WPC: Eerie places I’ve shivered in.

For this week’s challenge Cheri Lucas shared a photo taken by Merilee Mitchell entitled “Ghost Child.”  She said that “a photo doesn’t have to be blatantly macabre to be eerie. But it can have a mysterious, otherworldly vibe — the viewer wonders what lurks in the shadows. Something eerie has a story to tell — one you aren’t quite sure you want to know.”

Cheri asks that our pics be in B&W, so here are a few places I’ve visited on my travels, which have literally given me the shivers. If you click on the pics, you’ll get the full ‘eerie’ effect.  😯

In downtown Lima, Peru, below the ‘Convento de San Francisco’, along some secret passageways, are catacombs containing an Ossuary in which it is estimated lie the bones of 70,000 people. They are lined up along narrow hallways, and one area contains several large and deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged above each other in circular patterns. This 17th century Baroque church, originally had a normal graveyard for its members, but when space became a problem, the skulls and bones were removed from the graves and thrown into a deep pit, which over time, became the last resting place for most of Lima’s dead. When the place was discovered and opened up for archeological excavation in 1943, they found the bones just heaped up in there, and decided that the catacombs would have more ‘appeal’ if they were arranged artistically, so they placed the skulls together in a centre pile, with same length arm bones radiating outward, and matching leg bones extending beyond the arms; a rather eerie sight indeed.

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In the Italian Medieval town of Monterosso in the Cinque Terre, is the Romanesque style church of Saint John the Baptist, built of black and white Italian marble. Right next door is the Oratory of the Dead (also black and white), which was built by a brotherhood of good works. Their good work consisted of arranging funerals, taking care of widows, orphans, and the shipwrecked, and their symbols were a skull and crossbones, an hourglass, and the happy inscription “Death awaits us all.” There is a skull and crossbones above the door, and skeletons decorate the cornices.

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On 24th August 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city of Pompeii under twenty-seven feet of volcanic ash. The ruins were discovered in 1748, and in 1865, excavations began. At the time of its destruction, Pompeii had a population of some 20,000 people.  It was a really eerie feeling to be walking along the original roads, and to be able to see ruts made by the chariot wheels all those years ago, before this community was blanketed in a thick layer of hot ash.

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The Colosseum in Rome has a very bloody history indeed. In this arena, the Emperor entertained the public with free games, which started off with a few circus acts, but usually ended with fights to the death between wild animals and gladiators. To mark the inauguration of the building in AD 80, some 9,000 wild animals were destroyed. Today it stands as a monument to Roman imperial power and cruelty, where for centuries, literally thousands of people whom they saw as criminals, Christian martyrs, professional fighters and wild animals, were cold-bloodedly killed, just for sport. Standing there imagining the cheers of the 50,000 strong crowd, and the horrible gory spectacles, really gave me the shudders.

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In the Black Hills of north-eastern Wyoming is the 386 metre high monolith called ‘Devil’s Tower’. This National Monument has been the source of many legends, and the story from the Cheyenne tells us that there was once a band of Cheyenne travelling to worship the Great Spirit at Devils Tower. One of the warrior’s wives was charmed by an enormous bear without a mate, so the warriors set out to find and kill it. They were chased by the bear, and climbed into a tree. The Great Spirit gave the men the strength to kill the bear, but the woman had also turned into a bear and made the great rock her home. Because of this, it came to be known as ‘Bear’s Tipi’. We were the only people around when we came upon this eerie sight looming in the mist. It really did look like the stuff of legends.

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Well I think that’s enough doom and gloom for one weekend. I usually say “I hope you enjoyed my pics for the challenge,’ but if you didn’t, I’ll totally understand. 😀

Have a great weekend.

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Ailsa’s Travel theme: Mystical

Ailsa says, This week’s theme is inspired by a beautiful photograph Vlad posted over at Wind Against Current. Click the link to see his photo, and when you pick your jaw up off the floor, come on back over here and join in this week’s challenge.

Mystical is an evocative term with many nuances. I chose this word because it can be interpreted in so many ways. It can mean spiritually symbolic, otherworldly, ethereal or mysterious. I also love how this word sounds when you speak it aloud, and I can’t help but associate it with mists that conceal the everyday, cloaking the mundane in a veil of mystery. The verb ‘to mystify’; to make mysterious or obscure, is derived from the words mystic and mystery. Ooh, the possibilities are endless.”

I have found myself in a few mystical situations, and usually when we were experiencing less than perfect holiday weather. Some trips seem to be all sunny skies, ice cream and beautiful sunsets, but when we visited Phuket for the second time earlier this year, we were very disappointed with the weather, and especially on the day we were due to take a boat trip across Phang Nga Bay. The tour leaflet advertised “Sail to verdant limestone islands, honeycombed with caves and aquatic grottos, which soar perpendicularly to heights of 984 feet or more, from almost perpetually calm waters.” Well the “perpetually” part fell away when the morning of our trip arrived. This is the best black and white photo I’ve ever taken in colour. 😀 It certainly looked dark and foreboding, and I was more than a tad worried.

Sailing across the bay, those “verdant islands” just looked grey and mystical, but there was no mystery as to where the water which was pooling on our table, was coming from. The boat’s tarpaulin roof had more than a few holes in it. The sea wasn’t at all calm either, but my dad used to be a sailor, so no problem there. 🙂

At one point, we transferred to a canoe, and were taken into one of the ancient grottos. This was definitely a very otherworldly experience, and the fact that there were many bats clinging to the roof of the cave, made it especially eerie for me.

Despite the incessant rain, and paddling ankle-deep in muddy water through the Sea Gypsy Village, the boat trip was a memorable, if  somewhat soggy mystical experience.

Now, I’m sure you won’t object if take you on a little detour to the Grand Old Lady of Venice. On our first evening there, we had a half hour motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and some of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful just sitting in the boat, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past the decaying grandeur of the ancient palazzos and restaurants. Every so often, we would hear distant church bells ringing, and that together with the fact that we were in total darkness, really made me feel that we were on a magical mystery tour.

Our evening gondola tour, a couple of days later, also turned quite mystical and rather spooky, when we left the main canal, and sailed into the narrow, silent smaller ones. We passed between tall apartment buildings, some with their stone steps half hidden under the water. The plaster had fallen off the outside walls long ago, and their once magnificent facades were looking extremely distressed. As a bell tolled in the distance, I couldn’t help imagining those prisoners of long ago, locked in their tiny cells under the Doge’s Palace, hearing that same bell, every day and night for the duration of their incarceration, which was probably until they died.

Lastly,  I’ll never forget seeing the 386 metre grey columns of Devils Tower appear through the mist, as we drove through Wyoming, on our way to Mount Rushmore. Part of Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was shot here, and you really don’t get much more mystical than that. 🙂

Well, those are my most mystical travel experiences. If you want to see what other bloggers have come up with for Ailsa’s theme, just click here.