DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: September 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The Witches Toolbox, They Don't Leave Home Without It!

   There are twelve tools that are considered essential for ritual magic.  They are the wand; Athame; pentacle; censer; scourge; bolline; staff; cauldron; cord; cup; Book of Shadows; and the altar (also they have to have transportation to get from witch meeting to witch meeting, so they need their trusty broom).  These tools may have slightly different names or composition depending on the particular magical path that they practice.  The list is of the traditional ones.

The Witches Wand

   The wand, the most important tool in witchcraft, may be made of many different types of wood.  The wand should be made of a slim tree limb about an inch in diameter and as long as the distance from your elbow to the top of your first finger.  Ideally, to bind it to yourself, 2 inches of pith, or the interior of the wand is removed and filled with a piece of cotton containing a few drops of your blood.  It's best that the blood come from the thumb.  The tip of the wand is then sealed with wax from your altar candle.  A pentagram and the ritual name of the witch are then painted or engraved on the wand.  After this it is consecrated with water, fire, wine, oil and three deep breaths of air in the names of the God and Goddess.

The Athame

   The black handled knife or dagger of Witches. It's used to open the circle.  The Athame and the sword are used to perform all magical rites and to subdue rebellious spirits, demons and genii.  Some Athames are incredibly elaborate and some are plain.  It all depends on what you prefer and what you are comfortable in using.  Once the Athame has been used in a ritual it should never be sharpened again.  The grinding of the metal is said to weaken it's potency.

The Pentacle

   This is the symbol of the element of the earth and is usually made fro a round piece of wood, about 7 inches in diameter.  The pentagram can be painted or inscribed on it.  The Pentagram can also be made of copper or brass.

The Censer

   The Censer is used to burn incense and to encourage and welcome good spirits.  It also act to banish evil spirits.

The Scourge

   Traditionally, the handle of the scourge is made of birch and has four thongs of leather attached.  This instrument, used in initiations, is the symbol of power.  It's considered the weapon of the horned God and is generally thought of as being very important in formal ceremonies.

The Bolline

   This is the witches white handled knife or dagger.  This is generally the blade used to cut herbs, make instruments, and carve pentagrams into candles and so on.  This is the knife or dagger you would use for the less ritualistic aspects.

The Staff

   This is a straight piece of wood, ideally Rowan (mountain ash) with a fork at one end.  In ancient times it was used as a stand or walking stick.  A much smaller version of this is used to beat the rhythm on ceremonial drums.

The Cauldron

   In ancient times, this was a large kettle or pot.  In modern times, they tend to be a replica of those used in the past.  Usually a large iron kettle in which food or drink is prepared over the balefire for the rites.

The Cord

   The magic binding cord is ideally made fro strands of red wool or ribbon.  It's braided with a loop tied at one end to represent the female aspect.  The other end is left frayed to represent the male aspect.
   Measure your binding cord around your head and loop a knot.  Continue around your chest, loop a knot, around your feet, and loop a knot.  The finished cord should measure nine feet in length.  It's worn around the waist during all rituals and can be used in binding spells.  Tie your cord around you by passing the male end through the female end and secure.

The Cup
   This is the vessel used for wine offerings to the Gods.  It's usually made of metal and carved with vines and fruits.

The Altar Candle

   The altar candle is ideally the only consumable ritual tool.  The color of this candle is Traditionally white and is used to light any other candles you might be using at the time.  Black can also be used as an altar candle so long as it's completely black as opposed to black on the outside and white on the inside.  That can slightly alter the vibrations.
The Book of Shadows
   The Book of Shadows is the personal grimoire of a Witch.  Within this book is where the ceremonies and rituals are recorded for future reference.  The book of shadows traditionally has black covers and is hand written by its owner.
   Of course in today's world, it's no longer unusual to see Books of Shadows kept on computers or computer disks.  Even some Books of Shadows are printed out of a computer and then bound.  Most prefer the hand written, hand bound books. 

The Altar

   Technically, the altar is any consecrated place or thing used to hold the ritual instruments used in the magic circle.  A very simple definition for what can be a most elaborate location.  What is important is that the setup and location are pleasing to the owner and that the Witch feels comfortable working their magic there.  Some set up the altar before acquiring their tools. Some have their tools before they set up their altar.  This order doesn't matter.  What does matter is that everything is ritually purified and consecrated.  After the purification and consecration, it's usually seen as a good time for the Witch to ritually purify and consecrate themselves as well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Are Pumpkins Vegetables or Fruits?
   The answer to that commonly asked question depends on who you ask.  Technically, they are a fruit.  This is because fruits are generally classified as having seeds.  Pumpkins have seeds; thus, it is a fruit.  So if you are ever on a game show trying to win a million dollars and you get asked whether it's a fruit or vegetable, go with fruit.  But for those people out there who always thought it was a vegetable rather than a fruit, don't worry, you aren't that wrong.  In culinary terms, it would be classified as a vegetable and not a fruit.  The word fruit is usually used to only describe food that is "sweet and fleshy".

Growing Them
    To grow them, you plant the seeds around the end of May to the mid part of June. 
The seeds are planted in groups call hills.  It takes three to four months for them to grow.  In the process of growing, they don't just grow in size but they also change from being either green or yellow to being orange.  They grow on vines which run along the ground.  Once they are orange and their skin is tough, they are ready to be picked.  This usually in October.  Pumpkins are said to have originated in Mexico or Central America.  But they can grow all over the world.  In fact, the only place you won't find them growing is in Antarctica.  They can also grow to be a few pounds or thousands of pounds.  Fun fact: Joe Jutras of Rhode Island grew a huge one that weighed 1689 pounds.  The facts about how someone get one to grow that big aren't always known because many growers keep how they did it a secret.


The Great Pumkin Trojan Horse

   The pumpkin has been around in the U.S. long before the pilgrims first landed on the shores of Cape Cod Bay.  Most scientists seem to think that the tasty squash (pumpkins are part of the squash family) was first cultivated in southern Mexico over a thousand years ago, and gradually the large vegetable spread north along with maize, squash and beans.  These newly developed crops greatly changed the way the Indians lived.  Native populations increased and cultures flourished as many parts of North America saw a change in Native life that went from hunter and gatherer towards farmer.
   Every yer the Thanksgiving holiday gives us a chance to have a big feast, reconnect with long lost relatives and watch football.  Most Americans have some inkling of the vast array of modern foods that originated in the Americas, and also of the importance of corn in the aboriginal diet, but the story is much more fascinating and complex that.

   Sometime between a thousand and two thousand years ago, the first agricultural seed plants of the western hemisphere were developed.  They were first culled from wild species and ten cultivated to improve the quality and quantity of the plant.  This is nothing new in the civilized world, it is just another part of the long story that began thousands of years earlier, when rice was first cultivated in southeast Asia.  Rice was the first seed crop, which meant that farmers could save the seeds from one years harvest, and plant them the next spring. this is a story that has been repeated around the world at different times and locations with different plants.
   Pumpkins are really neat because, not only is the pulp good to eat, but the seeds, sometimes called pepitas, are very tasty as well.  Technically speaking, pumpkins are a fruit, not a vegetable.  That is because they form from the female flower, which is pollinated by bees.  Instead of eating all the delicious seed, you can save some for the next years crop.  This is what defines a seed crop.  That means you can trade some of the precious seed stock to your neighbor for some arrowheads or even a subscription to a magazine, and then he can also grow pumpkins in his backyard.  More than likely both parties will be satisfied.  Before you know it, everybody in the country will be growing pumpkins  and reading some different magazines.  It is by this means that pumpkins spread northward to New England and were available to the pilgrims, when they first arrived, although since the pilgrims didn't watch t.v. I doubt they had many magazines to read either.  Today, if you want to grow some pumpkins in your garden, there is a large variety to choose from.  You can grow pumpkins for pies, for seeds, for carving at Halloween time.  Yeas believe it or not, there is a small cult of very ingenious people here in the U.S., who hold competitions, where they build homemade catapults that can hurl a pumpkin high and far into the air, in order to see whose pumpkin can travel the furthest.

   To win one of these contests the participants need an excellent understanding of old fashioned physics and kinetics in order to build the most effieient pumpkin launcher.  These same engineers have also delved into the fascinating world of plant genetics in a attempt to breed an aerodynamically and compact pumpkin that will travel a quarter of a mile through the air without breaking up into a thousand pieces. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The Raven

The Crow

   Raven are the largest members of the crow family, so it's only natural that the two species look similarly.  Ravens are clearly spotted when they are next to crows by their sheer body size.  But ravens and crows do not always conveniently stand next to each other when a human observer is trying to identify them.  Then, the observer has to look at other features on the bird.

The Crow

   A Note On Species Differential
   There are several species of ravens, but the most familiar species is Corvus corax, or the common raven.  Unfortunately, this species is not so common now due to hunting and habitat loss.  Other species of ravens in the world do share similar characteristics, including a mostly black body.  There are raven species that have dark brown feathers or white marks on the back of their necks.  Also there are dozens of species of crows in the world.  Many of these species come in other colors, making it easy to distinguish them from ravens.  But sometimes, a species like the carrion crow  comes in an all-black sub-species.  Then, there are species like the American crow that are also all black, no matter what their age, sex or subspecies.

Beak Shape
   Crows have a basic long spear-like beak shape that's similar to many other species of songbirds.  Ravens have vastly different bill shapes than crows.  They almost seem grotesque in comparison.  If looking at the bill profile, it seems to curve upwards into a shape that bird watchers call "hooked".  One species in Africa, the thick-billed raven has a bill so large that it almost looks like a second head.
   Some species like the common raven and the Australian raven will also have feathers on the part of the bill closest to the head.  In comparison, a crow's bill will be feather-free.  Some species of crows will have a small but prominent hook at the very end of the top half of the beak.  In the thick-billed raven, this tip is white while the rest of the beak is black,  however you have to get pretty close in order to see that.

The Raven

Tail Shape
   The only way to see the tail shape of the bird properly is to see the bird in flight.  Since it flies by so fast, just look at the basic shape the silhouette of the tail creates.  In many all-black crow species, this tail shape is triangular.  But in ravens, the shape is usually more like a wedge.

   Although individual birds vary, in general ravens are much shyer than crows.  However, juvenile ravens have often been observed behaving as bold as crows while their elders admonish them from their hiding places.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The Obamas
   The White House Christmas tree is a tradition that dates back to 1889.  The very first Christmas tree in the White House was when Benjamin Harrison lived there.  It was displayed in the Oval Room on the second floor.  The Harrison White House Christmas tree was decorated with lit candles.  This very first simple Christmas tree displayed in the White House has transformed into a treasured, national tradition.  The national Christmas tradition didn't take off right away, however.  Not all of the presidential families displayed Christmas trees during the holidays.  The event became official with the 1929 White House Christmas tree.  First Lady Lou Henry Hoover was in charge of the decorations for the Christmas tree in the White House.  Since then, decorating the White House Christmas tree has become an honor bestowed upon the First Ladies.

The Bushes II

The Bushes I

   The first White House Christmas tree to display electric lights instead of candles was in 1895.  First Lady Frances Cleveland decided to bring the Christmas tree in the White House up to modern standards by decorating it with the popular electric Christmas tree lights.

The Reagans

The Fords

   First Lady Jackie Kennedy started the White House Christmas tree tradition of decorating with a specific theme in mind.  There have been many White House Christmas tree themes over the years.  Jackie Kennedy's selected theme was inspired by the popular Christmas ballet, "Nutcracker Suite".  She decorated the 1961 Christmas tree with candy canes, toy ornaments, and tiny gift packages.  The ornaments were made by American craftsmen that were disabled or senior citizens

The Clintons

The Kennedys

The Nixons

The official White House website shows a photograph of a popular White
House Christmas tree.  It was the early American themed Christmas tree chosen by Lady Bird Johnson.  The Christmas tree was decorated with traditional Christmas tree decorations such as gingerbread cookies, popcorn, fruit, and a paper mache angel was perched at the top.  The White House Christmas tree was displayed in the blue Oval Room.                                                                                                                 

The Johnsons

The Carters

   One of the Reagan White House Christmas trees had a Mother Goose theme.  The base of the tree featured scenes from Mother Goose nursery rhymes.  100 miniature geese decorated the Christmas tree, as well as gingerbread men and ornaments made out of Christmas cards. 
   The White House Christmas tree tradition has evolved somewhat over the years.  Today, the First Lady selects a theme for the White House Christmas tree.  Then American artists think up ways so decorate the Christmas tree for the White House.  Each year, the National Christmas Tree Association presents the official White House Christmas tree that is displayed in the Blue Room.  This has been a tradition since 1966.

The Roosevelts

    The 2007 White House Christmas tree was so large that the chandelier had to be removed to display it in the Blue Room. 

Friday, September 24, 2010


   A solstice, as defined by the dictionary is "a furthest or culminating point; a turning point".  The winter solstice occurs when the sun is furthest from the celestial equator (a theoretical projection of the earth's equator into space).
   Technically, the winter solstice lasts for only the instant of time during which the sun is at its furthest.  However, "winter solstice" typically refers to the entire day.  In the Northern Hemisphere the day of winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and the point at which days begin to lengthen.  This usually occurs on the 21st or 22nd of December.
   There are much more fascinating aspects to the winter solstice, however.  For thousands of year the winter solstice has been associated with religious and philosophical importance. Around 46 BC, the 25th of December was established as the winter solstice.  At that time the Julian Calender (named after Julius Ceasar who first introduced it) was in used and, when the Gregorian calendar was introduced (around 1582) the date was changed to the 21st.

The Oak King of Winter Solstice

   In ancient Japan the winter solstice was believed to be the time when the sun goddess Amateras emerged from her cave.  The Incas held winter solstice celebrations in honor of Init, the sun god.  In Germany, the winter solstice was a time of celebration for Hertha, the Norse goddess of light.  The Roman celebration of Sol Invictus, the Roman deity of the sun was held on December 25th and represented the rebirth of the sun.
   Interestingly, there are many parallels between these celebrations and Christmas.  Traditionally, Christians celebrate Christmas as the day of the birth of the Son of God.  There are more than just phonetic similarities, however.  In John chapter 9, verse 5, the Holy Bible refers to Jesus Christ as "the light of the world".  The Christmas celebration of the birth of the "light of the world" coincides with the metaphorical, annual, "rebirth of the sun".
   Some Christian fundamentalists shy away from celebrating Christmas due to its concurrence with the Roman celebration of Sol Invictus.  However, it is an oversimplification to say that Christmas started as a pagan tradition.  The word "Christmas" is derived from "Christ's mass" and first appeared in 1038.  But, Christian celebrations of Jesus' birth began long before---sometime around 200 AD.  The date of December 25th coincided well with the celebration of the Epiphany (a January 6th celebration of the magi's visit to Jesus) as well as being exactly nine months from the traditional date of the Incarnation.  The winter solstice has, for thousands of years, been celebrated as a time of new beginning and rebirth.  Whether the Christmas tradition stems directly from winter solstice celebrations or if the two merely coincide will most likely never be fully known.  Either way, the winter solstice is a time for reflection and rebirth---something nearly everyone agrees the world is in need of.


   Chocolatre lovers come in two categories.  One-you love chocolate so much but feel like your being naughty when you divulge your pleasure in eating it (I tell my wife that I love it soooooo much! I want to marry it!!).  Two-Must have it at all cost and could care less if it adds a pound or more.  It's worth it (kind of also goes with the marrying part again!!).
   Regardless, you're a chocolate lover and you should read these factrs about your forever obsession.  While you're at it, grab a Snickers Bar, you'll need the extra peanut protein as you expend precious energy reading.
   Mel Gibson said: "AFter about 20 year of marriage, I'm finally starting to scratch the surface of that one thing women want and I think the answer lies somewhere between conversation and chocolate."

Fun and Interesting Facts about Chocolate:
  •    Contrary to rumor, the Baby Ruth candy bar created in 1920 was not named for the legendary baseball player, but for President Grover Cleveland's new baby daughter Ruth.
  • Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous 45 second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, "Psycho", which actually took 7 days to shoot.
  • Chocolate has over 500 flavor components, more than twice the amount found in strawberry and vanilla.
  • U.S. chocolate manufacturers use about 3.5 million pounds of whole milk every day to make chocolate.
  • 65 percent of American chocolate eaters prefer milk chocolate.
  • Chocolate is a Vegetable: Chocolate is derived from cocoa beans.  We all know a bean is a vegetable.
  •  1940: The Mars Company invents M&M's for soldiers going to war in World War II.
  • The Aztecs believed chocolate can cause a man to fall in love and they weren't that far off.  Chocolate contains pyenyl ethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is believed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love.
  • It's been found that it's a myth that chocolate aggravates acne.
  • Chocolate contains the stimulants Theo bromine and caffeine, which can reduce stress and give you a sense of mild euphoria, or happiness.
  • The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature (98.6 degrees)-which is why it literally melts in your mouth.
  • Chocolate can be lethal to dogs.  Theobromine, an ingredient that stimulates the cardiac muscle and the central nervous system, causes chocolate's toxicity.  About two ounces of milk chocolate can be poisonous for a 10 pound puppy.
  • It is reported that Napoleon carried chocolate with him on his military campaigns, and always ate it when he needed quick energy.
  • The word "chocolate" comes from the Aztec word "xocolatl", which means "bitter water".
  • On the fourth visit of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, he came across cocoa beans, which he presented to the Spanish court.  King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, however, dismissed chocolate as a bizarre tribal concoction.
  • Chocolate manufacturers use 20 percent of the world's peanut resources.
  • Approximately, 40 percent of the world's almonds are used to manufacture chocolate.
  • When it comes to light versus dark, a little more than 25 percent of American choco-holics prefer the dark stuff and 71 percent favor milk chocolate (and the other 4 percent really don't care that just want their chocolate no matter what!!)
  • Three chocolate companies dominate the industry: Cadbury, Mars, and Nestle.
  • Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Ireland and Norway are countries with the highest consumption or addiction to chocolate.
  • Appearance, aroma, snap, texture, flavor and aftertaste are 6 criterion to evaluate chocolate.
  • More than, 22 percent of chocolate indulgences happen between the hours of 8 pm and 12 am.
  • One pound of milk chocolate contains the following nutritional values: Calories-2300, Fat-140 grams, Sodium-370 grams, Carbohydrates: 270 grams, Cholesterol: 100 milligrams, Protein: 31 grams.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


   There are many locations throughout the world that are considered to be one of the scariest places on Earth.  However, there is one road that is approximately 200 miles in length that has many individuals frightened to travel on.  This is Highway 666.  While the U.S. officially renamed this haunted highway "U.S. Route 491" in 2003, those that have traveled upon it, live near it, and have heard or directly experienced its horrors, continue to refer to it as the ominous 666.  There are many different types of unexplained phenomenon that have occurred and continues to occur on this desolate road.  Throughout this guide on the scariest places in the U.S., you will learn why it instills fear in so many individuals.

Historical Notes
   Throughout the entire nation of the United States, Highway 666 is considered to be one of the top haunted highways.  This particular highway is so large that it is found in 4 individual states-Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.  Those that know of the terrors of this haunted place also identify it appropriately as the one and only "Devil's Highway".  While it is true that there are many urban legends, rumors, and tall tales that are associated with this particular stretch of road, there are also many facts that relate to this road-such as statistics on accidents and even deaths.  Those that have experienced complications while traveling on this road claim that the spirits that lurk along it are directly responsible for the issues.

The Evil Spirits
   While there are many stories of ghosts, hauntings, and spirits in general associated with this haunted highway, the stretch of road is best known for the evil spirits that are rumored to lurk on it.  The first of the evil spirits that are said to be present on the evil road are what many refer to as the "Hounds of Hell".  These are dog like creatures that have a supernatural basis.  Many claim that they are able to run as quickly as vehicles are able to drive; they purposely cause traffic accidents, and attack people traveling along the road.  In addition to this, there is a story that is often referred to as "Satan's Sedan".  It is believed that an evil entity that is spiritual in nature drives a dark, ominous sedan that actually charges vehicles and individuals traveling this haunted highway.
   There are many different stories associated with Highway 666.  Most individuals associate the evil spirits with this road, but there are other stories surrounding this spectacular and vast haunted highway.  Many claim the spirit of a girl wanders the highway while others claim that there is a phantom semi-truck that attacks travelers aggressively.  Then, there are stories of skinwalkers as told by Native Americans.  Regardless, Highway 666 is considered to be one of the scariest places in the U.S.  Do you dare drive this long, ominous road alone?  How about at night when you get into some,  car trouble? heh! heh! heh! heh! heh!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


   From pumpkin farmers to confectioners to costume shops and beyond, Halloween is big business in the U.S.--generating nearly $6 billion annually in retail sector alone.  We dig into the numbers to show where the big money is spent, on everything from national charities to neighborhood dentists.

  • 36 million-Number of trick-or-treat aged kids 5 to 13 in the U.S.

  • 93%-Percentage of children who get to dress up and go door to door.

  • $5.77 billion-Total spent in 2008 on Halloween, including candy, parties and witches' brew.

  • $140 million-Money Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has raised since 1950.

  • 51.8 million-Number of adults who don their sexy nurse, pimp or pirate outfits on Halloween.

  • 73.4%-Percentage of households that say they will dish out treats on Halloween (26.6%: Number of households just asking for a nasty trick)

  • 28%-Number of children, aged 2 to 5, who will get cavities.

  • 1.1 billion-Pounds of pumpkins decorated, turned into pie and smashed in the U.S. each year.


  • Jaws is still the Number 1 horror movie ever, with a worldwide gross of $470 million.

  • 37 Stephen King scary stories have been made into feature films.

  • Jamie Lee Curtis starred in 6 horror movies between 1978 and 1981, earning the nickname "THE SCREAM QUEEN."

  • 189 horror movies were released in 1972, the most prolific year in Hollywood for the genre.

  • The nightly wage for a zombie in 1978 was $1 ($3.55 adjusted for inflation), according to an extra who played one in that years Dawn of the Dead.

  • 4267 Roxbury St., the house in Simi Valley, Ca., where POLTERGEIST was filmed, was last sold in 1979, for $143,500 ($431,247 in todays money).  Zillow estimates the home's current value at $573,500.

  • The real-life Wisconsin grave robber and killer Ed Gein, who disembodied and skinned his victims in the 1950s, inspired three villians: Psycho's Norman Bates, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Leatherface, and The Silence of the Lamb's Buffalo Bill.  One 1 horror film has ever won an Oscar for best picture: The Silence of the Lambs, in 1991.

  • The 12 part FRIDAY THE 13TH film series has grossed a total of $380,637,525 at the U.S. box office, making it the top horror franchise in history.  (Only 5 of the 12 movies were released on Friday the 13th).

  • The 6 part Saw series has grossed $370,23,890.  The release of Saw VII in 3-D, on October 29, should push the franchise into the top-earner spot.

  • Count Dracula, the most-often portrayed character in horror, has been featured in 162 movies.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Number 5, Catacombs, Paris, France
When Paris as a city was starting to grow, they needed more room for the settlers
to live in, which meant that they needed to remove the Parisians who would not resist to move, in this case the dead.  They removed all dead corpses, millions to be exact and took them and placed them along the dark passageways underneath the city where they lie till this day and have been given the name The Empire of the Dead.  The Paris Catacombs attract over a million visitors a year who walk along the skeletons and remains that are left.  Many of the visitors and guides who have visited the place have encountered many ghostly inhabitants that still roam and follow the visitors as they walk along the Catacombs.  There have been many visitors who can't handle the tour and become very overwhelmed that the tour is cut short.  It is also said that if you were to take pictures within the Catacombs they will reveal orbs and ghostly apparitions.  There have also been ghost hunters who decided to do EVP recordings and their findings have definitely proven that the Catacombs of Paris, France is one of the scariest, most haunted places in the world.

Number 4. Coliseum, Rome, Italy

The Coliseum was where gladiators would fight to the finish for the
entertainment of Ceasar, prisoners and war victims met their death at the jaws of tigers and lions at the Coliseum,, and where the animals were killed when all was said and done, some driven to extinction due to Romes thirst for blood and gore.  And in the vaults below the Coliseum is where the gladiators awaited to fight, prisoners waited for their time to die in the most ghastly of ways, and where the Romans placed bets on the days competitions.  Which is why it comes to no surprise when visitors and tour guides of today have reported many paranormal experiences.  There have been cold spots, some have said they felt someone touch or push them, and heard someone whispering in their ears.  The night workers of the Coliseum have reported sword clashing, sound of crying, and noises of animals such as the roars of lions.  Some have even seen ghostly figures sitting in the seats of the Coliseum.

Number 3. Underground Vaults, Edinburgh, Scotland

Below the streets of Edinburgh remains a dark history which was just discovered
in the mid 1980's.  A history that goes back 200 years.  The vaults of Edinburgh were used as cellars, workshops and even businesses.  But they soon had to abandon the place due to excessive water and moisture, that till this day they remain as it did 200 years ago.  Of course like many places that go abandoned the poor and homeless made a home of it.  And then came the outbreaks of plagues and other incurable illnesses to which many faced their death in those very same vaults.  There is also evidence that many were killed there since the infamous pair Burke and Hare found some of their victims in the Edinburgh vaults selling the cadavers to hospitals.  These vaults have proved to be one of the most haunted place for many who have been down there have experienced things which they can't explain and say they will never go back there on their own free will.

Number 2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, Oswiecim, Poland
The Auschwitz death camps are known to have been in operation from
1940-1945, in which point and time over 2.1-2.5 million people were killed in gas chambers and that itself is just an estimate, no one really knows how many more were really killed.  By 1943 Hitler used Auschwitz as a mass murder factory where 4420 could fit in the gas chamber at a time and roughly took 20 minutes to kill all of them.  After the murder the bodies were stripped of all valuables and taken to be cremated, which was operated by Jews who were forced to do so.  For all who has visited the camp in present times has experienced an overwhelmed by sadness.  Visitors have broken down in tears for no apparent reason and many can't finish the tour.  It has been said that no birds sing in any of the nearby trees and the silence is beyond deafening.  There have been reported cold spots, and in the photographs taken of the camp, have shown apparitions, shadows, light anomalies and orbs.

Number 1. Greyfriar's Cemetery/Covenanter's Prison, Edinburgh, Scotland
Greyfriar's Cemetery has been known to be haunted for generations but not
until the late 90's did this place get labeled as one of the most haunted places in the world.  The history of the place is quite gruesome itself, from the headstone removals, body snatching's and burying people alive, to witch burnings and its use as a mass prison.  It is said that visitors have witnessed and encountered cold spots, loud noises, coming from the tombs, and some visitors have been physically injured.  Victims have stated they were attacked by unseen entities leaving scratch marks, bruises and cuts on their bodies.  People have said to become unconscious by the nauseating smell of vomit.  As for the people who live near by the cemetery their homes have been known to become invaded by poltergeist's.


   You have seen it on television, a group of men and women sneaking around dark and mysterious buildings with high tech gadgets seeking out the things that go bump in the night.  The popularity of shows like Ghost Hunters, Scariest Places on Earth, and Paranormal State have sparked new interest in haunted places.
   Not only is ghost-hunting fun, but also your results could be worth a million dollars.  The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a one million dollar prize to any one who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.  If you are planning a midnight trip to the abandoned cemetery, you have better be prepared.  For under a hundred dollars you can get the same equipment used by the professional ghost hunters.  This reasonably priced equipment can be found at local stores and low-cost online retailers and should include a digital camera, an Ir Thermometer, EVP Device, and an EMF Detector.

  • Digital Camera-Probably the most important item your kit should contain is a digital camera, to bring back proof of any ghostly encounter you may scare up.
  • IR Thermometer-When the temperature drops, you are not alone.  Paranormal Investigators believe the supernatural entity pulls energy from the atmosphere directly before making it's presence known.  With the IR thermometer, aim this non-contact infrared thermometer and press the button.  Temperature reading appears within 1/2 a second on an LCD screen.  You will also need the special battery to power the unit.
  • 12v Alkaline Pager/Remote Battery and Digital Voice Recorder-Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVPs, are ghostly voices not heard by the human ear.  A digital audio recorder taps into the psychic energy spirits use to reach out to the living.  In Automatic Voice-Activated Record (AVR) mode, the recorder will sense sound and start recording automatically. 
  • ELF Zone Gauss Meter-Electromagnetic Field Detectors, or EMFs, sense changes in the magnetic field that surrounds us.  Although most electronic devices emit electromagnetic energy, the ELF Zone Gauss Meter will indicate the presence of unseen spectral energies.  Monitoring the meter's 3 lights, when yellow light shines you have entered a zone between life and death.  The unexplainable supernatural field, normally between 2.0 and 7.0 milligauss, is an indicator that your ghost hunter team should spring into action.
  • Personal Headlight-These lightweight headlamps free up your hands for the operation of the ghost detecting equipment.  As you should never ghost hunt alone, you should probably get a couple.
  • The Ghost Hunter Code of Conduct-While you delve into the spectral world in search of the proof needed to claim the million dollar bounty, please stick to the ghost hunter's code of conduct.  Pre-investigate the site in the daylight so you are familiar with dangerous obstacles or structural hazards that will not be visible in the dark.  Do not trespass.  Receive permission to enter private property to avoid being arrested or worse.  If you are asked by the owner to leave, do so immediately by the police you can prove who you are.  Never ghost hunt alone.  Should you become trapped or injured, your team will be there to help.  Also, ensure that someone from outside of the team knows where you will and when you are expected back in case of an emergency.  Do your research-use your local library, historical society, the internet and newspapers to learn about any information which could steer you in the right direction.  Also, your county's Tax Office is an excellent source for historical information.  Most importantly: Be the skeptic, look for natural explanations for any phenomenon.  As investigators, your reputation will be made by how you review the evidence and the results you conclude.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


  Chocolate is one of the few foods known to man about which people are actually passionate.  We're talking about a wild, burning compassion; one that continues to grow with each delicious bite. For some of us, chocolate s considered to be a necessity of life.
   Eating chocolate feels good.  Some physicians claim that chocolate has something to do with the hormonal imbalance that happens within the body from time to time.  Psychiatrists go so far as to say that chocolate could be a substitute for sex ( especially after you've been married for a while!), particularly when sex isn't available or just not very good (like I said before, after you've been married for a while!!!).  There are lots of theories as to why we want or need chocolate, none of which are proven but all of which are interesting to explore.  Particularly, if that exploration involved more chocolate.
   Most people believe that the Aztec Indians should be credited for the invention of chocolate.  They certainly held the cocoa bean in high esteem, even using it as currency.  It is said that the Emperor Montezuma sent cocoa along with gold and silver to meet the ship of explorer Hernando Cortez, although it is uncertain whether he meant the gesture as a "bribe" or a "gift" from one conqueror to another.
   History indicates that the Aztecs also used their prized cocoa beans to prepare a drink.  The recipe was heavily guarded and basically reserved for those of royal descent.  They believed that the drink improved energy and imparted wisdom.  Montezuma reportedly drank as much as 50 cups each day because he thought it improved his sexual prowess.
   Although the Spaniards did not care for the Aztec drink--citing that it was too bitter for their taste--they still took it back to Spain where it eventually underwent several changes.  This first change involved adding cane sugar to the chocolate in order to sweeten it and take away the bitter taste.  Other changes involved the mixing in of other spices like vanilla.  Finally, someone decided to try heating the drink to see what effect that might have on its taste.  This proved to be the first truly successful version of what eventually became known as hot chocolate; European style, not the watered down version Americans drink.
   Hot chocolate became popular among the Spanish aristocracy who opted to treat it much as the Aztecs did, reserving it for those with power and prestige.  However, as its popularity grew, Spain eventually decided to plant cocoa beans.  This gave way to a profitable business for the country.
   The Spanish managed to keep the art of the cocoa industry a secret from the remainder of Europe for nearly 100 years.  However, a Spanish princess who married into French royalty is believed to be responsible for literally "spilling the beans" about the delicious new drink.  Following the pattern set by the Aztecs and mirrored by the Spaniards, the drink was, at first, primarily reserved for those inside the royal court.  Of course, being the culinary trendsetters that they were, the French eventually ended up popularizing the drink.  The popularity of chocolate spread across the channel to Great Britain and eventually made its way to the Americas.
   The invention and perfection of the steam engine, which mechanized the cocoa grinding process, made it possible to move chocolate into mass production.  This helped lower the price of the delicacy, making it affordable for a much larger cross section of people.  A few years later, the invention of the cocoa press further improved the quality of chocolate by making it possible to squeeze out part of the actual cocoa butter.  This offered the food a smoother consistency and a greatly improved flavor.
   Actual eating chocolate was not available in that form until 1847.  An English company introduced this texture that was far removed from the former grainy, gritty chocolate of old.  This new food was still somewhat expensive to make.  So, for many years, the delicacy remained something that the poor didn't have the opportunity to experience.
   It was a Swiss manufacturer named Daniel Peter who, in the late 1800's invented a method of adding milk to the chocolate to further refine its taste and smoothness.  America embraced the chocolate phenomenon and is actually responsible for opening the very first chocolate factory.
   American manufactures over 7 billion pounds of chocolate each year and consumes almost 100 pounds of the confection per second.  However, it is the Swiss that consume the highest amount of this confection at 22 pounds per person per year.
   Chocolate is used to commemorate holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter and special events like birthdays and anniversaries.  People use chocolate as a snack between meals.  They use it to get started in the morning (I've been known to eat a snickers bar on some mornings on my way to work) and to get ready for bed at night (don't forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed though!).  Even the U.S. government uses chocolate as a way to feed the human spirit when soldiers are away from home.  Today, the U.S. Army D-rations included three 4-ounce chocolate bars.
   Although once believed to be responsible for all of the ills of life like acne, obesity, and heart disease, scientists now disagree, albeit in varying degrees, regarding the actual negative effects of chocolate.  Clinical studies have exonerated chocolate as a cause for or a factor in acne.  Also, contrary to belief, most overweight people report that they do not eat excessive amounts of chocolate.  In fact, recent reports indicate that the sugar intake of these individuals tends to be below average.  Even today's dentists tend to believe that chocolate--eaten in reasonable quantities--can be less likely to cause tooth decay than other forms of candy or sweets.
   What recent scientific studies do tend to agree on, however, is that dark chocolate is much healthier for routine consumption than is milk chocolate.  Caution, however, everything is better in moderation.  Well except for those of us who are hooked on chocolate!!

Some Chocolate Facts:
  • The microwave oven was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.
  • In October 1973, Swedish sweet maker Roland Ohisson of Falkenberg was buried in a coffin made of nothing but chocolate. (If he was still alive he probably could of eaten his way out)
  • The triangular shape that Toblerone chocolates are packaged in, is protected by law.
  • Chocolate was used as medicine during the 18th century because it was believed that it could cure a stomach ache.
  • The first chocolate bar was made in 1847 by Fry's chocolate factory located in Bristol, England.  They were the ones to mold the first chocolate bar that was suitable to be distributed to the public.
  • Consuming chocolate was once considered a sin during the 16th and 17th century.  During that time it was provided in the form of a drink and since drinking wine during lent was a sin, so was drinking chocolate.
  • There are some types of chocolates that are actually good for the arteries and heart.
  • Chocolate comes in milk, white, semi-sweet, dark, bitter, bittersweet, and unsweetened form.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010


   There is a point in some people's lives that it becomes obvious that there's something in the world besides the physical, everyday world that we all experience.  This is almost always in the form of first-hand experience, and the experiences range from touching, good experiences, to terrifying, almost dangerous ones.
   For those that are plagued, not blessed, by paranormal entities, it's stressful and frightening, and people almost always look for ways to make it stop.  Unfortunately, when people look for ways to make the bad things go away, they only hurt themselves most of the time.  This is because of scam artists who promise that all problems will cease if a large sum of money is handed over to them, but all that happens is that those people are left with less in their pockets and left to live off of and things that still go booo! and aaarrrr! in the night.
   If people don't go the route of lining the pockets of snake oil salesmen, they often opt for the "feel good and feel out of it" pills and drugs that deaden the world around them, there's still the problem of: "Why are these things still happening"?
   What most people don't realize when dealing with a paranormal entity is that they don't have to pay someone else to take the problem away.  There are plenty of things everyone can do in these types of situations without having any metaphysical skill, without being able "to see dead people", and without shelling out alot of your hard earned money to the nearest person who makes promises.  They can also help themselves without popping the "feel good" pills and receiving psychiatric counseling from a doctor.
   In fact, there are everyday objects that will often repel or otherwise hamper the effect that negative entities have on the world.  Of course, these might not work against entities that are helpful, nor do you want to hamper them, but these are tried and true methods that people have personally found, and used, that have worked.

The Methods

   Vinegar is known to be acidic and smell kind of bad to some people.  However, many people don't realize that, like many other things, vinegar is not just good for cooking and preparing food.  Because vinegar is acidic,it releases acidic molecules into the air.  This affects etheric and astral materials, which is what paranormal entities typically manifest themselves as.  The acidic nature of vinegar has a tendency to prevent etheric manifestations, due to the inability for etheric matter to condense when vinegar or other acids are in the air.
   A bowl of vinegar in a problem room is a good thing.  Even if there are negative entities in the area, their abilities to wreak havoc are seriously hampered.

   Sage has been used in magical and shamanic practice, as well as cooking, for a very long time.  When burned, it releases smoke into the air that is believed to clear the vibrations of the area it's burned in.  Sage can be bought at some grocery stores, as well as pre-dried in herb shops and occult bookstores.  If bought or raised fresh, it needs to be dried before it can be burned.

   There are some people who use incense as a magical tool, and there are others who believe that incense just makes a room smell nice (I am not one of them).  However, even those who use it as a magical tool sometimes don't realize that it can work for more than just summoning helpful entities. 
   Incense, like sage, clears the air.  Each type of incense has different properties, and there are incenses that are used for banishing purposes, as well as summoning purposes.  Frankincense is one of those that are often used for universal reasons, though banishing is often one of its most used purposes. 
   Incense can come in cone form, stick form, or even as just a few herbs that you can put together and burn on charcoal.  Incense can be found in many stores, and is used worldwide.

   Garlic has a lovely habit of doing more than just tasting good and smelling bad.  When garlic is placed strategically around the room, typically at entrance points (windows, doors, etc.), it repels negativity.  Yes, garlic does repel vampires (though vampires are rarer than Hollywood would have people believe, as well as much more dangerous and they don't have fangs and wear capes), but it repels other nasty entities as well.
   When the garlic becomes "full", it's best to throw the garlic head away and replace it with a new one.  Depending on how active it is, it will become full sooner or later, and it's a good idea to have a backup supply, especially if you're dealing with a lot of negativity.  Garlic can be found in any grocery store.

   Onions taste good to some, (not me, I hate them!) but horrid to others.  However, even if you're one of those people who hate the taste of onions, they can still be quite useful. 
   It is said that if you place an onion on your kitchen mantle, it absorbs all ill-will and negativity intended for the people who live there.  Depending on how much ill-will is directed toward the home's inhabitants, it can last from a very short time to a very long time.  However, never eat an onion that has absorbed "bad ju-ju" and negativity.  As soon as it begins to rot, throw it away and replace it .  Onions can be bought from any grocery store.

   Salt is a material that has been used and coveted by magicians, occultists, and even people who have no inclination to acknowledge the existence of otherworldly forces, for many years.  While before it used to be extremely rare and expensive, today it is massively packaged and shipped.  This is both good and bad, but we'll only go into the good aspect of it.
   Salt is acknowledged as having crystals and crystal-like qualities.  According to some sources, the crystaline qualities of salt make it difficult for negative, non-physical entities to cross a line of it.  A line of salt goes a long way in warding a place against any negative or ill-intentioned entities that mean to enter an area, as well as salt water is good for asperging said area to absorb and negate negative energy.  However, the only problem with a line of salt is that it's dependent on negative entities being unable to cross it.  However, that goes for leaving as well as entering.  If there are already paranormal, negative entities wreaking havoc, a line of salt will prevent them from leaving. It's best to resort to the line of salt after they have left, but if they don't leave, use the line of salt and the vinegar.  The line of salt will keep any extras out, while the vinegar will hamper their efforts at wreaking that havoc they so love.

Natural Magic-
   All of these are in the category of "natural magic".  Natural magic is magic that can be done by anyone, skill or no skill, without having any extra knowledge of the way magic works.  Natural magic relies on the magical properties of natural materials, rather than the abilities and skill of the magician.  Of course, there is plenty of natural magic that ordinary people use without realizing it. This fall under "folk magic".
   Whatever the case, magic or otherwise, these are supposedly tried and true methods for dealing with negative entities and paranormal siege.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


   In Irish folklore, the Banshees are known as the ancestral spirits of the Fairy world.  Their history extends way back into the dim and mysterious past.
   Banshees are among the oldest Fairy folk of Ireland, associated as strongly as shamrocks and potatoes.  Banshees, also known as Bean-Sidhe, were appointed to forewarn members of Irish families of impending death.  Her prescence alone brings no harm or evil, but to hear a Banshee in the act of keening is to have witnessed the announcement of the death of a loved one.  The Banshee's wail pierces the night and its notes rise and fall like waves over the countryside.
   It is said that Banshees never appear to the one who is to die but to their loved ones.  In times gone by she was seen washing human heads, limbs or bloody clothing until the water was dyed with blood.  Over the centuries this image changed.  The Banshee now paces the land, wringing her hands and crying.  Sometimes she is known as the Lady of Death or the Woman of Peace, for despite her wails she is graced with serenity.
   A Banshee won't cry from just anyone.  According to legend, each Banshee mourns for members of one family.  Some say only the five oldest Irish families have their own Banshees: the O'Neills, O'Briens, O'Gradys, O'Connors and Kavanaghs.
   The Banshee is a solitary Fairy creature who loves the mortal family she is connected to with a fierce, unearthly care and will pace the hills in sorrow when she knows a death is looming.
   She will follow her family's members right across the world-her keening can be heard wherever true Irish are settled, because just like them she never forgets her blood ties.  Unseen, she will attend their funerals and her wails mingle with those of the mourners.
   Famous tailes of Banshee sightlings are plentiful.  One dating back to 114 AD tells of a Banshee attached to the kingly house of O'Brien who haunted the rock of Craglea above Killaloe.  Legend has it that Aibhill the Banshee appeared to the aged King Brian Boru before the Battle of Clontard, Which was fought in the same year.
   A recounting from the 18th century concerns a group of children who on an evening walk saw a little old woman sit on a rock beside the road.  She began to wail and clap her hands and the children ran away in fear, only to later discover that the old man who lived in the house behind the rock died at that very moment.
   A little girl in the mid-19th century, standing at the window in her house in Cork, saw a figure o the bridge ahead.  She heard the Banshee's wails and the figure disappeared but the next morning her grandfather fell as he was walking and hit his head, never to wake up.  The same little girl was an old lady by 1900 and one day when she was very ill her daughter heard wailing round and under her bed.  The mother didn't see to hear, but sure enough it protended her death.
   A party on a yacht on a Italian lake told its owner they witness a woman with a shock or red hair and a hellish look in her eyes.  The owner, Count Nelsini, formally known a O'Neill, became anxious that the Banshee was announcing the death of his wife or daughter, but within two hours he was seized with an angina attack and died.
   Descriptions of the Banshee vary but she appears in one of three guises; young woman, stately matron or raddled old hag.
  • A Banshee as a beautiful young girl appears with red-gold hair and a green kirtle and scarlet mantle, traditional dress of Ireland.
  • As matron she is said to be tall and striking, contrasting sharply with the dark of night.  She is pale and thin, her eyes red from centuries of crying, her silver-grey hair streaming all the way to the ground as her cobweb-like grey-white cloak clings to her body.
  • In the hag guise she usually wears grey, hooded cloaks or the grave robe of the unshriven dead.  She may appear as a washer-woman or be shrouded in a dark, mist-like cloak.
  • The Banshee can also appear in other forms, such as a stoat, crow or weasel-animals associated in Ireland with witchcraft.
   One of the most notorious tales of a Banshee comes from the memoirs of Lady Fanshaw.  Along with her husband, in 1642 she visited a friend in an ancient baronial castle surrounded by a moat.  At midnight she was woken suddenly by a ghastly, supernatural scream.  Leaping upright in bed, there was a young, handsome woman hovering outside the window in the moonlight.  The woman was pale with dishevelled, loose red hair and wearing a dress in the style of the ancient Irish.  The apparition stayed for some time and then disappeared with two loud shrieks.
   When morning came, Lady Fanshaw, not without some trepidation, told her host what she had seen.  Her friend looked at her gravely and explained that she had seen the family Banshee, the ghost of a woman of inferior rank who married one of his ancestors, but he drowned her in the moat to atone for the shame he had brought on his family.  She had come that night, as she always did, to announce a death in the family-one of his relations passed away in her sleep.
  Always appearing as a woman, there is no shortage of legends of Banshee sightings.  Stretching back for more than a millennium, the Banshee, continues ringing a death knell for the witness's loved ones.