Tag Archives: mystery

Mystery Monday ~ dancing mania

Perhaps the strangest plague of them all is dancing mania, which mainly broke out in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. The outbreak has been documented and known to have affected thousands of people of all ages. Those who are infected with the mysterious disease are overcome with an urge to start dancing, keep on dancing, and never stop dancing! They can dance for several days in a row (sometimes weeks, even months!) until eventually dying from exhaustion, starvation, dehydration — sometimes heart attacks and broken bones.

The first known outbreak appeared all the way back in the 7th century. The plague gained momentum by the 14th century, and continued virouciously spreading until the 17th century. From then on, the disease suddenly disappeared, without ever finding a cure. Modern doctors are perplexed by this strange disorder and struggle to understand what is was, how it affected people, and why it no longer exists.

The most popular dancing mania incident happened in 1518, when a woman started dancing in the street and others gradually joined in, eventually reaching 400 people. Most of them danced until they literally collapsed.

Most cases happened in small groups, sometimes even solo. The disease is not always deadly: for some of the victims, they faced an annual infection. There are cases of people who forced themselves to participate in the dancing mania on St. Vigil’s Day for twenty, thirty years straight.

In some cases, the condition went beyond dancing and turned into jumping and leaping around, singing loudly, crying and screaming, and engaging in inappropriate behavior with one another — causing great commotion and disturbance to the residents. Often, those infected were foreigners from out of town, yet not always.

As with most diseases during this time period, cause was thought to be due to by evil spirits or demons. Many specifically blamed it on St. Vitus or St. John the Baptist. There is a pattern of outbreaks happening at sacred sites dedicated to that saint, or around the time of the feast of St. Vitus. Treatment typically involved praying to the saint, isolating the patient, and/or performing an exorcism.

Today, the cause of dancing mania remains debatable. Some connect it to other known health issues such as epilepsy or ergot poisoning, however these theories only account for some, not ALL, symptoms. Others say that it is not an actual disease, but a social phenomenon, or maybe due to stress and tension, or possibly a staged ritual for religious purposes. There are many possibilities…

The most notable trait of dancing mania is how the dancer falls into an unconscious trance. And even if they consciously decide to join in, they still end up losing total control. Dancers who reach a trance will “see visions” and experience hallucinations. Some reach a total state of complete, absolute ecstacy.

Dancing mania is an intriguing phenomenon — weird to think that it was a real plague. I wonder what the reason is for its sudden, random disappearance after affecting people for centuries. Who knew dancing could be so dangerous…


Forbidden Knowledge (chapter 4)

Before we can move any further ahead, we need to back up…

Alice was born in a castle, inherited by her great-great grandparents and passed on through generations. Her childhood was extremely sheltered, with overly protective parents who never granted her any freedom. She was homeschooled and never allowed to leave the house unless she was running errands with a parent or going to Sunday service once a week.

Church was her only chance at making friends — and even then, there was no “Sunday school” for her to socialize with peers, just exhaustingly long services where she was forced to sit there in silence. Even if she were to make friends, “play dates” were not allowed and sleepovers were out of the question.

Alice was comfortable speaking to adults at the church. She was always kind, courteous, and polite. They often complimented her on her dedicated and studious ways, always praising her parents for raising a perfect angel. Alice felt at ease with her naturally ability to impress the adults: the way she stood in silence and never interrupted their stories, the way she always said “please” and “thank you,” the way she never raised her voice or whined…

And yet her peers made her feel opposite, like a total outcast. The children at her church were like animals. The girls liked to talk about fashion and makeup, they liked to sing and dance to pop songs, debate who the cutest celebrity is, topics Alice knew absolutely nothing about. The only topics she really had to offer were regarding school subjects or the Bible. The boys were much, much worse: they liked to throw things and make fun of people and beat each other up. Alice’s composure that was so well-praised by adults meant nothing to her own age group.

Continue reading Forbidden Knowledge (chapter 4)

Caturday ~ The Black Cat

What’s up with “the black cat,” and why is it considered an icon of superstition?

Many equate black cats as a signal of bad luck. They say: don’t let it cross your path, don’t touch one, don’t even look at one. Some say one single black cat is dangerous while a duo or pack of black cats are harmless. Some say the superstition of black cats only apply on Halloween.

Other say that black cats actually signal good luck. However, these are usually “witches” who claim this.

Either way, black cats have a spiritual impact on our culture. All cats are considered to be mystical on some level — common myths claiming they can see ghosts or travel to other dimensions, how they were worshipped in ancient Egypt… However, it is specifically “the black cat” that has the highest notoriety.

Folklore is full of black cat characters. They tend to represent sneaky figures who can shapeshift into witches, demons, and other mythical entities to spy on others.

Cat Sith is a popular character from Celtic mythology. Cat Sith is a fairy who can shapeshift into a black cat, with a white spot on its chest. It is believed that it has the power to steal souls by floating over a corpse before burial. The Scottish have an ancient tradition of using distractions such as toys and catnip to keep a deceased body safe until its buried.

The “Sabot cat” is an anarchist symbol — more specifically, anarcho-syndicalism. The icon is a black cat standing in pounce-mode, feeling threatened and ready to attack. Anarcho-syndicalism is responsible for human labor rights such as shorter workdays (our current 8-hour system.)

How did the black cat end up representing anarchist beliefs? The legend is that while on IWW strike, a black cat walked into the camp looking very sick and skinny. Strikers fed the black cat and it eventually regained its strength. Suddenly, the strike went from poor to positive and the strikers finally received compensation for their demands.

In modern times, black cats are much more accepted, especially within the cat-lover community. However, this ancient superstition continues to threaten our sweet, furry friends. To this day, black cats are commonly bullied by ignorant humans, especially on Halloween night. And at animal shelters, black cats are much less likely to be adopted. These innocent souls are suffering, due to the tragic influence of false beliefs.

In our culture, “the black cat” stands for power, mystery, and independence. Throughout history, many have demonized the black cat, the same way our culture demonizes free-will, personal rights, power, and things that go beyond our limited understanding.

Do not fear the black cat! It is here to set us free, to remind us that we are more powerful than we realize — if only we stop letting power-hungry authority figures make us feel weak.

Mystery Monday ~ Werewolves

Werewolves are entities that can shapeshift from human to wolf. The transformation may be done at will, although it usually happens beyond one’s control — trigged by aggression or more commonly a full moon. They may also be depicted as hybrids who are half-wolf and half-human. Just like vampires, werewolves are contagious: anyone they bite will also become a werewolf.

The history of werewolves traces back to Greek mythology. The Greek god Zeus was angered by Lycaon for serving him the meal of a sacrificed boy. As punishment, Zeus turned the man and his sons into wolves.

We are all familiar with the classic fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, which tells the story of a wolf who disguises himself as a young girl’s grandma who tries to eat her. This was first recorded by a Belgium poet in the 11th century, however it is argued that the story is even older than that, and was passed on orally for many years prior.

As with all fairytales, the original version of Little Red Riding Hood is much more gruesome and gory compared to today’s — not only does the wolf end up eating the child, it also murders the grandma beforehand and tricks the child into eating her!

There are scarce records of werewolf-sightings during the Middle Ages. However, early modern history is full of werewolf paranoia.

  • Starting in the 15th century, there were many reports of werewolves eating children.
  • The European witch trials often included accusations of someone being a werewolf.
  • There are French treaties written between the 16th and 17th centuries that mention “werewolves.”
  • People were sent to jail during the 17th century for being a werewolf.

In 1653, a Vaud pastor released a treatise stating that werewolves are not real, and belief in werewolves (lycanthropy) is an illusion. From then on, there are no longer any official reports of werewolf attacks or sightings. Post-1650s, attitudes were suddenly shifted so that werewolves were seen as mythical and no longer feared or taken seriously.

So, could werewolves exist? Are there any truths to these early modern records? Could they simply be confusing werewolves for wolves? If so, then why not any other animal? Hmmm…

Mystery Monday ~ Vampires

Vampires are entities that require feeding on human blood or psychic energy in order to survive. The common myth is that anyone who is bitten by a vampire also becomes one. Vampires are immortal and cannot die in typical ways. They can only be destroyed by garlic, fire, and exposure to sunlight.

The very first vampire traces back to an Italian man named Ambrogio from Greek mythology. He fell in love with Selena, causing the jealous Sun God Apollo to curse him with vampire-like qualities, such as sensitivity to the sun. With the help and pity of others gods and goddesses, he was granted powers including sharp fangs and immortality.

Vampires can be traced back to almost every ancient culture in different forms, all representing life-sucking, demon-like forces. Although, the word “vampire” has no known recorded use until the 16th century.

There are plentiful accounts of “vampire activity” records sourced from the 17th and 18th centuries, mainly in Europe. The New England Vampire Panic caused a mass hysteria of civilians due to an outbreak of vampire sightings and attacks.

In modern times, vampires are thought of as fictional characters. They are still ingrained in our culture, but as seen as entertainment rather than real danger. Our general understanding is that the old belief in vampires served as an explanation for illness, disease, and degradation of corpses.

While the vampire was once feared long ago, the vampire is now romanticized and lusted after today. Somewhat recently, we’ve had a surge in vampire love stories — in books, TV, and film. The typical modern vampire is sickly pale with red lips and sharp fangs, wearing 19th century attire, and looking devilishly handsome. Vampires can be either gender, yet generally first thought of as male.

So… could vampires really exist? Was the New England Vampire Panic really just a big misunderstanding? How can one specific entity be traced to so many different cultures before they had contact with one another? Either way, I’m keeping garlic with me…

Forbidden Knowledge (chapter 3)

Thanks so much for reading. Please start here at chapter 1 and then go here to chapter 2.

“I’ll tell you later,” the mysterious man replied to an eager and impatient Alice.

She sighed with disappointment but also knew that time was creeping towards opening hours and she needed to get back to the front desk before anyone noticed.

“Yeah, I better go now,” Alice agreed, suddenly too aware of the fact that she was not supposed to be here. She swiftly headed towards the exit and then paused to turn to the man, “thanks so much for showing me around. I know you didn’t have to… nor were you even supposed to.”

“Don’t mention it,” he said with a slight grin and head tilt that made Alice’s heart skip a beat.

“Just one last thing,” she added, “I’m so sorry but… what was your name again?” she asked with nervous laughter.

“You can call me Q.Z.”

As the day went on, Alice could not stop thinking about what a fascinating morning she had. She wondered when she would be able to go to the attic again, perhaps late during the night. The books were so intriguing, maybe she could convince Q.Z. to let her borrow just one… or two… or a whole collection. But what she truly wanted to know more about were those letters!

By closing time, she still hadn’t seen Q.Z. Tomorrow was a new day. Alice’s mind was full of so much curiosity that she had to start writing down all her thoughts and questions just to keep track of them.

The next day, she did not see him at all. And then a full week went by and she still hadn’t seen him. It wasn’t fair; he left her with so many questions. She found herself desperately asking co-workers about a “Q.Z.” — but they were clueless. No one knew who he was. She even went so far as to describe his appearance to others, and nobody knew who she was talking about.

Fueled with frustration, Alice decided to return to the attic. Once again she arrived at the library in the early morning hours before sunrise. She climbed up the same ladder and found the same spare key to open the locked door.

“Hello?!” she called out as soon as she entered the attic. “Q.Z.?”

No response.

Her heart was beating super fast. She knew she could not stay for long, but since she was already here… she casually gravitated towards the chest full of letters. Unsure if it was her imagination or not, she thought she heard footsteps, which made her panic. Acting quickly, she grabbed a random letter, folded it up, and then stuffed it in her pocket. She ran and hid behind one of the bookshelves. Waiting for a minute… she no longer heard any noises, and so she made a brisk exit.

Alice ran to the bathroom and locked the door so she could read the random letter she had grabbed. Why am I so drawn to these letters? she asked herself, what is this need to find out more about them? Why did I have to steal one?! Oh my gosh, I am totally going to get caught up for this… I don’t care! I have to know!

My dearest,

I was pondering over the thought of “memories.” What does it mean to have a memory? How can we trust that we remember things the right way? What good do memories serve us?

The bad memories are so painful. My heart becomes as heavy as a stone and falls to the ground. My face turns stiff. My throat tightens and it becomes hard to breathe. The world around me has a bluish tint. I want to run away screaming at the top of my lungs. They serve as a painful reminder that the past is NEVER in the past. And so I forget the bad memories.

The good memories… those are almost worse. The good memories mock me with evil laughter. I will never be able to relive them. My veins contract as it becomes harder for my heart to pump blood throughout my body. They serve as a painful reminder that the past is ALWAYS in the past. And so I forget the good memories.

What am I left with? I am left with the present… the beautiful present! That is all we need. I can inhale and exhale with ease. There is no sense of separation. Everything simply is as it is.

Love always, xoxo.

Alice thought — if some strange and puzzling man who goes by “Q.Z.” is going to get her hooked on a mystery and then completely disappear, then she is just going to have to solve it herself.

Unsure of where to start, that night, Alice turned to the Internet. First, she did more research about the library and if there was any information regarding “the secret attic” — nope, there was nothing. Next, she tried to figure out ways she could accurately DNA test the letter — no such luck. Finally she gave up, and determined that she would just have to go back to the attic tomorrow morning until she found her answers, no matter the risk.

That next day before sunrise, she once again returned to the attic. Startled, she noticed that a light was already on. She cautiously peered her head in to see who was there — and there he was!

As soon as Q.Z. spotted her, he motioned her to quickly come inside. So she locked the door behind her and anxiously ran over to him.

“Where’ve you been?” Alice shouted, “You left me with so many questions! You told me you would explain everything!”

“Shhh!” he quieted her in a soft voice, “Listen. If you care about your safety, your health, your life… you’re going to have to pretend you were never up here. You know absolutely nothing.”

“What’s going on?” Alice nervously asked. It was like a totally different man — face pale, body stiff, and eyes anxiously wide. Not the cool and composed image she remembered.

“You need to return that letter. You can’t be sneaking up here, stealing things, trying to get more information. You’re going to get yourself sucked down a tunnel you do not want to go down.”

“Who wrote them? Why are they stashed away up here with all these forbidden books? I don’t understand why, but I just have to know!”

“Knowledge is dangerous,” he shook his head, “there are some things you should be happy not to know.”

“Knowledge is power,” Alice struck back.

“And power is dangerous.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to get you into trouble and I will gladly forget everything if that’s what makes you happy. Can you please just tell me who wrote these letters? And then my mind can finally settle in peace.”

He stood there in silence like he was heavily contemplating what he wanted to say next. Finally, he burst out, “you wrote those letters!”

“Huh?” Alice stared at him, completely perplexed.

“You wrote these letters in secret. You had to disguise your handwriting,” he explained, “of course you can’t remember…”

“How is that even possible?” She asked, “what’s going on?”

To be continued…