17th-Century Plague Doctors

“During the 17th century, plague doctors started wearing uniforms in an effort to protect themselves from their patients. Charles de l’Orme came up with concept of the long, dark robe worn with boots, gloves, and a hat in 1619.

“The idea was to keep the physician’s entire body covered. The outer layer of the costume was made of goat leather and often coated in wax. Underneath, the doctor wore a blouse that tied to his boots.

“The infamous plague masks were actually associated with air purity. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the idea that the air could be polluted became widespread and doctors sought to prevent ‘bad air,’ or the miasma, from getting to them.

“Eye holes were fitted with glass pieces so doctors could still see, and the long noses on the mask were filled with drugs and aromatic herbs, including mint, camphor, cloves, straw, laudanum, rose petals, and myrrh to filter the air. The herbs also helped with the smell, considering that the dead bodies and lanced buboes that doctors dealt with were rather pungent.”

Learn more about plague doctors at Horrifying Things Most People Don’t Know About Plague Doctors.

Friday the 13th Superstitions

  • If you were born on Friday the 13th, your entire life will be marked by bad luck.
  • If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, it will result in a death in the family.
  • If you change your bed on this day, you will see bad dreams throughout the night.
  • If you were to pass a funeral procession on Friday the 13th, you will die the very next day.
  • If you were to leave the calendar on Friday the 13th, you will be killed by a witch the very next day.
  • Cutting your nails on Friday the 13th is again a bad omen which can bring you some serious bad luck.
  • This is a very bad day for new beginning, and thus starting a new business on this day will only call for a disaster.
  • Similarly, starting out on a trip on Friday is considered to bring misfortune.
  • According to a deep-rooted superstition, Friday the 13th is a very bad day to consult an astrologer.
  • The voyage of a ship that sets sail on Friday 13th is much more likely to end in a disaster.

From Astonishingly Bizarre Superstitions of Friday the 13th

Five Hotels Haunted by Celebrity Ghosts

I recently returned from a trip to my favourite city, San Francisco. I particularly love the hippy neighborhood the Haight. I like to spend time there with the spirits of Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix. I was interested to then see this video about hotels haunted by celebrity ghosts, among them the hotel in Los Angeles where Joplin lost her life to a drug overdose.

“The Uncanny Valley”: Creepy Dolls

“You can’t talk about creepy dolls without invoking the ‘uncanny valley,’ the unsettling place where creepy dolls, like their robot cousins, and before them, the automatons, reside. The uncanny valley refers to the idea that humans react favorably to humanoid figures until a point at which these figures become too human. At that point, the small differences between the human and the inhuman – maybe an awkward gait, an inability to use appropriate eye contact or speech patterns – become amplified to the point of discomfort, unease, disgust and terror. The idea originated with Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori’s 1970 essay anticipating the challenges robot-makers would face. Although the title of the paper, ‘Bukimi No Tani,’ is actually more closely translated as ‘valley of eeriness,’ the word ‘uncanny’ hearkens back to a concept that psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch explored in 1906 and that Sigmund Freud described in a 1919 paper, ‘The Uncanny.’ Though the two differed in their interpretations – Freud’s was, unsurprisingly, Freudian: the uncanny recalls our repressed fears and anti-social desires – the basic idea was that the familiar is somehow rendered strange, and that discomfort is rooted in uncertainty.

“But the uncanny valley is, for scientists and psychologists alike, a woolly area. Given the resources being poured into robotics, there has been more research into whether or not the uncanny valley is real, if it is even a valley and not a cliff, and where exactly it resides. Thus far, results are not conclusive; some studies suggest that the uncanny valley does not exist, some reinforce the notion that people are unsettled by inhuman objects that look and act too human. These studies are likely complicated by the fact that widespread exposure to more ‘natural’ looking humanoid figures is on the rise through animated films and video games. Maybe like the Supreme Court standard for obscenity, we know uncanny, creepy humanoids when we see them?

“But before the 18th and 19th centuries, dolls were not real enough to be threatening. Only when they began to look too human, did dolls start to become creepy, uncanny and psychology began investigating.

“‘Doll manufacturers figured out how to better manipulate materials to make dolls look more life-like or to develop mechanisms that make them appear to behave in ways that humans behave,’ says Hogan, pointing to the ‘sleep eye’ innovation in the early 1900s, where the doll would close her eyes when laid horizontal in exactly the way real children do not (that would be too easy for parents). ‘I think that is where the unease comes with dolls, they look like humans and in some ways move like humans and the more convincing they look or move or look like humans, the more uneasy we become.'”

From The History of Creepy Dolls by the Smithsonian Institute

Horror Cinema: The True Story That Inspired Nightmare on Elm Street’s Dreamtime Horror

“I’d read an article in the L.A. Times about a family who had escaped the Killing Fields in Cambodia and managed to get to the U.S. Things were fine, and then suddenly the young son was having very disturbing nightmares. He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over. Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youngster having a vision of a horror that everyone older was denying. That became the central line of Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Wes Craven, from Freddy Lives: An Oral History of A Nightmare on Elm Street