Friday, October 16, 2020

The Art of Terror: Early Haunts


"๐“•๐“ธ๐“พ๐“ป ๐“ฎ๐“ช๐“ป๐“ต๐”‚ ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ญ ๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ผ๐“น๐“ฒ๐“ป๐“ช๐“ฝ๐“ฒ๐“ธ๐“ท๐“ช๐“ต ๐“ฐ๐“ฑ๐“ธ๐“ผ๐“ฝ ๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ธ๐“ป๐“ฒ๐“ฎ๐“ผ, ๐“ถ๐“ธ๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ต๐”‚ ๐“ฏ๐“ธ๐“ป๐“ฐ๐“ธ๐“ฝ๐“ฝ๐“ฎ๐“ท ๐“ฒ๐“ท ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ ๐“ญ๐“ฎ๐“น๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ผ ๐“ธ๐“ฏ ๐“ต๐“ฒ๐“ฝ๐“ฎ๐“ป๐“ช๐“ป๐”‚ ๐“ฑ๐“ฒ๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ธ๐“ป๐”‚ ๐“ช๐“ป๐“ฎ ๐“ซ๐“ป๐“ธ๐“พ๐“ฐ๐“ฑ๐“ฝ ๐“ฝ๐“ธ๐“ฐ๐“ฎ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ๐“ป ๐“ฏ๐“ธ๐“ป ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ ๐“ฏ๐“ฒ๐“ป๐“ผ๐“ฝ ๐“ฝ๐“ฒ๐“ถ๐“ฎ ๐“ฒ๐“ท ๐“ธ๐“ท๐“ฎ ๐“ฐ๐“ป๐“ช๐“น๐“ฑ๐“ฒ๐“ฌ ๐“ท๐“ธ๐“ฟ๐“ฎ๐“ต ๐“ช๐“ญ๐“ช๐“น๐“ฝ๐“ช๐“ฝ๐“ฒ๐“ธ๐“ท ๐“ฏ๐“ธ๐“ป ๐“ช๐“ท ๐“ฎ๐”๐“ฌ๐“ต๐“พ๐“ผ๐“ฒ๐“ฟ๐“ฎ ๐“ฑ๐“ช๐“ป๐“ญ๐“ซ๐“ช๐“ฌ๐“ด ๐“ป๐“ฎ๐“ต๐“ฎ๐“ช๐“ผ๐“ฎ. ๐“ข๐“ฝ๐“ธ๐“ป๐“ฒ๐“ฎ๐“ผ ๐”€๐“ฑ๐“ฒ๐“ฌ๐“ฑ ๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ผ๐“น๐“ฒ๐“ป๐“ฎ๐“ญ ๐“ข๐“ต๐“ฎ๐“ฎ๐“น๐”‚ ๐“—๐“ธ๐“ต๐“ต๐“ธ๐”€, ๐“ก๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ฐ, ๐“•๐“ป๐“ช๐“ท๐“ด๐“ฎ๐“ท๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ฎ๐“ฒ๐“ท ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ญ ๐“ช ๐“’๐“ฑ๐“ป๐“ฒ๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ถ๐“ช๐“ผ ๐“’๐“ช๐“ป๐“ธ๐“ต." 

 October is here. The nights are dark and cold, the perfect time to snuggle up in the warm, with a hot drink and something spooky. What's winter without a good ghost story? But there are so many to choose from and sometimes you want something new, something you haven't read before. How about a classic ghost story or two? Better yet, how about four in the form of a beautifully written and illustrated graphic novel?

This graphic novel is bought to us by author T.W.Burgess. His first novel was self-published in 2014
and he has since released five others, including Photoghasts, the worlds first AR haunted book. His works have garnered great praise from publications such as Starburst Magazine and Rue Morgue, and have included introductions from Junji Ito, Reece Shearsmith and Corin Hardy. With these books, he has helped introduce us to a wonderful world of spine chilling horror. And now, with the help of a team of amazing artists, that world is about to expand even further. I'd like to introduce you to Early Haunts, a stunning and much anticipated graphic novel which I hope you'll consider adding to your collection. If not for yourself, then for that special spooky someone in your life. This new anthology brings you four little known classic tales of terror, coming to us from mythology and early folklore, and introducing the reader to a carefully curated collection of some of the earliest recorded ghost stories. Some of you may have heard of these stories, but many of you won't have and Early Haunts is the perfect introduction to them for any reader. 

The Stories


The House in Athens
Adapted from the ancient Roman story of the same name, it was found in the letters of Pliny The Younger, a Roman politician and writer. He lived from 61AD to 113AD, which gives you an idea of just how old this story is, making it the earliest recorded ghost story in the book. The House in Athens tells the tale of a terrifying chained apparition stalking a house in ancient Athens and how a man named Athenodorus set out to solve the mystery of this ominous spectre. You'll recognise this chained ghost from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, as it was an inspiration for the tormented spirit of Jacob Marley.
It's illustrated by Mike O Brien, who has captured the story wonderfully with his rich colour pallet and sweeping brush strokes. His work has previously been included in Cracked Eye Magazine and at the Bishop's Stortford Museum, among others.



The Tale from Dish Mansion
Originally recorded as The Plate House, by Baba Bunko in 1758, this folktale can trace its origins to a Kabuki play by the name of Bancho Saravashiki. It tells the chilling story of Okiku, a girl doomed to become a tragic and terrifying Japanese spirit known as a Yokai. If she sounds familiar to you when you read this chapter, then you can thank author Koji Suzuki, who seems to have taken inspiration from this tale for his novel, The Ring, thus bringing us another well dwelling spector; Sadako. 
Illustrator Bri Neumann and colourist Bryan Valenza have bought this tale to life with incredible attention to detail and a gorgeously warm colour pallet. 
Bri Neumann has worked in Television, Animation and Computer Games in a variety of different roles, including working for Dreamworks Animation, Nintendo and Rick & Morty, among others.
Bryan Valenza has worked for both indie and non-indie publishers, including DC Comics, Image Comics and Lion Forge.


The Wild Huntsman
The Wild Huntsman has been carefully dapted from the poem of the same name, which was written by the German poet Gottfried August Bรผrger in the 1700s. Based on German folklore, it concerns the tale of a huntsman who, upon going hunting on a Sunday, soon finds himself cursed through his own actions. This creepy poem was a source of inspiration for Washington Irving, when he was writing his own classic ghost story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Illustrator Brian Coldrick has brought this chilling tale to life with a cool colour pallet and stunning art style that brings life to the frantic chase depicted in the poem. Known for his brilliant webcomic Behind You, his work also includes monster design for Doctor Who, robotic prosthetics for Lady Gaga and cover art for Locke and Key.




The Death Bride
A chilling Italian gothic horror story, The Death Bride hails from a French anthology of German ghost stories known as Fantasmagoriana. This tale of love and terror was first translated by Jean-Baptiste Benoรฎt Eyriรจs, anonymously for some reason and it was published in 1812. Fantasmagoriana was one of many books read by Mary Shelly during her stay in Geneva with her husband Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, becoming one of her main influences when writing her famous novel Frankenstein.
This story is illustrated by David Romero, a freelance illustrator and animator whos speciality is horror. His haunting artwork adds a dark atmosphere to this story, which brings with it a creeping dread. Very fitting for a story like this. David has worked for many people and companies, including Image Comics and Simply Scary Podcast.










A lot of work has been put into this project, each story has been painstakingly adapted by T.W.Burgess and beautifully bought to life by the artists involved. Simply put, it's a labour of love. The Kickstarter campaign ends on the 6th of November, so you still have plenty of time to get involved and show your support for this exciting project. 

Head over to the Early Haunts Kickstarter now and you can help bring this book to life in the form of an elegantly designed hardback novel. 

There are seven levels of support you can offer. Each brings with it a signed first edition of the book (either digital, physical or both.) and various other goodies, including (depending on the amount pledged.) limited edition bookplates, copies of T.W.burgess' other novels, a copy of the Early Haunts digital sketchbook and a Thank You in the back of the book itself.  The campaign also includes three fabulous Stretch Goals. It's reached the £10,000 goal so all print backers will receive a limited edition art print, but if it reaches £15,000 then they will be able to include AR pages in the book and if it reaches £20,000 then every backer will get a copy of an exclusive bonus comic. T.W.Burgess and Brian Coldrick have been working on a comic adapted from the actual haunting which inspired the classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James. 

I myself have signed up and am following the campaign with much excitement. How about you, dear reader? Are you already following Early Haunts? What are you excited about the most, what has you hyped for the project's completion? If you arent following Early Haunts on Kickstarter just yet, then I highly recommend you do so. This unique and fascinating graphic novel is an excellent addition to any ghost story or graphic novel collection.
As always, I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or by tagging me in a post on Twitter. Plus don't forget to send some extra good vibes and support to team responsible for this beautiful project, by following them on Twitter too. Their profiles can be reached by clicking on their names.

 ๐“ž๐“ท ๐“š๐“ฒ๐“ฌ๐“ด๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ช๐“ป๐“ฝ๐“ฎ๐“ป ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ญ ๐“ฌ๐“ธ๐“ถ๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ฐ ๐“ฝ๐“ธ ๐”‚๐“ธ๐“พ๐“ป ๐“ซ๐“ธ๐“ธ๐“ด๐“ผ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ๐“ต๐“ฏ ๐“ผ๐“ธ๐“ธ๐“ท!



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ghost Ship: the SS Ourang Medan

The end of September is here and Autumn is in full sway. The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and the nights are dark, so naturally it's time to turn on the central heating or, if you're lucky, stoke up the fire and get stuck into a good ghost story. And, as always, I have the perfect story for you to scare yourself with.

"๐•‹๐•™๐•–๐•š๐•ฃ ๐•—๐•ฃ๐• ๐•ซ๐•–๐•Ÿ ๐•—๐•’๐•”๐•–๐•ค ๐•จ๐•–๐•ฃ๐•– ๐•ฆ๐•ก๐•ฅ๐•ฆ๐•ฃ๐•Ÿ๐•–๐•• ๐•ฅ๐•  ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐•ค๐•ฆ๐•Ÿ, ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐•ž๐• ๐•ฆ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•ค ๐•จ๐•–๐•ฃ๐•– ๐•˜๐•’๐•ก๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•˜ ๐• ๐•ก๐•–๐•Ÿ ๐•’๐•Ÿ๐•• ๐•ฅ๐•™๐•– ๐•–๐•ช๐•–๐•ค ๐•ค๐•ฅ๐•’๐•ฃ๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•˜..."

Allegedly a photo of one of the dead crewmen,
it's source is untraceable and therefore unreliable.
Sometime in 1947, ships in the Malacca Straight started to receive
distress calls from a Dutch merchant ship, which had run into 
trouble. This wasn't unusual in that area, but the content of the messages was. "All officers, including Captain dead, lying in the chartroom and on bridge. Probably whole crew dead." came the panicked message from the ships radio operator. This was followed by a string of garbled morse code, utterly untranslatable, as if the sender was so hysterical that they couldn't send properly. Minutes of silence followed before one last message was transmitted from the stricken vessel. Just two words. "I die." After this, there was nothing but radio silence. The ship, the SS Ourang Medan, couldn't be hailed. Coordinates had been given during the distress calls and an American vessel, by the name of the Silver Star, decided to check the situation out. Understandably unnerved by the chilling distress calls, they still hoped that they might save someone, anyone. Their hopes of finding survivors were soon dashed as they sighted the ship. The Ourang Medan was dead in the water, floating with the tide, nobody in sight. Once again all attempts to hail the crew were met with silence. Apprehensively, the rescuers boarded the silent vessel and were greeted with a sight beyond their wildest nightmares. Below deck, the ship was so cold that the rescue team could see their breath, it was like walking into a meat locker. Highly unusual for such a hot part of the country. But what truly sent chills down their spines wasn't the temperature, every member of the Ourang Medan's crew was dead. Bodies littered the decks. Twisted and contorted, their faces frozen in expressions of terror, as if they had seen something truly horrific in their final moments. Not even the ships dog had been spared, a fearful snarl forever fixed upon its face. It was the sight of the radio operator, slumped at his station, that sent the rescue party running. After much discussion it was agreed that they would at least tow the stranded ship back to port, so that the authorities there could investigate it properly. Before they could do so, thick smoke began to billow from the depths of the Ourang Medan. Fire soon followed the smoke and the crew of the Silver Star barely had enough time to cut their tow ropes and get themselves to a safe distance before an explosion rocked the other ship. It's said the force of the explosion was so strong that the SS Ourang Medan was actually lifted from the water as it was torn apart, sinking, never to be found.

A rumoured photo of the SS Ourang Medan, photographer unknown


The Truth Behind the Tale
There's nothing quite like a good ghost ship story, is there? And in my opinion, the tale of the Ourang Medan is just that, a scary story. But would it surprise you if I told you that some people believe that it's not a story, that the events I just told you about really happened? Not an old urban legend, it seems to have first appeared in a Dutch-Indonesian newspaper in 1948, but also appears in two American papers, one also in 1948 and another later in 1952. It worth mentioning that these articles differ from the version of the story we have now, with the first article neglecting to name the rescue ship and the American articles including a miraculous sole survivor, who tells his rescuers that the ship was carrying badly packaged chemicals which leaked and killed the crew, before dying himself. While stories do change over time, some people believe that this is a sign that the tale was deliberately changed as part of a cover-up. The rescue ship, the Silver Star, was indeed a real ship, but there is no sign of the SS Ourang Medan ever having existed. There is a Coast Guard report floating around, but that's highly likely to be fake, as it was made in 1954 and the incident itself happened in 1947. That's an 8-year gap between events. Oddly, the Ourang Medan was also referenced by the CIA in a report in 1959. Although written in 1959, the report wasn't released to the public until 2003 and you can read that report as a pdf here. So whats going on here? Three conspiracy theories have grown around this story. 
Theory one: The most popular of the three states that the Ourang Medan was part of a massive cover-up, one that resulted in it being wiped from all registration and shipping records, and even from the ships log of the Silver Star itself. Some theorise that the ship wasn't even Dutch, but was instead a disguised American military ship, covertly moving a newly developed and unnamed chemical weapon from one location to another. This ties in nicely with the Sole Survivor from the American articles, who claimed the ship was carrying chemicals. Conspiracy theories aren't really my vibe, but you know me, I would never mock anyone for their theories and I love a good mystery. So it's no surprise that I've sat and thought about this story. It is worth noting that out of the two theories, this one seems the most realistic, since the sinking of the SS Ourang Medan and it's mysterious cargo coincides with the year that the Cold War started. In this period, if a country had developed a new weapon, then they would want to transport it around secretly. The chemical weapon part is where it gets interesting, as to have the effect on the Ourang Medan's crew that it had, then it would have to be a nerve agent of some sort. While the chemical weapon known as VX could have had that effect and did need to be stored in cold temperatures, explaining the why the ship was like a walk-in freezer below deck, it wasn't developed until the 1950s, in Britain. But that doesn't mean they, and other countries, wouldn't have been working on it before then. Meaning the SS Ourang Medan, if real, could have been transporting an early prototype of the weapon. If it were an unknown chemical weapon, then another possible culprate could be an extract of Oenanthe, a type plant also referred to as Hemlock Water Dropworts. In ancient Sardinia, this plant was used for its neurotoxins, usually when sacrificing the elderly. If administered in high enough amounts, it twists the face in death, causing something referred to by scientists as the Sardonic Grin. This might sound cheery, but it's actually less of a cheerful smile and more of a twisted grimace; teeth bared, eyes wide, sounds familiar doesn't it? It's the exact look that the crew of the Ourang Medan had on their faces in death. 
Theory Two: Something in the ships boiler had malfunctioned, or was on fire and was leaking carbon monoxide gas. This seems incredibly unlikely, because the side effects of CO poisoning would have had the crew sending out a distress call long before they reached the stage they did as would a fire. Some of the Ourang Medan's crew were outside in the fresh air, where CO gas would have dissipated and, even though they would have been feeling a bit queazy, they wouldn't have been reduced to twisted corpses. Also, if the boiler was releasing enough CO to incapacitate the crew that quickly, then the rescue party from the Silver Star would also have been affected to some degree when they went below deck. They were not. They also reported no signs of smoke, which would have flooded the ship had there been a fire below deck.
Theory Three: Aliens did it. Out of all of the theories, this is (for me at least) the most far fetched of the bunch. Some people strongly believe that what happened on the Ourang Medan was a violent chance encounter with Aliens, which resulted in the gruesome deaths of all aboard and resulted in the ship exploding. Sadly this theory crops up a lot when something mysterious, with no apparent explanation, occurs. No signs of UFO activity or unexplained lights in the sky were sighted or reported by any of the other ships in the area.


The Ourang Medan in Popular Media
Oddly, although there are a lot of films based around the subject of ghost ships, there are none about the Ourang Medan. This is a shame, since the story would, if made by the right people, make a brilliant horror movie. The closest you'll find is The Man of Medan, an excellent game made the company Supermassive Games. The game itself is based around the idea of...well, I won't tell you. It may have been released last year, but you'll find no spoilers here. Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, it's well worth a download if you enjoy a story-driven adventure/survival horror game with multiple endings based on your actions during the game.



So, what do you think, readers? A chilling tale to scare your friends or a true story that has been covered up? Personally, I'm hoping it is just a story, because after referring to the theories about it as conspiracy theories, I'm going to be very embarrassed if the first one turns out to be true. And completely mortified if the third one turns out to be true. Have any theories of your own, or anything to add to the ones I've mentioned? Let me know in the comments below, or link me in a Tweet




Friday, August 28, 2020

Killer Unknown: the Villisca Axe Murders

The daybook, Chicago, 14th June 1912.
 Public domain

Every town has it's haunted house, a grim-looking place where terrible things have happened or are
rumoured to have had happened. But not many can boast of a crime quite like the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912. A crime so brutal that it replaced the recent Titanic disaster on the front pages of many American newspapers. People were fascinated by true crime, even 108 years ago.





June 9th, 1912.
The Moore family returned to their home after an enjoyable, but busy, day out. The family was made up of Josiah (43 y/o), Sarah (39 y/o) and their four children, Paul (5 y/o), Boyd (7 y/o), Katherine (10 y/o) and Herman (11 y/o).
Joining them were Lena (8 y/o) and Ina Mae Stillinger (12 y/o), two of Katherine's friends, who had been invited over for a sleepover. They'd spent the day at their local church, attending a Children's Day event organised by Sarah and they didn't get home until late, around 9:45 or 10:00.
It's not known what time they all went to bed, but it's safe to assume they had some tea first and spent some time unwinding before they did. Eventually, the household would go to bed, the Moores and their brood in their own rooms upstares and the Stillinger girls in the guestroom downstairs.
None of them would ever wake up.

June 10th, 1912
The Moores neighbour, Mary, has started her day. But, as she goes about her morning routine, she can't help but notice that something is missing and that something was the Moores. See, at that point in the morning, the children should have been out and about, starting their daily chores. To Mary's growing concern, as the morning went on there was no sign of life over at the house next to hers. She assumed that the family had fallen ill and went to check on them. The curtains were still drawn and the house seemed dark. Mary first tried knocking on the door, then calling out to the people inside, but got no response. Her attempt to let herself in was met with something unusual; a locked door. It was unusual because in those days, in those sleepy, safe little towns, people would leave their doors unlocked. They had nothing to fear, or at least thought they didn't, but what would be discovered inside that house would have the whole town locking their doors and windows. Unable to get in, Mary called Ross Moore, Josiah's brother and owner of a spare door key. And, being the good person she was, while Ross let himself into the house, Mary fed the families chickens, thinking she was doing her friends a favour. She wasn't expecting him to come running out, calling to her to call the police.
Inside the house had been ominously silent, Ross may have been expecting to find something grim but nothing could prepare him for the horror contained inside that building. Wandering around the ground floor, calling for his family, he came across the guestroom and its chilling contents. And having guessed why the family was nowhere to be seen, he fled.
Photo by Jennifer Kirkland, CC BY-ND 2.0

Town Marshal Horton and his men arrive to discover a human abattoir and a rapidly growing crowd of onlookers. A search of the house reveals that somebody has taken the families axe from the woodshed and, starting with Josiah and Sarah, killed everyone. These murders were methodical and precise. Everything seems to indicate a lot of anger and most of this rage seems to have been aimed at Josiah. Mr Moore had been struck at least thirty times, with both the blade and back of the axe. The force of the blows rained down upon him were strong enough to pop his eye right out of its socket and the murderer had gone out of his way to demolish Josiah's face. Investigators even found chunks gouged out of the ceiling above the bed, where the axe had been swung back so far that it had struck it. After finishing of the adults, he went after the children and, after he was finished, he went back to the parent's room to beat Josiah's face into an unrecognisable mush. Once he had done so he went downstairs and killed Lena and Ina Mae. And this is where it starts to get weird. Or weirder. You see, killing someone with an axe, especially when using such extreme brute strength, is going to make a lot of noise. And yet no one woke up, except for possibly Lena Stillinger. She was found lying sideways across her bed and there were signs of a struggle, defensive wounds on her arms. But other than Lena, it looks like everyone just slept through the carnage. Sarah, tucked up in bed with Josiah didn't stir as her husbands head was caved in. The children didn't wake as their siblings, in the same room as them, had their short lives ended. And Ina Mae Stillinger didn't wake as her sister fought off her attacker. Stranger still, after finishing off his victims, the killer had covered their faces, mirrors and other reflective surfaces with bedsheets and items of clothing. This could indicate two things. The first possibility is that it was an act of remorse, the killer knew they'd done wrong and this was some strange way of showing respect to the victims, much like wrapping a body in a burial shroud. The second possibility is that he was covering his tracks, much like how serial killer Andrei Chikatilo would put out his victim's eyes for fear that they somehow contained his image burnt onto them. Is it possible the killer thought this act could prevent him from being caught? For some reason, the killer also removed a 4lb cut of bacon from the pantry, only to discard it in the living room along with the murder weapon, which he propped up against the wall. Was this some bizarre attempt at making the murders look like a robbery gone wrong, or had the killer intended to take it with him but forgot it or changed his mind? Police also found a bowl of bloody water, as if the killer had tried to wash himself clean, before leaving and locking the door behind him.
Doctors on the scene work out that the crime had been committed sometime between 12:00 am and 5:00am, but it doesn't seem that they looked into why no one had woken up while it was happening. 
Considering how much of a shambles the investigation was, it's possible that they did look into it but the evidence was lost. 


Crime Scene or Circus?
Photo by Jennifer Kirkland, CC BY-ND 2.0
The local law enforcement's half-hearted attempts at investigation pretty much ensured the killer would never be found and the suspect list they came up with was based on rumours and mudslinging rather than actual evidence. They didn't rush to start a manhunt, believing that it would be a waste of time and the killer would be long gone. Some even dismissed the case as just part of a string of similar murders that had been taking place at the time. Worse yet, in a time where forensic science was still developing and relied on an untampered with crime scene, the police didn't properly secure the building. All they did was warn the crowd outside not to go in and made no real attempt to stop them when they started to do so anyway. It was a small town and news travelled fast. The crowd that had been outside when the police arrived had swelled in numbers. Driven by morbid fascination, they ignored the police and proceeded to enter the house. Over 100 people treated a tragic crime scene full of gore as a sideshow, wandering around the house like it was a museum and, most likely, destroying vital evidence. The desecration didn't stop there, as one of the ghoulish visitors took a chunk of Josiah's crushed skull home with them, as a souvenir. 
All this while the families of the dead watched on in grief and horror.


The Suspects
Despite the lack of real evidence, there was no shortage of suspects, with people being blamed left, right and centre. There were seven suspects in total, most of it comes across as a bit of a witch hunt. In some cases, it looks as if the police were trying to cover up their incompetence at the crime scene by desperately scrabbling for someone to blame. But, as you'll see, there are a couple of potential suspect here.

Sam Moyer
It's said that when a murder happens, it's usually perpetrated by someone the victim knows. And the Moore's definitely knew Moyer, as he was a family member, Sarah's brother. He became a suspect when it came to light that he'd often threatened the life of his brother-in-law, but his alibi was a solid one and resulted in him being cleared of all charges at the inquest.
It's worth noting that while Sam had a history of threatening Josiah, there are no reports of those threats being extended to his sister, nieces and nephews. 

Henry Moore
Henry's surname is just an odd coincidence, since he was in no way related to the victims. I've mentioned before that there was a slwe of violent axe murders being commited at the time, which some consider the Villisca murders to be a part of. Henry was one of the suspects for those murders, incriminating himself even further when he took and axe to his own grandmother, wife and infant child.
Despite this he wasnt officially charged for the Villisca murders, remaining only a suspect and it's worth pointing out that the murder of his family was one fueled by greed. He'd taken out insurance on each of them and it appears that he was hoping to pass the murders off as one of the many commited at that time, so that he could make a claim.

Reverend George Kelly
To the people of Villisca, Reverend George was a bit of an oddball and a creep. A travelling minister, he attended the same church event that the Moores did before their deaths and left Villisca sometime around 5:30am, not long after the murders had happened. What made people even more suspicious of him is that he'd often been seen peeping through peoples windows and had been accused, multiple times, of asking young girls to pose for naked for him. Young girls around Lena Stillinger's age and up. He was also completely obsessed with the crime, bothering the families and the police with letters and attempting to sneak onto the crime scene, when it was secured, by pretending to be a policeman. He even told a P.I. that he'd been around the house the night the murders took place and may have witnessed it, but the police didn't bother to take him into custody for the murders until 1917. That's a whole five years after the murders took place. After hours of interrogation, they got a confession out of him and sent him off to court. He would go to trial two times and be acquitted on both occasions. At the first trial, the jury looked at his history of mental illness and refused to sentence him. At the second he went back on his claim that he'd committed the crime, insisting that the police had beat the confession out of him. 

Andrew Sawyer
Andrew was a railroad worker, a bit of a loner, with no link to the Moore family. And like the rest of the nation, he was fascinated by the murders that had taken place, but fascinated to the degree that his constant talking about it unnerved his co-workers enough that they complained to the crew's foreman. The foreman, a man named Dyer, took him aside to speak to him about it, hoping to solve the strange problem. He was shocked when Andrew admitted to being in Villisca the night of the murder and told him that had heard it happen, but ran away for fear of being blamed for it. As a transient, he would have made the perfect scapegoat. Dyer was so unnerved by this that he immediately reported the man to the police. Despite his bizarre claims, Andrew was able to provide the police with a pretty solid alibi, as on the night of the murders he had been arrested for vagrancy in Osceola, Iowa. This lead to him being dismissed as a suspect.

Paul Mueller 
A European immigrant, Paul Mueller was never arrested or charged for the Villisca axe murders and is a relatively new suspect in the case, having been suggested as the murderer in Bill James and Rachel McCarthy's 2017 book The Man from the Train. Evidence against him includes him being tracked in a year-long manhunt, accused of killing a family in Massachusetts in 1897.

Frank F. Jones
Out of all the people on this list, it seems that Mr Jones had an actual reason for wanting Josiah Moore dead. An Iowa State Senator living in Villisca, before he turned to politics he had owned a store there. And who worked for him? None other than Josiah. Josiah who turned out to be so good at his job that he would go on to leave Jones' employment and open a store of his very own, taking a lot of high paying customers with him in the process. On top of that, there was an unfounded rumour going round that Josiah was having an affair with Jones' daughter in law. 
Although he went uncharged for the murders, many of the locals, including the father of the Stillinger sisters and Ross Moore himself, still strongly felt that he was the guilty party. It was suggested that he'd hired someone to commit the deed, rather than risk dirtying his own hands and reputation. Josiah's family and their friends? Collateral damage. But who could he hire to do such a terrible thing? Well, that would be William Mansfield, the next suspect on our list.

William Mansfield
I chose to place Mansfield after Jones on this list, because of their possible link to each other. He was a deeply unpleasant person and one who wasn't just a prime suspect for the string of axe murders that had been going on, some even suspect him of being a potential suspect in the Axeman of New Orleans killings. He even killed his own wife, parents-in-law and infant child with an axe just two years after the Moores murders. Yet he wasn't investigated for killings in Villisca until 1916 and was quickly acquitted as he had a seemingly solid alibi. A witness would later come forward stating that he'd seen Mansfield in Shenandoah, Iowa, heading to the train station. If this is true then it blows Mansfields alibi clear out of the water, but he was never re-arrested. At the same time of his first arrest, Frank Jones was pushing for the arrest of Reverend Kelly, an investigator at the time believes this led to Mansfields release and the subsequent trial of Kelly.


A Crime Unsolved.
There are few crimes as chaotic as the Villisca Axe Murders, with the surviving family members being failed so abysmally by those who should have been supporting them and solving the crime. Even with seven suspects, no killer was ever bought to justice. I'll leave it to you to make up your mind which one of the accused committed the crime, if any and I'd love to hear your theories in the comments. Or, as always, if you'd prefer to do so, then you can tag me in a post on Twitter. Personally, I side with the theory that it was Jones and Mansfield. Being popular in the community, Josiah Moore would have been an even bigger thorn in Jones' side had he decided to jump into politics as well, not to mention the rumours about the alleged affair would have damaged Jones' families reputation to a degree. Out of everyone on that list, Jones was the only person to have a real reason to want Moore out of the way, Mansfield was the perfect tool to get the job done and Reverend Kelly was the perfect sacrificial lamb. I'm not saying Kelly was an angel. Far from it, he was a complete dumpster fire of a human being who had already had numerous complaints raised against him for his odious behaviour, but he'd never shown signs of being violent before and seems to be the only person to be interrogated to such a degree that he admitted to the crime. Kelly was a very scrawny, malnourished looking man whom I doubt would have had the strength to kill one person with an axe, let alone do that amount of damage. Mansfield could though, and proved it by committing a near-identical crime two years later when he slaughtered his own family. It would also make sense that Jones would approach someone who didn't live locally to kill the Moores.
Photo by Jennifer Kirkland, CC BY-ND 2.0

One thing has always fascinated me though; why didn't the family wake up? Again, the murders wouldn't have been quiet. If they were sleeping naturally then they would have woken up, there would have been panic and screaming, and survivors. One theory does come to mind and that is that the family had been drugged. Barbiturates were readily available in many forms in those days, buying them was as easy as buying a packet of sweets. You picked your poison and you paid for it. If the family had a late tea planned for when they got home, Sarah probably would have prepared it in advance and left it out ready to reheat, making it easy for a home intruder to slip something a bit stronger than salt and pepper into the mix. There is a theory that instead of entering the house after everyone had gone to bed, the killer was already hiding in the house when they got home, in the attic. When searching the house for clues, the police found cigarette butts up there, adding weight to this theory, but they also could have come from one of the many townfolk who trudged through the house that day. However, the possibility of someone lurking up there, waiting for the unfortunates below to go to bed, ties in very well with the family being drugged, since the suspect would have had to enter the house to do so. It also adds another level of horror to the situation. Even if the family had locked their door, they wouldn't have escaped.



A Murder House in Modern Times
These days, the Moores home remains unlived in, but not completely abandoned. It would seem that the Moores never left. Visitors to the house have reported the sound of children playing and running from room to room, doors slamming on their own and opening just as easily, plus unexplained banging and dripping noises. The temperature will drop without warning, a feeling of darkness and heaviness will invade the atmosphere, and both shadow figures and an odd mist have been seen roaming the halls. Evidence has been caught on camera too. Subsequently, the house is on most paranormal enthusiasts bucket list and has featured on many ghost hunting programs and documentaries.
The strangest thing to happen in the house to date (other than the hauntings and the murders.) would have to be the accident that occurred there in 2014. honestly, I can't think of any other way to describe it than as an accident, but a visitor staying the night for a paranormal investigation stabbed himself, in the chest. There was no warning that it was going to happen and he didn't give a reason as to why he'd done such a thing, but the police did out foul play. Because of the building bloody history and alleged hauntings, a lot of people have linked the visitors odd behaviour to that, but he would appear to be the only person who has felt the need to harm themselves in the house.
Speaking of paranormal investigations; the house had various different owners after the 1912 tragedy, until it was bought in 1994 and renovated. All modernities were stripped back and the house returned to it's early 1900's glory, to how it would have been when the murders occurred, complete with historically accurate furnishings, decore and accessories. The owners now allow people to visit the house, running daytime tours and night experiences that allow you to sleepover. And if you're unable to travel to Villisca for a tour (or are just too scared to.), you can take a virtual tour of the house instead. 

Photo by The Man-Machine, CC0 1.0


Have you visited the Villisca Axe Murder house? Have a story of your own to tell, maybe some evidence of the paranormal or just your own theories as to who committed the terrible deed? Let me know in the comments below or tag me in a Tweet! As always, I adore getting comments from you guys and hearing any fascinating stories you have to tell.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Fae on Film: The Cottingley Fairies.

The Fae are a big part of our folklore, having seemingly existed for as long as we have written records.  For creatures that may or may not exist, they are important to us, continuing to be a big part of our culture and some religions to this day. They also have a fascinating duality to them; the dark creatures of our folklore and the glittering nymphs of our fairytales. And it's those saccharine sweet Fairytale Fairies that we'll be looking at today. The darker Folks will get a blog post of their own another day.
The Victorians (or at least those who could afford to be) were a desperately romantic bunch, clinging to magic and mystery in a world that was rapidly becoming swamped by industry and science. Spiritualism was still finding its feet in the world, all that was mystical or paranormal was being sought out. So, when in 1917, photos came to light of two young girls posing with seemingly real fairies, people were delighted. These photos are iconic. Chances are you've seen them before and, even if you weren't aware of where they came from, you were most likely charmed by them. It's hard not to be. Like something from a fairytale, innocent-looking girls surrounded by crowds of delicate, dancing Fairies. Although, by modern standards (either photoshop, CGI or a man in a Bigfoot costume) they're clearly fake, in the 1900's photography was still an ever evolving art. 

By Elsie Wright (1901–1988) - Scan of photographs, PD-US



Francis Griffith (10 years old) had travelled to England from South Africa, to stay with her Aunt,
Uncle and 13-year-old cousin, Elsie Wright. The two soon became best friends, inseparable. So, how are these children responsible for one of the worlds most famous hoaxes? The same way many hoaxes start. It was a prank. With a beautiful garden to play in and only a sparkling brook separating it from the local woods, they could let their imaginations run wild. So it's somewhat unsurprising that when they were told off for continuously coming home with torn pinafores and muddy shoes, they chose to blame the whole mess on the fairies they claimed lived at the bottom of the garden. No matter how many times they were scolded, the girls insisted it was because they'd been playing with the fairies and told their parents that they could prove it, if Elsie's father would just lend them his camera. After a quick lesson on how to use it, the girls trotted off with the camera, only to return an hour later. And, when the glass plates from the camera were developed, they showed the girls interacting with what appeared to be Fairies. Elsie's father immediately called the girls out on it, correctly guessing that the Fairies were paper cut-outs, even going as far as to search their rooms and the garden for evidence when they insisted the little people in the photos were real. Unable to find anything, he confiscated the camera. Elsie's mother, while shocked, believed the photos were real. Nothing her husband could say could convince her otherwise, but she still wanted to get proof and took the photos to Bradford with her, where she attended a meeting held by the Theosophical Society, who were dedicated to investigating the paranormal. When the lectures had finished, she pulled the speaker aside and explained the whole situation to him. Taking a look at the photos, he was so convinced of their authenticity, that he took them to their annual conference and put them on display for all attending to see. One of the many people attending that conference was a Mr Edward Gardner.
Edward Gardner
Gardner was fascinated but, like Elsie's Father, also a little sceptical. He was the first person to take the photos to an independent expert to be examined, although the expert became convinced that the photos were real after finding no evidence that the glass plate had been tampered with. And it's here that the innocent prank turns into a full-on hoax, as word of the photos and Gardner's testing of them reaches the ears of Sir Conan Arthur Doyle; creator of Sherlock Holmes and enthusiastic seeker of the paranormal. As convinced as everyone else that the girls had produced evidence of the existence of Fairies, he wanted to bring the photos to an even wider audience. As a contributor to The Strand Magazine, he contacted the Wights to ask for their permission to publish the photos and an article about them. And when he gained permission from the surprised family, he contacted Gardner. Working together, Gardner and Doyle would go on to get the photos checked out by more photography experts. Only one of these was convinced the whole thing was faked, so they disregarded his opinion, choosing to go with the majority. 
1920 bought more fairy photos. Doyle was busy and asked Gardner to visit the girls, investigate their story further and secure more evidence. The trip was a success. The girls agreed to take more photos, but on the understanding that they would be allowed to do so alone. The fairies, they explained to Gardner, would only appear to children and only then when there were no adults present. This allowed them to set up some hastily made paper models and shoot a few photos. One can assume that it also gave them some time to panic in private and discuss what on earth they were going to do, because the prank had
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
gone too far. They weren't just fooling their parents anymore, there were serious intellectuals involved and they thought the photos were real. Three photos were taken and these would be the last ones the girls ever produced. Even when Gardner visited them again in 1921 with a medium in tow, the girls told him there were no fairies present at that time. This didn't matter to Doyle, however. He proceeded to publish a second article on the subject, and even used the photos to write a book, The Coming of the Fairies, which was published in 1922. Both the article and the book were met with mixed reactions, the Cottingley Fairies fame had started to wane with that of the supernatural. Some people were still convinced, but others were sure they were faked, even calling into question the Fairies "fashionable" hairstyles as evidence of this. Even though people had lost interest, the story didn't end there, not for Elsie and Francis. For decades after they would have to put up with people wanting to speak to them about the fairies, but these people only wanted to know if the photos were fake and how they'd done it. I've got to give them credit, they were as brave as they were clever, admitting nothing. Even when James Randi got involved in the 1970s, pointing out that the Fae in the photos were identical to those published in a book from the 1900s, a book the girls were most likely to have owned, they said nothing. It wasn't until 1983 that the photos were officially debunked, with Elsie admitting they were faked. Her father had been right when he'd said they were paper cutouts and Randi was right when he'd spoken about the book. The girls had traced the books illustrations, colouring them in and mounting them on hairpins. This allowed them to stand the Fairies up without fear of them falling mid-photograph. They maintained the hoax out of pure embarrassment, Elsie reported. After fooling Gardner and Doyle, the articles and the book, it was easier to keep up the ruse than admit that it was false. And Francis? Francis swore the photos were genuine to the very end.

By Frances Griffiths (died 1986) - Scan of photograph, PD-US

I can only wonder how that felt for Elsie and Francis, to live their whole lives haunted by what started as a harmless bit of fun, to live with the knowledge that if they told the truth then it wouldn't be a few people laughing about it but hundreds of them, mocking and jeering. The dread of knowing that they'd go down in history not as the Boy Who Cried Wolf but as the Girls Who Cried Fairy. In Victorian times, a persons reputation was everything and once that reputation was damaged, they would either become a joke to their peers or be shunned completely. And, of course, they would have known that it wasn't just their reputations at risk, but Gardner and Doyle's too.
I don't know about you, but I'm fond of the Cottingley Fairy photos. The images speak of a more innocent time, something a lot of us left behind in our own childhoods. They must have had so much fun taking those first photos, before it all spiralled out of control. At the same time, there's something sad about them and I think that feeling stems from knowing the story behind them and what the girls went through for their entire lives.

What do you guys think? Sympathetic, or serves them right? Harmless prank turned hoax to save their reputations, or malicious prank stemming from a string of lies? Let me know in the comments below or tag me in a Tweet, you guys know I love to hear from you!







Sunday, June 21, 2020

Scaredy Cat: Phantom Felines and Cursed Cats


With so many types of ghosts out there, would it surprise you if I told you that some of them were animals? Not all places are haunted by spectral monks and sad ladies in white flowing gowns. Over the years there have been many reports of ghostly animals; I've covered the Black Shuck before and even touched on the Tower of Londons resident Bear, but other than that I haven't really covered any other creepy critters. So let's remedy that situation with some Phantom Felines.   


Photo by OliBac, CC BY 2.0


Killakee House, Dublin, Ireland.
Probably the most well-known ghost cat on this list. The Black Cat of Killakee House is incredibly angry and has every reason to be so, as it may have been a victim of the infamous Hellfire Club, who were active in the area during the 1700s and were responsible for the ritualistic death of a black cat. But the cat's story doesn't really start until 1968, when a young couple bought the house. It was a bit of a fixer-upper, but they had big plans for their new home and put the initial strange happening down to it being an old building in need of a lot of work. Then, in the 1970s, they bought in builders and things turned a little sinister. Eerie noises, doors opening on their own and temperature drops were only the start of it. The spooked builders found themselves stalked by a massive, terrifying black cat with red glowing eyes. They had had enough. They fled the house and refused to return. And although the family had originally believed the men were just being superstitious, they soon started to encounter the aggravated beast themselves and, in the end, had to call a priest to perform an exorcism on the property.
While this seemed to work at the time, it was only a temporary fix. A group visiting the house decided to hold a seance for fun and this started up the hauntings again. 

Short Street, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Short Street is a narrow, cobbled street that runs along the back of a derelict pottery works and is home to a small collection of traditional workers cottages. These cottages are the haunt of one very shy little ghost. Often spotted sitting on the doorstep of one of the cottages, this friendly seeming puss is fond of disappearing into thin air when approached. Many people have been surprised by this and the ghost has been witnessed by multiple people at a time. Why it haunts the cottages is unknown, maybe it was just happy there in life and is unwilling to leave.

King John's Hunting Lodge, Axbridge, Somerset.
Built in the 1400s as a wool merchants house, King John's Hunting Lodge is now a museum and is home to more than one ghost. The one seen most often, by staff and visitors alike, is that of a friendly tabby cat. This benign little soul is often found hanging around in a wood-panelled room on the first floor and people have often fully interacted with it, talking and petting it, before having it pull a ghostly vanishing act on them. You're more likely to come across this spirit if you don't actively look for it, so enjoy the exhibits the museum has to offer and maybe you'll make a spooky new friend.

The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
The Nutshell is a beautiful little pub, dating back to the 1800s, known as Britain's Smallest Pub. And while it's decorated by many interesting objects, what I'll be writing about is hanging above the bar; the resident mummified cat.
Hiding a dead cat in the walls of your house for good luck was a gruesome tradition that was common back in the 15th to 18th centuries, when people believed that it would protect the home from bad luck and evil spirits. And it would appear that this cat is happy to do so, providing you don't touch it. Invading this cat's personal space gets you cursed with some incredibly bad luck. A landlady once attempted to clean the cat, accidentally snapping off part of its tail. Soon after she lost her job. Following this, the cat was kidnapped (catnapped?) by a group of mischievous servicemen from nearby RAF Honington. Their amusement soon turned to horror, as they found themselves experiencing an unusual steak of accidents and fires, and they quickly returned the cat. 
So buy yourself a pint and have fun, but stick to admiring this cat from a safe distance.

The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire.
The Ancient Ram Inn is home to so many spirits, both good and bad, that it's worthy of a blog post of its very own. And with so many ghosts haunting one place, does it surprise you that a cat is lurking among them? It's said that, in the 16th century, a woman who was sentenced to be burnt at the stake managed to flee and took shelter in one of the rooms at the inn. She, like many innocent people during those times, had been accused of witchcraft. Despite her bid for freedom, the poor thing was recaptured and burnt at the stake with her familiar, a cat. This cat now haunts the inn, roaming the bedrooms and has a nasty habit of peeing on the beds. Charming.
As for the Ancient Ram Inn's other ghostly inhabitants? That's a blog post for another day.


So, those are our five paranormal felines. Have you ever visited any of these locations and experienced anything? Have you seen or heard about a phantom feline anywhere else? I'd love to hear your story. Let me know in the comments below or tag me in a post on Twitter.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Droving; a Festival of Fear

The Droving

It's not a secret, I love Folk Horror with all my macabre little heart. Folklore itself is considered by some to just be a pretty collection of fairy tales and superstition, but when you really start to look into it, it will show you it's beautiful dark side. And I'm not alone in enjoying Folk Horror. Recent years have bought us a plethora of excellent books and films that delve into the darker side of older beliefs and stories.
Released on Amazon Prime this April, The Droving is a beautiful example of one of these films. It's bought to us by Rubicon Films, the same production company that bought us 2017's Hex, and is well worth a watch.



Plot
After returning home from a stint in the military, Martin is in search of his little sister, Megan, who has mysteriously gone missing. Looking for clues, he meets with a friend of his sisters, Tess. Through her he discovers that she and Megan were meant to meet up at a local festival, The Droving, but it was likely here that his sister went missing. Tess also tells him about a group of suspicious outsiders who have been visiting the festival and taking it a little too seriously. With not much else to go on, Martin heads out to find them and through them, finds out that a sinister ritual is going to be taking place. But what does this ritual have to do with Megan, what happened to her and, more importantly, what will become of Martin?



About the Film

A visually beautiful film, the shots of the vast Lake District countryside reveal its stark beauty, giving it a perfect lonely and isolated vibe. The soundtrack is haunting, but the movie doesn't rely on it for the whole runtime, instead relying on everyday background noises, silence and the actors themselves to slowly build up the tension to the point where you could cut it with a knife.
Speaking of the actors, a strong performance all round from all. The main character, Daniel Oldroyd as Martin, is pleasant and likeable, but with a cold edge to him. As an ex-soldier and interrogator for the British army, he's unafraid to take risks and go to great lengths to get the information he needs. He acts as our guide into this world of Folk Horror and we uncover the mystery alongside him, like an invisible side-kick. And we want Martin to succeed in avenging his sister, although an eye for an eye probably isn't something kind-hearted Meg would have approved of. His fellow actors play characters who are well rounded and individual, making them feel like real people. And none of them are quite what they seem.
The festival itself, The Droving, is glowing, full of light and warmth which belies it's more sinister side. It very much reminds me of the real-life traditional and pagan celebrations that we see throughout the year here in the UK, including Penrith's Winter Droving festival, which is where I assume it was filmed and takes some inspiration from.
All in all, The Droving is a treasure of a film, and a breath of fresh air when some movies have a nasty habit of taking a little too much inspiration from The Wicker Man. I heartily recommend it to all lovers of folklore and horror, but also to those new to the genre.



Viewable at: Amazon Prime

Director: George Popov
Writers: George Popov,  Johnathan Russell
Starring: Daniel Oldroyd, Suzie Fances Garton, Amy Tyger
Supporting Cast: Bobby Robertson, John Lawrence Risdon, John Love, Alexander King
Runtime: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Subtitles: English
Official Site
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Have you already seen The Droving? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or by tagging me in a post on Twitter. If you haven't seen the movie yet, then don't forget you can view it on Amazon, and it's well worth a watch. So grab yourself a nice drink and some popcorn, and snuggle down for a movie night!
















Thursday, April 30, 2020

Horror in Isolation.

As the lockdown continues, so too does the risk of boredom. And at The Strangeways HQ we are completely against boredom. So, in the hopes of introducing you to something you've never seen before, I present to you a list of films and series to check out while you're in lockdown. 



Ravenous (1999)

It's the 1800's and Lieutenant Boyd has been sent/banished to Fort Spencer, a remote garrison at the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountain range. Home to the militaries outcasts, this frozen place is where the army sends the people it would rather forget. Despite this, everything seems to be going fine for Boyd and his companion. That is until a snowstorm blows a mysterious stranger, Colqhoun, their way and everything rapidly spirals out of control.
An interesting take on the Wendigo legend, the best way to describe Ravenous is glorious, gleeful chaos; it's humour at it's darkest.
The most important thing about this movie it to double-check which one you're watching. If you watch the 2018 Ravenous instead of the 1999 Ravenous then you'll be stuck with zombies eating people instead of Robert Carlyle eating people, and nobody want that.
Format: Movie
Available: Amazon
Subtitles: n/a


Noroi: the curse (2005)
After a fire at his home, which seemingly killed his wife, our protagonist Kobayashi has vanished without a trace and at this point it's unknown whether he was responsible or not. As a famous paranormal investigator and documentary maker, Kobayashi was in the middle of filming a new documentary, investigating a series of strange events that have been taking place just before the tragic incident took place. The tapes he took leading up to the disaster help us retrace his steps, as the seemingly random paranormal events he was documenting are revealed to be linked and are the sign of something much more sinister and, ultimately, unstoppable.
Most found footage movies try to play themselves off as true stories, but few manage as well as Noroi. This gem of a horror movie is atmospheric, disturbing and its complex and fascinating plot will leave your skin crawling.
Format: Movie
Available: Shudder
Subtitles: yes


Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo documentary-style movie that follows the family of Alice, after her untimely death by drowning. As friends and family are interviewed, we get to know Alice through their memories. Meanwhile, her brother has set up video cameras in an attempt to catch signs of her spirit, after she starts to appear in the documentary footage and photos, seemingly to help bring some closure to the family. As filming continues and strange events occur, we soon discover there's a bigger mystery afoot. Is the ghost of Alice everything it seems? And what really led to the teenagers death? The truth is more shocking than you'd expect.
I'm not big on documentary horror movies, since there's so many bad ones out there since the genre became popular, but I will always recommend Lake Mungo. It's spooky and a little sad, and so well acted that you could believe that it's a real documentary.
Format: Movie
Available: Amazon
Subtitles: n/a


Marianne (2019)
Successful novelist Emma is forced to return to the hometown she left behind her at the behest of an old childhood friend, who's mother has become disturbingly obsessed with the horror novel Emma writes. To her utter dismay, she soon finds herself having to stay there due to the chaotic events that are unfolding in the small town, all of which are linked to Emma, her novels and the dark spirit that inspired them. As the lines between fact and fiction become blurred, the question is can the horror be stopped and, if it can, at what price?
Watching Marianne with my friends, I found myself doing something that I haven't done for a long time while watching a horror series. I was watching through my fingers. Even my friend M, usually distracted by his phone, couldn't tear himself away from the screen.
Format: Series
Available: Netflix
Subtitles: yes


As Above So Below (2014)
The film follows Archaeologist Scarlett and her cameraman as they descend into the darker areas of the Catacombs with a group of urban explorers. Their goal? Scarlett is frantically searching for the infamous philosophers stone. Her father spent his life in pursuit of the stone and, as a result of his obsession, was mocked and scorned by his fellow academics. His reputation ruined, he hung himself. Following her fathers notes, Scarlett has traced its hiding place to somewhere within the twisting depths of the ancient catacombs. Our heroine's mistake was believing that such a powerful object would be unguarded and easy to obtain. Her quest continues regardless and this mistake puts her life, and the lives of her companions, in danger.
Claustrophobic and incredibly creepy, As Above So Below is well-acted, with an engaging and original plot. It's also nice to see a film based in the Paris Catacombs, as there really aren't enough and it's an excellent location.
Format: Movie
Available: Netflix
Subtitles: some


Pulse (Kairo) (2001)
Atmospheric, eerie and, at the same time, oddly beautiful. This melancholy story follows two groups of characters as they deal with the lonely dead coming back to the land of the living via an increasingly popular website, the people around them vanishing into delicate clouds of ash and what this paranormal invasion means for mankind as a whole.
Since Hollywood went through a stage of churning out terrible reboots of Japanese horror movies, you may have heard of Pulse before. But you've probably heard of the remake, which was pretty awful, despite Wes Craven being involved. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke then don't fix it.
Format: Movie
Available: Amazon prime
Subtitles: yes.


Grave Encounters (2011)
For those of you who love watching ghost hunting shows, but have always wondered what it would be like if one went terribly wrong, this is the ideal movie for you. Presented as a found-footage documentary, it aims to explain what happened to the crew of Grave Encounters, a Ghost Adventures style television program that had to be cancelled after the entire crew disappeared mysteriously while filming at an abandoned mental asylum. The footage they filmed there is recovered, soon the whole horrific story of what happened that night reveals itself to the viewer and all we can do is watch as what should have been a simple ghost hunt turns into something much more sinister.
The acting is good, the plot interesting and the ghosts? They'll haunt your nightmares. There's also a sequel, but it's nowhere as good as its predecessor and is nothing to write home about.
Format: Movie
Available: Shudder
Subtitles: n/a



The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
While it has a nicely sized cast, The Autopsy of Jane Doe spends most of its screen time focusing on just three of the characters. Tommy is the local coroner in his small town and Austin, his bored of the job son, often helps him out at the family business. Austin is planning to go out on a date with his girlfriend, but all that goes out the window when the local sheriff arrives at the mortuary with the body of an unknown woman. This is Jane Doe, a common nickname given to an unnamed female corpse. Found at the scene of a multiple homicide, Jane doesn't appear to have been involved at all and her cause of death is a mystery. As a result, the Sherrif needs Tommy and Austin to work through the night to solve this mystery. The autopsy begins, but Jane's corpse defies all logic. The situation only gets worse as our baffled duo find themselves trapped in the building due to a storm and terrifying activity starts to occur around the mortuary.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe was yet another pleasant surprise for me and my friends, during our attempts to find a terrible horror movie we instead found this wonderful one. This movie will keep you glued to the screen and you'll find yourself playing detective, trying to decipher what is going on from the clues that the movie gives you.
Format: Movie
Available: Amazon Prime
Subtitles: n/a


The Terror, (2018)
Based on the book of the same name, The Terror follows a semi-fictional account of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Tasked with finding the Northwest Passage, our heroes set sail for the Arctic in the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. However, they soon find themselves stuck in the ice with no thaw in sight, thanks to freak weather conditions and the hubris of expedition leader Sir John Franklin. After his untimely death, his second in command Captain Francis Crozier is reluctantly forced to take command and save his crew. But if the threat of frostbite and the fear of scurvy and starvation wasn't bad enough, there's something ancient and angry out on the ice and it wants them dead, picking the crew off one by one. And so what should have been a one year voyage turns into a terrifying cat and mouse battle for survival.
Part horror, part tragedy, The Terror will keep you glued to the screen, worried for the welfare of your favourite character. And trust me, you'll have a favourite character. The acting is top-notch, the special effects are excellent and the attention to historical detail is out of this world. This series didn't get enough attention when it first came out, but I highly recommend it. And if you enjoy it, then don't forget to check out season two.
Format: Series
Available: Amazon Prime
Subtitles: some


Hellier (2019)
Make yourself comfortable, because you'll find yourself wanting to binge-watch this. Hellier is presented as a documentary, following a team of paranormal investigators as they receive and investigate an email from a man who claims to be under siege by mysterious creatures, at his home in rural Hellier, Kentucky. On arrival in Hellier, our characters discover that the man who emailed them doesn't seem to exist but something paranormal is going on. They soon find themselves sucked into a mystery that's even bigger than they could ever have imagined, unable to tear themselves away from it as they proceed to investigate, despite being in over their heads.
I discovered Hellier through Twitter and I was instantly hooked. Gentle but at the same time spine-chillingly creepy due to its realism, there's something about Hellier that gives me podcast vibes. Well paced, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. You want to know what happens next and will end up genuinely caring for the welfare of the characters.
Format: Series
Available: Amazon Prime
Subtitles: n/a


I hope my little list has given you some ideas to keep you entertained while everything is in chaos. If you have any movie suggestions for me or have found a new favourite movie/series thanks to this list, then let me know over at Twitter or in the comments below. Until then, stay safe, dear readers.