I Married a Witch
You can see from the trailer that I Married a Witch is a wacky comedy that might remind you of the TV series Bewitched. In fact, the concept behind Bewitched came from this 1942 film, along with 1958's Bell, Book, and Candle.
The Grand Register of Scottish Witchcraft is a Map of 3,000 Witches
The Witchcraft Act went into effect in Scotland in the year 1563. Accused witches were persecuted before then, but that's when witch-hunting became an official government-sanctioned activity. The act stayed around for 172 years, but was finally overwritten by another Witchcraft Act in 1735 that made it illegal to accuse someone of witchcraft in all of Britain. In between those dates, there were 3,212 documented cases of accused witchcraft. They weren't documented thoroughly; we know of the sentences handed down in only about 10% of the cases. As in other countries, people were accused of witchcraft for reasons ranging from fear to deflection to performative piety to revenge to a convenient way to get rid of someone you didn't like. Students in a Data and Visualisation internship at the University of Edinburgh sifted through the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database to create an interactive map of Scottish witchcraft cases during the period of government-sanctioned witch hunting. There are 3141 cases plotted on the map here. Zoom in to see separate cases (they are clustered in cities), and click on a witch icon to bring up information on the case. Use the menu at the top to change the map to show different visualizations for those cases. And be sure to read the details a few of the more notorious Scottish witchcraft trials at Atlas Obscura.
Western Civilization's First Documented Haunted House Story
How far back do you have to go to find a haunted house story? Probably further than the written word, but Pliny the Younger wrote about one in the Roman Empire, during the first century AD. The story wasn't first hand, but it was well-known enough that he could get details. It pertains to a certain Greek fellow named Athenodorus Cananites. He was quite wealthy in his old age, but when he was a young man, he went to work in Athens and didn't have much money. Looking for a place to live, Athenodorus was astonished at the expensive rent. But there was a house that was cheaper than any other. There was a reason for the low rent. Locals wouldn't go near the place because of its reputation, described as "pestilential." Ghosts would raise a racket at night like clanging iron, and it was impossible to get sleep there due to both the noise and the fear. Athenodorus moved in anyway, because it was affordable and he wasn't superstitious. It wasn't long before the nighttime shenanigans began. Whatever was haunting the house was enraged that Athenodorus stayed through the noise. The spirit haunting the home eventually revealed itself to Athenodorus, and even pointed out the reason for the haunting. Is the story true? Does it matter, as long as it's a good story? Find out where the story goes at Creative History. -via Strange Company
The Enduring Mystery of the Bell Witch
The 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project was inspired by a real tale of a haunting, although it was in Tennessee instead of Maryland, and it happened a long time ago. The first complete account of the Bell Witch haunting was written in 1894, but the haunting of the John Bell family began in 1817. First there were strange sightings, then poltergeist phenomena, then a woman's voice began talking to the family constantly. This "spirit" began as friendly, but turned insulting and threatening. She stayed around until John Bell died under mysterious circumstances that the witch took credit for. But who knows what really happened? In the 74 years between John Bell's death and the book about it, the story may have changed. Author Martin van Buren Ingram was inspired by the tales told in Adams, Tennessee, and claimed he was working from information in a family manuscript by John Bell's son. However, that source has never been found. But the Bell Witch story resonated with readers, and has ever since. Atlas Obscura looks at why it became so popular, and the lasting legacy of the Bell Witch of Tennessee.(Image credit: Brian Stansberry)
A Halfoween Film Festival
Some celebrate on April 30th, others on May first, but any way you cut it, it's Halfoween! This pseudo-holiday marks the halfway point in the year where we begin the countdown to Halloween. Only 184 days left! The video above is admittedly an old ad for a local celebration, but it sets the mood just fine.
An Overview of Walpurgis Night/Valborg/Hexennacht/Beltane
(Image credit:Fiendfall)The evening of April 30 through May first is a confluence of many holidays celebrated traditionally in Europe. In the United States, it has been celebrated as Half-o-Ween in recent years by Halloween fans because it marks the halfway point in the calendar between Halloweens. That point in the calendar has been important in many cultures for as long as anyone knows. The cardinal points in the year that do not depend on culture are the solstices and the two equinoxes. In pagan Ireland, these points are celebrated, but also the midways points between them: Samhain, Imbolc, Lughnasadh, and Beltane. Beltane on May 1 traditionally marks the beginning of summer, when the livestock can be taken out to pasture. While modern celebrations of Beltane are usually called May Day, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have brought back the traditional Beltane bonfires, once used to purify and bless the livestock as they begin their summer outside. The image above is of one such bonfire, dressed up with a wicker man from old Druid tales. The same day is celebrated as Calan Mai in Wales.
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