“A DRUG THAT CREATES ZOMBIES” and 4 More True Paranormal Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: The chastity belt has, through the ages, become more of a humorous analogy or punchline than the real thing. But then, that’s appropriate – seeing as it actually began as a middle-ages joke. (The Strange Truth Behind Chastity Belts) *** A fearsome witch, she is said to kidnap, roast, and eat children in the woods. No – this is not the story of Hansel and Gretel. This witch is much more terrifying – she is the Baba Yaga. (The Legend of Baba Yaga) *** The Oera Linda book is a manuscript written in a form of Old Frisian, purporting to cover historical, mythological, and religious themes of remote antiquity, from 2194 BC to 803 AD. Many are fascinated by what it says others claim it is a hoax or forgery. What is the truth behind the Oera Linda? (What Is The Oera Linda?) *** It’s nickname is “Columbian Devil’s Breath” – and it’s so powerful it can turn perfectly healthy people into mindless zombies. We’ll look at the dangerous and deadly drug, Burundanga. (A Drug That Creates Zombies)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“A Drug That Creates Zombies” by Brandon Michaels for Graveyard Shift: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yckryre8
“Freaky True Crimes” by Patrick Thornton for Unspeakable Times: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p9fsamf
“The Strange Truth Behind Chastity Belts” by Genevieve Carlton for Weird History: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yc7nzbfx
“The Legend of Baba Yaga” by Genevieve Carlton for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8urkfa
“What Is The Oera Linda?” by Bipin Dimri for Historic Mysteries: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yttpw84r
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Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
For those who love true stories about crime, if you ask their favorites you’ll almost always get an answer relating a crime that had a twist, was unusually creepy, or just downright bizarre. I’ll share a few of those kinds of true crime stories! (Freaky True Crimes)
The chastity belt has, through the ages, become more of a humorous analogy or punchline than the real thing. But then, that’s appropriate – seeing as it actually began as a middle-ages joke. (The Strange Truth Behind Chastity Belts)
A fearsome witch, she is said to kidnap, roast, and eat children in the woods. No – this is not the story of Hansel and Gretel. This witch is much more terrifying – she is the Baba Yaga. (The Legend of Baba Yaga)
The Oera Linda book is a manuscript written in a form of Old Frisian, purporting to cover historical, mythological, and religious themes of remote antiquity, from 2194 BC to 803 AD. Many are fascinated by what it says others claim it is a hoax or forgery. What is the truth behind the Oera Linda? (What Is The Oera Linda?)
It’s nickname is “Columbian Devil’s Breath” – and it’s so powerful it can turn perfectly healthy people into mindless zombies. We’ll look at the dangerous and deadly drug, Burundanga. (A Drug That Creates Zombies)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: A DRUG THAT CREATES ZOMBIES=====
Burundanga, scientifically known as scopolamine or hyoscine, is colloquially known as Colombian Devil’s Breath. It is one of the world’s most dangerous drugs. Some simply refer to it as the “zombie drug” because of its physical and psychological effects on victims. That’s right – victims. Devil’s Breath isn’t a recreational drug like weed or molly or even LSD.
Coming from the flowers of the borrachero tree, scopolamine is indigenous to the Northern Indian Region of Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. People refer to Devil’s Breath as the ideal drug for crime because victims won’t be able to remember a thing. Jessica Maria is a Colombian prostitute who routinely uses scopolamine on clients. She tells Vice, “We use it to rob men, men use it to rape us. Everything about scopolamine has to do with hurting people.”
Devil’s Breath makes victims become incredibly agreeable, yet totally coherent.
A gram of scopolamine is almost identical to a gram of cocaine. Same look, same weight, same density. One significant difference is that to overdose on cocaine, you need around around 100mg per person, whereas for Devil’s Breath, 100mg could kill 10 people. After selling some to a pair of Vice journalists, a Colombian drug dealer said, “This stuff only has 3 uses. To rob, to study, or to kill. It’s the transmitter of poison. It’s like anthrax. It’s worse than anthrax.”
Scopolamine leaves its victims completely conscious and articulate, but at the whim of suggestions. It entirely eliminates their free will while leaving their actions unhindered. To observers, everything seems totally normal, but the victim is basically under hypnosis and will have no memory of the event when the drug wears off.
Captain Romero Mendoza of the Bogota City Police Department told journalists that “Burundanga Gangs” often use beautiful women as bait to lure men at nightclubs into a scopolamine trap. Then, the drugged victim drives the gang members to an ATM, where they willfully withdraw and hand over all of their money. Oftentimes, the victims are “kidnapped,” although they’re not exactly taken against their will, so it can be difficult to prosecute.
Ivan Gomez, a victim of a scopolamine attack, describes his hellish experience: “We started drinking and dancing. It was all very normal, very healthy. What happened after that? I don’t know what happened. I have no explanation.” The next day, he woke up on a park bench badly beaten. They took money out of his bank account and cash advances on all of his credit cards, totaling almost 6 million pesos. When he asked the bank about the incident, they showed him a video of himself walking in alone and withdrawing the money while two people waited just out of view of the cameras.
Josef Mengele, the “Nazi Angel of Death,” was notorious for importing scopolamine from Colombia to Germany during the 1930s and ’40s for horrifying experiments during the war. Primarily, it was used as a truth serum during interrogations, but who knows what sort of sick things he could have done to the victims while they were robbed of their free will.
According to a Colombian drug dealer from a Vice documentary, a lethal dose of Devil’s Breath costs about 50 Colombian pesos. That’s approximately the equivalent to an American penny.
During the Cold War in the 1960s, the CIA started working on Project MK ULTRA, which was essentially a mind control program. They tried a lot of different ways to control people’s minds, resulting in disturbing and sadistic experiments. One such method of “research” was simply drugging the “patient” with things like heroin, morphine, and scopolamine.
When an ancient Colombian chief died, all of their wives and mistresses were killed as well. To accomplish this, the tribe would use Devil’s Breath to hypnotize the women, lead them to open graves, and simply bury them alive – all while the victims were conscious and willful.
Scopolamine is actually used in medicines relatively frequently. Often times, it’s used in extremely small doses to combat severe motion sickness, like that experienced by astronauts or deep sea scuba divers. It is also used to calm severe nausea and gastrointestinal spasms.
Colombia is a hotbed for criminal activity. One third of all kidnappings in the world happen there and it’s the cocaine capital of the planet. While filming a documentary on the subject, Vice reporters found a wild borrachero tree growing in the city. Their drug dealer shook down a single fruit and scored them “enough for 10 or 12 people to trip on,” and followed up by saying, “Kids go to kindergarten right around the corner! Frick! Welcome to ‘Locombia’!”
Scopolamine can be administered by mouth, by an IV, through a patch, by a needle, or even through the eyes. The flowers and root of the borrachero tree can be mixed into tea to create psychedelic hallucinations. More commonly, however, the seeds of the borrachero tree are ground up into a fine powder, which is used to quickly and quietly control victims by forcing them to breath it in without even knowing.
Dr. Miriam Gutierez is a Colombian Toxicologist who researches scopolamine. She states: “From a medical point of view, it’s the perfect substance for criminal acts because the victim won’t remember anything, when they wake up and realize they’ve been robbed, they won’t realize they collaborated in that. This substance has the ability to ‘hypnotize’ the patient.”
For those who love true stories about crime, if you ask their favorites you’ll almost always get an answer relating a crime that had a twist, was unusually creepy, or just downright bizarre. I’ll share a few of those kinds of true crime stories up next on Weird Darkness!
STORY: FREAKY TRUE CRIMES=====
Whether it’s reading an article, listening to a podcast, or watching a show, it’s often the weirdest true crime cases that stick in our minds the longest. While some cases are just plain weird, others can be as equally odd as they are terrifying. Take Carl Tanzler, who kept his beloved’s remains in his home for seven years, regularly buying new clothes for her corpse. Then there’s Danny LaPlante, who hid in the walls of his date’s house and reportedly wore her dead mother’s makeup. The world of true crime is full of bizarre stories that can seem too strange to possibly be true, until you realize that they were all real people with real lives that were suddenly upended.
***Around 3 am on December 22, 1939, a blindfolded man stumbled onto a snowy highway in Mishawaka, IN, and was immediately hit by a car and killed. The man turned out to be 44-year-old factory worker Stephen Melkey. Melkey was found with his hands bound behind his back, and both his eyes and mouth had been covered with surgical tape. Inside his mouth, police found a handkerchief covered in red lipstick. A police investigation revealed that Melkey had been dropped off by a vehicle about 140 feet from the place he was struck. While initially bound at the ankles, he managed to free his legs and walked blindfolded through the snow before crossing the highway. More perplexing, though, was the parallel set of footprints through the snow, suggesting that the person responsible for tying him up was also following him. Some even theorize that Melkey was pushed onto the road. Three suspects were taken into custody, including local tavern waitress Bertte DeVos and her fiance Allan Polomskey. Melkey and DeVos reportedly had some sort of relationship that made Polomskey jealous, and he’d been seen fighting with Melkey prior to his passing. Another man involved with DeVos, George Smith, had also argued with Melkey before the incident. While all three were questioned, none of the tire tracks from their cars were determined to match those of the car that dropped off Melkey. No one was ever apprehended and Melkey’s case remains unsolved.
***On August 28, 2003, a man walked into a Pennsylvania bank and handed a note to the teller demanding $250,000. The note also warned that a bomb would go off if he didn’t get the money. Leaving the bank with just $8,000, the man was surrounded by police, and revealed himself to be Brian Wells, a pizza delivery driver who had been forced to rob the bank. He claimed the device around his neck was a bomb, and it eventually went off in front of police and media, killing Wells. Police soon uncovered detailed instructions in Wells’s car of actions he’d need to complete to turn off the bomb, including the bank heist. But they determined that there was no way that Wells could’ve possibly finished all the tasks before the device exploded. Authorities would later attribute the plot to three people: Majorie Diehl-Armstrong, Kenneth Barnes, and William Rothstein. After Wells’s death, Rothstein turned on Diehl-Armstrong, even leading police to a body he’d kept in his freezer for her – that of her ex-boyfriend James Roden. Investigators believe Diehl-Armstrong killed Roden after he threatened to inform police about the impending bank heist. Diehl-Armstrong was alleged to be the mastermind of the robbery, reportedly needing the money so she could have a hit taken out on her father, who she wrongly believed to be wealthy. For her part, Diehl-Armstrong claimed that Rothstein was the real brains of the operation. Debate remains on whether Brian Wells had any involvement in the plot or not. Diehl-Armstrong was eventually sentenced to life in prison in 2011. She passed in prison and was buried in an unmarked grave in 2017. The complicated case gained attention the same year with the release of a Netflix docu-series centering on Diehl-Armstrong, Evil Genius.
***In 1986, a girl named Annie Andrews went on a date with a boy named Danny LaPlante, who said he was a friend of a friend. Andrews and LaPlante had only talked on the phone, but LaPlante described himself as a tall, handsome athlete. When the two met for ice cream, LaPlante looked completely different and had a disheveled appearance. After the date, Andrews stopped answering his calls. Annie Andrews and her sister, Jessica, had recently lost their mother to cancer, and performed a séance in their basement to contact her spirit. When they heard knockings on the wall, they believed their house was haunted. In the coming weeks, there would be more knocks on the wall, furniture moved, and messages written on the walls in what appeared to be blood. Their father, Brian Andrews, reportedly came face-to-face with LaPlante, who was holding a hatchet and wearing his deceased wife’s makeup. When police finally investigated the home, they found that Danny LaPlante had been living in the walls for weeks. He’d even cut holes in the wall to spy on Annie. He would move things when the family wasn’t home and wrote messages on the walls in ketchup to scare them. LaPlante was taken to a juvenile facility, but was arrested the following year for the murder of a different family.
***Donna Doll was last seen leaving her job at the school library on October 2, 1970, before disappearing. Doll was a 21-year-old senior at Northern Illinois University who was studying Russian and planned to be a teacher. Doll’s remains were found in a cornfield about a mile from the university nine days after she went missing. The coroner marked her cause of death as suffocation with a bag or pillow, but something didn’t add up. To begin with, even though the COD was suffocation, no fibers were found in Doll’s mouth. Furthermore, there were “mystery substances” found in her system that couldn’t be identified. Perhaps the oddest finding was that Doll had apparently eaten 5 to 6 pounds of potatoes before she was murdered. Doll’s killer has never been identified and the case remains open.
***In July 2019, authorities in Vatican City received a new tip in a 35-year-old cold case. In 1983, 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, disappeared in Vatican City on her way home from a music lesson and was never seen again. The anonymous tip said to look where the statue of an angel was pointing, leading investigators to the tombs of two 19th-century German princesses in the Pontifical Teutonic College. Although Orlandi’s remains were not found, two ossuaries containing thousands of boneswere discovered. It was eventually determined that the bones were at least 100 years old and belonged to dozens of unknown individuals.
***On October 4, 1986, NBC news anchor Dan Rather was walking home from dinner when he realized two men were following him. The men began asking Rather, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” When Rather explained they had the wrong person, the men began beating Rather, who fled into a nearby apartment building. Rather’s attack made headlines and became a part of pop culture with songs and a graphic novel containing the altered phrase, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” R.E.M. even released a hit single of the same name in 1994. That same year, a man named William Tager shot and killed a stagehand on The Today Show. Tager claimed NBC had been sending messages to him through the television. In 1997, Tager confessed to being one of the men who attacked Rather over a decade earlier. Tager claimed to be a time traveler, and said that Rather resembled his timeline’s vice president Kenneth Burrows. While the case seemed solved, the other man involved in the assault on Rather has never been identified. Also, some have continued to theorize about other possible motives for the attack. Some have connected the incident to author Donald Barthelme, who wrote a story with a character named Kenneth and the line “What’s the frequency?” Others believe the real target was a man named Ken Schaffer, who found a way to use satellite dishes to receive Soviet television broadcasts toward the end of the Cold War, when they weren’t available in the US. As many wanted to know how Schaffer was accessing the signals, “What’s the frequency” might have been a logical question to ask him. Schaffer set up these broadcasts for the public, and one such visitor was Dan Rather. Rather and Schaffer even talked outside of the broadcasting event – the same night he was later attacked.
***In 1931, 54-year-old radiology technician Carl Tanzler fell in love with 22-year-old Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos. Tanzler had met Hoyos at the hospital he worked at in Key West, where she was being treated for tuberculosis. Though not qualified to treat tuberculosis, Tanzler claimed he could cure Hoyos, but she succumbed to her illness in October 1931. A grief-stricken Tanzler paid for Hoyos’s mausoleum, and would visit her corpse every night for the following two years. In 1933, Tanzler took Hoyos’s corpse out of the mausoleum and brought it back to his home, unbeknownst to her family, where he lived with it for seven years. He kept the body from decomposing by stuffing it with rags and wire hangers, and covering the body in plaster of Paris. Hoyos’s body was eventually removed from the home in 1940 after a neighborhood boy saw Tanzler dancing with what the boy claimed to be a giant doll. Charges were pressed against Tanzler for grave robbery, but he eventually walked free, as the statute of limitations had expired. In fact, the media portrayed the ordeal as a romantic story, often mentioning that Tanzler believed he could someday bring Hoyos back to life.
***In 1991, Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan were found deceased, their bodies in a fume-filled car. Investigators concluded that the two had committed suicide after learning of the affair between their respective spouses, Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart. It wasn’t until 2009 that Colin Howell, an esteemed dentist, confessed that he and Stewart had murdered their spouses and made it look like a double suicide. Howell had first eliminated his own wife, attaching his baby’s feeding bottle to a garden hose and running it into the house, gassing her with carbon monoxide while she slept. He then went to the house Buchanan and Stewart shared and did the same thing to Buchanan, staging their bodies in the car and inventing a suicide story. After his relationship with Stewart later ended, Howell got remarried to a woman named Kyle. He told his wife what he’d done in 1998, and though she said she urged him to confess, he swore her to secrecy. Howell was known to be deeply religious, and followed certain “signs” to let him know when and how he should confess. As a dentist, Howell was also accused of assaulting female patients while they were under sedation. After the arrest, Kyle described Howell as follows: “Everyone thought he was this great Christian guy but they were so wrong. He was a monster.” Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart were both convicted for the 1991 murders, with Howell sentenced to a minimum of 21 years in prison and Stewart to a minimum of 18 years.
***In 2015, 45-year-old David Hampson of Swansea, Wales, was found guilty of breaching a criminal behavior order and being “mute of malice.” Beginning in 2014, Hampson developed a habit of standing in front of cars to prevent traffic from moving. When police would speak to him, he wouldn’t say anything. However, Hampson was known to have the ability to speak. Hampson had previously been taken into custody for stopping traffic, and would commit the same offense as soon as he got out of jail. At one point, he even climbed on the hood of a mail van and pressed his face against the glass. The jury in Hampson’s trial found him unanimously guilty after deliberating for five minutes.
***On August 29, 2016, Mark and Jacoba Tromp, along with their three children, fled their home just outside Melbourne, Australia. Mark and Jacoba believed their lives were in danger, and made their three adult children, Riana, Ella, and Mitchell, leave their phones and other identifying belongings behind. As the trip wore on, the children began leaving. Mitchell left after it was discovered he had brought his cell phone, and his parents made him throw it out the window. Riana and Ella stole a car, but later separated. Riana was found “catatonic” in the back of a stranger’s car. Jacoba and Mark were then somehow separated from each other. Jacoba was eventually found wandering in Yass, Australia, in an agitated state, and received psychiatric care along with Riana. Mark was the last Tromp family member to be found, six days after the trip began, on the side of a road near Wangaratta airport. Based on the back and forth directions of their movements, it didn’t seem as though the Tromp family had any destination in mind. Authorities did not believe that the family was in any actual danger or that anyone was out to get them. They weren’t in any debt, there was no evidence of drug use, and none of the family members had any history of mental illness. Some theorized that the Tromps could have been affected by chemicals on the family farm. Others believed that the family was suffering from a collective delusion known as “folie a deux” or “madness of two.” The term was coined for a French couple in the 1800s who shared the same paranoid delusions with each other. Doctors couldn’t tell which had become psychotic first, as the couple had evidently fallen into a cycle where they each reinforced the false beliefs of the other. However, we may not ever know what caused the unusual incident, as members of the Tromp family were also mystified. As Ella Tromp put it in a press conference, “It is very confusing, I still feel confused… I think our state of minds wasn’t in the best place, um, and yeah, I can’t even really… There’s no one reason for it – it’s bizarre.”
***Millionaire Marty Markowitz claims that his psychiatrist, Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf, took over his life for 30 years beginning in 1981. Herschkopf allegedly made his patient set up a foundation that Markowitz funded, but was controlled by Herschkopf. Herschkopf would host parties for the foundation at Markowitz’s Hamptons home, and forced Markowitz to serve guests as part of the catering staff.
Herschkopf also reportedly persuaded Markowitz to disinherit his sister and subsequently rewrite his will to leave his entire estate to the foundation Herschkopf controlled. He also gave Herschkopf power of attorney. Markowitz told Forward Magazine: “I was living a lie when I was with Ike. Ike sucked me into this cult of Ike and I was spending six or seven hours a week with him, he kept me constantly busy transcribing his handwritten books, throwing these parties, and I didn’t appreciate what was going on. He didn’t let me have a girlfriend. I would go on a date, and he’d call her a gold digger. He would say, ‘Everyone is out to get you, I’m going to protect you.’ And I was stupid enough to buy it.” Markowitz eventually broke ties with Herschkopf in 2010, and Herschkopf lost his medical credentials based on testimony from Markowitz and two other patients. The story was turned into a limited series called The Shrink Next Door starring Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell.
When Weird Darkness returns… a fearsome witch, she is said to kidnap, roast, and eat children in the woods. No – this is not the story of Hansel and Gretel. This witch is much more terrifying – she is the Baba Yaga.
But first… the chastity belt has, through the ages, become more of a humorous analogy or punchline than the real thing. But then, that’s appropriate – seeing as it actually began as a middle-ages joke. That story is up next.
STORY: THE STRANGE TRUTH BEHIND CHASTITY BELTS=====
The chastity belt: thick, iron underwear fastened with a sturdy padlock, impenetrable without a key. But what about chafing? Peeing? That time of the month? (Yes, women had alternatives before tampons, but still). The whole thing sounds like one of those grotesque, painful devices used for punishment. Were chastity belts ever really used?
For centuries, the chastity belt was a myth used to tease insecure husbands and joke about lustful women – that is until the Victorians grabbed hold of the concept. Were chastity belts real? It turns out those famously showcased in museums were Victorian forgeries – which isn’t surprising, considering the Victorian obsession with copulation.
The true history of chastity belts is rife with physical intimacy, anxiety, and misogyny.
The myth of the chastity belt claims that it dates back to the 1100s, when anxious Crusaders “locked up” their wives before they rode off to the Holy Lands. Women’s sexual appetites were legendary, and no husband could expect his wife to remain faithful for years, so the knights felt they only had one choice – a sturdy, iron chastity belt.
There’s only one problem: chastity belts never existed in the medieval period. So why does the myth of the medieval chastity belt have such a strong hold on our imagination? The blame belongs to the Victorians, whose sexual perversions turned the mythical chastity belt into a reality.
In 1405, Konrad Kyeser wrote Bellifortis, a book about military technology, catapults, and interrogation devices. He also snuck in a drawing of a chastity belt. The chastity belt might seem out of place in a book like this – but Kyeser’s book also included fart jokes, a fanciful elevator, and invisibility devices.
Plus, Kyeser introduced the chastity belt as a joke for noble youth. In the 1400s, chastity belts weren’t real – they were jokes.
One of the favorite past-times of folks in the Renaissance was laughing about the ignorance of the medieval period. After all, Petrarch, who helped spark the Renaissance, came up with the term “dark ages” to describe everything before his birth.
As historian Sarah Bond argues, “The truth about chastity belts is that they are largely a fiction constructed in the Renaissance and Early Modern periods in order to conjure a more ‘barbaric’ middle age that had come previously.”
Let’s set aside the physical impossibility of a metal belt intended to block intercourse but allow urination, defecation, and menstruation. Instead, let’s focus on the inherent health risks posed by such a contraption. As the Semmelweis Museum points out, a metal chastity belt would doubtlessly cause “deep and gradually more and more infected cuticular wounds within a few days, vaginal or anal infections, serious sepsis, and eventually death.”
Images of chastity belts evoked the male fear of cuckoldry – that their unfaithful wives would make them into mockeries instead of manly men.
Take a look at Renaissance scenes featuring chastity belts. In this one, a jealous husband locks his wife into a sturdy metal chastity belt. The topless woman reclines on the bed waiting for her husband to leave, while her lover waits in the shadows holding a copy of the belt’s key. As soon as the boorish husband departs, the chastity belt will snap open.
These images played on the idea that an older husband could not satisfy the bedroom desires of his young wife. During the Italian Renaissance, teenage girls often married men who were in their 30s or older. But these anxious older men were targets of derision, perpetuating the idea that they were sexually impotent and unable to control their wives. The chastity belt promised a solution to both problems.
Even though chastity belts were a myth invented by insecure husbands, they did reveal a dark, misogynistic view of women. As a 15th-century book on witchcraft declared, women’s carnal lust was insatiable – “for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort even with devils.”
The entire joke of the chastity belt rested on the idea that it was impossible for women to be faithful, that they’d even find a way around thick metal underwear. Chastity belts were a male fantasy (notice how the women are always topless?) linked to sexual anxiety.
In 1724, the great satirist Voltaire ridiculed the idea of chastity belts. In his poem Le Cadenas, Voltaire described an angry council of Romans who all had unfaithful wives. One suggests simply killing all the women. But instead they settle on a chastity belt to force fidelity: “She must be virtuous, of course, when under the restraint of force.”
The poem made chastity belts – the idea that only a fool would believe you can force fidelity by simply locking up a woman – into a joke. This might explain why nearly every image of chastity belts from the period depicts a man standing ready with the key.
If chastity belts were a myth and a joke, why are there so many real chastity belts, with some of them still in museums? As the Semmelweis Museum’s exhibit on chastity belts declared, “The chastity belts dated to the Middle Ages appeared from the middle of the 19th century in the most significant and then also in the minor museums of Europe.” In short: they are unauthorized reproductions. Historian and curator Lesley Smithagrees: “I have travelled abroad and looked at art collections and, as yet, haven’t seen a chastity belt that can be proved to be medieval in origin.”
And just take a closer look at this particular chastity belt, once thought to date back to the 1500s. The flower shape cut out meant to allow through excrement like a Play Doh Fun Factory seems highly impractical.
Victorians were the first to mass produce chastity belts, which they marketed as anti-rape devices. The British Museum concluded, “It is probable that the great majority of examples now existing were made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as curiosities for the prurient, or as jokes for the tasteless.”
In addition to chastity belts, the Victorians also pioneered devices intended to stymie self pleasuring, convinced that self-love was responsiblefor “blindness, impotence, and epilepsy…chronic fatigue, mental derangement, and even premature death.”
In 1969, David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) described the chastity belt as an “armored bikini” that thrust “an inch of iron between the vagina and temptation.” Reuben was completely wrong, but the myth of the chastity belt – and men’s desire to control women’s sexuality – lives on.
The mythical chastity belt lets us sneer at the ignorant, barbarian medieval period and laugh at cuckolds. But the myth’s enduring power comes from its link with physical intimacy: whether we find the chastity belt tantalizing or revolting, it’s all about sex..
STORY: THE LEGEND OF BABA YAGA=====
In a famous Russian folk tale, an evil stepmother sends her stepchildren away. As they wander the woods, the brother and sister find a strange hut that stands on chicken legs. Inside the hut, they meet a grandmother.
“If you satisfy all my wishes I shall reward you,” the grandmother declares, according to Folk Tales From the Russian. “If not, I shall eat you up.”
This grandmother, known as Baba Yaga, may remind some of another old woman who lives in a forest and eats children. Indeed, Baba Yaga’s story has echoes of Hansel and Gretel, with a Slavic twist. But some think that this character is even scarier than the villain from Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
However, others claim that this legendary witch is more complex, especially since she’s been featured in numerous different stories in different ways. This is her terrifying — and thought-provoking — history.
According to legends dating back to at least the mid-18th century, Baba Yaga is a witch who resides in the forest. She usually uses a magical mortar and pestle for transportation, but sometimes flies around on a broom.
Baba Yaga’s house, which sits in the darkest corner of the woods, stands atop chicken legs. A rooster head sometimes pokes up from the roof. And the witch protects her hut with a fence built from human bones.
Like many other legendary witches, Baba Yaga enjoys roasting and eating her victims in her house, where she keeps an enormous oven.
Baba Yaga is said to be hideously ugly. She is bony and frail, with a nose so long it hits the ceiling when she lies down to sleep. According to Ancient Origins, some call her “the bony one.” Others claim her teeth are made from iron. Sometimes, she’s even portrayed as a trio of three evil sisters.
The witch is also said to wield powerful magic. She commands a flock of black geese who search the woods for children. Boys and girls who ignore their mothers’ warnings while wandering too far into the forest might find themselves snatched up by the geese and carried back to the witch’s oven.
There’s no question that Baba Yaga is a fearsome figure in Slavic folklore. But she also sometimes acts as a fairy godmother — with a dash of evil.
In some stories, she helps the hero. Though she is still portrayed as a crone, she shows flashes of maternal instinct. Sometimes, she’s even likened to Mother Nature — a powerful force that can seem harsh and capricious.
According to the World History Encyclopedia, Baba Yaga shares several characteristics with an early Slavic goddess of death. Called Iagaia Baba, the underworld goddess sat atop an iron mortar and carried a pestle made from the same material. Some Slavs dedicated blood sacrifices to the goddess.
Because of this, many people believe that Baba Yaga has evil origins. One tale even claims that the Devil boiled 12 evil women in a cauldron to create an essence of evil. After the Devil spat in the cauldron, Baba Yaga burst out. But others argue that her positive portrayal in some stories — especially where she helps young visitors — is a sign that there’s some good in her.
Still, the crone’s name does serve as a warning of sorts. In Old Russian, baba meant a sorceress or someone who could tell the future. Midwives were also called baba. Today, the word usually refers to a grandmother.
“Yaga” has more mysterious origins. Some claim that it means witch or evil woman. Others liken it to the word for snake.
The folk tale of “Vasilisa the Beautiful” is a unique portrayal of Baba Yaga, as it shows her initially plotting against a young visitor and yet still helping her by the end of the story. In this legend, a stepdaughter named Vasilisa is sent into the woods by her wicked stepmother to find fire for her family.
While in the forest, Vasilisa encounters Baba Yaga, who offers to help Vasilisa — for the right price. The beautiful young girl must complete seemingly impossible tasks, like separating all of the black bits from a large bag of millet seeds in a single night. If she fails, she could be killed.
With the threat of being roasted and eaten by the witch, Vasilisa completes the tasks — with the help of a magical doll. She then successfully leaves with the fire, in the form of a burning skull from Baba Yaga’s fence.
Though Baba Yaga is not exactly depicted as a kindly grandmother in this particular story, her “gift” ultimately ends up helping Vasilisa in the long run. The fiery skull burns down Vasilisa’s house, killing the evil stepmother.
Vasilisa also finds her happy ending. She marries the tsar’s son and moves into a palace, never to be bothered by Baba Yaga or her stepmother again.
In many ways, Baba Yaga has represented the exact opposite of society’s ideal woman for centuries — and she still does to this day.
Instead of birthing and raising children, the witch eats them. She does not marry anyone or put the needs of other people above her own. Instead, Grandmother Witch is deeply selfish to the point of being evil.
Baba Yaga rejects everything that society expects from her. She even rejects society itself by living in the deep woods away from civilization.
The Slavic witch serves as a threat and reminder for those who leave the beaten path. Wander too far into the woods, and Baba Yaga will eat you.
For centuries, this legendary witch has kept countless children from straying too far — both literally and figuratively — from their families.
And unsurprisingly, young girls who learned the story of Baba Yaga were expected not to emulate the witch in any way as they got older. They were instructed to meet society’s expectations rather than reject them.
Since Baba Yaga rejects just about every societal norm in the book, this is precisely what makes her so fascinating to many people as both a villain and a mysterious fairy godmother character. But at the heart of it, she also represents an evergreen reminder for people to watch out for themselves in a dangerous world — and to not stray too far from safety.
Coming up… the Oera Linda book is a manuscript written in a form of Old Frisian, purporting to cover historical, mythological, and religious themes of remote antiquity, from 2194 BC to 803 AD. Many are fascinated by what it says others claim it is a hoax or forgery. What is the truth behind the Oera Linda? We look into it when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: WHAT IS THE OERA LINDA?=====
In 1867 the world of European history was thrown into confusion by the mysterious appearance of a manuscript. Known as the “Oera Linda” Book, this document, written in an Old Frisian dialect, claims to include historical, mythical, and religious topics from the distant past, stretching back from the 9th century AD as far as the third millennium BC.
The document was initially hailed as a new source for Europe during the dark ages and before, filled with secrets. Jan Gerhardus Ottema (1804–1879), an expert on ancient Frisian, published a Dutch translation in 1872 and proclaimed the text to be genuine. However, from the first, there were doubts.
By the time the translation was available the book was already at the center of a fierce debate as to its authenticity, as it had been since the document first became known to the general public in the 1860s. By 1879, everyone agreed that it was a recent invention, and today the document is considered a fraud or forgery by experts in Germanic texts.
Nonetheless, the book continues to fascinate. It was a centerpiece of Nazi occultism in the 1930s, and it is occasionally mentioned in esoteric fringe literature, sometimes associated with the legend of Atlantis. But, if a fraud, why was it created in the first place?
The fact is, we just don’t know. It is unclear whether the goal was to create a deliberate fraud, a parody, or whether this was simply a flight of fancy on somebody’s part. This mystery has passed down through the decades and is certainly part of the book’s fascination today.
One of the more recent attempts to understand the book comes from historian Goffe Jensma. According to Jensma, it was most likely intended as a joke, but written in the understanding that it would potentially fool some nationalist Frisians and orthodox Christians, two ideologies who blindly (according to some) cling to their world view.
Is the Oera Linda manuscript a fake? And why did it appeal so much to nationalists and fundamentalist Christians?
The story of the Oera Linda manuscript starts in the year 1867 when Cornelis Over de Linden (1811–1874) first produced the manuscript, which he claimed to have received from his grandfather via his aunt. De Linden showed it to Eelco Verwijs (1830–1880), the provincial librarian of Friesland, for translation and publishing.
The text was rejected by Verwijs, but a Dutch translation was published in 1872 by Jan Gerhardus Ottema, who believed it was written in authentic Old Frisian. However, it would seem that Ottema had overlooked several problems with the text when concluding it was authentic.
For a start, the text contained many anachronisms, both in content and in style. Although the possibility of its being genuine was still debated for several years, by the end of the decade it was largely accepted to be a fake, albeit a clever one.
Perhaps what made the Oera Linda Book so popular was its content, and the great history it purported to contain. The manuscript wrote of a great Frisian history which had previously been undocumented, describing the Christian nation ruled by just leaders, victorious in battle, at the heart of Europe.
No wonder orthodox Christians and those hungry to learn of Frisia’s great past rushed to support the book: it was, after all, a gift to nationalism, allowing those who wanted to believe it to reconstruct their glorious Frisian history they had long hoped for. As a parody of 1870s Frisian nationalism, it seems to have been altogether too successful.
However, when a notable Frisian antiquarian took the joke seriously and published a translation and commentary which treated it as authentic, it became clear that the joke had gone too far. Once some sections of the populace had accepted it as true, it became much harder to dismiss as a joke.
While it was widely acknowledged as a fake by the late 1870s, it would continue to appear whenever it suited the ideological narrative of the moment. Thus it was translated into German in 1933 and was characterized as the “Nordic Bible” by Nazi Germany in 1934, proving inspirational to Himmler.
From the late 1970s onwards, it would again become popular, this time among neopagans alongside the Neo-Nazis. These groups seemingly all share a common purpose in support of the manuscript, in that they feels their search for historical support for their nationalism has been rewarded.
Such as approach does not make for sound research. The groups who claim to believe that the text are genuine share similar motivations, and look to the text to legitimize their current actions, rather than as a lens for understanding the past.
The study of history should be about understanding where we came from and ancient texts are useful as a lens through which to understand the writer, and the society they were writing for. Those who seek to endorse Oera Linda do so not for this reason, but because they need legitimacy in the present day.
The Oera Linda manuscript tells us nothing about Frisia during the dark ages, then. Where it does shine a light is on those in 1870s Frisia, and after, who sought to believe the hoax, and why they so readily accepted the fraud.
The Oera Linda manuscript offers nothing less than a complete, secret history of Europe. The text, described as a satire of the Christian Bible, writes of a matriarchal, Germanic society ruled by a priestly class and dedicated to worship of the goddesses Jrtha (the earth mother) and Frya (daughter of the creator god).
The interrelationship such a society would have with other, known civilizations which existed in Europe at the same time is largely ignored. European history undergoes a radical change to assert Frisian dominance, which ranges from vague assertions that Frisia was the pre-eminent society in Europe to truly outlandish claims such as the Frisian alphabet predating Greek, or Phoenician.
The book includes a lengthy description of a sea battle between Egypt and Phoenicia in the Aegean Sea, as well as a global disaster which echoes the Biblical flood. It then follows a section of the Story of Wenamun (supposedly the first such surviving account, if you believe the claimed dates of composition) at one point. Other historic events are given a new spin also, such as the Bronze Age Collapse or the arrival of the Sea Peoples in the eastern Mediterranean.
The text itself is made of several smaller compositions, with the earliest portion supposedly written in 2194 BC, a gross anachronism for such a text but apparently necessary to give the manuscript the sense of authenticity and primacy. The text itself seems to fall apart in the final sections, although whether this is artful and deliberate or due to authorial ennui is unclear.
One particular section has also proven appealing to modern pseudohistorians. Certain passages of the book describe “Atland”, a name used in the 17th century to refer to Atlantis. Prompted by this, modern Atlantean enthusiasts have seized on the manuscript as further, ancient evidence that Atlantis was real.
But none of this is true. Either Cornelis Over de Linden or Eelco Verwijs (or possibly an acquaintance of both men) are the two most likely authors, writing a comedy text to poke fun at an overtly nationalistic audience in the late 19th century. It was likely never to be taken seriously.
So, is the manuscript worthless? As an ancient record of Europe it can tell us nothing, an exists as a work of speculative fiction, by a modern writer and for a modern audience.
However, as a work of its time it is very revealing. Through its reception and popularity it highlights the undercurrent of Frisian nationalism in the 19th century, and the belief being encouraged at the time that pride in your country was tantamount.
Those who seek to drum up nationalism will often obscure the truth. From the US Marine Recruiting Sergeant promising naïve teenagers the world, to jingoistic tabloids seeking to drive newspaper sales through divisive, provocative headlines, the elements of society who foster such beliefs will seize on anything that offers support for their position.
The world of Oera Linda was not real. But nationalists, first in Frisia and then with the Nazis, found it very useful in their attempts to stir up the masses in their support. Supporters of Atlantis, in framing this text as evidence for their lost continent, should be wary of falling into similar traps.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from – doing so helps the show to get noticed! You can also email me anytime with your questions or comments through the website at WeirdDarkness.com. That’s also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for the email newsletter to win monthly prizes, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Plus if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY – or call the DARKLINE toll free at 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-5944.
All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“A Drug That Creates Zombies” by Brandon Michaels for Graveyard Shift
“Freaky True Crimes” by Patrick Thornton for Unspeakable Times
“The Strange Truth Behind Chastity Belts” by Genevieve Carlton for Weird History
“The Legend of Baba Yaga” by Genevieve Carlton for All That’s Interesting
“What Is The Oera Linda?” by Bipin Dimri for Historic Mysteries
Again, you can find links to all of these stories in the show notes.
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” –Galatians 5:14
And a final thought… “Stars can’t shine without darkness.” – D.H. Sidebottom
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.