Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dorset, UK – spookiest county in England? Minky thinks so.

Now, I know there are villages/towns/houses/whatevers throughout the entire British Isles that are desperate to lay claim to “most haunted” but to me there’s something particularly … ominous about the atmosphere in Dorset.

Thomas Hardy, who could be described as the grandfather of emo, based most of his novels in the area he called Wessex, and he never exactly managed “cheery”. The brooding landscape is as much of a threatening physical presence as Mr Total Bastard or Master Wanker (Hardy did tend to telegraph the traits of his characters).

Possibly it’s because of Roman invasions (the place is teeming with ruined temples and villas) or the battles fought between the invaders and the natives, or maybe it’s because I’ve only had two genuinely scary things happen to me in the whole of my life and they happened seven miles apart in Dorset. The area has burial mounds on every hillside, Neolithic wargraves, and the ghost of Lawrence of Arabia can be heard zipping around country lanes on his Brough Superior motorcycle in the pre-dawn darkness.

According to the BBC news, Judge Jeffreys, known as the Hanging Judge for his part in the Bloody Assizes, has been seen or heard as recently as September 2010. At Bettiscombe Manor, there is a skull that is rumoured to scream whenever it’s removed from the property. And Minky’s entire family had various ghostly encounters in a cottage called Conygar, in Broadmayne.

100-plus years old, belonging to Minky’s grandparents, and with the usual amount of deaths in situ that older buildings acquire, it was a gloomy house at the end of a long tree-covered driveway. The next-door neighbours were undertakers, there was an electricity pylon in the grounds that would crackle when it rained, and the whole area was honestly totally effing terrifying. One night, an aunt saw a figure crouching by the door that she thought was her husband until she realized he was in bed with her. A cousin felt a hand on her shoulder as she made coffee in the kitchen, and after my grandmother died, we found her diaries detailing her fears that the evil trees in the garden were trying to capture her. She had a brain tumour (q.v. pylon in garden), which could’ve explained things, but then all of us had felt that sense of inexplicable threat.

My own Conygar experience was one of the earliest to suggest that things weren’t quite normal at Conygar, and involved the Victorian gothic style games-room that sat in the garden – surrounded by those trees. It had a harmonium in it, along with toy train tracks and ping pong. My cousin would always get to the harmonium (like a reed organ, only British) first after lunch and never let me have a go (hey, I was 8 – this was a big deal). One day, after being sure about beating the evil cousin, I was totally pissed off to arrive only to hear the harmonium playing. So disgruntled that the fact that the door was still locked didn’t register. And then, as the door swung open to reveal the empty games room with the organ notes still dying in the air, I was left standing there absolutely shitting bricks and convinced that my 8-year-old mind had gone mad.

By the time my grandparents had both passed on – although Mr Lee in Po-Sun, the Chinese restaurant, swore my granddad couldn’t be dead because he’d come in for takeaway a couple of weeks after the funeral - the atmosphere in the house was so ominous that no family member ever wanted to be left alone in any of the rooms or the grounds. The bathroom was the exception but only because we’d all take turns standing outside the bathroom door keeping up a reassuring commentary. I guess that when we all started to compare notes, we began to realize that what we’d taken as anomalous personal experiences suggested a larger, more ill-omened sweep.

Of course now the innate skeptic in me has downgraded those experiences, and there were other spooky events that I can’t even remember now. Maybe it was the proximity of the pylon – some weird electrical field causing disturbances. Maybe it was mass hysteria, of a particularly low-key English kind. Rationality is a funny thing, but not quite as bizarre as the thought of a whole household of eight people, adults and children, refusing to be alone in any room of a house. And a couple of times we’ve gone back to see the house, which although it has now been substantially remodeled is still damn creepy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anniversary of John Lennon's Death

The Dakota
Today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. He was shot to death outside the Dakota. As one of approximately three people in the entire world who can’t stand the Beatles or John Lennon, I feel it would be more appropriate for Beatles-appreciating Pee Wee to post, but I’m the one with the time on my hands today.

So John has been pretty busy in the afterlife, contacting his son, Julian, in an aboriginal ceremony in Australia, while Paul McCartney says he’s had THREE visits from his erstwhile band member. Yoko Ono saw him tinkling the ivories in their apartment. Liam Gallagher reckons he’s seen him. Robin Givens thinks he haunts her house. I don’t know who Robin Givens is but I assume John does if he took the time to swing by.

He also has time to hang out in one of the entrances to the Dakota - which was the inspiration and exterior location for The Bramford of Rosemary’s Baby fame - along with a couple of other spooks. A little girl in period costume has been seen in the foyer but the rumour of a sighting of another former resident, Boris Karloff, seems just a bit too good to be true. 

Exact spot where John Lennon
was shot outside the Dakota
Probably the most interesting aspect to the Lennon hauntings is that in both Macca and Julian’s experiences, there is a bird theme. John told Julian to look for a white feather when he died as a sign, and during the aboriginal ceremony Julian was presented with just that. Paul was recording Free as a Bird with the other remaining Beatles in 1995 and the session was plagued with strange goings on that all the band-members decided were definitely signs that John was present. Another time, Paul, Ringo and George were doing a photoshoot when a white peacock ambled over. Again, they thought it was John popping by to say Hi.

Birds are often thought to be escorts for departing souls. Known as psychopomps (Greek for “guide of souls”), in different cultures whip-poor-wills, ravens, owls or sparrows, have featured. I never imagined a Merseyside version would be a peacock.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Southwark, London
... whistling, saying good luck, ghost light...what do these have in common? Yes this is a test!

They are all theatre superstitions. All are said to bring bad luck or even cause death or in the case of the ghost light fail to protect the cast and crew from ghosts if not left lit at all times.

Saying Macbeth aloud in a theatre is considered extreme bad luck and believed to end in injury or death of the person who spoke the name. If you ever find yourself in a theatre forced to discuss Macbeth refer to it as 'that Scottish play' just to be safe.

Whistling has an historical reason to be avoided while in the theatre. Before the discovery of radio waves  backstage signals were based on sailing whistling signals that would communicate when to lift or drop set pieces, curtains, etc. So in the day if you whistled you could be signalling a rigger to drop a set on a you. The tradition has now become superstition - no whistling unless you'd like to experience crushing death-by-set.

Perhaps the dramatic nature of the inhabitants of theatres lends more power to these superstitions or perhaps more of them tend to linger as spirits. But, for whatever reason nearly every theatre more than 100 years old is haunted and as such needs protection from ghosts in the form of a ghost light. Maybe the Convent Garden Royal Theatre turned its off since it is reputed to be one of the most haunted theatres in the world and as it is still in operation you might be able to see for yourself.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Re: Death Click's Upcoming Toronto Ghost Tour

The way I heard the Keg Mansion story was that one of the Massey mothers committed suicide after both of her children died. She, as legend goes, hung herself from the banister on the second floor right outside the ladies and she haunts the spot and her children haunt the third floor (follow the stairs past the second floor ladies room) where they died.

Before the restaurant (including the second floor bathroom) was renovated and before I had heard this story I had entered the bathroom and while I was in a stall I heard a woman crying when I came out there was a women standing in the window. I couldn't see her clearly because the sun was streaming in through the window behind her. This didn't seem strange until later when I thought about it and reasoned that it was too late in the day for the position of the sun which is a northern exposure and too late in the year for the quality of the light. I didn't realize anything was off until I noticed her floor length, high-necked gown and when I blinked to ease the glare from the sun she was gone.

That night we asked our server about the hauntings and she said that no one would work late alone and that they couldn't keep overnight cleaning staff or that they would refuse to clean the third floor being unnerved by giggles from invisible children.

Did Pee Wee experience another time slip or maybe it was indigestion, we'll find out on Sunday!

Death Click's Upcoming Toronto Ghost Tour

So, the Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society seem to be a bit up themselves.

They have a very long winded PDF document ("dahling," they coo, "it's 10000s of pages!") that you have to read through before taking an exam to join their illustrious ranks, plus the website seems to imply that you just won't be up to scratch anyway.

They generously provide a self-guided ghost tour of Toronto, but it's a little bit light on the ghosts. The Canada Life building is not spooky - unless you think weather is spooky (it has a funky little beacon on the top that gets updated four times a day to tell you what standing outside also can: rain, snow, no rain, no snow, getting a bit warmer or getting a bit colder).

Anyway, I obviously have a bit of a chip on my shoulder as the whole exclusive you're-not-worthy thing is very irksome. Pee Wee and I had planned to do the self-guided tour this coming weekend only to both realize that we really don't give an arse about the Canada Life building and most of the other locations are similarly a bit boring.

Now, Toronto the Good has a bit of a reputation for dullness (who was it that said - to paraphrase - if I have to die in Toronto, at least let it be on a Saturday so I don't have to live through another Sunday?) and the Muddy York Ghost Tours also seem a bit heavy on history and light on the grue, but it really doesn't have to be like that!

Minky and Pee Wee are going to brave the 10 cm of snow we're supposed to get on Sunday for the very first Death Clicks Toronto Ghost Tour.

First stop: Mackenzie House (open from noon til 5 pm on Sundays and has gift shop!) It's meant to be very haunted, and William Lyon Mackenzie, who was a controversial newspaper editor, then leader of a failed rebellion before becoming the first Mayor of Toronto is the number one spectre. Apparently, he is very pissy, and made subsequent inhabitants of the building feel very unwelcome. Some people have even photographed ORBS!!!!

Second stop: um, knowing Pee Wee it will be Tim Hortons. Does anyone know of a haunted Timmy's? Tim Hortons is named after a dead hockey player who died an ugly automobile death. In an impressive display of tact, the coffee chain then released a line of baby doughnuts called timbits.

Third stop: Fort York is a military site dating from 1793. It is meant to be very haunted and most of the manifestations happen conveniently during daylight hours. Inexplicable footsteps and EVP shenanigans abound. The one drawback is it's close to Lake Ontario which could mean it'll be cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey and therefore off the itinerary.

Fourth stop: Christie Mansion. Mr Christie made very good cookies. He also made a secret room in which to hide his mistress and never allowed her to leave. No wonder there's a poltergeist there.

Fifth stop: Probably the cemetery of St James Cathedral, Toronto's oldest cemetery, which is located nowhere near the cathedral. Not haunted but the last resting place two of the victims of the notorious H.H. Holmes. Most people don't even know about this crazed prolific serial killer and even those who have heard of him rarely know he ended up in Toronto. Erik Larson's The Devil and the White City is well worth checking out - slightly docudrama-ed retelling Holmes' exploits but eminently readable.

Last stop: From the cemetery, it's only a short walk to the most famous haunting spot in Toronto and it's a toilet! Luckily, it's a women's toilet in Keg Mansion which is one super steakhouse. The Massey family used to live in the building and one of the daughters died on the second floor (where the washrooms are). A lot of the staff are more than happy to recount their mysterious encounters. The toilets actually are a bit creepy, and the building is beautiful. And they serve steak, so it's going to be a Death Clicks Christmas party!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cayce Confessional: eclipse DVD launch ... Hurray?

It's time to confess: I pee wee cayce LOVE the twilight saga. Some other macabre monkeys might question my loyalty to dark and disturbing things but don't we all need a little sparkle occasionally?

And isn't the effect this series has on people a little disturbing in itself? For those pooh-poohing I suggest you read the books before judging. They are like literary heroin and the movies their poor methadone cousin. Although each installment gets closer to the highly addictive book formula.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Pie Day!

So some of you may be asking 'Why would Death Clicks wish us a happy pie day?'

Well, first and most importantly we here at Death Clicks love pie.

But second there are some wonderfully dark fictional and true stories about pie!

Who can forget Stand By Me and Davey Hogan (aka Lard Ass) at the pie eating contest (click here to watch the scene) .

Or Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett's cure for poverty. Mmmmm cannibalism is fun and tasty!

Or Theatre of Blood and poodle pie. That's all I'm gonna say about that.

Want to see more Pie (charts) check out David Thorne: