Happy Easter, boys and ghouls!
“Propped, or you might say sitting, on the edge of the bed was — nothing in the round world but a scarecrow! A scarecrow out of the garden, of course, dumped into the deserted room . . . Yes; but here amusement ceased. Have scarecrows bare bony feet? Do their heads loll on to their shoulders? Have they iron collars and links of chain about their necks? Can they get up and move, if never so stiffly, across a floor, with wagging head and arms close at their sides? and shiver?”
– “Rats” by M.R. James, first published in The Collected Ghost Stories of MR James (1931), from Hypnogoria: Chained Ghosts
In 1973, a group of archaeologists opened the tomb of the 15th-century Polish king Casimir IV Jagiellon in Kraków, Poland. As with the opening of King Tut’s tomb 50 years before, European media hyped up the event, and the researchers involved allegedly joked that they were risking a curse on the tomb by opening it.
When some of the team members began to die shortly after, some media outlets speculated it was due to a curse. Later, experts discovered traces of deadly fungi inside the tomb that can cause lung illnesses when breathed in. This was the cause of their deaths.
Learn about five more legendary curses as History.com.
In 1975, Diane and Peter Berthelot along with their 12-year-old son visited the Worstead Church in north Norfolk, U.K. Peter took a photo of his wife sitting and praying on one of the church benches, and when they reviewed the developed photos some months later, a friend of Mrs. Berthelot asked, “Who’s that sitting behind you, Di?”
The figure in the photo behind Mrs. Berthelot appears to be wearing light-colored, old-fashioned clothes and a bonnet.
The Berthelots returned to Worstead Church the next summer with the photo and showed it to Reverend Pettit, the church vicar. He explained to Diane the legend of the White Lady, of whom she had never heard. It is said that the ghost is a healer who appears when someone near is in need of healing. When she visited the church at the time of the photo, Diane was in ill health and was taking antibiotics.
Reports of the ghost date back well over 100 years. According to one story, on Christmas Eve of 1830, a man boasted a challenge to the White Lady. He said he would climb to the top of the church’s belfry and kiss her if she would appear. So up he went. When he failed to reappear after a time, friends went to search for him. They found him in the belfry, cowering in a corner, terrified. “I’ve seen her,” he told them, “I’ve seen her….” And then he died.
For a time, Mrs. Berthelot said she felt a calming tingling sensation whenever she looked at the photo, but that feeling has since subsided. Today, the church has been remodeled into a pub.
See more images of ghosts with spooky backstories at liveabout.com: Best Real Ghost Pictures Ever Taken.
I recognize that Beauty and the Beast is not a horror story and that the film adaptations were not billed as horror movies. However, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 surreal take on the story lasts, to me, as such a creepy and scary version of the fairy tale. When the Disney version came out in 1991, I was a pre-teen and a die-hard fan of the animated film. I saw it in the theatre several times and when it came out on VHS, my Mom spent a lot of money to buy it for me (this was early in the video rental days and it was expensive to buy a copy to own — I love my Mom! lol). As part of that obsession, I sought out Cocteau’s version, and I remember being thoroughly freaked out by it. During that same era of my life, I was discovering horror movies, and this one was more like a scary movie than a kid’s tale.
Did you know that Walt Disney was interested in adapting Beauty and the Beast but felt discouraged after seeing Cocteau’s version, not believing his would be as good?
The freakiest part of the movie for me was the long hallway with the hands holding the torches. It still stands out to me today as unnerving.
I was interested to learn that Jean Cocteau intentionally made the Beast a sympathetic character and his alter ego the Prince an over-sentimental and saccharine character: “My aim was to make the Beast so human, so superior to men, that his transformation into Prince Charming would come as a terrible blow to Beauty, condemning her to a humdrum marriage and future; it would expose the naivete of the old fairy tale that conventional good looks are ideal.”
The contrasting approach worked. So popular was Jean Marais as the Beast, that when he was transformed at the end back to human form, Greta Garbo famously said, “Give me back my Beast!” Marlene Dietrich cried, “Where is my beautiful Beast?” And letters poured in from matrons, teenage girls and children complaining to Cocteau and Marais about the transformation.
Read more facts about Cocteau’s surreal film at IMDb Trivia: Beauty and the Beast (1946).