchcraft from the man.  He refused, and died after 32 boulders were laid on his body, forcing his insides out through his mouth, ending his life.

48) BURNING ALIVE - Speaking of witchcraft, this form of execution was used before accused witches were burned at the stake, and well before the time of Christ. It continues to this day in various incarnations. Some of the various torturous deaths: the Celts used wicker men (yes, just like the movie!), Ancient Romans burned Christian martyrs alive by dipping a tunic in wax and setting them on fire, arsonists in Germany were placed in a wooden chamber which was then filled with sulfuric smoke and set on fire, and of course, witches during "the Burning Times" were simply burned alive at the stake.  A few of the previous methods were discussed within this series also, like boiling alive, necklacing, and number 42 on this list, the Brazen Bull. There seems to be no end to the ways to burn a person.

49) DEATH BY ANIMAL -  Fairly self-explanatory, this type of torture and death was used for thousands of years.  From throwing a man to the lions, pitching a poor soul into a pit of venomous snakes, goring someone with a bull, and my personal favorite: death by elephant.  That one involved having an elephant crush your head like a melon with his foot.  Sometimes they crushed each limb first, then the abdomen, to make it take longer and hurt more.

50) HERETIC'S FORK - This was an iron device with two forks, one on each end, and secured by a collar or leather strap.  It would be placed to fit between the victim's upper chest and chin, and did not allow any movement whatsoever, lest the victim's soft flesh be punctured by the sharp points. The victim's hands were tied behind their back to restrict movement.  It was often used for sleep deprivation because if the victim moved, they would immediately be jarred back to the reality that was their torture.

51) ABACINATION (EYE TORTURE) - This is the purposeful blinding of another person as a form of torture. Simply put: a red hot metal plate is placed over the eyes to burn them shut.  Blinding has been used since before the Dark Ages as a form of torture.  It was also common to put lime in paper cups and fasten them to the eyes so that the corrosive agent eats the eyeballs.  Some tortures included pouring molten silver directly into a victim's eyes. And there was always the gouging out of eyeballs.  Director Lucio Fulci made a habit of including eye torture in many of his films.

52) LEAD SPRINKLER - What at first looks like a device used to sprinkle holy water actually has a much more sinister purpose.  The sprinkler would be filled with hot liquid like tar or oil -  or molten metal and it would come out the end with the holes and onto the victim.

53) CEMENT SHOES - The American Mafia started this tradition of execution.  The victim (usually someone who has been a rat or has harmed the family in some way) has both feet placed into the openings of a cinder block, or even in a bucket - and then cement is poured all around.  It is left to harden and then the victim is simply dumped in the river or some other body of water and quickly drowns.  It is where the mob phrase "sleeps with the fishes" came from.  Not pleasant.

54) SPANISH TICKLER (or CAT'S PAW) - Very similar to the Breast Ripper, this device was either a three or four pronged device that resembled a claw.  It was either on a handle or attached to a long stick so that it could be raked across bare flesh causing critical  injuries, as you can imagine.  It was oft times fatal due not to the wounds themselves, but because of the severe infections that would result from the skin being laid open.

55) ASIAN BAMBOO TORTURE- Seriously.  This is just wrong. Whether or not it was actually used or just an urban legend can't be proven, but what happens is this:  a victim is suspended horizontally over a patch of bamboo stalks that have been sharpened to a point.  Bamboo grows extremely fast, and would soon pierce through the victim's skin and grow through the body and out the other side and continue upward.


*Well, hope you enjoyed this tour of torture methods.  There were so many different types out there that I had to only pick fifty-five out of the bunch...It's sad that the world has devised so many ways to cripple and kill someone over the centuries.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 28: True Story Tuesday: The Haunting In Connecticut

The 2009 film The Haunting in Connecticut is one of those that boasts the famous tagline of, “based on a true story”. But how true is the story? And who are the world-renowned paranormal investigators that made this tale famous?

The Haunting in Connecticut was based on the story of the Snedeker family, who moved to Southington in 1986 in order to get treatment for their eldest son, Phillip, who had cancer. Desperate to find a home, they unknowingly moved into a former funeral home.

The Snedeker home in CT
The mother, Carmen, was left alone to take care of the house and the kids since her husband had to remain at his job, hours away. She was busy and reluctant to believe her children’s (three boys and a girl) claims of supernatural activity. It started with Phillip hearing voices calling his name at night, and then seeing apparitions in his room, which was located in the basement beside the embalming room. His brother, Brad, who also shared his room would see them on occasion as well. While Phillip most commonly saw a man, he once awakened Brad to point out four cloaked men standing in the corner of their room. After a thorough search by their mother, the house was found empty.

Carmen was becoming suspicious by the crucifixes (which were hung above every doorway in the house) disappearing one by one. Eventually she began seeing apparitions in the house, as well, such as a girl with long black hair and a man in a pinstripe suit with white hair and white eyes.

Scene from The Haunting in Connecticut
Phillip began to noticeably change, and became withdrawn, moody, and violent. He would spend hours in his room—which became the embalming room after he moved himself into it—scribbling in a notebook that was later discovered to have pages of dark thoughts, drawings, and poems of a devious and disturbed nature. When his mother questioned him on how he could have written some of the material, since he was apparently dyslexic, he claimed “the man” helped him do it. Phillip began cutting bizarre, occult-like symbols into his arm, which was apparently also the instruction of unseen entities.

It wasn’t until after an older female cousin, Tammy, moved in, that things truly escalated. Once close with Phillip, she was now frightened of him and would find him staring at her from around corners. Tammy was pestered at night by unseen entities which were pulling at the covers and her clothes. Believing it was Phillip (and some accounts say it was Phillip), Carmen had her son committed and treated for schizophrenia.

~from the TV show Paranormal Witness
However, activity did not cease in his absence; on the contrary it intensified. Tammy was still attacked at night, and could even see disembodied hands running under her nightgown. Tammy, Carmen, and even father Al claimed to be sexually assaulted by the demons they believed inhabited the house. It was after repeated incidents that they called in renowned psychic and demonologist, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

After staying in the house for several weeks and experiencing all that the family did, the Warrens decided to perform an exorcism, which apparently brought an end to the horror. Phillip was released from the institution and the family moved out of the home. Phillip’s cancer took his life at age 24. Since their haunting, the family—particularly Carmen and youngest son AJ—have gone on to tell their story in many different forms, and perhaps many different versions, too.

They got attention with the book In a Dark Place, written by Ray Garton. Carmen and her family have relayed their story on episodes of A Haunting and Paranormal Witness; she now considers herself a spiritual advisor and plans on writing another book.

Although the Snedeker account is terrifying and gripping, many also believe that it is fake. Tenants who occupied the house before and after the famous family have had no reports of supernatural activity, nor has the landlady, who also claims that the Snedekers were aware of the former use of their home. More concerning is the fact that the author of their supposed biography, Ray Garton, doesn’t believe the story to be true. He was hired by the Warrens to interview the family and pen the tale, but was bothered when the family’s accounts were inconsistent and contradictory. When Garton expressed this issue to Fred Warren, he assured Garton that the family was “crazy” and to use what he could and make up the rest, but to be sure to make it scary. So that’s exactly what Garton did.

How much of the Snedeker’s story do you believe? Were they in it for the profit or were they truly tormented by inhuman spirits? Does The Haunting in Connecticut deserve their controversial tagline?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 27: The List: Real-Life Vampires

 ~by Marie Robinson

Vampires have fascinated and frightened people for centuries, but there are many who have taken their love of bloodsuckers too far, and imitated them in gruesome crimes. This blood-drenched article is dedicated to the “real-life” vampires.


Vincenzo Verzeni

Hailing from Italy, Verzeni—like most serial killers—suffered abuse from a family member, in this case his alcoholic father. It wasn’t long before Vincenzo, himself, began to show signs of aggression; at 18 he attacked his young cousin in her sleep, attempting to bite her neck. By the age of twenty he had assaulted two more women and one man. He was arrested in 1873 and convicted for the murder of two women, whose bodies he left extremely defiled. Both victims were strangled to death, giving Verzeni one of his names, “The Strangler of Women”; both were found severely mutilated, with bites on their neck and thighs, strips of flesh torn off, and genitals and organs removed. It would soon be discovered that Verzeni was a cannibal, a piquerist, and a vampire. He would bite into the flesh of his victims and drink their blood, and admitted that he found immense pleasure in the act, thus giving him the name, “The Vampire if Bergamo”. He avoided execution by plea of insanity and died in prison in 1918.

 

Marcelo de Andrade 


Marcela De Andrade only drank the blood of two of his fourteen victims, but it was enough to give him the name, “The Vampire of Niterói”. Sexually and physically abused at a young age, de Andrade led a horrifying life from the start. He became a prostitute at age fourteen, and engaged in a relationship with an older man two years later. At 17 he attempted to sexually assault his own ten-year-old brother. When de Andrade was 23 he began to attend the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and it was there that he heard a sermon that lead him to believe that children who died before the age of 13 automatically went to heaven. In April of 1991 he began his killing spree of 14 boys between the ages of 6 and 13, all of whom he also sexually assaulted. Other atrocities performed on his victims included necrophilia, decapitation, and, of course, blood-drinking. He believed that by ingesting the boys’ blood he would obtain their youth and beauty. After being arrested in December of the same year, he was later declared insane and remains in custody to this day, but not after escaping once in 1997.



Fritz Haarmaan 


Born in 1879 in Hanover, Germany, Fritz Haarmaan was forced into the military by his poor parents. He began molesting children in 1898, while enrolled in the military, and was sent to a mental institution after being declared unfit to stand trial, but escaped. Although Haarmaan remained a criminal all his life and made his living through theft and trade on the black market, police never suspected him as he worked as informant for them. Fritz Haarmaan would commit his first murder in 1918, and would not stop until 1924, after he had acquired a suspected 27 victims. Haarmaan preyed upon young men between the ages of 10 and 22 who were runaways, orphans, or prostitutes. After luring his victims into his house, he would sexually assault them and kill them by biting down on their necks—he would call this fatality his “love bite” in trial. Afterwards he would dismember them, scalp them, and dump their remains in the Leine River. Haarmaan would place his victims skull around to city for people to find. He was dubbed, “the Vampire of Hanover” and arrested in June 1924, and executed a year later by way of the guillotine.


There are a number more known “historical vampires”, each as horrifying and intriguing as the last. I could go on, but I trust that I have ruined your appetite for the rest of the day. I’ll leave you time to recover for tomorrow’s post, but I advise bringing a wreath of garlic to bed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 26: Sunday Bloody Sunday


Cold Sweat

Hostel III

Possession (1981)

Outlander  (Starz)

Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys

Aftershock

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 25: Superstition Saturday: Cemetery Lore

~by Marie Robinson

There are many names for people like me: gravers, tombstone tourists, taphophiles. They all refer to one who finds great enjoyment in visiting cemeteries. I find cemeteries beautiful and poignant places and feel completely at peace in them. Call it morbid, but I’m captivated by the thought of thousands lying silent beneath the earth, and I love the sculpture of the tombstones.

Tying in with another one of my obsessions, folklore, I have decided to write this piece up on legends, superstitions, and bizarre facts surrounding cemeteries.

We’ll start with some of the more familiar ones. For example, everyone has heard that if a chill passes over you, or you shiver for no reason, it means that someone is walking on your future gravesite. Another common superstition is to hold your breath while passes a cemetery, which has several reasons attributed to it. One is that inhaling may put you at risk for possession by an evil spirit; another is that breathing is disrespectful to the dead.

Another old wives’ tale you might have heard is that walking on a grave is bad luck, particularly one of an unbaptized child. Doing so could result in the contraction of a grave-scab, a fatal disease that’s symptoms included quivering limbs and shortness of breath and could only be cured under very specific means, or so it goes in British folklore. A pregnant woman who walks over a burial plot may result in giving birth to a club-footed child.

One is advised to never take flowers from a grave, or it could result in a haunting of the spirit of the buried person. It is said that flowers grow on the graves of the good, and weeds on those evil. It is similarly unlucky to take a piece off of a tombstone, although shepherd believed that grinding the stone up and feeding it to their sheep would cure them of ailments. Any structures that are built from recycled tombstones are doomed to collapse.

A once pagan, and later Christian belief (it always seems to go that way, doesn’t it?) was that bodies should be buried with the head facing west and the feet east, so that corpses would be prepared for Judgment Day. Bodies should be buried in their most complete possible form; for example, if a corpse is put in the ground missing a limb, it may be left to wander the earth searching for it, incomplete. The eastern areas of the cemetery were considered most desirable as they would get the most sun, and the northern corner—the coldest and darkest—was once reserved for suicides and criminals. Witches were supposed to be buried face-down in hopes that spells would no longer afflict the townsfolk. In Britain, a symbolic burial is when you hold a fake funeral for a still-living—but ill—person in hopes that it will cure them of their sickness.

The phrase “Charon’s obol” refers to the custom of placing a coin into a dead person’s mouth; the coin was to serve as payment for Charon, the ferryman in Greek mythology that carries newly departed souls across the river Styx. Although the practice of placing silver coins over the eyes of the deceased is often believed to serve the same purpose, it is simply done to keep the eyelids closed, since they naturally stay open. However, it is thought by some that looking into a dead person’s eyes will cause you to see your own death.

So think of these next time you pass a cemetery—and don’t forget to hold your breath. Feel free to include any of your own superstitions in the comments!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 24: Friday Flashback ~ The Fog (1980): The Curse Of Antonio Bay


I can't believe after all these years of writing this blog I've never actually written anything about John Carpenter's The Fog.  It's one of my favorite 80's films, with atmosphere galore, nasty deaths, and Adrienne Barbeau, people!

(If you stare at this picture long enough, the ocean will appear to move...)
Antonio Bay is a gorgeous yet sleepy seaside village in California that is about to celebrate its centennial with several planned festivities. But just as plans are being finalized and last minute details are being discussed, strange things start to occur.   Local priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) notices a piece of stone falling from the old church in town, and in the gaping hole he discovers a journal written by his own grandfather a hundred years ago.  It tells of the six founders of the town and the plot they had to prevent a leper colony from putting down roots nearby.  They lit a fire on the beach, causing the clipper ship The Elizabeth Dane to crash into the rocks and sink, sending all the crew on board to a watery grave. As if that wasn't enough, the founders then stole the gold from the ship to fortify Antonio Bay's existence.

The film opened with the token curmudgeon (John Houseman, used to his full cantankerous potential here) telling an old ghost story to a bunch of little kids around a campfire, in fact telling this exact tale and adding that the six founders' descendants would have to pay the ultimate price when they came back 100 years later. Which is of course, that very night.

Meanwhile, resident Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) picks up a hitchhiker, Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis) and heads for town for some late night fun.  They are shocked when driving into town, the windows in the car suddenly all shatter. All across town, weird things begin to happen.  Electronics go haywire.  Pay phones all ring at the same time. Windows fracture and break out. 

As a disc jockey set up in the town's lighthouse, Stevie Wayne (Barbeau) brings news and jazzy tunes to the inhabitants of the small fishing community by night and tries to keep her son out of trouble by day. On this ill-fated day, her son wakes her by delivering an old piece of wood with the word "DANE" on it to her while she is sleeping.  She drags it along to work with her and is startled when the words 'six must die' appear on the piece of driftwood before it bursts into flames.

Nick and Elizabeth have been helping look for a trio of missing fisherman and soon find the trawler stranded out on the sea with one of the fishermen dead inside with his eyes gouged out.  He has apparently scratched the number "3" in the wood of the deck.  (This indicates to us that he is the third of the six to die.) The boat and the victim also look as though they've been lost at sea for years. The boat is a rusted mess and the victim has decomposed far beyond the effects that just a day or so would produce.

As the town's special evening draws near, Father Malone corners the event coordinator Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) and explains to her that they can't possibly continue with their plans, as they are celebrating the origins of a town founded on the murders of the doomed sailors.  He shows her the journal and tells her that the crew of the Elizabeth Dane intends to come back and seek vengeance for their murders.

Stevie begins to warn both sailors on the sea and residents of Antonio Bay alike that the inexplicable and strange fog is beginning to roll in and envelope the town.  Homeowners are greeted with a foreboding three-rap knock to their doors and if they dare answer, the ghosts of the crew of the Elizabeth Dane make them answer for the sins of their forefathers.

While not a big-budget horror movie, The Fog still manages to evoke an extremely creepy vibe.  Carpenter knows just when to pounce on wary viewers, and builds the suspense to a fever pitch here.  At once a sinister film, it produces the desired "ghosts-from-the-sea" effect by having glowing eyes and seaweed-draped clothing as they ramble, zombie-like, from place to place looking for their 20th century victims to seek retribution on.

Nowhere near as effective as Carpenter's Halloween (1978), it still branded him as a leading talent in the horror genre, a title he would keep for years to come.  The Fog  feels basic at best, but if there is a better tale of vengeful ghostly sailors out for blood, I need someone to let me know right away, because as much as I enjoy this take on it, I'd be sure to love anything else that seemingly betters it.   My favorite place in the world to vacation is the ocean, and I love horror movies with my entire heart, so the combination of the two makes me a very happy camper.

[Oh, and FORGET the 2005 remake, it's a lousy shell of the original, even though Carpenter and his producing partner, the late Debra Hill, had a hand in it.  Stick to the authentic Fog, and let it roll in and wrap you in its blanket of creepy goodness.]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 23 ~ Terrible Tortures, Part 4


Back again with Part 4 of our ongoing series on some of the most horrific forms of torture that the world has used over the centuries.  If this doesn't scare you, nothing will. 
Onward...


34)  SCAPHISM (a.k.a. THE BOATS) - In ancient Persia this upsetting form of torture and eventual death began by tying the naked victim down in the center of two canoes or hollowed out trees. One boat on top, one on the bottom - with the head and limbs protruding. They were then made to drink a ton of liquid combined of milk and honey that would in turn cause severe diarrhea.  This drew insects by the groves, and the victim would be left to float in a stagnant pond in the sun.  As you can deduce, the victim would be devoured alive by insects drawn to the feast, most times from the inside out - which would take days. 

35) HAMSTRINGING - A method that has been around longer than the bible, Hamstringing is a simple torture method. All that needs done is to sever the hamstring muscles in the thigh.  This cripples the victim, making it impossible for him to walk, hence, impossible to escape.

36) TAR & FEATHERING - While it was probably rare for someone to die from being tarred and feathered, it made it none the less humiliating.  The victim would have hot tar poured on their naked body, which though probably produced first or second degree burns would not kill you.  If that wasn't bad enough, they were then made to roll in chicken feathers and be paraded through town.  The tar would be stuck on the victim for days, sometimes peeling skin with it when an attempt to remove the tar was undertaken.

37)  HEAD CRUSHER- It is exactly what it sounds like.  A device that crushes the victim's head.  It is made of iron/metal and is a cap that fits on the head.  It has screws on it so that when the torturer starts to turn the handle, the cap squeezes tighter and tighter around the victim's head, eventually crushing the skull.  As it tightens, the bones crush and the eyes pop from the sockets.  This was common in Medieval times.

38) THE ELECTRIC CHAIR - Old Sparky has a long, storied history since its early beginnings in the late 1800's.  It was created to replace hanging as the main form of execution, and was acheived by the criminal sitting in a chair, fitted with various straps and caps, and then given jolts of electric current to kill the brain and vital organs. It has been denounced as being cruel and unusual punishment after several botched attempts to end convicts lives resulted in the men suffering various horrors from gasping to seizing to excessive bleeding to flames bursting from the victim's head.  Several states in the US still offer the chair as a form of execution.

39) THE COFFIN (CAGE) - A man-sized iron cage would hold the victim or criminal for whatever time period had been decided upon.  Sometimes, the victim would even be killed or left to die in the cage, and animals and birds would pick at and ingest the victim.  But it would always be displayed publicly, so that the victim could be ridiculed. Many times the crowd would take to throwing things at the victim, like rotten fruit, or even stones. Pirates were killed in this manner, left to hang there and die to be an example for other pirates to be wary.

40) BASTINADO (a.k.a. FOOT WHIPPING/CANING) - This form of torture dates back to before biblical times, so it has been around forever.  Basically the victim is restrained, off the ground, and repetitively beaten on the soles and arches of the feet with a whip, cane, or other implement. It can be used as punishment, just as whipping any part of the body would be, or it can be used to extract a confession out of a prisoner that doesn't want to talk.

41) JOUGS - More of a form of punishment than actual torture, victims were put in iron shackles and a collar and fastened to the outside of a house, so the criminal would be visible for all townsfolk to see (and ridicule) It was popular in Scotland and in several places within the country you can still see the jougs attached to buildings and homes.

42) NECKLACING - One of the "newer" forms of execution allegedly started back in the mid-80's, most likely during the Apartheid uprisings in South Africa. In it, a rubber tire filled with gasoline or other flammable liquid is forced around the victim's chest and arms and then set on fire, essentially burning them to death.  It is said it could take upwards of fifteen to twenty minutes to die - while burning alive.

43)  BOILING - Speaking of burning.... it's really hard to imagine boiling someone to death - could there be anything more ghastly? But it was used in the Middle Ages in Europe and Asia.  As you can imagine, the victim would be stripped naked and then immersed (usually head first) in a boiling hot pot (cauldron) of oil, tar, or similar liquid.  The victim's skin would burn layer upon layer of skin until it started sloughing off and got down to vital arteries.  Gah!


The gas chamber in Auschwitz
44) THE GAS CHAMBER - We could spend an uncomfortable amount of time discussing the horrific methods of torture and death put upon the innocent victims of the Holocaust in WWII.  Nazi Germany employed this method and countless others in their "final solution", and it is terribly distressing knowing how many people thought they were just going in for a shower and then had to inhale poisonous gases and meet their death.  The gas chamber is still a modern form of capital punishment in America, but only three states still employ this type of execution. The victim is contained in a chamber while the gas is released. They are asked to take several deep breaths to speed the process along and prevent undue suffering.  If only the Holocaust victims were afforded that luxury in death.


*We'll be back next week with the last ten in the series!