CLOSE
Original image

5 Scary Places and the Legends Behind Them

Original image

There are more haunted places and scary stories around the world than you can shake a stick at. Here are a few you might not be familiar with already.

The Haunted Tunnel

Moonville, Ohio was once a thriving mining town with a population that peaked at about 100 people. Nearby is a railroad tunnel that is purported to be haunted by any of the four people who died there. The most famous is a railroad brakeman who had too much to drink and tried to stop a train, but was hit in March of 1859. The train wheels mangled his leg and he died of his injuries within days. The other deaths were a miner who was trapped in a collapsed mine, a woman who was crossing the railroad trestle when a train passed, and a fellow who crossed the tracks after a train, but didn't see another portion of the train that had become detached and was still moving in the same direction. Several accounts exist of people who see the brakeman near the tunnel, swinging a light in an attempt to stop the train, or see the woman who died in 1905 walking beside the tracks. Railroad workers occasionally see a semi-transparent man being hit, and sometimes they hear screams, but no solid body is hit during those events.

Devil's Town

550_devilstown

Djavolja Varos translates to English as Devil's Town, and is located between Devil's Gully and Hell's Gully in Serbia. This area has hundreds of stone towers made of volcanic stone that rise when the surrounding soil is washed away. They only last a few hundred years, so the landscape changes and this led to the legend of demons fighting each other. The story goes that the devil placed a curse on the local waters and those who drank it forgot their ancestry. This led to a wedding between brother and sister. A fairy tried to stop the marriage, but the couple refused. The fairy was left with no choice but to turn them into stone, along with all the wedding guests. The legend is fed by the presence of mineral springs in the area, one that is used for medicinal purposes and another that produces red water. Acoustics play a part in the haunting as well. When the wind whips around the stone towers, you can hear eerie whistles, howls, cries, and squeaks. Image by Geologicharka.

The Curse of English Cave

550_bentonpark_1915

A cave runs under Benton Park in St. Louis, but no one can find a way in. The main entrance to English Cave, named after its first owner, was sealed up 100 years ago after it was found that water was draining in to it from Benton Park. In the early days of St. Louis, several businesses tried to use the cave and failed. Ezra English used it for storage for his brewery. He opened a beer garden attraction in 1849, which was also the year a cholera epidemic his St. Louis. The city even opened a new graveyard for cholera victims nearby. The cave attraction fizzled. In 1887, news owners tried a mushroom farm, which went out of business in two years. A winery used the cave in 1897, but that business didn't last long, either. Was the cave cursed? Legend has it that English Cave was the hiding place of two Native American lovers who fled there to avoid the tribal war chief, to whom the woman was promised in marriage. The chief and his warriors kept vigil outside the cave, until the couple inside died of starvation. Many years later, white explorers found two skeletons in the cave. Some say the ghosts of the couple are the real reason no business can thrive in English Cave.

The Haunted Bridge

caergwrle_bridge

An old stone bridge called Packhorse Bridge in the northeastern Welsh village of Caergwrle is the scene of this ghostly photograph. Locals say this is the ghost of "Squire Yonge". However, this term turns up in Chaucer as well as Arthurian literature, and means young squire, which could refer to any number of people. The bridge was built in the 17th century. Nearby Caergwrle Castle was mostly completed by 1282, the final castle built before Wales lost its independent to England. The retreating Welsh filled in the well and sabotaged the castle in order to reduce its value to the English. It is mostly in ruins now. See more spooky night pictures of the bridge.

Fisher's Ghost

550_fishersghost

Every November, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia holds the Festival of Fisher's Ghost. Frederick Fisher was a local businessman who had been in and out of prison. His neighbor George Worrall held power of attorney over Fisher's property while he was incarcerated. On the night of June 17, 1826, Worrall announced that Fisher had fled to England to avoid more legal trouble. Worrall soon disposed of Fisher's assets, and the suspicious citizenry had him arrested. Worrall blamed four other men, who were also arrested. But where was the evidence? The legend is that farmer John Farley saw the ghost of Fisher sitting on a bridge, pointing to an area where his body was subsequently found. The ghostly story was not used as evidence in the trial, but Fisher's body was recovered on October 25th, and Worrall was convicted of the murder and hanged. The story was made into a movie in 1924.

Original image
WWI Centennial: Bolshevik Coup Attempt Fails
Original image

Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 282nd installment in the series.

JULY 16-18, 1917: BOLSHEVIK COUP ATTEMPT FAIL

Far from enhancing the prestige of Russia’s Provisional Government as hoped, the disastrous outcome of the Kerensky Offensive in July 1917 put the new regime on the defensive with its own people as well as the enemy. Within weeks, its already fragile authority faced a grave internal threat, as Lenin’s radical Bolsheviks staged their first coup attempt. Although the communist uprising failed, the “July Days” made it clear to all that the Provisional Government was living on borrowed time.

While the moderate socialists who formed the majority of the Petrograd Soviet were content to cooperate with the Provisional Government under the ineffectual idealist Premier Lviv, at least for the time being, Lenin had never concealed his ambition to overthrow the “bourgeois” liberals and seize power for the Soviet – which in reality meant the Bolshevik Central Committee.

The debacle on the Galician front seemed to present an ideal moment for the coup, as military morale plunged to new lows and popular support for the Provisional Government dwindled. An opportunist first and last, Lenin seized on another (supposedly) unexpected event – a military mutiny – to make his bid for power.

Mutinous elements, never far from the surface during this unsettled period, began bubbling again when the Provisional Government ordered a number of units from the Petrograd garrison to the front. The Bolsheviks depended on disaffected soldiers from their ranks as a big part of their power base, and were determined not to lose this leverage: a sudden blitz of propaganda excoriating the “imperialist” Provisional Government helped push troops from one unit, the 1st Machine Gun Regiment, over the edge into open rebellion (it’s unclear exactly how much Lenin knew about the event beforehand, but the fact that he went to Vyborg, Finland, not far from Petrograd, for a “restful holiday” a few days before the mutiny suggests he knew what was coming).

On July 15, two leading Bolsheviks, Lev Bronstein (better known by his nom de guerre, Trotsky) and Anatoly Lunacharsky, addressed thousands of troops from the 1st Machine Gun Regiment, demanding the Provisional Government hand power to the Petrograd Soviet and encouraging the soldiers to refuse to obey any orders until this happened. The next day the regiment heard even more inflammatory speeches by anarchist agitators allied with the Bolsheviks, who openly called for rebellion, and in the afternoon of July 16 the mutiny began as the troops elected a revolutionary committee. One of their first actions was to send representatives to recruit support from rebellious sailors stationed at the naval base of Kronstadt, who quickly convened their own soviet and voted to join the rebellion; they were soon joined by workers from the Putilov factory complex (below Bolsheviks address workers).

With thousands of soldiers and sailors rallying to the banner of revolution, a handful of Bolshevik leaders, including Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, tried to engineer a parliamentary coup in the Petrograd Soviet by calling an emergency meeting of the workers’ section and presenting a resolution calling for the Soviet to seize power and overthrow the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks were opposed by rival socialist parties, including the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, but simply passed the resolution themselves after the latter walked out in protest.

L-R: Trotsky, Lunacharsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

By the late evening of July 16 a large crowd of soldiers and factory workers had gathered outside the Tauride Palace where the Soviet met, calling for the delegates to join the Bolshevik coup attempt and overthrow the Provisional Government (which was seemingly unable to intervene to stop these events, revealing how powerless it really was). In another strange twist, the Petrograd Soviet now found itself in the same position as the Provisional Government in March, with power being thrust on it by unruly mobs – practically at gunpoint.

On July 17 the mutinying soldiers in Petrograd were joined by the sailors from Kronstadt, who arrived and helped take over most of the city, using commandeered automobiles and trucks. Alexander Kerensky, the charismatic war minister who had so far managed to keep the Soviet and Provisional Government united (and who would soon replace Lviv as prime minister), was forced to flee the capital, narrowly escaping a kidnapping attempt. Pitrim Sorokin, a moderate socialist member of the Soviet, recalled the scene as chaos spread throughout the city:

“Come as soon as possible,” we were urged, “a new Bolshevist riot has broken out.” Without any delay we started. On Sergievskaia Street all was serene, but as soon as we turned into the Liteiny we saw a number of heavy motor trucks, full of armed soldiers and sailors and fitted with machine guns, being driven furiously in the direction of Tavrichesky Palace. Private automobiles were being stopped and seized by the rioters. We saw a mutinous regiment crossing the Liteiny Bridge and near at hand we head the crack of rifles. Revolution was hungry again and was calling for human sacrifice.

As Sorokin noted, the column of rebellious sailors and civilians came under rifle fire from some unknown assailants, perhaps supporters of the Provisional Government, in the “bourgeois” Liteiny neighborhood of Petrograd, causing them to briefly scatter before resuming their march (top, the column disperses). They joined the 1stMachine Gun Regiment and over ten thousand workers from the Putilov factories in front of the Tauride Palace, where the crowd was growing increasingly threatening to the Soviet – the same Soviet they were supposedly supporting against the Provisional Government – while inside the Bolshevik leaders tried to persuade the other socialist parties to seize power. Later that day Sorokin described the weird situation:

Meanwhile, the crowd outside grew into a dense throng. Bolshevist speakers urged the throng to break down the doors of the palace and to disperse the Soviet. My head bursting with excitement and the close atmosphere of the room, I went out into the yard of the Duma. In the gray twilight of the July night I saw a perfect sea of soldiers, workmen, sailors… Here and there cannon and machine guns pointing at the Palace, and everywhere red banners floating and incessant firing. It was like a madhouse. Here was the mob demanding “All the Power to the Soviets” and at the same time training cannon on the Soviets, threatening it with death and extinction.

The drama was about to take an even more bizarre turn thanks to the Provisional Government’s minister of justice, Pavel Pereverzev, who decided the only way to head off the coup attempt was to discredit the Bolsheviks – specifically by releasing secret police documents indicating that Lenin was in the pay of German intelligence. The gambit worked, as even most radical revolutionaries still loathed the foreign enemy, and viewed any cooperation with them as treason.

As suddenly as it had arisen, the popular support for the Bolshevik coup collapsed, allowing military units loyal to the Soviet to enter the Tauride Palace, rout the Bolsheviks, and free the other members of the Soviet, who had effectively been held hostage by the mob in their own building. Sorokin recalled the moment when an officer leading loyal troops arrived in the chamber to restore order:

The explosion of a bomb could scarcely have produced such an effect. Wild, joyous applause on the one hand, shrieks, groans, maledictions on the other. As for Trotzky, Lunacharsky, Gimmer, Katz, and Zinovieff, as one of my colleagues expressed it, they “shriveled like the devil before holy water.” One of them did make an effort to say something, but was instantly howled down. “Out of here! Away!” shouted the Soviet, and with their partisans at their heels they left.

Discredited by the allegations of German support and sought by the police along with many others of the party’s leaders, Lenin was forced to flee Russia in disguise, clean shaven to look like a Finnish peasant (below, Lenin in August 1917). Many observers understandably assumed that the Bolsheviks were finished. But the Provisional Government neglected to ban the party, and the socialist members of the Soviet remained more sympathetic to their Bolshevik brethren – who in the opinion of many were just overzealous in their advocacy on behalf of the Soviet – than the “bourgeois” Provisional Government, now under the increasingly dictatorial Kerensky.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Indeed, the coup had also served several purposes, allowing the Bolshevik leaders to assess both the vulnerability of the Provisional Government and potential support for their program in the Soviet, and above all also acting as a huge publicity stunt for the small, previously obscure party. Rank and file members could continue organizing, and unlike their peers in other parties, they focused on the “big picture,” long-term goal of establishing an independent power base from the Soviet. Eduard Dune, a young Latvian Bolshevik, recalled that even immediately following the failed coup, the situation seemed far from hopeless:

People of all walks of life cursed the Bolsheviks, yet at the same time there was growing interest in us. What did we want? What were we proposing? Delegates from small factories, dozens of kilometers away, visited us at the factory… This was the time when the Bolsheviks were being persecuted, so there was heightened interest in our speakers from all quarters. Political differentiation became noticeable even at our factory. The Mensheviks sweated over purely practical work and agitated against the organization of a Red Guard, which none of them joined. The newspapers spoke of the Bolsheviks losing their influence on the masses, but in fact we noticed that it was growing, at least to judge by the number of those wishing to join the Red Guard detachment.

See the previous installment or all entries.

Original image
Natural History Museum
arrow
Animals
London's Natural History Museum Has a New Star Attraction: An Amazing Blue Whale Skeleton
Original image
Natural History Museum

In January 2017, London’s Natural History Museum said goodbye to Dippy, the Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton cast that had presided over the institution’s grand entrance hall since 1979. Dippy is scheduled to tour the UK from early 2018 to late 2020—and taking his place in Hintze Hall, The Guardian reports, is a majestic 82-foot blue whale skeleton named Hope.

Hope was officially unveiled to the public on July 14. The massive skeleton hangs suspended from the hall’s ceiling, providing visitors with a 360-degree view of the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth.

Technically, Hope isn’t a new addition to the Natural History Museum, which was first established in 1881. The skeleton is from a whale that beached itself at the mouth of Ireland's Wexford Harbor in 1891 after being injured by a whaler. A town merchant sold the skeleton to the museum for just a couple of hundred pounds, and in 1934, the bones were displayed in the Mammal Hall, where they hung over a life-size blue whale model.

The whale skeleton remained in the Mammal Hall until 2015, when museum workers began preparing the skeleton for its grand debut in Hintze Hall. "Whilst working on the 221 bones we uncovered past conservation treatments, such as the use of newspaper in the 1930s to fill the gaps between the vertebrae," Lorraine Cornish, the museum's head of conservation, said in a statement. "And we were able to use new methods for the first time, including 3D printing a small number of bones missing from the right flipper."

Once restoration was complete, Hope was suspended above Hintze Hall in a diving position. There she hangs as one of the museum’s new major attractions—and as a reminder of humanity’s power to conserve endangered species.

"The Blue Whale as a centerpiece tells a hopeful story about our ability to create a sustainable future for ourselves and other species," according to a museum press release. "Humans were responsible for both pushing the Blue Whale to the brink of extinction but also responsible for its protection and recovery. We hope that this remarkable story about the Blue Whale will be told by parents and grandparents to their children for many years to come, inspiring people to think differently about the natural world."

Check out some pictures of Hope below.

 “Hope,” a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of Hintze Hall in London’s Natural History Museum.
Natural History Museum

“Hope,” a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of Hintze Hall in London’s Natural History Museum.
Natural History Museum

“Hope,” a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of Hintze Hall in London’s Natural History Museum.
Natural History Museum

“Hope,” a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of Hintze Hall in London’s Natural History Museum.
Natural History Museum

[h/t Design Boom]

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios