13 O’Clock Episode 115 – Halloween Special 2018!

It’s finally here! The best day of the whole entire year: Halloween! And since we love all things ooky and spooky here on 13 O’Clock, and because we love all our fans, we’re doing an extra-long, extra-special episode featuring scary stories both true and fictional from some of our listeners! Plus we have guests and lots of other fun things, so get into your costumes, light the candles in your jack o’lantern, brew up some of your favorite Halloween potion and sit back and spend Halloween with Tom and Jenny.

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Opening organ music by BatMetal. Background ambient sounds by klankbeeld.

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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS! The show is made possible by: Justin, John, Sean, Jason, Scarlett, Nathalie, Jake, Jen, Victoria, Lana, Duncan, Thomm, Matthew, John, Joseph, Dan, Eric, Brandon, Valtrina, Tara, Sandra, Paul, Weaponsandstuff93, Michael, Ben, Anthony, Denise, Ima Shrew, James, Matt, Mary Ellen, Jamin, Joanie, Arif, Natalia, Samantha, Ashley, Kieron, Sophie, Tara, Jana & Scott, Ed, creepy crepes, Christopher, Elizabeth, Tina, Lars, Ed, Feeky, Veronica, Corinthian, Daniel, Dean, Greg, Lindsey, Richard, Sheena, and KnotHead Studios.

13 O’Clock is hosted by Jenny Ashford & Tom Ross. Channel art and audio & video editing by Jenny Ashford. Music & sound effects courtesy of freesound.org users jamespotterboy, corsica-s, enjoypa, capturedlv, luffy, kiddpark, and justkiddink. Video clips courtesy of Videezy & Videvo.

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Excerpt from “The Mammoth Mountain Poltergeist”

If you like the excerpt below, please purchase the book here or here. Also remember that the God of Hellfire and I will be appearing on Jim Harold’s The Other Side podcast on April 28th at noon. We’re also scheduled on the KTPF (Keeping the Paranormal Friendly) Community Talk Show on August 9th, and another excerpt of the book will be published in their online magazine soon. Thanks for reading!

HotelGhost

Wes went to bed earlier than the rest of them, retreating into his room and closing the door. Even though he didn’t mention anything about feeling uneasy in the house, he was very tired, and his parents noticed he was acting a little lethargic, as though he was coming down with something. Lois suspected elevation sickness. After a short while, Lois and Red went quietly into Wes’s room to check on him.

They found him in bed, lying on his back with his arms crossed in an X on his chest, and his legs straight and stiff. He was deathly pale, and his breathing was so shallow that at first they thought he was dead. Alarmed, Lois shook him. He stirred, but didn’t wake. Lois and Red stayed in the room for a time, keeping an eye on the boy.

“There was an uncomfortable feeling in that room,” Lois says, comparing the sensation to one of being constantly observed from every direction. The room, like the bunk bed room earlier, was also intensely cold.

Despite the oppressive atmosphere, Lois and Red stayed with Wes until it appeared that he was sleeping normally. “When we left his room,” Lois says, “we saw a white washcloth folded in thirds on the inside doorknob. We wondered who had put it there. It seemed so random.” Not thinking much of it, they went upstairs to bed themselves.

Later that night, Tom went into his ground-floor bedroom alone. The room was very dark. The snow outside the windows had intensified, and all the roads leading up to Mammoth Mountain had now closed. Just like in The Shining, the family was trapped, for all intents and purposes.

****

As he lay in the darkness, waiting for sleep, Tom heard a soft jingling sound, as if the empty wire hangers in the closet had brushed together in a gentle breeze. The sound made him nervous, but just as he had earlier with the mysteriously strewn clothing, he tried to explain it away. “It was just the wind,” he thought, though he admitted to himself that he didn’t know how a wind could have blown the hangers together when the closet door was closed. Still, the sound was just vague enough that he could safely attribute it to a stray draft.

But moments later, there came a more sinister sound: a faint, whispering shuffle, as of something sliding very slowly across the deep-pile carpet. It seemed to be coming from the direction of the closet, moving stealthily along the foot of the bed and coming around the side away from where Tom was lying. “It didn’t sound like footsteps, so I’m not sure if I originally thought it was a person,” he says. “It was just a sliding or dragging sort of noise, as though someone was pushing something heavy across the carpet. I just closed my eyes and pulled the blankets around me when I heard it. I was too scared to turn and look.”

On the nightstand opposite the side of the bed he was sleeping on, there was a rotary-dial phone with clear buttons across the bottom, of the type that often appeared in offices and hotel rooms in the late seventies and early eighties. The sliding noise had stopped, and now there seemed to be something stirring near the phone.

From his position on the opposite side of the bed, Tom heard, very distinctly, the receiver of the phone lift a very short distance off the hook. Then there was the sound of the receiver scraping softly against the plastic body of the phone, as though someone had curled the receiver in their hand, slightly toward themselves. The receiver then settled slowly back onto the hook with a decisive click.

Tom squeezed his eyes more tightly closed, unwilling to turn his head toward the source of the sounds. What if someone was standing there at the side of his bed, hand on the phone, mere feet away from where he was trying to sleep? What would he do then?

After several anguished seconds of silence, he mustered up enough courage to turn and peer through the darkness at the phone on the nightstand.

Of course, no one was there.

A Short History of the Corset

In the dogged pursuit of an hourglass figure, people have subjected themselves to many extreme undergarments.

CorsetArt

Though the waist-cinching garment known as the corset is now primarily associated with the Victorian era, its roots actually go much further back in history. For as long as humans have worn clothing, it seems, they have sought to manipulate their figures in myriad ways to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex. Whether a smooth silhouette or a tiny wasp waist was desired, the corset has long been the undergarment of choice, undergirding a dazzling variety of clothing styles.

Corsets in the Ancient World

Ancient Greek, Cretan, Theban and Minoan societies all display evidence that corsets were worn by both men and women; the Minoans in particular wore them, possibly as support for the waist and back while they participated in various sports. Figurines of goddesses in ancient Crete wear corsets as outer garments.

Greek corsets were evidently made of leather, while those of Thebes may have been constructed primarily of metal. There are even mentions of corsets in the literature of the early Middle Ages, and some gowns from the period show a sort of corset construction beneath the bodice. But it wasn’t until around 1400 that corsets really began coming into their own.

Corsets in Spain and Italy

The powerful Spanish were highly influential on European fashion in the 15th century. Both men and women wore corsets in order to achieve a smooth torso and an upright, dignified posture. During the next century the Italians took corsets a step further, adding a busk beneath the lacing of the corset for a smoother look, then adding a hinged metal cage for extra rigidity. Later in the 16th century, Catherine de’ Medici popularized a corset with a more flexible frame made of steel, which retained the chest-flattening and waist-cinching properties of the garment while lessening the discomfort somewhat.

Corsets in France

In the middle of the 17th century, the French took the concept of the corset and ran with it; soon corsets were worn by almost everyone, including children just learning to walk. The French, rather than seeking to flatten the chest as the Spanish and Italian fashion had dictated, instead used the corset to force the bosom upward, resulting in a pleasing décolletage. The material of the corset was made stiffer with paste, and the busk was refined, becoming a removable slat usually made of ivory, silver, wood or whalebone.

The popularity of corsets in France was only interrupted by the French Revolution, whose ideal of liberty also extended to freeing people from their corsets. For a time French ladies favored flowing, high-waisted gowns reminiscent of the draped robes of classical Greece and Rome. However, by the 19th century the French were tightening their laces once again, getting back into line with the rest of Europe and the United States, where corsets had never gone out of fashion.

Corsets in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Even as clothing styles waxed and waned, corsets remained, underpinning changing fashions. Corsets for men began to fade, though in the early 1800s dandies wore suits tailored to give their bodies an hourglass shape without the hassle of a corset underneath.

For women, though, liberation from lacing was still a long way off. Corsets were worn routinely throught the Victorian period (1837-1901). By the end of the century, despite the abandonment of the “wasp-waisted” look prevalent in earlier times, women still wore newer corsets manufactured to give them a sleek, long-waisted silhouette beneath the more straight-line and Gibson Girl fashions of the 1990s. A smaller waist was always a goal, however, and women laced their corsets tighter and tighter, sometimes to the detriment of their health, trying to achieve and maintain waist sizes well below twenty inches.

After World War I, the 1920s saw a change in fashion, with young women abandoning the corset in favour of simple panties, bras and underslips. In 1930 the panty girdle was introduced, a garment consisting of a corset and bra all in one.

With the New Look of the late 1940s came the waist cincher, and both it and the girdle remained the foundation of women’s clothing styles until the feminist movements of the 1960s finally freed women from the supposed prisons of their clothing. Though bras are still de rigueur beneath the more casual styles of today, corsets in the modern era are generally only worn by enthusiasts in the goth and fetish subcultures.

Additional Source:

  • Steele, Valerie (2003). The Corset: A Cultural History. Yale University Press. ISBN: 0300099539.

Ergotism and the Salem Witch Trials

Some scholars assert that the mass hysteria in Massachusetts in the 17th century could have been triggered by a common fungus.

Witchcraft_at_Salem_Village

The events are familiar to most Americans and have been dramatized dozens of times on stage, page and film. The tragic episode was set into motion in 1692 by the strange behavior of two young girls, and snowballed into a panic of almost unbelievable proportions. The Salem Witch Trials, as they came to be known, lacked the staggering body count of many of the European witch hunts; nonetheless the series of events was sufficiently dire to cause many people then and now to question how such a thing could have happened.

An Overview of the Salem Witch Panic

It was February 1692. Nine-year-old Betty Parris and her eleven-year-old cousin Abigail Williams suddenly began displaying bizarre behavior akin to epileptic fits. They screamed and raved, twisted their bodies into strange positions, and complained that an unseen assailant was pinching and pricking them. Doctors were called to examine the girls, but no physical cause could be found for their distress, and what was worse, when word of the girls’ mysterious ailment spread through Salem village, other girls began behaving in a similar fashion.

At this point, authorities had raised suspicions of witchcraft, and Betty and Abigail obligingly pointed accusing fingers at a slave girl named Tituba, who they claimed had taught them spells for seeing into the future. Other accusations followed, and more “victims” came forward, accusing still others. When all was said and done, the hysteria had spread across three counties and resulted in the arrest of more than 150 people, twenty of whom were eventually executed for witchcraft. What possible reason could there have been for such a terrible tragedy to unfold? Many theories have been put forth, but Professor Linda Caporael, in 1976, suggested we need look no further than the Salem villagers’ breadboxes.

Hordeum_vulgare_Claviceps_purpurea_23-7-2009

Ergot a Poisonous Fungus, Catalyst for Accusations

In a 1976 article inScience, Caporael theorized that the initial catalyst for the witch craze — the seemingly “possessed” behavior of Betty, Abigail, and the other girls — could have been caused by a reaction to ergot. There are about fifty known species of the ergot fungus, but the one Caporael implicated in the witch panic was Claviceps pupurea, which grows on rye plants and can cause poisoning when consumed by humans or other mammals. If indeed the girls had eaten bread contaminated with ergot, they could have experienced symptoms that were perceived as possession: Seizures, a sensation of itching or crawling on the skin, muscular contractions, nausea, and even hallucinations, triggered by an alkaloid called ergotamine, which is similar in structure to LSD.

Caporael argued that not only were the symptoms of ergotism consistent with those noted in the victims of the “bewitchment,” but that the area around Salem grew a great deal of rye, and that climatic conditions were favorable to the growth of the ergot fungus. It would not even have been necessary for all of the “victims” to have been afflicted with ergotism; a few cases might have started the ball rolling, and psychological and sociological factors could have accomplished the rest.

Arguments Against the Ergot Theory

Many scholars have disputed the claims that ergotism played a major role in the witch panic. Historians Jack Gottlieb and Nicholas Spanos, for example, contend that had ergotism been responsible for the accusers’ symptoms, we should have expected to see members of entire households afflicted, rather than just a few individuals here and there. They also argue that ergotism has other symptoms that do not correspond with the recorded behavior of the “bewitched” persons. Finally, they and other scholars have pointed out that ergotism had been a recognized malady at least since the Middle Ages; it even had a name, St. Anthony’s Fire. Anthropologist H. Sidley in particular doubted whether authorities in Salem in the 17th century would have mistaken the supposedly familiar symptoms of ergot poisoning with signs of supernatural possession.

Despite the voluminous research on the subject, the exact causes of the Salem witch panic are still murky. It is not controversial to speculate that the episode was probably triggered by an unfortunate cascade of converging factors—social, political, psychological, and perhaps pharmacological.

Additional Source:

Macinnis, Peter (2004). Poisons: A History From Hemlock To Botox. MJF Books. ISBN 1-56731-814-2.

 

 

Lady Mary Montagu and the Discovery of the Smallpox Vaccine

Though Edward Jenner is credited with developing the first smallpox vaccine, inoculation had long been practiced in other parts of the world.

LadyMaryWortleyMontagu

Smallpox had for many years been a scourge in the West, sweeping through the densely populated cities of Europe in periodic epidemics, killing as many as 35% of the people it infected and often leaving the survivors scarred for life. From the wealthiest noble to the humblest peasant, residents of London and Paris lived in abject fear of the next wave of infection. There was no known way to prevent the spread of the disease, and no known cure. But while the populace of the West cowered under smallpox’s shadow, they had no idea that the cultures of China, the Middle East, and Africa had known how to prevent the disease for centuries, and that their method would soon be introduced into England by one very brave and determined woman.

Lady Mary Montagu and the First Inoculations

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a member of the British nobility and the wife of an ambassador, was living in Turkey while her husband was posted there. She had firsthand experience with the horrors of smallpox—she had contracted the disease in 1715, and though her prognosis had been grim, she had managed to survive. Before her illness, she had been widely lauded as one of the most beautiful women in Britain; afterward, her face was so misshapen and scarred that she always wore a veil in public. Though she no longer had to fear smallpox for herself, she lived in mortal terror of her two children contracting it. So when she heard the Turks had a method for preventing smallpox, she wanted to hear all about it.

The method had been practiced for centuries, though Westerners knew little to nothing of it. It is possible that inoculation against smallpox was known in India as early as 1000 BC, though the first definitive mention of the treatment was made in 1549, by Chinese author Wan Quan. The inoculation (or variolation, as it was called in the early days) worked on a similar principle to modern vaccines—small particles of diseased matter from an infected person, either in the form of pus or powdered scabs, was blown up the inoculee’s nose or inserted through a tiny cut in the skin. The patient would then develop a mild case of smallpox, after which he or she would be forever immune. There was a small chance the inoculation would be fatal, but it was an infinitesimal risk compared to the mortality rate of full-blown smallpox. Lady Mary, hearing of the method described by doctors Emmanuel Timoni and Jacob Pylarini, became determined to introduce the knowledge to England; to show her commitment to the cause, she vowed to have her own children inoculated.

The Smallpox Vaccine Comes to England

The British public were wary when Lady Mary returned home in 1721 and began making her campaign for variolation. Smallpox was horrible and often fatal; why give yourself a dose of it on purpose? But Lady Mary was relentless, and despite widespread condemnation of her and of Dr. Charles Maitland, who she persuaded to perform the inoculations, she gave the treatment to her children (aged 4 and 5), both of whom survived their ordeals with no lingering effects. Soon others were bringing their children to Lady Mary to have them variolated, and though one or two of the inoculated patients did die of smallpox, on the whole the experiment was a rousing success, so much so that the British Royal Family conceded to having their own children inoculated; still leery of the procedure’s safety, however, they insisted that the inoculations first be performed on six prisoners, who would earn a pardon if they survived. All did, and the royal children were variolated.

Cotton Mather and the American Inoculations

During this time, Lady Mary Montagu had also been corresponding with American minister Cotton Mather, who had noticed that his family’s African slaves seemed immune to smallpox. When Mather asked one of the slaves, Onesimus, about this, the man answered that a similar method of variolation as that practiced in Asia and the Middle East was also common in Africa. Mather convinced Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to inoculate Boylston’s son and two slaves, all of whom recovered, and was instrumental in sowing acceptance for the vaccine in the young United States.

Dr.Edward Jenner Vaccinating Young Boy

Edward Jenner and the Modern Vaccine

Early studies of the use of the cowpox virus to prevent smallpox had been done in 1727 and 1766, but it is British physician Edward Jenner who is generally credited with developing the first smallpox vaccine; the word vaccine was taken from the Latin “vaca,” for cow. The cowpox virus is similar to smallpox, and so conveys immunity to the more deadly disease, but is mainly prevalent in cows and not fatal to humans, making the vaccine much safer. Jenner experimented with his cowpox vaccine in 1796, and presented his findings to the Royal Society, after which he went on to experiment on 23 other people. The vaccine was hugely successful, bringing the death rate from smallpox down to essentially zero.

Over the years, Jenner’s work was published around the world, and widespread vaccination became the norm. In the late 1970s, the disease of smallpox was officially eradicated, though two samples of the deadly variola virus that causes it still remain—one at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, and one at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Koltsovo, Russia. These are kept for research purposes in the event of a new outbreak, due either to natural causes or bioterrorism.

Source:

Carrell, Jennifer (2003). The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox. The Penguin Group. ISBN: 0452285070.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein & the Summer of 1816

A strange gathering of intellectual luminaries during one “haunted summer” produced one of literature’s most enduring creations.

MaryShelleyFrankenstein

Frankenstein’s monster is one of the most ubiquitous characters in popular culture, appearing everywhere from movies and novels to children’s toys and cereal boxes. Though the image we have of the lumbering creature today—greenish skin, square head, beetling brow, ropy scars and neck bolts—has been largely formed by Boris Karloff’s stunning portrayal in the Universal horror films of the 1930s, in the beginning, the monster was literally dreamed into existence under rather eerie circumstances by an eighteen-year-old girl.

Summer in Switzerland

It was May 14, 1816. Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his “wife” Mary (the couple only married later that year, though Mary already used his last name) had been invited by friend and fellow poet Lord Byron to visit him at a rented chateau, Villa Deodati, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Also joining the festivities were Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairemont—who was pregnant with Byron’s child and was trying to get back into his good graces—and Byron’s personal physician John Polidori.

The gathering apparently started out quite idyllic—the friends spent long hours writing, discussing weighty ideas, and boating in the lake. But a short time after the group arrived, the weather took a bizarre turn, and it seemed the streaks of lightning and the torrents of rain would never cease. Mary and the others were confined to the house for many days.

Ghost Stories

More reading and discussion ensued. Particular topics of conversation included the early evolution theories of Erasmus Darwin, as well as the new science of galvanism. Also contributing to the entertainment of the group was a book of German ghost stories called Fantasmagoria, which the friends took turns reading aloud.

The combination of the macabre tales and the isolating weather seemed to have strange effects on everyone present; Percy Shelley, at one point, succumbed to visions that sent him screaming from the room. Later, Shelley claimed that Byron’s reading of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem “Cristabel” had brought to mind the image of a woman with eyes instead of nipples, which horrified him.

Setting to Work

Some time after this incident, the group decided that they would each try to write their own ghost story. Most set to work immediately and produced tales of varying quality. Byron wrote a story fragment titled “The Burial,” which was later published as a postscript to his narrative poem Mazeppa. Shelley wrote a tale called “The Assassins,” which apparently never saw the light of day (though his poem Mont Blanc, written around the same time, was published later that year). Dr. Polidori wrote “The Vampyre,” later expanded to novel length, which was the first vampire story published in English and which some speculate might have been an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written 78 years later.

The Monster Is Born

Mary Shelley, however, couldn’t think of an idea for a story, and had to respond with a frustrated “No” when asked by the others if she had begun work on it. But then, one night, she had a terrible nightmare. She woke violently amid the sounds of the storm howling outside. The dream had been so vivid that she had a difficult time believing it hadn’t been real. Since she was too shaken to sleep, she began writing down her dream, in which “a pale student of the unhallowed arts” used bits of corpses to create a man. “By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light,” she wrote, “I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”

Mary’s terrifying dream was described verbatim in the story she presented to the others. Though the first draft was only about 100 pages long, Percy loved the story and encouraged Mary to flesh it out. She did, and two years after the strange events at Lake Geneva, the story was published as Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, thus introducing one of literature’s most frightening figures to the world at large.