Why do I do a men's gift guide every year? Because I am, so they tell me, a man, so I should know, right?
More cats. I know. Welcome to xoLouiseWritesAboutCatsAllWeek.
The thing is, after my last post I couldn't stop thinking about creepy kitties. If you've reached peak "cat mania" I sincerely apologize. Next week we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming. Maybe.
But ghost cats — and ghost animals — are a natural fit for Creepy Corner. How many of you have watched your cats or dogs or talking mongooses stare at an invisible SOMETHING moving around your home, all the while hoping that it's "just a fly"? Brandy the Cat (her formal moniker) used to regularly fixate on a corner in my last apartment and yowl at... ???
In my first apartment in St. Louis, my three-legged cat Gracie used to hiss and arch her back at something I couldn't see. Weird shit happened in that apartment. And while I only saw drinking glasses that were inexplicably moved, Gracie seemed to be relatively well acquainted with our "third roommate." We called him Peter.
I'm also the person who, as a kid, held a seance for my deceased cat Mew. The remaining cats in my household and I gathered in a bathroom with a homemade spirit board and tried to contact Mew's ghost. The cats just tried to set their whiskers on fire with the candles, no contact was made. They weren't even trying.
But animals have long had an association with the paranormal. Cats were thought to be the Devil's sidekick in the Middle Ages and it was believed that the Devil and his minions could actually take the shape of a black cat. Also due to their connection to witches, loads of cats were killed. It was believed that witches had an "unnatural nipple" through which they'd suckle cats with milk and blood.
If a cat, especially a black cat, showed up on your doorstep, folks would wonder if it was simply a hungry kitty, or a witch come to cast a spell on someone.
Phantom dogs were seen as portents of death and doom in the British Isles. Usually described as being black in color — though the Cu Sith was said to be green — these large, shaggy dogs with "saucer eyes" were said to bring death to those who encountered them. Seeing one of these "death dogs" in a graveyard was especially bad. Deaths suddenly occurring after such sightings were not uncommon, but the sightings usually coincided with a natural phenomenon, such as a lightning storm, which could have accounted for any tragic accidents.
I suspect that people would see a SCARY DEMON DOG running through a lightning storm, panic (much like the dog was probably doing), then do dumb things that got themselves killed. That's my theory. But I wasn't there.
And the next time you're at the site of a hanging, keep your eyes peeled for a black ghost dog. They are said to haunt the grounds of such punishment. In Tring, Hertfordshire, England a giant black dog with "flaming eyes" is said to be the ghost of Thomas Colley, a criminal hanged in 1751. Edwin Sidney Hartland wrote about the dog in his 1890 book, English Fairy and Other Folk Tales.
A schoolmaster told Hartland that he saw the ghost dog lying in the road where Colley's body had once been gibbeted.
He was as big as a Newfoundland, but very gaunt, shaggy, with long ears and tail, eyes like balls of fire, and large, long teeth, for he opened his mouth and seemed to grin at us.
...In a few minutes the dog disappeared, seeming to vanish like a shadow, or to sink into the earth...
And while we're on the topic of non-cat animals, I have to mention the cackling ghost ape of Carew Castle. Actually, the ape was a Barbary Ape or Barbary macaque, therefore technically a monkey.
In the 17th century Sir Roland Rhys (an honest-to-goodness former pirate) "rescued" the monkey from the Barbary Coast of Africa, named him Satan, and took him to live with him and his son at Carew Castle in Wales.
Anyway as the story supposedly goes (and there are a few different tellings), Rhys was an "ill-tempered drunk" and a "bully" with a propensity for "cruel humor." Rather obsessed with Satan, he trained him to mimic his voice and do his bidding. At parties — parties he seemingly threw just for an opportunity to verbally abuse his guests — he'd "parade" Satan about dressed in "butler-style, posh garb." Guests were quite unnerved by the animal that could do a spot-on imitation of his master's horrible laugh.
Well, it turns out that his son decided to have an affair with the daughter of a Flemish tradesman who owed Rhys money for the land he rented from him. Rhys was none too pleased with this development. When the tradesman came to Rhys' door asking for an extension on the rent, the staggeringly drunk Rhys unleashed Satan on him (yes, I know what I just wrote), and the monkey tore at the tradesman's flesh — mimicking Rhys' laugh the whole time.
The tradesman survived but not before losing a lot of blood and placing a curse on Rhys that "wished the same fate upon him."
Later that night...
The servants heard "crazed laughter" and screams coming from Rhys' chambers.
When they entered the room, they found Rhys dead, his throat torn out, and Satan dead and burning in the fireplace. To this day, people still claim to hear Rhys and Satan the Monkey's "hysterical, maniacal cackling" echoing through the halls of Carew Castle.
Poor Satan. He didn't ask for that life (or death).
But back to the CATS.
For those of you on America's East Coast, you could take a little jaunt over to the Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York. Aside from supposedly being haunted by disembodied whistling, footsteps, an entity that rocks in a rocking chair, the laughter of invisible children, and "chimes from unseen clocks," the Shanley boasts a ghost cat that might have been caught on video.
In 2013, paranormal investigator Stephen Barcelo captured what is believed to be a ghost cat entering one of the rooms of the former bordello. What do you think of the footage?
Hotel owner Sal Nicosia suspects that the "feline phantom" is his former cat. A cat that prior to her death "behaved oddly" in the hotel, and eventually refused to leave the third floor. Nicosia's cat preferred to live in "Claire's room" on the third floor — Claire being one of the Shanley's resident ghosts. Nicosia even says he recorded an EVP of Claire claiming the cat as "her cat."
Of course, if New York is too chilly for you at this time of year, you could head down to Key West to see if one of Ernest Hemingway's cats will honor you with an appearance from beyond the grave. (Think what you will of Hemingway; visiting Hemingway's house in Key West is a cat fanatic's wonderland. 40-50 polydactyl cats roam the compound!)
A tuxedo cat reportedly haunts the cat cemetery on the grounds of Hemingway's House, and former tenants Nick and Joan Di Lorenzo claimed to have met the cat while renting a room above Hemingway's office in the 1960s.
The tuxedo cat would join the Di Lorenzos in bed, appearing to be a living cat, before fading away or vanishing before their eyes.
A rather demonic creepy kitty was the Black Cat of Killakee. Having stalked the grounds of the former Hellfire Club on Montpelier Hill in County Dublin, Ireland as well as the Killakee House nearby, the Black Cat was a mysterious creature that harkened back to the heyday of the Hellfire Club.
I've mentioned the Hellfire Club before, but for those of you who weren't creepin' it up with me back in 2013, here's a short rundown.
In the 18th century, Hellfire Club members were elite "persons of quality" who took to an old stone lodge atop Montpelier Hill in which to "Do what thou wilt" (the club's motto).
And what wilt thou do?
Black masses, orgies, sacrifices, Satan worshipping, even murder. At one point the Devil himself was said to have appeared.
One such murder was that of a cat (brace yourself, cat lovers). A "priest" from the club supposedly doused a cat in whisky and set it on fire. The poor cat then ran off into the night where it was assumed to have died. But the cat seems to have gotten a little of its own back.
A giant, black cat was seen up until the 1970s on Montpelier Hill and in the Killakee House. Described as being vaguely "humanoid" and the size of a German Shepherd, people said the cat had "blazing red eyes" and inspired dread in anyone who encountered it.
While the Killakee House was undergoing some design changes and renovations in the 1960s, one of the workers noted that the back door must be broken, as it had opened on its own. When two workers and Dublin artist Tom McAssey went to investigate, they found an "undistinguishable figure" outside. Thinking it a joke, McAssey said, "It won't work, I can see you, so get in."
It was no joke. As Frank Smyth tells in his book Ghosts and Poltergeists:
"A low voice answered back 'You cannot see me, leave the door open.'"
The two workers ran away, but McAssey stayed to investigate. Going into the vestibule, he was confronted by the enormous Black Cat. McAssey promptly ran away too.
After several exorcisms, the Black Cat has rarely been seen since the 1970s. Rarely.
Don't cross a cat, y'all. (Or a monkey or a dog.)
Have you ever seen a ghost cat? A ghost animal? Have you have had a spooky experience with your pet?
Tell us! Bonus points for creepy pet pictures!