Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is your house haunted?

Do you believe in ghosts?

History has numerous accounts of corpses coming back to life. In a variety of ways, (seizures, coma, narcolepsy, trance, electrocution, poisoning, etc.) a living body can give all appearances of being dead. The skin is unresponsive and pale, breathing and heartbeat are imperceptible, and the body is cold and rigid. Hopefully the misdiagnosis is discovered before the body is interred, but on many occasions, corpses have been exhumed, and scratches have been discovered inside the casket showing that the body was buried alive and had clawed the inside of the casket in a futile attempt to escape. To prevent this a body would lie in state in the person's home for several days while a family member would watch over him hoping that the body would awaken. Even today, the custom of viewing a dead body is still called a "wake".

Before the 20th Century, people of England had the idea that after a person died, his spirit might re-enter the body for a short time to attend to some unfinished business. If he came back to life and was trapped in a buried coffin, his business would never be completed. To prevent this, the proper cemeteries of England had the custom of tying a string onto the hand of a corpse. The other end was tied to a bell mounted on top of the gravesite. If the dead body should come back to life, the bell would ring, and the body would be exhumed. A watchman patrolled the cemetery all night listening for bells. If, per chance, a live body was discovered and rescued, his family would say that he was saved by the bell. There is another expression that we use today. If a man bears a close resemblance to his father, we say that the man is a dead ringer of his father, which means that he died and was revived. And, if you work at your job during night hours, we might say that you work the graveyard shift.

It was not uncommon for bodies in a cemetery to be later exhumed. Before perpetual care was included in the price of a cemetery plot, family members had to rent the space. When the family stopped paying the rent, the coffin was removed to a common graveyard, called a "potter's field". This term dates back hundreds of years to England. When an old quarry where potters used to get their clay was abandoned, the empty pit would be filled with bodies who couldn't afford to be buried in the village cemetery. The term is still used today to refer to a common tomb, as opposed to a private one. Here is another expression that we use today: it was customary for families to give their first son the father's name. While the father was alive, the son would always use the title "junior". Immediately following the burial, the son assumed the father's name, and he was never again called junior.

You can see there are many traditions and expressions used today which date back to ancient myths and customs!

So in the spirit of the season I'd like to wish you all an early...

We leave for southern California today but will be back in time to vote! 

*Article written by Ron Ucovich
Alameda Museum Quarterly 


Town and Country Gals said...

Love the pic of the old house! I did live in a haunted Quenn Ann style house in the country for 10 years in NC. We didn't know when we first moved in but once people knew where we lived we started hearing the stories. We did experiance a lot of strange things but it never bothered us. None of it was scary, and as long as that was the case, it was ok. We loved it there. One funny thing, the whole time we lived there, my MIL never spent a night in our house, they always stayed in a hotel when ever they came to visit. We also had to reveal that it ws haunted when we sold it. (Didn't seem to bother the new couple either)!

Myra said...

Fun information. Thanks for sharing.

Acquired Objects said...

Love this post and yes our house is home to a few sprits but I wouldn't call it haunted. I guess you can't live in a 200+ year old house and not have a few souls kicking about. We have a lady upstairs and will smell her lilac scent in the dead of winter and there's a man in my studio. No we've never seen them but you know they're there. It's a very warm and comfortable feeling so I say the more the merrier!


cjsullivan133 said...

I have had many paranormal experiences! Too many to tell on here but my favorite is waking up with a quarter in my hand.. Love this post! The image's and facts are cool! Also here is one: The "Living Room", once called the Parlor because Parlors were used for viewings/wakes- then along came Mortuary's and Parlor rooms in a house were no longer needed. Hence the word Living Room. xoxo
See you at your sale hopefully! Happy Halloween!

Debra Hall said...

Love this post..

classic • casual • home said...

Wow...that is so interesting about the string and bell...great atmospheric info...and I am a little scared alone in the house just now :(

Acanthus and Acorn said...

This was such a fun read and certainly made up for the lack of pumpkins this year!!!

Karena said...

Terri so fascinating especially about the bell attached to the hand of the "corpse"!

Art by Karena
2012 Artists Series

cindy hattersley said...

Great halloween post!