Monday, August 11, 2008

Windigo Decapitation and Cannibalism

Windigo can be the hairy hominoid, the cannibal giant, and the psychosis. The three are merging and swirling around in the recent story of the beheading and eating of flesh on the Canadian Greyhound bus.

The Windigo (also known as the Wendigo, Windago, Windiga, Witiko, Wihtikow, and numerous other variants) is an unknown hairy hominoid tied to the legends and folklore of First Nations people linked by the Algonquin languages.

The Windigo is a bipedal hairy creature, equal to the Eastern Bigfoot, Stone Giant, or Marked Hominid in some classification systems, which is often said to have aggressive behaviors and a malevolent cannibalistic spirit into which humans could transform, or which could possess humans. Those who indulged in cannibalism were at particular risk, and the legend appears to have reinforced this practice as taboo.

Windigo Psychosis is a culture-bound disorder which involves an intense craving for human flesh and the fear that one will turn into a cannibal. Some ethnographers said this once occurred frequently among Algonquian cultures, though there is some sense that the psychological disorder may have been overstated and/or it has declined with Native American urbanization.

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"Old Yellow Top," a regional name for a Windigo, the original Forest Giant of cryptozoology, not psychology, drawn by Harry Trumbore in The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates.

In John Green's Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, the researcher mentions the Cree in Manitoba call their Sasquatch the Weetekow and the Saulteaux term them the Wendego. These are variations on the spelling of Windigo seen throughout Canada but not on the hairy hominoid being described, as I discuss extenstively in Chapter 3, "Native Traditions," in Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America, pages 26-34.



Writing in The Edmonton Sun, columnist Andrew Hanon points out that there is a strange overlap between a column he wrote on July 20, 2008, about the study of the psychological Windigo by Nathan Carlson, and the recent Greyhound bus decapitation and cannibalism incident of July 30.

Hanon writes on Monday, August 11, 2008, that there seems to be a "Horrifying coincidence in beheading."

Hanon writes, in part:

Nathan Carlson has barely slept since July 30.

"Ever since it happened, I haven't been able to get it out of my head," Carlson says haltingly. "I just don't know what to think of it, quite frankly."

The Edmonton ethno-historian is one of the world's leading experts on Windigo phenomenon, and the recent horrific beheading and alleged cannibalism on a Greyhound bus bound for Winnipeg from Edmonton rocked him to his very core.

As the grisly details of Tim McLean's last moments on Earth came to light in the following days, Carlson sank deeper and deeper into a fog of horror and revulsion.

Vince Weiguang Li is accused of abruptly attacking McLean, who by all accounts he didn't even know -- while McLean slept on the bus.

Up until a few days before the killing, Li held a part- time job delivering newspapers in Edmonton. He was well thought-of by his boss and considered a nice guy, if a bit quiet and shy.

On July 20 -- just 10 days before the killing -- Li delivered copies of the Sun that contained an extensive interview with Carlson about his research into the Windigo, a terrifying creature in native mythology that has a ravenous appetite for human flesh. It could take possession of people and turn them into cannibalistic monsters.


Below, Vince Weiguang Li, the 40-year-old suspect being transported by Canadian law enforcement personnel, and the headshot of his victim, Tim McLean.

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More MySpace photos of Tim McLean, who called himself "Jokawild."

Carlson documented several cases in northern Alberta communities where people believing they were "turning Windigo" would go into convulsions, make terrifying animal sounds and beg their captors to kill them before they started eating people.

In last month's bus case, Li allegedly butchered McLean's body, brandishing the victim's severed head at the men who trapped him on the bus until police could arrive.

He was later accused of eating McLean's flesh.

When he appeared in a Portage La Prairie courthouse on charges of second-degree murder, the only words Li reportedly uttered were pleas for someone to kill him.

A lot of his reported behaviour eerily mirrors the Windigo cases recounted in the newspaper feature that Li helped deliver to Edmonton homes just days before McLean was killed, one of the most gruesome slayings in modern Canadian history.

Several media reports called McLean's killing unprecedented - an unspeakable, random attack the likes of which has never been seen in Canada.

But Carlson knows better.

"There are just too many parallels," he says.

"I can't say there's definite connection, but there are just too many coincidences.

"It's beyond eerie."


As the following article is rapidly disappearing into the archives, so here is the full story mentioned above, for research purposes.

Sun, July 20, 2008
Evil spirit made man eat family
A look back at Swift Runner

By Andrew Hanon

On a cold December day in 1879, a man was hanged in Fort Saskatchewan, putting an end to one of the most horrifying killing sprees in Alberta history.

Swift Runner was executed for murdering and then eating eight members of his own family over the previous winter. He believed he was possessed by Windigo, a terrifying mythological creature with a ravenous appetite for human flesh.

It wasn’t an isolated case. During the late 1800s and into the 20th Century, fear of Windigo haunted northern Alberta communities, resulting in several grisly deaths.

Sun Media’s Andrew Hanon speaks with Nathan Carlson, one of the world’s leading authorities on Windigo, about Carlson’s personal connection to the blood-curdling creature.

Some call him a serial killer.

Others call him a desperate madman.

But right up until the trap door swung open and the rope snapped taut around his neck, one of Alberta’s most prolific murderers insisted it was an evil spirit that compelled him to butcher and eat his entire family.

Over the course of a single winter, he devoured his wife, six children, mother and brother.

MOST HORRIFYING

The man, a Cree trapper named Swift Runner, was hanged in 1879 in Fort Saskatchewan, the first legal execution in Alberta. The macabre case is considered by many to be the most horrifying crime in the province’s history.

But what most people don’t realize is that it was part of a much larger phenomenon that Edmonton ethno-historian Nathan Carlson calls Windigo condition, which haunted communities right across northern Alberta in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and cost dozens of lives.

The Windigo (an Anglicized form of the word Witiko) is a mythological creature among native cultures from the Rockies to northern Quebec. It has an insatiable appetite for human flesh and wreaks destruction wherever it goes.

Carlson describes it as “the consummate predator of humanity.” It’s sometimes described as “an owl-eyed monster with large claws, matted hair, a naked emaciated body and a heart made of solid ice.”

“It’s extremely destructive,” he says. “The more it eats, the hungrier it gets, so it just keeps killing.”

Windigos can possess people, transforming them into wild-eyed, violent, flesh-eating maniacs with superhuman strength. Many native people in northern Alberta lived in terror of being possessed.

“It’s important to understand that cannibalism was repellent to the people,” Carlson explains. “The Windigo personified evil.”

The Swift Runner case caused an international sensation, making headlines in newspapers across Canada and the U.S.

According to accounts, he wandered alone into the Catholic Mission in St. Albert in the spring of 1879, claiming to be the only member of his family who didn’t starve to death over a particularly cold, bitter winter.

The priests became suspicious when they realized that Swift Runner, who weighed around 200 pounds, didn’t seem malnourished at all and was plagued with screaming fits and nightmares as he slept. He told them he was being tormented by an evil spirit, called Windigo, but said little else about it.

They reported their misgivings to police, who took Swift Runner to his family campground in the woods northeast of Edmonton, where they made a horrific discovery - the site was littered with bones, bits of flesh and hair. Some accounts claim that the larger bones had even been snapped and the marrow sucked out.

He eventually confessed that he shot some of his family, bludgeoned others with an axe and even strangled one girl with a cord. In some accounts, Swift Runner said he fed one boy human flesh before he too was killed.

‘THE LEAST OF MEN’

Before he was hanged, Swift Runner expressed extreme remorse. He told Father Hippolyte Leduc, “I am the least of men and do not merit even being called a man.”

Interestingly, Swift Runner is the only documented case Carlson can find of someone killing others because he thought he was possessed by a Windigo.

All other deaths he can document were cases of “Windigo executions,” where others have killed the person believed to be possessed. They were acts of self-preservation, attempts to protect their community.

In most of the cases, the victims themselves begged to be killed before they harmed their families.

In many cases, witnesses reported physical changes -bodies swelling and growing, lips and mouths enlarging. Some of the victims spoke of icy cold in their chests and an inability to warm up.

Carlson, who’s Metis, first heard about the Windigo from his grandmother, who told him about an incident at Trout Lake, where members of the community killed a man possessed by a demon that had been cursed and turned into a Windigo.

The story haunted him throughout his childhood, and after his grandmother died in 2002, he discovered an eerily similar story in an archived newspaper.

“I was somewhat confounded by the discovery of the newspaper account that seemed to confirm a story that had been in my family for almost 100 years,” he says.

Further research revealed that the man who was killed was also a distant relative of Carlson’s.

Carlson is now writing a book on the Windigo condition in northern Alberta and is negotiating with filmmakers about a documentary.


Russian Wildman

The Marked Hominid, another view of the Windigo of cryptozoology, not psychology, as drawn by artist Harry Trumbore in The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Brotherhood of the Bell

A film involving the suicide of an individual who is pressured by a secret society, alluding to the background of rumors of ritualized deaths and copycat suicides theorized among secret society researchers, is worthy of some attention.

9thDegree

The Brotherhood of the Bell is a 1970 made-for-television movie produced by Cinema Center 100 Productions and starring Glenn Ford. The director Paul Wendkos was nominated in 1971 by the Directors Guild of America for "outstanding directorial achievement in television." It should be noted that Paul Wendkos (b. 1925) is still alive, and went on to direct other intriguing movies, such as The Mephisto Waltz (1971) and episodes of the harmonically named television program, "Route 66."

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The motion picture has been interpreted as a fictionalized portrayal of a real-life, academic-based secret organization, in general.

But The Brotherhood of the Bell is something more. It allegedly is especially based on the secret society called the Order or Chapter 322, known in the popular jargon as Skull and Bones or Bones, which only exists at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The film relates how a successful Economics professor, Dr. Andrew Patterson, discovers that an elite fraternity he had joined 22 years before in college is really a callous banking and business cabal that obtains wealth and power for its members through nefarious practices.

Twenty-two years after his initiation into a secret society known as the "Brotherhood of the Bell" or "the Bell," Dr. Andrew (Andy) Patterson (Glenn Ford) is requested to be the "senior" of a new initiate, Phillip Everest Dunning (Robert Pine). The initiation takes place in "the secret chamber of the bell" in the Beta Epsilon Lambda fraternity house of St. George College in San Francisco at sunrise.

Patterson is coldly greeted by the house proctor Weber, who directs him to the library where he meets his "senior" Chad Harmon (Dean Jagger) of San Francisco, a member for forty years. The initiation takes place before a large bell in the center of points of the compass depicted on the floor.

Phillip Dunning had been studying the articles and letters of the brotherhood since midnight. He is then instructed by Harmon to give them to him to be destroyed. He is sworn to secrecy, and he takes his appropriate place at the due east compass point with Harmon at the south point, Patterson at the west point, and Weber at the north point. He is reminded that he will be given an assignment or "due bill" at some indeterminate time in the future, and instructed that he is obliged to carry it out without question. The four men recite the oath of loyalty and secrecy and end by tolling the bell.

As they leave the fraternity house Chad Harmon gives Patterson a business card with an address written on it, telling him to stop by there before he takes the return flight to Los Angeles. In a parting conversation with his new junior Phillip Dunning, he makes the point of telling him that they are not only part of the Establishment but "the Establishment."

Patterson arrives at the address on the business card to find that it is a mansion that is probably unoccupied—the furniture in the parlor he goes to is covered with dust sheets. A tall gray-haired man asks him for the card, and hands him two envelopes. A legal envelope contains the assignment, and a large manila envelope contains materials that assist in carrying out the assignment. Patterson is told to open them one hour after leaving the mansion.

Chad Harmon is then shown in his office being seated for luncheon when Patterson is ushered in. When the two of them are alone, Patterson tells Harmon his assignment: to see to it that a colleague at his institute, Dr. Constantine Horvathy (Eduard Franz), decline a deanship of the College of Linguistics in the eastern United States to which he has been appointed. The materials to assist in that assignment are photostated dossiers (pictures and descriptions) of all the men and women in a Communist nation that helped him to defect to the west. Patterson is instructed to send them to the embassy of that nation if Horvathy refuses to comply.

Since Horvathy is a dear friend of Patterson and his wife, Harmon tries to calm Patterson with advice to make his appeal to Horvathy on a personal level, which might eliminate the need of blackmail. Patterson summarily complies when he returns to Los Angeles by seeing Dr. Horvathy just before an evening scholarly presentation.

Dr. Horvathy does not agree to comply with Patterson's request that he decline the deanship, and demands reasons why he should do so. Patterson hands him the dossiers, and Horvathy is horrified as its release would cause the deaths of many people back in the old country. A terrified Horvathy into hurrying back to his apartment and dies by suicide that evening in his bathtub.

Dr. and Mrs. Vivian Patterson (Rosemary Forsyth) are awakened by police investigating Horvathy's suicide since Patterson was the last person to talk with Horvathy. When the police leave Dr. Patterson tells his wife the real reason Horvathy took his own life. Vivian suggests that Patterson see her father Harry Masters (Maurice Evans) and ask his advice.

Harry Masters and Patterson meet with a Thaddeus Byrnes, whom Masters says is an agent of the "Federal Security Services" (fictitious name for the FBI). They meet in what Byrnes calls a cover office. Byrnes persuades Patterson to surrender the papers he has, which he does. When there is no follow up, Patterson returns to the building, which also houses an ostensible office of the Federal Security Services. An Agent Shepherd (Dabney Coleman) gives Patterson the astounding news that there is no agent Thaddeus Byrnes, and that there is no record of his report to the FSS with information on the Brotherhood of the Bell. Harry Masters when called by Shepherd denies having taken Patterson to see Byrnes, and tells him that Patterson is emotionally disturbed and needs to consult a psychiatrist.

Coincidentally, when Patterson goes again to Harry Master's home he finds him in his study with a psychiatrist. Patterson ends the visit with the statement, "You're a damned liar, Harry!"

Patterson then finds out that his entire branch of economics at his college must be discontinued by the Dean Dr. Jerry Fielder (William Smithers) due to a rash stoppage of grant money. Patterson is then "black-listed" so that he cannot acquire employment elsewhere as a professor. The strain of all of this causes Vivian and him to separate as he realizes that all he has ever had in life for the past 22 years has been given to him because he was a Brother of the Bell.

Patterson holds a press conference in which he discloses the existence of the Brotherhood of the Bell and his assignment from them that brought about Constantine Horvathy's death. It is denied by Chad Harmon, and the local district attorney discounts it on lack of evidence.

His father Mike Patterson (Will Geer), who is a road construction contractor, is also ruined by a sudden audit of Patterson Construction's books. The elder Patterson suffers a stroke in a confrontation with Harry Masters and dies shortly thereafter.

Dr. Patterson has now become a crusader to expose and destroy the Brotherhood of the Bell. He appears on a local television talk show hosted by Bart Harris (William Conrad), who conducts an on-the-air forum of people, who respond to his guests. Since Patterson alleges a conspiracy, two eccentric forum participants claim that they know all about it as something altogether different. Harris humiliates Patterson by telling him that he is part of a lunatic fringe in the United States, which finds conspiracy everywhere. Patterson attacks Harris physically and is led off to jail.

Help comes from an unexpected quarter when his friend Dr. Fielder bails him out of jail and has him stay at his home. He encourages Patterson to find another Brother of the Bell to come forward with him. Patterson can think of no one who would do this but his own junior Phillip Dunning. He flies to San Francisco, and confronts Dunning in his dorm room early in the morning. Feeling he has failed to convince Dunning, he dejectedly returns to the airport. He is shown walking down a deserted corridor of the airport when he hears footsteps of someone running towards him. It is Dunning rushing to meet up with him to go back to Los Angeles and do what Dr. Fielder had suggested.

Speaking of bells....

A successful 1958 movie, Bell, Witch, and Candle involves a coven of characters, a Greenwich Village witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) who owns a gallery of primitive art, publisher Shep Henderson (James Stewart), Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), author of a best-selling book, Magic in Mexico, who is researching a book on witches in New York, and his collaborator, Gillian's warlock brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon). Few today realize that speculation about witches, voodoo, and warlocks was so popular in the 1950s.

More Brotherhoods...

The legacy of Brotherhood of the Bell continues in the film, The Skulls (2000), which stars Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, and Leslie Bibb. It is directed by Rob Cohen, the famed director of the new The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). The Skulls plot is based upon some of the conspiracy theories surrounding Yale University's so-called Skull and Bones student society.

The phrase "Brotherhood of the Bell" is also used in the title of a book by Joseph P. Farrell, Ph. D.

Farrell's The SS Brotherhood of the Bell: Nasa's Nazis, JFK, And Majic-12 caused one reviewer to remark that it is filled with an "incoherent pastiche of interlocking conspiracies that populate the chapters. "

Farrell's tease is that the book is about "a mysterious Nazi secret weapons project code-named The Bell [that in 1945] left its underground bunker in lower Silesia, with its project documentation, and the 4-star SS general Hans Kammler. Taken aboard a massive six engine Junkers 390 ultra-long range aircraft, The Bell, Kammler, and all project records disappeared completely, along with the gigantic Junkers 390 carrying them. It has been speculated that it flew to Argentina."

I'll stop there.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympics: Dark Drum Tower Deaths

There has been a murder-suicide at the the "dark drum" tower in Beijing, on the first day after the opening of the 2008 Olympics.

A relative of the US men's volleyball coach has been killed, another family member seriously injured, and their Chinese guide also wounded, all in a knife attack in Beijing, the US Olympic Committee said. Those attacked included Todd Bachman, his wife Barbara, their daughter Elisabeth and a Chinese guide.

(The U.S. head volleyball coach is Hugh McCutcheon and his assistants are Ron Larsen and John Speraw, who is also the UC-Irvine head coach. They all live in Orange County, California. McCutcheon, a native of New Zealand, is married to former U.S. national team player Elisabeth Bachman.)

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Drum Tower

The American man was killed and his American woman companion wounded, on Saturday, August 9, 2008, by a Chinese man who then leapt to his own death, falling approximately 130 feet. The body of the attacker, who was wearing a red shirt, lay on the ground for two hours before it was removed by an ambulance, witnesses said.

A Chinese tour guide, a woman, was also wounded in the attack, which happened at the historic Drum Tower monument, a popular tourist site, just after noon, around 12:20 pm (local time).

The attacker was identified as Tang Yongming, a 47-year-old man from the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, He jumped to his death from the second level of the Drum Tower, a spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Government Information Office said. The official said both U.S. citizens had entered China with tourist visas.

A White House spokesman informed the media that President Bush, who is attending Olympic events Saturday, was told about the attack against the U.S. citizens. The U.S. Embassy and the White House have offered the victims' families whatever assistance is needed, according to China's official news agency, Xinhua and the international news agency, CNN.

The Drum Tower is in the historic heart of Beijing. Together with the Bell Tower, the sites were once used for banging of drums and bells to tell time. Now the Drum and Bell towers are tourist sites, with visitors able to stroll from them to the city's famed old lakes and other historic areas.

Police closed off the Drum Tower following the incident.

The Drum Tower is located northwest of the Bell Tower, across the Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square. Both of them are called the "sister buildings" or "morning bell and dark drum." In ancient China, especially from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the drums were used to signal the running of time and on occasion were used as an alarm in emergency situations.

Dark, indeed.

In lexilinking, the name game, and the twilight language, one of the most significant monikers is Bell (e.g. Brotherhood of the Bell, Bell Witch, Art Bell, Nazi Bell, Confederate spy John Yates Beall hanged at Fort Lafayette).

"Words tend to be involved in events of, at best, a sort of Puckish drollery and at worst, tragedy....I'm not talking here of such spooky tongue-twisters as H. P. Lovecraft's Yog-Sothoth or Arthur Machen Ishakshar, but of quite ordinary names like Bell, Beall and variants...." ~ Jim Brandon, The Rebirth of Pan, 1983: 185.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Joker's Card, Jokawild and Decapitations

The Joker is wild. But so are a many other things overlapping with The Dark Knight.

Following my posting on "The Dark Knight Curse", a phenomenon that was even discussed on CNN yesterday, some questioned whether or not the Joker is actually holding a "calling card" with a decapitated head. I was told that in the actual movie the Heath Ledger character has another card in his hand.

First to clear up what is on the card. Here below is a closeup of the card from a movie props site, labeled specifically "Dark Knight, The (2008), Joker's Calling Card." The card shows an inverted decapitated head.

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See larger version at bottom of posting.

Death cards and Joker's cards are usually a little more subtle than what you are seeing here from The Dark Knight.

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The Ace of Spade has traditionally been a "death card" left on bodies in military situations, as depicted from the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now (1979). Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight is merely continuing that tradition.

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The images of what the Joker is holding may have been changed in final post-production or in later publicity images, as reflected here in this promo poster of the Joker and of one of the Batman.

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But in the early trailers, initial publicity photographs, and early posters, they all certainly do show the decapitation on the Joker's calling card.

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Jokawild

The spooky links to the decapitation death of Tim McLean, who was beheaded on the Greyhound bus, continue to be found. Shown following is the routine media image of the victim, whose head is unfortunately found free-floating within the frame, with Vince Weiguang Li, the 40-year-old suspect being transported by Canadian law enforcement personnel.

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Below is the MySpace head shot of the victim McLean. I mentioned on August 2, on various forums, that on his MySpace profile, McLean called himself "Jokawild," had three tattoos, owned an iguana and loved loud music and motorcycles.

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Todd Campbell writing of Tim McLean at his blog Through the Looking Glass has dug up information that reveals one of the passions of the victim's, he was a big fan of Insane Clown Posse.

Campbell also found photos of Tim McLean wearing clown makeup and of his large clown tatoo on his back.

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Also as noted before, Tim McLean, who loved being a carny, was headed to Winnipeg after working with the carnival in Edmonton. It was McLean's third stint as a summer carnival worker at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition, where he worked for LL Enterprises, which provides midway games such as rollerball and darts to carnivals across the country.

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Perhaps the most famous stunt in the new Batman movie is when Joker's semi-truck completely flips over. As you can see above, the truck's side is painted with images of a ferris wheel and a roller coaster at a carnival or circus.

The melodrama of the real-life decapitation of the clown-covered carny on a Greyhound bus and the real-life decapitation of an adolescent by the Batman roller-coaster synchs strangely with the character and death of Heath Ledger, the Joker, holding a Joker's Card with a decapitation in The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight was released on July 18, 2008. The incident on the Canadian bus where a man beheaded a fellow passenger occurred on July 30th.

A 17-year-old South Carolina teen Asia Leeshawn Ferguson, of Springfield, S.C., was decapitated by the "Batman the Ride" rollercoaster at Six Flags Over Georgia about 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, 2008. It was the second Batman ride-related death at the Cobb County park. Six years earlier, a 58-year-old park worker, Samuel Milton Guyton of Atlanta, was killed on May 26, 2002. Guyton was in a restricted area on a platform when he was kicked in the head by 14-year-old girl on the front car of the ride. The girl was hospitalized with a leg injury.

In March, 2007, a worker dismantling a ride at Six Flags Great America near Chicago fell 40-feet to his death. In 2004 at the same park, a maintenance worker was hit by a roller coaster and killed.

A 55-year-old disabled man was killed in May 2004 when he was thrown from a ride at Six Flags New England near Springfield, Mass. Five years ago, a grandmother strapping her 4-year-old grandson into Six Flags New Orleans' Joker's (!) Jukebox ride was hit by a spinning car when the ride began operating before she was out of the way.

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More Clowns and Twilight Language

Heath Ledger modeled his Joker character after "Alex" in A Clockwork Orange.

The Joker = Heath Ledger was found dead in his fourth-floor apartment at 421 Broome Street, between Crosby and Lafayette Streets in SoHo, New York City, on the day of the Full Moon, January 22, 2008.

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I've written extensively of the Name Game (e.g. Lafayette = little fairy, little enchantment), of the specialness of time and place and their ties to weirdness. I've penned words on the Phantom Clowns, a phase I coined in 1981, to capture the strangeness of killer clowns out to abduct young people, even before the seemingly free-floating head of Stephen King's It (below) terrorized the masses.

It seems as though there is a Zorro - Phantom Clown connection, as well; see my 2005 posting, "The Naked Zorro".

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As the years pass by, if there's one movie which may become a magnet for the Macabré (the dance of death), it would surely seem that The Dark Knight shall join films such as the original The Omen, which tops all other films in having the most cinematic decapitation in history.

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Batman and Zorro

A word definitely needs to be inserted about the movie showing on McLean's Greyhound bus. It was The Legend of Zorro.

Zorro and Batman are linked in the fictional literature ~ symbolically, historically, and closely.

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In the column, "Batman Begins and the Comics, Part : Sequential Culture #34," (17 June 2005/updated 9 Aug 2005) Julian Darius writes:

"The death scene has been depicted countless times, but none as memorably as in the flashbacks in [Frank Miller's graphic comic Batman:] The Dark Knight Returns and Year One. The most startling change [in director Christopher Nolan's 2005 Batman Begins] is that the family emerges from the opera before being killed: in the comics, it has been a movie. Though the particulars have changed, the film tends to be a Zorro film. In the first chapter of Year One, it was The Mark of Zorro. In the silent flashback version in The Dark Knight Returns, only 'Zorro' is visible on the movie theatre's marquis, though the elderly Wayne seeing The Mark of Zorro on television triggers the memory."

The sequel to Batman Begins is, of course, The Dark Knight, based on Frank Miller's use of that name in his graphic novels.

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Wikipedia also talks of this link between Batman and Zorro, under its discussion of the 1940 film, The Mark of Zorro:

"In the DC Comics continuity it is established that The Mark of Zorro was the film which the young Bruce Wayne had seen with his parents at the cinema, moments before they were killed in front of his eyes by an armed thug. Zorro is often portrayed as Bruce's childhood hero and an influence on his Batman persona. There are discrepancies regarding which version Bruce saw, The Dark Knight Returns claims it was the Tyrone Power [1940] version whereas a story by Alan Grant claimed it to be the silent [1920] Douglas Fairbanks original.

In the animated series Justice League Unlimited, a flashback of the fateful night establishes that for DCAU continuity, the young Bruce and his parents also were attending The Mark of Zorro, though there is nothing to indicate which version."

The version of the film being shown on the decapitation Greyhound bus trip was The Legend of Zorro, a 2005 sequel to 1998's The Mask of Zorro, both directed by Martin Campbell, and both starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

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In the previous movie in the series, The Mask of Zorro, there is a fictionalized version of a famous beheading.

The tale that merges reality with fiction within the movie is the one of Joaquín Murieta, (1829?–1853), a real-life California bandit, who was born in Mexico.

From 1849 to 1851, Murieta worked in the California gold mine fields. After he and his family were mistreated by American miners and driven from their claim, he became the leader of a band of desperadoes. For two years, his robberies and murders terrorized California, until the legislature authorized Captain Harry Love, deputy sheriff of Los Angeles County, to organize a company of mounted rangers to exterminate Murrieta's band.

Surprised at his camp near Tulare Lake, Murrieta was shot, decapitated, and most of his followers were killed or captured. Murrieta's head was displayed for all to see afterward.

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In The Mask of Zorro, Matt Letscher plays Captain Harrison Love, who kills Zorro's brother, and shows the brother's head in a jar.

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Batman and Mothman

A synch headnote about Mothman: it is a headless creature specifically seen in the Point Pleasant, West Virginia, area from 1966-1967. At first called a "big bird" by locals, an Ohio newspaper's copyeditor, who was a fan of the "Batman" series on television at the time, coined the name "Mothman" for a headline. It stuck.

There is no "Mothman" character in any of the Batman TV programs. It appears the copyeditor merely came up with the invented name because of the sound of the word.

The Mothman Prophecies, a 1975 book by John A. Keel, was made into a 2002 movie, directed by Mark Pellington.

One of the most dramatic scenes was the re-creation, of the 5:04 PM, December 15, 1967, collapse of Point Pleasant's Silver Bridge during rush hour. A total of 46 people perished, and 44 bodies were recovered. Several seemingly related deaths have ended up on the "Mothman Death Curse" list.

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For more background, see Mothman and Other Curious Encounters.

As the movie began screening on January 25, 2002, one group of the original witnesses, the Mallettes were attending a funeral in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Stephen Mallette, who was one of the first four witnesses, was mourning the passing of his brother, Charlie, due to a brain tumor. Charles Putnam 'Charlie' Mallette, 43, of Point Pleasant, died Thursday, January 22, 2002, at his home. (This happens to be the same date as Heath Ledger's death date, six years later.)

Over 80 people are on the list, including, on July 30, 2004, Jennifer Barrett-Pellington, 42, wife of The Mothman Prophecies director Mark Pellington, who died suddenly, in Los Angeles, after a short illness.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Dark Knight Curse

A Batman beheading? Have people so quickly forgotten a recent tragedy?

Heightened awareness of decapitations has occurred in the last few days due to the incidents in Brazil, Dubai, Greece, and, of course, the bus event in Canada (during the showing of The Legend of Zorro). Also, please note it is in the earlier The Mask of Zorro, that features Zorro's/Diego’s brother’s beheading. In that Zorro movie, the decapitation is done by a sadistic, psychotic Texian Army Captain named Harrison Love.

There remains no explanation of why the name "Badger" became the code word given to suspect Vincent Li of Edmonton, Alberta, by the law enforcement officers

Chronologically, it should be mentioned that these news items were proceeded by a Batman-related beheading.

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On Saturday, June 28th, at Six Flags Over Georgia, 17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson of Springfield, South Carolina, scaled two six-foot fences and passed through restricted areas posted as dangerous to visitors. Ferguson jumped the fences and was then decapitated by the Batman roller coaster. (It should not be lost on people that the victim of the Canadian bus beheading was a young man who told his friends he "loved being a carny." Tim McLean was headed to Winnipeg after working with the carnival in Edmonton.)

Then comes The Dark Knight.

On August 5, 2008, The Boston Herald reporter Stephen Schaefer asks, "Is The Dark Knight cursed?"

It was only a matter of time until the mass media would catch on to this "curse." People have been mumbling about it since Heath Ledger died. As those watching for the curse of threes have noticed, Ledger died, Christian Bale was arrested and now Morgan Freeman has been in a tragic car crash.

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Schaefer writes:

The box-office behemoth, expected to pass the $400 million mark this week, is notorious as being the late Heath Ledger's last completed movie.

Now Morgan Freeman, the 71-year-old actor who plays Batman's techie Lucius Fox, is in serious condition following a car accident in Mississippi late Sunday night.

The Oscar-winning actor was driving his wife's friend Demaris Meyer's 1997 Nissan Maxima when it rolled off Tallahatchie County Highway 32, flipping over several times. Meyer was treated for minor injuries and released.

Freeman, who was driving to his Charleston home, reportedly suffered broken ribs and was air-lifted to Regional Medical Center in Tennessee.

This tragedy follows assault allegations made last month by the mother and sister of "The Dark Knight" star Christian Bale. The 34-year-old Bale denied the charges. He'll be back in court next month.

"The Dark Knight" is dedicated to both the 28-year-old Ledger, who died of an accidental overdose last Jan. 22, and Conway Wickliffe, 41, a stunt supervisor who died in a freak accident in London while setting up a car crash.


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The twilight language and name game is all around, and I have written extensively on this theme before.

As an update, blogger Todd Campbell, after reading the above, has forwarded the following photographs to my attention, from the movie. He has a post on this now.

What do we find these photos have revealed?

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Embedded within the movie (or, at least, certainly in the trailers, as shown in these photos first published by Entertainment Weekly) is the Heath Ledger character, the Joker, using the Joker/Death card as his "business calling card," as pictured, shown holding a decapitated head. (If factual, the powerful nature of these images only being in the trailer and pre-release publicity photos but not in the actual film is significant. The trailer carries the keys to mass public programming to "sell" the motion picture.)

Schaefer writes that The Dark Knight joins a grim list of "cursed" films.

The Superman hex struck Christopher Reeve, who shot to fame after starring in the 1978 movie, after he broke his neck in a horse riding accident. Television's original "Superman," George Reeves died in an apparent suicide in 1969.

(In June 2007, a teenager's legs were severed when cables snapped on the Superman Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Kentucky.)

The 1982 horror classic Poltergeist was haunted by the premature deaths of two of its female stars. Vanity Fair celebrity scribe Dominick Dunne's daughter Dominique was murdered by her live-in lover soon after the film was finished. And Heather O'Rourke, the film's child star, died in 1988 at age 12 of cardiopulmonary arrest prompted by Crohn's disease.
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I have written of the "Mothman Death Curse" online and specifically in the August 2004 issue of Fortean Times, with a list of over 80-related deaths, some of surprisingly young people and others of elder members of the crew, cast, and aligned associates of the film.

From Batman to Mothman, whether or not there are curses is not important. The fact that they have become part of popular culture and that there is a dark sense that there may be such things in the modern world, in the end, may be what becomes more significant.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Decapitations: Greece and Canada

Malcolm Brabant's BBC News article for August 3, 2008, "Gruesome crime shocks Greek isle" tells that police on the Greek island of Santorini have shot and injured a 35 year old knifeman who decapitated his girlfriend and walked around the streets with her head.

The suspect was shot during a dramatic car chase in which he crashed into a motorbike and badly injured the rider and passenger.

The crime is one of the most gruesome in Greece in recent memory.

CNN is reporting late on August 4th that there are rumors the same suspect was involved in a possible beheading of a man north of where the suspect beheaded his girlfriend.

It follows, of course, on the heels of the incident last week on July 30th, on the Canadian bus where a man beheaded a fellow passenger.

By week's end, in the following article, "Decapitation Suspect Allegedly Ate Victim," the story grew more disturbing.

A police officer at the scene of a fatal stabbing on a Canadian bus reported seeing the attacker hacking off pieces of the victim's body and eating them, according to a police tape leaked on the Internet on August 2nd.

In the tape of radio transmissions, officers referred to the attacker, who also beheaded the victim, as "Badger." They said he was armed with a knife and scissors and was "defiling the body."

"Badger's at the back of the bus, hacking off pieces and eating it," an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on the tape.

The RCMP described the tapes as "operational police communications and, as such, are not meant for public consumption." The tape was posted on YouTube among other Web sites.

The employer of the man who witnesses said stabbed and beheaded his seat mate on a Greyhound bus in Canada said that he was in shock to learn that his "model employee" has been accused of the grisly attack.

Vincent Augert, an independent contractor who distributes newspapers in Edmonton, Alberta, said that Vince Weiguang Li, was one of his most reliable carriers.

Witnesses described a bloody killing that occurred as some passenger were napping and others watching "The Legend of Zorro" on television screens inside the bus. Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said there were 37 passengers on the Winnipeg, Manitoba-bound bus at the time.

Shortly after passengers reboarded following a break, the suspect - for no apparent reason - stabbed the man sitting next to him several dozen times as others fled in horror, witnesses said. He then severed the man's head, displayed it and began hacking at the body.

Authorities have not released the victim's name but friends identified him as Tim McLean and said he was headed to Winnipeg after working with the carnival in Edmonton.