St. Patrick’s Purgatory

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

I hate to admit it, but I failed to produce on today’s “Before I Die…”.  And I am especially upset with myself because today wraps up the “Gateway to Hell” series.  I didn’t have a post written ahead of time, and my experience over these last few days has left me a little fried in the realm of writing.  Since last Wednesday, I have driven over 800 miles, wrote 42,000 words for my 1st novel, and started outlining the second.  Needless to say, I am surprised I can form coherent sentences at this point.

However, I will leave you with a link to Wikipedia to the location that I was going to talk about today.  I specifically saved this one for last because out of the entire “Gateway to Hell” series, I should hopefully be visiting this place within the next 2-3 years!

St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg, County Donegal, Ireland

I hope that you have enjoyed the “Gateway to Hell” series on “Before I Die…” Mondays.  Sorry the series ended in such a sucky way.  I am extremely excited about the topic I have for next week.  Won’t be giving any spoilers except that it may be the most haunting place we discuss on Before I Die.

Now I am off to curl up with King’s Pet Semetary and veg out for the rest of the day.

P.S.:  If you have commented on any of my posts last week and I had not yet replied, I will be getting back to you later this week.  I saw some exciting comments about the monster posts and am looking forward to replying.

 

Cape Matapan and Diros Cave

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

Cape Matapan (also known as Cape Tainaron) is a small mass of land located at the end of the Manai Peninsula in Greece.  Diros cave, located on the very tip of the cape, is believed to be the front door to Hades’ abode, his classic Underworld of Greek mythology.

To the Spartans, this area was a place of worship where human sacrifices were slain and dedicated to the Sea-God, Poseidon, whose realm merges with the entrance to Hades’ Underworld.  Vast temples to the Gods were erected on the cape.  One specifically dedicated to Poseidon was built directly above the gateway to the underworld.  The temple may have served as a place to encourage protection by the Sea-God to keep watch over the God of the Underworld’s front door.  To ensure the door stays closed, keeping the dead contained within the Underworld.

According to mythology, Diros cave is where Hercules passed into the underworld on one of his adventures.  Also, Orpheus entered through this cave to search for his lost lover, Euridice.  The cave may also be the most epic “doggie-door” in existence.  In the 2nd Century A.D., Greek geographer Pausanias described the site as:

In the bend of the seaboard one comes, first, to a headland that projects into the sea, Taenarum, with its temple of Poseidon situated in a grove; and secondly, near by, to the cavern through which, according to the myth-writers, Cerberus was brought up from Hades by Herakles.

Needless to say, the pictures of Diros cave are quite breathtaking and have a surreal sense of something sinister hiding in the vast, dark shadows.  I am sure secrets are abound within the earthen walls.  The cave has only been superficially explored.  A path could exist, hidden deep within the bowels of the cave, that leads into the Underworld.

Check out the beautiful pictures of Diros cave on TripAdvisor.


 

On Wednesday, I am unplugging from everything (e.g., work, blogs, TSM, Twitter, FaceBook, etc.) and escaping to Vermont for a few days to focus on my novel.  There will be no post on Thursday (October 23rd) or Saturday (October 25th).  However, I will not leave you completely bored.  I have a video queued to post on Thursday.
Have a great week and see you next Monday!!

Fengdu Ghost City

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

The Ming mountain side is covered with a complex of shrines and temples that are dedicate to the afterlife.   The complex, known as the Fengdu Ghost City, is located in Fengdu County, China, and one of my top 10 places to visit before I die.  The city focuses on the afterlife rituals of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, and its history dates back to almost 2000 years.

The layout of the complex is designed after the concept of Youdu, a capital of Hell in Chinese mythology and Buddhism.

There are three tests in Chinese beliefs in which the dead must pass in order to move on to the next life.  These tests are for judgement to determine if the departed soul is good or evil.

The soul must first cross the “Bridge of Helplessness”.  The bridge is said to connect this current plane of life to the netherworld.   There are three stone arches that stretch over a small square pond.  The middle bridge is the one used to judge a soul.  Each soul is tested based on his or her age, gender, and marital status.  Good souls pass over the bridge with ease, while an evil soul is stopped by the demons that control the bridge and pushed into the water below.  If you should visits the “Bridge of Helplessness” as a living human, you are encouraged to walk over the side bridges, called respectively the Gold and Silver bridge.  Walking over one of these two bridges is said to bring good luck.

The second test for a soul is the “Ghost Torturing Pass”.  This is the location where all souls report to Yama, the King of Hell, for a second judgement on the merit of his or her soul.  For the living, the Pass can be toured and sculptures can be seen which depict 18 ferocious demons.  It could be possible that these demons are the ones that keep things in order around the Pass’ area.

The final test is on a large stone slab in front of the Tianzi Palace Gates.  A soul is to stand on one leg for three minutes atop the stone.  A good soul will be able to accomplish this with ease, while an evil one will not.  After concluding the test, good souls will be allowed to pass on to the afterlife while the evil souls, the ones who failed, are sent to hell.

Out of all of the different attractions on the Ming mountainside, from the solemn gardens to the transition ritual locations to the multiple monasteries, the saddest and most haunting site is the “Last Glance at Home Tower”.  The tower, which was erected in 1985, was built on a site where the hell-destined souls could stand on top of the mountain and take one last look at his or her family before moving on to damnation.

The Fengdu Ghost City is a location in this “Gateway to Hell’”series that would leave a lasting impression on any visitor – living or dead.  It represents a place the where a soul’s merit is judged with three tests and his or her final destination is determined.  The ongoing theme of the Ghost City is “Good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil”.

There are too many pictures of the Ghost City to share within this post, so I will post my favorite below and direct you to this site where you can view more photos:  http://www.lovethesepics.com/2011/04/freaky-fengdu-ghost-city-wtf-china-34-photos/

 

Statue of Yaksha (c) Gisling (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Yaksha (c) Gisling (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Mayan Cenotes

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

Water is believed to be an elemental conductor in connecting the portal between the living and the dead.  The Mayan civilization worshiped ancient cenotes, a large cave structure that is often filled with water, by prophesying that these Earthen structures are the gateways to the Xibalba, the Mayan version of underworld.  Throughout the Yucatan peninsula, archaeologists have uncovered human and Mayan temple remains in the cenotes.  Specifically within the Las Calaceras cenote, there are more that 125 of human remains found.  To this day, no one is sure whether the people died naturally at the site, the bodies deposited at the site after death, or if the bodies we apart of on-site sacrificial rites.

The afterlife for the Mayans is depicted as a terrifying road where the dead have to pass through rivers of blood, rooms full of sharp knives, and caves full of vicious bats and jaguars.  For the Mayans, the afterlife is a literal “Highway to Hell”.  The cenote cave structure is regarded to be the initial design and concept for the Mayans’ definition of the transition through death.  Therefore, the cenotes were regarded as sacred areas and a direct link to their version of Hell.

For modern day archaeologists and cave explorers, it is easy to understand how the Mayans developed this concept.  The cenotes are deep and dark caves that are connected underneath the Yucatan peninsula.  Some caves are almost completely submerged in water, while other contain an air of something sinister.  Guillermo de Anda, a University of Yucatan archeologist, has been studying the cenote cave structure and history for years.

During his expeditions, he has uncovered cenote rooms that are so packed with stalactites that it is almost impossible to crawl through without being cut.  Other rooms are filled with deep pools, discolored by iron causing the water to look like blood.  Another room is roasting with heat, making explorers sweat, and a following room is frigid cold.  An incredible vast number of bats are known to frequent and inhibit the cave.  Stirring up a swarm that causes the creatures to fly around in a panic is a regular occurrence.  The cave of jaguars has yet to be uncovered, but de Anda has found several caves that contained the remains of jaguars.

It is also interesting to note that several of the larger and most galant Mayan temples are situated on top of some of the more notorious cenotes. As per de Anda:

“There are a number of sites in the lowlands where there are caves right underneath the principal temples, palaces and pyramids, which are thought to represent a religious ‘access mundi,’ where you have the pyramid representing the heavens, and the caves representing the underworld underneath.”

It is a wonder of how a cave system can represent the whole basis of a civilization’s concept of the underworld and afterlife.  It is beautiful as much as it is tragic.  The tragic aspect being in a sense that the caves gave the Mayan the concept of an afterlife, Xibalba, as brutal and hellish.  One has to wonder if the original Mayan who first through up to use these ancient cenotes as an example of Xibalba meant to use this depiction as a sign of power, to oppress the Mayan people with fear.

 

A depiction of Mayans in an ancient cenote.

A depiction of Mayans in an ancient cenote.

A cenote entrance or gateway into the underworld? (c) "Mexico Cenotes" by Ekehnel (Emil Kehnel) - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Common

A cenote entrance or gateway into the underworld? (c) “Mexico Cenotes” by Ekehnel (Emil Kehnel) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Common

Castle Houska

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

Located on a forested hill at the edge of a limestone cliff in the Czech Republic, Castle Houska has been giving off an evil essence for centuries.  Even before the castle was ever built, the land on which the building stands is said to be cursed.

To start with the land itself, Václav Hájek, whose publication of the Czech Chronicle was first published in 1541, accounts for a story of a large crack that formed at the top of the limestone cliff.  The hole formed was immeasurably deep.  Legends of the hole began to brew of half-anmial and half-human creatures that resided within and would fly out at night to kill livestock or an unlucky human who happened to wander to close to the area.  The local residents of the area deemed the location “the hole to hell” and took care to avoid it.  At one time there was an attempt to fill the hole, but the attempt was in vain.  No matter how much stone was pored into the hole, the hole just swallowed it up – continuing to be a believed gateway to hell.

A Dubá clan duke once tried to uncover the hole’s secrets by lowering a condemned man down into the black vastness, the man was lured with the promise of freedom if he traveled into the darkness.  The prisoner was lowered on the end of the rope.  After some time of distance and silence his heart-stopping screams could be heard from the hole.  When the man was pulled out, it was said that his hair was stark white and he was a raving lunatic.  The prisoner died shortly after.  What he had seen within the hole was never told, and it is said that the duke attempted the experiment several times, all accounts with the same out come.

Castle Houska was built on top of the ‘hole to hell’ between 1270 and 1280.  The hole was covered with thick stone plates and the castle’s chapel was built onto of those plates in an attempt to seal up the gateway.  Faded frescos adorn the chapel’s wall, most scenes depicting a Archangel Michael fighting evil or balancing the souls at the last judgement.  However, the most notable painting is of a creature that has the upper half of a woman and a lower half of  a horse, a centaur, who is holding a bow with her right hand and aiming an arrow with her left toward a human.  It is believed that this painted figure is related to the stories about the half-human creatures that used to reside and fly from the hole located under the chapel’s floor.  This belief is attributed to the fact that the figure is of a centaur, which at the time was pagan mythology, and that the creature is aiming with her left hand.  The left hand (or left-handedness)  during the middle ages, is associated with the devil.

Most present day experiences to the castle can be the onslaught of birds that are continually found dead within the castle’s inner courtyard and strange noises or shadows seen all through out the building and grounds.  However, these peculiar instances could be tied to the reason for the castle’s existence.  Most castles are built to keep the enemy out.  The stone structures are built as fortitudes of protection, harboring those that reside with in.  Yet, the original design of Castle Houska, there are no stairs leading from the upper floors into the courtyard.  It seems as though this castle was built to keep something in…

During the 30 Years’ War, the castle stood abandoned until it was chosen as a head quarters by a Swedish commander of mercenaries, Oronto.  Oronto had the reputation of being a black magician and alchemist, who turned the castle into his own personal laboratory to conduct unholy experiments in the search for the elixir of eternal life.  His experiments and solders terrorized the local villages that one night some of the villagers took it upon themselves to sneak into the castle and assassinate Oronto while he was in the midst of working in his laboratory.

The castle today is known as a hotbed for tourists and meeting place for experts on the paranormal phenomenon.  Those who are brave enough to survive a night within the castles wall come away with haunting stories of terror and the belief that they just survived a night sleeping next to a doorway into hell.

The history of Houska Castle is so extensive that I could not have possibly capture it all within this post.  If you would like to read a full account of the castle, steeped with history that also includes a period where the castle was controlled by the Nazis, I suggest starting at this website  and then branching out to other sites.  There is just too much history on this castle that sits on top of a gateway to hell that it has not all been documented in one location.

The haunted entrance to Houska Castle (c) Mirek256  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

The haunted entrance to Houska Castle (c) 2005, Mirek256 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/