Monday, February 25, 2013

A Photographic Journey Through Nashville's City Cemetery

Nashville City Cemetery is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Tennessee.  It was founded in January of 1822 and by 1850 11,000 souls were laid to rest in this beautiful necropolis.   The cemetery is home to many of Tennessee's prominent historical figures.  Two governors, 4 confederate generals, and many Nashville mayors now call this urban cemetery their resting place.   It is a pretty cemetery hidden between buildings and roads.   Its location is typical of an urban landscape and is unmarked by beauty or darkness, but the cemetery climbs out of this ordinary landscape and remains both lovely and serene.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Movie Review: The Awakening

I try to watch all the haunting movies I can find.   Many of them follow a very similar story arc and I am rarely surprised by them.  Not that this is a bad thing,  I love ghost stories and I enjoy them in all their permutations.  However, it is nice to find a haunting tale that is a little surprising.  I found the awakening to be surprising.  

The Awakening is a mystery set at the height of the spiritualist movement in England.   It is just after World War I and the Spanish Flu and charlatans claiming to speak to the dead are prolific.  The heroine of this tale travels the country debunking fraudulent spiritualists and proving hauntings to be the machinations of man rather than manifestations of the dead.   Of course,  all this changes for our heroine when she is invited to investigate a haunting in a boys' boarding school.  Initially,  it seems that she will be able to quickly debunk the ghost story behind the boys boarding school, but as the haunting escalates, our heroine's wits begin to unravel and we often wonder if perhaps she is more haunted than the school itself.  

The Awakening does an amazing job of mixing the psychological hauntings of those who had survived World War I with the physical haunting of the school.  The ghosts of the soul are just as terrifying as the ones that wander the school and the combination of both creates a beautiful tension in all the characters.  I loved this movie in all its haunting beauty. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kuntilanak: The Monstrous Ghosts of Those Who Die in Childbirth

The Kuntilanak is an extraordinarily malevolent spirit found in Malaysian folklore.  A Kuntilanak is the ghost of a pregnant woman who died in childbirth or died from complications resulting from pregnancy.  The Malaysian word  for a Kuntilanak is Pontijanak which means pregnant.  Kuntilanaks are usually seen either crying or laughing hysterically.  They are often found in old buildings and  and are sometimes said to kidnap and devour small children.  

The Kuntilanak usually appears as a beautiful young woman and this makes her more beguiling to her potential victims.  The smell of fragrant flowers follow them wherever they go.  They use their many charms to seduce men and they are often found by unscrupulous men looking for a good time.  Men find them wandering the side of the road and when the men pick the ghost up the men are rarely heard from again.   The Kuntilanak  also enjoy harming pregnant women and causing miscarriages.  Pregnant women are most vulnerable to Kuntilanak when they are traveling and the only way a pregnant woman can protect herself is to carry nails or scissors with her at all times. If the nail or scissors are driven into the base of the Kuntilanak's skull and left there it will drive the evil from the ghost and she will become a woman again until the nail is removed.

Ever the friendly ghost, when the Kuntilanak kills its victims it usually digs its fingernails into its victim's stomach and pulls out their intended's guts and gorges herself on them.  In the case of men, the kuntilanak often pulls off the genitals, the source of her unfortunate pregnancy and death, and devours those first.  Some argue the kuntilanak is more of a vampire than a ghost because it must feed on the living to continue its preternatural existence, but the images and stories of visitations of Kuntilanak's are more consistent with ghost stories than vampire stories.  Either way,  if you run into a lonely woman crying on the road or wailing like a baby it is probably best to carry a few nails with you because the kuntilanak sounds like a horrific ghost to encounter.  As someone whose been through a terrible childbirth experience,  I can understand where these nasty pregnant ghosts are coming from.  I certainly wanted to rip out someones guts halfway through my labor.