Your Creepy Stories, part 7

creepy

Collection #7 of stories from readers and followers of my Instagram (www.instagram.com/mysteries_crimes_curiosities)

Thank You to everyone who contributed!


Anonymous:

This is my encounter with a murderer not really a serial killer but here it goes, I was like 7 or 8 at the time it was 2007-8 and there was this gas station it was newer but abandoned, and someone bought it and turned it into a small flea market/yard sale and it was like a store where you basically buy second hand things that the owner didn’t really want in his house and he sold hamsters that he bred. And there was another guy there and he was very quiet and creepy, he was like a taller fat shoulder length curly hair Jonah Hill. We and my mother went there once and that one time the guy that owned the place was very nice and funny but the other guy kinda hovered about.

Well a month or two later an old man went missing and his body parts were found chopped up all over the county. It was those two guys, and how it happened was the nicer guy was arguing with the old man in the store over something and the weird guy came up behind him and stabbed him in the back of the head with a screwdriver and then they ditched the truck in the middle of nowhere and chopped up the body.

Anonymous:

This happened a few years ago. I was living with my friend for the summer and her apartment building was built probably in the early ‘20s. I’ve had creepy stuff happen my whole life to the point where the people around me started saying I was haunted. I’ve had non-believers begin to believe because of the amount of stuff that has happened.

In this particular incident we were just minding our business and watching tv. Her two chairs were set up with a table in between us. All of a sudden I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up and get really cold. I just ignored it because it’s happened before and I had gotten used to it. This time it was different though it felt like someone was approaching me or sneaking up behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I see a face creep up inches from mine. Our faces were side by side, It was a pitch black figure, had a faded outline, and looked to be floating. I didn’t move, I couldn’t move, until a hand began to creep over my shoulder and grabbed me. I whipped to look and nothing was there and my friend didn’t see it, and didn’t believe me. Anyways the next day as I was taking a nap on the couch my friend all of a sudden launches over the back of it, landing on me, and screams at me to wake up. She then tells me there was a black figure that was behind her in the bathroom as she brushed her hair. She described exactly what I had saw grab me. I have never felt scared when creepy stuff happened around me but this was different. We have both moved since then.

Anonymous:

I don’t know if this count. But I will share with you. So my father was a pastor in Mississippi starting in  the 80’s . The very first thing that happened at this church was once a year they would vote to keep him or find a new pastor. So my family and I was outside waiting for them to vote. And this man came walking out the graveyard. He put his coat on his hat he spoke and walked in the church we all waved at him. My daddy said “I wonder if he is a member I haven’t met yet.”

Ok they voted, and he came out of the church. He waved bye and walked back into the graveyard. As he was returning he was taking his coat and hat back off. And my dad said “Maybe his wife has passed and he misses her.”

We went back inside the church, and the people had voted for him to stay. So after he thanked everyone he asked who was the man he thought we had met everyone being we been there a while. A member got up and said “that was my uncle. He passed away years ago but he was a big part of voting when he was alive. And since he has passed.”

Anyway when it’s time to vote we always see the doors open and close at the beginning of the vote and open and close at the end of the vote. She asked us what was he wearing and we told them she said that’s what he was buried in. And after church they took us to his grave and they showed us a picture of him and that’s the man we saw.

The next thing that happened at this church was having services in the summer weeks.  Now we are from Tennessee and we drove to Mississippi for church. My father’s friend was preaching this night and a lady started shouting how she was HAPPY everyone was there! Then it took a dark turn. She was possessed and it was the scariest thing I have ever witnessed in my life. The way her voice sounded, the way her face looked…

They stopped to get her together and she said she was ok. But soon as he stared preaching again she was right back at it. Everyone was concerned, so her family got her to the car, but all the way there she was fighting, biting, spitting, everything. They got her in the car put her in the back seat, put the car and air on for her.

Now we were standing around, and I guess no one really thought it was real. Until she didn’t know how to open the car door to get out the car. She was knocking on the windows saying she was ok just let her out the car. And when no one did her face and voice changed again. It was awful! Long story short they finally got her away. And she was never able to come back to church again. At all. She would say it hurt for her to be there.

Anonynous:

I had a paranormal and maybe a near death experience this February at home.
I had been home alone for weeks – my brothers were in school and my parents went on a business trip, I was left to take care of the house and myself. Anyway, we’ve been experiencing some strange happenings in the house: from spoons falling in the kitchen to doors closing; loud/heavy thuds in the ceiling to footsteps around the house.

In February, on a Monday morning, being as lazy as I can be, was asleep till 10 am. I woke up still feeling sleepy when I saw a tall black shadow standing by door of my room. I had thought to myself *how did an intruder manage to enter with the gates locked * then it walked to the end of my bed, climbed it (I felt its movement on the bed) and began choking me, I tried standing up, but it was too strong and the good thing was, I was laying on my chest -so it couldn’t really get round my neck. It continued choking me for what felt like an eternity, I was almost passing out and I was praying in my heart that it should leave. Then it disappeared. My neck hurt for the rest of the day and I couldn’t sleep that night, stayed awake cause I felt it would come back when I sleep. I was alone for two more months till my parents returned and I had to tell them. We prayed about it, and I haven’t experienced that since.

“Gold”:

 I live Indonesia and I used to live in jambi Sumatra and if you do research in 2012 one of the students in Al-Azhar named Fadillah Krisma Ataya got into an accident. She was hit by the school car; I remember vividly how it happened. I was between seven to eight that time it was lunch time and I was feeling a bit lazy to go to the canteen with my friends so I stayed in class until I have the urge to buy a drink.

My school has two canteens just say the canteen am going is the nearest to my class and the teacher lounges, and that’s when it happened. I was walking, nobody is there except me and I see a girl drinking water right in front of the canteen entrance – and just then a loud crash was heard. I stopped right in my tracks a few meters away from the car. Half of her body is flung inside the canteen. Glass shard was everywhere and the black van was broken to a pulp. I don’t know how to react, and just drop down in shock.

School was canceled that day and we have a week off

Two weeks after the accidents I keep having nightmares of that girl. She keeps appearing in my dreams, with half of her body just crawling to me while smoke and glass shards keep showering my vision to the point where I am too afraid to go to sleep. Not only that, but I don’t feel safe anywhere even near my parents. I feel like like someone keeps following me and whispering cryptic things.

A month of nightmares and chills that’s when it’s happened

My mom says she only will take a while so she left me in the car. (A reminder: Jambi is a small town.) The parking lot was in an open space behind the bank. When we arrive, the first thing I notice is the big oak tree in the middle of the parking lot. I was weirded out but ignored it.

I was waiting in the car for I think 8/10 minutes when I got the chills again, but this time it’s more subtle, more real. I feel tense and scared and sit in the driver’s seat pressing my back hard but I still feel the burning eyes behind me. That’s when I looked into the rearview mirror. On my right I see her, the girl, but her body is whole for some reason!

I panicked and looked away and looked back, but see nothing. I know if I look at the rearview mirror again she will be there, so I decided to go out of the car. But I know I can’t leave the car alone while being on so I tried pulling out the keys but it won’t budge! I tried twisting it but it Still won’t budge!

I look left and right, there’s no one, but when I see the mirror again she’s there! Getting closer and closer I was having a panic attack breathing hard and I was like ‘leave the car and just run!’ ‘Open the door and just run’

I tried! I really tried! I tried unlocking it and opened it but for some reason it won’t open! I start banging the window hoping someone will hear and help me but my eyes caught something red behind me.

I feel like I made a bad decision to look back – I saw the girl staring at me with dead eyes with her upper body and blood drip down the chairs.

For some reason the door opened and I fall face first into the ground and just scramble to the bank but I met my mom the perfect time, she get out and she saw me panicking with tears on my cheek

After she calmed me down, we go back home, and that’s when I realize the big oak tree I see the first time suddenly disappear.

I never see her again after that and it’s been 7 years this is still my scariest experience and I have claustrophobia because of this experience

Hope this is interesting.

Anonymous:

When I was little I got sick and was sleeping on the couch in the living room. And at some point in the middle of the night I woke up and saw some guy staring at me through the window. I hid under the covers for the rest of the night. I was convinced it was a vampire lol. I finally told my mom about it years later and she said it probably was some creep. She told me when she was little (she lived in the same house) some guy robbed a house down the street and then broke into the garage and stole her sister’s bike in the middle of the night.

Anonymous:

I wanna share my spooky story. It could all just be a coincidence but it was really freaky in that moment.

About 2 months ago, my grandmother (moms side) was staying with my little brother and I for the weekend because my mother was in the hospital with our youngest brother. It was like 11pm and we started talking about our family. Somehow, the topic of my grandpas (her husband) father came up. My grandfather is embarrassed of his family constellation (I don’t wanna go into further details about it, but for the curious: Not incest) so he doesn’t talk about it. What I found out is that my great grandpa took no shit and debated everyone and everything. He also had a big mouth and hated it when people talked about him. Just as I was about to ask another question about him, a clock fell down from the wall and shattered. Yeah it could be a coincidence but it hung there for over 10 years without a problem. In that moment, I thought it was my great grandpa who interrupted us from further talking.

Anonymous:

2016: I was walking to the bus after I had finished shopping with a friends of mine. I didn’t want her mom to have to give me a ride home because the city is super busy and I didn’t want to make her drive (we lived on opposite sides of the city). A old man approached me and asked if I needed a ride. I said no because I didn’t know him my gut was telling me something was wrong.

I later found out that the old man was Bruce McArthur, a serial killer in Toronto.

Anonymous:

One night in the summer of 1989 my friends and I were smoking a joint on the Staten Island ferry. This crazy looking guy with long blond hair and deep piercing blue eyes plopped down and demanded to smoke with us. Out of fear we agreed. His name was Daniel Rankowitz.

As we smoked our weed and some of his own, he made random loud outbursts about politics and child abuse. He also  proclaimed he killed people. Usually I would be unfazed but this guy had an aura of evil about him.

Two weeks later he was arrested  for killing his girlfriend in Manhattan. He made soup from her flesh and organs. He also fed the soup to homeless in Thompson Square Park. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Anonymous:

A few years ago, my family lived near a man who claimed he was a warlock. He was Wiccan. (I have nothing against Wiccans) Anyway, he gave us a few stones to put in our house. One sat in the living room, and another in our little office. My mom claims to have been lifted off of the couch, by something she couldn’t see. And to have been knocked over forcefully in a chair. She decided to get rid of the stones, and nothing else ever happened.

 

 

 

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The Ghosts of Marjaniemi. Visit to a haunted villa.

Some weeks ago, my brother hosted a sales event at an old mansion called Marjaniemi in Ruissalo, Turku, Finland. Afterwards, he told me that the hostess of the building had given the guests a “ghost tour” of the house.

Obviously, this sparked my interest, so I set up a meeting with the hostess in question, Laura Louko, and she gave me the same tour.

Here’s my “report”.

Thank you, Laura, for your time and hospitality!


EtukuistiMarjaniemi

(old photo of the porch)

The manor was built in 1857 by P.C. von Rettig, a tobacco factory owner. He lived and died a bachelor, and because he had no children to pass the villa on to, its ownership went to P.C.’s nephew Fredric, who lived there with his family from 1874 onwards. Fredric also later took charge of the tobacco factory.

Through the decades the manor has passed from one owner to another, but the basic structure of the building is essentially the same, despite a new wing being added in the 1900s.

During WWII, Villa Marjaniemi served as a communications headquarters where secret coded messages were received and decoded. There was a long antenna outside in the yard, masked as a tree branch.

People have lived and died there for over a century, and the place oozes the patina of an old manor from one of those classic horror films produced by Hammer Films.

On a snowy Winter day in early 2019, I arrived at Villa Marjaniemi to get a personal “haunted tour” of the premises. Laura greeted me with coffee, hospitality, and some eerie tales.

Without further ado, here are the stories she told me.


When I started working here around 2012, we employed three cleaners, who commuted to work from Artukainen, a borough of the city of Turku. They would walk in through the the back door.

One day, they were coming to work when they heard the sound of a piano being played really loudly inside the villa. The only problem is, there was no piano in the villa back then, and nobody was in here.

Two of them refused to come back here, and quit their jobs.

 

A few years ago, we hosted some sort of a sad event here, a funeral I think. I had let the staff go home already, so I was the only one here.

I went outside to take down the Finnish flag from the flagpole. As I was folding the flag, I happened to glance upwards, towards the third floor of the villa. That’s when I noticed there was a light on up there, I could see it through a window. It’s one of those motion sensor lights: it goes on when you walk in the room, and turns off when it doesn’t detect movement for a while.

But there was nobody up there to turn the light on, not even bats or some other animals.

Next thing I see, a light in the second floor goes on, then a light in the first floor! I was terrified and started shaking. It was like someone had walked downstairs from the third floor to the first, activating the motion sensor lights on his/her way. But again, there was absolutely nobody else in the villa besides me – I checked several times before and after the incident with the lights.

IMG_0189

A while after that, something else happened.

We have several fireplaces here, and I had stored firewood for them in anticipation for an event we were going to host here. I kept the logs in my office.

I went away for a short vacation, and closed all the doors to the villa; nobody would be coming in during the time I was away.

When I came back to work, I found the logs scattered in front of the fireplaces around the house. Somebody, or something, had placed a portion of logs in front of each fireplace.

I never found out who had done it, or why.

 

We were about to host a memorial event for someone here, and we hired some workers to install lighting. They were young guys from a vocational school who were studying to be electricians.

As they were working upstairs in the third floor, tools suddenly started dropping off of a totally balanced, straight table. There were no massive tools being used that could have caused such shaking or anything like that – the tools just moved across the table and dropped off, without explanation.

Just as with the cleaners, some of these workers did not come back, either. We literally had to replace them.

 

Several people who have stayed in the upstairs rooms have reported hearing footsteps coming towards their room across the hall, and then feeling someone or something blow cold air on them.

IMG-20190308-WA0014

(hallway connecting the guest rooms)

Several folks who live within a short distance from this villa have told me about seeing the lights go on in the house without anyone seemingly inside.

IMG-20190308-WA0013

During WWII this villa served as the place where secret coded messages were received and decrypted. The cellar served as the office for this activity.

Sometimes I can hear the sounds of morse codes being sent with one of those machines they had for that back in the day, but of course, no such machines are down in the cellar anymore.


What’s your own personal view regarding the paranormal? Are you open to it or skeptical?

I’m fairly open-minded about these kinds of events. My experiences of this type are not limited to just Marjaniemi.

Years ago I was living in downtown Turku, and was pregnant. One night, my then-spouse went out, and I was alone.

I had an intense, very vivid dream where my spouse’s grandmother appeared to me, and said, in a loud voice: “So that’s how it’s gonna be!”

My heart beat like crazy for hours afterwards.

Also, years ago, I worked at a skiing center in Sweden. On several nights, I could clearly hear someone walking around in the hallways of the place I lived in, opening and closing the doors, though nobody was supposed to be in there besides me.

I’m not afraid of these phenomena. Though I do have to say that I prefer not to be alone at Marjaniemi after dark! (laughs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vlad, Vampires, and Other Horrors! Interview with Dr. Tuomas Hovi.

On a grey and rainy Winter day in January 2019, I sat down for lunch with Doctor Tuomas Hovi, lecturer on Folkloristics at the University of Turku.

Over some pizza, we discussed Tuomas’ specialties: notorious Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler and his role in the vampire mythos, as well as current issues in Folkloristics.

Below is my interview with him.

Thank you Tuomas for sharing your time and expertise!


impale-og

FOLKLORISTICS

Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

Tuomas Hovi, currently a lecturer on Folkloristics at the University of Turku. Finished my doctoral dissertation in 2014; the dissertation deals with “Dracula tourism” in Romania. In other words, it analyzes how history, fiction and tradition are utilised to promote tourism to an area, in this case to Romania.

Through this research into dark tourism, I found the character of Vlad the Impaler, and became interested in that as well.

tuomas hovi23

How did you become interested in folkloristics?

Humanistic subjects and history have always intrigued me. My original plan was to study comparative religion and become a teacher, but folkloristics got a hold of me, and I stayed.

For those who don’t know, what is folkloristics?

In a nutshell: it’s an area of scientific inquiry that studies oral traditions. It falls under the category of cultural studies, and it’s origins in Finland are in the study of the Kalevala, our great national epic that was collected from legends and stories.

Nowadays, the element of oral traditions no longer plays such a big role, as these days tradition is largely transmitted through, for example, the Internet. But the focus is the same: the study of traditions, legends, folkloric tales, et cetera; the sources have just become more digital.

We study everything from thousand-year-old poems to old legends to Internet memes, and everything in between.

What kinds of folklore does our current day world give birth to?

Interestingly enough, many contemporary folkloric materials have their basis in tradition – they just take on a more modern form. A long time ago, stories were transmitted from storyteller to storyteller; as technology developed, folkloric stories took on the form of “copies”, meaning the material was transmitted from computer to computer. Stories generated on, say, Facebook are a good example of this.

Is the process that creates folklore beyond the control of an individual or a group, or is it possible to intentionally generate folklore and put it out there?

It is possible to create it. In the study of traditions, there used to be a paradigm that said “it has to be old and anonymous to be authentic”, but of course this is not true. Myths and folklore can come out of anywhere!

In our contemporary world, folklore is transmitted quickly and widely, due to the effectiveness of modern technology. People often don’t even think of something as tradition or folklore, but from the point of view of folkloristics, it can be viewed as folkloric material for us to study. Rumors, stereotypes – these are all part of our field of study.

Does a nation need myths? And if so, what do you we need them for?

It seems like a nation does indeed need myths, considering how actively they are upheld within nation states. For example, myths are used to create the concept of national “characteristics”, the idea that there’s a group that shares a common beginning and a common set of traits. In this sense, myths can be used for a bad purpose, as fuel for racism and xenophobia towards people not associated with the mythological “story” of a specific nation.

Give us an example of a modern folkloric incident!

As you know, there was a terror attack here in Turku in August 2017. [Guy stabbed several people in a frenzy in downtown Turku, killing two and wounding many others. The attack was a jihadi terror strike. -admin] When it happened, I happened to be on my Facebook, and noticed someone commenting on the attack.

The attack was obviously devastating and horrible, but as a folklorist, it was interesting to observe the narrative of the events take on all kinds of forms on the Internet, in real-time no less. First it was 6 attacks all happening at once, then it was 3 attacks, then 2, et cetera. According to these Internet rumors, basically the entire county was getting stabbed at the same time. Later it turned out it was just one lunatic with a knife.

Another interesting example would be the famous photo of a police officer spraying mace in the faces of demonstrators in the US. This picture quickly became a meme, and it took on all sorts of connotations, all directed at critisizing the absurd, brutal nature of the police attack on civilians.

mace

(the incident is known as the “UC Davis pepper spray incident”)

Let’s step into conspiracy theory territory for a while. If you think about something like the spread of memes and other modern folklore, do you see any bigger “invisible hand” at play in it? In other words, do you think there are intelligence agencies out there directing the creation and flow of these memes for political ends?

Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to influence people, and it would be naive to think that intelligence agencies and governments wouldn’t use the various methods made possible by the Internet to influence the public. But as for the extent to which this happens, I can’t say, really. I’m sure on some level, it happens all the time.

Goold old-fashioned propaganda?

Exactly. After all, why wouldn’t they use these methods to their advantage?

If you want to enact a coup d’etat in a South American country, it’s a good idea to start the process by spreading a rumor that the president of the country is stealing from the national bank, or something like that.

Indeed.

What’s the connection between political populism and folklore?

Populism employs myths and tales that are widely recognized – after all, populism doesn’t work unless people are able to comprehend the message. So it’s a good idea for populists to refer to these common myths in influencing the public.

Nationalism, for example, often employs folklore and mythology in creating consensus: there’s some mythical “beginning” and “national character” that determine our fate as a nation, and we must therefore close out all “outsiders” from this story of our country, et cetera. Finnish nationalism often employs stories and imagery from our national epic, the Kalevala, for this purpose. The irony is that most of the nationalists who do so have never even read the Kalevala.

Have folklorists ever done a test where they’ve intentionally tried to create folklore for the purpose of understanding how it works?

Sort of.

Decades ago, a Finn living in the US as a migrant had a problem with the Irish worship of Saint Patrick, and the associated “Saint Patrick’s Day”, so as a joke, he created the myth of a Finnish historical hero named “Saint Urho”. There was no “Saint Urho”, but the tradition took on a life, and some Finns in the US began to celebrate “Saint Urho’s Day” regularly.

This is a prime example of how you can pull a “tradition” out of thin air and establish it, at least to some extent.


VAMPIRES

How did you become interested in Vlad Tepes and vampires?

Purely by accident. I’d like to be able to say something like “ever since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by him”, but it’s not true.

My dad was Professor of History here at the University of Turku, and he had a work trip to Romania. He asked me if I wanted to join him, and because I needed a subject for a presentation at a seminar at the university, I decided to join him. I read a lot of travel guides concerning Romania, and that’s where I found this historical character called Vlad Tepes, and the whole Dracula lore surrounding his persona.

We went to Romania, and happened to visit a town where Vlad had lived and ruled. I visited the places related to Vlad’s story, and found myself becoming more and more interested in the subject matter.

Ultimately, I ended up doing not just that seminar presentation on Vlad, but also my Master’s Thesis and my Doctoral Dissertation. I also later wrote a book about Vlad for the general public.

Speaking of the Dracula mythos, how did Vlad and Dracula become merged in fiction?

Author Bram Stoker originally intended to set his novel Dracula to Austria. But because there was another book about vampires already set there, he decided to move the setting somewhere else.

He read about Transylvania somewhere, and decided that the landscape and culture of that area fit this horror story perfectly. Doing further background research, he came across a book by William Wilkinson. The book says that the word “Dracula” was used to refer to both Vlad Tepes and his father. “Dracula” means “the Devil” in Romanian, and it was used in the horror stories describing Vlad’s cruelty. Stoker decided that that would be the perfect name for the vampire character in his novel.

Later on, researchers have kind of “discovered” the connection of that word “Dracula” to the real Vlad Tepes, and as a result, the connection has become blown out of proportion. Vlad was a ruler in Transylvania during a bloody period of time, and Dracula drinks blood in Transylvania in the novel, so people want to find a deeper meaning.

But the fact of the matter is that there really is no deep connection between Vlad the man and Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Vlad was not really the inspiration for the character at all. Stoker  just found that word “Dracula” in a book, and it enticed his imagination; he wasn’t that interested in Vlad.

Frankly, if Stoker had not come across that word “Dracula” in that book, Vlad would most likely have been forgotten to the dusty pages of history. He was not all that different a ruler in his time.

drac

(first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula)

Did Stoker ever visit Romania?

Not. He constructed the Transylvania of his book purely through research and imagination.

Speaking of the folkloric character of the vampire, where does it come from? Is it possible to trace it back to some sort of a first mention of vampires in literature or oral traditions?

You can’t really trace it that accurately. Characters like vampires have existed in folklore for ages, stories about dark beings that suck lifeblood out of humans for their own gain.

The specific archetype of the vampire, made famous by popular culture, has its roots in Eastern European folklore, in the oral traditions that were recorded onto written form around the 1700s and 1800s.

The real-life background of these tales is probably rooted in the lack of knowledge about human anatomy at the time. For example, when a grave has been dug up, people have believed that the buried person’s fingernails have grown after death (they haven’t – the flesh has simply receded, exposing more of the nail), or that the bodies have tried to communicate (human bodies release gases after death, which create sounds, et cetera). Also, blood is released in the body after death, and this blood comes out through the mouth, which may have led to the belief that the exhumed body has sucked blood from a living person.

So these observations of exhumed bodies may have led to situations where people have tried to explain normal post mortem changes in bodies by employing these folkloric tales.

The vampire archetype lives on and on and on – it just takes on new forms according to the culture and beliefs of a particular time and place. Why is that? What intrigues people about the character?

Good question; I don’t really know. One reason is probably the fact that the character is open for different kinds of interpretations and variations – it can be shaped into all kinds of forms. There are the shockingly evil and malevolent vampires that just want your blood and want you dead, but then there are also these benevolent vampires like the ones in the Twilight series.

If you compare the vampire character to, for example, the zombie, the vampire is still closer to a standard human form: the intellect is still functioning, the vampire still has feelings, et cetera, whereas the zombie just walks around catatonically, looking for someone to eat.

ed

(Actor Robert Pattinson portrayed the vampire character Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga)

Personally, I think part of the appeal of characters like vampires is in the fact that they supply a kind of subconscious hope of a life after death.

Indeed! Life goes on eternally for the vampire, but it takes on a different form, and you have to pay a price for that eternal life, and so on and so forth.


VLAD THE IMPALER

vlad1

Was Vlad really as cruel a ruler as the stories make him out to be?

It’s hard in 2019 to say whether someone who lived hundreds of years ago was cruel or not, especially as societies in general were more cruel back then. But all in all, he was not as cruel as he has been made out to be; a large portion of his reputation comes from exaggerations made by his enemies.

For example, according to some German biographies of him, Vlad had over 100 000 people killed during his time. If you think about Wallachia in the 1400s, having 100 000 people killed over there at that time just is not a realistic estimate at all.

So, especially the numbers of people he had killed and the way he ordered the executions to be carried out have been grossly exaggerated.

Having said that, though, I do have to add that he most likely earned the name “Vlad the Implaler” – he did have people impaled. But we have to remember that impaling was not something Vlad thought up – the practice had existed long before he came along, and was in general use during Vlad’s time. Vlad took up the method from Transylvania’s Germans, who used the method before him.

Some questions about individual notorious stories about Vlad. Is it true that Vlad had guests who were diplomats from some other country, and one of them refused to take off his hat in Vlad’s castle, so Vlad had one of his soldiers nail the hat into the guest’s head?

Whether this story is true or not, I can’t say, but there is a version of this tale told by Russians, Germans and Romanians, so there probably was some kind of a truthful incident that led to this story being told.

As the original story goes, Vlad had dignitaries from the Ottoman Empire visiting him. These dignitaries refused to take off their hats, as they only took them off in the presence of their own ruler, so Vlad had their hats nailed to their heads. The German variation of the tale states that the visitors were representatives of Hungary.

Soon after this incident, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire ordered an attack on Wallachia, which again reinforces the idea that something like that really did happen.

Another story. Vlad dipped his bread into a bowl of blood and ate it.

That story is not true. The reason a story like that spread was due to an error in the translation of a poem. The original poem talks about Vlad washing his hands in blood, but a translation of that poem incorrectly makes it read that Vlad ate his breakfast in the midst of dead bodies, and dipped his bread in their blood.

American researchers Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu wrote an influential book about Vlad and the Dracula mythos entitled In Search of Dracula (1972) That book espouses the version that Vlad drank blood, because it strengthens the authors’ thesis that Vlad and the Dracula character share common traits. The book was a bestseller, so it spread some misinformation to a wide audience.

There are a lot of good things about that book, but it also makes a lot of errors, and tries desperately to draw a “=” sign between Vlad and the Dracula vampire character. It also lacks a list of sources, which makes it difficult to assess the reliability of its findings.

What about the story of the “forest of the impaled”, where Vlad supposedly had an entire “forest” made of severed heads impaled on sticks to keep away an invasion attempt by the Ottomans?

There are descriptions of this incident in various sources from Vlad’s time, including from the Ottomans themselves. A historian at the time also described this event. So, again, there probably is some truth to the tale.

As the story goes, Vlad attacked areas along the Danube River and northern Bulgaria, and had 20 000 people killed; he himself wrote the King of Hungary and mentioned that number. The forest of the impaled may have been made from the heads of these people.

This morbid forest stood outside the entry to Vlad’s city to warn the Turks, who would be using that route if they tried to come to Vlad’s kingdom.

The forest of the implaed was a psychological operation, and there were two points to it. The first was to shock the potential invaders with the sight of all these heads on poles. The message was “This is what I am capable of, so stay away.”

The second was to threaten the invading Turks that Vlad would tear their heads off, which meant they would not be buried into sacred soil with their bodies intact, and their souls would not go to heaven.

And the Night Attack of Targoviste – did it happen?

Yes, it did.

The background went like this: the Sultan’s (of the Ottoman Empire) army was much bigger than Vlad’s, so Vlad had to resort to guerrilla tactics, psychological warface, et cetera. And one of these guerrilla operations was an attack on the Ottoman army’s camp in the middle of the night, with the intention of killing the Sultan himself.

They didn’t manage to kill the Sultan, though, but they did inflict damage on the Ottoman army.

1920px-AtaculdeNoapte

(“The Battle with Torches”, a depiction of the night attack by artist Theodor Aman)

Was Vlad a good army commander? Is it true that he led his troops from the front?

According to stories from that time yes, he did lead his troops from the front. He was extremely stricts about deserters, too, and punished them without mercy.

As for how good a commander he was, he did achieve successes in his attacks, and he knew how to wage psychological war against his enemies. So in a way you could say that he knew what he was doing, sure.

What was the popular opinion on Vlad during his time?

It probably depended on who you asked (laughs). Interestingly, Vlad’s reputation as  a historical figure in today’s Romania is generally positive. He is seen as someone who defended the people against its enemies, and defended the common folks against the elites. He also represents, in the minds of many Romanians, someone who gave the same punishment for the same crime, regardless of whether you were a commoner or a member of some elite.

What did Vlad physically look like? Is there a description of him from his time?

There is. A messenger of a bishop named Nicholas of Modrussa met Vlad while he was imprisoned by the King of Hungary, and wrote a description.

Vlad had black hair reaching to his shoulders. Black mustache. Sharp nose. Not specifically tall, but not specifically short, either. Strong shoulders and neck.

How did Vlad’s “downward spiral” begin? When did it become clear that his days were numbered?

Vlad attacked the Sultan’s Ottoman Empire, and trusted that the King of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus, would send his troops to help out in the war. The Pope at that time had given the King of Hungary money for a crusade against the Ottoman’s, so Vlad had reason to trust the Hungarian leader.

However, at the same time as Vlad was going to war, the King of Hungary was dealing with some internal political problems, and could not take part in this massive push against the Ottoman. So he used Vlad as a kind of “scapegoat” for copping out from the battle – he made it seem like he couldn’t take part in the war because Vlad was such an evil man that he didn’t want to fight alongside him.

This was the “beginning of the end” for Vlad.

Corvinus had Vlad arrested, and Vlad ended up spending at least 12 years as Hungary’s prisoner.

When the King of Hungary had visitors from the Ottoman Empire, he would sometimes bring Vlad out of his cell and show him to the Ottomans, to remind them that if they didn’t play ball, he would release Vlad.

He didn’t die in prison, though?

No, he did survive the imprisonment. And towards the end of the imprisonment, he may have been simply in a kind of “house arrest”.

He was ultimately released, and became the ruler of Wallachia once again. He didn’t live for very long after his release.

How did Vlad actually die?

The only thing we know for certain is that he died in battle. There are three possibilities:

  1. his own men, traitors, killed him
  2. assassins hired by his enemies killed him
  3. he died in a fair battle

We don’t know for certain who actually killed him.

He was most likely buried in one of two monasteries, but no one knows for sure which one. Both were monasteries he had supported during his lifetime.

Finally, some questions from my Instagram followers.

Is Vlad used as a tourist attraction in Romania?

Sure. There are the usual mugs and t-shirts with his face and/or name on them, and there are actual tourists who travel to the country just to go on the trail of Vlad and the vampire sagas, but their numbers are relatively small.

And of course many tourists who visit Romania in general will often visit Vlad’s castle.

Poenari Castle / Cetatea Poienari, Fortress of Vlad Tepes,  Aref

(Castle Poenari, Vlad’s crib)

Are any Vlad’s personal artefacts on display anywhere?

I don’t think so, no. But there are documents he signed that are kept in national archives of Romania.

Is it true that there’s some kind of a blood connection between Vlad and the British Royal Family?

As far as I know, the answer is yes, there is some kind of a connection. However, the connection is not directly through Vlad, but through Vlad’s brother. The connection was made through marriage arrangements.

Are there any decent films about Vlad?

There is a Romanian film from the 1970s that is reasonably close to actual historical reality. That film is available on YouTube.

How is Vlad’s influence alive today? For example, do you think the very map of Europe would be different somehow had Vlad not existed?

I don’t think so, no. Wallachia was a reasonably unremarkable place at that time, so I doubt if his influence was that big, at least in the sense of influencing an entire continent.

What were the weapons of war in Vlad’s time?

Swords, daggers, cannons, bows, shields – that kind of armory.

And finally, my usual questions.

What are your top 3 films?

They vary, but since we’re on the topic, I’m gonna start with Dracula (1992).

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

The Indiana Jones films

What are your top 3 books?

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

Ryhmy ja Romppainen, by Armas J. Pulla [Finnish comedic novels set in the military. -admin]

What are your top 3 albums?

Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Korn – Follow the Leader (1998)

Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)

Doug-Blair-WASP

Interview with Doug Blair, guitarist from W.A.S.P.

Some time ago, I had the honor and pleasure of sitting down for lunch with Doug Blair, guitarist of the legendary rock band W.A.S.P.!

We discussed life, music, movies, and other important topics.

Below is my interview with the guitar virtuoso himself. Thanks Doug once again for your time and hospitality!

And thanks to my brother Sami for the photos. Check out his photography at https://www.instagram.com/viikatephotography/


Doug Blair, W.A.S.P.
Doug Blair of W.A.S.P.

How did you end up in Finland?

If you think about the kind of music we play, which would be classic rock, the market for it has decreased in the States while it has increased here in Europe. So we are certainly not the only band that found better opportunities for work abroad than in our own country.

Blackie [Lawless] will often say, “The audience in this place [in Europe] reminds me of the Troubadour (iconic LA venue) in ’87!” I wasn’t there at the Troubadour in ’87, but I know what he means! It’s a good kind of mini observation of what’s happening on a larger scale: in the US, our genre’s audiences have been aging and constantly getting smaller. European bands perhaps don’t realize this, because they’ve always played venues here. For an American rock band however, the effect is pretty evident. But I firmly believe that the ongoing stylistic turnover in the states – and UK as well – is what has always driven the whole industry, at least in US and Europe.

So before I came here, I lived over near Boston, where I taught private guitar lessons for years. One day, a student showed me a stack of CDs and said, “This band is called H.I.M., and they’re from Finland!” Sometime after that I re-joined W.A.S.P., and we played the Sauna Festival [a rock and metal festival in Tampere, Finland. -admin], and I was really interested in checking out what was going on over here musically. I had discovered Apocalyptica, and heard that Ville Valo(H.I.M.) was a big W.A.S.P. fan!

Long story short, we played here in Turku a couple of times, and I got to know a really cool dude named Mark Bertenyil, who stage managed our shows. He told me about a program called Rock Academy, which teaches and coaches young bands. I did a few guitar clinics for them, and later began to teach there permanently. This gave me a great way to come to this country!

Doug Blair, W.A.S.P.

One of the cool things people know about this town is that Doug Blair of W.A.S.P. lives on a ship here. Can you tell us a bit more about this choice of yours?

It’s dictated more by practical circumstances than anything else. I’ve had an apartment and a house and all that stuff, but it’s just not practical when I spend so much time every year on tour with W.A.S.P. There’s a wonderful feeling of freedom in living on the ship.

If you’re locked down to a day-to-day normal routine and lifestyle at home, going out on the road means you have to really uproot all of it — this is why a lot of guys in bands don’t like to tour. They get used to the traditional home life, so then flying around and staying in hotels becomes too much of an effort. I went through all that myself, and we like to call it “The Void” — like there’s a “home mode” and a “tour mode” in your head, and you have to be a totally different person in each one. It messes you up a bit.

For me, living on a ship means I get to stay on that “tour mode”, which makes taking off again to go on tour that much easier. Plus I avoid that “post tour depression” of getting back home and feeling bored after the excitement of the tour. The ship I live on is like a giant tour bus – one that stays still (laughs)!

I’m also no longer interested in accumulating crap, because it ends up just weighing you down. This way, I can tour with the band — or any band, I can take a trip to Russia or Stockholm really easily, and all that good stuff. Material acquisitions have become secondary, as they should be.

Doug Blair, W.A.S.P.

What’s the current status of W.A.S.P. ? What are you guys up to?

“Well, just this morning, two summer festivals were announced — one here in Finland and one in Bulgaria. The Finnish one is Sauna Open Air — and ironically we played this fest in 2006, after which I was asked to ‘stay on’ with the band! We have played there once since, when it was called Radio City. I expect that there will be more announced as it quite a trip from California for two fests.

We’re in a great place musically because we never regressed into a “nostalgia band”. There are certain bands that can just play their old hits from the past, and that’s all their audiences wanna hear. But with us, our audience wants to hear the new stuff as well! The kids are crazy about Dominator and Golgotha and Babylon. Our new stuff can measure up to the old stuff. [My favorite song from the band is “Scream” from their album Golgotha. -admin]

Album-wise, there’s a lot of material, so it’s just a matter of how to release it. Golgotha is still going well, so I don’t think there’s any rush. A lot of the bands in our genre are really paranoid about people forgetting about them if they’re not constantly releasing or touring, so they end up over-releasing material. We don’t want to make that mistake. There’s value in leaving the audience desiring more!

If you look at the development of W.A.S.P. through the years, it seems like there’s lately been an added component of spirituality in your music and lyrics.

Blackie is creating the lyrics on his own, and I think nowadays he’s able to put more of his spirituality into the music, which is awesome. He’s a prototypical singer-songwriter, backed by a powerful band.

As the band, we’re approaching the songs as musicians who record and perform them – we don’t really get involved in that early songwriting process — that is very private, as it should be. But with arrangements and leads and other ideas, yes we do contribute then. We make the music work live and on the records.

But you’re right, the songs are getting stronger in all ways, and the spiritual component of the lyrics plays into that growth. Though in some ways, that spirituality was already quite present on albums like Crimson Idol, and even some of the stuff on Headless Children. I think society itself has changed and become more sensitive and reactive to it, which is odd to say the least. A level of spirituality has always been present in so much great music, whether perceived as such or not. A great example would be King’s X!

What are the most essential/influential records in your life?

That’s a really tough question. I’m gonna say “All The World’s A Stage” (1976) by Rush, because it had a major impact on all of us young musicians back in the day, playing in our cellars and wanting to make it in music. I saw them live many times, too. They were amazing at playing their instruments, but it wasn’t just a technical performance — the music also took you on a journey. “All The World’s A Stage” is a great live record — it introduced us to a relatively hard-to-discover, iconic and influential group in a cool way.

When “Van Halen” (1978) first came out, we were all really amped up about Eddie and his guitar. He like single-handedly saved rock guitar at that point! Kiss’s “Alive” (1975) is great, as is Peter Frampton’s live album [“Frampton Comes Alive”, 1976]. Judas Priest’s “Unleashed From The East” (1982). All King’s X’s albums. Type O Negative’s “October Rust” (1996) and Tool’s “AEnima” (1996). And throughout, Rush kept evolving and re-inventing themselves!

Lately, I’ve been greatly inspired by Porcupine Tree. When you start making your own music and finding your own style, you retreat somewhat from outside music for a while. You shift from being a listener to being a writer. For me, there was a big gap after my listening to Rush, for example. But Steven Wilson [of Porcupine Tree] has been an inspiration to me as of late. He’s a modern icon and genius, and a consummate performer. And listening to his music motivates and validates my own creativity in a way, because it’s unapologetically non-commercial. It shows you don’t have to follow like sheep to make it, even now!

I’m not one of these jaded old dudes who say ‘Everything is shit these days!’ It’s not true — there’s a lot of really, really good music out there. I also don’t believe in the concept of the “golden years”: there are a lot of musicians out there writing their best stuff at a mature age. Devin Townsend still blows my mind, as does Blackie Lawless! He can still put together amazing songs, and he’s still amazingly talented!

How tight is the music community? Do you keep in touch with other bands?

That has changed quite a bit with the emergence of social media. But I think most people keep in touch with really long-term friends the same ways they used to. But as far as bands go, we see each other on tour, and we use technology to keep in touch. But it’s a kind of an on again/off again affair, because bands always have so many things going on, that you don’t have time to keep up with everything that’s happening with everyone else. It’s action overload — and it forces you to pull inward a bit to keep focused.

In the long run, you do end up having a kind of community of musicians, where you follow each other’s stuff, and you hear something they’ve done and you go “Cool!” When I see contemporaries constantly coming out with new stuff, it keeps me inspired as well — by making me mad! (laughs)

What are your top movies?

I’m gonna name my four favorites: The Crow (1994), Contact (1997), Shawshank Redemption (1994) and the Hunger Games trilogy.

I like these movies because they take you to another world, and let you look at life through someone else’s eyes for a while. And because they make you reflect upon and assess what the f*** is going on around us now.

And “The Crow”, of course, has amazing music, both the original score and the song contributions from bands like The Cure, NIN and Rage Against The Machine. The film is like Type O’s ‘October Rust’ in optical form, taking you to this dark, rainy place. It’s a love story and a story of revenge, and it plays with the age-old concept of love conquering over death. It’s romantic in many ways, not only the obvious ways.

“Contact” is a different thing. It’s a long movie, and it deals with the idea of being able to travel to another universe. Jodie Foster’s character does that and nobody believes her, but she knows in her heart that the experience was real. The film was able to kind of predict the growing intensity that exists nowadays between science and religion, and the film examines this duality and debate really well. The story has multiple layers, and it can be viewed from different angles. I come away differently every time.

As for “Hunger Games”, there’s the big obvious adventure to be enjoyed on the surface-level of it, but there’s much more nuanced stuff happening below the surface, which shows the quality of the writing. Below the surface, it deals with politics and poverty, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The characters are multi-dimensional too: the President turns out not to be the worst of them all in the end, and the main character is kind of lost as to her role in the greater scheme of things. Plus the trilogy conveys a beautiful love story. The film is a great metaphor for all of us: where do we fit in on an immediate level? How about the greater scheme of things? Are these two levels in balance in our lives?

And “Shawshank” — what can you even say about that? It’s so powerful in so many ways, it’s kind of hard to watch. It succeeds in encapsulating what feels like an entire lifetime into a few hours with such compelling writing and acting. And true freindship that many of us never really experience.

I’d also like to mention “The Lives of Others” (2006), a beautiful German film that takes place towards the end of the Cold War. There are these artists and writers in East Berlin trying to publish to the outside, and then there’s the Stazi agent spying on them, totally stuck in the past. Great, great movie.

How about your favorite books?

I’m not a big reader. Part of that has to do with time management: you end up prioritizing your time in a way where you place your own work and exercising over other things. There’s also the influence of social media: nowadays, the time you would have used to read a good book is used to looking at stuff online, and catching up with what other people are doing, all that s**t. So if I’m gonna name books, it’s gonna be biographies, other people’s stories, as opposed to fiction, which is just random made-up stuff.

I love Maynard James Keenan’s bio, because he spent time in Boston and moved to L.A., just like I did.

How do you listen to music? Do you still use CD’s and all that stuff?

I have music in my computer, but I don’t listen to Spotify, for instance – I’m a conscientious Spotify objector. I don’t use streaming movies or music, because they undermine the entire industry. Of course, from a consumer standpoint, those servives offer more choice, but more choice isn’t necessarily always a good thing. If you have too much choice, you’ll never be able to figure out what you like, what’s your “thing”. Spotify is an app that works on quantity, not quality. But there are pro’s – and it will all fall into place.

I use Pandora at home in the States sometimes, and I’ve discovered some great music through that, but I’m pretty sure Pandora pays the artists better, so I don’t have a guilty conscience about that. When I find good stuff through there, I buy their albums and go to their concerts, and try to support them in that way.

Buying a record also inspires you to listen to the whole album, rather than picking a song from this band and picking a song from that band. Oftentimes, albums are worlds onto themselves, and you have to discover them accordingly – not just one song from this album and another off of that album.

If you look at the Spotify page of W.A.S.P., you have literally hundreds of thousands of listeners each month. Does that transform into money for you?

Not directly to me, no. Spotify makes its most money from advertising, and pays so little to artists. Maybe that’ll be rectified eventually, but the only direct benefit of Spotify and other streaming services is exposure, but then, if it comes down to just this vague “exposure” versus actually getting something for your work, I would go for the latter option.

Streaming services condition people to think there’s no need to pay for art. Why would you pay for something that’s available for free 24/7, you know. So it’s become the dilemma of our age.

How does a band in 2018 generate income?

Touring, playing shows, and merchandise. Vinyl has also made a comeback, and there are now more vinyl factories. And vinyl can be a big source of income for a band: you do a vinyl version of your album, and your cut of the sales can be really good. And people will always love to hold something physical in their hands.

Funnily enough, if I was a young guy putting together my two-piece band [signal2noise -admin] now in 2018, I would never record. We would be the band that you have to come see live – period. Some might say “You’re cutting off your potential audience!” But I would respond, “Then we just have to be good enough to be that kind of a draw — that people actually show up and pay to see us!” Of course, there would be bootleg recordings, but still, there would be that live element you would have to experience personally. Just like a live play production — it’s worked for centuries. Humans love live action!

Nowadays, it’s like Blackie says: “Records are just advertisements for tours!” Exactly! Which is ass-backwards to how it once was. But I kind of like it, as it puts the emphasis back on the live shows, which I love doing. And it allows the good bands that really work hard, to progress and reach further.

Doug Blair, W.A.S.P.

Speaking of which, where can people see you play live?

At the moment I’m working with the Rock Academy project, planning an ‘apprentice’ guitar-building stint, and organizing guitar clinics across Scandinavia. So, I’m a bit spread out! (laughs)

Right now, the only live act I’m concentrating on is a project called signal2noise, which is a two-piece band doing experimental music. We put it together with a friend in Boston, and released a few independent albums, but we didn’t do that many live shows. Now, I’m working on that again here in Finland with a local drummer, and it’s as challenging and enjoyable as ever!

I use an instrument I built myself that I call a “Guitar Cross”. It’s an 8-string instrument with 3 bass strings and 5 guitar strings. It was inspired by my hero Charlie Hunter, a jazz guy who plays a similar instrument. When I play it, it sounds really cool, like Rush or Rage Against the Machine. And because of this instrument, when signal2noise plays as a duo, we actually sound like a trio. And hopefully, we’ll be able to get out there soon and play some shows.

People can find our music at www.s2nusa.com That’s the only place it exists right now.