Myths, legends and folklore are fun to read about. I love them, because they make me think. What’s real, and what’s not? Do vampires and banshees really exist? They must be from somewhere; something somebody experienced – saw, heard, felt – and they told the story.
A New Orleans Vampire
The Comte St. Germain in France was a very enigmatic and intriguing man who lived in the 1700s. He had a large, unexplained wealth, and his family and personal history were a mystery. He spoke six languages, and was a master in the violin and piano. The philosopher Voltaire called him
“the man who knows everything and never dies”,
due to the fact that he remained looking 40 years old for about half a century. He’d invite guests over to lavish dinner parties, where he would regale them with stories of history and science, but he would never eat anything; just sit there and imperiously sip his wine.
Fast forward to the early 20th century. An enormously wealthy man named Jaques St. Germain mysteriously appeared. He bore a resemblance suspiciously similar to Comte St. Germain, according to various portraits. He threw lavish dinner parties where he would talk, refrain from eating, and drink wine. One night, a woman stayed late. He took her to his balcony, and then grabbed her and tried to bite her neck. She escaped by falling off the balcony, and then went straight to the police. When the police arrived at the house, Jaques St. Germain was gone. The house was completely empty with no evidence of a dinner party except for bloodstained tablecloths and some bottles of wine. When they tasted the wine, they spat it out, discovering it was mixed with blood.
The Legends of Banshees
In medieval Ireland, women would get jobs as “keeners”- females who were hired to cry and sing at funerals. People would pay lots of money to have the most talented keeners attend family funerals. From “keeners”, the Celts started seeing banshees. These female ghostly figures are known to warn of impending death. The mysterious banshee is sometimes described as a beautiful, ethereal woman, with red or silver hair, green eyes, and either wearing a green dress, a white sheet, or nothing at all. This version is a deceased family member who comes to comfort her living ancestors in their time of death. Some say that she is very matronly, a comforting motherly figure. Others say that she is an ugly old hag, who could kill someone with one look from her glowing, red eyes.
She is probably most famous for her wailing, though there are many differing accounts on this as well. Some say that her voice has sounds like a beautiful song, while others say that it is so shrill it breaks glass. The voice is heard by mortals, but…
Is it everyone, or just mortals who are awaiting imminent death?
Witnesses of the banshee have said that she combs her long, silver hair with such violence as if she was pulling her hair out. That’s why many Irish folk never pick combs up off the ground, for fear of being snatched away by fairies. Her eyes are always bloodshot from crying. When she moves, the sound of flapping wings is heard, and when she disappears, she leaves behind a cloud of mist.
The Ghost of Resurrection Mary
In Willow Springs, Illinois in 1939 a man went to a party and noticed a beautiful blond haired, blue eyed girl in a white party dress standing in the corner. He asked her to dance, and while they were dancing he noticed how cold her skin was; when he kissed her at the end of the night, her lips were also cold and clammy. He offered to drive her home, so she handed him a slip of paper with her address on it. She asked him to take a certain route, but he saw that it was in the wrong direction. She insisted on it anyway, so he did what she asked. As they were approaching Resurrection Cemetery, she asked him to stop so she could go home. He was confused; there were no houses. But, she opened the door and ran towards the cemetery, and then disappeared.
The next day, the terrified man went to the address on the slip of paper she had given him the night before. A woman answered the door and when he described the girl to her, she started crying and said that the girl, Mary, had been killed by a car about 10 years previously. Since then, there have been many accounts of people picking up a blond, blue-eyed female hitchhiker in a white party dress who directs them towards the graveyard and then disappears as they approach it. There have also been encounters where people have hit her with their car, but the body has disappeared when they exit the car.
Dancing With the Devil
In the barrio of Phoenix, Arizona is the Calderon Ballroom, an old dance hall that is known to be haunted. The story goes that a young girl wanted to go to a dance at the ballroom. Her parents told her no, but, in an act of defiance, she went anyway with some friends. She was sitting by herself watching them dance, when she was approached by a tall and very handsome man. He politely asked her to dance with him. She accepted, ignoring the smell of sulfur that trailed behind him. They danced and talked, and then decided to go outside for a walk.
Soon after, she told him that she should go home. He tried to convince her to stay, but she started walking back towards the dance hall. He grabbed her arm. She felt dread in the pit of her stomach, and turned back to look at him, only to see that his face had changed. The bouncer at the dance says that the stranger had cloven hooves.
When the girl’s body was found, they saw that her skin where the devil had touched her was burned.
The Real Bloody Mary
Oh, those sleepovers. One unlucky kid being dared to go into the bathroom and say ‘Bloody Mary’ three times in the mirror, and behold: the ghost of Bloody Mary appears, holding a dead baby and threatening to steal your unborn child. This legend comes from Mary, born of the infamous King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. King Henry shamed Mary for being born a woman, and annulled his marriage to Catherine. Mary never saw her mother again. He then married Anne Boleyn, who had a daughter of her own, Elizabeth. Anne Boleyn had Mary declared illegitimate so as not to interfere with Elizabeth’s succession to the throne.
Mary eventually ended up as queen, and she is one of the first reported instances of phantom pregnancy– where a woman is so determined to have a baby, that her body starts exhibiting symptoms of pregnancy. She was devastated when, after her due date came and went and her belly started to shrink, she realized that there was no baby after all. Heartbroken, she signed the “true religion” act, persecuting Protestants and having them burned at the stake, which became known as The Marian Persecutions and earning her the name of “Bloody Mary.”
She suffered from one more phantom pregnancy, and died soon after, completely alone.
The Story of Stingy Jack
There was a man known as Stingy Jack. He was a miserable wretch who filled his days with drinking and debauchery. One day, he was approached by the devil, who wanted to bring him to Hell. Jack convinced the devil to have one last drink with him. They drank together at the bar, and when it came to pay the tab, Stingy Jack, true to his name, did not want to pay the barman. He convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin. Stingy Jack, true to his name, did not pay the barman, but instead put it into his pocket, where a silver cross also lay. The devil was trapped by the cross, so he made a deal with Jack- he would let Jack live 10 more years if Jack would let him free.
10 years later, the devil came back. Jack asked the devil if he would allow him to eat one last apple from the nearby apple tree before being brought into Hell. The devil agreed, not having learned from his first experience. Jack said that he could not climb the tree, so the devil climbed the tree for him. Jack quickly carved a cross into the trunk of the tree so that the devil could not climb down. Once again, Jack agreed to free the devil on the condition that the devil would never take his soul into Hell. The devil succumbed to the deal, and Jack set him free.
Many years later, Jack died due to his drinking and mischief. His soul floated up to the pearly gates of Heaven, but he was not let in due to his sinful life. He went down to the fiery gates of Hell, but the devil, true to his word, would not let Jack in. He wasn’t totally merciless, however- he gave Jack a glowing Ember from Hell to light his way through the darkness in between Heaven and Hell. Jack took a turnip, carved holes in it, and put the ember in to use as a lantern. Now, we carve pumpkins, a much bigger vegetable and far easier to find, and carve faces in them to ward off Stingy Jack on Halloween.
There it is: the story of Jack of the lantern, or, as we know him, Jack O’ Lantern.
So, what do you believe in, if anything? Do you think that any of these could be true? It’s up for us to decide. I’d love to hear your favorite legends and folklore!
My name is Andrea and I live in Los Angeles, California. By day, I am in actor and by night I am working towards a degree in nutritional science.