Regency and Research, The Paranormal

The Pig-Faced Woman: Found it!

466px-The_Wonderful_Mrs._AtkinsonHave you ever found a little tidbit of research only to completely forget where or when you saw it? What you have here has eluded me for months. I originally read of this legend in Captain Rees Howell Gronow’s reminiscences. Behold: The pig-faced lady.  I finally found word of it (and was jumping up and down), at Pig-faced women on Wikipedia.

For me, it’s perfect: Regency + paranormal = fantastic!

The story goes that the story originates in Holland, England, and France simultaneously in the late 1630s, of a noblewoman with a lovely human body, but the head of a pig. Perhaps her unfortunate appearance was the result of a curse; that is unclear.  When she married, her husband was given the choice: she could appear beautiful to him, but pig-like to others, or pig-like to him, and beautiful to others. When he told her the choice was hers rather than his, the curse was broken (at which point I can only surmise she became beautiful … or maybe the story is more Shrek like).

(Sorry, I digress … all wound up with Coke and finally having found this legend!)

Anyway, the legend appears again in Dublin in the early 19th century, giving the pig-faced woman a name: Griselda Steevens. This poor woman was said to be quite shy and reclusive, often remaining in her carriage while her servants gave alms to the poor. While it’s unclear whether the rumors of her having a pig-face began while she was still alive, there are stories that dismayed (obviously!) about the idea people had about her, she took to intentionally showing off her face in public, and even commissioned a painting of herself for the hospital she had built. But alas, without avail, as locals still preferred the image of the woman with a pig’s head in the tavern across the way.

Then it shows up again in London, 1814-1815 when there were rumors a pig-faced woman was living in Marylebone. Her existence was widely reported, included many alleged portraits and sketches of her. During celebrations following the end of the Napoleonic wars, traffic was tied up, and it was said that in one of the carriages was a woman with a pig’s snout protruding from beneath her poke bonnet.

“It was rumoured that during the illuminations which took place to celebrate the peace, when a great crowd had assembled in Piccadilly and St James’s Street, and when carriages could not move on very rapidly, “horresco referens !” an enormous pig’s snout had been seen protruding from a fashionable-looking bonnet in one of the landaus which were passing. The mob cried out, “ The pig-faced lady !—the pig faced lady! Stop the carriage—stop the carriage!” The coachman, wishing to save his bacon, whipped his horses, and drove through the crowd at a tremendous pace; but it was said that the coach had been seen to set down its monstrous load in Grosvenor Square.”

[Source: Reminiscences of Captain R. H. Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, the court, and the clubs at the close of the last war with France. Gronow. p111-113: Now I can’t lose it again!]

Belief in pig women was so widespread, that often at fairs, charlatans purported to “show” one, which were usually shaved bears they dressed up in women’s clothing. Even Dickens was said to have commented on the prevalence of the legend, remarking that every age had its own pig-lady (pardon the paraphrase).

But, belief in their legend declined eventually, leading to the last “serious” work about their existence in 1924. This was in a book Ghosts, Helpful and Harmful by Elliot O’Donnell, a supernatural researcher. He claimed there was a ghost of a pig lady in a haunted house in Chelsea. Perhaps we have seen the last of the pig-lady, but I’m sure glad I found her again! I can’t wait to tell her story. 🙂

Have you ever lost that juicy tidbit of research? Have you ever heard of the pig-faced woman?

Thanks for reading. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog. Have a great week!


The Paranormal

Myth as Paranormal Fact?

Hey, look at this – I’m actually posting when I’m supposed to, instead of late! (Yes, we’ll see how long this lasts).

Anyway, today’s post was inspired by a posting by Aaron Sagers – it may well inspire a few posts. It’s rather cute and interesting, so here’s the link:

“Top 10 Paranormal Myths” by Aaron Sagers

Back yet?

So, I wanted to consider his myth #1: Paranormal Facts Exist. He says there is no clear evidence and that facts for the paranormal don’t “quite” exist yet. Not sure I entirely agree with that. Is there evidence like Big Foot’s corpse or a vampire giving interviews (beyond the fictional kind)? No. However, I think there is some form of evidence: the myths.

As humans, we’ve long attempted to explain the inexplicable, to find ways to understand our world. Along the way, we’ve created myths and legends to help give explanation. While some of them we’ve perhaps grown out of (like that whole world-is-flat notion), others persist.

Some stories that resonate with us … or which we can’t quite find evidence to throw away yet.

Take vampires and werewolves. There are myths around the world that offer different variations on the same theme. Most compellingly, despite the variations, there are consistencies too (such as in the blood-sucking part). Is it because this legend calls to some deep-seated, primitive fear, such that we can’t ignore it? Or have there been actual incidents? Can’t know that for sure, I suppose. Not without evidence. 😉

Then there are other legends, like the wailing banshee, the Loch Ness, the windigo. These are legends were perhaps someone encountered something on some deserted moor, or in a deep, dark wood. Who are we to know that they didn’t? What makes these “reports” any less credible than alien abductions or alleged miracles? Who is to say that any – or all – are not true?

So much as it seems I am a believer, I like to think of myself as someone who would like to believe … but retains a healthy dose of skepticism.

What about you?

Thanks for reading – despite it being such a short post today. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog?

Have a great week. 🙂

The Paranormal

Supernatural Tigers

I am flipping through my favorite mythology book today, The Dictionary of Mythology by J.A. Coleman, and we come upon T for Tiger. My source for this post is that book, p 1018 (yes, it’s a big ol’ beauty of a book.)

There is something beautiful about a tiger, something that reminds us of our (relatively) harmless pets back home, while at the same time we look at the size of their paws – as big as my head – and would be idiotic to forget just how powerful and dangerous they can be.

Tigers also show up in supernatural mythology.

Certainly you’ve seen pictorial representations of the tiger (along with the dragon) in Chinese culture. It inspires awe with its power and vitality within the culture – as it does in most places. If you wear a Tiger Claw (hu chao) amulet, it is said to ward off fear and to give the wearer the courage of the tiger. This animal is also the favorite transportation for deities (yes, if I was a god, I’d want to ride a tiger too, wouldn’t you?). Winter and the north are represented by the Black Tiger, while fire and the south are represented by the Red Tiger. East and Vegetation get the Blue Tiger, and the center and the sun get the Yellow Tiger. I am somewhat curious if the tiger is literally blue, red, and black.

Mr. Tiger shows up again in the East Indies where there is a myth about a race of men who could transform into tigers. Related to that, in Sumatran lore, a sinner who prays for reincarnation may leave his grave in the form of a tiger. (Hmm … those two myths are a story waiting to be written, aren’t they?)

In Hindu lore, as in the myths of the Chinese, the deities use tigers for transport, in this case Shiva. The Rajput people / line themselves claim to be descendants of tigers, which of course leads to more intriguing possibilities of body shifting and transformation.

In Japan, the tiger is the warriors’ emblem, and is said to live for 1,000 years. (I suppose living that long would be very helpful if you’re a warrior heading into battle. I’d want to be thinking in tiger-terms, too, never mind great ferocity in battle.)

Finally, in Malaysia tigers offer more intriguing possibilities and stir the imagination. They are said to be the incarnation of the dead or of the souls of sorcerers. Plus, it is said that a man can purchase the magic necessary to transform himself into a tiger both in life and after death. I wonder here if this is related to the East Indies belief where a penitent sinner can be reincarnated as a tiger?

So, have I inspired a shape-shifter story yet? Come on, I’ll convert you to a passion for shape-shifters yet. 😉

What do you think? Do intriguing possibilities lay in these myths? Have you heard any interesting myths / legends about tigers or other animals?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week.

Oh, and hey! Like the post? Why not sign up for the blog? Have a good one. 🙂

The Paranormal

Weird Wednesday: Luideag, the Rag

Check out all the free scans of historic etchings, like this one of two beggar women from “Callot’s Etchings” (1635)

Today we feature a nasty female demon named Luideag.

From Scottish Highland folklore (specifically out of the Isle of Skye), she’s an evil demon who’s name means “The Rag.” She took the form of a human woman dressed in ragged and worn clothing, with the not-so-pleasant intent of causing the death of any human within her power.  (From: Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia by Carol Rose.)

What I find particularly interesting about this legend is that she’s quite similar to some legends about the Morrigan, one of the more powerful fairy queens of legend, and sometimes associated with the King Arthur Legend. Like Luideag, the Morrigan sometimes disguised herself as an old washerwoman at the side of a river, washing the clothes of the soldiers who would die there. Obviously quite creepy for the soldiers passing by her.

The disguise as a woman in rags seems to reference the general fear of the poor – and especially old women who might turn out to be riches. Perhaps there is some hint that because she’s poor and in rags, there is something inherently threatening about her. If she is ragged and dirty, she is diseased. If she’s diseased, it’s probably something you can catch just by being near her – especially with the lack of understanding related to disease transmission prior to around the mid-nineteenth century.

The fiction writer in me wonders, what’s this demon’s story?

Demons themselves, while we commonly accept today as “evil,” were not always so. Instead, some of what we consider “angels” could have fallen into this category, simply a different category of demons that tried to help humanity (or at least not cause them harm.) But, I digress.

So, what makes this demon kill those she has within her power? Is she simply hungry for power over someone, anyone? Has she gotten some bad press after a few of her friends died horrible, tragic deaths? Why doesn’t her name show up in the other mythology books? Is this just a pseudonym for the Morrigan (now THERE is a woman with a story!)?

I also wonder about the impact of this creature who is largely a scary female demon. While this particular creature doesn’t seem to attack specifically men (and there are plenty who do, especially wielding feminine wiles), there is something significant about her being female. Is she more frightening because she is female? Going back to the historical fear of old women who might be witches, or the general fear of disease, is this what makes her frightening? Would this demon have been as frightening a legend had it disguised itself as a little old man? Although with mortality rates and men historically dying younger, is it more likely that you’d find an old woman rather than an old man?

What do you think? What’s this demon’s story?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have an awesome week. And hey, new to the blog? Enjoy the post? Why not sign up to follow!

What do you think?