Year: 2005

Hellfire Club Dublin
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We've written loads about the Irish Hellfire Club on blather.net, of ghosts and black cats and satanism... But now we've got photographs too.... The Blather team keep returning to this spooky place in the Dublin mountains. On Halloween 2005 I returned, with great light and a beautiful sky. I'm not going to go on at length here about satanic orgies or ghosts or giant black cats - I'll point you to my earlier articles on the Hellfire Club for that. Find the Hellfire Club on Google Maps » Get high resolution versions of these photographs from davewalshphoto.com »

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Take one angry mob (half-naked), a dead body (two days old), a gang of grave robbers, trigger-happy watchmen (possibly drunk), the cops (also possibly drunk), an arsenal of assorted weaponry, stir violently and serve in a freezing cold graveyard. Dr. John Fleetwood's wonderful book 'The Irish Body Snatchers', published by Tomar in 1988 now seems, sadly, to be out of print and rather hard to get. It's a brilliantly written book: at times grim and scientific and at others hysterically funny and eye-opening. In his book, Fleetwood extensively quotes from Saunders' Newsletter. Published between 1746 and 1879, it's a wealth of contemporary information relating to Sack 'em Up's and Resurrection Men: a subject which never seems to have failed to sell newspapers. Grab yer pitchforks! One of the most remarkable incidents chronicled in Saunders' Newsletter is the 'Battle of Glasnevin Graveyard' (also known as Prospect Cemetery) which took place in January...

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County by county, site by site, monument by monument, Megalithomania is an ever-expanding archive of Ireland's prehistoric treasures. This, ladies and Gents, is what the web was designed for... All too often here on Blather, we focus our attentions on complaining about the grim statistics and hideous bile that the web serves up. Plagues, war and celebrity babies swarm all over us like a cheap blog. So we've decided to do something a bit different. We've decided to start a new series of articles which highlight imaginative, creative and wonderful uses of the web. And we begin with one of the most wonderful sites that we've ever seen: Megalithomania. Updated on a weekly basis, Megalithomania is the brainchild of Tom 'FourWinds' who originally set out to document his personal visits to megalithic sites in Ireland, giving information and photos on each site. It has slowly expanded to become the web's...

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Guest writer Kat Bolstad tells us about the recent photographing of a giant squid... You've probably been catching snitches of the buzz about the first live giant squid ever to be caught on film... and since Steve O'Shea and I have been working on this indirectly over the past few years, I thought you might like a quick rundown on what has happened. For several years now, some Japanese colleagues of Steve's - Drs Kubodera and Mori - have been sending down baited cameras in an attempt to film the giant squid. They chose the Ogasawara Islands off Japan based on its topography - a steep submarine canyon - and the fact that sperm whales are known to feed there. Finally, the filming - which was kept secret while the publication was in preparation has paid off! Last year they got about 550 photographs (the camera takes a still shot...

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I walked out of A History of Violence a little confused. Was that a Cronenbergian take on a straightforward 'family under siege from baddies' drama, or something very different? Maybe it was both. If any other director had gotten their hands on it, it might have been something like Goodfellas meets Die Hard meets some anodyne Costner shlockfest. Let us be thankful for David Cronenberg. The farther I got from the cinema, the more I realised that the director had packed layer up on layer of subtle subtext and manipulation into his movie. Which isn't to say it's didactic in any way. A History of Violence starts with a couple of psychopathic killers doing their daily chores - murdering people. We're shocked by their violence, and I'm reminded of the 'Collectors (Serial Killers) Convention' in Neil Gaiman's Sandman. As A History of Violence is based on a graphic novel, this...

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The latest in the ongoing seasonal, pre-Samhain Halloween Necroblog. Last weekend, a crack Blather team descended upon the sprawling Necropolis of London's Highgate Cemetery. No Vampires were injured in the process... I visited Highgate Cemetery in London last weekend - was dismayed at first by the restrictions on photography, but was able to take quite a few images while I was. I was hindered by a lack of light, but made the most of it. The whole post-gothic Victorian necropolis is under siege by nature - when entering the Circle of Lebanon (a huge neo-Egyptian mausoleum complex) we even saw a fox. The tour was lead by a stout elderly gentlemen with a walking stick, who puffed and panted his way through the tour. I wondered if he himself would expire before the downhill section started. On a poignant note, it seems that his wife is buried in the cemetery......

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The Resurrection Men have long been the subject of literary flights of fancy, most of their depictions being simple stage nonsense. But one piece of literature stands out above all others: The Surgeons' Warning by Robert Southey. The Fear of the Knife Previously on Waking the Dead, we had spoken a little of the Resurection Men and the mechanics of stealing a dead body. We had also mentioned how the (official) supply of study material for anatomical schools came from executed criminals and in other cases from unidentified vagrants whose bodies were found in the streets. Although many of us today are enlightened enough to donate our bodies to medical science after we croak, during the time of the Sack-em-ups and the early anatomical schools, the majority were not. And with good cause. So great was the mistrust of the anatomists and so great the fear of dissection, that many...

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Premature burial. Body-snatching. The Resurrection men and the Sack-'em-ups. Jack O' Lanterns and Willo the Wisps. As bizarre as these terms may sound to us now, there was a time when such phantoms haunted the nightmares of all men... Welcome to Waking the Dead, a series of articles relating to all aspects of the netherworld and our never-ending fascination with what Shakespeare called 'The Undiscovered Country'. Animal rights? Human rights? Recently, most right-thinking people were horrified when most major British media reported that a group (Animal Rights Militia) who were protesting against the notorious company Huntingdon Life-Sciences had dug up the remains of an 82 year old woman, Gladys Hammond. They exhumed her coffin and body in October 2004 from the graveyard at St Peter's Church, Yoxall, Staffordshire in protest at the work of her son-in-law Chris Hall. He worked at Darley Oaks Farm which bred guinea pigs for use...

Loughcrew
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I'd visited most of the major megalithic sites in Ireland, but somehow had never made it to Loughcrew, or as its also known Sliabh na Caillí - The Hill of the Witch. There's dozens of tombs scattered across two hills - Carnbane East and West, looking down upon the County Meath village of Oldcastle. Although not as visually impressive as the remodelled behemoth that is Newgrange, Loughcrew as a significance of its own. While the main chamber is illuminated at sunrise on the Winter solstice, Cairn T at Lough crew does the same at sunrise on the autumn Equinox - with light coming into the chamber onto the megalithic art inside. As the light moves along the solar symbols carved into the rock, the sunlight is formed into a beam by the entrance stones. All of these are from Carnbane East which includes Cairn T. Purchase high quality, high resolution...

St Brigit's Well, Liscannor
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Some time ago, I posted pictures from our visit to St. Brigit's Well in the west of Ireland. Tucked away on the road between the Cliffs of Moher and Liscannor, St Brigit's Well never fails to amaze me. It's less of a Catholic site than a Chritian veneer on older beliefs - Brigit was never a saint, she was Brid, an ancient fire goddess, apparently. While ostensibly a site of Christian - and by extension, Catholic practice, St. Brigit's Well manages to convey a sense of ancient custom - a place of sacrifice and votive offering. All kinds of memorabilisa and keepsakes form the stacks of mouldering deitrious that line the entrance cavern. Toys, photographs, statues, masscards... and objects that defy any logic, like ATM cards. I try and visit every year, as the collection constantly changes. I'm simultaneously horrified, amused and saddened by the things I find there. Bizarre...