Famous Witch: Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton was a feared and highly regarded English prophetess of the 16th century. Born to a mother who was also suspected to be a witch, Mother Shipton was described as hideously ugly and disfigured—so much so that the locals called her “Hag Face” and believed her father to be the Devil.

Despite her unfortunate appearance, she was said to have been England’s greatest clairvoyant and was often compared to her male contemporary Nostradamus. According to legend, she had predicted the Spanish Armada, the Great Plague of London, the Great Fire of London, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and some even speculate, the Internet: “around the world thoughts shall fly in the twinkling of an eye.”

Mother Shipton did not die by fire or sword like so many accused witches before and after her. Instead, she died a peaceful death and is said to have been buried on unholy ground on the outer edges of York around 1561.

Image from findagrave.com

You can visit Mother Shipton’s Cave in North Yorkshire, England.

Learn about four other real witches from history at Biography.com — Bewitched: 5 Real Witches in History.

They Lost Their Heads

Saul: Body despoiled
Four headless bodies, with bound hands, hang from gallows. Crown on ground below them. Scene in landscape setting.
Saul: Body despoiled
Four soldiers, wearing armor, hold sticks, upon which are heads of Saul and his three sons, all wearing crowns. Scene in landscape setting.

Details from Book of Hours, France, ca. 1500, The Morgan Library & Museum.

Horror Junior: Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946)

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).

Horror Cinema Trivia: The Birds (1963)

Alfred Hitchcock would constantly make puns and double-entendres on the set of The Birds. The last straw came when Suzanne Pleshette asked if she could add a line, and he replied, “You mean, Sweet Adeline?” She then reacted by tackling the director, dictating, “If you continue this, you are gonna pay the price.” According to Suzanne in a 2006 interview with Stephen J. Abramson, “People were SHITTING” when they saw her run him down.

Find more facts about the 1963 classic at IMDb Trivia: The Birds (1963).