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The Strange History and Mystery of the Ouija Board

Does the Ouija Board really communicate with spirits or is it just a harmless game?

The first advertisements started to appear in papers by 1891: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board”. The board was described as magical because it answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy”. It’s price was $1.50.
The Ouija board (pronounced Wee-ja) is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, numbers 0-9, and the words “yes”, “no”, and  “hello”, “goodbye”. The invention of the original design in still unknown.
The Ouija board was, at first, regarded as a harmless parlor game. It’s popularity grew out of the strong American 19th century obsession with spiritualism - the belief that the living are able to communicate with the dead.
The first patent was granted in 1891 to Elijah J. Bond as the inventor. Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was reportedly a “strong medium”), is credited for naming the board. While using the board, they asked what it should be named. The word “Ouija” was spelled out and when asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good Luck.”
To this day, mainstream religions and some occultists have associated the use of the Ouija board with the threat of demonic possession and have cautioned their followers not to use them.

Many believe that evil spirits, disguising themselves as deceased friends or family members, can trick the users of the board and unwittingly invite “them” into their homes. To be rid of such hauntings, Ouija “experts” advise either to burn the board or dispose of it in a lake since spirits supposedly cannot cross water.

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Ghost Photography of the 19th Century

Photo manipulation is nearly as old as photography itself, and what early photographers lacked in Photoshop, they made up for in ingenuity. Photographers identified nine different methods that could aid in the photographic imitation of “spirits”, including techniques like multiple exposure and combination printing. As David Brewster, in his 1856 book on the stereoscope, explained: 

For the purpose of amusement, the photographer might carry us even into the regions of the supernatural. His art, as I have elsewhere shewn, enables him to give a spiritual appearance to one or more of his figures, and to exhibit them as ‘thin air’ amid the solid realities of the stereoscopic picture.

William Mumler was the world’s first known “spirit photographer”. He photographed people who were morning the loss of a loved one and would superimpose their image on the photograph to show that they were still with them in spirit.

Mumler got caught with his fraudulent photography because of P.T. Barnum. He had captured an image of Barnum posed next to a ghost of an exceptionally notable variety: that of the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln. During Mumler’s 1869 hearing for fraud, Barnum was called to the witness stand to testify against Mumler. Barnum would serve as an expert on “humbuggery.”

Spirit photography lived on well into the 20th century, fueled in part by the Civil War and, later on, by World War I. In the U.K., in the aftermath of the first Great War, the spirit photographer William Hope would develop a following for his work that included Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes’s creator supported Hope against claims of Mumlerian fraud and wrote a book called The Case for Spirit Photography in 1922. He would also end his friendship with the famous Harry Houdini when the magician publicly claimed that spirit photography was “farcical.”

(Source: The Atlantic)

The Haunted Manor in Gdansk, Poland

In Gdansk, a charming city in Northern Poland, there is a hill. Local residents still refer to it as “Devil’s Hill” due to an old legend. The legend states that this little hill, surrounded by a deep forest and swamps, was a favorite place for witch gatherings. During these gatherings, it is said that some nasty demons were summoned. Legend also says that a very large stone located on the top of the hill was brought there by the devil.

In 1886, the mansion was a home to a restaurant and between 1925 and 1933 it was the headquarters to the Gdansk Freemason’s lodge. After World War 2, the mansion was used as a local television station’s headquarters. All occupants believed the building was haunted and was continuously disturbed by “unknown” forces.

Today the building remains derelict and no one claims ownership. Many of its floors are highly unstable and the south wing of the mansion didn’t survive last winter as two floors collapsed. The only reason the entire building is still standing is due to a solid external wall.

(Source: talkurbex.com)

S.S. OURANG MEDAN — Whole Crew Discovered Dead After Eerie SOS Messages
An unsubstantiated ghost ship claim, this one is no less terrifying: In 1947, the Dutch cargo ship S.S. Ourang Medan (Indonesian for “Man from Medan”) was found drifting in Indonesian waters. Several ships transversing the Strait of Malacca, located between Sumatra and Malaysia, picked up her distress call that stated “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chart room and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” A flurry of unintelligible Morse code and S.O.S. signals followed, ending with the grisly message: “I die.” 
When the Ourang Medan was located and boarded by the crew of an American merchant ship, the Silver Star, the claim didn’t disappoint: the bodies of the Dutch crew were strewn among the decks, out in the open, down in the boiler room, everywhere. “Their frozen faces were upturned to the sun… staring, as if in fear… the mouths were gaping open and the eyes staring,” according to a witness account printed in the United States Coast Guard’s 1952 proceedings. Even the ship’s dog was dead. No damage to the ship was found, and no sign of physical injury was found among the corpses. Other than the fact that they were, you know, dead.
No sooner than the Silver Star’s crew cut the towline and made it back to their vessel, the Ourang Medan exploded. If they’d waited much longer, the Silver Star would have almost certainly been dragged down with it.
Popular theories include carbon monoxide poisoning, paranormal phenomena, and a cargo of hazardous chemicals — possibly a combination of nitrogylcerin and potassium cyanide. However, the story of the Ourang Medan is widely believed to be either an exaggeration of another event or else a fabrication altogether. Skeptics roundly disdain the tale, pointing to the fact that no such ship was listed in Lloyd’s Shipping Register of that year, nor were any references to it were found in the ship registration records of the Netherlands. 

(It was still alarming enough to spark an investigation by the US Coast Guard, though, with plenty of witnesses, indicating that somebody at least saw something.)
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S.S. OURANG MEDAN — Whole Crew Discovered Dead After Eerie SOS Messages

An unsubstantiated ghost ship claim, this one is no less terrifying: In 1947, the Dutch cargo ship S.S. Ourang Medan (Indonesian for “Man from Medan”) was found drifting in Indonesian waters. Several ships transversing the Strait of Malacca, located between Sumatra and Malaysia, picked up her distress call that stated “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chart room and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” A flurry of unintelligible Morse code and S.O.S. signals followed, ending with the grisly message: “I die.” 

When the Ourang Medan was located and boarded by the crew of an American merchant ship, the Silver Star, the claim didn’t disappoint: the bodies of the Dutch crew were strewn among the decks, out in the open, down in the boiler room, everywhere. “Their frozen faces were upturned to the sun… staring, as if in fear… the mouths were gaping open and the eyes staring,” according to a witness account printed in the United States Coast Guard’s 1952 proceedings. Even the ship’s dog was dead. No damage to the ship was found, and no sign of physical injury was found among the corpses. Other than the fact that they were, you know, dead.

No sooner than the Silver Star’s crew cut the towline and made it back to their vessel, the Ourang Medan exploded. If they’d waited much longer, the Silver Star would have almost certainly been dragged down with it.

Popular theories include carbon monoxide poisoning, paranormal phenomena, and a cargo of hazardous chemicals — possibly a combination of nitrogylcerin and potassium cyanide. However, the story of the Ourang Medan is widely believed to be either an exaggeration of another event or else a fabrication altogether. Skeptics roundly disdain the tale, pointing to the fact that no such ship was listed in Lloyd’s Shipping Register of that year, nor were any references to it were found in the ship registration records of the Netherlands. 

(It was still alarming enough to spark an investigation by the US Coast Guard, though, with plenty of witnesses, indicating that somebody at least saw something.)

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The Demon Cat of Washington DC

The ghost cat or ‘Demon Cat’ is a popular story. This creature haunts the basement of the Capitol building at night, usually spotted around the hall between the Crypt of the Capitol and the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Tourists can even see little paw prints on the floors of this hallway if they look close enough. The story goes that Capitol Hill, then Jenkins Hill, was once the home of a den of black cats, but once construction of the Capitol began (in 1794) the cat’s den was destroyed along with the family of cats. The mother cat now roams the halls of the basement of the Capitol building where presumably the den was located, searching for her young. Even though there are no unattended pets allowed in the Capitol, late night staffers and visitors have noticed an animal making quick dashes around this area of the building. The cat’s paw-prints beneath the Samuel Morse memorial can bee seen in the second picture.

Sightings of the creature have mysteriously been followed by tragic occurrences throughout the United States. One such account tells of a Capitol Police officer who noticed a quick black dash across the floor. As he moved closer to catch a glimpse of the animal, its shadow grew bigger and more menacing. Then, quickly, it disappeared. The next day, 1 November 1918, a story in the newspaper described the worst rapid transit system accident in New York City with over 90 deaths.

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The Warren’s Occult Museum and Other Scary Stories

Just in time for Halloween, stories of real hauntings. The pictures above were not taken at some cheesy haunted house, they are real artifacts from cases involving demons, murder, witchcraft, and the black arts. If you think only ghosts are responsible for hauntings, think again. Some people believe that demons are real and Ed and Lorraine Warren have spent their entire careers proving this fact.

For over five decades, Ed Warren and his wife Lorraine have been known as the world’s most renowned paranormal investigators, working on famous cases that were first documented in books and then made into blockbuster horror films such as The Amityville HorrorThe Haunting in Connecticut, and more recently, The Conjuring

Ed died in 2006, but Lorraine continues to appear on numerous paranormal reality shows using her psychic gifts. Lorraine is a gifted clairvoyant, while Ed was the only non-ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church. Together they have investigated thousands of hauntings.

The Warren’s Occult Museum exists inside the Warren’s own residence. If you take the tour, it is strongly urged that you do not touch anything. The objects on display all come from real cases of the Warrens and it is said their negative energy can attach itself to you. The spike that was reportedly used to kill a boy in a satanic ritual (portrayed in The Conjuring) is featured there, along with their most famous resident, Annabelle the Possessed Doll (shown in the first picture).

If you are looking for a great horror story to read on Halloween, the supposedly true story of Annabelle the Possessed Doll (shown in the first picture) might just be the one. Not only did the doll change positions and move from room to room, she even left notes for her weary owners and attacked one of them. She also reportedly caused the death of a motorcyclist on a tour of the museum with his girlfriend. He taunted the doll while rapping on the glass of her case. After being asked to leave the tour, the cyclist lost control of his bike and died while his girlfriend was unharmed. You never know what can happen if you mess with the wrong doll…

sources 1, 2, 3, 4; museum pictures by jayb928