Santa’s Horrible Henchmen Will Make You Forget Good Cheer

Ah, Christmas time.  A brief stretch in the year when we are compelled to focus on the more benevolent side of humanity—the kindness, the joy, the rampant consumerism—and celebrate a month when society gives us permission to forget our troubles and embrace one another with a renewed sense of decency. Suddenly people appear kinder, more…

Where Murder Meets Myth, There Is The Bloody Mark Of The Romanovs

The notion of free will is a curious one. Philosophically speaking, the idea that we humans can exert effective control over what we do is up for debate.  Sure, we can decide to go on a trip or eat pasta for dinner, but can we really decide the outcome of our baser, more fundamental actions…

From Gladiators To Ghosts: What Happened When The Colosseum Survived Time

There are few places still left in the world where you can literally stand on the soil of antiquity and feel the ancient past vibrate through the crumbling stones, especially one as time-worn and symbolic as the Roman Colosseum. A physically exceptional feat, this massive limestone amphitheater, first commissioned in 70 CE by Emperor Vespasian…

This Is How Timoclea Of Thebes Sent Her Rapist To The Underworld

The Raven dedicates this bit of dark history to daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and women everywhere. May they never experience the pain and suffering of sexual abuse—and may they continue their fight on earth against the tyranny of predatory men.  Regardless of what you may believe about the recent political and judicial spectacle playing out…

What Happened To Dr. Jekyll In The Age of Victorian Porn?

With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two. —Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde As people move…

Love, Execution, And The Birth Of Valentine’s Day

Write a love letter, buy some flowers, make a dinner reservation—Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us. In this era of chronic bad news, people are more excited than ever to snag some romance and a “feel-good” moment regardless of the holiday’s bastardized lineage. Most folks have no clue why Valentine’s Day is even a…

Nazi Myths And The Banality Of Evil

Good and bad men are less than they seem. —Samuel Taylor Coleridge People just love the word evil. It is small, powerful and can be liberally applied to basically any situation where severe deviance or misbehavior defies explanation. In a clear, no-nonsense way, the word evil fills the void of what we don’t understand about darkness…

Vikings, Odin, And The Duality Of A Raven God

This great world has been home to endless ancient people throughout the ages, many of whom were never seen or understood by modernity because they lacked the written word. Without the ability to document their own beliefs and experiences through some form of writing, these cultures were muted by time and left with little acknowledgment or…

Remembering Boudicca’s Rebellion And Her Daring Revenge On Rome

…a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame… But the person who was chiefly…

Why The Battle For Jerusalem Will Never Disappear

All great things begin small. The earth was once just elemental particles before it gave way to an expanding cloud of chaos. Matter assumed density and over billions of years, the free-floating gases of the galaxies began to coalesce into bright, shining stars. And man emerged much later, climbing from the muck of darkness and…

Remembering The Bloody Rush Of The California Genocide

The odor of scorched gunpowder filled the air in the morning, it lay in soft, blue clouds over the earth of my people.   —Darryl Babe Wilson One of the greatest things about dark history is its ability to deliver a shock, even when it feels like we’ve heard it all. Its rawness refreshes the…

Remembering Old London And Its Epic Battle With Modern Crime

Crime has a way of uncovering the soft and vulnerable facets of society. While most people rarely fall victim to misdeeds of others, maleficium does have a way of seeping out into the populace and infecting the larger framework of life. And once this criminality is expressed through murder, theft, rape, or general malevolence, it…

Revealing The Romance Of The Ancient Roma Gypsy

 You don’t kill a gypsy by cutting him in ten pieces–you will only make ten more gypsies.–Romanian Proverb Way, way up in the peaks of Transylvania, a land steeped in myth and legend, lies one of the most darkly romantic settings of all times–the Carpathian Mountains. As the last truly wild mountain range of Europe,…

Hidden Witchcraft: How The Magic Jäckel Scared Europe To Death

On the dark and winding roads of history, few instances remain as wholly terrifying as the witch hunts of Early Modern Europe. The heady combination of religion, magic, heresy, and evil —topped with a hearty dose of moral panic and mass hysteria—gave rise to a new brand of organized persecution and led to an estimated…

From Rape To Reason: A Brief History Of Sodomy

“In general usage, sodomy was not an exact term and did not merely refer to a specific sexual act. Rather, it described the whole range of homosexual behavior, sexual or otherwise, which belonged to the ancient lechers of Sodom and Gomorrah. This Biblical idiom was as commonplace in the 19th century as it had been…

Was Poe’s Death The Greatest Of All His Mysteries?

Edgar Allan Poe was never one to underestimate the power of a good secret, and his death was no exception. Rarely have the details of someone’s final days caused such a stir in the annals of dark history. Just like the spine-tingling tales he wrote, much of Poe’s personal and professional life was shrouded in mystery,…

Cheers To The Royal Wedding That Served Up Death

When it comes to history, there are few events more anticipated, more idealized, or more relished than a royal wedding. Although modernity has mostly swept away the need for such spectacles, the idea of two bejeweled hands reaching out to clasp the glittering future of an entire kingdom still holds a certain allure. For many…

How The Werewolf Of Bedburg Passed From Man To Myth

Strangely enough, the most modern source on the medieval life and times of Peter Stumpp, otherwise known as the Werewolf of Bedburg, can be found in the lyrics of the rock band Macabre, a group of American troubadours who specialize in the obscure genre of “murder metal.” Paring down the meat of the story to bare…

Welcome To The Grim Underworld Of The Resurrectionists

When examining the dark crevices of London’s history, there’s no shortage of stories about decrepit neighborhoods and criminal networks, especially along the 19th-century docks and poorer areas of the great city. These notoriously seedy backdrops have set the scene for many a gruesome tale—from Jack the Ripper to the Yorkshire Witch—and remain some of the…

Remembering The Brutality Of The Antebellum South

With so much talk in the news about Charlottesville, Virginia and the recent race riot they endured, it’s worth considering what all the fuss is about. The Virginia controversy has centered specifically on a statue of the Confederacy’s top general, Robert E. Lee, who appears larger than life as he sternly surveys the landscape before…

How One Medieval Murder Unleashed The Legend Of Blood Libel

Sometimes it only takes a tiny spark to light a massive fire, one capable of burning furiously through the ages and killing many innocents in the process. In the case of young William of Norwich, this inferno first began with his brutal murder in 1144 and blazed into a mad vendetta against the local Jewish…

Why Giving Birth To A Monarch Was A Queen’s Darkest Hour

Since the beginning of civilization, the royal world has always been special, elevated above the mediocrity of regular life and filled with the pleasures and privilege of divine power and influence. After all, a king and queen were not simply elected to their posts—they were chosen by most discerning judge all, God. This notion alone was…

How The Execution Of Peter Niers Killed The Boogeyman

Have you heard the legend of Peter Niers, the medieval bandit and killer? As one of Germany’s most reviled criminals, raping and pillaging his way through the unsuspecting landscape of 16th-century Europe for 15 years, his legacy is well-marked by dark history. Believed to have murdered over 500 people during his heyday, the story of his life…

Welcome To The Gilded Cage Of A Sultan’s Harem

Rarely have women in history played a more deliciously mysterious role than that of the 600 years of the Ottoman Empire when what is modern-day Turkey sat at the center of a great Empire. These were the days of the harem when women – and girls as young as seven years old – were held in…

Hidden Gunpowder: How Guy Fawkes Plotted His Way To Death

If you ever find yourself in London on November 5th, you may see the bursts of fireworks around the city, accompanied by burning effigies in the neighborhood square. Also known as Bonfire Night, this celebration does not mark Britain’s independence but rather, its salvation from the nefarious plans of its most infamous villain, Guy Fawkes. Publicly…

American Brutus: How Lincoln’s Murder Revealed A Spectacular Killer

Walking into the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. is like taking a visceral journey into the past. Not only does it perfectly capture the nostalgia of the 19th century—when the United States was in the midst of grave political dissension—but it remains the backdrop of one of the most infamous moments in American history, the…

From Slave To Terrorist: How One Wicked Privateer Prevailed

Who was Francois L’Olonnais, you ask? He was not only a real, living historical figure, but he was also the most ruthless and fearsome pirate to ever sail under the black flag. And given the overall brutality of 17th-century life on the high seas, that is one hell of a claim. Born in France and sold into indentured…

How The Black Death of 1348 Went From Pestilence To Persecution

Although 13th-century Europe was rife with ignorance and religious anxiety, the nascent state of the medical world contributed greatly to the amount of general sickness, pain, and death faced by the masses. As a result, it remains one of the most fascinating periods in history—a time when humans were straining to pull themselves from the…

How The History of Necromancy Revealed A Love Of The Dead

Of all human opinions to be reputed, the most foolish deals with the belief in Necromancy, the sister of Alchemy, which gives birth to simple and natural things. -Leonardo da Vinci One thing most ancient civilizations share is a fascination with the dead. The art of speaking to the deceased as a way to find hidden…

Finding Lilith: The Most Powerful Hag in History

As humans evolve and change with time, Lilith perseveres because she is eternal—she is the original Eve, the scapegoat of man, and an undeniable part of our shared psychological framework.

Hypatia Of Alexandria And The Murder That Crushed Intellectualism

Was not Hypatia the greatest philosopher of Alexandria, and a true martyr to the old values of learning? She was torn to pieces by a mob of incensed Christians not because she was a woman, but because her learning was so profound, her skills at dialectic so extensive that she reduced all who queried her…

Battles Not Burkas: These Ancient Persian Women Fought For Their Cause

Long ago, when the women of Persia were honored and revered by their culture, they often held influential and dynamic positions in society. Aside from being mothers, they played many roles—teacher, politician, business owner, even soldiers. In fact, ancient women warriors of Persia were so powerful, neighboring male-dominated cultures in both Greece and Rome viewed…

Walpurga Hausmännin: Confessions Of A Condemned Sorceress

Medieval Europe could be a frightful place for a woman of strength, especially one with the wisdom of a midwife and the proclivities of a healer. Intensified by her status as an elderly widow in 16th-century Germany, Walpurga Hausmännin made the perfect witch. Accused of over forty heinous crimes against children like vampirism and murder,…

Can These Diabolical Rulers Of The Past Explain The Present?

If anything, the recent presidential elections have reminded us that not everyone agrees on what makes an effective ruler. The amount of confusion, chaos, and general upset surrounding our recent presidential results speak to our varying perspectives as well as our forgetfulness of the past—a tyrannical and childish ruler is a wildly dangerous thing. The whole…

Freedom At All Cost: Remembering History’s Greatest Slave Rebellion

There is nothing more stirring to the blood than the quest for freedom, especially as it lies in the desperate hearts of those who have suffered the brutal lash of slavery. And sometime—in fact, much of the time—the right to freedom is begrudgingly returned only when those in power are threatened. Freedom is not something…

Has America Forgotten The Toxic Stain of Agent Orange?

As America continues to untangle itself from an ongoing battle in the Middle East which has spawned the rise of ISIS and contributed to the Syrian devastation, it feels particularly poignant to remember this is not our first rodeo. Just a mere 60 odd years ago, we were busy raining down holy hell on the heads…

How A Quaint London Holiday Revealed A Stunning House of Horrors

“I remember as I gazed down at the still form of my first victim, experiencing a strange, peaceful thrill.” -John Christie Having spent the recent holiday in London, I am reminded how its dark and curious history is never very far from view. From Highgate to Dorset Street, one would be hard-pressed to find a plot…

How Jure Grando Introduced The Epic Legend of the Vampire

Vampires are typically associated with gloomy, foreboding castles in Transylvania, but the original stories of the štrigoi are even older than Dracula and can be found in remote parts of Europe as well. In fact, one of the most chilling legends comes from Kringa, a small Istrian town in what is now modern-day Croatia. Within this Balkan…