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I chat with Thomas Ruys Smith, editor of Christmas Past: An Anthology of Seasonal Stories from Nineteenth Century America and Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of East Anglia. Links from the show: Christmas Past: An Anthology of Seasonal Stories from Nineteenth Century America [publisher] [Amazon] Thomas Ruys Smith's au…
 
It’s out later than I would have preferred, but like the inevitability of New Year’s following Christmas, it is here. To read the stories, get bio information and links on the authors, and for all other show notes, please check out WeirdChristmas.com. Results: Overall Winner: “The Fight” by Elizabeth Guilt “Weird Cards” Category Winner: “If the Sui…
 
Talking with Christopher Philippo, editor of Volumes 4 and 5 of the Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories. Chris' Goodreads site Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Volume 4 (the American stories) [Amazon] Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Volume 5 [Amazon] Links to the poems and other goodies fr…
 
In keeping with the old tradition of whiling away the nights of Christmas telling ghost stories, we bring you a tale published in 1912 by E.F. Benson. Read by Mrs. Karswell, complete with sound FX and music as always. If you’d like some additional listening of this type, we have three more recorded in previous years going back to 2018: Christmas Gh…
 
Al Ridenour is back after talking to us last year about Krampus, but this time to help unpack the lore and traditions around the Perchten, Krampus-esque goblin-ish creatures tied to both Krampus and Frau Perchta. Links mentioned on the episode: Bone and Sickle Podcast Ep. 80 "America and the Old, Dark Christmas" Ep. 58 "The Hellish Harlequin: Phant…
 
In earlier centuries, Americans partook in many of the same dark Christmas traditions that gave birth to Europe’s Krampus. This episode examines our untamed holiday history. The most obvious example of this is the character of Belsnickel, (sometimes: Pelznickel, Belschnickle, Bells Nickel, etc.), who, like the Krampus, usually appeared on St. Nicho…
 
Happy Thanksgiving! We dive deep into the history of Christmas murder ballads with my friend (and cohost from the ReReading Wolfe Podcast) James Wynn. I'll get links to all the songs from the episode up here shortly. But for now, here are links for James: ReReading Wolfe Podcast RRW on Twitter Our Xmas episodes of RRWolfe: 2020 (we discuss 3 storie…
 
Transylvania’s vampire lore inspired the setting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, if not the character of the Count, and encompasses not only undead monsters, but living beings akin to witches. (The show is introduced with an audio snippet from Maria Tănase, premiere interpreter of Romanian folk song.) Mrs. Karswell begins the show, reading a passage Stok…
 
La Befana, Perchta, Holda, and so many more! We chat with the always encyclopedic Benito Cereno about all the Christmas witch folklore in Christmas history. Links: Benito's Christmas history videos Benito's writing at Gumroad Apocrypals podcast Friends 'Till the End podcast Progressively Horrified Music: "La Befana" by Make Like Monkeys "Perchta" b…
 
A break from the usual themes for the Halloween season: the second part of our survey of 40 years of Horror hosts, this time the hosts of the 1960s and a couple years of the ’70s. Included in this installment: Morgus the Magnificent, Sammy Terry, Chilly Billy Cardille, Ghoulardi, The Vegas Vampire, The Cool Ghoul, Svengoolie, and Sir Cecil Creape. …
 
Something a little different for the Halloween season: horror hosts and their evolution in the early years. We’ll be doing a second episode (out before Halloween) rounding out our survey to include the horror hosts of the 1960s. Included in this installment: Vampira, John Zacherle, Gorgon, Marvin the Nearsighted Madman, Tarantula Ghoul, The Old Wit…
 
Ghost trains and real-life railway terrors intermingle in this episode’s exploration of old train-wreck ballads, nervous and funereally obsessed Victorians, urban legends involving train deaths, and more. Mrs. Karswell begins our show reading an imaginitive description of a phantom train written by George A. Sala for an 1855 edition of the magazine…
 
Duties in the library unfortunately prevent us from presenting a regular episode at this time, but to fill the gap, we’re offering listeners a taste of the short bonus “Marvelous & Rare” episodes all our $4-and-up Patreon subscribers hear every month (sort of antiquarian version of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not). If you’d like to hear more in this for…
 
Bird-women hybrids of Greek legend and Russian folklore are uniquely ambivalent, sometimes bringing death and destruction and at others, prophetic wisdom and the joy of Paradise. The two Greek species we treat are sirens and harpies, both at times described as having the bodies of birds and faces or upper bodies of human females. Beginning with har…
 
Messages delivered by the extraterrestrials Ashtar and Orthon to Contactees of the 1950s represented a sort of repackaging of 19th-century Theosophy, a philosophical descendent of the Rosicrucianism of the 1700s. After our previous epiosde examining George King of the Aetherius Society, this episode looks at two other Georges of the Contactee movem…
 
The esoteric teachings of Theosophy, particularly those regarding Venus, were surprisingly influential on the tales told by flying saucer Contactees of the 1950s and ’60s. We begin with a quick review of Theosophy and its principles as defined by the Russian international adventurer Helena Blavatsky in the later decades of the 19th century. Blavats…
 
Cases of madness and even murder were associated with Hexerei, a form of witchcraft brought to Pennsylvania by German immigrants. Following up on our previous examination of the tradition of Braucherei or Pow-Wow as practiced in 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania, our current episode eplores some more disturbing cases of witchcraft beliefs survivin…
 
Stories of witchcraft and folk-healers in early Pennsylvania are surprisingly plentiful. In this episode, we examine the state’s German-American tradition of Braucherei that spawned these tales. The practice came over with immigrants from Germany’s southwestern Rhineland beginning in the late 1700s and established itself among the Pennsylvania “Dut…
 
Emperor Nero’s reputation for wickedness and depravity had already attained mythic status within a century of his death, making him a prototype for early Christian beliefs regarding the Antichrist. We begin the show with a look at the role poison played in Nero’s ascent, putting him on the throne at the age of 17 in 54AD. After her marriage to Empe…
 
We’re doing something different this time out. As we are celebrating Bone and Sickle’s third anniversary on April 30, we’re taking a week or two off to rejuvenate and prepare new material for year four. To fill the gap, we’re offering listeners a sample of the short bonus episodes all our $4-and-up Patreon subscribers hear every month. If you’d lik…
 
In this episode, we continue our survey of supernatural sailors’ lore of the North with a look at mermen, Iceland’s “evil whales,” and sea-draugs. After a brief audio tidbit recalling our previous discussion of the Norse World Serpent, Jörmungandr (courtesy of the TV show Vikings), we briefly reconsider the Kraken in the context of the 13th-century…
 
The Kraken is only one of the monsters said to inhabit the storied northern seas of Scandinavia. This episode is the first of two that will examine fantastical nautical tales of these regions. We begin with a bit of dialogue about the Kraken uttered by Davy Jones in Disney’s 2006 Pirates of the Caribbean film Dead Man’s Chest. It’s particularly app…
 
The mythology of bees has been tied for centuries to notions of the otherworld and death. In this episode we trace some of that folklore along with examining some highly peculiar uses of honey. Horror or sci-fi films referencing bees exploit the more mundane fears bee holds for mankind. Our survey of these includes clips from the dreadful 2006 The …
 
Medusa was one of the Gorgons, creatures originally considered quite monstrous, who over the centuries came to be humanized and even regarded as beauties transformed into snake-haired villains. In this episode, we’ll dig back to the most ancient sources to examine the bare bones of the myth. We begin with a nod or two to the pop-culture Medusa. Odd…
 
The motif of lovers retaining the head of a decapitated partner is surprisingly widespread. In this — our romantic Valentine’s Day episode — we have a look at old ballads, literature, fairy tales, legends, and even a few historical anecdotes in which such things occur. We begin with the English murder ballad, “In Bruton Town,” also known as “The Br…
 
Four our third year, we embrace the old tradition of seasonal ghost-storytelling. This year Mrs. Karswell reads for us a tale written by Edmund Gill Swain, from his 1912 collection Stoneground Ghost Tales (“Stoneground” here being the name of a particularly haunted but fictional English village.) Swain was a Cambridge colleague of M.R. James, the m…
 
Sometimes when you have a podcast, you talk to people who interest you and you don’t worry so much about how it relates to the show or your topic or what your hard-won audience really cares about. So you put out a show that’s all about really, really narrow interests you have. This is half that. The other half is about an amazing book about whether…
 
Books of cautionary stories for children were a popular Christmas gift in Victorian times. These tales of misbehaving children and the tragic consequences of their deeds, like the Krampus myth, served as not-so subtle reminders of parental expectations. This episode consists mainly of readings by your host and Mrs. Karswell of these grim (and amusi…
 
“…And scary ghost stories of Christmasses long, long ago!” Ghost stories from previous years if you’re in a spooky mood: 2019, 2018, 2017 Next year, we should break open this boys’ club with a tale from this… Links from the show: Full text of the story, “Between the Lights” A bit about Benson Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Vo…
 
Harlequin is an enigmatic figure with roots in dark folklore of France, specifically that of the Wild Hunt (Chasse Sauvage) a nocturnal procession of ghosts or devils, particularly associated with the time around Christmas and New Year. The myth is also common to England and examined more closely in its Germanic manifestation in Episode 16, “The Ha…
 
Time to destroy your appetite! I talk to Glen Warren from the Season's Eatings Podcast about weird Christmas food throughout history. Links: Season's Eatings Podcast List of Christmas Podcasts (from Brian Earl's Christmas Past) Holly Jolly Xmasu (Japanese Christmas music podcast) Totally Rad Christmas ("Rudolph's Shiny New Year" episode with me) Th…
 
As a Thanksgiving treat, enjoy a deep dive down the rabbit hole of Santa history with Tom Jerman, author of Santa Claus Worldwide: A History of St. Nicholas and Other Holiday Gift-Bringers. This is my favorite book of Santa history, and Tom and I covered a lot of ground. Links mentioned in the show: Buy the book! From Amazon From McFarland Publishe…
 
In southern Italy, belief in witchcraft has a long history, much of it centering on the town of Benevento, about 30 miles east of Naples. From a 1428 testimony by accused witch Matteuccia da Todi, we have the first mention (anywhere in Europe) of witches flying to their sabbats — their gathering spot, in this case, being Benevento. Matteuccia was a…
 
I'm not usually your go-to source for new movies. But this one is worth your time. The Christmas Ride is a mumblecore (improvised dialogue) film about a ride share driver getting an emotional gut punch on Christmas day. I talked to the producer/director Stefanie Davis, and I hope you'll check it out. Here's the trailer for a taste: https://www.yout…
 
Krampus. Seems like I should have done a show on Krampus years ago, but I was waiting for the right person. And that person is Al Ridenour, author of The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil. This is the definitive book on Krampus, and Al fills us in on all the history and celebrations we could want. Links m…
 
As a short holiday bonus, we’re offering this special episode examining some obscure aspects of Halloween as manifested in our lives today. Forgotten traditions associated with the holiday arise in surprising forms many of us may not initially recognize. Simple occurrences perceived as nothing more than an everyday nuisance come into focus during o…
 
Christmas werewolves are a thing. I mean, I don't know if they're REAL real. But people really used to believe they were a thing. So Christmas expert Benito Cereno fills us in on their history Benito's been on the show before, talking about Christmas comics and the Yule Lads. Links mentioned in the show: Benito's werewolf Christmas story, "Two Gift…
 
Illustration from 1832 broadsheet “Execution of James Cook, and Hung in Chains at Le’ster for the Horrid Murder of Mr. Paas.” The gibbet was a hanging iron cage used to display the corpses of criminals in 18th and early 19th-century England. To be thus “hanged in chains,” in the judicial jargon and thinking of the day, subjected the criminal to an …
 
The first podcast episode of the 2020 {shiver} season. We do a bit of deep diving into the world of Halloween postcard collecting which, if you follow me on social media, you know is a small obsession of mine. Eric Hinton runs Halloween Postcards and has collected all, yes, ALL of the Halloween postcards printed before World War 2. We wander around…
 
We’re doing something different this time out. Bone and Sickle is taking off the rest of September to allow time for Mr. Ridenour’s research and Mrs. Karswell apiary maintenance. To fill the gap, we’re offering listeners a sample of the short bonus episodes all our $4-and-up Patreon subscribers hear every month. We hope you enjoy this substitution,…
 
The method Frankenstein employed to create life is left mostly a mystery in Mary Shelley’s 1818 book. How then did the notion of stolen body parts stitched together and animated by lightning become so firmly entrenched in popular imagination? Our episode begins with a clip from Universal’s pattern-setting 1931 production, Frankenstein, in which Hen…
 
Western tales of bottled spirits, imps, devils, and even ghosts are largely borrowed from the Islamic and Jewish legends of jinn captured by King Solomon. In this episode, we explore how this is expressed in folk tales, demonological treatises, and literary borrowings. We begin with a nod to the Assyrian god Pazuzu (and a clip from Exorcist II, The…
 
Toads have long been associated with magic, as witches’ familiars and as a source both of poison as folk healing. We begin with a poison allegedly brewed from a toad by the “wise wife of Keith,” Agnes Sampson, one of the accused in Scotland’s North Berwick witch trials in 1591-2. The poison was to have been used against Scotland’s James VI before h…
 
Quite distinct from their Western equivalent, Slavic mermaids might better be described as water ghosts, as they are almost always the spirits of departed females, while their male equivalent takes the form of a water goblin or water sprite. The Russian word for mermaid is rusalka (rusalki pl.) and male creature is a vodyanoy. Similar words are use…
 
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