Oh Scotland, you have my heart. From scenery that would make the most complaisant person weep to history so rich and dark it makes every step sacred as you walk along the same streets as the Jacobites. It humbles you. That’s all I can really say. I am so enamored with history that I often wonder how I am in the business of selling the future.
Today, as we spend the last few days of the Halloween season, I take you to the self-described “most haunted bar in Scotland”, The Banshee Labyrinth. Center in the Edinburgh New City, it is a multilayered pub that offers a little something for everyone. It is only open after 4:30 but I heard it has great food, music and even a cinema. But really, at the end of the day, it is all about the atmosphere. This place is amazing and makes you feel as if you are the etherial plane, between this world and the next.
I lucked out and got a private tour from one of the managers. I knew from his Cramps t-shirt we would be best friends if I was a resident but I will take a personalized tour just the same. He goes into the darker realms of the Labyrinth and shares his stories about all the ghostly happenings in this bar. There is even a coven of witches which is said to have sealed a demonic force in a stone circle that is right above a section of the underground pool rooms. You can enter but you have to leave the same way or you risk getting really hurt. I didn’t take any chances.
The most famous story was from a group of workers who were renovating parts of the Labyrinth and heard faint crying from one area. When they went to investigate they found a girl with long black hair weeping in the corner with her face buried in her hands. They approached her and she looked up. This is when I would have shit twice and died on the spot. She had no eyes and let out a blood-curdling scream causing the workers to flee from the building for their lives. But that isn’t the worst of it. Later in the day they all received calls informing them someone in their families had died that very afternoon. Hence the Banshee.
So, come take a tour with me and Drew as we should you Edinburgh and Scotland’s most haunted pub, The Banshee Labyrinth.
I hate this time of the day. I hate Sundays, actually. I shouldn’t because I should be thankful for everything and love every second but when the sun gets low on the horizon and I know what awaits me in less than a few hours, I get salty. I am sure it comes from my youth and holding my homework off until after America’s Funniest Home Videos or worse, procrastinating all the way until after Amazing Stories finishes causing the stress to really amp up. I thought maybe these feelings would ease over the years but still, as an adult, when the sun gets low, my worries about Monday’s responsibilities weigh heavy.
I find comfort in the sanctuary of my bedroom on these nights watching something via ROKU that takes me away from the realities of the tough meetings and cutthroat races which begin the minute my tie is tied. Usually, it is something that brings me a guilty comfort I wouldn’t want just anyone to see. I guess tonight I’ll confess to you what takes me out of my anxiety.
Hollywood Ghost Stories
I have written about this before but nothing chills my bones more than this documentary. One of my first introductions into the horror genre, it absolutely terrified me so much that became a weirdo horror fan. That is staying something! It wastes no time in hitting you with both fists by starting with an interview of William Peter Blatty and the movie, The Exorcist. Imagine never seeing any horror movie and watching documentary showing you all the scariest and most shocking parts of a horror movie and informs you they are all true.
The Haunting 1991
Again, something I have written about before but this one still gets me! Based on a book about a supposed true story, this made-for-TV movie aired on a Sunday night about this time of the year. I didn’t sleep for a week after and many nights I camped in a sleeping bag at the foot of my parent’s bed. This Hallmark Channel styled narration really amped the demonic haunting, thanks to the skilled acting of Sally Kirkland. It’s one that gets under the skin and stays there. Especially the laundry room scene. “Janet!”
This Ghost Documentary
Not sure how or when I found this but it is the quintessential ghost documentary of all time. It never ceases to make me pull the covers close and go into fight or flight mode when one of the cats pushes bedroom door open. This one covers some of the most incredible footage in the world of the paranormal so make sure you have everything you need in bed because you will not want to go downstairs to the kitchen after watching this.
That’s my quick blurb about my guilty bedtime comforts this time of the year. What are yours?
Note: I want to mention that this post deals with the topic of suicide. Mental illness is a disease that comes with an unfair stigma unlike any other disease. Those that suffer, do so silently and often the way out is of their own accord. Please, if you feel this way talk, reach out and ask for help. It always gets better. Always.
Over the years I have visited many spooky places across the country and all but a couple have left something to be desired. I am a big optimist and fall for folklore and urban legends because I want to believe. I love the stories of the lone tragic dead bride who is cursed to wander the halls of a Holiday Inn for all eternity. So many places jump on the ghost story wagon and when you’re a gullible tourist, like myself, you should walk away disappointed when you don’t get the willies even though almost all the stories are greatly exaggerated.
There is a place, however, which exceeds any folklore or spooky yarn. It is so dark and disturbing, Hollywood and authors alike have tried to capture the essence of this destination but have not even touched what I experienced. Even the Japanese people themselves do not talk about it and if you, as an outsider, bring this into conversation you will be met with judging eyes and uncomfortable body language. This is the place people enter and they do not plan to come out. It is said to be cursed and full of vengeful spirits that float on the periphery of the eye to lure visitors to their doom. It’s name is the Aokigahara Forest but is also called the Sea of Trees, Sea of Forest, Japan’s Demon Forest but is most commonly referred to as the Japanese Suicide Forest.
I spent an entire day inside this forest and even though I successfully found my way out, it has not left me. I do not believe it ever will.
The dark history of this forest goes back to almost twelve hundred years to a period of famine in Japan. To reduce the number of mouths to feed, families would abandon their elderly in the forest knowing they would have no way of finding their way out and would eventually die of starvation or exposure. In the sixties, a the book Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees) became a very popular story which ends with the two lovers in the story committing suicide inside the forest. This is speculated to be the reason many people sought the forest to be a final destination and the book, itself, has been found many times inside the forest.
The Japanese government would post the numbers of deaths inside the Aokigahara Forest but after the financial crisis of 2008, there was a dramatic spike that only increased over the following years. After 2013, it was decided the stats were not to be published for fear it would only draw more attention to this macabre destination. As of this year the average is thought to be as many as two per day.
The Aokigaraha Forest is located at the base of Mt. Fuji and has the most insane topography because the floor is formed from lava flows from the volcano. The trees are lush and grow in twisted, odd formations and thick moss covers almost everything. It is so dense that in the middle of the afternoon it can feel like the middle of the night so shadows will not cast. And the sound! I have never to an outside location where your ears feel almost compressed and it feels absolutely deafening. Your breath sounds like waves of noise and you have to stop to get your heartbeat under control just to listen for anything in the woods. I can understand the what those who come here might feel. The forest surrounds you and every sense you have is taken over.
As you will see in the video below, I get turned around a few times. It is about fourteen miles of forest and most of it is almost impossible to get to. If you leave the path it can be extremely dangerous because of the lava flow rock floor, caves and deep pockets are everywhere. You could be walking through and drop into a cavern, never to be heard from again. Also, hundreds of years of fallen foliage makes traversing the area a knee-deep slog what could hide almost anything underneath. I left the trail only a few times but just feet away, I lost my orientation and came close to my way losing the trail. The forest and trees have a way of wanting to keep you.
I did my best to keep track of where I was through simple land navigation tricks like measuring my stride and footsteps to figure out how far in I was and how long it would take to get back. The trail map, however, was definitely not calibrated to exact distance so a few hours in, it was clear I really turned around. To add a little stress to the situation, I had a bus home scheduled for 7pm. By the end of the day it was a race to not only get out of the forest but get out as close to where I started from. Not easy when all the signs are in Japanese characters.
There were times when I could not tell if my mind, ears or eyes were playing tricks on me. I saw absolutely no one the entire time I was in the forest. There were no hikers, workers or even the tourists with a curiosity like myself. I moved with a quickness to see as much of the forest as possible in the six hours I was in but occasionally I stopped dead in my tracks because I heard people having conversations off the trail. Knowing the dangers of leaving the trail I would quickly look in the direction I thought the voices were coming from and there was nothing. This seemed to happen more frequently the longer I was in the forest.
They say, if you follow ropes in the Aokigahara, it will lead to something. It does. I made the decision not to publish completely what I found to show respect for whoever was there, the Japanese culture and the topic of suicide. I did not find a body but I did see an abandoned tent, blankets, empty pill cases and looped rope tied high in a tree. It was the most sinking feeling of utter hopelessness I have ever felt. And I don’t think that feeling will leave me for a long time. That’s all I have to say about that.
Eventually I made it out of the forest, though it was a little stressful finding the right stop that still had an active bus associated with it. When I realized the one I waited for was not an active stop, I had to go back into the forest to make it a stop that had a bus. That’s when my mind was the most paranoid and I really felt hundreds of eyes on me as I moved with a quickness to escape the dark. I can still distinctly remember hearing people out there but I know there were none.
Well, spoiler alert, I survived. I found my way out and made it home but even as I write this, I know that forest came with me. I think about it all the time and the feelings that permitted the trees, the ground and the silent air. Even I write this, I can hear that split second chattering out beyond the trails. There is something there. That I know.
I kept this video pretty raw because any music or editing would detract from what was happening. I am a bit annoyed by the GoPro Hero 5 I was using because apparently there is an audio port I couldn’t see so there is a lot of accidental finger rubbing over the microphone. To be honest, that camera is a pretty big disappointment for the cost.
I hope you get at least 1% of what I experienced from this video. It’s shaky and raw but hopefully it can bring you a little closer to the Sea of Trees: The Aokigahara Forest. With much respect to the culture of the Japanese people, thank you.
Let’s see, a haunted saloon that has been a mortuary, an execution spot, holy water bottles lodged in the walls to keep the evil spirits out, there are dead bodies underneath, a real human skeleton excavated from the site and hung behind the bar, an actual hanging tree with a grave right next to it AND it’s all located in a tropical paradise? Yup, I’m in!
Welcome to Capt. Tony’s Saloon! This little spot is said to be the most ghostly active place in all of Key West and that is saying a lot considering the history of this key. I mean, there is a cursed doll who is reported to have chased a young girl around her room and distorts its face. Yeah.
We aren’t chatting about ol’ Robert the Doll right now. I have quite a bit to say about him later but for now, lets focus on a saloon that has been the last stop for many poor souls and some are said to still be restless. Of course, if you believe in that sort of thing.
The site the bar sits was the execution spot for those who didn’t were sentenced to death and that included sixteen men and one woman who stabbed her husband and children and chopped them up. She’s said to still haunt the bar and is known as the “Lady In Blue” because that was the color of her dress she wore on her execution day and also the color she turned when she died. HA!
By the mid 1800’s, the saloon was used as an ice house and since recently deceased people smell bad in the 90 degree tropical heat, it doubled as a morgue. After that it turned into a cigar-rolling/gambling facility, then a telegraph station, then an openly gay burlesque and finally, Anthony Tarracino moved from New Jersey, renamed himself Captain Tony and bought the place that we now know and love as Capt. Tony’s Saloon.
Many famous people have frequented the bar especially Ernest Hemingway, Al Pacino, Robert Redford and of course, Jimmy Buffett whose music sounds like parrots burning to me. But that’s just my opinion.
Watch this video and take a tour with me as this super great guy named Doug shows us around the creepier parts of Tony’s Saloon. Also, if you find yourself there, don’t get the Pirate Punch. It’s pre-made horse piss.
Sorry about the background noise. Life shooting in a bar full of drunks and a crappy musician.
Much like a NASA space launch, the Halloween Hell Show had a few delays but the countdown continued and here we are on launch day! A successful one at that. For the next 25 days I will bringing you Halloween fun like guest appearances from amazing people, reviews on all things macabre, movie chats, travel locations and even trying a live broadcast on Halloween! Not sure why I am doing this on Halloween since everyone will be out but my buddy Travis and I are committing.
I recap all of this in one breath at the beginning of this video. I strive for brevity because watching a twenty-minute video of me should include sharks, lasers, a questionable parachute and puppies. I do have puppies, though. (So much poop)
Tonight, I am bringing you with me as I revisit a location that actually made me change my opinion of what goes bump in the night. I wrote about this particular experience a couple of years ago and ever since I have had this weird fascination to….haunts? I don’t know. All I do know is I had something happen to me, it was witnessed by people and I was able to take a picture of it. Read the original post here to get caught up.
I lucked out and got to take a private tour with a few people and talk with a young tour guide who knows all too well the dark history that the Sorrel-Weed house has. In fact, just a week before she was scratched while giving a tour in the basement. It was nice being able to candidly speak with someone who not only was an expert in the history of the property but had first hand accounts of what lurks in the basement.
So, now that you think I am crazy, please watch the first of many Halloween Hell Show videos as we travel around the country celebrating the macabre of this 2015 Halloween season. Also, a big thanks to Thomas Boatwright and his incredible artwork. He created and animated the intro video for the VeggieMacabre’s Halloween Hell Show. I also got to hangout with him and he’s a pretty swell guy.
Enjoy the show because this is our time of the year! Add a pumpkin beer while you’re at it.