The Catholic church is ‘shocked’ at the hundreds of children buried at Tuam. Really?
Historian Catherine Corless was convinced that there — long-buried in a sewage system under the streets of a little town in Western Ireland — were the discarded remains of babies. Possibly hundreds of them.
For years, no one believed her.
Though, a state-appointed dig uncovered “significant quantities of human remains” at the site of St. Mary’s House — a home for unmarried mothers and children that had run from 1925 to 1961.
Excavators, who have been investigating, found a long underground structure that had been divided into 20 chambers, according to a statement.
Bodies, ranging from premature babies to three-year-olds, were found in 17 of the little rooms.
Subsequent tests suggest most of the remains date from the 1950s.
“This is very sad and disturbing news,” Katherine Zappone, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, said. “It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years. Up to now, we had rumors.”
Corless has been poking around the subject for years. Having grown up in the area, she remembers going to school with children from St. Mary’s — which had been owned by the state and run by the Sisters of Bon Secours, a Roman Catholic order.
In Ireland, a country known for its strict Catholicism, women who became pregnant outside of marriage were considered sinners and faced stigma and abuse.
Their children were also shunned, and Corless remembers her St. Mary’s peers appearing malnourished and being kept to one side of the classroom in a school.
She began her investigation of St. Mary’s in earnest when she discovered 796 death certificates for young children but was unable to find any burial records.
She carefully studied the grounds and old documents. The building itself had been torn down in the ’70s and replaced with housing development, but Corless was able to deduce that the children had been buried in an unofficial graveyard — possibly in the sewage treatment facilities.
“Nobody was listening locally or in authority, from the church or from the state,” Corless told The New York Times. “They said, ‘What’s the point?’ And that I shouldn’t view the past from today’s lenses.”
But the history of the homes began garnering international attention (due, in part, to the film “Philomena,” which was based on the true story of an Irish woman looking for the son who had been taken from her in a similar home), and the government of Ireland created the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in 2015.
The commission has been examining abuse allegations in 17 other similar institutions.
Corless said she hopes that the information uncovered by the investigations will help families affected find peace.
“I was thinking of all the survivors of the Tuam home who have brothers and sisters buried there and I knew in my heart and soul that they would be delighted with this announcement because they want a grave to visit,” she told the BBC.
Though the commission itself does not have the power to award compensation, the town’s archbishop has said the church will work with the families to identify remains and provide a “dignified re-interment” in official graves.
In Turkey during archaeological excavations in the ancient Greek town of Assos on the Anatolian shore, 2,200-year-old statue of a lion from the Hellenist Age and an Early Byzantine oven were found.
Assos, in the Ayvacik District, Canakkale Province, in Northwest Turkey, right across from the large Greek island of Lesbos, was a major Ancient Greek city-state, and a major Antiquity port.
It was also called “Apollonia”, after god Apollo, not unlike the predecessor of Bulgaria’s Black Sea town of Sozopol, the Ancient Greek colony of Apollonia Pontica.
The sculpture of the lion from the 2nd century BC was discovered in excavations of a complex in ancient Assos which used to be an inn during the Hellenistic period, says lead archaeologist Nurettin Arslan, reports Hurriyet Daily News citing Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.
Excavations in Assos were also carried in agoras, or ancient city centers of Byzantine structures added Arslan, who is a professor heading the archeology department at Onsekiz Mart University in Canakkale.
Another intriguing discovery is a 1,500-year-old stone oven dating back to the early period of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) also unearthed during the excavations in the area.
“One of the structures contained a find which was used at that time as a cooking stove with three pots,” Arslan reveals, adding that the well-preserved stove shines a light on the daily life of the Byzantine era.
The current excavations in the ancient city of Assos in Northwest Turkey began in July 2019, with a team of 25 people, and are set to be completed in October.
Turkish archeologists have been carrying out uninterrupted excavations in the Ancient Greek and medieval Byzantine city since 1981.
Assos was first studied after American researchers back in the 1800s.
Situated on a rocky hill overlooking the Aegean Sea, 17 kilometers south of Ayvacik, ancient Assos was accepted to the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage back in April 2017.
Strange moments in Edinburgh’s history: The mystery of the miniature coffins found at Arthur’s Seat
It was a group of boys out hunting for rabbits who found the coffins one summer’s day in 1836.
They were roaming a rocky peak known as Arthur’s Seat that overlooks Edinburgh, Scotland, when their attention was caught by a small cave, its entrance carefully covered with pieces of slate. After pulling back the slabs of stone, the boys found 17 coffins, each about 3.7 inches long, arranged in three tiers—two rows of eight, and a solitary coffin at the start of a third row.
Inside each was a small wooden doll, its face carved with wide-open eyes, dressed in plain cotton clothes that covered the thin body from bare head to flat feet. The question of who carved the figures and coffins—and why—has been a mystery ever since. Were the objects tools of witchcraft, part of a pagan ritual, or a memorial to one of the era’s most notorious killing sprees?
A STRANGE DISCOVERY
The Scotsman was the first to report on the discovery, on July 16, 1836, noting that the “Lilliputian coffins” were all “decently ‘laid out’ with a mimic representation of all the funeral trappings which usually form the last habiliments of the dead.”
Stranger still, it seemed “evident that the depositions must have been made singly, and at considerable intervals—facts indicated by the rotten and decayed state of the first tier of coffins and their wooden mummies [… while] the coffin last placed, and its shrouded tenant, are as clean and fresh as if only a few days had elapsed since their entombment.”
From the beginning, theories swirled around the discovery of the so-called “fairy coffins,” with some declaring them ritualistic offerings, and others describing them as creepy child’s playthings.
The Scotsman wrote, “Our own opinion would be, had we not some years ago abjured witchcraft and demonology, that there are still some of the weird sisters hovering about Mushat’s Cairn or the Windy Gowl, who retain their ancient power to work the spells of death by entombing the likenesses of those they wish to destroy.” Indeed, the moody Arthur’s Seat has long drawn tales of witches casting spells on its volcanic hill; Edinburgh’s dark history includes an estimated 300 people sentenced for witchcraft, with more burned there in the 16th century than anywhere else in Scotland.
Nor are witches the only aspects of folklore to be mentioned in connection with the coffins. Later in 1836, the Edinburgh Evening Post posited that the coffins might be related to an “ancient custom which prevailed in Saxony, of burying in effigy departed friends who had died in a distant land.” The Caledonian Mercury chimed in, saying that they had “also heard of another superstition which exists among some sailors in this country, that they enjoined their wives on parting to give them ‘Christian burial’ in an effigy if they happened [to be lost at sea].”
Yet as George Dalgleish, keeper of Scottish history and archaeology at National Museums Scotland, says in a 2015 video, there’s little evidence of such ceremonial burial practices in Scotland. And if a doll were created for witchcraft purposes, he notes, it’s likely it would have been mutilated or destroyed rather than carefully bundled in stitched cotton clothing and hidden within a cave.
In the 1990s, a new theory emerged—linked to one of the darkest chapters in Edinburgh’s history.
In the early 19th century, Edinburgh was home to a thriving underground trade in dead bodies. The buyers were medical students and their teachers, who required the corpses for training and study but who were legally limited to a small number of executed convicts for their supply.
William Burke and William Hare saw an opportunity. Their gruesome business plan was sparked when, in 1827, one of the lodgers at Hare’s boarding house died suddenly while still owing £4 in rent, and they sold his remains to anatomist Dr. Robert Knox for 7 pounds 10 shillings (about $820 today). Rather than waiting for more spontaneous deaths, the pair turned to murder, targeting travelers and downtrodden characters whose disappearance was not likely to be noticed.
After making a small fortune from the sale of their victims to Dr. Knox, they were caught when a lodger discovered a body in a pile of straw. Hare turned king’s evidence on Burke, agreeing to testify against his fellow murderer for immunity. Burke was hanged, dissected as punishment, and his skin bound into a book.
But what do these infamous murders have to do with the enigmatic coffins? As author Mike Dash notes for Smithsonian.com, the link was first proposed by two visiting fellows at the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh—Professor Samuel Menefee and Dr. Allen Simpson, a curator at National Museums Scotland.
The pair examined the construction of the coffins and concluded that they had all been deposited in the 1830s. They also noted that the 17 coffins found in the cave match the number of Burke and Hare victims (including the first, who died a natural death).
As to why someone would create such a strange tribute to the murders, the answer may be tied to the belief in the need for a complete body on Resurrection Day. This is part of the reason dissection was often used as a punishment for criminals.
Menefee and Simpson theorized that perhaps the coffins were crafted to return corporeality, or at least some symbolic dignity, to the dissected victims. As they write, “it would not be unreasonable for some person or person, in the absence of the 17 dissected bodies, to wish to propitiate these dead, the majority of whom were murdered in atrocious circumstances, by a form of burial to set their spirits at rest.”
NATIONAL MUSEUMS SCOTLAND
Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and there are many holes to be poked in the Burke and Hare theory. For one thing, all the wooden bodies were dressed in men’s clothing, but the pair’s victims were mostly women. Furthermore, the eyes of the figures are open, not closed like a corpse. Some have even speculated that Burke himself made the coffins, as their woodworking and tin decorations suggest the hand of a shoemaker—Burke’s profession when he was not suffocating Hare’s guests.
Eight of the coffins have been on display almost continuously at Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland since 1901. (As to what became of the nine other coffins, the Scotsman wrote in their initial report that “a number were destroyed by the boys pelting them at each other as unmeaning and contemptible trifles.”)
David S. Forsyth, the principal curator of Renaissance and early modern history at National Museums Scotland, says the coffins still draw comments from museum-goers. “It’s the mystery behind them that makes them so compellingly intriguing, no one can solely own their story,” he tells Mental Floss. “They can be linked to the more intangible aspects of our culture and history, or to real episodes such as Burke and Hare.”
In December 2014, there was a curious twist in the case. A box was delivered to the museum with no return address. Inside was a detailed replica of the coffins found in 1836, down to the metal details on the lid and the roughly carved face of its figure. A note included with the object cryptically began “XVIII?,” suggesting this was an 18th addition to the group, and quoted Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story “The Body Snatcher” (1884), itself inspired by Burke and Hare.
The handwritten text declared the miniature coffin a “gift” to the National Museum of Scotland, “for caring for our nation’s treasures.” Especially the eight that cannot be explained.
The mummified corpse of ‘magical’ baby boy who died 50 years ago attracts thousands of pilgrims
There are thousands of pilgrims hundreds of miles traveling to visit the tiny body of Miguel Ángel Gaitán, Spanish for “Miracle Child”. “El Angelito Milagroso.”
Fifteen days prior to his first birthday in 1967, Miguel died of meningitis. Seven years ago, however, he apparently returned from beyond the grave seven years later and refused to go back – so his family members displayed their wrinkled corpse to worshippers to visit.
El Angelito was buried where he was born in Banda Florida, a small town in the northwest of Argentina.
But seven years later something odd began to happen when the boy’s grave and the coffin would often be found open – with objects and pieces of a stone thrown all around it.
The cemetery janitors initially blamed violent rainstorms that were battering the city at the time.
But the mysterious happenings continued even after the weather improved.
The boy’s mother said: “We would even put stones and other objects over the cover – but every morning we’d find it open.
“We then figured Miguelito did not want to be covered – he wanted to be seen.”
Villagers moved the coffin out in the open – but then the coffin’s lid kept being removed.
Interpreting the bizarre phenomenon as a further sign Miguel wanted to be seen, the family moved him to a coffin with a glass lid.
Even after almost 50 years, Miguel’s tiny wrinkled corpse is still incredibly well-preserved.
The child’s body quickly became a local attraction and rumours began to spread far and wide about his supposed magical powers.
For decades now thousands of Argentinians from across the country have descended on the remote town to seek a miracle.
One man – Daniel Saavedra – went to visit El Angelito when he fell ill with a rare pancreatic disease and within weeks he made a full recovery – he claims.
While some people believe touching the mummy’s forehead can help them, others just come to see the peculiar situation and hear the story.
Many of the visitors leave toys and flowers at the tomb.
The Katskhi Pillar – the Most Incredible Cliff Church in the World
It is not unusual to listen to tales of people who have lived a solemn life away from the world, whenever these stories are reported, people are fascinated and awestruck.
This idea is far from our normal life to most of us. This was the case when the news broke out of a monk alone living on a giant rock in Georgia.
Katskhi, the small town of the Katshkipillar – an enormous natural limestone column that rises 130 feet into the air – is located in the west-georgian area of Imereti.
Perched on the top is a church and three hermit cells, accessible only by climbing a precarious steel ladder. The rock was used by Stylites from at least the 9th century up until the Ottoman invasion in the 15th century.
The Stylites are a group of Christian ascetics who chose to follow the example of Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder, spending their days living in solitude on top of pillars in order to become spiritually closer to God.
In 1993, the Stylite tradition at Katskhi was revived by a monk named Maxime Qavtaradze.
After being abandoned and shrouded in the legend for 500 years, the rock was scaled in 1944 by a Georgian mountaineer named Alexander Japaridze.
Upon reaching the top, Japaridze found the dilapidated remains of an old church as well as the centuries-old bones of the last Christian ascetic who resided there, reports the Daily Mail.
Climbers also came across a slew of other structures, including a wine cellar, a curtain wall, a stone crypt, and three hermit cells. The church was built to honor Maximus the Confessor, a famous Christian monk and theologian.
St. Maximus the Confessor’s church is located in the southeast sector of the pillar. The structure is fairly small, measuring just 12 x 15 feet.
When excavations were carried out, the group also uncovered eight large containers known as kvevris which are used to hold traditional Georgian wine.
In a subsequent ascent up the rock in 2006, the presence of the kvevris along with the construction of a wine cellar provided researchers with enough evidence to conclude that extreme asceticism was a common practice for those who resided there long ago.
This would make it the third time in recent history that the rock has been examined by experts hoping to uncover more about its history.
At present, the rock is inhabited by Maxime Qavtaradze, a middle-aged monk who made the abandoned spiritual dwelling his home in 1993.
In a rare interview in 2013, Qavtaradze told photographer Amos Chapple that making the decision to live at Katshki Pillar was borne from a much-needed change in his personal life.
He explained that after being released from jail on drug-related charges, he felt that the best way to connect with God and purge himself of evil was to meditate upon the Kayshki Pillar, reports CNN.
“It is up here in the silence that you can feel God’s presence,” he claims. For him, living in isolation is the right way to establish a genuine, uninterrupted connection with God.
That said, he does come down the mountain periodically to pray together with men who live in the monastery at the bottom of the pillar — a climb that takes him around 20 minutes, according to the Daily Mail.
His efforts are supported by the men in the monastery, who send him food and other supplies via a winch.
Maxime has no regrets about deciding to live his life in borderline isolation. Although climbing a 130-foot ladder does pose its challenges to Maxime’s middle-aged frame, he told Chapple that he’ll continue to make the journey until his body gives up.
The well that turns objects to STONE: Mysterious site in Yorkshire is rumored to be cursed by the Devil
A weird phenomenon takes place in Knaresborough city of North Yorkshire, England. It houses a petrifying well that can make items into stone tremendously. Every year, millions of tourists come to this rather curious attraction.
The petrifying well was mentioned by John Leyland in 1538, an ancient to King Henry VIII, according to the Amusing Planet.
Leyland noted that the well was said by locals to have magical properties and healing powers, which he reported in his writings. This marked the beginning of legends that would surround the petrifying well for a long time.
The petrifying well is located inside a cave known as Mother Shipton’s Cave. The name of the cave comes from a local woman believed to be a witch, Ursula Southeil, whom the locals referred to as Mother Shipton.
Amusing Planet reports that according to the legends, Mother Shipton — the daughter of a prostitute and the devil — was born in the cave. While she was supposed to have been hideous due to who her father was, she gained fame as a prophetess.
Mother Shipton is believed to have predicted several events such as the defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588, the Great Fire of London of 1666, and even the invention of cellphones!
While the story of Mother Shipton gave the petrifying well a terrifying reputation, it also enjoyed a more flattering legend.
As John Leyland reported, the well was believed to have magic healing powers and would be visited by locals because of these reputed curing abilities.
According to Oddity Central, a physician examined the petrifying well in the early 1600s.
The results of his findings led him to conclude that the waters running through the well were a miracle cure for any type of sickness. With this kind of reputation, the petrifying well became an ever-growing popular attraction.
But the most interesting feat of this well is its capacity to transform objects into stone. Contrary to the legends surrounding Mother Shipton or the healing powers of the well, this feat was all-natural, even if it was believed to be part of the magic of the well for a long time.
According to Force To Know, the petrification of an object in this well happens because of high levels of mineral content in the water.
Through a process of evaporation and deposition over time, objects appear to turn into stone, as they are covered by solidified minerals.
That process was for a time attributed to Mother Shipton as one of her magic tricks. Because of her reputation of being a witch, she was supposed to turn objects into stone herself.
The terrifying aspect of the well is reinforced by the fact that when viewed from the side, the cave looks like a giant skull. Locals and visitors perpetuated these frightening legends, but the stories only increased people’s curiosity.
When the Royal Forest was sold by King Charles I to Sir Charles Slingsby in 1630, the cave was well known, with many people wanting to witness this strange petrifying process for themselves.
The new owner decided to profit from it by selling guided tours to the visitors coming onto his land. By doing so, Slingsby had just created England’s first-ever tourist attraction.
Today, the well is known to have no magic powers but is still visited by millions of tourists yearly because of its capacity to apparently petrify objects.
The magic properties attributed to the petrifying well of Knaresborough may have been proven wrong, but this curious location still holds a strong ability to attract visitors
Scientists may have found one of the oldest Christian churches in the world
Scientists may have found one of the most ancient Christian churches in the world by using muon x-rays to scan a mystical subterranean building on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the ancient Russian city of Derbent. Now, thanks to the clever use of scanning technology, we might finally know what the building is.
The technology known as the muon X-ray is used by researchers to track the charged subatomic particles muons, generated when cosmic rays interact with Earth’s atmosphere.
As they pass through space, nuclear emulsion plates are used as detectors to ‘catch’ the particles and develop an image of where the muons passed through, and where they were absorbed or deflected. (This same method has been used on pyramids in Egypt before.)
By using this method to meticulously scan the subterranean structure, the team arrived at a suggestion it was once a vast church.
In fact, it could be the oldest church in Russia, dating from around 300 CE.
Until now, archaeologists had been split over whether this is the site of a church, a reservoir or water tank, or perhaps a Zoroastrian fire temple. Now, thanks to the new measurements, it seems that the first hypothesis has taken the lead in terms of probability.
“The unusual building, in which we have put our detectors, has the shape of a cross, oriented strictly to the sides of the world,” says physicist Natalia Polukhina, from the National University of Science and Technology (MISIS) in Russia.
“One side is two metres [six-and-a-half feet] longer than the others.”
Scientists can’t excavate what lies beneath the Naryn-Kala fortress because it has UNESCO cultural heritage site status (only a small fragment of its dome is above ground). Instead, they lowered detectors into the depths of the structure and spent four months scanning the internal dimensions.
The building appears to be around 11 metres (36 feet) high, 15 metres (nearly 50 feet) from north to south, and 13.4 metres (nearly 44 feet) from east to west. The dome is located at the centre of the cruciform design.
While the site has been referred to as a water tank – and was probably used for that purpose in the 17th and 18th centuries – the differences between this and another nearby reservoir suggest the building wasn’t originally used for storing water.
“It seems very strange to me to interpret this building as a water tank,” says Polukhina. “In the same fortress of Naryn-Kala, there is an equal underground structure of 10 metres [nearly 33 feet] depth, and it really is a tank. This is just a rectangular building.”
“As the archaeologists who began excavations say, during construction, the building was entirely on the surface and it stands on the highest point of the Naryn-Kala. What is the sense to put the tank on the surface, and even on the highest mountain?”
It’s thought that the building was buried by the Sasanian Persian Empire after it took control of Derbent around 700 CE – the area is part of a crucial trade route between Europe and the Middle East and has always been important strategically.
The scan also revealed an unusual build-up of muons in the western wing, perhaps indicating particular architectural features that have been preserved and could eventually be scanned in detail using a similar non-invasive approach.
Now the researchers want to continue their work with further scans to produce a full-size image of what’s buried under the ground at the Naryn-Kala fortress.
Before too long we might be able to say for certain what this ancient structure was originally built for.
“It is strange,” says Polukhina. “Currently, there are more questions than answers.”