Mythical Monday: The Owlman of Mawnan by Mae Clair

It’s interesting to note that many of the creatures and legends that make it into my Mythical Monday posts are decades, often centuries old. That’s why I found the story of the Cornish Owlman so interesting. Sighted near the village of Mawnan, Cornwall in England, the Owlman is often compared to my favorite “cryptid,” West Virginia’s Mothman.

The first sighting of the Owlman took place on April 17, 1976. At that time two young sisters were walking through the woods near Mawnan church when they saw a large winged creature hovering over the church tower.  The girls were so disturbed by the encounter that the family, there on holiday, cut their stay short.

Mawnan Church, Kerrier district, Cornwall

Photo courtesy of Philip White [CC-BY-SA-2.0 Creative Commons License) via Wikimedia Commons

A few months later, two other girls were camping in the woods near the church. Fourteen-year-old Sally Chapman was outside her tent when she was startled by a hissing sound. Turning, she saw a man-sized, owl-shaped creature with pointed ears and red eyes. Sally, along with her friend, Barbara Perry, originally thought someone was playing a joke on them until the creature took flight, rising straight up in the air. They reported its feet were like black pincers.

More sightings were reported the next day, and on later occasions, in June and August of 1978. All sightings took place within vicinity of the church.

In 1989, a couple reported seeing a creature “about five feet tall. The legs had high ankles and the feet were large and black with two huge toes on the visible side. The creature was gray with brown, and the eyes definitely glowed.”

Another account, given in 1995 was supplied by a woman who was visiting the area from Chicago. She claimed to have seen a “man-bird…with a ghastly face, a wide mouth, glowing eyes and pointed ears.” She also said the being had “clawed wings.”

Some speculate the creature might have been an escaped eagle owl, a species that can grow to two feet with a wingspan of nearly six feet. Others favoring a supernatural angle, think the Owlman may be a phenomena conjured by Mawnan’s church unique location on a potential ley line; still others that the being could be connected to UFOs.

Whatever its origin, like most cryptids the Owlman remains an enigma, a mysterious being who occasionally—when mood strikes—shares our world. Don’t you find it interesting how many beings coexist with us, if reported sightings are to be believed?

Mythical Monday: The Cold Ghost of Gilsland Castle by Mae Clair

I’m closing out my ghostly Mythical Monday posts for the month of October with the tale of an unfortunate boy who met his demise in Gilsland Castle, a forbidding stronghold located in northern England. What the poor lad did to deserve punishment has long been forgotten, but as a lesson for some misdeed, he was locked away in an empty upstairs room. Perhaps the austere atmosphere of the fortress itself was to blame, as you have to wonder about the type of parent or disciplinarian who would forget a child.

Sadly, the boy was kept in that frigid place too long, and froze to death.Castle Steps

For centuries afterward people have told of seeing a small nightgowned figure who roams the hallways, stopping at each chamber and seeking entrance. Still freezing, his teeth chattering and body trembling, the boy endlessly searches for an open door. When he finds one, he has been known to hover at the bedside of the occupant, whimpering softly as they sleep.

Should the person be ill, he is quick to end their suffering. Placing a small cold hand upon their flesh, he whispers “Cold, cold, forever cold. You shall be cold forever more.”  With these words, and the ghostly touch of the child, the sufferer peacefully surrenders, eased from pain by the Ghost of Gilsland Castle.

Perhaps he worries they have been forgotten and neglected too…

Mythical Monday: Sendings, Ghostly Assassins by Mae Clair

In keeping with the approach of Halloween, I’m staying focused on ghostly apparitions for the remainder of this month’s Mythical Monday posts. October and spooky just effortlessly go hand-in-glove. When it comes to ghosts, we tend to think of them as spirits who are reluctant to move on, or who have left something unfinished when torn from the earthly realm. But there is an additional type of specter, or at least one that makes an appearance in Icelandic folklore.

If legend is to be believed, a ghost can be magically conjured from a human bone. I find the idea pretty ghoulish—imagining some wrinkled  sorcerer or necromancer crouched and chanting over crypt bones—but apparently ghosts can be useful If you’re an unethical practitioner of magic.  In this case, the wraiths are known as “sendings” and were often employed as murderers or dispatched to perform grisly deeds. It makes you feel sorry for the poor soul whose bones were unearthed by an unscrupulous wizard!

The good news (if you were the mortal target of said unscrupulous mage) is that sendings were not without weakness. As a case in point there was once a comely widow who many men sought to marry. She refused all offers—I can’t help thinking the husband she lost was her only true love—but that didn’t stop the men who coveted her, and her land holdings, from pursuing her.Comely young woman, grieving over grave

One day as she was preparing supper a strange sixth sense came over her, warning of danger. Turning toward the doorway she spied a shadow on the threshold, velvet black but for an odd white spot at its center. As the terrified woman watched, the shadow crept toward her, inching nearer across the floor. Snatching up a knife, she struck the apparition where she sensed it was most vulnerable—the odd white blossom at its center.  Instantly, the shadow vanished, her knife claimed along with it.

The next morning she found the knife in the yard, pinioned through a human bone. Her quick thinking and her bravery had saved her life, and from that point forward she was bothered no more.

A strange HEA, but kind of cool nonetheless, and it speaks to my personal belief that some people have only one soulmate. What do you think of this tale?

 

Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Gettysburg by Mae Clair

As Halloween draws nearer and thoughts turn to all things spooky, it seemed a good time to shine my Mythical Monday spotlight on rumored hauntings. Most of you know I live in Central Pennsylvania, which places the battlefield of Gettysburg not far from my doorstep. My husband and I have visited often, soaking up the history of this landmark site that was the turning point of America’s Civil War.

Confederate soldiers advance Civil War battle reenactment

I never really stop to think about it being haunted when I visit, but as a place where an estimated 50,000 Union and Confederate Soldiers met their end in a three-day battle, it stands as one of the most haunted locations in America. I’ve never encountered a ghost there (I don’t think I’d want to) but I do recall feeling significantly “creeped out” during one venture onto Little Round Top.

If you’re unfamiliar with Civil War history, Little Round Top (a large rocky wooded hill on the battlefield) was held by Union forces when the confederates launched repetitive assaults. The day culminated with a grisly downhill bayonet charge by the 20th Maine under Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Union forces—who were out of ammo by that point—took the victory but it was costly to both sides.

The_New_York_Monument_on_Little_Round_Top By DeeFabian (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The_New_York_Monument_on_Little_Round_Top By DeeFabian (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve hiked Little Round Top numerous times but on the last occasion, I distinctly recall being uneasy as I walked downhill. Usually there are other people around, park visitors taking the trail up and down from the summit. On that day it was just me and my husband, and the surrounding woods felt entirely too still, much too solemn. Even today, I have a vivid memory of anxiously wanting to reach the bottom, imagining some unseen danger lurking in the trees. A presence I couldn’t name. It’s interesting to note I didn’t realize the site was haunted at the time. I’ve since heard there are numerous apparitions that have been spotted at Little Round Top—soldiers moving in formation through the trees, a headless horseman, and even an old private.

According to legend, when the movie Gettysburg was being filmed, many actors, hired as extras, would wander the battlefield in costume between takes. On one such occasion, a small group hiked up Little Round Top to enjoy the sunset. Near the top, they heard a rustling of leaves and turned to spy a haggard-looking old man approaching. Dressed in the uniform of Union private, he was filthy, his clothing reeking of sulfur (sulfur was a key ingredient of the black powder used in 1863). Approaching the group, he extended his hand and passed over a few musket rounds. “Rough one today, eh, boys?” he asked, then vanished while the men were focused on the ammo. No one had ever seen the old private before. When the men took the musket rounds into town they were authenticated as original rounds, 130 years old.

Photo of Devil's Den on Gettysburg Battlefield By Hal Jespersen at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Devil’s Den on Gettysburg Battlefield By Hal Jespersen at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Devil’s Den, a ridge strewn with large boulders, known as the “slaughter pen” for the inordinate amount of lives lost there, is another hotspot for paranormal activity. It is considered by many to be the most haunted spot on the battlefield. Visitors routinely have issues when trying to use cameras at Devil’s Den. Perhaps the reason can be traced back to Civil War photographer, Alexander Gardner. Controversy has swirled over whether or not Mr. Gardner moved a confederate sniper’s corpse, dragging the body into the Devil’s Den area to create a better shot with more photogenic surroundings.  Such callousness didn’t go over well with the men who fought and died there, and as a result visitors frequently complain of their cameras jamming and, on some occasions, even being thrown to the ground by an unseen force.

There is an interesting tale of a woman who was attempting to take a picture one morning when an apparition appeared. The phantom, described as a “scruffy-looking hippie type with ragged clothing, a shirt without buttons, a big hat and no shoes, directed the woman to take a picture of Plum Run instead, saying “What you are looking for is over there.”

Apparently this same phantom, identified as a Texan soldier, has taken a liking to the living and is often mistaken for a Civil War re-enactor. He has posed for photos with visitors, but the space where he was standing is always mysteriously blank when the film is developed. I have to say, I have never taken photos at Devil’s Den, but this has me curious to attempt it. I’ll definitely try it on my next visit.

There are numerous other reportedly haunted sites on the battlefield and in the town proper of Gettysburg. Several locations have been featured on “Ghost Adventures,” and there are numerous ghost tours available for anyone to eager to seek out phantoms. You Tube is loaded with videos of apparitions caught on tape.

An integral part of American history, Gettysburg entertains its share of ghost hunters all year, but probably more so near Halloween.

If you had the chance, would you go ghost hunting?

 

Sources:
http://hauntedhouses.com/

http://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/06/gettysburg_150_12.html

Mythical Monday: The Neck, Water Men, and Nixies by Mae Clair

Last week for Mythical Monday, I ventured into the forests of Germany and Scandinavia for a look at the earthy Moss People. Today, I’m mired in the same region of the globe, but wading into a watery domain with Nixies and the Water-Men of Germany.

Tales vary depending on the branch of folklore you happen to be pursuing. In some legends, the Water-Men are human in appearance but have green teeth and favor green hats. They often mingle with humans in marketplaces where they do their shopping. For the most part they dwell on good terms with men, and even aspire to friendship. Their women are beautiful and ethereal, commonly called Nixies.Fantasy girl taking magic light in her hands, standing on edge of pond at night

In other legends, they appear human-like with amphibious features such as gills, webbed feet and hands. Many claim they are shapeshifters who have no true form.

In Scandinavia, these same creatures are known as Necks, a male water sprite who dwells in rivers and streams. Master musicians who favor the harp and violin, they prey on unsuspecting women and children by luring them to the water to drown. The music they weave is magically enchanted, much like that of a siren, too beautiful for mortals to resist. Pregnant women and unbaptized children are especially susceptible to their bewitching melodies.

In most tales the Neck is doomed, but in some, he is a creature who fervently craves redemption.

A timeworn legend tells of a priest who came upon a Neck as he played along the riverbank. Spying the creature, the priest rebuked the Neck harshly. “Look at this dead staff,” he said, displaying the withered piece of wood he used to aid in his walking. “This piece of rot will put forth green leaves, before your soul is saved.”

By Ernst Josephsson (1851 - 1906) (Swedish) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ernst Josephsson (1851 – 1906) (Swedish) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hearing the cruel denouncement and fearing his soul beyond redemption, the Neck burst into tears. He threw his harp aside and buried his face in his hands, mournfully bemoaning his fate.

Satisfied, the priest left him  weeping, but as he walked away, guilt twisted his heart. He had not gone far when his staff abruptly surged with green sap, putting forth a bounty of twigs and leaves—a message from the great I AM that all creatures belong to God. Deeply ashamed, the priest retraced his steps. He found the Neck still sobbing, and humbly begged forgiveness, showing the heartbroken creature his staff. Seeing the change that had overtaken the withered piece of wood, the Neck rejoiced. Reclaiming his harp, he burst into song, his music so utterly beautiful that the river itself echoed with his sweet melody.

As someone who adores a happily-ever-after, I love that tale. I can imagine the old priest rejoicing with him, sitting down on the river bank and sharing his bread and wine.

Have you ever heard this legend before? Were you familiar with the Neck?

Mythical Monday: The Moss People by Mae Clair

I feel like I’ve taken a leave of absence, and I guess I have. I was on vacation all last week, enjoying an end of summer fling at the shore. Now I’m officially ready to embrace fall, just in time for another Mythical Monday.

Dense forest with moss-covered treesWith the trees starting to turn color, I thought I’d creep into the forest where they grow in abundance, and spend some time with the Moss People or Wood Folk.

Germanic in origin, Moss People are a type of fairy, often compared to dwarves or elves. They have a strong affinity to trees and the forest. In many tales they are pursued by Odin during the Wild Hunt, and seek shelter by entering trees that have been scored with a cross—a sign a woodsman has marked the tree to be cut down. Some tales describe Wood Folk as gnarled and gray, covered with moss, in others they are said to be comely, endowed with wings like a butterfly.

An unassuming and shy people, they occasionally borrow items from humans, but compensate for any loan generously. Above all, they prize a gift of maternal breast milk from a human woman, something they covet for their own children as a remedy for all ills. Timid by nature, it is hard for them to beseech such a boon, perhaps the reason they choose to reward such generosity in abundance.

Legends of the Moss People are most popular in the forests of Bavaria in southern Germany, and parts of Scandinavia. In closing, this description of a Moss Woman is taken from “The Moss Woman and the Widow,” a tale of southern Germany, shared in The Fairy Family, a series of ballads related to fairy mythology:

“A Moss Woman!” the haymakers cry,
And over the fields in terror they fly.
She is loosely clad from neck to foot,
In a mantle of moss from the maple’s root.
And like lichen grey on its stem that grows,
Is the hair that over her mantle flows.

Her skin like the maple-rind is hard,
Brown and ridgy and furrowed and scarred;
And each feature flat, like the mark we see,
Where a bough has been lopped from the bole of a tree.

As unassuming as she seems, doesn’t it make you wonder why the haymakers flee?

Mythical Monday:  The Ghosts of Baker Mansion by Mae Clair

Today, I’m shining the Mythical Monday spotlight on an infamous residence located within my home state of Pennsylvania. The Baker Mansion is a Greek Revival-style house, located in Altoona. Built in 1849 for Elias Baker, a prominent local ironmaster, this twenty-eight room home has a colorful assortment of ghosts residing within.

Baker Mansion in Altoona Pennsylvania

Baker Mansion in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Image by Pubdog (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the attention goes to Anna, Elias’s daughter. A beautiful girl by all accounts, Anna fell in love with one of her father’s workers. The young man presented Anna with an engagement ring but when the happy couple shared the news with her father, Elias flew into a rage and drove off Anna’s suitor. A rich, powerful man, it’s believed Elias thought the poor boy unworthy, of lower breeding.

Heartbroken and bitter, Anna vowed if she couldn’t marry the man she loved, she would become a spinster. True to her word, she died single and alone in 1914. Many say she remained angry at her father all of her life for stealing her single chance at happiness. Perhaps that’s why her ghost haunts the home he prized, with particular attachment to a wedding dress displayed in her bedroom.

In 1922, the Blair County Historical Society made the mansion their headquarters and turned it into a museum. One of the items placed on display was an antique wedding dress worn by Elizabeth Bell, the daughter of another wealthy ironmaster.  Although the dress has since been removed to preserve the fragile fabric, over the years it gained a reputation for being “haunted.” Sealed in a glass case, the skirts of the gown were often seen swaying as if to the stroll of a woman’s light gait. Other times, witnesses observed the dress rocking violently, the case shaken so badly it was feared the glass would shatter.

Some speculate Anna’s ghost is at fault for these outbursts, reacting to the presence of a gown she never had a chance to wear. But Anna isn’t the only ghost haunting Baker Mansion. Her brother, David, once a crew member on a steamboat, prowls the basement.

Why there?

In the winter of 1852, David met his end in a steamboat accident. Because the ground was frozen, his body was stored in the cellar until the soil thawed enough for him to be buried. Some visitors have reported hearing chill screams coming from the basement; others tell of seeing a man in a steamboat uniform lurking in the shadows.

And then there is Hetty, Elias’ wife. An older woman dressed in black has often been seen on the stairs and roving about the third floor hallways. Many think this particular phantom is Elias’ wife. The ironmaster himself is known to make occasional appearances in the dining room. Ghostly figure descending steps

Finally, Anna’s brother Sylvester prefers to linger in the parlor where he died of a heart attack. Legend says he stood up from the sofa to retire one evening, suffered a fatal heart attack and collapsed. Pressure pads under the carpet—part of a security system installed in the 1980s—have been activated in that area when no one is present. The spot where Sylvester collapsed has even been crushed, as if someone had fallen on it.

Once, when a police officer responded to an alarm with his K-9 German Shepherd, the dog reacted as if sensing an unseen presence in the parlor. As trained, it immediately began sniffing and searching for a prowler but when the dog reached the parlor, it froze in the doorway, quickly turned, and fled from the house. This highly trained service animal could not be coaxed back inside.

Cold spots, moving furniture, knocking raps, orbs reflected in mirrors, even a music box that randomly plays and stops—all these events and more have plagued the Baker Mansion. Listed as one of the nine most haunted houses in America by Life Magazine in 1981, it continues to draw interested visitors and those hoping to experience a shiver of the supernatural.

Have you ever visited a haunted house? As much as I enjoy mythical stories, I wouldn’t want to set foot in one! How about you?