I love this article, scientists doing their best to debunk an old superstition.
The scientists assembled all the ingredients necessary to perform this bit of black magic; the bat’s blood, the top of a mountain, a full moon, a maiden pure of heart and mind, all in order to magic themselves up ‘a youth of surpassing beauty’.
I know that they were sure they were out there proving that science trumps magic but I wonder how many of the scientists were secretly hoping for that extremely good-looking youth to appear before them?
I’ve got to feel sorry for the maiden though. She was pure of heat and mind but obviously just not pretty enough. The scientists were happy to sacrifice her in order to get a better looking version. Poor bugger….
Obviously the Brocken was the kind of place that make it easy for people to believe a bit of the otherworld seeps through. I have did a post last year about the Spectre of the Brocken, a pine tree wielding monster stalking about the mountain.
It is a pity the Spectre didn’t make an appearance during this experiment. I can just imagine the crowd scattering before it, all thoughts of magical appearances abandoned, and the pure maiden just left there all alone, still tied to the sacrificial altar. 😉
After the sad news of the death of Neil Armstrong I though I would do a bit of a search for moon articles in the old newspapers.
It didn’t surprise me to find that there were some strange superstitions regarding the moon, not the least of which were terrible crimes committed by people claiming to be under the influence of the moon.
I am not saying that the moon has no influence over humans. Anyone who has worked in a hospital emergency department or law enforcement will probably have tales of strangeness that seem to peak around the full moon.
Regardless of that, I think it is safe to say that blindness caused by allowing the rays of the moon to fall upon your eyelids is something that I can point the finger at and call ridiculous.
This article from 1907 suggests that the blindness inflicted upon the captain of a ship was attributed to him falling asleep on deck and the moon shine blinding him. Didn’t he have a cabin? Why was he asleep on deck?
Maybe it was the moonshine that caused his blindness.
I am thinking more along the lines of home-brewed moonshine though. Depending on the ingredients used, something like that could cause blindness and a perfectly good cabin to spend the night empty, as the good captains legs might have felt the befuddling effects of the ‘moonshine’ as well!
We don’t have tarantulas here in Australia (enough scary spiders without them, thanks!) but I know that despite their appearance tarantulas are a relatively harmless kind of spider.
Even if they were known for causing problems to humans I didn’t have to do any research to be sure that being bitten by one doesn’t usually cause the victim to dance uncontrollably.
The tarantulas in Seville in 1902 must have been very special. According to this article the bite would cause the victim to suffer from a ‘dance mania’. Unfortunately Seville seemed to be suffering from a tarantula plague in 1902 so there were obviously lots of unexpected encounters with spider fangs and humans susceptible to superstitious beliefs.
The only cure for this dancing affliction was to call in the highly paid “Guild of Tarantula Players” who will bring around their “tarentela-guitarre” and cure you.
The victim will lie in bed and the musician will play his tarantula-poison-reversing music and save the day.
In this article the music is described as a ‘monotonous clang’ which made me wonder if the victim was rolling around in bed with the effects of the poison or if it was the terrible music that was causing the problem?
Perhaps it was the sudden realisation that they had succumbed to group hysteria, paying a heap of money to a group of opportunistic musicians (of dubious talent) to cure a non-existent ailment?
I had a look for “tarentela-guitarre” on the interweb (you know, just in case it was real….) and found this clip of an 11 yo playing what is clearly a folk music style called tarantella. I wouldn’t describe it as a monotonous clang, it is actually quite nice. It immediately made me wonder if someone had heard ‘tarantula guitar’ and made up their own tale, with the story eventually making its way into the papers as truth. It probably wouldn’t be the first time.
As always, bless those early news reporters and their lack of fact checking… 🙂
I’m having a bit of trouble with the superstitious behaviour in this article. They seem to be saying that if you get a chook that lays massive eggs you shouldn’t thank your lucky stars and get on with making supersized omelettes, you should just quickly sell it and do your washing.
Usually superstitions have some sort of twisted yet discernible logic to them, this one I just don’t get at all!
The unluckiest one in the entire story was the poor chook. Imagine what it went through to lay half pound eggs. An average egg is 2oz or 57g. Half a pound is just under 230g, ouch!
I wonder if the eggs were proportionally larger or just the same size as normal and extra heavy? Did they give any of these freak eggs further investigation? I wonder what caused them to be so large.
Perhaps a closer look might have shown that they were giving away the chook that laid the golden egg! Was the first bidder the ‘wise womans’ agent!?
Laid to rest, then laid to rest again. More definitely the second time though.
Burning a body to ashes without a proper crematorium would have involved quite a bit of effort I suspect, and be a bit hard to keep quiet in a small place.
Apparently the neighbours knew what was going on though, and even helped. The sons were hardly desecrating a corpse on the sly and the victims next of kin were the instigators. I wonder what law these men broke?
I thought this story was a very interesting one. When I started reading I thought it was a strange recount of a myth. It turned out to be a very interesting combination of new (well, 1932 new) and old.
I was surprised to read that the reason for sending Rikan Konishi into a volcano to recover the bodies of Sylvester Nunes and Margaret Ends was that the locals feared the presence of the bodies was upsetting the goddess Pele. I wonder if the tidal waves caused by the reportedly angry goddess ceased after the bodies were removed?
Rikan Konishi weighed only 85lb (38.5kg). I wonder what over nine hours in a smoking crater did for his health? Can you imagine that going on now? These days it would be a major operation involving hundreds of people and much safety equipment. Back then they put a small bloke in a cage with a packed lunch and a phone and sent him down the crater. An impressive days work.