In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Monday, November 16, 2009

Capela dos Ossos — the Chapel of the Bones

Located next to the Church of St. Francis in the medieval town of Evora, it’s a large room decorated with the bones of more than 5,000 monks, exhumed from local churchyards to be used as building materials way back in the 16th century. As you enter, you pass under this doorway. Its inscription, translated from the Portuguese, means ““We bones here, for yours await.” Nice and creepy.

According to legend, the 16th century Franciscan monk who created the chapel did it not to freak people out or scare them, but to prod visitors into a spirit of quiet contemplation. “Life is fleeting!” the bones are meant to imply. “See?!”

On the other side of the doorway, as you exit, is this cheerful little motif, restored in 1810. The monks who built the chapel got creative with their bones, using them not just to fill wall space, but to create all sorts of decorative patterns. It’s more or less what I imagine a Martha Stewart Halloween special would be like.

Not everyone who visits the chapel is inspired to contemplate the mysteries of death, however, judging from the many graffiti-inscribed skulls that line the walls. Ana Gomes, I hope someone writes on your skull when you’re dead.

As an added bonus, the monks decided to hang two corpses on the wall from a chain — that of a woman and a child. They’ve been there for hundreds of years, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. No one is sure exactly who the unlucky pair are, but rumor has it they were cursed by a powerful man and were refused burial in local cemeteries.

The strangest part about the Chapel was that it didn’t seem all that creepy. There was something sanitized and touristy about the whole thing, with ropes sectioning off the walls so you couldn’t get too close, and an information kiosk just outside the door.

By Ransom Riggs Mental Floss

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tomb Raiders Digging WWII Graves Witness Inexplicable Phenomena

A few years ago the so-called 'black archaeologists,' people conducting independent excavations in the places of World War II battles and looking for precious war trophies, were extremely active. Sometimes during their search they would encounter very strange phenomena.

Bonfire hanging in the air

In 1997, a group of six people headed to Luban in the Leningradsky region, where the ruins of Makaryevsky monastery destroyed during the war rest amidst the swamps. Nearing the ruins, the group noticed bonfire flames. They were shocked to find out that the bonfire was hanging right in the air. As soon as they approached the ruins, the bonfire disappeared.

The "black archaeologists" fixed a camp in the ruins. Throughout the night, they were bothered by wild human screams originating from the woods. None of them rushed to help.

Next morning, one of the archaeologists went to the woods and got lost. He came back three hours later, with his clothes dirty and insane look on his face. He never told his friends what happened to him.

Mines in Myasnoy Bor (Meat Pinewood)

One of the most famous anomalous zones connected to World War II is a marshy valley Myasnoy Bor located 30 kilometers away from Novgorod. Many warriors of the Soviet Second Attack Army, divisions of German Wehrmacht, Spanish “Blue Division” and other troops perished in this area during the Lyuban Offensive Operation of 1942. Many unburied remnants are left here.

Galina Pavlova, head of the group “Search” from Engels city in the Saratov region told about an incident that happened to her in 1997: “The woods of Myasnoy Bor are scary and mystical. As soon as you are left there by yourself, the woods start making sounds. You can clearly hear yells “Hooray,” as if restless souls of the perished warriors still carry out an attack. The day we found the mines, I was behind the guys on a trail. I stopped at a spot that was excavated many times before. Suddenly, I saw that trees were leaning towards the same spot although it was not windy at all. I called the guys, and we found a decomposed wooden box and old mines.”

Alexei, a "black archaeologist" who used to excavate in the woods near Bryansk where Russian front was located in 1942-1943, told an interesting story.

“We excavated the bodies of six Russian and 11 German soldiers, four of which were Wehrmacht soldiers in a swamp trench shelter. We cut the logs and discovered decomposed German boots with bones sticking out. Then we began a more careful excavation, and found pelvic bones, a spine, and ribs. Little by little we dug out remnants of four people. It was getting dark. We left the skeletons at the trench and camped out on a meadow about 200 yards away.

At night something happened. We were woken up by Valera, a guy on duty. He told us that something weird was going on. We got up and started listening carefully. We could hear German speech, songs, laughter and clatter of tracks. It was very scary.

In the morning we went to the trench. It looked the same as when we left it. But when we walked a little further, we saw tank ditches and, most amazingly, fresh tank tracks.”

There is an anomalous zone Zheltoyar, better known as Novokhopersk anomalous zone, in the eastern part of Voronezh region, near the town of Novokhopersk.

Members of an expedition of the Voronezh committee for studying anomalous phenomena led by a famous researcher Genrikh Silanov managed to take pictures of people clad in soldiers’ uniform near tents. A plane phantom appeared on one of the photos. The researchers believe that these were the pictures of World War II. One of the pictures showed a silhouette of a Czech soldier. Later the researchers found that a Czech division that was a part of the Soviet Army used to be located in that area.

Silanov believes that the pictures were typical “chronal mirages” created by the so-called “memory fields” connected to dramatic events that occurred in the past.