Archive for General

The Legend of the Jack-o-Lantern

Posted in General, Non-Fiction, Urban Legends with tags , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by smilingjacks

Jack-o-Lanterns are an absolute staple of Halloween customs in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many places in the world. Each year, children and adults alike are delighted to paint and carve the faces of pumpkins in unique designs. There are even contests centered around the practice and a number of people who actually make a profit from carving Jack-o-Lanterns.

We’re all familiar with pumpkin carving, but have you ever wondered where the practice came from? Like many Halloween customs, the Jack-o-Lantern originated in Ireland.

There’s an old Irish legend about a delinquent trickster by the name of (you guessed it) Jack. He was a debouched man who liked to engage in sins of the flesh, loved to drink, and made all sorts of mischief. His neighbors considered him an impossible nuisance, but no one could capture him because his lucky turnip always kept fortune on his side. It’s said that he even managed to play a mean trick on the Devil himself.

jack

Jack met the Devil one dark Halloween night on the Irish countryside. The Devil had heard that Jack’s slyness rivaled his own, and he was determined to show the mischievous mortal who the one true hell raiser was.

After they made their introductions, they both went about getting chummy with one another. They bantered and drank and laughed together, both sizing each other up until an opportunity could present itself.

It was Jack who made the first move. Seeing some fruit in a nearby tree, he asked the Devil to climb the tree and fetch some fruit for the two of them. Despite his reluctance to respond to the request of a mortal, the Devil was happy to oblige. After all, there were a lot of cruel things that could be done with fruit. He could poison the fruit, or convince Jack that the fruit could give him magical powers and then challenge him to a flying contest off the roof of a barn, or a whole score of other things. The possibilities were vast.

The Devil made his way up the tree, smirking at all of the treacherous thoughts he was having. He didn’t notice soon enough that he was in fact the victim of Jack’s treachery. While the Devil was up in the tree, Jack took a cross out of his pocket and placed it on the tree’s trunk. When the Devil tried to climb down with the fruit, the cross repelled him. He was trapped in the tree and at Jack’s mercy.

“You wretched mortal,” the Devil said. “Just as soon as I get down, I’m going to make sure you never forget this!”

“I’ll let you down,” replied Jack. “As long as you swear never to take my soul into Hell.”

Jack knew he wasn’t righteous enough to make it into heaven, and he had no plans to change his ways. By forcing the Devil to submit, he figured he could come away with the certainty that he would never be made to suffer for his deeds. The Devil was beyond annoyed, as he would have loved to see Jack face damnation, but he was quite literally stuck, so he agreed.

The Devil didn’t get his revenge that evening. Midnight came too soon, and he had to yield with the coming of All Saint’s Day. Jack had won.

Then, years later, Jack fell ill and died. When he faced Judgment, to no one’s surprise, he was rejected from entering Heaven. Unfortunately, this meant he was forced to go to Hell.

The Devil laughed gleefully at the sight of the dejected Jack.

“I have no place to go but here,” Jack admitted upon seeing the Devil.

“That’s right,” said the Devil. “You have nowhere to go. After all, you won fair and square, and a promise is a promise. I will never take you into Hell”

Jack’s dead heart sank as even Hell wouldn’t have him. He was an orphaned soul with no home.

“Then where will I go?” asked Jack.

“Nowhere,” the Devil replied. “You were hated in life, you’re too wicked for Heaven, and you have no home here. No one wants you, Jack. You’re all alone.”

In a moment of genuine sorrow, the pitiful Jack muttered, “But how will I find my way?”

Just to mock the poor mortal, the Devil grabbed a single ember of hellfire and threw it at Jack. Then, he returned to his pit, leaving Jack all alone.

Jack sat by the light of the ember, wondering where he would go and how he would find his way in the darkness. Then, seeing the glow of the ember, he got an idea for how to light the way on his travels: with his lucky turnip. He took the turnip out of his pocket, hollowed it out, and placed the ember inside to make a lantern that he could use as he wandered about in search of a home.

Out of sympathy for the wandering ghost of Jack, his old neighbors put out lights to guide him on his endless travels. As the story spread, so did the tradition of placing out lanterns for Jack.

Even today, the people of the world carve Jack-o-Lanterns and light them on Halloween. Most of us think of it as just a fun pastime–a way of being festive, but these fun little decorations were originally meant to light the way for Jack and other wandering spirits.

Don’t let the lore deter you, however. In fact, I encourage you to all to set a Jack-o-Lantern out on Halloween. The drifting spirits will appreciate it, I’m sure. Who knows? The home they decide to settle down in might even be yours.

Happy Halloween.

jackolantern

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Ghost Video Captured in Cemetery

Posted in General, Internet Legends, Non-Fiction with tags , , , , on October 28, 2009 by smilingjacks

This is another old favorite that’s been on the Internet for years. Longtime paranormal fans will probably recognize it. If you haven’t seen it before, then be sure and dim the lights, turn up the volume (it’s not a screamer, don’t worry) and be creeped out.

Ah, the paranormal. A strange and sometimes terrifying subject.

One of the Most Ridiculous EVPs on the Internet

Posted in Entertainment, General with tags , , , on October 26, 2009 by smilingjacks

I came across this very strange EVP (electronic voice phenomena) video posted by the Youtube user WickedDeathX. I can’t make any educated claim regarding its authenticity because I don’t know the circumstance under which it was recorded (though I must make the observation that this was posted under the “Entertainment” category). However, whether or not it’s legitimate is irrelevant, because this is one of the most ridiculous EVPs I’ve ever encountered. It’s funny and scary at the same time. You can see for yourself here:

The EVP itself is hilarious. Why would a demon say that it had the body of a pig, and why would it make that humorous oinking sound? Is this a demon with low self esteem or just an unholy comedian?

The image at the end–while scary (and a little blurry and probably no more authentic than images of faces in the smoke of burning buildings)–might hold the explanation. If both the image and the EVP are real, and if that picture does indeed depict the entity featured in the audio, then that demon seems to indeed have the body of a pig. Fascinating stuff.

One of the Creepiest Robotics Experiments Ever

Posted in General, Non-Fiction with tags , , on October 25, 2009 by smilingjacks

A robot operated by the brain of a living thing…sounds like science fiction, right? In Surrey, England, they’ve actually done just that. What looks like a some kind of toy car is actually the first robot capable of learning (a skill that always plays out well in fiction). Using bluetooth technology, the sensors and motor functions of the robot are controlled by the neurons of a living rat’s brain, which is contained in a jar.

What these roboticists have created is a cyborg. It’s controlled entirely by the living tissue of the (former) rat, is capable of learning, and each particular cyborg has its own unique personality. See for yourself at this video courtesy of Diagnal View UK:

Curious little thing, isn’t it? Did you see how scurried around checking things out? Just like a real rat.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you the possibilities presented by future advances with this technology. I wonder how much bigger the human model is going to be…

A Different Take

Posted in Entertainment, General, Movies, Non-Fiction with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2009 by smilingjacks

I was wondering–on a basic level–what makes horror (be it movies, stories, or anything else) scary? Is it about the content or the way it’s presented? I happen to think that the presentation is more important. Here to support my claim, I have a very special clip. It’s a re-edited trailer for Mary Poppins called “Scary Mary,” which was made by Chris Rule and Nick Eckert. Once you see this, you may never look at this movie the same way again.

Same story as the original, just with a different take on the presentation, and this is what we get. I wonder, what other benign things could become chilling, given the proper modifications?

There’s Something in the Sea

Posted in General, Non-Fiction, Urban Legends with tags , , , , , on October 23, 2009 by smilingjacks

Stories of sea monsters and unknown perils in the ocean have been the stuff of legend since at least as far back as the bronze age. Many of us are familiar with old nautical myths of krakens overturning ships or contemporary fiction concerning Cthulu and other great beasts hidden in the vastness of the deeps.

But those are just stories. Nothing so monstrous could really be dwelling in even the darkest waters, right? What few realize is that there is something in the sea, and it’s big.

The phenomenal, unidentified noise known only as “Bloop” was first discovered in 1997 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since it first showed up in deep sea detectors located in the Pacific Ocean (being loud enough to be detected by multiple sensors spanning a 5,000 km radius), it has stumped experts and been the source of great controversy.

Scientists generally agree that the source of the Bloop is a living creature. However, no known creature is large enough to cause such a sound. Some even say that whatever is behind Bloop must be several times larger than a Blue Whale, which is currently the largest known creature on Earth and is capable of growing to over 30 meters in length and weighing nearly 200 tons. A creature several times that size would be bigger than even the largest known prehistoric life, making Bloop possibly the largest creature ever to have existed.

(Sources: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/question687.htm and http://archives.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/06/13/bloop/)

Though little is known about whatever enormous monstrosity is behind Bloop, what we do know is that it’s huge and it’s not shy. There’s something in the sea. It’s been there all along, and it’s calling out to us now.

Is Bloop one of a kind? What deep sea titans lurk in the darkest depths of the ocean, far out of notice of humans? In our narrow view of life, in our fixation with land (which accounts for only about 30 percent of the Earth’s surface), has it ever occurred to us that we may be further than we could ever imagine from being the dominant species  on this planet?

There’s something in the sea. Let us all pray to whatever gods or forces of the universe we place our faith in that it stays there. And if you decide to take a swim in the ocean, keep in mind that you may not realize what dark, terrible things lurk deep beneath the surface of the water.

The First Recorded Sound

Posted in General, Non-Fiction with tags , , , on October 18, 2009 by smilingjacks

The invention of recorded audio has long been thought to be one of the best of many contributions to modern science made by Thomas Edison. Recently though, it’s been discovered that French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville actually beat Edison to this breakthrough by about seventeen years. Amazingly, this invention came about by accident.

Edouard was interested in sound, and he created a device called a phonautograph, which was designed to use smoke to mark a sheet of paper with visual representations of the patterns of sound waves. The device was never intended to be used for playback, but when modern day researchers investigated Edouard’s studies, they found that playback of the imprints on the paper was indeed possible. In 2008, they managed to play the recording back on a computer.

What you see below is an authentic file of the very first audio recording. It was recorded on April 9, 1960–149 years ago. The voice on the recording is unknown. Some say it’s a woman. Some say it’s the inventor himself. What’s known is that the voice is singing the words “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot repondit.” Click the file and listen. I promise it’s not a jump video or some sort of prank.

People will have different responses to the recording. Some are uneasy just at the sound of it. It’s shaky, almost ghostly sounding. What’s most amazing about it is the historical context. This sound was recorded before Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States and before the American Civil War. It was recorded two years before the invention of skiing and five years before the first publication on genetics. It was just shortly before the German revolutions in the Ottomon and the coming of the Victorian Era. We don’t know who the singer on this recording was, but we know that they saw an amazing chapter in history. The 1860s were arguably one of the most turbulent and eventful decades in human history, and here at the onset, we have this sweet voice to give us an ear into the past.

“Au clair de la lune, Pierrot repondit…”