19 July 2015

Atticus Finch: The Perfectly, Imperfect Human...

Caveat:
I've read To Kill a Mockingbird more times than I can remember. I've seen the movie more times than I can count.

I haven't read Go Set a Watchman, yet---but, I will next week when I pick my copy up.

So, this post isn't a review for Go Set a Watchman, it's merely an observation and a superficial character analysis of a currently much talked about figure---I'll most likely update this post or draft another one after reading GSAW. But, I kinda have to get this out of my system before I read it.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

From what I understand, TKAM is really just a nugget of the original manuscript, GSAW---that in TKAM we were presented with Scout's childhood in full view, instead of in flashback sequences interspersed with Jean Louise's adult life and the relationship with her aging father--- as the ORIGINAL manuscript intended.

So, what we were presented with 50 years ago, was really only HALF of the story. We got half of Scout/Jean Louise. Annnnnd, we got half of Atticus.

The current critic reviews that have been blasted all over social media claim that GSAW depicts Atticus as a Jim Crow-supporting racist. Again, I've not read the book....so, I'm not going to say that Atticus isn't a Jim Crow-supporting racist.

What I'm going to say is that it is very possible that the Atticus from TKAM was also a Jim Crow-supporting racist. BUT, because the focus of that story was about securing justice for the wrongfully accused, it's possible we weren't presented with the true picture of Atticus Finch. Again, TKAM was only HALF of the story.

Though Atticus Finch is an idealized fictional character, what he represents is a human. A very flawed human. Like every other flawed human on this planet.

Racism is ugly---and it was very clearly presented in TKAM, from most everyone except Atticus. Thing is, TKAM was from Scout's point of view, so what Atticus was thinking was actually kept from us as readers. We saw the story from the eyes of a child who loved her father dearly---and who would have been blind to any and all of his faults until she grew enough to recognize them for what they were.

So, we didn't see Atticus the racist in TKAM. We saw Atticus the hero. We saw Atticus the champion of justice who turned racial prejudice on its head when a man of color was very obviously being railroaded because he was conveniently black in a time where it was still okay to define guilt by shades of skin tone.

We didn't see racial prejudice from Atticus because Scout didn't see racial prejudice.

And, it isn't until she grows up that she is perhaps now aware that her father was indeed, racially prejudiced all along. (Again, I'm assuming this is how it is meant to be presented in GSAW from reviews I've read).

Do I agree with the critic claims that Atticus is racist---not having read the book, I don't know. Probably. Whether it is a product of the times, or just because he's supposed to represent the average, flawed man, I don't know.

Do I agree with racism? discriminaton? prejudice? Absolutely not.
Do I think we will ever be free of them? Absolutely not.

It isn't possible to rid the world of racism/discrimination/prejudice. It's hardwired into our DNA to latch on to differences, to fear differences. There is NO WAY to change the mindset of a species that continues to exist because they protect themselves from differences as a defense mechanism.

That being said, it IS possible to adjust how we interact with one another. And, I think this---more than anything else---is what TKAM captured so beautifully...especially now that the other half of the story is out there.

Racism/Prejudice/Discrimination/Bigotry will always exist. But, the bigoted beliefs we all hold, shouldn't dictate our actions toward other people. Well, okay, maybe that isn't the best way to put it----- what I mean is, it's possible to treat someone fairly, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, regardless of whether or not you even like them. It's possible to defend them in court for something they didn't do, and work for their freedom in the face of how you were raised, even if you would never invite them into your house because you don't agree/like who/what they are.

It's possible to dislike a sect of the population, or in fact, an entire race of people and still have the moral principles that will allow you to defend/protect them if something is wrong.

Maybe this is the biggest problem that critics are having with GSAW---their idolized perfect human was flawed afterall---- and maybe they were just shocked to see that it is possible to have prejudices  AND the ability to treat people fairly regardless of those prejudices.

Am I defending Atticus Finch the racist? No.
Am I defending Atticus Finch the human? Yes.

Because that's what this all boils down to. We're all perfectly, imperfect humans. It's the biggest excuse and the most touted fact out there for why we do whatever it is that we do----- "I'm only human. I've made mistakes... Don't judge me, I'm only human."

We will never fully be free of prejudices---whether it's concerning race/religion/sexual orientation/sex/disability---everything in our lives is clouded with the experiences that have shaped us, by the problems we've endured, by the blame we assign to something as arbitrary as skin color, as someone's creed, as the person someone chooses to love.

So, yes. I'm sure Atticus Finch is a bigot---to varying degrees we all are. And, yes. Atticus Finch is meant to represent a flawed human----as we all are.

Will my views on Atticus change after I read GSAW? I don't know. Possibly. Probably. But, maybe not.

He's still Atticus Finch. And, whether I agree with the other half of his character or not, whether I'm shocked by the other side of his character or not, whether I'm appalled by the other half of his character or not....it doesn't change the fact that he is what he is supposed to be----perfectly, imperfect.


05 April 2015

The Long and Winding Road....

It's been a while...a long while.
What's that adage about life happening when you were busy making other plans? Yeah, that happened.

I remember finishing last year's A-Z blog in April, then I wrote my reflection post in May---which was closely followed by a depressing Mother's Day post (that I have since removed). And then,
there's nothing. After that, I sort of faded away from the blogoshere--quite unintentionally.

One missed blogging day turned into one missed blogging week, which became a month and now, finally, a year...

I never planned on dropping out of sight, but then, life stuck its nose in and messed up my plans.

Sad thing, nothing noteworthy happened during my year-long hiatus. I just did other things.

I did complete another year of NaNoWriMo-- my 8th year--in November! And, it was the first year that I blew away the word count goal and set my personal best at 85K!! So, there was definitely a noteworthy month during my absence.

Christmas came and went, and like any other retail slave during the holidays, there was very little that I was physically able to do when I came home from work other than sleep---I have yet to produce anything (writing, reading, or otherwise) during the month of December and January...not that I don't put a concentrated effort into it, there's just nothing left of me when the workday's done.

By the end of January, though,I had done something I'd never managed to do in all the years I've been writing---create a solid revision plan for a novel-in-progress. I even had definitive deadlines written up for myself and a mapped out order of revision steps. I felt like a real, grown-up writer.

I've been writing most of my life and I know I've been writing toward myself---or writing toward what my writer self should be---but this is the first time I've really gotten a handle on all those writing/revision/plotting books I've consumed. It was a jolting epiphany, a physical shudder as things slotted into place... finally. Finally.

I could repeat all the tips and suggestions and rules for making stories work verbatim. And I could do it ad nauseam. But, that didn't mean I understood them...or, that I could put them into action. Now I think I might be able to manage it.

By nature I'm a single-draft, binge writer. I love the adrenalin that comes from writing a whole bunch of words in a very short time and when that time is up, for me, the story's up--which goes a long way to explaining why I have half a million words and nothing to show for it. I've always had a hard time going back to a story for the purposes of redrafting and revising, even though I WANT to finish my stories and I WANT to be published.

As a result of my epiphany, I've come to believe that it isn't the redrafting/revising that's turned me into a commitment-phobe. It was the fact that redrafting/revising to try and produce what my story looked like in my head was so daunting. I didn't know where to start, which meant I really didn't know where to finish. Yet, as the pieces of story structuring began fitting together, so too did the beginnings of my understanding about how to make it all work---

And, all of this brings me to where I am right now...

It's day 5 of the month of April, and I would normally already have the first 4 blog posts for the A-Z blogging challenge posted and most likely the next several letter posts figured out. This would have been my 5th year. I even set the month of April aside in my revision plan, just so I could do A-Z. I figured I would need a break from revising. But, I couldn't settle on a theme--the first year I didn't use a theme and it was such a pain/struggle trying to come up with blogging ideas.

In my despair of trying to find my theme, I decided to give A-Z a miss this year. I decided to use the month to continue reworking my novel from November, not really worrying about missing A-Z. Of course I woke one morning at the end of March with the brilliant idea that I could use the month of April as a submitting month. And, I could fashion it to the A-Z format--posting a letter-specific blog about which journal I was submitting to, problem solved!

Then.....I reread the short stories I'd started submitting last year.

Funny what a year's distance will do to one's perspective.

After the things I'd learned over the last year began to sink in, I realized the stories I'd been submitting were utter crap and I couldn't figure out why I believed they were submission-worthy in the first place. And, I'm seriously not putting on the "my stuff sucks and I'll never be a writer, I should just go live in a cave" act---though, I wouldn't be opposed to living in a cave. No, these stories are truly crap, and now I can see why.

All I have to do now is fix them...

This last year I know I've taken another step forward in my evolution as a writer. And, I know the next step--being able to fix what I can now see as wrong--should, hopefully, find its way into my hard-wiring soon. Until then, I'll just have to keep slugging along.

The road is long...
The road is winding...
And I'm still traveling on.............

05 May 2014

A-Z Reflections, year 4....

A-Z blogging challenge for 2014 has come and gone, seemingly without my realizing it. And, though I fell behind once or twice toward the end, I finished this year's challenge right on time. Really, I can't believe it's already over. I feel like I just finished my post for letter A...


Year 4, for this blogger, was a far cry from the tortured state of despondency that was most of Year 3-- I'll not mention the irony of this year's focus on death being easier to blog about than last year's foray into supernatural creatures, we'll leave that for my therapy sessions *ahem*

As always, A-Z brought with it, not only 26 days of unbridled and far-reaching knowledge (disguised as entertaining and thought-provoking blog-posts), but a chance to connect with new faces while reconnecting with familiar faces--who had perhaps drifted away--from A-Z's past. 

I am always amazed by the ingenuity and inspiration that comes from lumping a couple thousand folks together all with the same creative freedom of doing just as we please....so long as we adhere to the path alphabetical.

Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we succeed...some years are great, some years are soul-crushingly-tough-beyond-measure---but, the one thing about A-Z that doesn't change (or at least hasn't in the 4 years I've played along), there is never a shortage of supporters/cheerleaders who are struggling and succeeding right alongside you. Anybody can do a month of alphabetical blog-posts, any month of the year... A-Z lets us do it all together.

Thank you A-Z for reminding me that, while writing is often a lonely existence, it doesn't mean you have to write alone!


30 April 2014

Z is for...

... Zoonosis


The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



Judgment Day

Ending this year's A-Z on a morbidly good note, I introduce to you, Zoonosis!

This cool little name is given to the process whereby humans contract certain diseases from other non-human animals or where non-human animals contract diseases from humans....since we learned all about sharing in preschool----

And, boy, do we know how to share! In a review of over 1,100 pathogens, an incredible 61% were Zoonotic. So, for all those elitists out there who declare humans 'above' animals, looks like we're lumped right in with them when you're talking about exciting things like disease control.

Partial list of Zoonoses
I'm not going to list all the crazy diseases out there that we share with our furry, and not-so-furry neighbors. The list is depressingly long, and though this month's blog is all about the morbid/macabre, I really don't want to send anybody into shock.....just click on the handy little chart to the right to enlarge a partial list (most of which you're probably already familiar with).

There is an emerging field of conservation medicine which combines human medicine with veterinary medicine in an effort to combat Zoonoses. So the next time you suffer from a bit of the flu, you might find yourself in line with your family pooch at the local vet's office--- I'd be fine with that, as long as they don't expect me to sit-up-and-beg for my antibiotics!


Y is for...

... Yew Tree (Taxus baccata)


The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Baby


Cemetery Yew
The Yew tree fits in the morbid/macabre ranks for a couple of reasons. First off, it's toxic. Most parts of the plant are deadly, but most deadly is the foliage--- especially if the foliage has been dried, this increases its lethal potency.

Yew Chapel
Secondly, the Yew is often connected with cemeteries. In fact, it's often planted in cemeteries throughout Europe and many older Yew trees have had their trunks carved out to open the tree up as a chapel in the cemetery. It isn't exactly known if the connection of Yew trees to cemeteries arose from the trees naturally long life or because its toxicity made it a symbol of death. Regardless, there are probably very few European cemeteries that don't have at least one Yew tree.

It's hard, though, to treat the Yew as an emblem of death when it is so long-living and always green. In fact, in places where a Yew branch has grown down to the ground, the branch will often take root again-- making this tree a much better symbol for immortality than death...



X is for...

... X-Ray


The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Gamblers

For most, X-rays are fairly innocuous---at least as far as the procedure goes--- there is of course an added risk of cancer that comes from being irradiated repeatedly (but, what in this world DOESN'T cause cancer?)

So, you're probably asking why would I use X-ray in a blog whose theme is devoted to the morbid/macabre.

Why?

First X-ray, hand with rings,
Wilhelm Rontgen's wife
 First off, it is a tad morbid that we can see our insides without being opened up. We are at once presented with all the bits and pieces that make us up and that make up our neighbors and our enemies---we aren't too different when you break everything down on a cellular level. When you're talking about X-rays in terms of broken bones or torn ligaments or other such painful things, we are reminded (when we see the shards of bone pushing through skin) that we are made of a very "breakable" bits. Reminding one of mortality is about the most morbid thing I can think of.

And, second---- it's the letter X...what else am I going to post about?

Like any other great scientific discovery, X-rays were "stumbled" upon. Wilhelm Rontgen, the German physics professor who did the stumbling, came across the process in 1895 while he was experimenting with Crookes Tubes--fancy discharge tubes in which cathode rays (electron beams) were discovered.

Rontgen, in his experiments with this newly discovered ray, wrote a research paper for Wurzberg's Physical-Medical Society Journal--labeling the ray as X, to denote its unknown status, annnnd, the name stuck.

Rontgen began systematically experimenting with the rays, even producing the very first X-ray image of his wife's hand. Upon seeing the image his wife declared, "I have seen my death."  See? Morbid.


Though, there is still something intrinsically beautiful about our own mortality and in the hands of the right artist, the macabre can become art...

Arie van ’t Riet / x-rays.nl















Arie van ’t Riet / x-rays.nl























27 April 2014

W is for...

... Wallingford Ghost, George Inn--Teardrop Room



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe


The Hermit

Okay, so letter "W" is hard. This really isn't so much a morbid/macabre story as it is a dark/sad story---but, quite a few people find dark/sad synonymous with morbid/macabre, so I'm taking poetic license...or whatever it's called.

The story of the Wallingford ghost is a sad one, like all ghost stories. At the George Inn in Wallingford, England there is a room colloquially known as the Teardrop Room. This 16th century coaching inn, still a functioning hotel today, has its share of ancient ghost tales surrounding the building. But, one in particular draws quite a bit of sympathy.

A few hotel guests staying in the Teardrop Room have reported waking in the middle of the night to find a very life-like young woman with tears streaming down her face. The only movement the "ghost" makes is to turn and disappear into the wall.

The tale goes that an Innkeeper's daughter lost her lover/fiance to a murderous group. The girl became so distraught that her family was forced to lock her in her room to keep her safe. Behind her locked bedroom door, it is purported that the poor girl went mad with her grief and mixed her own tears with soot from the fireplace---using the mixture to decorate the wall of her room in the only shape she was able to bring forth---methodically and compulsively placed...teardrops.


Small portion of Teardrop Wall preserved

V is for...

... Vrolik Museum



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Rider


How about a morbid museum?

Still used by the medical faculty and students at the University of Amsterdam, the Vrolik Museum is a unique collection of odd bones and skulls, pathogenic specimens, and an assortment of anomalous embryos.

The collection was amassed by Dutch anatomist, Gerardus Vrolik (1775-1859) and continued by his son, Dutch anatomist and pathologist, Willem Vrolik (1801-1863). And since Willem's death, various donations have expanded the collection even further. Most specimens are human, though a few zoological specimens have trickled into the collection. Preserved remains, plaster casts, and various models show an assortment of congenital deformities and malformations.

This is one of those places that isn't for the faint of heart---certainly not for those who are easily moved or triggered by images of birth defects and other tragic end-of-life scenes. The museum itself is billed as being "unsuitable for children". And, though the admission is free, patrons are advised of its spooky feel and advised to enter with caution.

So, if you're ever in Amsterdam and are in need of a morbid stop-over, give the Vrolik Museum a chance.


U is for...

... Underground



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe


The Rider

Nothing more morbid than talking about funerals, right?

So, let's talk about the "after funeral", you know, the part where you get lowered into a 4-ft deep hole, covered with dirt, and left for eternity (if underground burial is the route you wish to go and your city/town/state/country allows it). Assuming there isn't a dig-your-relative-up-after-60-years mandate, like there is in South Korea, or a grave re-use clause in your burial agreement, and assuming no future land developments disrupt the cemetery grounds centuries after the "cemetery" is forgotten, this will be the final resting place for your physical form until the Sun Supernovas and the universe starts over again.

Graveyards became established around the same time that physical buildings of worship were constructed--as early as the 8th century. They were most often used by those who could not afford to be interred inside the building via crypt or who were not of nobility or men/women of the cloth and could not be interred beneath the holy building itself. Graveyards essentially became the place where the rest of society found eternal rest----

The original grave depth--that gave us the oft-cliched notion of being 6-feet under-- dates back to a time when coffins/caskets were not enclosed in protective structures, the way they can be now. It's quite common for vaults of concrete to line modern grave cuts, making the now 4-foot cut an acceptable depth---not deep enough to cause a sink-hole, but deep enough not to flood and sturdy enough for a car to drive over (not that I like the idea of cars driving over the spot where I'm sleeping, but it is reassuring to know they won't drop in unannounced).

There are several different ways for you to spend your eternal rest. Most modern burials, the deceased is supine (on their back) as opposed to prone (face-down). Some cultures deem the prone position as a mark of disrespect. Other cultures bury their warriors/soldiers in a crouched or feet downward position, so they are always ready for battle, even in the hereafter. Then there is the feet upward position, reserved for suicides or assassins---not a comfortable position to hold while living, the upside down stance symbolically denoted their suicide/assassin status and was meant to prevent any activity from these souls after death...you know, since they would probably take nightly walks if they were left in an upright position.

Safety Coffin with Bell attached
Speaking of activity after death----one of the most frightening things, I think, has always been the possibility of mistaken live burials. When I first learned it had one time been a fear of folks that they would be prematurely pronounced dead and subsequently buried alive, I've always thought it might be better to hang around in state for awhile---just to make sure I didn't wake up. I blame my childhood reading of Poe's "The Premature Burial" for this and would probably put it in my will that I must lay a week in state and be buried with a bell-cord tied around my wrist (I am fully aware that the embalming process totally negates all this as I would be pretty dead after that, but hey, an irrational fear is irrational).


24 April 2014

T is for...

... Taxidermy



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe


The Boozer



Leopard
Few things are more morbid than the stuffed remains of an animal...especially for display purposes. I can understand the specimens used in teaching facilities (I've actually preserved a few reptiles myself while working my way through my Biology degree) or in museum settings. The "animals" in these instances might be the only chance you have to see such a creature up close. But, the collection of stuffed animals for any other reason, is slightly disturbing----

The art of Taxidermy (for it TRULY is an art when done well) has been around a while. There has been evidence of preserved animal remains since early Egyptian times. Though, this wasn't true Taxidermy, it was mummification. But, the theory was headed in the right direction.

Victorian Bird Diorama
It wasn't until the lovely, yet highly morbid, Victorian Age that Taxidermy came into its own. The English Ornithologist, John Hancock, filled his home with an elaborate assortment of stuffed birds---all that he shot himself, of course.

His macabre collection, it's been said, led to a rise in the popularity of the morbid art. Suddenly it was the "in-thing" to have at least one (though more would be better) stuffed avian creature inside the home. Even Queen Victoria herself amassed quite the collection.

Quail
Done well, the preserved and posed animal becomes a snapshot--a frozen "replica" of their living self. These can be as magnificent as they are haunting, at once beautiful and full reminders of our own mortality.

Preserved poorly, however, the animal becomes a strange creature, often mistaken for a badly cast stand-in or a "missing link" gone wrong.

So, if you're going to preserve, preserve well---or, hire someone to preserve who has some idea what the animal you killed looks like...otherwise you might wind up with another Gripsholm Castle Lion.....which, I guess isn't so bad, considering the guy who stuffed it had never seen a lion before.


Gripsholm Castle Lion, circa 1700

22 April 2014

S is for...

... Scold's Bridle



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe

The Young Girl

So this was a lovely little device, primarily used on women, as a means of torture or public humiliation. It was essentially a human muzzle. It was fixed around the woman's head, with a 2-in bridle-bit that projected backward so that it rested inside the woman's mouth---specifically atop her tongue. The bit was studded with spikes, which left a lovely impression on a woman's tongue if she were to try and speak.

Apparently, this was the "in thing" to do during the 16th and 17th centuries when a woman spoke her mind. Let a woman be declared a nag or a gossip or a "scold" and she could face being walked through town with a metal plate strapped to her face with a piercing bit in her mouth. It was not unheard of for churches to be gifted inscribed bridles, "to curb women's tongues that talk too idle."

Ah, humanity......

21 April 2014

R is for...

... Rubinke (Maria Rubinke)



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Fool

Maria Rubinke lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. She's a lovely young artist known for her grotesque ceramic sculptures---- in other words, she's a girl after my own heart. I'm not going to say much more on this post. I think I'll let Ms Runbinke's work speak for itself-----

Please, go to her page and appreciate all the beauty. She has a website which is currently under construction. Hopefully it will be up and running soon.

In the meantime-----

Just click on the pics below to enlarge for all the glorious detail!









































All art and photos are credited to the artist, Maria Rubinke.

The only thing I take credit for is introducing you to the loveliness that is Maria Rubinke and her delectable art.... you're welcome!



19 April 2014

Q is for...

... Quicklime


The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Nun
Yeah, so today's morbid/macabre A-Z post is a bit of a stretch...but, hey, it's letter "Q", what can you do?

There really isn't anything remotely morbid about Quicklime ----but, it's been used in some pretty morbid circumstances, so it fits...sort of.

Calcium oxide is just an ordinary-looking white powdery substance that packs a bit of a bite. Let this stuff get in some water and the resulting chemical reaction puts off quite a bit of heat. Which is why it comes with the "handle-with-care" warning---just imagine the lovely burns you'd be sporting if you picked some of it up with sweaty palms....

But, I digress...

No, the morbid "quality" of quicklime is that some criminals, over the years, have gotten it into their heads that, because calcium oxide is caustic, it must obviously be powerful enough to "burn" a body up, if we use enough of it--- I blame pop culture...TV shows are always exaggerating stuff for dramatic effect.

Yes, it's true that if you cover a decomposing body with enough Quicklime, you will cause some burns, but, what you're more than likely going to do is mummify your corpse--- it'll suck every ounce of liquid from that body and leave it nice and preserved.

Definitely NOT what you're looking for if you plan on disposing of a body....

What it will do, however, is slow the decomposition of the body down to almost nothing---- MEANING: if you hide/bury said corpse, there won't be that pesky smell of decaying flesh to alert people as to the whereabouts of your 'hidden' corpse......

So, use Quicklime to cover your smelly tracks...not to dispose of your evidence.

This has been a PSA from your morbid network.



18 April 2014

P is for...

... Poveglia Island


The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Soldier
A sunny little spot off the coast of Italy, just the perfect vacation destination for those interested in a cozy private island....that no one in their right mind should even think about visiting---
Poveglia Asylum as it looks today

Poveglia Island has been billed the most haunted island in the world. Tucked away in Northern Italy, nestled in the Adriatic Sea, and sheltered from prying eyes by the distance afforded it from Italy proper, this island has played host to some extremely morbid and dark past-times over the years.

When the Black Plague swept through Europe, the 17-acre strip of land took on the role of quarantine location. Small ships would carry those infected by the disease onto the island to try and reduce the number of those getting infected.

Doctors during this time, would strap on their ominous-looking "bird masks," stuffing the beak with any assortment of herbs to filter, not only the worst of the disease particles from the air, but the putrid smell of dying/decaying flesh.

Illustration of Plague Doctor with bird mask
It wasn't a good thing when you saw a shrouded bird-like creature headed your way...especially when you
were too sick to fight the nightmarish creatures off.....

As the Black Plague continued its rampage, Poveglia became less and less a quarantine haven and more just a dumping ground for those contracting the disease. Thousands of people were shuttled across to the island and later burned, buried, or left to rot---there have been some legends floating around that a portion of the island itself is made up of the collected ash of burned plague victims....

And, if this doesn't seal the deal for your next luxury vacation---how about throwing in a mental asylum in the early 20th century, run by a crazed doctor who performed random lobotomies on his patients----

Still not enough?

How about adding the suicide of said "crazed doctor" some years later?

After claiming that the ghosts of the patients he experimented on were driving him mad, the aforementioned "crazed doctor" threw himself from the hospital roof.

Mass Grave of plague victims at Poveglia
Since the late 1960's, Poveglia Island has been uninhabited, visitation being tightly controlled by the Italian government---so, if you book your trip now, there won't be any pesky humans to get in your way or block your view across the Adriatic Sea....though, you might have to put up with a couple of non-human entities left over from a darker time. But, don't let that stop your sight-seeing!

Abandoned ward at Poveglia Asylum
Oh, and if you thoroughly enjoy your luxury stay on Poveglia Island, be sure to let the Italian government know, they might be able to put in a good word for you during the auction.

As of just a few days ago, Poveglia Island is now up for sale!

Forget Caveat Emptor.... anybody insane enough to actually buy this island deserves every bit of ghostly baggage that comes with it!



17 April 2014

O is for...

... Overtoun Bridge



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe


The Monk
This one is a bit of a morbid mystery-- a depressingly morbid mystery. And, that's saying a lot, coming from me...

Overtoun House
In West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, a 19th-century estate, Overtoun House, sits on a hill overlooking the River Clyde. The large, 2,000-acre estate is split by a waterfall on the Overtoun Burn. To connect the two sections of the estate, a road was built and the Overtoun Bridge erected.

Overtoun House is gorgeous, the estate picturesque. One would think a more heavenly place couldn't exist---but, all this beauty hides a dark secret--------- Overtoun Bridge is a killer! And not just your run-of-the-mill opportunistic killer either, nope this bridge is a serial killer with a penchant for canines.

Waterfall at Overtoun Burn
Aptly-named, the-dog-suicide-bridge, Overtoun Bridge has developed a reputation for being the final
walking path for some 60+ dogs. The rounded parapets atop the bridge lead to a 40-50 foot drop into an unforgiving gorge.

Families have walked their dogs, lead firmly in hand, only to watch in horror as their beloved furry child suddenly disappears over the edge of the bridge.

Overtoun Bridge
The big question is, WHY do dogs suddenly leap from the bridge?

Though, the even bigger question, in my mind is, WHY DO PEOPLE CONTINUE TO WALK THEIR DOGS ANYWHERE NEAR THIS BRIDGE????

There have been some interesting stories floating around as to why, some based in science, most based in the paranormal. Even as exciting as the paranormal answers seem, I'm more inclined to believe the answer to be more science-based. In fact, one Animal Behaviorist seems to think it's connected with the introduction of Mink from North America in the UK. It seems the "suicide rate" increased exponentially after the Mink were released into the wild. The Animal Behaviorist believes it to be related to the scenting of Minks---this theory is supported by the fact that most dogs that leapt over the bridge were breeds with long snouts, ie "scenting dogs".

The dogs, the Behaviorist believes, are catching a whiff of Mink scent and are trying to follow it, not knowing the tragic end that awaits them on the other side of the parapet...
Overtoun Bridge

Abandon hope, all you doggies who dare cross the Burn.



16 April 2014

N is for...

... Necropolis (Glasgow Necropolis)



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe




The Rich Man/Miser




The word derived from the Ancient Greek word, nekropolis--literally meaning, City of the Dead--a necropolis is, by all rights, a cemetery, but, it is laid some distance from whatever town/place where its future residents currently dwell--instead of in the city proper, the way many modern cemeteries are laid. It was typically an ancient practice, to lay the deceased in a monument-filled "city" far enough away that the area was silent and reverent enough so noises from the "living" towns would not disturb.



A more recent necropolis, however, that I think deserves equal attention for its solemn beauty is the Glasgow Necropolis. Established in 1832 and some distance east of St. Mungo's Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland, this Necropolis is home to some 50,000 residents.


The cemetery lanes meander along the hilly Scottish topography, gifting the architecture a naturally peaceful accompaniment. And, one gets the feeling while traversing the soft paths (even through the photos themselves) that Glasgow Necropolis isn't somewhere that suffers the living any longer than it has to---







Every quiet breeze seems to whisper---

Tread softly!
Here ye be but a guest, 
whilst yer lungs still draw breath!